W. W. Jacobs Mystery & Detective Fiction Analysis
The few stories of W. W. Jacobs that can still be discovered in tattered anthologies are so well written that it is a mystery why his stories, aside from “The Monkey’s Paw,” have been ignored. Those that deal chiefly with crime and the supernatural are written with great control and a polished élan; they belong to the “gilt-edged classics.” Unfortunately, Jacobs became associated with yarns about the dockside, with jolly longshoremen and nagging captains’ wives. He was best known during his heyday as a humorist. Indeed, Pritchett in his essay “W. W. Jacobs” classes him chiefly as a wit. Nevertheless, Pritchett also gives him credit as a storyteller, calling Jacobs’s plots superior to those “of a writer like O. Henry.”
In “The Monkey’s Paw” as well as in the little-known thriller “The Well,” Jacobs raises a genuine chill by underplaying the threat that lies ahead. In his crime stories, such as “The Interruption,” the plot twist always lies just around the corner, and the guilty, as well as the innocent at times, are brought low.
Writing for The Strand Magazine was good training for Jacobs. There he honed his skill at alternating sophistication with popular style. His tales show careful plotting, a flair for dialogue, and a sly viewpoint. In “The Interruption,” which appeared in Sea Whispers (1926), Jacobs is at his best. Spencer Goddard is a man...
(The entire section is 972 words.)
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