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Monday, September 13, 2021

Andrew Forrester, Jun. — The Private Detective, Secret Service, The Female Detective

In April 2008, interest in Andrew Forrester, Jun., leapt with the publication of The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher; or, The Murder at Road Hill House by Kate Summerscale, although his mention was only in a footnote relating to the publication of a pamphlet about a Victorian murder case know as the Road Hill Murder. A brief essay on the author J. Redding Ware appeared on Bear Alley on 6 May 2008, which also further established the links between journalist and author Ware and the pseudonymous Forrester.

Forrester's The Female Detective (1864) was reprinted in 2012 as part of the British Library's Crime Classics series, cementing the notion that its heroine, Miss Gladden, was "the first female detective", although whether that is the case is challenged in the essay on Ware and his career published in this new edition of the collection — published now in a uniform edition with Forrester's two earlier collections, The Revelations of a Private Detective (1863) and Secret Service; or, Recollections of a City Detective (1864), reprinted for the first time in 150 years.


I MAY as well say, at once, that this statement never could have been made had I not been, as I remain, an admirer of Edgar Allan Poe; and if ever I have time, I hope to show that his acts were the result, not so much of a bad, as a diseased mind. For one thing, I believe his eyes were affected with an inequality of sight, which, in itself, was enough to overbalance a very exciteable brain.
    But Poe has nothing to do with my statement, except as its prompter. My name is John Pendrath (Cornish man, as I dare say you see in a moment), my age. is twenty-eight, and I live with my sister Annie. We are all that are left of our family, which you must see by the name was equally good and old. I need not say what I am; because, though I feel no shame for my work, I do not care about it, and hope, some day, when the Lord Chancellor wakes up, to be able to go back to Cornwall.
    However, it seems I am writing about myself, and that is not my intention; which, indeed, is to show how much individual good such a writer as even the condemned Edgar Poe can do, and even on this side of the Atlantic.
So begins “Arrested on Suspicion” a tale of false arrest as Pendrath tries to prove that his sister has been falsely arrested on suspicion of shoplifting. Using his knowledge of  Poe, he first discovers the hiding place of a fragment of paper, then uses his skills at solving a doubly-encrypted cipher — an early use of cryptography in British fiction.

The Revelations of a Private Detective contains 13 tales of mystery and crime, ranging from the fleecing of a dying man of his savings, the stealing of precious jewellery during a railway journey, and a scam to defraud a life insurance policy, to stories of reluctant divorcees and witnesses, forgery, conmen, and kleptomania.

A coroner’s inquest sat upon the body of the deceased, and returned an open verdict of “Found drowned.” Some people in the town and neighbourhood, among whom were the Newtons, professed much grief at the calamity . . . How, or for what reason, they could not tell; but here was the death, it might be by accident, or it might be by suicide, in a state of drunkenness, of their predecessor, not long after they had lost every thing (as they in the freedom of their language said they had) through a fire on the premises.
    The insurance company heard of the death of Mr. Paterson, and the secretary got it into his head that the Newtons were incendiaries and murderers—that they had killed this man for some evil reason best known to themselves. He consulted the solicitors of the company, and they employed me to sift the mystery, and, if it turned out that the secretary’s suspicions were justifiable, to spare no trouble or expense in obtaining evidence upon which to prosecute the alleged miscreants.
    I went down secretly, and investigated all the circumstances as far as I could. I collected a variety of little scraps of fact, which left no doubt in my mind that the secretary was right. I came, indeed, to the conclusion that these Newtons were the vilest wretches who had for a long time been permitted to escape the hangman.
The follow-up to “The Private Detective” features 17 stories in very much the same style as its predecessor. The anonymous narrator reveals how he introduces a fake candidate in order to “spin” a local election; how a “plant” is used in the snatching of wages; how financial frauds are enacted; how an innocent servant was accused of theft; and how an incendiary gang was used in an insurance fraud.

I am aware that the female detective may be regarded with even more aversion than her brother in profession. But still it cannot be disproved that if there is a demand for men detectives there must also be one for female detective police spies. Criminals are both masculine and feminine—indeed, my experience tells me that when a woman becomes a criminal she is far worse than the average of her male companions, and therefore it follows that the necessary detectives should be of both sexes.
    Let it suffice, once for all, that I know my trade is a despised one, but that being a necessary calling I am not ashamed of it. I know I have done good during my career, I have yet to learn that I have achieved much harm, and I therefore think that the balance of the work of my life is in my favour. . .
    I may also point out, while engaged upon these opening lines, that in a very great many cases women detectives are those who can only be used to arrive at certain discoveries. The nature of these discoveries I need here only hint at, many of them being of too marked a character to admit of their being referred to in detail in a work of this character, and in a book published in the present age. But without going into particulars, the reader will comprehend that the woman detective has far greater opportunities than a man of intimate watching, and of keeping her eyes upon matters near which a man could not conveniently play the eavesdropper.
A key text for researchers and readers of mystery and crime stories, The Female Detective features one of the earliest appearances of a woman police detective, the mysterious “G”—also known as Miss Gladden—who narrates her adventures among the criminal classes in a rational, realistic manner. The collection contains stories based upon two horrific real-life cases: the Thames Carpet Bag Mystery and the Road Murder, the latter the inspiration for Kate Summerscale’s award-winning book, which became the TV series The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher.

All three books include the essay "J. Redding Ware: The Man Behind Andrew Forrester, Jun." by Steve Holland, exploring the three Forrester books and Ware's career as a writer, journalist, translator and editor. It also answers the question: which came first — The Female Detective or Revelations of a Lady Detective?

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(Please note: prices may vary because of the way Amazon calculates postage & packing rates and its fees. Orders via Lulu's bookstore may appear priced in US dollars — it's an American company — but payment in UK sterling will not incur any fees.)

The Revelations of a Private Detective — order from Lulu - order from Amazon (to follow)
Published: September 2021
Format: US trade paperback (6" x 9"), 196 pages of cream paper with matte cover.

Secret Service; or, Recollections of a City Detective order from Lulu - order from Amazon (to follow)
Published: September 2021
Format: US trade paperback (6" x 9"), 198 pages of cream paper with matte cover.

The Female Detective order from Lulu - order from Amazon (to follow)
Published: September 2021
Format: US trade paperback (6" x 9"), 198 pages of cream paper with matte cover.

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