Arthur Morrison (1863 – 1945)


95961Arthur George Morrison (1863 – 1945) was an English author and journalist, known for his realistic novels about London’s East End and for his detective stories. In 1890, he left his job as a clerk at the People’s Palace and joined the editorial staff of the Evening Globe newspaper. The following year, he published a story titled “A Street”, which was subsequently published in book form in Tales of Mean Streets (1894). Around this time, Morrison was also producing detective short stories which emulated those of Conan Doyle about Sherlock Holmes. Three volumes of Martin Hewitt stories were published before the publication of the novel for which Morrison is most famous: A Child of the Jago (1896). Other less well-received novels and stories followed, until Morrison effectively retired from writing fiction around 1913. Between then and his death, he seems to have concentrated on building his collection of Japanese prints and paintings. (Source: Goodreads)

As Martin Edwards points out in his book The Golden Age of Murder, (Harper Collins Publishers, 2015. pp. 99  – 100):

Arthur Morrison, son of an engine fitter, exploited his literary gifts to escape London’s slum. A journalist, he hit his stride with Tales of the Mean Streets, but could scarcely have guessed that ‘mean streets’ would become a phrase associated with American private eyes. Morrison depicted the East End with an insider’s expertise, but became embarrassed by his humble origins. He even falsified data on the national census to conceal his date and place of birth. It is a pity he was so sensitive, since the strength of his writing lies in an understanding of working class life that Berkeley, Sayers and Christie could never match.

Morrison’s Martin Hewitt, a lawyer turned private investigator, was meant to fill the gap left by Holmes’ plunge into the Reichenbach Falls. Portly and good nature, Hewitt was too ordinary to outshine the sage of 221b Baker Street, dead or alive. More distinctive was Horace Dorrington, a suave villain who plans a murder at the start of The Dorrington Deed-Box. His scheme fails, and although he escapes justice, his intended victim discovers the records of several cases in which Dorrington combines work as a private inquiry agent with shameless criminality. Morrison abandoned Dorrington after one book, but had created the literary ancestor of the murderous charmer To Ripley, created by Patricia Highsmith, herself a member of the Detection Club, and of Jeff Lindsay’s serial killer Dexter Morgan.’

Further reading:

dorringtondeedboxartmor__82124.1486494261.500.659From Wikipedia: The Dorrington Deed Box is a collection of short stories by the British writer Arthur Morrison published in 1897. It contains six stories featuring cases of the unscrupulous London-based private detective Horace Dorrington, told from the viewpoint of one his clients and potential victims, James Rigby. It was part of a general boom of detective stories in the wake of Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation of Sherlock Holmes. Morrison had previously written stories about an honest private detective Martin Hewitt, but with Dorrington he created a more cynical character who does not hesitate to commit armed robbery or murder to suit his ends.

The 1970s British television series The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes featured two episodes based on Dorrington stories, with Peter Vaughan portraying the detective.

Product Description: Meet Horace Dorrington, Detective…
In 1897 Morrison published seven short stories detailing the exploits of Horace Dorrington. In contrast to Morrison’s earlier character Martin Hewitt, who one critic described as a “low-key, realistic, lower-class answer to Sherlock Holmes,” Dorrington was “a respected but deeply corrupt private detective,” “a cheerfully unrepentant sociopath who is willing to stoop to theft, blackmail, fraud, or cold-blooded murder to make a dishonest penny.” These stories were collected as The Dorrington Deed Box (1897).  (Source: Wildside Press)

The Dorrington Deed Box has been reviewed, among others, at Vintage Pop Fictions and the crime segments.

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