Funny how events jog the memory – this week has seen considerable coverage of the Titanic disaster centenary. It was a timely reminder to me that one of the passengers who perished on that fateful voyage was detective story writer, Jacques Futrelle. Futrelle was just 37 when he died but he left behind a distinct legacy. Just to whet your appetite below is a picture of Futrelle on the deck of the Titanic taken from an excellent short article by Steve Powell on this site: www.Venetianvase.co.uk do read it because it contains fascinating information about one of the more intriguing writers of his time.
Although Futrelle wrote a number of books he will be forever associated with the creation of his brain-box detective, The Thinking Machine aka Professor S. F. X. Van Deusen, and in particular with one locked room story destined to achieve legendary status among aficionados, ‘The Problem of Cell 13’. In my view Futrelle’s Van Deusen stories with their unswerving focus on the problem foreshadow the detective story’s Golden Age where ingenuity of plot transcended all other considerations. I treasure my copy of the first edition of these tales.
As a footnote to my last blog about ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ I have discovered some superb writing on Conan Doyle in Michael Dirda’s excellent recent book ‘On Conan Doyle’. One line had me purring:
‘The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) by Arthur Conan Doyle, was the first “grown up” book I ever read – and it changed my life’
It seems Michael Dirda and I have been leading parallel lives (see my earlier blog on buying my copy of the Sherlock Holmes editions as a boy)!