Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Before There Was Raffles There Was Simon Carne

"The Duchess of Wiltshire's Diamonds."
Simon Carne #2.
By Guy Boothby (1867-1905).
First appearance: Pearson's Magazine, February 1897.
Filmed in 1971 as part of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes series (HERE).
Novelette (23 pages).
Online at SFFAudio HERE (PDF) and Project Gutenberg Australia HERE (txt).
"Klimo—the now famous private detective, who has won for himself the right to be considered as great as Lecocq, or even the late lamented Sherlock Holmes"
When Simon Carne disembarks from the Continental express at Victoria Station, he's rather annoyed to learn from a friend that in his absence during the past fortnight the great Klimo, who ostentatiously advertises himself as a private detective, has taken up residence next door. "I trust," says Carne, "he will not prove a nuisance"; indeed, as Carne already knows all too well, Klimo will prove to be anything but nuisance. . . .
Roy Dotrice (born 1923) as Klimo
Principal characters:
~ Simon Carne: A physically deformed individual with a "peculiar beauty" in his face; widely known as an expert on Chinese and Indian art—but, as known to only a few, also an expert in abstracting valuables from the super rich; Carne's criminal credo seems to be encapsulated in the following passage:
To him it was scarcely a robbery he was planning, but an artistic trial of skill, in which he pitted his wits and cunning against the forces of society in general.
~ Klimo: "He is neither more nor less than a remarkably astute private detective"; Klimo's meteoric rise to prominence astonishes the public at large but dismays the aristocrats into whose company he impertinently inserts himself; as events unfold, they will have even more reasons to lament his presence.
~ The Earl of Amberley: Simon Carne's good friend and oblivious conduit to the most aristocratic of aristos; happily married to the Countess of Amberley.
~ Belton: Simon Carne's "grave and respectable" valet.
~ Jowur (or Hiram) Singh, Ram Gafur, and Wajib Baksh: Carne's Indian "domestics."
~ The Duchess of Wiltshire and her husband the Duke: Possessors (temporarily) of a famed diamond necklace worth fifty thousand pounds ("a mere fleabite to the man who had given it to his wife, but a fortune to any humbler person") — ". . . the fire of the stones when the light caught them was sufficient to dazzle the eyes, so fierce was it."
We've already encountered gentleman thief Mr. Amos Clackworthy (HERE), but he was a comparative late comer to the Rogue School (more about the Rogues HERE). In Simon Carne, Guy Boothby had his own swindler even before the most famous gentleman thief of all made his debut:
In A Prince of Swindlers he [Boothby] created the character of Simon Carne, a gentleman thief in the Raffles mould, with an alter ago as the eccentric detective Klimo: Carne first appeared in Pearson's Magazine in 1897, predating Raffles by two years. — "Guy Boothby," Wikipedia
FictionMags lists six Simon Carne stories being published in rapid succession in the January through June issues of Pearson's, all of which were collected into A Prince of Swindlers (a.k.a. The Viceroy's Protégé, 1900); it isn't clear whether there were more:

(1) "A Prince of Swindlers"
(2) "The Duchess of Wiltshire’s Diamonds"
(3) "How Simon Carne Won the Derby"
(4) "A Service to the State"
(5) "The Wedding Guest"
(6) "A Case of Philanthropy"

Resources:
- Wikipedia HERE - Boothby's FictionMags list HERE - The Simon Carne list HERE - ISFDb HERE - SFE HERE.
- ManyBooks has The Viceroy's Protégé HERE.

The bottom line: "No pressure, no diamonds."
Thomas Carlyle

2 comments:

  1. I remember this episode from the Rivals of Sherlock Holmes TV series (a fabulous series it was too).

    I loved Boothby's Dr Nikola stories so this one is definitely going on my shopping list.

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    1. Allan - I wasn't impressed with the RIVALS version the first time, but subsequent viewings have changed my mind. Roy Dotrice is excellent, and the show adheres pretty closely to the original story. As for their version of Prof. Augustus S.F.X. Van Dusen - YECCH!

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