Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sunday Salon: Re-reading classic crime.

I realised with horror that I haven't actually added anything to this blog all week.
Now that school is back I'm finding I just don't have the energy for much beyond the basics. Back on the iron tablets in case it's that.

Anyway, I re-read a crime class this past week. RAFFLES: THE AMATEUR CRACKSMAN by E.W. Hornung - first published in 1899. I'd read these books in the 1970's when I was in my early 20's. I hadn't revisited them since.

I had fond memories of them. I'm not sure if my tastes have changed of if I've become more sophisticated in my analysis of what I'm reading. I found Raffles not to be the raffish but likeable crook of my memory but in fact a fairly self-centred character who appeared to treat his friend and confidante, Bunny Manders with a certain degree of disdain.

The book is written from Bunny's point of view and it seems that he portrays himself as being something of a bunny. Everytime something went wrong it seemed Bunny blamed himself.
I put it down not so much to Bunny's naivete but to Raffles not informing him what was going on.

What also raised questions for me that never occurred to me 30 years ago was the relationship between Raffles and Bunny. Bunny makes reference to Raffles' success with women once or twice in the book, but apart from one story, there is an almost complete absence of females. The one time one does appear, Bunny writes about her as being of no consequence. In fact, it seems as if Bunny is jealous. Hmmmm.. Could it be. The friendship from Bunny's perspective is more than mere admiration? Is Raffles selfishness in not keeping Bunny completely informed the act of a loner not used to working with someone or an attempt to keep him at arm's length?

Raffles was first published in 1899 and apparently E. W. Hornung was the brother-in-law of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Was this portayal of Raffles and Bunny a genuine relection of a friendship in more innocent times issues of sexuality weren't questioned? Was it perhaps a sly, subtle glimpse inside a hidden world? Or could it have been an equally sly satire of Holmes and Doyle from a less successful writer?


Kerrie said...

Just letting you know your Sunday salon turned up in my RSS from Yahoo Pipes Sunnie

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I enjoy classic crime quite a bit, particularly as I've been reading from my Grandfather's collection. But I've never run across those before. I'll have to add them to my list.

Sunnie Gill said...

Thanks, Kerrie. Turned up here eventually too.

Sunnie Gill said...

It is quite an exercise to revisit classic crime decades after first reading them. So much changes, particularly your awareness.

Raffles was very much of its time. In fact, the narrator runs up some gambling debts he can't pay and seriously contemplates suicide. Not because of the debt itself, but because of the public disgrace. Something almost unthinkable in this day and age.

Anonymous said...

A mystery/crime novel with characters named Raffles and Bunny. That sounds really fun! and I miss the days (though I never actually lived through them) where a man and a woman could have a friendship without it being suspect.

Sunnie Gill said...

I'm not so sure it would have been possible for men and women to have a platonic relationship of any substance without it being the subject of much gossip and perhaps scandal.

I found a fascinating web page with outlines of the social rules in Victorian times.

How one obeyed these rules in some instances could determine your social standing.

John's comments said... George Orwell wrote a famous essay comparing the two ages of detective fiction. My Sunday Salon Post