Rufus King (1893 – 1966)

imagesRufus Frederick King (January 3, 1893, New York City – February 13, 1966, Hollywood, Florida) was an American author of whodunit crime novels. He created four series of detective stories: the first one with Reginald De Puyster, a sophisticated detective similar to Philo Vance; the second one with his more famous character, Lieutenant Valcour; the third with Colin Starr, who appeared in four stories in the Strand Magazine during 1940–41; and the fourth with Chief Bill Dugan, who appeared in three stories in The Saint Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine 1956–57. In 2014, Wildside Press purchased Rufus King’s copyrights and began reissuing his work, starting with a collection of Chief Bill Dugan mystery short stories. (Source: Wikipedia).

Modern critics are rediscovering Rufus King’s work. Mike Grost, on Golden Age Detective, features a long writeup of King, stating: Rufus King was a prolific mystery and detective novelist, playwright, and short story writer in the Van Dine school, whose career stretched from the 1920’s to the 1960’s. Some of his work is fair play, puzzle plot detective fiction, others are suspense pieces. He is not to be confused with earlier figures from US history also named Rufus King. (Click here to continue reading). King had a vivid writing style, with colorful characters, events, and images. He was clearly a born writer.

In his history of detective fiction Murder for Pleasure (1941), Howard Haycraft says that the number of books sold by Rufus King is only a little less than those of the biggest seller in American mystery fiction Erle Stanley Gardner. Since Gardner was hugely popular, this is impressive.

Lt. Valcour Mystery Series: Murder By the Clock (1929), Somewhere in This House aka A Woman Is Dead (1929), Murder By Latitude (1931), Murder in the Willett Family (1931), Murder On the Yacht (1932), Valcour Meets Murder (1932), The Lesser Antilles Case aka Murder Challenges Valcour (1934), Profile of a Murder (1935), The Case of the Constant God (1938), Crime of Violence (1938), and Murder Masks Miami (1939)

A mystery fiction bibliography is at the Golden Age of Detection Wiki.

Curtis Evans’ articles on Rufus King are at The Passing Tramp.

TomCat’s articles on Rufus King are at Beneath the Stains of Time.

J F Norris articles on Rufus King are at Pretty Sinister Books.

Martin Edwards articles on Rufus King are at ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’


(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Doubleday The Crime Club (USA), 1930)

Product Description: When the radio operator on a luxury cruise ship is murdered, Lt. Valcour takes charge. While investigating the crew and the passengers, especially a lovely but lethal man-eater, the killer strikes again — and it’s up to Valcour to solve the crimes before anyone else falls victim! (Source: Wildside Press)

Curtis Evans wrote about Murder by Latitude: ‘The first in the maritime trilogy and one of the genre’s great ocean liner mysteries.  A seemingly unstoppable fiend is committing a series of murders on a ship as it makes its tortured, desperate way from Bermuda to Halifax. There’s terrific suspense, some fascinating characters, beautiful writing and a diabolical twist.  Now, what more could you ask for than this?’

Murder by Latitude has been reviewed, among others, at Death Can Read, The Passing Tramp, Mystery File, Beneath the Stains of Time, Vintage Pop Fictions, and The Greatest Game in the World.

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