Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Bentley: Creator of the “Human” Detective

E.C. Bentley (1875-1956), a pioneering London writer of detective fiction, made his mark largely because of his annoyance with Sherlock Holmes. He (like many readers of Arthur Conan Doyle) ultimately decided the humorless, unemotional, automaton nature of Holmes simply wouldn’t do. Bentley’s fictional detective, Philip Trent, was certainly human. In Trent’s Last Case, Bentley’s first detective novel, the amateur sleuth fell in love with one of the suspects.

Trent’s Last Case, published in 1913, became quite popular -- but Bentley was not interested in developing his new hero. For more than 20 years, Bentley, a lawyer turned journalist, was content to write editorials for the Daily Telegraph and light verse for Punch and other periodicals. Not until 1936, after retiring from journalism, did he follow up with Trent’s Own Case. In 1938 he added a volume of short stories, Trent Intervenes.

Bentley is credited with beginning the trend away from classic, Holmsian-style detective fiction and with championing more “believable,” modern characters.


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