Books: Murder Market

Of approximately 2,000 works of fiction published each year in the U. S., some 200 are detective stories. These murder stories make up a sizable fraction of the U. S. publishing output, although one that is seldom discussed in literary journals. To old-line publishers detective stories are a small, steady, moderately profitable side line. Their sales do not rise very high or fall very low. Many a worthy novel of serious literary import sells less than 1,000 copies. But few detective stories sell less than 2,000. Many a second-rate work of general literary...