Friday, 24 March 2017

Forgotten Book - Joe Jenkins: Detective

Readers of this blog are, as their comments regularly demonstrate, a very well-read bunch, but I'd like to bet that few of them have come across my Forgotten Book for today. Joe Jenkins; Detective was written by Paul Rosenhayn, and trnnslated from the German by Jane Head. The book was published in Britain by William Heinemann - a firm which always had an eye for good material -in 1929. But it's rather got lost in the mists of time.

The fact that its appearance coincided with global economic meltdown may well have been a contributing factor. Perhaps more significant was the fact that, unfortunately, the author died in 1929. So who was Paul Rosenhayn? He was born in Hamburg in 1877, and was educated in both England and Germany. He travelled extensively, not only in Europe and the USA, but also in India, and he wrote for British and German newspapers.

Rosenhayn turned to writing fiction, and as far as I can tell, he started writing stories about an American private detective called Joe Jenkins rather more than a decade before the Heinemann book appeared. A set of the stories seem to have been collected for publication in Germany in 1916, and they enjoyed great success. Rosenhayn became a prolific writer during the last twelve years or so of his life, and also wrote screenplays.

What of the stories? They are set in various locations in Germany, and also in France, and are quite a varied bunch. Jenkins is a sort of poor man's Sherlock, a master of disguise, and renowned for his brilliance, but thinly characterised. We really learn nothing about him as a man - for Rosenhayn, the plot was the thing. And one or two of the plots are really pretty good. Some of the stories have worn better than others, but I found my introduction to this once-popular sleuth quite entertaining.  

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