WHY WOULD two mainstream economists experiment with the detective novel genre as a vehicle for presenting their ideas? This is a personal account of the history of Murder at the Margin: the genesis of our economist-sleuth, the writing of his first adventure, our search for a publisher, and some consequences of the book's appearance. For objectivity and convenience, the story is told in the third person.
To William Breit and Kenneth G. Elzinga, it seems only yesterday that they sat down to write the first Spearman adventure. They had been vacationing at a posh hotel (during off-season rates) on the island of St. John. Breit had carried along a stack of mysteries for summer reading and he was brazen enough to think that he might be able to write a book as good as some of those he had brought to the Caneel Bay Plantation hotel.
The seed for such an idea had in fact long been gestating in Breit's mind. He had been an admiring fan of Harry Kemelman's Rabbi Small series, which started with Friday the Rabbi Slept Late in 1964, in which murders are solved through the Rabbi's knowledge of the Talmud. It occurred to Breit, a voracious reader of mystery fiction, that “whodunits” had a wide variety of characters in the role of amateur detective: G. K. Chesterton had Father Brown, the Catholic priest; Agatha Christie had Miss Marple, the spinster of St. Mary Mead; Rex Stout had Nero Wolfe, the obese orchid grower who seldom left his Manhattan