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About the Author: Fergus Hume

Fergusson Wright Hume (1859–1932), English lawyer and prolific author spent a number of years in New Zealand and Australia where he began his career of more than thirty years writing detective stories, including his first novel and international best-seller The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (1886).

Fergusson [Fergus] Wright Hume was born 8 July 1859 at Powick, Worcestershire, England, son of Glaswegian Dr. James Collin Hume, a steward at the Worcestershire Pauper Lunatic Asylum and his wife Mary Ferguson. In 1863 the Humes emigrated to New Zealand where James founded the first private mental hospital and Dunedin College. Young Fergus attended the Otago Boys' High School then went on to study law at Otago University. He followed up with articling in the attorney-general's office, called to the New Zealand bar in 1885.

In 1885 Hume moved to Melbourne. While he worked as a solicitors clerk he was bent on becoming a dramatist; but having only written a few short stories he was a virtual unknown. So as to gain the attentions of the theatre directors he asked a local bookseller what style of book he sold most. Emile Gaboriau's detective works were very popular and so Hume bought them all and studied them intently, thus turning his pen to writing his own style of crime novel and mystery.

Hume spent much time in Little Bourke Street to gather material and his first effort was The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (1886), a worthy contibution to the genre. It is full of literary references and quotations; finely crafted complex characters and their sometimes ambiguous seeming interrelationships with the other suspects, deepening the whodunit angle. It is somewhat of an exposé of the then extremes in Melbourne society, which caused some controversy for a time. Hume had it published privately after it had been downright rudely rejected by a number of publishers. "Having completed the book, I tried to get it published, but everyone to whom I offered it refused even to look at the manuscript on the grounds that no Colonial could write anything worth reading." He had sold the publishing rights for £50, but still retained the dramatic rights which he soon profited from by the long Australian and London theatre runs.

Except for short trips to France, Switzerland and Italy, in 1888 Hume settled and stayed in Essex, England where he would remain for the rest of his life. His romance and Australian gold mining tale, Madame Midas was published in 1889. Miss Mephistopheles (1890), Aladdin in London (1892),The Secret Passage (1905), The Green Mummy (1908), High Water Mark (1911), The Master Mind (1919), The Moth Woman (1923), and The Last Straw (1932) were some of the many titles to follow The Mystery of a Hansom Cab.

Fergus Hume died of cardiac failure at his home in Rosemary, Grove Road, Thundersley, Essex, England on 11 July 1932.


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ISBN10: 1445508400 | ISBN13: 9781445508405

Fergusson Wright Hume, known as Fergus Hume (1859-1932) was an English novelist who moved to New Zealand at the age of three.

Shortly after graduation in Otago he left for Melbourne. He began writing plays, but found it impossible to persuade the managers of the Melbourne theatres to accept or even read them.

Finding that the novels of Emile Gaboriau were then very popular in Melbourne, he obtained and read a set of them and determined to write a novel of a similar kind. The result was the self-published novel 'The Mystery of a Hansom Cab' (1886), which became a great success.

After the success of his first novel and the publication of another he returned to England in 1888. He resided in the Essex countryside for thirty years, eventually producing over 100 novels and short stories.

He was a capable writer of mystery stories, and may be looked upon as one of the precursors of the many writers of detective stories whose work was so popular in the twentieth century. His other works include 'Madame Midas' (1888), 'The Silent House in Pimlico' (1899), 'The Bishop's Secret' (1900), 'Secret Passage' (1905), 'The Green Mummy' (1908), and 'Red Money' (1912).

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