Saturday, September 24, 2005


Man Hunter!

In an article that is bizarrely skimpy on any details -- No publisher? No title, even? -- The Scotsman reports that a forgotten rival of Sherlock Holmes is about to be resurrected:

TALES of a Scottish detective which were so popular they outsold Sherlock Holmes are to be republished more than 100 years after they topped the best-sellers list. Fictional Glasgow detective Dick Donovan was a master of disguise, solving strange and dark mysteries.

A little bit of digging, though, turned up this very useful AB Bookman article Who Was Dick Donovan? which tells us of author J E P Muddock that:

Far from being an imitator of Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes, Muddock’s fictional detective predated the Baker Street sleuth and was, for a time, equally popular. Some of his tales ran in the Strand at the same time as the early Holmes stories. Although critics consider his Donovan of great importance to the genre of detective stories, his work is extremely hard to find and almost forgotten.... Muddock's output was, frankly, staggering:

184 "Dick Donovan" detective stories
57 "non-Donovan" detective stories (but with "Dick Donovan" as author)
12 true crime stories (not including Pritchard the Poisoner in Caught at Last!)
37 horror tales
28 novels written as "Dick Donovan" (by no means all crime or detective stories)

...and as J E P Muddock:
19 novels
3 story collections
12 historical fictions
4 history books
7 guidebooks
an autobiography
at least one polemic against the French
The Savage Club papers (edited)

Good lord, Muddock was one busy man. And he lived to be 91. Why haven't I heard of this guy before?

There's no sign of the reissues in the U.S., but Dick Donovan: The Glasgow Detective is already available at Amazon.Uk, as is a very spiffy looking facsimile edition of the Donovan collection Man-Hunter, published in 1888:

Most intriguing item of all: The Scotsman does mention that there's a possibility Dick Donovan will make his comeback as a TV series....

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