Famous Authors’ Detective Club


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Most 19th-century detective fictions were in short-story form, many published in the Strand Magazine starting in Bentley , has traditionally been seen as one of the first novel-length detective fictions. This method of expanding the story to book length was clearly not one that could be generally used, so later authors of novel-length detective stories introduced more characters and various red herrings, that is, plot lines that lead to incorrect conclusions. The criminal is usually an individual, not part of a professional crime organization, which can be reassuring to the reader.

The usually idiosyncratic personality of the detective as well as his or her inevitable success in solving the crime are other pleasures for the readers, which keep them coming back for more adventures of the specific detective—whether Sherlock Holmes or, later, Miss Marple or Lord Peter Wimsey. Thus another characteristic of most detective fiction is that the detective goes on to solve other crimes in other stories, making the series an important part of the creation of the character of the detective and the popularity of the genre.

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A good number of critics of 19th-century British detective fiction, especially those in the early 20th century, included in their discussions and analyses the detectives in two canonized novels that appeared around the time of the establishment of the detective branch of the Metropolitan Police, the well-known novels Bleak House , by Charles Dickens , whose police detective is Inspector Bucket, and The Moonstone , by Wilkie Collins , whose police detective is Sergeant Cuff. Coupled with feminist-inspired efforts to recover forgotten works by 19th-century women writers, the critical interest in detective fiction led to the discovery of many forgotten detective fiction writers between the s and World War I.

Finally, starting in the second half of the 20th century, critical attention tried to account for the popularity of the genre, using Freudian, Marxist, structuralist, feminist, and postcolonial critiques. Contemporaneous with the Sherlock Holmes stories and frequently influenced by them are an increasing variety of male and female detectives, including, for example, insurance investigators, educated women, doctors, and even a Catholic priest. There is a crime and a solution, but the novel is not a detective fiction per se; it is written to raise philosophical issues of criminal justice and governmental tyranny.

His memoirs include descriptions of many of his cases. Holmes , by Carole Nelson Douglas A number of other popular novels in the s involved mysteries and crimes that are solved by amateurs involved with the families affected; one of the best known is The Woman in White , by Wilkie Collins — The truly brilliant and eccentric figure in this novel is actually the main criminal, Count Fosco. During the several decades between the Dupin stories of the s and the Sherlock Holmes stories of the late s and s, a growing number of detective stories were published. Henry Wood, wrote stories of mystery and detection, some of which featured a detective but usually an amateur one involved only in a single case.

A number of detective stories that fit the generic form were published in the United States and in France as well. In the United States, Anna Katharine Green authored many New York—based detective stories she wrote forty-odd detective fictions from to , the first being The Leavenworth Case in , in which she introduced her detective Ebenezer Gryce.

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In later works a spinster, Amelia Butterworth, helps Gryce in his detecting, and eventually Green created a female detective, the debutant Violet Strange, who maintains a secret life as a detective. The Lecoq novels were translated into English and published in Britain in She works independently but undercover for the police. She is not developed much as a character, but she shares with the generic detective excellent observation skills and uses the deductive method in the seven cases included in the volume. Paschal Fig.

Anne Humpherys

She is an almost penniless widow who works privately for Colonel Warner, head of the Detective Department of the Metropolitan Police. She has the requisite observation skills and inductive reasoning of the generic detective, but, scandalously, she also smokes and carries a Colt revolver and, unusual in detective fiction, tells her own adventures in ten stories in the volume. Figure 1. Cover of Revelations of a Lady Detective Mrs.

Paschal , by William Stephens Hayward Creative Commons. First published in eight parts in the magazine Once a Week in —, the mystery features a detective who is actually an insurance investigator; he suspects a baron of murdering his wife, on whom he had taken out five insurance policies.


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In following through the investigation, the investigator uncovers three murders, but the real interest in the novel is in how the murders were committed and then in how to catch the baron, who appears to have committed a perfect crime. The best sellers of detective fiction in the period before the Sherlock Holmes stories appeared were novel-length stories.

The first was by Fergus Hume, whose The Mystery of a Hansom Cab sold almost one hundred thousand copies in its first two print runs in Australia and three hundred thousand in Britain in the first six months after publication in Fig. Figure 2. Courtesy of L. Wikimedia Commons. He moved to Britain in , a year after the huge success of his novel, which he was inspired to write by reading the detective stories of Gaboriau.

The solution of the crime is actually the result of investigations and logic by a lawyer, Calton, and a slightly seedy private detective, Kilslip. The novel is notable for its representation of class divides in the city, in particular between the wealthy and influential Frettlby family and the denizens of the slums around Little Bourke Street, the uncovering of whose dark secrets leads to the solution.

Its author, Israel Zangwill, was a prolific writer, contributing articles and fiction to many periodicals as well as writing many books of different sorts from the early s into the 20th century. This novel is another locked-room mystery, but the emphasis on the locked room is more central in this work.

A landlady tries to wake a lodger, but the door is locked and he does not answer. She gets a next-door neighbor, the retired police detective Mr. George Grodman, to help her break down the door, locked from the inside as are all the windows. Inside they find the lodger dead, his throat cut.

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Both the means and the motive of the crime seem totally mysterious. Grodman and his rival detective, Wimp, race to solve the crime; an innocent man is condemned, and only at the very end is the startling real solution revealed by Grodman. The history of detective fiction in 19th-century Britain finally arrives at B Baker Street, where Sherlock Holmes lives with his sidekick, Dr. John Watson, the narrator of the Holmes stories.

Holmes is the creation of fifty-six stories and four short novels by an unsuccessful doctor, Arthur Conan Doyle, who only at the very end of his life he died in grudgingly accepted that his character Holmes and his stories had any value. Famously, he tried to kill Holmes off after twenty-three stories but was forced by popular demand to resurrect him in thirty-three more stories and two novellas. The story of how Arthur Conan Doyle developed the character of Holmes has been told many times.

Conan Doyle trained as a doctor at Edinburgh University and received a medical degree in , but he did not have a lot success as a doctor, and he took to writing partly as a pastime but also in the hope of supplementing his income. From the beginning, the character of Sherlock Holmes is a contradictory mixture of a man with amazingly unemotional scientific rationality, who also is a dreamy romantic violinist and drug taker.

In this, he differs from his predecessor Auguste Dupin, who is wholly the rational man, which is the image that Holmes also projects to the clients and the police. But to Watson and the reader, he shows his other side as a man susceptible to boredom and at times emotionally reactive to his clients. Figure 3. Joseph Bell. In the first two novellas, Conan Doyle had not quite mastered the form that would mark his most famous stories.

In the first of the Holmes tales, a third of the novella is taken up with a story about the Mormons in the United States in which Holmes does not appear. The second has a very convoluted plot involving the East India Company, the Indian uprising, stolen treasure, convicts, and corrupt prison guards. This solution is sometimes tested when Holmes sets up a trap for the perpetrator, and only at that point, at the very end of the piece, does Holmes tell the story of his observations and sometimes the scientific knowledge he claimed, for example, he could identify up to different kinds of tobacco ash , that led him to uncover the true story of the crime, who did it, and how and why.

Many critics believe these twenty-three stories are the best of the fifty-six Holmes stories. All the stories collected in these last two volumes originally appeared in the Strand Magazine between and Two more volumes of Holmes stories were published—the last of the four Holmes novels, The Valley of Fear , and His Last Bow , a collection of mainly previously published stories.


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  7. Not all of the cases brought to Holmes involve murder. There are some planned murders that Holmes stops before they happen by uncovering the reasons for mysterious behaviors and inexplicable happenings. The crimes his clients bring to him, though, are often threats, mysterious events, and secrets in middle-class and sometimes aristocratic families.

    Occasionally the problem presented to Holmes by the client is not the real crime.


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    The solution involves an old family ritual, a hidden vault, and a scorned woman. It does contain a murder that Holmes uncovers, but that is only a by-product of the major family secret that Holmes reveals. The responses, analyses, critiques, continuations, and adaptations of Sherlock Holmes and the stories of his career as a consulting detective number in the thousands. Perhaps the most influential of the early adaptations and continuations was the play Sherlock Holmes , which grew out of a five-act play written by Conan Doyle but declared unstageable and significantly rewritten by William Gillette.

    This play was first produced in New York in and then in London in Since this early expansion of the Holmes stories at the end of the 19th century, there have been many more plays, motion pictures, television series, and novels featuring Holmes and Dr. Figure 4. Many explanations of the long-lasting popularity of the Sherlock Holmes figure and the detective stories that define him have been offered. One is that the stories recreate the entire 19th-century world before modern technology changed it, a world lost and suffused with nostalgia: the London fog though that is not often referred to in the stories , the gaslights, the hansom cabs, the interplay between the urban setting and the suburban and country estates where many of the crimes take place; the class differences and their markers so neatly observed by Holmes, who draws the exactly right conclusion about them.

    Another theory was expressed by John Cawelti, one of the earliest critics to take detective fiction seriously, who says that the classical detectives like Holmes reassure us that crime is an individual affair and the detective will always discover the culprit. The detective always solves the crime, though Holmes admits to Watson he has failed in some cases, but these failures are never written up by Watson.

    These explanations are applicable to almost all detective fiction. For the continuing appeal of the Sherlock Holmes stories specifically, the character of Holmes himself, as created by Conan Doyle, must be part of the explanation for their endurance. His quirks, his eagerness, his tricks and devices, his energies, his philosophy, his turn to the violin and cocaine injection charm us all.

    We want to be in his presence over and over again, and since the actual stories are limited in number, we turn to sequels, prequels, movies, television, graphic novels, and adaptations of all sorts. Ultimately, Sherlock Holmes in any of these later manifestations still seldom disappoints, and if the specific adaptation is, in fact, disappointing, we can take comfort in the knowledge that there will be another one—which may even be better—in the very near future.

    The supposed death of Sherlock Holmes in coincides with another expansion of British detective fiction. New fictional detectives appeared regularly in the magazines from to ; there was, understandably, less publication of the genre during World War I, though there was some. The war also brought about the development of the spy novel, which is a separate genre of mystery fiction. Many of the new post-Holmes detective stories followed and, in some cases, developed variations on the structure of Conan Doyle, and many of the new detectives, both male and female, had elements of Sherlock Holmes in them.

    Of course, Conan Doyle kept writing the Holmes stories until After World War I the detective story moved in a somewhat different direction from its 19th-century predecessors, into the period that has been called the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. Van Dine. The period between and is a kind of interregnum in the development of detective fiction in Britain.

    Thus this period is a convenient marker of the end of the development of 19th-century detective fiction in Britain. Detective fiction also expanded in the United States and in France during these years. In the first book-length study of the detective fiction genre appeared, The Technique of the Mystery Story , by Carolyn Wells, a prolific American writer who wrote many detective novels. Her guide to detective fiction gave a picture of the field just before the golden age began and included references to many still relatively unknown writers and detectives.

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    When Conan Doyle decided to kill Sherlock Holmes and end the series, the editors of the Strand scrambled to find a substitute for the popular series. They found Arthur Morrison, who is known now mainly for novels of London poverty. He started as an insurance investigator but turns to hiring himself out as a private detective. He is placid, even plodding, though he uses the same techniques of close observation, logical reasoning, and forensic data as Holmes does.

    Unlike Holmes, however, Hewitt is genial and accommodating and on good terms with the police.

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