Holmes and the History of Detective Fiction

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Merrick Burrow explores Holmes’s significance for the historical development of detective fiction, within which the figure of Doyle’s ‘Great Detective’ looms so large. Rather than viewing Holmes as a completely new kind of detective, Burrow shows how Doyle borrowed from the detective stories of Edgar Allan Poe and Émile Gaboriau, while reacting against others like Fergus Hume who did not reveal how their detectives solved cases. Burrow shows how Holmes came to overshadow his precursors, as well as peers such as Arthur Morrison, Grant Allen and L.T. Meade, as his pre-eminence and popularity among the readers of the Strand magazine became firmly cemented.
In the early days, Doyle was primarily seeking commercial success and recognition for originality. Later, as he tired of writing the Holmes stories, Doyle struggled to breathe life into a format he felt he had already exhausted. Holmes’s longevity, Burrow argues, is due ultimately to the diversity of his influence throughout the varied developments of detective fiction in the inter-war period and beyond—from the whodunits of the English Golden Age and the American hardboiled thrillers of Hammet and Chandler to the influence of Doyle’s stories within the popular cultures of Continental Europe, China and Japan.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to Sherlock Holmes
EditorsJanice Allan, Christopher Pittard
Place of PublicationCambridge, UK
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781316659274
ISBN (Print)9781107155855, 9781316609590
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019

Publication series

NameCambridge Companions
PublisherUniversity of Cambridge Press


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