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Evolution of the Mystery Genre

A quick timeline of mystery authors and trends.

Mysteries Lead the Way in Entertainment with Books, Plays, Radio, Television, Movies and the Internet

Edgar Allan Poe publishes the first mystery story, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," introducing a brand new genre to readers of Graham's Magazine.

Sherlock Holmes, widely acknowledged as the most famous literary character in history, makes his debut in "A Study in Scarlet" in The Strand Magazine.

The first narrative movie in history, a silent film called The Great Train Robbery, is released. Shot with a budget of $150, the story is based on a Wyoming robbery committed by Butch Cassidy's gang.

Frank and Joe Hardy embark on their crime-fighting careers with the publication of The Tower Treasure. Nancy Drew follows in 1930. Seven decades later, the brothers and Nancy continue as favorites of young readers around the world.

The first weekly radio detective show, Sherlock Holmes, starring William Gillette, debuts. In fact, it is one of the country's first radio dramas of any sort.

Batman debuts in "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate" in Detective Comics. The caped crusader, joined by Robin, later appears in comic books, television, novels and films, introducing mystery to a brand-new audience of children and adults of all ages.

Mystery Writers of America (MWA), an organization established to promote and protect the interest and welfare of mystery writers and increase the esteem and literary recognition of the genre, is founded in New York City.

MWA institutes the Edgar Allan Poe Awards (the Edgars) to recognize excellence in mystery novels, stories, films, plays, radio and television dramas.

The television show Perry Mason starring Raymond Burr, debuts. The popular series runs until 1966. Future mystery television series will include: Dragnet (1959), Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955), The Mod Squad (1968), Columbo (1971), The Rockford Files (1974), Charlie's Angels (1976), Nancy Drew Mysteries (1977), Hardy Boys Mysteries (1977), Remington Steele (1982), Miami Vice (1984), Murder, She Wrote (1984), Agatha Christie's Poirot (1989), Law & Order (1990), and Diagnosis Murder (1993).

Murder Ink, the world's first mystery bookstore, opens on Manhattan's Upper West Side. By mid-1999, the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association estimates there are over 150 mystery bookstores worldwide.

The first online mystery network, MysteryNet, publisher of online mysteries and mystery websites, debuts on the Internet. In 1999 more than 500,000 people receive's weekly online mini-series via email - a circulation that rivals popular magazines Details, George, GQ, Martha Stewart Living, Mirabella and New York.

According to Variety, 14 out of the top 50 grossing movies of 1998 were mysteries. They include Rush Hour, Lethal Weapon, Enemy of the State, The X-Files, A Perfect Murder and Snake Eyes.

In the past few decades, mystery books come second only to romance in units sold. Over 60 million mystery detective books were purchased by consumers in 1997, representing 11.3% of the popular fiction books purchased for the year.