The Best of the Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes: The Crime Club

crimeclubCrime Club. The Crime Club was created by Frank Froest and George Dilnot (Horace Elver, Val Emery, Jim Strang, Inspector Strickland) and appeared in eleven stories in The Red Book Magazine in 1914 and 1915; the stories were collected in The Crime Club (1916). The Crime Club is a select group of the most exclusive detectives in existence:

Unostentatious as its existence is its headquarters—a little hotel handy to the Strand…the rank and file of the world’s detective services have no entrée to the Crime Club. Only men whose repute is beyond suspicion are among its members. Strictly, it is an international club, for although its most determined frequenters are a dozen Scotland Yard men, there is always a sprinkling of detectives from abroad to be found there. You may see perhaps a thin, hawk-faced Pinkerton man grimly chaffing an excitable, black-bearded little Italian, none other than the redoubtable Cipriano of the Italian Secret Service. In the group about the fire are Poltoff of Petrograd—a stolid, bovine-faced man whose looks belie the subtlety of a tempered brain…search the newspaper files of the world and you will here and there get a hint of remarkable things done by these men—of supreme feats of organization in pursuit, of subtleties in unveiling mysteries, of bulldog courage and tenacity, of quick-witted resource in emergencies. You will not find all the truth there because there are sometimes happenings of which it is not well all the truth should be known; buy you will gather much from the manner of men they are.

This wasn’t the first “club of detectives” series, exactly. The first–and there may be an earlier one I haven’t discovered or which I am just not remembering in my current pre-caffeinated state–was Carolyn Wells’ “Society of Infallible Detectives,” from 1905. Presided over by Sherlock Holmes, the Society meet to solve crimes. Across five stories, their membership is described as including Jacques Futrelle’s S.S. “The Thinking Machine” Van Dusen, E.W. Hornung’s Raffles, Maurice LeBlanc’s Arsène Lupin, Edgar Allan Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin, Emile Gaboriau’s M. Lecoq, E.C. Bentley’s Philip Trent, Anna Katherine Green’s Ebenezer Gryce, Francis Lynde’s Calvin “Scientific” Sprague, William MacHarg and Edwin Balmer’s Luther Trant, E.C. Bentley’s Philip Trent, Arthur Reeve’s Craig Kennedy, Gaston Leroux’s Rouletabille, and M. Vidocq.

But Froest & Dilnot’s Crime Club may be the first “club of detectives” series with all-new characters (which is, I admit, a somewhat faint distinction, but a significant one in its way), one which set the mode for future “club of detectives” series like Asimov’s Black Widowers and various others. You could make the argument, even, that the Crime Club was the predecessor for police station stories like Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct, for what are those stories but more “realistic” “club of detectives” series?

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