Saturday, October 19, 2013

Not America's First Detective Novel

THE LEAVENWORTH CASE.
By Anna Katherine Green.
1878.
She may have been a failure as a poet, but Anna Katherine Green struck gold when she started killing off people.

Otto Penzler and Chris Steinbrunner write:
THE LEAVENWORTH CASE has many elements that have become cliches in detective fiction. Rich old Mr. Leavenworth is murdered in his luxurious library just as he is about to sign a new will. A dignified, if suspicious, butler, a ballistics expert, and a long coroner's inquiry--complete with minute medical evidence—are components of this novel, which has been inaccurately described as the first American detective novel. As [Ebenezer] Gryce uncovers clues, and expert witnesses prove the cause and time of death, each of the Leavenworth daughters falls under suspicion. (ENCYLOPEDIA OF MYSTERY AND DETECTION, p. 179.)
Concerning the character of Ebenezer Gryce, they write:  
There is no eccentricity about him, and no lack of dignity, but he nevertheless feels that his profession does not allow him to be considered a gentleman. (Ibid.)
Concerning his employment of Mr. Raymond and Amelia Butterworth:  
She [Amelia] is one of the earliest female detectives, and her social standing gives her entree to certain people and situations that Gryce—incomprehen-sibly—feels are above him. (Ibid.)
Steinbrunner and Penzler note two films made from this book:
A silent version from 1923.
A talkie version from Republic Pictures in 1936 with Donald Cook, Norman Foster, and Erin O'Brien-Moore: "By whistling a certain tune, the owner of a monkey trains the animal to enter a room and turn on the gas jet; several murders result." (Ibid.)
Here is Penzler and Steinbrunner's checklist of Ebenezer Gryce's appearances (novels unless otherwise noted):
1878 - THE LEAVENWORTH CASE
1880 - A STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE
1883 - HAND AND RING
1888 - BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
1890 - A MATTER OF MILLIONS
1895 - "The Doctor, His Wife, and the Clock" (s.s.)
1897 - THAT AFFAIR NEXT DOOR
1898 - LOST MAN'S LANE
1900 - "A Difficult Problem" (s.s.; one story, "The Staircase at the Heart's Delight," involves Gryce)
1900 - THE CIRCULAR STUDY
1901 - ONE OF MY SONS
1911 - INITIALS ONLY
1917 - THE MYSTERY OF THE HASTY ARROW
Michael Grost writes about Emile Gaboriau's influence of Anna Katherine Green here.

An earlier review of THE LEAVENWORTH CASE (by Xavier Lechard) is here.

And Mary Reed's review of THE CIRCULAR STUDY is here.

Mike Grost also has an extensive discussion of Green here.

If you have a Kindle, you can buy THE LEAVENWORTH CASE and THE CIRCULAR STUDY for about a buck.

Category: Detective fiction

No comments:

Post a Comment