Monday, March 25, 2013

Arthur B. Reeve's Craig Kennedy stories

Arthur B. Reeve
Arthur B. Reeve (1880-1936) was an American writer of detective fiction. He is best-known as the creator of Professor Craig Kennedy, “the American Sherlock Holmes.” Reeve wrote no less than 82 Craig Kennedy stories.

I’ve been reading a few of these Craig Kennedy stories that I have scattered about in various anthologies.

Kennedy was also known as the “scientific detective” and what’s interesting is that it’s not just that his methods are scientific - science itself plays a key role in the stories, at least in the ones that I’ve read.

In The Black Diamond, which involves the theft of a very large diamond and a murder, Kennedy will need to call upon his knowledge of snakes and snake venoms. In The Black Cross his knowledge of bacteriology and infectious diseases will be vital. In this story the professor stumbles across a fiendish conspiracy of gigantic proportions.

In The Invisible Ray he confronts an inventor who claims to have discovered the secret of transmuting base metals into gold. More than that, this modern-day alchemist claims to have penetrated the secrets of life and death. Fortunately Kennedy’s knowledge of chemistry and of the mysteries of the various visible and invisible rays of the electro-magnetic spectrum are equal to the challenge.

The stories are somewhat on the far-fetched side, perhaps even at times flirting with science fiction. Kennedy himself is a rather colourless character - it’s the extraordinary breadth of his scientific knowledge that makes the stories interesting.

Reeve started writing the Craig Kennedy stories in 1910. His later stories, written in the 20s and 30s, apparently see him moving closer to the hard-boiled school with gangsters taking over the spotlight from eccentric alchemists.

The scientific background gives Reeve’s stories a distinctive flavour of their own. He’s worth further investigation.

1 comment:

  1. Rarely do you read of Reeve being credited as a true pioneer in the subgenre of detective story as fantastic adventure tale. I think the Craig Kenendy stories paved the way for many of the hero pulp characters like Doc Savage. He was extremely popular in his day and he was wooed by Hollywood where he became involved in writing adventure serials and adapting the Kennedy stories for the silent screen. They were also adapted for early TV but I've seen many of them and it's Craig Kennedy in name only. The stories -- rarely based on Reeve's work -- are unimaginative and dull.