Monday, January 08, 2007

Happy birthday, Wilkie Collins.

Wilkie Collins, often credited as the author of the first full-length novel of detection (The Moonstone, 1868), was born 183 years ago today. A friend and literary colleague of Dickens, Collins's contributions to the mystery genre are considerable. In addition to The Moonstone, his mystery works include The Law and the Lady , The Woman in White, No Name, "The Diary of Anne Rodway," and "A Stolen Letter."

It's good to see the considerable, sustained interest in Collins's work. You can read Janice Allan's analysis of The Law and the Lady in the fall 06 issue of Clues: A Journal of Detection. Adaptations of The Woman in White include a 1997 film with Tara Fitzgerald as Marian Halcombe and Simon Callow as the evil Count Fosco (boo, hiss); an excellent BBC radio production with Maggie Smith's son Toby Stephens as Walter Hartright; and a short-lived musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber with Michael Crawford as Count Fosco. Moonstone adaptations include a superb audio version produced by Recorded Books and a 1996 film starring Greg Wise and Keeley Hawes.

Today's broadcast of my radio show "It's a Mystery" will include a radio production of Collins's The Moonstone, which features one of my favorite characters in literature: the butler Betteredge, who lives his life by Robinson Crusoe (others single out the religious-tract-wielding Miss Clack). It's been gratifying to hear from both Collins fans and scholars from as far away as the United Kingdom and Canada that they plan to listen in. "It's a Mystery" airs at 11A ET on Mondays and is Webcast here.

For more on Collins, visit the Wilkie Collins Society Web site.

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