Reeve, Arthur B(enjamin) 1880-1936
REEVE, Arthur B(enjamin) 1880-1936
PERSONAL: Born October 15, 1880, in Patchogue, NY; died of complications from asthmatic and bronchial conditions August 9, 1936, in Trenton, NJ; son of Walter Franklin and Jennie (Henderson) Reeve; married Margaret Allen Wilson, January 31, 1906; children: two sons, one daughter. Education: Princeton University, graduated, 1903; attended New York Law School. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening (expert on dahlias).
CAREER: Writer. Worked for Public Opinion (magazine), beginning as an assistant editor, beginning 1906.
"craig kennedy" mystery fiction
The Silent Bullet (novel), Dodd, Mead (New York, NY), 1912.
The Dream Doctor (short stories), Hearst's International Library (New York, NY), 1914.
The War Terror (short stories), Hearst's International Library (New York, NY), 1915.
The Social Gangster (short stories), Hearst's International Library (New York, NY), 1915.
Adventuress (novel), Harper (New York, NY), 1917.
Treasure Train (short stories), Harper (New York, NY), 1917.
Panama Plot (novel), Harper (New York, NY), 1918.
The Film Mystery (novel), Harper (New York, NY), 1921.
Atavar (novel), Harper (New York, NY), 1924.
The Boy Scouts' Craig Kennedy (for children), Harper (New York, NY), 1925.
The Fourteen Points: Tales of Craig Kennedy (short stories), Harper (New York, NY), 1925.
Craig Kennedy on the Farm (short stories), introduction by Loring Schuler, Harper (New York, NY), 1925.
The Radio Detective (for children), [New York, NY], 1926.
Pandora (novel), Harper (New York, NY), 1926.
Kidnap Club (novel), Macaulay (New York, NY), 1932.
The Clutching Hand (novel), Reilly & Lee (Chicago, IL), 1934.
The Stars Scream Murder (novel), Appleton-Century (New York, NY), 1936.
Contributor of Kennedy tales to periodicals, including Cosmopolitan and Hearst's International Magazine.
"elaine dodge" trilogy
The Exploits of Elaine, [New York, NY], 1915.
The Romance of Elaine, [New York, NY], 1916.
The Triumph of Elaine, [New York, NY], 1916.
Guy Garrick: An Adventure with a Scientific Gunman (mystery novel), Hearst's International Library (New York, NY), 1914.
Constance Dunlap, Woman Detective (mystery stories), Hearst's International Library (New York, NY), 1916.
Author of film serials, including The Exploits of Elaine, 1914.
ADAPTATIONS: The Clutching Hand was adapted for film; unpublished Craig Kennedy tales were adapted by Ashley T. Locke for publication in Popular Detective, 1934-35, and as Enter Craig Kennedy, 1935.
SIDELIGHTS: Arthur B. Reeve was a mystery writer whose publications include novels and short stories featuring Craig Kennedy, a resourceful scientist who finds himself drawn into criminal investigations requiring his scientific expertise. Kennedy's exploits proved particularly popular to American readers in the 1910s, when his adventures sold more books than those by any other literary sleuth. The Kennedy character is a chemistry professor at an unnamed university. Convinced of the value of using science to solve murder mysteries, he uses various devices—some already in existence, some invented in his laboratory—to solve cases. His approach naturally caused Kennedy to be compared to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, and, indeed, Reeve's publisher often referred to Kennedy as the American Holmes for publicity purposes. Another parallel between Holmes and Kennedy is that they both have comrades whose main purpose is to gawk at the genius of their brilliant detective friends. For Holmes it was Dr. Watson; for Kennedy it was Walter Jameson, a reporter who shares an apartment with Kennedy, much as Watson does with Holmes.
Much of the success of the "Kennedy" mysteries had to do with timing. Reeve wrote his stories during a time when the American public was enamored by scientific inventions and progress, so his use of such devices as seismographs, blowtorches, and Dictaphones to solve murder cases was novel and appealing to his readers. Most Kennedy stories follow a formula: Kennedy is approached by either Inspector Barney O'Connor, who has built a career on the detective's work, or by a troubled client; they present Kennedy with a bizarre or unusual case that uses a scientific device of some kind, and Kennedy then proceeds to resolve the case using his technical know-how. Despite the similarities between many of the tales, Reeve managed to keep his tales fresh, at least at first. "When one considers how closely the author follows the same general formula . . . ," wrote a New York Times critic in a review of Treasure Train, "the amount of variety in them is rather surprising."
Reeve's formula worked so well that he used a similar approach in his Guy Garrick: An Adventure with a Scientific Gunman, which features a hero "who has made a scientific study of crime," according to a Boston Transcript contributor. Reeve's tales soon became so popular, and demand for more so great, that the author began recycling elements of his plots over and over in order to keep up until the novelty began to wear off. Also, as technology progressed, Kennedy's use of science to solve crimes became less extraordinary and intriguing. In an effort to keep his stories fresh, he added melodrama for the "Elaine Dodge" trilogy, a series of books featuring Kennedy that were composed by Reeve mostly for the purpose of promoting a film serial he had written. Today, it is for these films that the character of Kennedy is most remembered, although critics have felt that they do not represent Reeve's best work.
By the end of the 1910s the popularity of the Kennedy character had run its course, and Reeve struggled to write new material. He continued publishing through the 1920s, but was never to have as much success as he had in the early years. However, he continued to write for pulp mystery magazines and published books based on his film serials, such as The Clutching Hand. From 1930 to 1931 he also wrote articles on crime prevention, a topic which he also discussed on a short-lived radio program. And he worked as a reporter, covering such important events as the kidnaping of Charles Lindbergh's son. A year after covering this infamous story, Reeve passed away from complications from a bronchial and asthma condition.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Boston Transcript, May 9, 1914, review of Dream Doctor, p. 8; October 28, 1914, review of Guy Garrick: An Adventure with a Scientific Gunman, p. 24; June 5, 1915, review of The War Terror, p. 8; May 27, 1916, review of Constance Dunlap, Woman Detective, p. 10; January 2, 1918, review of Adventures, p. 6; September 25, 1918, review of Panama Plot, p. 6; September, 1925, review of Craig Kennedy on the Farm, p. 6; October 26, 1935, C. W. Morton, Jr., review of Enter Craig Kennedy, p. 4.
Literature Review, March 26, 1921, review of The Film Mystery, p. 10.
New York Evening Post, May 7, 1932, Rumana McManis, review of Kidnap Club, p. 7.
New York Times, May 25, 1914, review of Dream Doctor; April 25, 1915, review of The War Terror; June 24, 1917, review of Treasure Train; March 13, 1921, review of The Film Mystery, p. 23; June 8, 1924, review of Atavar, p. 24; April 24, 1932, Isaac Anderson, review of Kidnap Club, p. 16; April 29, 1934, Isaac Anderson, review of The Clutching Hand, p. 16; November 3, 1935, Isaac Anderson, review of Enter Craig Kennedy, p. 19; March 29, 1936, review of The Stars Scream Murder, p. 22.
Saturday Review of Literature, April 25, 1925, review of The Fourteen Points: Tales of Craig Kennedy; October 31, 1925, review of Craig Kennedy on the Farm; October 30, 1926, review of Pandora; May 5, 1934, review of The Clutching Hand; March 14, 1936, review of The Stars Scream Murder.
Springfield Republican, June 11, 1914, review of Dream Doctor, p. 5; review of Constance Dunlap, Woman Detective, p. 13.*