24 January 2009

Weekly Geek #3 - Some Classics in Crime Fiction

The Weekly Geeks challenge this week is to dabble in the classics.
A classic is defined as anything written over 100 years ago and still in print.

I'm a bit short of time, because we are going away for a holiday tomorrow, so I just thought I'd point people to some classics in crime fiction that I already know about. The first three are Australian, the last British.

ROBBERY UNDER ARMS, 1888, Rolfe Boldrewood
At the beginning of this novel the narrator, Dick Marsden, is awaiting execution for crimes committed whilst a bushranger. He goes on to tell the story of his life and loves and his association with the notorious Captain Starlight.
Some of the exploits recounted are based on actual incidents carried out by Daniel Morgan, Ben Hall, Frank Gardiner and John Gilbert all of whom are notorious historical figures.
This "ripping yarn" has, since its first publication in book form in 1888, remained popular and has been filmed three times and serialised on radio.
The linked title will take you the Gutenberg Press e-book.

FOR THE TERM OF HIS NATURAL LIFE, 1870-1872, Marcus Clarke
"For the Term of his Natural Life" is a 'ripping yarn', which at times relies on unrealistic coincidences, the story follows the fortunes of Rufus Dawes, a young man transported for a murder which he did not commit. The harsh and inhumane treatment meted out to the convicts, some of whom were transported for relatively minor crimes, is clearly conveyed. The conditions experienced by the convicts are graphically described.
The novel was based on research by the author as well as a visit to the penal settlement of Port Arthur.
The racy style and constant development of events ensures that this novel will continue be of interest to modern readers.
The linked title will take you the Gutenberg Press e-book.

THE MYSTERY OF A HANSOM CAB
, Fergus Hume (1886)
Just before 2am on a Friday morning the driver of a hansom cab turns up at the police station in St. Kilda, Melbourne, saying that his passenger is dead, and he suspects murder. He had collected both men in the city and began the long drive to St. Kilda. When they got to St. Kilda Rd, one of the men called out to him to stop. When he stopped the cab, one of the men alighted with the instructions that the driver should continue on to St. Kilda with the other passenger (who was drunk). When he got to St. Kilda he found that the passenger was dead. There are elements that mark this as a 19th century, even Australian novel, but they don't detract from the complexity of the plot. According to the introduction this was the best selling crime novel of the 19th century.
Once again the link will take you to the Gutenberg press e-book.
We used this one for an oz_mystery_readers discussion book and it worked very well. It is supposedly the highest selling Australian crime fiction book ever.

RAFFLES; THE AMATEUR CRACKSMAN, E. W. Hornung (1899)
A collection of 8 short stories which feature A.J. Raffles, gentleman, cricketer, and amateur cracksman, and his old school mate Bunny Manders, a bunny in most senses of the word. In the first story The Ides of March Raffles prevents Bunny who is constantly in debt, like Raffles, having no honest source of income, from committing suicide. The eight stories are narrated by Bunny, with the plots complicated by the fact that Raffles doesn't always keep him totally informed. At times Raffles uses Bunny as a decoy, and at times Bunny initiates action on his own because he thinks Raffles has failed. Of course Raffles never fails, and in the long run it is Bunny who pays most dearly.
The stories depict Raffles as a master burglar, a gentleman, a sportsman who extends the code of cricket, of "playing fair", to thievery. He is much sought after because he is such a splendid cricketer, both at the bat and as a bowler, and various invitations give him the opportunity to relieve others of their riches. As with Conan Doyle's Holmes and Moriarty, Raffles has his principal opponent in Scotland Yard's Inspector Mackenzie. The Penguin blurb credits Ernest Hornung with creating "a unique form of crime story, where, in stealing, as in sport, it is playing the game that counts, and there is always honour among thieves".
Once again oz_mystery_readers used this as a discussion book.
This one is available as an mp3 download:http://librivox.org/the-amateur-cracksman-by-ew-hornung/

11 comments:

bkclubcare said...

Wonderful! I am very interested in the Hansom Cab one especially; actually all of them sound fascinating.

Ali said...

I'm impressed that you could come up with such a great answer when you're in a rush to get ready to go on holiday! Which of these did you like best? (It's ok, answer when you get back).

pussreboots said...

They look like entertaining books. Happy WG.

Kerrie said...

Thanks for dropping in folks.
THE MYSTERY OF THE HANSOM CAB was surprisingly un-dated given that it it is well over 100 years old. FOR THE TERM OF HIS NATURAL LIFE is a bit of a tome and probably a weighty read even by today's standards of big books. A bit Dickensian too, and it was published in serial form, so probably could have done with some editing.
I enjoyed listening to the RAFFLES one although I hated Raffles himself - he and Bunny are a bit like Poirot and Hastings although Poirot never dabbles in crime humself. The relationship is similar.

Frances said...

I am stopping by here more often! Have not read a single one of these books and as I am committed to expanding my reading horizons this year, I am all over this list. Many thanks!

Chris said...

Wow, I hadn't heard of any of these. Thanks!

claire said...

I've not heard of any of these books before but it's awesome to see classic titles in crime fiction.. something I don't see everyday. :)

Dreamybee said...

I agree with Claire-when I think "classics" I tend to think tea parties and royalty and waltzing, not murder and mystery! Thanks for these titles, they all sound interesting.

Kristina said...

I used to read mysteries all the time. But never classic mysteries, thank you for mentioning these!

Joanne said...

Fantastic post! I really enjoyed how you highlighted the crime genre within the classics.

Kerrie said...

Thanks fro dropping by Frances, Chris, Dreamybee, Claire, Kristina and Joanne

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