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Rudyard Kipling’s Detective Story: ‘The House Surgeon’

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle reviews Kipling’s foray into the mystery genre with a psychic detective story

Previously, I’ve blogged about the intriguing micro-genre of the psychic detective story, a crossover short story genre which fuses the ghost story or weird tale with the mystery, or detective fiction. Arguably beginning with the Irish author Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1869 story ‘Green Tea’, the form was pioneered by the late Victorian writing team of E. and H. Heron with their Flaxman Low stories, but became really popular during the Edwardian era, with characters such as Algernon Blackwood’s John Silence and, shortly after this, William Hope Hodgson’s Thomas Carnacki and Alice and Claude Askew’s Aylmer Vance.

The genre never exactly attracted a plethora of writers, in the way that the out-and-out detective story did, following the phenomenal success of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. But it did attract the attention of some more famous and talented writers than the ones already mentioned. Perhaps the most famous of them all was Rudyard Kipling. Read the rest of this entry

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10 of the Best Rudyard Kipling Poems Everyone Should Read

The best Kipling poems

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) was a tireless experimenter with the short story form, a novelist, a writer who could entertain children and adults alike with such books as The Jungle Book, Plain Tales from the Hills, The Just So Stories, Puck of Pook’s Hill, and countless others. But as well as being a prolific author of fiction, Rudyard Kipling was also a hugely popular poet. But what are Kipling’s very best poems?

If—’. This poem was first published in Kipling’s volume of short stories and poems, Rewards and Fairies, in 1910, it has become one of Kipling’s best-known poems, and was even voted the UK’s favourite poem of all time in a poll of 1995. According to Kipling in his autobiography, Something of Myself (1937), the origins of ‘If—’ lie in the failed Jameson raid of 1895-6, when the British colonial statesman Leander Starr Jameson led a raid against the South African (Boer) Republic over the New Year weekend. Read the rest of this entry

The First Modern Ghost Story: Kipling’s ‘Mrs Bathurst’

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle analyses one of Rudyard Kipling’s most baffling stories

I agree with Neil Gaiman: Rudyard Kipling was at his best in the short story form. The generous 800-page Fantasy Masterworks volume of Kipling’s ‘fantastical tales’ which I own (The Mark of the Beast And Other Fantastical Tales (FANTASY MASTERWORKS)) showcases the work of a writer who possessed not only a staggering imagination but narrative ingenuity which we rarely see in writers of short stories. Of all Kipling’s short stories, ‘Mrs Bathurst’ is one of the most ingenious. It is also one of the most genuinely chilling.

But ‘Mrs Bathurst’ is not among the more famous of Kipling’s stories, so it’s worth providing a brief summary here. I say ‘providing’ but ‘attempting’ may end up being a more accurate word, since this tale is difficult to summarise. A group of men who work for the railways in South Africa or in the marines sit about telling stories to each other. One of their number, Pyecroft, begins telling the others about a man, Vickery, a warrant officer who deserted the service in mysterious circumstances. Read the rest of this entry