Brock receives crime fiction collection

Upon hearing that the Brock University library had recently been given a collection of books worth over $40,000, I wondered to myself if they would be useful, interesting, or even accessible to the students. What area of topic stands out as one that most people are at least a little bit curious about? Organic chemistry perhaps? Maybe the study of migratory patterns of Canadian geese, or the sleeping habits of the three-toed sloth? Now none of these are up my alley in terms of subjects of choice, but who’s to say others are not foaming at the mouth at the mere mention of them?
Unfortunately for those who are, the new collection has nothing to do with these topics. It does, however, contain roughly 2000 items related to the study of crime, mystery and detective fiction, including both fictional material and critical studies of the genre. David Skene-Melvin, a literary historian, editor, publishing consultant and former executive director of Crime Writers of Canada, donated the extensive collection of books to the Brock library. According to professor Marilyn Rose of English language and literature, Skene-Melvin approached Brock after reading about its popular culture program on the web.
“He was looking for a home for his books that would keep the collection together and make it available to students,” Rose said.
Most of the new collection will be housed on the eighth floor of the library, except first editions and those that are extremely valuable. These will be stored in the special collections department in the library.
According to Margaret Grove, university librarian: “The donor was very interested in giving his collection to an institution where it would be accessible and used.
“We were quite delighted, very honored, and grateful to Mr. Skene-Melvin for donating his wonderful collection to the university.”
Upon hearing about the donation and the genre of information soon to be available, I found myself wondering what it is about crime, mystery, and their solutions that captivates so many people? It could be an escape from the mendacity of daily routine, or a type of hero worship, whether it is for the criminal or the ‘good-guy’ depends on the personality type of the reader. Or, it could be simply for the love of the game; the game being putting the pieces of a mystery together and attempting to solve it before the last chapter gives the answers away. According to Rose, this attraction to the crime, mystery and detective genre is in the solution of crimes and the restoration of social order through the work of the detective or private eye.
“Those who study the phenomenal popularity of this kind of writing in our time suggest that in times of social uncertainty and fears about increasing crime, such as our own, readers turn to narratives that will reassure them that crimes can be solved, and criminals discovered and dealt with in one way or another,” she explains.
Grove mentions that the collection will be very significant for the unique popular culture program offered at Brock. “It [the collection] will create interesting opportunities for student projects and research. It will also be an important collection for researchers from other institutions and will thus enhance Brock’s reputation,” she states firmly.
Brock will be offering a new masters of arts program in popular culture in the fall. One of the courses included will be in detective fiction, called, Dis/Covery as Cultural Paradigm: Crime and Detection on Literature, Television and Film. Rose and Professor Jeannette Sloniowski, of the department of communications, popular culture and film, will jointly teach the course.
“We are co-researchers who will be producing not only scholarly bibliographies in this field, but joint scholarly work of our own with respect to issues such as surveillance and punishment that pervade this genre,” Rose said.
The tentative outline for this new course includes such areas as, “The Poetics of Murder,” “Private I/Eyes,” “Regional Dicks,” “The Police Procedural,” and “Grrrls and Other Gumshoes in the Margins.”

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