The focus of this chapter is on the two crucial artistic aspects of detective stories namely story plot and narrative techniques.
Thanks to the unique circumstances of the first half of the 20thas a transition period, story plots play a noticeable role in narrative works. Readers can retell the story plot without paying much attention to the writing style. In reality, plots of detective stories serve as the connection among relationships, events or factors that can create readers’ curiosity or eagerness. Most of the story plots have clearstructures and endings of traditional literature. However, interactiveness and adaptation can still be observed in detective stories through romantic – action – martial art elements. With these most basic patterns of detective genre, writers combine Eastern crime stories with Western detective stories, old with new, to generate a variation of detective stories that can satisfy Vietnamese readers’ taste.
Narrative techniques such as points of observation, story-teller and narrative language are skillfully applied in detective stories. Most of points of observation are given to characters. Therefore, society and people are observed through different angles and expressed at different emotional levels. Using first person story-tell in detective stories is a new experiment to writers. However, there is no complete separation from tradition as together with new story-telling technique, detective writers still apply the traditional approach. Third person story-tellers are used for detective stories with crime – romantic – courteous elements. Narrative language in Vietnamese detective stories serves as an important factors of expression method. It can also be seen as the reflection of writers’ creative attributes.
The language of story-tellers or characters through dialogues and self-dialogues generates the artistic value for detective stories. Through dialogues and self-dialogues, issues emerging in the stories are examined from different points of observation which creates unexpected situations and a sense of real life. It also contributes to highlighting characters’ personalities. The age has an impact and convention of dialogue expressions through new layers of words and localized features. It is worth noticing that there is a inherence of the language from traditional literature together with an adaptation of modern language from Western literature. All of the abovementioned factors contributes to the unique features of Vietnamese detective stories.
In the modernization course of Vietnamese literature, detective stories stand out as a noticeable phenomenon. Right after being born in the first half of the 20th century, this literature genre has drawn significant attention from readers. Within decades, detective stories have become a clear and unique category in Vietnamese literature with hundreds of works and well-known writers. However, detective stories had a very short period of success, which lasted for a couple of decades. From the middle of the 20th century, this literature genre reached its recession. There were fewer and fewer Vietnamese detective writers and therefore not many stories published. Due to the historical – social circumstances, detective stories have not been the attractive research topic to many experts. There are even some unreasonable judgements about this genre.
In reality, in spite of the limitations in literature techniques and styles, detective stories still play an important role in the development course of Vietnamese literature. Based on the adaptation of Western classic detective stories, Vietnamese writers were successful in creating a new genre, contributing to the diversity of Vietnamese narrative literature. This new genre can also satisfy the readers’ demand.
These following findings are drawn from the research, analysis, and evaluation conducted in the thesis:
1. A comprehensive and systematic investigation is conducted on the features of Vietnamese detective stories in the first half of the 20thcentury to confirm the adaptation of traditional literature together with Western and Chinese literature as the foundation of a new literature genre. Detective stories possess a certain position in Vietnamese modern novels with shared characteristics with Western detective stories and unique feature of Vietnamese literature in a specific historical period. This genre is also relevant to the Vietnamese historical condition and readers’ taste during that period.
2. In spite of some limitations, Vietnamese detective writers gained success in creating detectives with clear Vietnamese characteristics. They are people of righteousness, being involved in the crime cases due to accidental events. They conduct investigation to seek for truth and justice, which suit their morality and ideology. They do not take investigation as a profession. In addition, crimes and criminals are related to the relationships, assets or conflicts within a family. Therefore, investigation technique and analysis carry the current Vietnamese psychological and historical features. Detective writers apply a combination of real and mysterious spatial elements together with rapid dramatic temporal ones in the story plots to create the attractiveness of Vietnamese detective stories.
3. There is a harmonious combination of traditional and modern story plots, which reflects the effort by Vietnamese detective writers to move from the traditional chapter pattern to the Western modern structure. Writers’ personal viewpoints are most effectively presented through narrative techniques, a switch of points of observation and story-telling characters, especially the first person story-tellers. In addition, the authenticity and attractiveness of detective stories are increased a great deal through the combination of dialogue expressions, self-dialogues, local dialects, etc.
Vietnamese detective stories were born from the combination of various factors, ranging from the unique historical, social, and cultural conditions to the genre interactivity in the modernization of literature, especially with French literature. As based on the “puzzle-solving” pattern, most of detective stories focus on the crime investigation and the detectives’ analytical ability.
Crimes and criminals are described in detective stories to reflect not social reality but genre features. As Vietnamese detective stories meet the criteria of a literature genre, from this research, they can be defined as narrative novels which describe the investigations conducted by detectives and logical analysis is the key to resolve the cases.
Based on the same foundation and available research resources, this research shares the statement by other researchers that Ba Lau – the talented burglar (1917) is the first Vietnamese detective story and therefore Bien Ngu Nhy is the founder for Vietnamese detective literature. In addition, Bien Ngu Nhy and Pham Cao Cung are recognized to make the biggest contribution to the rise of this literature genre. Vietnamese detective stories possess not only entertaining functions but also educational and moral values to advocate for the good and justice, which are the major features of other genres. This distinguished characteristic gains detective stories a recognized position as well as certain values in the modernization course of Vietnamese modern novels.
During the research process, the following issues are identified. However, due to various reasons, these issues cannot be fully mentioned or resolved. They are:
- The influence of translated literature works on Vietnamese detective stories in the first half of the 20th century.
- The interactivity and integration of detective stories and other narrative genres in the development course of Vietnamese literature.
- The development of Vietnamese detective stories in the Vietnamese modern literature (after 1975).
It has been nearly one hundred years since the first detective story was published. As a complicated genre, detective stories have been the focus of a great deal of researches and evaluations. Due to the controversial opinions, no final conclusion has been made. Based on former researches, this research is expected to merely provide an extra insight of the genre features of detective stories and a recognition of the contribution made by Vietnamese detective stories in the first half of the 20th century.
PUBLICATIONS 1/ Nguyen Thanh Khanh (2013), “Mysterious elements in detective stories by The Lu”- Conference proceedings: Mysterious and legendary elements in literature; Faculty of Vietnamese Literature – Hue University of Sciences, 2013, tr.202 - 211
2/ Nguyen Thanh Khanh (2015), “Detective stories in the modernization course of Vietnamese literature”, Science & Education, Danang University of Pedagogy, 17B(04), 2015. ISSN 1859-4603
3/ Nguyen Thanh Khanh (2016),“Characteristics of Vietnamese detective stories in the first half of the 20th century”, Science & Technology, (3)16, 2015. ISSN 1859 – 4905.
4/. Nguyen Phong Nam, Nguyen Thanh Khanh (2016) “Discussion on the development of Vietnamse detective stories”, Science & Technology, Số (99)2, 2016. ISSN 1859-531.
5/ Nguyen Thanh Khanh (2016), “Poe’s “closed room” template applied in Pham Cao Cung’s “Fingerprint on the ceiling”” Science & Technology, 5(2), 6/2016. ISSN 2354 – 0850.