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The Complete Raffles Volume 1: The Amateur Cracksman & The Black Mask
By E. W. Hornung

I thought I’d take a break from posting up YouTube videos to share my thoughts on my recent reading. In particular, I wanted to express my affection for the Raffles stories by E. W. Hornung.

If you haven’t heard of A. J. Raffles before, he’s an urbane man about town, gifted cricketer and thrill-seaking professional thief. Created by the brother-in-law of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, it’s not unusual to hear him described as Sherlock Holmes’ antithesis. The Raffles stories are boys own adventure and they do share a similar kind of format, with Raffles assisted in his endeavours by faithful sidekick and chronicler Bunny Manders. Their relationship is much like the relationship between Holmes and Watson, as Bunny spends a good deal of each story trying to fathom the enigmatic behaviour of Raffles.

There are other similarities too numerous to mention, but personally I don’t think of Raffles as an inversion of Sherlock Holmes exactly. I love Sherlock Holmes and I know I would enjoy a true opposite of his character, but Raffles is something different. He’s certainly a skilled criminal, but his crimes are frequently opportunistic or else carefully laid plans are thrown into jeopardy by unforseen circumstances. Because of this element of unpredictability, Raffles’ skill as a thief doesn’t mirror Holmes’ superhuman feats of crime-solving as you might expect. The unpredictability and the thrilling nature of the crimes makes everything seem a bit of a jaunt, even when the stakes are high.

The first volume of The Complete Raffles is in fact two sets of short stories, which makes for very comfortable reading. Definitely read it if you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes and other boys own adventure stories.


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