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|Title:||The House Without a Key (Charlie Chan #1)|
|Publisher:||Grosset & Dunlap|
|Tags:||Charlie Chan (Fictional character), detective, fiction, legal thriller, mystery, film/TV adaptation|
The House Without a Key is the classic novel in which Charlie Chan makes his debut as Inspector of the Honolulu Police Department. Earl Derr Biggers brings Honolulu to life with deft descriptions of the landscape and of its hybrid ethnic communities. With the creation of Detective Chan, Biggers also shatters stereotypes and is ahead of his time in highlighting the positive aspects of Chinese-Hawaiian culture, just as his skillful rendering of San Francisco is noteworthy of its modernity and keen sense of place. [Suggest a different description.]
Author Bio for Biggers, Earl Derr
Biggers' blunt drama reviews offended many, and when the Boston Traveler was purchased by new owners his days at the publication were numbered, and by 1912, he was fired. This apparent setback afforded Biggers the opportunity to write his first novel, Seven Keys to Baldpate which was published by Bobbs-Merrill in 1913. The book was very well received, resulting in his gaining a national recognition as a writer. The inevitable financial rewards of his success allowed he and Eleanor to marry. George M. Cohan bought the dramatic rights to the book and produced a Broadway play that enjoyed a lengthy run. The popularity of Biggers' first novel was to continue through five different film versions spanning thirty years. His next books, Love Insurance (1914) and The Agony Column (1916) continued his success as a novelist.
Love Insurance led to another popular play, See-Saw. It was during this time that Biggers became increasingly involved with stage productions. However, the workload demanded of a successful playwright began to drain the author physically. In need of an escape to a more temperate climate Biggers and Elanor visited Hawaii in 1920 for sun and relaxation. It was while on vacation in Honolulu that the seeds were planted in the mind of Earl Derr Biggers for a new kind of hero.
"It all began so innocently," related Biggers. "A little trip to Honolulu, a harmless loitering on the beach at Waikiki. Then, some years later, in the fall of 1924, the decision to write a mystery novel about Hawaii, based on a plot that had occurred to me while I was over there. But my memories of the islands were rather dim; I dropped into a library to brighten them a bit by a perusal of recent Honolulu newspapers. In an obscure corner of an inside page, I found an item to the effect that a certain hapless Chinese, being too fond of opium, had been arrested by Sergeants Chang Apana and Lee Fook, of the Honolulu Police."2 During a vacation to Honolulu four years later, Biggers met with Chang Apana at the newly opened Royal Hawaiian Hotel.
So, with that, Sergeant Charlie Chan had arrived; a character that was very unique to American mystery readers in the mid-1920s. The idea of a Chinese detective who would be portrayed in a very positive light was a major departure from the prevailing attitude of the time. Biggers later stated, "I had seen movies depicting and read stories about Chinatown and wicked Chinese villains, and it struck me that a Chinese hero, trustworthy, benevolent, and philosophical, would come nearer to presenting a correct portrayal of the race."
On January 24, 1925, The Saturday Evening Post carried the first installment of The House Without a Key, a story that was soon published by Bobbs-Merrill as a hard cover novel. In this book, detective Charlie Chan of the Honolulu Police Department works to solve a murder committed at a beach house in Honolulu. In the story, John Quincy Winterslip, a young Bostonian (recalling, no doubt, Biggers' earlier years in that city) provides the romantic interest for the daughter of a prime suspect, as well as investigative assistance to Mr. Chan.
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