Wednesday, November 13, 2013

No Real Threat to Sherlock

By Arthur Morrison.
D. Appleton & Co.
William R. Loeser reviews a short story collection by Arthur Morrison on the MYSTERY*FILE weblog:
Arthur Morrison's Martin Hewitt was for the decade 1895-1905 probably the foremost rival of Sherlock Holmes. Not much of one, though, for he completely lacked the distinguishing personality of the Master and his creator the skill to make his deductions seem other than lucky guesses.
 Mike Grost has still more about him here:
Arthur Morrison's fiction seems to have only a little in common with Doyle's, despite his often being cited as Doyle's chief imitator.
Admittedly, Martin Hewitt is a consulting detective who appeared in a series of short stories in middle class magazines, just like Sherlock Holmes. So Morrison's commercial publication was entirely due to an appetite for Doyle imitations.
But the actual content of Morrison's fiction seems quite different from Doyle's. In many ways, Morrison seems closer to the soon to emerge Rogue school.
Many of his Hewitt tales focus on some ingenious criminal scheme, often involving robbery of some sort. These tales can also involve impersonation of respectable people by members of the criminal classes.
Full review from THE OUTLOOK (May 9, 1896), archived here (scroll to page 863, lower left):
On the whole, if we are to study criminology, we prefer the leadership of Mr. Doyle's Sherlock Holmes or Mr. Arthur Morrison's 'Martin Hewitt, Investigator,' to that of Mr. Pemberton's scoundrel.
Martin Hewitt is obviously modeled after Sherlock Holmes, and his methods are the same. But it must be admitted that the crimes he discovers are highly original, and fully as difficult to puzzle out as those of the beloved Sherlock.
Many great men, we are told, relax their minds by reading detective stories in leisure moments. For that purpose Mr. Morrison's tales called 'Martin Hewitt's Chronicles' can conscientiously be recommended.
"The Ivy Cottage Mystery"
"The Nicobar Bullion Case"
"The Holford Will Case"
"The Case of the Missing Hand"
"The Case of Laker, Absconded" (filmed in 1971)
"The Case of the Lost Foreigner"

Mary Reed, in the Maywrite Library, has helpfully compiled a listing of appearances of Morrison's works on the Web; go here for the links. Project Gutenberg's rendition of CHRONICLES, for example, is here.

THE BATTERED SILICON BOX is offering a cloth-bound Martin Hewitt omnibus here.

Category: Detective fiction

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