Sunday, March 07, 2010

In Search of ... "The Detective"

When Lovecraft was about 13, Sherlock Holmes was the rage. (The Hounds of the Baskervilles" was released to a high pitched fanaticism, having been a pent up demand to which the chagrined Doyle finally succumbed and produced.)

Lovecraft immediately set out to gather his Slater Avenue chums, the Munroes and Ronald Upham, and began a Baker Street irregular gropu, though he did not call it that. It was the PDA: Providence Detective Agency.

Throughout Lovecraft's letters he mentions items and events that sometimes appear NOWHERE ELSE. He was like a magnet of forgotten lore.

He briefly mentions carrying around "The Detective" filled with mugshots and profiles of murderers and bank robbers. This would have been summer of 1903, as he was turning 13.

So, whence "The Detective"?

I tracked down a 1909 dime sheet called "Dick Dobbs Detective Weekly" starting in 1909, much too late. However, there is some probability it was based on a pulpish scandal called "Detective Weekly" that I saw mentioned on a "Da Google" book snippet which involved a reminiscence of someone who recalled two British sheets at two pence (tuppence sheets". One was a red and blue lurid affair, and the other was a companion sheet called "The Detective".

That's the best I can do. Perhpas there was an American immitator, or perhaps the same newsstands that carried dime pulps carried this sheet direct from England, or it's possible, and slighly likely, that these were story papers that included, for effect and notoriety, mugshots and notices in their rear sections.

It's pretty likely that Google will soon win its lawsuits, and a rush of scans will hit the internet creating a tidal wave bonanza for researchers everywhere. Let's see what the next few years bring us.

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