30 July 2012

The Dead Witness

So, over the last 6 weeks the only book reading I've done (as opposed to audiobook listening) has been from a collection of Victorian mysteries called The Dead Witness, edited by Michael Sims.  It's about 550 pages and includes short stories, excerpts from longer works, and even a bit from the news of the time regarding Jack the Ripper.

The collection starts with "The Secret Cell" by William Burton, which has apparently not been published since its original publication in 1837.  It isn't the strongest story but is a good start.  Sims proceeds chronologically and brings in some rare stories from outside the US and Britain and several by women authors.  Rue Morgue is the second story but Holmes doesn't show until page 267, showing how many people were writing between the two authors. The quality does go back and forth but it's hard to compare detective stories written by Mark Twain or Arthur Conan Doyle to someone unknown to you

I'll be looking up C.L. Pirkis, who wrote about a woman detective Loveday Brooke, and George Sims, whose detective was an ex-actress Dorcas Dene.  Robert Barr wrote about a proto-Poirot named Eugene Valmont and Hesketh Prichard about a backwoods detective called November Joe, who seems to know as much about life in the forest as Holmes knew about life in London.  Finally, Anna Katherine Green wrote about a society debutante, Violet Strange, whose position allowed her to access to places the police and other detectives could never go.  

Unfortunately, finding more by some of the authors is going to be a bit difficult.  Quickly glancing around amazon found collections by some authors but my library doesn't seem to have them.  However, much should now be in the public domain and i did find a couple of anthologies for free via Kindle.  any book that sends me off to read 4 others gets a recommendation for sure!  a 6 from me and anyone who enjoys old mystery stories should check it out. 

2 comments:

  1. It doesn't look like there are any CL Pirkis books on Project Gutenberg, but there are gaslight.mtroyal.ca and librivox.org.

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  2. Thanks, i'll have to take a look at those sites!

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