Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, The

Sherlock Holmes is the most famous fictional detective ever created. The supremely rational sleuth and his dependable companion, Dr Watson, will forever be associated with the gaslit and smog-filled streets of late nineteenth and early twentieth century London. Yet Holmes and Watson were not the only ones solving mysterious crimes and foiling the plans of villainous masterminds in Victorian and Edwardian England. The years between 1890 and 1914 were a golden age for English magazines and most of them published crime and detective fiction. The startling success of the Holmes stories that appeared in The Strand magazine spawned countless imitators. This volume highlights some of those 'Rivals of Sherlock Holmes'. In the fifteen tales which Nick Rennison has brought together in this anthology, readers can meet:
THE THINKING MACHINE - Jacques Futrelle's dazzlingly intellectual genius Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen, aka the Thinking Machine, even more capable than Holmes himself of solving the most baffling of mysteries through brainpower alone
CARNACKI THE GHOST FINDER – detective of the occult created by the legendary horror writer William Hope Hodgson, author of The House on the Borderlands
EUGENE VALMONT – a sophisticated and urbane French detective, created by Robert Barr, who lives in exile in London and uses his Gallic wit and wisdom to learn the truth about the mysteries that regularly come his way
NOVEMBER JOE – Hesketh Prichard's Canadian woodsman who uses his extraordinary powers of observation to track down villains and bring them to justice
CRAIG KENNEDY – a scientific detective from the years before the First World War, created by the American writer Arthur B. Reeve, who uses startling new technological advancements like X-rays and microphones to solve crime
HAGAR OF THE PAWN SHOP – Fergus Hume's feisty and tempestuous gypsy woman who investigates the strange stories associated with the objects that customers bring to her in her London pawn shop
It may well be true that there never has been and never will be a detective quite like Sherlock Holmes but he did not stand alone. He did have his rivals and, as this collection of short stories shows, many of their adventures were as exciting and entertaining as those of the master himself.
About the Editor
Nick Rennison is a writer, editor and bookseller with a particular interest in the Victorian era and in crime fiction. He is the author of many books including
The Bloomsbury Good Reading Guide to Crime
100 Must-Read Crime Novels
Sherlock Holmes: An Unauthorised
Peter Mark Roget – The Man who became a Book
. He is currently working on his own crime novel set in nineteenth century London.
Praise for Nick Rennison
'An intriguing anthology' -
Mail on Sunday
'a book which will delight fans of crime fiction' -
Verbal Magazine
'it's good to see that Mr Rennison has also selected some rarer pieces — and rarer detectives, such as November Joe, Sebastian Zambra, Cecil Thorold and Lois Cayley' -
Newsletter of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London
The Rivals of
Sherlock Holmes
An Anthology of Crime Stories 1890 – 1914
Edited by
To Eve with love and thanks
Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen
Created by Jacques Futrelle
Loveday Brooke
Created by Catherine Louisa Pirkis
Dr Halifax
Created by L. T. Meade and Clifford Halifax
Father Brown
Created by G. K. Chesterton
Eugène Valmont
Created by Robert Barr
Sebastian Zambra
Created by Headon Hill
Carnacki the Ghost Finder
Created by William Hope Hodgson
Thorpe Hazell
Created by Victor Whitechurch
Mr Barnes and Mr Mitchel
Created by Rodrigues Ottolengui
Created by Guy Boothby
Hagar of the Pawn Shop
Created by Fergus Hume
November Joe
Created by Hesketh Prichard
Craig Kennedy
Created by Arthur B. Reeve
Cecil Thorold
Created by Arnold Bennett
Miss Lois Cayley
Created by Grant Allen
HERLOCK HOLMES IS the most famous fictional detective ever created. The supremely rational sleuth and his dependable companion, Dr Watson, will forever be associated with the gaslit and smog-filled streets of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century London. Yet Holmes and Watson were not the only ones solving mysterious crimes and foiling the plans of villainous masterminds in Victorian and Edwardian England. The years between 1890 and 1914 were a golden age for English magazines and most of them published crime and detective fiction.
  Of course, crime fiction had not been born with Holmes's first appearance in
A Study in Scarlet
, a novel-length story published in
Beeton's Christmas Annual
of 1887. Scholars of the genre still bicker over when exactly it did first emerge. Some, marshalling more enthusiasm than evidence, claim it has its origins in stories from biblical and Ancient Greek literature. Others point to late eighteenth century fiction like William Godwin's
Caleb Williams
which hinges on the investigation of a murder. Certainly crime fiction, in a form recognisable to readers today, had been around for most of the nineteenth century and writers as various as the American Edgar Allan Poe, the Englishman Wilkie Collins and the Frenchman Émile Gaboriau had practised it. But it was Conan Doyle who took the genre to new heights of popularity.
  Holmes was not an entirely original creation (Doyle openly borrowed elements from earlier detectives like Poe's Dupin and Gaboriau's Lecoq) but he rapidly became the most famous of all fictional detectives, a position he has held ever since and is unlikely to relinquish as long as crime fiction continues to be read. He did so because he appeared in short stories published in a monthly magazine. The truth is that, if Sherlock Holmes had only been the leading character in the first two novels about him Doyle published, it is extremely unlikely that he would be remembered today by anyone but a specialist in late Victorian literature.
A Study in Scarlet
, for which Doyle was paid the princely sum of £25, was not a great success and
The Sign of Four
, a much better story published in 1890, did little more to set the Thames on fire. It was only when Sherlock Holmes short stories began to appear in a new magazine named
The Strand
that the character really seized the public imagination.
  In his autobiography, with the benefit of hindsight, Doyle could claim that he had spotted the particular type of market that magazines like
The Strand
offered. 'Considering these various journals with their disconnected stories,' he wrote, 'it had struck me that a single character running through a series, if it only engaged the attention of the reader, would bind that reader to that particular magazine... Looking round for my central character, I felt that Sherlock Holmes, who I had already handled in two little books, would easily lend himself to a succession of short stories.' The result of Doyle's insight (and the perspicacity of Th
Strand's editor Greenhough Smith who commissioned him) was the firs
t set of Holmes short stories which began with 'A Scandal in Bohemia' in July 1891. Doyle went on to become probably The Strand's most highly valued contributor and fifty-five more Holmes tales appeared in its pages in the next thirty-six years.
  Not that Doyle was the first writer to publish fiction in
The Strand
. He was not even the first to write a detective story for it. That honour goes to Grant Allen whose story 'Jerry Stokes' appeared a couple of months before 'A Scandal in Bohemia'. He could, however, claim to be the first to spot the importance of 'a single character running through a series'. There had been earlier detectives who appeared in sequences of stories in magazines (tales of the Glaswegian detective Dick Donovan, for example, date from the late 1880s) but Sherlock Holmes was undoubtedly the first such character to make a massive impact on a magazine's circulation. One immediate consequence was that Greenhough Smith began to commission other writers to produce series of detective stories. He wanted rivals to Sherlock Holmes if only because Doyle was unable (or unwilling) to write a Holmes story for every issue of
The Strand
in the 1890s. So characters like Martin Hewitt, the lawyer turned detective created by Arthur Morrison, and Lois Cayley, the feisty 'New Woman' whose adventures were recorded by Grant Allen, made their debut in the magazine. The Martin Hewitt stories were even illustrated by Sydney Paget, the same artist who brought Holmes to life. L. T. Meade, a veteran writer of romances and crime fiction, collaborated with a doctor named Clifford Halifax to write stories about a doctor named Clifford Halifax. (Clifford Halifax was actually the pseudonym of a medic called Edgar Beaumont who was presumably drafted into the partnership to provide professional expertise.) None of these characters attained even a tenth of the fame of Holmes but all did their bit to increase the popularity of crime fiction. For many years after 'A Scandal in Bohemia', nearly every monthly issue of The Strand, almost without exception, included a story of mystery and detection.
  Although it was a dominant player in the market,
The Strand
was only one of dozens of similar magazines that were published in the late Victorian and Edwardian era. And, like
The Strand
, nearly every one of them wanted crime stories. Writers were only too happy to oblige. Some of these writers, like Arnold Bennett, are now famous for other work. Some, like Grant Allen and Guy Boothby, were famous in their day but are now almost forgotten. Some, like Victor Whitechurch and Headon Hill, were not particularly famous even in their own lifetimes. All, however, were prepared to supply the monthly magazines' insatiable demand for fiction, especially crime fiction. Bennett's stories of the mischievous millionaire Cecil Thorold appeared in
The Windsor Magazine
; Thorpe Hazell, the railway detective created by Victor Whitechurch, not only appeared (appropriately enough) in
Railway Magazine
but also in
The Royal
Pearson's Magazine
; the adventures of Headon Hill's exotically named sleuth Sebastian Zambra could be followed in a lesser known magazine named
The Million
. Robert Barr's tales of Eugène Valmont, a French investigator exiled to London, could be found in
The Windsor Magazine
Pearson's Magazine.
Barr himself, together with Jerome K. Jerome, was closely involved in the establishment of The Idler, one of The Strand's most successful competitors.
The Idler
played host to detectives like William Hope Hodgson's unusual character, Carnacki the Ghost Finder. Conan Doyle, a friend of both Barr and Jerome, contributed tales of mystery and the supernatural to their magazine.

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