As a great fan of detective stories, I have learned over the years that the genre includes many forgotten gems, no longer in print or on library shelves. Part of the pleasure of reading such books is discovery of new authors—the phrase ‘new to me’ describes the work of so many authors it is impossible to list them all. Since the library has begun offering electronic downloads to its patrons, a whole world of new ‘old’ titles is becoming available—and this includes many absolutely engrossing works in the detective-mystery-horror genres (there is a certain genre creep going on among them) and they are no further away than the link to the Gutenberg downloads offered by SPL.
The wonderful thing about these titles is that they are available ‘forever’ for a download—it’s enough to make it worthwhile to learn how to do this—and my Nook is becoming a delightful personal library of, among other things, classic mystery and horror fiction. Let me suggest:
Grant Allen, whose stories of Colonel Clay, the American confidence man who fleeces gullible European millionaires;
Algernon Blackwood, the author of the John Silence stories—an Englishman who lived down and out in the Bowery, and wrote about that, who finally became a successful writer;
Ernest Bramah, whose blind detective, Max Carrados, is super wealthy and has such a developed sense of touch he can read newspaper headlines with his fingertips;
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, beloved of Mark Twain, an American author of truly creepy ghost stories;
R. Austin Freeman (no relation to Mary), whose Dr. Thorndyke detective was a rival to Sherlock Holmes. Stories based on persistence and science as current ca. 1910;
Jacques Futrelle, who drowned on the Titanic, whose detective, the Thinking Machine, is famous for escaping from a maximum security prison with only some white shirts, some shoelaces, and a few other odds and ends;
Thomas W. Hanshew, whose Inspector Cleek specialized in comprehensive changes of appearance to further detection;
M. R. James, famous for told-round-the-fireplace ghost stories;
E. Phillips Oppenheim, extremely prolific author of early international espionage stories;
Baroness Orczy, who wrote Scarlet Pimpernel, also turned her hand to detective stories—she had two great characters, the old man in the corner (sat drinking milk and untangling mysteries) and Lady Molly of Scotland Yard;
Saki, who should be known to everybody for his often fantastic short stories;
I could go on and on, and may, for another post… a caution about these old works; they are often to our 21st-century eyes marked by a lack of sensitivity in the treatment of women, of minorities, of conditions like psychological disorders—it is necessary to cultivate a sense of proportion. The stories themselves are so good it would be a shame to reject them because the authors do not have our modern view of people and circumstances.
Ladies—gentlemen—start your Nooks, or whatever e-reader devices you use. A whole world of treasures from the past is awaiting! And if you are hesitant to try this new medium, think what riches there are in store!
~John S., Capitol Hill Branch