Thursday, April 17, 2014

"As Bright and Hard and Competent As a Jack-knife"

Edited by J. Walker McSpadden.
T. Y. Crowell Co.
1920. 323 pages. $1.50
Available online HERE and HERE.

1. "The Purloined Letter" - Edgar Allan Poe
2. "An Interview with M. Lecoq" - Emile Gaboriau
3. "A Scandal in Bohemia" - A. Conan Doyle
4. "The Adventure of the Hansom Cabs" - Robert Louis Stevenson
5. "The Adventure of the Toadstools" - Sax Rohmer
6. "Gentlemen and Players" - E. W. Hornung
7. "The Black Hand" - Arthur B. Reeve
8. "The Grotto Spectre" - Anna Katherine Green
9. "The Mystery of the Steel Disk" - Broughton Brandenburg
10. "The Sign of the Shadow" - Maurice Le Blanc
11. "The Mystery of the Steel Room" - Thomas W. Hanshew

A reviewer marvels at how these stories so closely follow the Poe plan:
. . . Yet in spite of these minor differences [among the stories collected here], what seems most striking is the fidelity with which all these authors have followed the formula of Poe. Instead of inventing the form did he discover something inherent in the structure of the detective tale?
Must all detectives have mediocre companions through whose consciousness the narrative can be reported up to the moment when the lightning strikes and the master reveals what has not been guessed by the stupider companion—and the readers?
Are the motives and methods of crime, under all the surface disguises, capable of being reduced to such simple formulas?
One thing is certain, the detective story, entertaining as it may be, is the most thoroughly standardized product in modern literature, as bright and hard and competent as a jack-knife, and hardly one iota more humane. — "Books in Brief," THE NATION (September 25, 1920)

Category: Detective fiction

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