Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Famous Investigators by Richard Deming

This 1963 compilation from Whitman Publications was of special interest to me as a kid. Not only was I a fan of Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes, I was soon to become infatuated with The Hardy Boys series of books. Just a few short years after receiving this book as a gift from my parents, I was heavily into Arthur Conan Doyle, and even Rex Stout. At that time, I favored mysteries, and I rather fancied myself as a young sleuth. Author Richard Deming highlights the real-life biography (in short form, and written for juveniles) of eight historical investigators. They are Robert Fabian, Alan Pinkerton, Raymond Schindler, Francois-Eugéne Vidocq, J. Edgar Hoover, Francis Phillips, William Tilghman, and William Campbell. I recently re-read it, and found it dry, but it was an important book in my childhood. Famous Investigators introduced me to non-fiction, and through this book I became acquainted with Old West lawman Bill Tilghman. The others, except Hoover, whom I had heard of, were less interesting. Alan Pinkerton was familiar to me as well. Author Richard Deming wrote the sections in a storybook style interspersed with historical facts. This is simplistic writing. Whitman books out of Racine Wisconsin once held the juvenile market in the palm of its hand. Their many titles capitalized on cultural trends, and the 1960s titles are collector’s items today, sometimes fetching as much as $25.00 or $30.00 dollars for a solid copy. The books were cheaply produced, and didn’t hold up well. The covers were coated with a cheap plastic protective sheath that became brittle over the decades, and the paper was low grade. Still, these books are fun to collect. 

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