Earl Derr Biggers Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

In Charlie Chan, Earl Derr Biggers created one of the most famous fictional detectives of all time. The amusing Chinese detective with the flowery, aphoristic language became widely known not only through the six novels in which he is featured but also through the many films in which he appeared. There were in fact more than thirty Charlie Chan films made from 1926 to 1952, not to mention some forty television episodes in 1957, a television feature in 1971, and a television cartoon series in 1972. In addition, in the 1930’s and 1940’s, there were radio plays and comic strips based on Biggers’s character. A paperback novel, Charlie Chan Returns, by Dennis Lynds, appeared in 1974. Chan has become an American literary folk hero to rank with Tom Sawyer and Tarzan of the Apes, and he has inspired the creation of numerous other “cross-cultural” detectives.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Breen, Jon L. “Charlie Chan: The Man Behind the Curtain.” Views and Reviews 6, no. 1 (Fall, 1974): 29-35. Discusses the fictional detective’s mystique and explains his reliance on that mystique to solve crimes.

Breen, Jon L. “Murder Number One: Earl Derr Biggers.” The New Republic 177 (July 30, 1977): 38-39. Review of Biggers’s contributions to detective fiction.

Haycraft, Howard. Murder for Pleasure: The Life and Times of the Detective Story. 1941. Reprint. New York: Carroll and Graf, 1984. Organizes the history of detective fiction into a “biography,” and situates Biggers’s works in relation to others in the narrative.

Penzler, Otto. Earl Derr Biggers’ Charlie Chan. New York: Mysterious Bookshop, 1999. Detailed study of Biggers’s most famous creation.

Penzler, Otto. The Private Lives of Private Eyes, Spies, Crime Fighters, and Other Good Guys. New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1977. Examines the representation of the domestic space and experience of crime-fiction protagonists, comparing their private lives to the lives of those whose privacy they routinely violate in their investigations.

Roth, Marty. Foul and Fair Play: Reading Genre in Classic Detective Fiction. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1995. A post-structural analysis of the conventions of mystery and detective fiction. Examines 138 short stories and works from the 1840’s to the 1960’s. Helps place Biggers within the context of the genre.

Schrader, Richard J., ed. The Hoosier House: Bobbs-Merrill and Its Predecessors, 1850-1985—A Documentary Volume. Detroit: Gale, 2004. History of Biggers’s publisher; details Biggers’s career with Bobbs-Merrill, as well as the careers of such other authors as Ayn Rand, C. S. Forester, and L. Frank Baum. Bibliographic references and index.