In my recent overhaul of book collecting, I came across Anna Katharine Green’s The Leavenworth Case.
Just like my other book purchases I’ve featured on this blog, I bought this book solely based on the cover. It does have a little bit of water damage on the endpapers, but that didn’t stop me!
But after looking through it, I have come to love a number of other aspects about it, including the lifelike illustrations dispersed throughout the text.
There’s even an illegible pull out letter sandwiched in the book. I’m not quite sure yet what it’s doing there…I haven’t had a chance to sit down and read the book yet!
But sit down and read it I certainly will. And soon! Turns out, this novel is pretty important in Victorian literature! When I purchased it, I thought, ‘Oh, well, it’s got a pretty neat looking cover, even if I’ve never heard of the author.’ And as I’ve mentioned in a recent post on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Twice Told Tales, I often search out certain authors first before I move onto cover or copyright date.
The bad thing though, after doing some research, is that everyone should know who Anna Katharine Green is. She is Edgar Allen Poe’s female counterpart, and is considered by many the mother of the American detective novel. There is one other woman who published a nickel and dime detective novel a few years earlier; however, Anna proved to be the better writer. I find it extremely odd that she’s not taught in Literature classes alongside Edgar Allen Poe or even Arthur Conan Doyle! (Edgar Allen Poe’s first mystery, Murders in the Rue Morgue, was published in 1841. Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Homes debuted in 1887, nine years after The Leavenworth Case was published.)
Born November 11, 1846, in Brooklyn New York, Anna began writing at an early age, with her father’s work as a lawyer influencing many of her stories.
She graduated from Ripley Female College, in Poultney, Vermont, in 1866 (now Green Mountain College), and published her first novel, The Leavenworth Case, in 1876. Mine is copyrighted 1905 (and you can certainly date it by the illustrations-look at that Gibson girl!)
Anna published several other books and collections of poetry, but her poetry was never as popular as her novels. She did create two noteworthy characters which are rumored to have influenced Edward Stratemeyer’s Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple: Violet Strange, the debutante detective, and Amelia Butterworth, the nosy society spinster.
Some critics have stated Anna Katharine Green’s writing is very outdated and hard to read. This is one thing I love about older books-the overly descriptive sentences really shove a reader into the scenery, ultimately playing out like a movie in my mind. The elegant language and social niceties pull me in, but it’s definitely not for everyone!
For all you ipad, kindle, or nook savy people, The Leavenworth Case has been transcribed through Project Gutenburg and can be accessed for free through their website.
Hayes, Dorothy. ‘Anna Katharine Green: “The Mother of the American Mystery Story?”’ Weblog entry. Forgotten Books Archives. 5 October 2012. Web. 5 August 2013 http://www.womenofmystery.net/2012/10/05/anna-katharine-green-the-mother-of-the-american-detective-series/
Merriman, C.D. for Jalic Inc. ‘Anna Katharine Green.’ The Literature Network. 2006. Web. 6 August 2013 http://www.online-literature.com/anna-green/
Shortlidge, Leslie. ‘Just Who Was Anna Katharine Green?’ Weblog entry. Sisters in Crime. 10 September 2010. Web. 5 August 2013 http://sisters-in-crime-sinc.blogspot.com/2010/09/just-who-was-anna-katherine-green.html
Sims, Michael. ‘Introduction.’ Preface. The Leavenworth Case. New York: Penguin, 2010. Print.
Taylor, Art. ‘Review: The Leavenworth Case by Anna Katherine Green.’ Weblog entry. Art & Literature. 9 May 2010. Web. 5 August 2013 http://artandliterature.wordpress.com/2010/05/09/review-the-leavenworth-case/