The Rare Books and Special Collections and Friends of the Library present:
Dr Lucy Sussex
Fergus Hume and the Mystery of the Hansom Cab
Fergus Hume’s The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (1886) was a detective novel by a New Zealand lawyer, written with the notion of using it to promote his dramatic works to the theatre managers of Melbourne. Hume set it in Melbourne and created a vivid picture of a city in boom-time, together with its guilty secrets. Semi-self-published in a cheap ten-shilling edition (approx A$5.00), the novel sold out quickly. A consortium of Melbourne capitalists, the Hansom Cab Publishing Co., then took the book to London, where clever marketing, advertorials and the zeitgeist ensured it sold 500,000 copies, the biggest-selling detective novel of the 1800s. Hume, however, missed out, for he had sold his copyright for £50, disbelieving a colonial book could conquer the English market.
Lucy Sussex’s newly published book on Hume (Blockbuster! Fergus Hume and the Hansom Cab) for the first time tells the story of the author, his publisher, and the extraordinary story of how the book was financed, promoted, and achieved such success. Not least, it created the market for Conan Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes, helping consolidate the then new publishing category of detective fiction.
Her talk at the Fisher Library, 8 July, will consider the genres of “The … Hansom Cab”; initially promoted as a ‘Sensational Novel’, it was also a ‘Shilling Shocker’ (as was Dr Jekyll), a detective novel, and a genuine publishing blockbuster, as well as acting as a personal advertisement for the author. It will also discuss the incredibly rare first editions of the book (four are known to survive), where even imperfect copies are worth five-figure sums. Not least, the nefarious secrets behind the Hansom Cab, and Hume’s own connection to Sydney, will be revealed.
Refreshments will be provided.
Please RSVP by Friday 3rd of July: email@example.com