My Favorite Detective Story Essay Outline


Fiat Lux! declared Edgar Allan Poe and in the beginning was The Murders in the Rue Morgue. The detective story begins with its publication in the April, 1841 issue of Graham's Magazine. Howard Haycraft states in his excellent Murder for Pleasure: The Life and Times of the Detective Story (1941): "Clearly there could be no detective stories (and there were none) until there were detectives. This did not occur until the nineteenth century." Philip Van Doren has well said: "Like printing, the detective story has been improved upon only in a mechanical way since it was first invented; as artistic products Gutenberg's Bible and Poe's The Murders in the Rue Morgue have never been surpassed."

It is odd that the first detective stories should have been written by an American with the scenes laid in Paris. But we must recall that the Sûreté Générale and Scotland Yard were in existence at a time when American police methods had no such centralization, so Poe had no native types to draw upon. He knew Paris well, displaying wide knowledge of its police system and with the Memoirs (Paris, 1827) of the famed Vidocq, criminal turned cop. Charles Baudelaire translated Poe's tales magnificently in the 1850's and '60's when he was out-of-print in his own country, and the most impressive of all editions is that published in four large quarto volumes, lavishly illustrated (Paris, 1927-28). Poe was also well-received in England, the first illustrated editions of his works appearing there in the early 1850's. All these are included in this exhibit.

The next great step in the development of the genre was the publication in book form of Emile Gaboriau's L'Affair Lerouge (Paris, 1866). This has the distinction of being the first full-length detective novel and had immense success. Two years later Wilkie Collin's The Moonstone appeared, the first English detective novel and, according to T. S. Eliot "the first, the longest and the best," though the first two of these adjectives are disputable. It was not until eleven years later, in 1878, that the first native detective novel appeared in America, Anna Katherine Green's The Leavenworth Case. This firmly establishes her as the mother of the detective story: "The first woman," says Haycraft, "to practice the form in any land or language." However, we were reading them avidly before then, as The Widow Lerouge was issued in translation in Boston (Osgood, 1873) and The Moonstone in New York (Harper) the same year as its London appearance.

Then, in 1887 an obscure doctor, A. Conan Doyle, had a story, A Study in Scarlet, published in the Christmas number of a well-known English magazine, The Strand. After that, the deluge.

It is curious that there have been few significant detective stories written outside the English speaking-French circle, though they have been very popular everywhere in translation. It should be remembered that they were suppressed in Italy and Germany early in the Second World War. The Nazi Party ordered the withdrawal of all imported detective fiction from German bookshops and declared them "pure liberalism" designed to "stuff the heads of German readers with foreign ideas." In any event it seems that Dictators and Detectives, amateur or otherwise, don't jell.

To John Carter belongs the honor of having produced the first bibliographical study, "Detective Fiction" in New Paths in Book Collecting (London, Constable, 1934), when it was indeed a new path. He was also among its first serious collectors, and the earliest rare book catalogue devoted entirely to the subject, compiled by him from his own collection, was issued by Scribners in 1934. This collection was acquired en bloc by the Lilly Library some years back and has been greatly expanded since. It is the basis of our collection, and a goodly part of it is in this exhibition. As this is the first comprehensive exhibition of the genre to be attempted, we are privileged to quote from Carter's "Introduction" to Dorothy Glover and Graham Greene's Victorian Detective Fiction (London, 1906):

In the year 1927, when I came down from Cambridge, I was a keen reader, and of course I liked to think a discriminating one, of detective stories. If Sherlock Holmes had been a household word before I was born (in the early 1890s the fans used to queue outside Newnes's office for the new issue of The Strand), I was already aware that he had predecessors as well as successors, even though no detective, then or since, has approached his hold on an international public. 'Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona', as E. M. Wrong, the Magdalen historian, quoted in the course of his introduction (still one of the best things of its kind) to a selection of short detective stories in the World's Classics series, 1926. 'Do you know Huckleberry Finn?' says Sigsbee Manderson's American secretary to Philip Trent: 'Do I know my own name?' the detective replied. I could have said the same, not only of Trent's Last Case itself or The Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Moonstone or The Red Thumb Mark, of The Cask, The Verdict of You All, The Greene Murder Case or Whose Body?, but also (which is more than I could now) of a dozen or two more of the classics of detective fiction. And if it would be too much to claim more than a handful of the less-known pre-Conan Doyle stories as classics, I at least knew that they were numerous and was familiar with some of them.

When, therefore, I went to work in the rare book business—where, if you are only a hired hand, it is impracticable to be a collector of anything the customers might want—I exchanged my adolescent enthusiasm for early editions of the Latin classics and for modern fine printing (favorite field for neophytes) for this then seemingly remote hunting-ground. Poe, of course, was collected by the Americans, as a star in their literary firmament. H. W. Bell and presumably a few other sufferers from Sherlockholmitis were collecting Conan Doyle. But in those dear, distant days the average bibliophile (let alone the averagely contemptuous layman) would have reckoned virtually certifiable a man who was found combing Foyles and the sixpenny boxes for first editions of 'Lawrence L. Lynch', T. W. Speight, Fergus Hume, B. L. Farjeon, 'Dick Donovan', George R. Sims, J. S. Fletcher, Headon Hill, Arthur Morrison, M. McDonnell Bodkin; first English (if nothing better) editions of the Americans Anna Katherine Green and Allan Pinkerton, the Frenchmen Gaboriau and du Boisgobey. (Are there any German or Italian detective stories?) As for those incunabular figures, 'Waters', 'Charles Martel', Andrew Forrester Jr. and the other prolific writers of the (mostly yellow-back) romans policiers in the 1850s and 1860s, I don't know that even Michael Sadleir had thought enough of them to do more than penetrate their pseudonyms.

While the sun stayed in, I made hay; and so, no doubt, did any other premature addicts. In four or five years I had accumulated perhaps 350 first (or occasionally merely early) editions of detective fiction from 1845 to 1930. One has to have a terminal date—or else buy a warehouse. Mine was thirty years later than that adopted by Glover- Greene; and the reader will have noticed that I confined my name-dropping at the end of the preceding paragraph to authors we both collected. But by 1932 times were changing. Elkin Mathews, those habitual pioneers, had taken up Sherlock Holmes, and in their catalogue no. 47 had the hardihood to price fine copies of the Adventures and Memoirs at £35 the pair. Nor was Conan Doyle still a special case: Eric Osborne, in The Bookman, had made the first professional attack on the broad field of detective bibliography. From the way booksellers began to react to my routine enquiry it was clear that other collectors were waking up, and that my remote preserve was a preserve no longer.

Its contents were put to two last practical uses in the year 1934: the Scribner Bookstore's catalogue no. 98, of Detective Fiction, an annotated list of 378 items (I had made some additions after disposing of my collection) with an index not only of authors but of detectives; and an essay on 'Collecting Detective Fiction' in a symposium entitled New Paths in Book Collecting, which was inspired and published by Michael Sadleir and which we intended as a sort of manifesto against table d'hôte bibliophily and all the other dead wood of the 1920s.

It was Mr. Haycraft who, by firmly labeling some random generalisation of mine 'Carter's dictum', and deploying argument therefrom, brought home to me that I had become—blamelessly, from no intention or wish of mine, simply by the effluxion of time—an 'authority' on the detective story. An authority, in such context, means an old fogy who once knew something about the subject and is still (just) worth quoting if what he said is to your purpose.

My own criterion for an authentic detective story is on record, and I don't intend to abandon it: 'A detective story, within the meaning of the act, must be mainly or largely occupied with detection and should contain a proper detective, whether amateur or professional'.

The following is from the compiler's Dukedom Large Enough: Reminiscences of a Rare Book Dealer (New York, Random House, 1969):

The issuance of Scribners catalogue of Detective Fiction was to provide deep disappointment to many collectors who ordered from it, among them Ned Guymon, whose incomparable collection of J. S. Fletcher still lacks Andrewlina (London, 1889). It is not Fletcher's first book, as the late John Hayward, commenting on its absence in remarks on the library in The Book Collector, said (a rare bibliographical error on his part). Andrewlina was preceded by three others. But it is certainly Fletcher's rarest—a fact not known when it was priced $6 in the catalogue. No copy has appeared in trade since, to my knowledge. The very day the catalogue was put into the mail a lady walked in, saw the books and promptly bought the entire group. She was not a collector, she explained, she just liked to read detective stories, and here was a whole batch of them she had never heard of. Her husband had something to do with the police department, she confided, and after reading these she thought it would be nice to present them to the department's library.

Some thirty years had passed when I received a call from Harold Graves, my successor at Scribners. Would the Lilly Library be interested in purchasing the collection? "Yes, of course," I replied, perhaps a little too eagerly and promptly. A price was agreed on and then Harold told me the story. The lawyer settling the woman's estate called him to ask if the firm would be interested in repurchasing the collection. It seems they hadn't been touched since she bought them—neither added to, nor subtracted from nor, luckily, given away. What, Graves inquired, would be the price? The lawyer replied that the books were pretty old when she bought them, and thirty years older now. He had found Scribners original bill in one of them and he would be happy if the estate could get what she had paid for them. Graves was willing. I glance fondly at Andrewlina when I pass its way in the stacks.

The finest collection of detective stories in first editions ever assembled, or likely to be, is that formed by E. T. Guymon, Jr., of San Diego, California, who began collecting in the early '30's and whose collection has been given to Occidental College. Fred Danny, 50 percent of "Ellery Queen," was another early ardent collector, author of the standard The Detective Short Story: A Bibliography (1942), among many other pioneer works (including the delving into obscure magazines), whose eminent collection is now at the University of Texas. And in England Eric Quale has just published The Collector's Book of Detective Fiction (1972) based on his own library.

The Lilly Library's holdings are not as extensive as those mentioned above, though only a fraction are listed in this exhibition, but it is the peer of any in quality and rarity. The standard of condition is high, almost all being in original bindings and many in dust jackets, while the scarcity of a number of the books is notorious. The exhibition is devoted strictly (with a few personal favorite exceptions) to the detective story under Carter's definition. Mystery, crime, bloods, thrillers, "science-fiction," etc., all of which Lilly has excellent collections, are excluded to await, someday, an exhibition of their own.

Due to problems of space and the "100 Year, 100 Author" limitation set on the exhibition, it must necessarily be selective. In very few cases—excepting Poe and Doyle—have as many as three books by one author been included, and first books (quite often the best, and usually the rarest) have been preferred when available. All books are standard 12mo and first editions, unless otherwise noted. As hopefully, many more devotees of the genre will be interested in the exhibition than will be able to attend it and as, in many cases, it will be difficult for them ever to see their favorites in their editio principes, the catalogue is rather heavily illustrated. With apologies to Stephen Vincent Benét's Book of Americans:

We couldn't put in all the great
Or even all the small

And many names with sterling claims
We haven't used at all.

But here's a rather varied lot
As anyone can see

And all and each, by deed and speech
Adorned: The Detective Story.

David A. Randall
The Lilly Library

Authorities Quoted

  • Jacques Barzun and Hertig Taylor, A Catalogue of Crime.
  • John Carter, "Detective Fiction," In New Paths in Book Collecting.
  • John Carter, Detective Story Catalogue, Scribners.
  • Dorothy Glover and Graham Greene, Victorian Detective Fiction.
  • Ordean A. Hagen, Who Done It?
  • Howard Haycraft, Murder for Pleasure.
  • J & S Graphics, Catalogue 15, First Editions, Detective Fiction, Mysteries and Crime.
  • Eric Quale, The Collector's Book of Detective Fiction.
  • Ellery Queen, The Detective Short Story. 20th Century Detective Stories.
  • David A. Randall, Dukedom Large Enough.
  • Dorothy Sayers, Introduction to Great Stories of Detection, Mystery and Horror.
  • Julian Symons, Bloody Murder.
  • W. H. Wright, Introduction to The Great Detective Stories.
  • E. M. Wrong, Introduction to Crime and Detection (World's Classics, Oxford University Press).

A—In the Beginning: Poe


Poe, Edgar Allan.The Murders in the Rue Morgue. In Graham's Lady's and Gentleman's Magazine, Volume XVIII, April, 1841. Half calf. Detective: C. Auguste Dupin.

Lilly Library call number: PS2617 .A1 1841

The first printing and the beginning of it all.


Poe, Edgar Allan.The Prose Romances of Edgar A. Poe. Uniform Serial Edition. Each number complete in itself. No. I. Containing the Murders in the Rue Morgue and the Man that was Used Up. Philadelphia: 1843. Disbound.

Lilly Library call number: PS2617 .A1 1843 vault

The first separate appearance of The Murders. No second number ever appeared. The most valuable volume of American fiction. At the time Lilly acquired his, in 1929, it was the fifth recorded. The romantic story of this volume is told by the compiler of these notes in The J. K. Lilly Collection of Edgar A. Poe. There are still only about a dozen recorded. It is interesting to note that at least three unauthorized French translations are known to have appeared in the 1840's in newspapers.


Poe, Edgar Allan.The Mystery of Marie Roget. In The Ladies' Companion, November-December, 1842, and February, 1843. Half calf.

Lilly Library call number: PS2618 .M99 1842

The second and longest of Poe's three major excursions into detective literature, based on an actual murder in New York City. Critics generally agree that it is the weakest of the three—an essay rather than a story.


Poe, Edgar Allan.The Purloined Letter. In The Gift: A Christmas and Birthday Present. Philadelphia: 1845. 8vo, black roan, gilt.

Lilly Library call number: PS2618 .P9 1845

The first printing of the third of Poe's detective tales.


Poe, Edgar Allan.The Purloined Letter. In Chamber's Edinburgh Journal, November 30, 1844. Half calf.

Lilly Library call number: PS2618 .P9 1844

By many considered Poe's finest achievement in the genre. Chevalier Dupin's deduction that the letter was hidden by not being concealed at all is still a favorite gambit of the craft. The version in Chamber's Edinburgh Journal was reprinted from The Gift in a condensed and inferior version. Despite the confusing date, that annual was published in September, 1844, and postdated, as was the custom at the time.


Poe, Edgar Allan.Thou Art the Man. In Godey's Magazine and Ladies' Book. Philadelphia: November, 1844. Half roan.

Lilly Library call number: PS2618 .T52 1844

Most critics disqualify this tale as a detective story on the grounds that Poe did not give the facts to the reader until after he had revealed the solution.

Ellery Queen disputes this conclusion vigorously in his The Detective Short Story—and who has the temerity to argue with Fred Danny? Not this compiler, who would rather argue law with a Supreme Court Justice.

"'Thou Art the Man'," states Queen, "is definitely a detective story and an important one historically. It contains the first use of the least-likely-person device; the first fictional instance of the laying of a false trail by the real criminal; the first use of psychological third degree to extract a confession and the first foreshadowing of the ballistics method of bullet identification. Also, another first, the detective is the anonymous narrator himself." So here it is on exhibit! As is its first appearance in bookform in Volume II of The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe, New York: J. S. Redfield, 1850.


Poe, Edgar Allan.Tales. New York and London: Wiley and Putnam, 1845. Printed wrappers.

Lilly Library call number: PS2612 .A11 1845

An immaculate copy, "No. II" in the publisher's "Library of American Books."

A complicated book bibliographically, all problems (especially of later bindings) have not yet been fully resolved.

It is certain, however, that this copy is of the first issue, with the slug of "Smith, Stereotyper and Ludwig, Printer" beneath the copyright notice and with perfect type on pages 196 and 204. There are twenty pages of terminal ads, beginning "Poetical Fortune Teller."

The rarest of the author's major works, no more than six correct copies in original wrappers being recorded.

Lilly's holdings of eight variant copies include the English edition, imported sheets with a cancel title, 1845 (not 1846, as usual); a presentation copy of the second state (Poe presentations are uncommon); The Tales and The Raven, bound together (New York, 1845); and other variants.

Queen calls this volume, which first prints in book form "Rue Morgue," "Marie Roget," and the "Purloined Letter": "the first and greatest, the cornerstone of cornerstones in any readers' or collectors' guide, the highest of all high spots."


Poe, Edgar Allan.Tales of Mystery, Imagination, & Humor: and Poems. London: Clarke Beeton & Co., Foreign Booksellers (1851). Printed pink boards.

Lilly Library call number: PS2602 .A1 1852a

This small volume, "Illustrated with Twenty-six Engravings On Wood," is the first of Poe's works to contain illustrations. It is of interest that the title notes Poe's humour, a quality long overlooked in his own country which was given to stressing his drinking. No illustrated edition of Poe appeared in America in the nineteenth century.


Poe, Edgar Allan.Tales of Mystery and Imagination. Hailfax: Milner and Sowerly (1855). Red cloth.

Lilly Library call number: PS2612 .A15 1855

This editon appears to be unrecorded by bibliographers.


Poe, Edgar Allan.Histoires Extraordinaires (2 volumes) (and) Histoires Grotesques et Sérieuses, Traduction Charles Baudelaire. Paris: Michel Lévy Frères, 1856-57, and 1864. Green wrappers.

Lilly Library call number: PS2612 .A42 1856

Lilly Library call number: PS2612 .A42 1865

The famous translations which firmly established Poe's international reputation. There are those who claim Baudelaire's French is superior to Poe's English.


Poe, Edgar Allan.Histoires Extraordinaires. Nouvelles Histoires. Traduction de Charles Baudelaire. Etchings by Monnard after Farneti. Paris: Kra, 1927- 28. 4 vols., large 4to, full black morocco, title lettering on covers inlaid with off-white morocco and gilt, doublures and free end papers in black watered silk, by Langrand.

Lilly Library call number: PS2612 .A42 1927

One of ten copies: "sur papier de Hollande content un dessin original et deux suites sur holland (premier et deuxième état) avec remarques, en noir."

The original drawing inserted is: "Double Assassinat dans La Rue Morgue—les gouts nocturnes de Dupin."

B—Sherlock Holmes


Doyle, A. Conan.A Study in Scarlet. In Beeton's Christmas Annual. London: Ward, Lock (1887). 8vo, original decorated wrappers. Detective: Sherlock Holmes.

Lilly Library call number: PR4622 .S9 1887 vault

The first appearance of Sherlock Holmes: "That lurid paper-back of Christmas 1887 is today one of the rarest books of modern times—a keystone sought by discriminating collectors in every part of the world—flung like a bombshell into the field of detective fiction."— Vincent Starrett, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.


Doyle, A. Conan.A Study in Scarlet. Ward, Lock , 1888. Red morocco.

Lilly Library call number: PR4622 .S9 1888

First edition with the correct spelling "younger" in paragraph 2, line 3, of the Preface, and with the correct ads. For a full discussion see the compiler's article "A Study of A Study in Scarlet: Or, A Scandal in Bibliography" in The Baker Street Irregular Journal, Vol. I, 1948.

This is by far the rarest of the Holmes' works and is one of the few rebound books admitted to the present exhibition. So scarce is it that the article above advises the reader to "get any copy you can, if you can, for it is highly unlikely that you will be lucky enough to ever have a chance at any at all."

The illustrations, line drawings, are by the author's father, Charles Doyle, "an artist," his son tells us, "more terrible than Blake." Terrible is the correct adjective


Doyle, A. Conan. The Sign of the Four, Or, The Problem of the Sholtos. Philadelphia: Lippincott , 1890. 8vo, lacking wrappers.

Lilly Library call number: PR4622 .S5 1890b

Despite Starrett's "bomb-shell" remark about A Study in Scarlet, it was an American publisher who saw the possibilities of Sherlock Holmes. An agent for Lippincott's Magazine at a dinner in London commissioned Doyle to write stories for his Philadelphia magazine.

One can imagine Holmes' great delight in making his second appearance in America, for he was, after all, an American (vide, The Three Garridebs): "I think the fellow (Holmes) is really an American but he has worn his accent smooth with years in London."


Doyle, A. Conan. The Sign of the Four. London: 1890. Original red cloth, first issue with "Spencer Blackett's Standard Library" stamped on the backstrip.

Lilly Library call number: PR4622 .S5 1890

The original manuscript of The Sign has just surfaced in Chicago.


Doyle, A. Conan.The Adventures (and) The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. London: Newman, 1892-94. (with) Memoirs. New York: Harper, 1894. 2 vols., 8vo, blue and green decorated cloth and 12 mo, grey cloth.

Lilly Library call number: PR4622 .M5 1894

All of the Adventures and Memoirs originally appeared in The Strand magazine, copies of which are exhibited. The Adventure of the Card-Board Box was omitted from the English edition of Memoirs when the tales were gathered into book form on the ground that it involved an illicit love affair. Harper's, however, did not know of this and included it in their first issue. "As soon as this was discovered by Doyle he must have protested, because Harper's immediately issued a new edition (with "New and Revised Edition" on the title page) and very possibly suppressed or withdrew the first."—Scribner Holmes catalogue.


Doyle, A. Conan.The Return of Sherlock Holmes. London: George Newnes, 1905. Blue cloth.

Lilly Library call number: PR4622 .R4

Sherlock returns from his wanderings in Tibet and elsewhere in the guise of a second-hand book dealer in the first tale, The Adventure of the Empty House. "A poor bibliophile who, either as a trade or a hobby was a collector of obscure volumes," Watson surmises. It was a perfect role for Holmes who was indeed an ardent collector as evidenced in The Red-Headed League where we are assured that he "was never so formidable as when, for days on end, he had been lounging in his armchair amid his black-letter editions."


Doyle, A. Conan.The Hound of the Baskervilles. London: George Newnes, 1907. Decorated red cloth.

Lilly Library call number: PR4622 .H7

"One cannot quarrel, in fact, with those idealists who maintain that Doyle's knighthood (in 1907) must have been a grateful government's recognition of this masterpiece, rather than the author's Boer War services which were officially assigned."—Haycraft.


Doyle, A. Conan.The Valley of Fear. New York: Doran, (1915). Original blue cloth. (And) London: Smith, Elder, 1915. Original red cloth.

Lilly Library call number: PR4622 .V2

The American edition precedes the English and differs radically textually and for an interesting reason. The story first appeared in The Strand magazine from September, 1914, to May, 1915. The American edition was reprinted from this.

In it Jake Shafter and his daughter Ettie were Germans. She spoke "with a pleasing little touch of a German accent" and her father with "more than a touch." In the English edition, however, Ettie is Swedish and Jacob Shafter, a "kindly Swedish boarding-house keeper." By the time the English edition was published World War I was on, and it was patently impossible to have Birdey Edwards marry a German lass, or to have any German depicted as a kindly character in an English publication. This was not true, however, at the time in America, where Doyle's original characterizations were not changed.


Doyle, A. Conan.His Last Bow. Some Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes. London: John Murray, (1917). Red cloth.

Lilly Library call number: PR4622 .H6

This volume contains the first English printing of The Card-Board Box, originally omitted from The Memoirs, as noted above. It is also the first printing of The Adventure of the Red Circle, the manuscript of which is on exhibition.


Doyle, A. Conan.The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes. London: John Murray, (1927). Original red cloth.

Lilly Library call number: PR4622 .C3

There are purists who refuse to admit that this, the final eleven "Adventures" and one "Problem" (that of Thor Bridge), are authentic. Nevertheless we have included it.


Doyle, A. Conan.The Adventure of the Red Circle (Here entitled The Adventure of the Bloomsbury Lodger). Folio, white vellum, original autograph manuscript, 23 pages, signed on the front cover and on the final page. n.d.

Lilly Library: English Literature mss.

This Adventure took place January, 1897, and was first recorded in The Strand, March-April, 1911, which are also exhibited. Its first appearance in book form was in His Last Bow (London, 1917).

This sinister story with international complications leads Inspector Gregson of Scotland Yard at the end to say: "What I can't make head or tail of, Mr. Holmes, is how on earth you got yourself mixed up in the matter."

To which Holmes replied: "Education, Gregson, education. Still seeking knowledge at the old University." Which was, of course, a lifelong habit. Vide: The Adventure of the Three Students which, Watson remarks: "caused Mr. Sherlock Holmes and myself to spend some weeks in one of our great university towns—close to a library."


The Final Problem. n.d.

Lilly Library: Doyle mss.

Doyle, bored with Holmes, rid himself (he thought) of his incubus by having Sherlock and Mr. Moriarty plunge to their mutual deaths in the struggle at Reichenbach Falls. Millions screamed in anguish, one lady addressing a letter to him beginning: "You beast!"

Sherlock left Watson a letter of explanation only the beginning paragraph of which is located (in the Lilly Library). It begins "My dear Watson. I write these few lines through the courtesy of Mr. Moriarty," etc. The compiler is on written record that should danger threaten the Lilly Library, the rescue of this noble fragment would receive top priority.


Sherlock Holmes and Father Brown. n.d.

Lilly Library: English Literature mss.

G. K. Chesterton was once commissioned to illustrate the Doyle stories (imagine Father Brown on Sherlock Holmes)! The volume was never published, but Lilly has his sketches, among them the Reichenbach scene, done in blue crayon.


Vincent Starret.The Unique Hamlet. A Hitherto Unchronicled Adventure of Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Chicago: Privately Printed for the Friends of Walter M. Hill, 1920. Yellow boards, paper label.

Lilly Library call number: PS3537 .T18 U6

Considered the finest pastiche of The Master yet done. Starrett, of course, in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (New York, 1934) produced the first and the finest of all such numerous studies. An absolutely splendid work.


A Catalogue of Original Manuscripts and first and other important editions of the tales of Sherlock Holmes, as written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Together with important biographies, pastiches, articles, etc., and a few extraordinary association and unique items. New York: Scribner Bookstore, (1943). 4to, yellow wrappers.

Lilly Library call number: PR4623 .A1 R2

The first rare book catalogue to be devoted to a single detective, this contains the original manuscript of four of the tales from the Memoirs, priced $450 each, and the complete Valley of Fear, $1,500.

The "association items," such as An Inquiry into the Nature of the Ashes of Various Tobaccos (Tibet: Privately Printed, 1893) were dreamed up and annotated by Vincent Starrett and the compiler. Vide: Dukedom, pp. 149-59.

Gaboriau to Simenon—France


Vidocq.Memoires de Vidocq, Chef de la Police de Sureté Jusqu'en 1827. Paris: Tenon, 1828-29. 4 vols., mottled calf.

Lilly Library call number: HV7915 .V5

The first three volumes (though not the fourth) are signed by the author on the reverse of the half titles as a guarantee of authenticity.


Vidocq.Memoirs of Vidocq, Principle Agent of the French Police until 1827. London: Hunt and Clarke, 1828-29. 4 vols., full calf.

Lilly Library call number: HV7915 .V53

Promo portrait photo of author Raymond Chandler, via Wikimedia Commons

Raymond Chandler – along with his hardboiled brethren like Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain – sandblasted the detective novel of its decorousness and instilled it with a sweaty vitality. Chandler, through the eyes of his most famous character Philip Marlowe, navigated a thinly veiled Los Angeles through the desperation of those on the low end of society’s totem pole and through the greed and venality of those at the top.

Instead of creating self-contained locked room mysteries, Chandler created stories that looked outward, struggling to make sense of a morally ambiguous world. He dedicated his career to the genre, influencing generations of writers after him. His very name became synonymous with his terse, pungent style.

So it isn’t terribly surprising that Chandler had some very strong opinions about crime fiction. Below are his ten commandments for writing a detective novel:

1) It must be credibly motivated, both as to the original situation and the dénouement.

2) It must be technically sound as to the methods of murder and detection.

3) It must be realistic in character, setting and atmosphere. It must be about real people in a real world.

4) It must have a sound story value apart from the mystery element: i.e., the investigation itself must be an adventure worth reading.

5) It must have enough essential simplicity to be explained easily when the time comes.

6) It must baffle a reasonably intelligent reader.

7) The solution must seem inevitable once revealed.

8) It must not try to do everything at once. If it is a puzzle story operating in a rather cool, reasonable atmosphere, it cannot also be a violent adventure or a passionate romance.

9) It must punish the criminal in one way or another, not necessarily by operation of the law.... If the detective fails to resolve the consequences of the crime, the story is an unresolved chord and leaves irritation behind it.

10) It must be honest with the reader.

These commandments are oblique jabs at the locked room whodunits popular during the Golden Age of the detective novel during the 1920s and 30s. Chandler delivers a much more pointed criticism of these works in his seminal essay about crime fiction, The Simple Art of Murder.

After taking thoroughly apart the murder mystery The Red House by A. A. Milne (yes, the writer of Winnie the Pooh), Chandler rails against detective stories where the machinations of plot outstrip any semblance of reality. “If the situation is false, you cannot even accept it as a light novel, for there is no story for the light novel to be about.”

He goes on to trash other British mystery writers like Agatha Christie and particularly Dorothy L. Sayers, who Chandler paints not only as a hypocritical snob but also as boring. “The English may not always be the best writers in the world, but they are incomparably the best dull writers,” he quips.

Chandler then offers praise to his hardboiled colleague Dashiell Hammett who infuses his stories with a sense of realism. “Hammett gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse; and with the means at hand, not with hand-wrought duelling pistols, curare, and tropical fish….He was spare, frugal, hardboiled, but he did over and over again what only the best writers can ever do at all. He wrote scenes that seemed never to have been written before.”

Whether conscious or not, this passage is a fair description of Chandler as well.

Related Content:

Raymond Chandler Denounces Strangers on a Train in Sharply-Worded Letter to Alfred Hitchcock

Raymond Chandler & Ian Fleming in Conversation (1958)

Watch Raymond Chandler’s Long-Unnoticed Cameo in Double Indemnity

Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow.

Leave a Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *