Sunday, April 10, 2016

Blockbuster! Fergus Hume & the mystery of the Hansom cab

The mystery of the hansom cab is one of the major works in early crime fiction. Lucy Sussex describes the novel by Fergus Hume as Australia's first literary block buster.

In this book Lucy Sussex writes about what is known of Fergus Hume, the author, particularly in relation to what became a block buster, not just in Australia but also in England and other countries throughout the world. As well as the editions of the book published in English the book has been translated into French, German and Scandinavian languages. First published in Melbourne in 1886, the book has never been out of print.

Fergus Hume, born in Scotland, moved with his family to New Zealand when a child before trying his luck in Melbourne. He had studied to be a lawyer but preferred writing and tried his hand writing pieces for newspapers. He wanted to write drama but there was a preference for overseas productions and he found it difficult to find anyone to seriously look at his plays. He therefore began writing books. The mystery of the hansom cab was first published in Melbourne and then in London where it became a best seller. Unfortunately Hume had sold his rights to the book for a small sum so he did not make a fortune from the book. This was to be his most successful work though he wrote 130 titles. His work was influencial on crime writing in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The book was made into a film in 1911, 1915, 1925 and 1936. The story was adapted for radio, became a play and was shown as a telemovie on the ABC in 2012.

A brief review of The mystery of a hansom cab appeared in this blog in 2011.

Fergusson Wright Ume - ADB
Article in Inside Story 8 May 2012
Review of Block Buster! in Sydney Morning Herald June 27 2015

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