The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes

Victorian London – and many other places of that era – must have been extremely safe places. After all, there wasn’t just Sherlock Holmes solving crimes but many other private detectives, journalists, inspectors as well as a few ghost-hunters. But, unlike Sherlock Holmes, most of these have been (almost) forgotten. A while ago I read a very random selection of those stories and have to admit that I can understand why. Where Sherlock Holmes is a real character, a lot of his ‘rivals’ are just there to move the plot forward. They say the right thing at the right time but if you exchanged one for the other nobody would notice because they have no unique characteristics.

Still, I want to make a more coherent approach to get to know Holmes’ contemporaries. As a starting point I will take the ITV series The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes from the 70s:

Season 1:

  • R. Austin Freeman:  A Message from the Deep Sea (Dr. John Thorndyke, forensic scientist)
  • Robert Stephens: The Missing Witness Sensation (Max Carrados, blind detective)
  • Arthur Morrison: The Affair of the Avalanche Bicycle & Tyre Co. Ltd. (Horace Dorrington, corrupt detective)
  • Guy Boothby: The Duchess of Wiltshire’s Diamonds (Simon Carne, gentleman thief)
  • William Hope Hodgson: The Horse of the Invisible (Thomas Carnacki, occult detective)
  • Arthur Morrison:  The Case of the Mirror of Portugal (Horace Dorrington, corrupt detective)
  • L. T. Meade and Robert Eustace: Madame Sara (Dixon Druce, trade investigator)
  • Arthur Morrison: The Case of the Dixon Torpedo (Jonathan Pryde*, inquiry agent)
  • Emma Orczy:  The Woman in the Big Hat (Lady Molly of Scotland Yard)
  • Arthur Morrison:  The Affair of the Tortoise (Martin Hewitt, working-class detective)
  • “Clifford Ashdown” (R. Austin Freeman and John Pitcairn): The Assyrian Rejuvenator (Romney Pringle, reformed con artist)
  • Max Pemberton: The Ripening Rubies (Bernard Sutton, professional jeweler)
  • Arthur Morrison: The Case of Laker (Martin Hewitt and Jonathan Pryde*)

*Wikipedia informs us that “Jonathan Pryde is an original TV creation, replacing Martin Hewitt from Arthur Morrison’s stories”

Season 2:

  • Emma Orczy: The Mysterious Death on the Underground Railway (Polly Burton*, lady journalist)
  • George Griffith: Five Hundred Carats (Inspector Lipinzki, South African police detective)
  • Jacques Futrelle:  Cell 13 (Prof Van Dusen, the Thinking Machine)
  • E. Phillips Oppenheim: The Secret of the Magnifique (John Laxworthy, reformed criminal)
  • Robert Barr: The Absent-Minded Coterie (Eugene Valmont, private investigator)
  • Palle Rosenkrantz:  The Sensible Action of Lieutenant Holst (Lieutenant Holst, Danish police detective)
  • Jacques Futrelle: The Superfluous Finger (Prof Van Dusen, the Thinking Machine)
  • “Balduin Groller” (Adalbert Goldscheider): Anonymous Letters (Dagobert Trostler, Viennese sleuth)
  • R. Austin Freeman: The Moabite Cypher (Dr. John Thorndyke, forensic scientist)
  • William Le Queux: The Secret of the Fox Hunter (Duckworth Drew of the Secret Service)
  • C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne: The Looting of the Specie Room (Mr. Horrocks, ship’s purser)
  • Fergus Hume: The Mystery of the Amber Beads (Hagar Stanley, G*psy detective)
  • “John Oxenham” (William Arthur Dunkerley): The Missing Q.C.s (Charles Dallas, defense barrister)

*here Wikipedia says “The screenplay for this episode rewrites the original story to make Polly Burton, the secondary character in Baroness Orczy’s “The Old Man in the Corner” stories, the detective in this episode.”

The stories that were filmed are collected in The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. It is missing The Sensible Action of Lieutenant Hoist and Anonymous Letters since they are apparently not available in English.
You can also listen to them on Librivox here and here. (Minus The Missing Witness Sensation which is not part of the American Public Domain (or wasn’t at the time of the recording), it is public domain in Australia, though so if you’re Australian you can read it without bad conscience here). LibriVox also misses the two non-English stories.
Balduin Groller’s Detektiv Dagobert-stories are available (in German) at Projekt Gutenberg, though. Palle Rosenberg is there as well, but not his Holst-stories.

The Inspiration for this series apparently came from a number of anthologies, edited by Hugh Greene (brother of Graham) which are:

The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes

With the stories:

  • Max Pemberton: The Ripening Rubies
  • Arthur Morrison: The Case of Laker, Absconded
  • Guy Boothby: The Duchess of Wiltshire’s Diamonds
  • Arthur Morrison: The Affair of the “Avalanche Bicycle and Tyre Co. Ltd”
  • Clifford Ashdown: The Assyrian Rejuvenator
  • L. T. Meade and Robert Eustace: Madame Sara
  • Clifford Ashdown: The Submarine Boat
  • William Le Queux: The Secret of the Fox Hunter
  • Baroness Orczy: The Mysterious Death on the Underground Railway
  • R. Austin Freeman: The Moabite Cipher
  • Baroness Orczy: The Woman in the Big Hat
  • William Hope Hodgson: The Horse of the Invisible
  • Ernest Bramah: The Game Played in the Dark

 

Cosmopolitan Crimes. Foreign Rivals of Sherlock Holmes:

With:

  • Grant Allen: The Episode of the Mexican Seer and The Episode of the Diamond Links
  • George Griffith: Five Hundred Carats
  • Arnold Bennett: A Bracelet at Bruges
  • Robert Barr: The Absent-Minded Coterie
  • Jacques Futrelle: The Problem of Cell 13 and The Superfluous Finger
  • Maurice Leblanc: Arsene Lupin in Prison and The Red Silk Scarf
  • Baron Palle Rosenkrantz: A Sensible Course of Action
  • Balduin Groller: Anonymous Letters
  • E. Phillips Oppenheim: The Secret of the Magnifique
  • H. Hesketh Prichard: The Murder at the Duck Club

Further Rivals of Sherlock Holmes: The Crooked Counties

  • Catherine Louisa Pirkis: The Redhill sisterhood.
  • Arthur Morrison: The loss of Sammy Throckett
  • Dick Donovan: The problem of Dead Wood Hall
  • Arthur Morrison: The case of Janissary
  • M. McD Bodkin: Murder by proxy
  • Fergus Hume: The amber beads
  • M. McD Bodkin: How he cut his stick
  • L.T. Meade & Clifford Halifax: Race with the sun
  • J.S Fletcher: The contents of the coffin
  • Jaques Futrelle: The mystery of room 666
  • Richard Marsh: The man who cut off my hair.
  • Victor Whitechurch: The affair of the German dispatch-box
  • Ernest Bramah: The tragedy at Brookbend Cottage

 

The American Rivals of Sherlock Holmes

Which is also on Librivox.

  • Hugh C. Weir: Cinderella’s Slipper
  • Rodrigues Ottolengui: The Nameless Man
  • Rodrigues Ottolengui: The Montezuma Emerald
  • Josiah Flynt: Found Guilty
  • Jacques Futrelle: The Scarlet Thread
  • William MacHarg  & Edwin Balmer: The Man Higher up
  • William MacHarg  & Edwin Balmer: The Axton Letters
  • Samuel Hopkins Adams: The Man Who Spoke Latin
  • Francis Lynde: The Cloudbursters
  • Charles Felton Pidgin: The Affair of Lamson’s Cook
  • Arthur B. Reeve: The Campaign Grafter
  • Frederick Irving Anderson: The Infallible Godahl
  • Richard Harding Davis: The Frame-up

 

I have no intention of reading all of those stories, only to use it as an overview who else was writing at the time. What I read will mostly depend on availability. Public domain works on Projekt Gutenberg are great, if I can be reasonably sure that I won’t hate it I also won’t mind paying a few Euros but not 30+ for dusty used copies on Amazon Marketplace. I also won’t read multiple stories by the same author if I already disliked the first. On the other hand, I might stumble over detectives/authors that aren’t on this list. A quick glance at the Wikipedia pages of the authors told me that some of them wrote more that one detective but have only one featured in the collection. And Auguste Groner is completely missing, which is a real shame since I really enjoyed her Joseph Müller-stories.

Title Image via Death to the Stock Photo