Earl Derr Biggers

Franklin Library Earl Derr Biggers books

The House Without a Key - Library of Mystery Masterpieces - 1989


Who was Earl Derr Biggers?

Earl Derr Biggers, born on August 26, 1884, in Warren, Ohio, was an accomplished American novelist and playwright best known for creating the iconic fictional detective Charlie Chan. Biggers' life and literary career unfolded against the backdrop of the early 20th century, and his contributions to detective fiction left a lasting impact on popular culture. Raised in a middle-class family, Biggers displayed an early affinity for writing. After graduating from Harvard University in 1907, he embarked on a career in journalism, initially working for the Boston Traveler and later for the Boston Globe. His journalistic experiences provided him with valuable insights into human nature and storytelling.

Biggers' foray into fiction began with a series of comedic novels, but it was the creation of Charlie Chan that would secure his place in literary history. The character of Charlie Chan, a Chinese-American detective with a keen intellect and a penchant for philosophical aphorisms, made his debut in the novel The House Without a Key in 1925. The character quickly captivated readers with his unique approach to solving mysteries. The success of Charlie Chan catapulted Biggers to literary fame. Over the course of six novels, he continued to develop the character, blending elements of mystery, humor, and cultural insight. Despite occasional criticism for reinforcing racial stereotypes, Charlie Chan became a beloved figure in popular culture, featured in films, radio shows, and television adaptations.

Tragically, Earl Derr Biggers' literary career was cut short. He passed away on April 5, 1933, at the age of 48, leaving behind a legacy that extended beyond detective fiction. The enduring popularity of Charlie Chan attests to Biggers' ability to create a character that transcends time and cultural shifts. Earl Derr Biggers' impact on the detective genre endures, and his contributions to American literature are celebrated for their ability to entertain and offer cultural insights. The legacy of Charlie Chan continues to be remembered, reminding readers of Biggers' skill in crafting enduring and memorable characters in the world of mystery fiction.


The House Without a Key - Charlie Chan Series Book 1

This 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.


Charlie Chan is back!

Earl Derr Biggers' crackling six-volume series featuring the clever, chubby Chinese Detective of the Honolulu Police Department, is coming back into print.

Biggers brings Honolulu to life with his deft descriptions of the landscape and its hybrid ethnic communities. And with the creation of Inspector Chan, Biggers also shatters stereotypes and is ahead of his time in highlighting the positive aspects of Chinese-Hawaiian culture.

In this first novel, published in 1925, Chan comes to the aid of an aristocratic Boston family who find themselves in dire straits over what has befallen Dan Winterslip, the black sheep of the family, who lives in a mansion on Waikiki Beach the house without a key.

The troubles begin when a young nephew is dispatched by the family in Boston to retrieve a wayward aunt who has overstayed her welcome in Dan Winterslip's house.


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