Gay Detectives and Victims in German Mystery Novels

James W. Jones


The article provides an overview of novels that were published between 1980 and 2009 and that have major gay characters as a detective or a victim (often both). Examples are drawn from a corpus of fifty-six such works which are analyzed according to decades. The defining characteristic of the eight novels in the 1980s is the role of the closet in determining characters’ lives and, especially, their deaths. The nineteen novels of the 1990s exhibit an increasingly open and assertive gay consciousness and the use of gay-specific settings (e.g. bars). The twenty-nine novels published between 2000 and 2009 are marked by an increase in the number and variety of gay detectives and a growing attention to such themes as German reunification, the effects of HIV/AIDS, and gay marriage. By connecting the novels to their social contexts, the analysis shows how social changes affect the conception and portrayal of gay characters in fiction. Common characteristics such as the assistance provided by the detectives’ partners and friends, the use of humor, and the role of the erotic are described. Two recent novels show how elements of repression and liberation continue to influence the depictions of gay detectives and victims in mystery novels. (JWJ)

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