Lecture explores invention of detective story and creation of official detectives

October 20, 2009

Leroy Lad Panek, professor of English at McDaniel College and noted scholar on detective fiction, will be the keynote speaker at McDaniel College’s Holloway Lecture, “McDaniel and his Hellish Crew: Life Before Detectives,” at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 27 in McDaniel Lounge.

The lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, call (410) 857-2294.

Panek will cover the history of highwaymen to the McDaniel scandal, from Blackstone’s Commentaries to the introduction of the insanity defense that defined the evolution of law enforcement, the invention of the detective story and the creation of official detectives in the 1840s.

Noting that police departments weren’t created until about the 1850s, Panek said the detective and crime stories gave rise to the discussion about the usefulness of police and detectives.

Panek’s analyses of specific detective authors and movements have appeared in collections published by both the Oxford and Cambridge University presses. Among his books are “Watteau’s Shepherds: the Detective Novel in Britain,” “An Introduction to the Detective Story,” “Probable Cause: Crime Fiction in America,” “Recent Hard-Boiled Writers,” “The American Police Novel,” “Reading Early Hammett,” “The Origins of the American Detective Story” and, with Mary Bendel-Simso, “Early American Detective Stories.” Chapters from these have been widely anthologized and his work has been translated into both French and Italian.

In a review of “The Origins of the American Detective Story,” critic Jon Breen wrote that “Panek has been crime fiction’s most prolific scholar, and historian. Happily, he is also the most learned, readable, and original of mystery commentators.”

The Mystery Writers of America has awarded two of his books the Edgar Allan Poe Award for best critical or biographical work of the year, and Panek was chosen for the George Dove Award from the Popular Culture Association of America in recognition of contribution to the serious study of popular literature. He has been a featured speaker at the convention of the American Library Association and has been the Distinguished Guest Speaker at the Baker Street Irregulars’ annual Sherlock Holmes Birthday celebration.

The Holloway Lecture is named for Fred Garrigus Holloway, the fourth president of McDaniel College. A graduate of the class of 1919, Holloway went on to earn a divinity degree from Drew University and was ordained by the Methodist Protestant church in 1921.

Holloway served charges in Delaware, Virginia and Maryland before he was called to Westminster Theological Seminary in 1927 as Professor of Biblical Languages. There, his emergence as one of the church's most powerful preachers and as a promising young administrator led to the presidency of the Seminary, and, after a short time, to the presidency of the College itself.

In a critical period of growth and change, his insistence on academic excellence and collegiality made a deep and lasting impression on the institution, and his brilliant sermons and poetry readings enlivened a difficult decade. Because literature was an integral part of his intellectual curriculum, the College elected to present annual scholarly lectures as a lasting tribute to one of Fred Holloway's deepest commitments.