E. W. Hornung Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Having borrowed from Arthur Conan Doyle the basic framework of a highly intelligent hero and an admiring disciple who records his deeds, E. W. Hornung inverted the Holmes stories: As a modern alternative to master detective Sherlock Holmes, he offered A. J. Raffles, master thief. In the Raffles tales, Hornung creates an uncommon blend of detective and adventure fiction; while Bunny’s ignorance of the finer points of Raffles’s criminal plans allows some scope for a reader’s detective abilities, the stories’ main interest lies in the thieves’ exploits outside the law. The element of danger (and snobbery) in these adventures in society crime inspired much English thriller fiction of the 1930’s; Raffles initiates a tradition of gentleman outlaws that includes Leslie Charteris’s the Saint, John Creasey’s the Toff, and his own reincarnation in Barry Perowne’s series. Hornung, however, was writing moral as well as adventure stories, a dimension apparent in Bunny’s alternating devotion to and revulsion for Raffles. Although the Raffles stories are protothrillers, they are also a serious literary record of public-school boys gone half-wrong and of their fluctuating friendship.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Butler, William Vivian. The Durable Desperadoes. London: Macmillan, 1973. Study of the representation of outlaws in literature. Bibliography and index.

Chandler, Frank Wadleigh. The Literature of Roguery. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1907. An early and influential study of Hornung and other picaresque portrayers of the rogue in fiction.

Green, Richard Lancelyn. Introduction to Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman. London: Penguin, 2003. In addition to this introductory commentary on Hornung’s novel, Green supplied notes for this edition, which he edited.

Haining, Peter. Foreword to The Complete Short Stories of Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman. London: Souvenir Press, 1984. Haining, a scholar of pulp and detective fiction, offers important insights into Hornung’s work.

Kestner, Joseph A. The Edwardian Detective, 1901-1915. Brookfield, Vt.: Ashgate, 2000. Hornung is compared to his fellow Edwardians in this tightly focused study of the British detective genre.

Orwell, George. “Raffles and Miss Blandish.” In The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, edited by Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus. London: Secker and Warburg, 1968. Orwell, one of England’s most famous authors and essayists, compares the moral landscape of James Hadley Chase’s No Orchids for Miss Blandish with that of Hornung’s Raffles stories.

Rowland, Peter. Raffles and His Creator: The Life and Works of E. W. Hornung. London: Nekta, 1999. Comprehensive biography and literary analysis that gives equal time to Hornung and to his most famous creation. Bibliographic references and index.

Watson, Colin. Snobbery with Violence: Crime Stories and Their Audience. 1971. Reprint. New York: Mysterious, 1990. A reception-based study of the crime genre, focusing on the attitudes of mystery readers and the methods employed by fiction to cater to and reinforce those attitudes.