Henrique Valle, commenting on my initial post, asked an important question:
« Are Trent´s Last Case and the earlier Chesterton, Mason (of At The Villa Rose fame!), Freeman and Philpotts works, among others, outside the Golden Age? »
This raises once again the definition problems I highlighted in my article. Is Golden Age a period, a style, or both?
If we choose the first option and stick to the commonly accepted chronology (Golden Age beginning somewhere in the early Twenties and ending either before or shortly after WW2) then the issue looks settled once and for all: Trent's Last Case, being published in 1913 and probably written sooner, is not part of the Golden Age and neither are works by Chesterton, Mason, Freeman and others that were published prior to the Great War.
Things are less clear by the second option, as many of these works exhibit features associated with GA-style detective fiction and, indeed, exerted a decisive influence on it. As to the third option – regarding Golden Age as a certain period dominated by a certain model of detective stories – it leaves our candidates out of the picture once again since neither Trent's Last Case or The Eye of Osiris for instance are typical products of their era; one of the reasons of their enduring appeal is how ahead they were of their time.
Now even these apparently firm answers generate further interrogations: If it's not yet Golden Age, what is it then? How do we call the period that preceded, and led to, proper Golden Age?
Some scholars including Julian Symons have called it « the first Golden Age » and there is justification for this. The thirty or so years between the first publication of A Study in Scarlet and the outset of the World War I saw the genre coming to maturity – as I've written elsewhere, all of mystery fiction as we know it was either in germ or full-blown by the early 1910s – as well as conquering a vast audience. Most of all, it was marked by some of the earliest and most lasting triumphs of the genre – its relative novelty as well as the absence of firm rules (soon to be remedied to, alas) boosted authors' creativity. That it most often manifested in the guise of short stories rather than novels, something we've lost the habit of, makes it all the more impressive.
To call such a period a Golden Age would certainly not be an exaggeration, but it is somewhat confusing in my view, especially if you think like I do that GA in its traditional acception is already a plural entity. If we start numbering Golden Ages like we do with World Wars and French Republics we end up emptying the whole notion. Why not a third or a fourth Golden Age? Is not each period a Golden Age of sorts? Also, I like the that when I'm talking about GA in the broadest sense, I don't need to specify which one I'm referring to. It makes discussion and debate much easier. Silver Age then? This might do, but the appellation might apply just well to the period immediately following the standard GA and preceding the thriller boom of the early Sixties…
I welcome any suggestion.