Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Westminster Detective Library: Help requested.

Harriet Prescott Spofford,
n.d. Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Div.
The Westminster Detective Library, spearheaded by Edgar winner Leroy Lad Panek (Introduction to the Detective Story; The American Police Novel: A History; coeditor of Early American Detective Stories: An Anthology) and Mary Bendel-Simso of McDaniel College (MD), is a project to identify, catalog, digitize, and post online all short detective fiction printed in the United States before 1891. To date, the catalog holds more than 1000 titles drawn from periodicals such as the Bangor Whig and Courier, the Alta Californian, Harper’s, Galaxy, Putnam’s, the New York Ledger, Ballou’s Dollar Magazine, and other 19th-century magazines and story papers. The editors believe that there may be as many as 1000 titles yet to be discovered.  

Among the goodies currently online:

• "My Mysterious Neighbors" by Mrs. M[ary]. A[ndrews]. Denison (1858). Massachusetts-born author of the humorous (and successful) That Husband of Mine (1874); married to Charles Wheeler Denison, editor of the antislavery journal The Emancipator. "My blood curdled. Was I living day by day next to a murderer—to a brace of murderers?" 
 • Various pieces by Charles Dickens, including "Two 'Detective' Anecdotes" (1851)

• "The Trailor Murder Mystery" (1846) by Abraham Lincoln. "[T]he Postmaster at Springfield [IL] received a letter . . . stating that William [Trailor] had returned home without Fisher, and was saying, rather boastfully, that Fisher was dead, and had willed him his money, and that he had got about fifteen hundred dollars by it. The letter further stated that William’s story and conduct seemed strange..."

• "A Story of Circumstantial Evidence" (1834) by Daniel O'Connell.
the prisoner was called on for his defence.  He called—to the surprise of everyone—the murdered man."

• "In a Cellar" (Atlantic Monthly, 1859) by Maine-born Harriet Prescott Spofford. Important early detective story by a US female writer

Panek and Bendel-Simso hope to have at least 150 more pieces online before the fall. They also welcome comments, clues to finding additional stories, and volunteer editors to assist in all areas of the project. Contact the editor here.

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