#119: An Undertaking – Ye Olde Book of Locked Room Conundrums

Ye Olde Book

So, earlier this week I put up this post lamenting the poor selection of stories for a ‘new’ locked room anthology edited by David Stuart Davies.  In response, the internet’s resident doyen of all things locked room, TomCat over at Beneath the Stains of Time, put up this post suggesting an alternative list of equally out-of-copyright stories suggested by a look through Robert Adey’s Locked Room Murders.  To wit:

I arranged an alternative line-up of fifteen titles for Classic Locked Room Mysteries or a hypothetical, non-existent anthology, called Ye Olde Book of Locked Room Conundrums…

To cut a long story short, I am currently engaged in making this hypothetical, non-existent athology somewhat less hypothetical and rather more-existent, scouring the internet to collect these public domain stories into one document — electronic only, sorry Sergio — that I will then make freely available to anyone who wishes to read them.  The stories included will hopefully be:

  1. ‘Rhampsinitus and the Thief’ (c. 440 BC) – Herodotus
  2. ‘The Spectre of Presburg: A Hungarian Tale’ (1818) – Anne and Annabella Plumptre
  3. ‘The Diamond Lens’ (1858) – Fitz-James O’Brien
  4. ‘The Black Pearl’ (1888) – Victorien Sardou
  5. ‘The Case of Roger Carboyne’ (1892) – H. Greenbough Smith
  6. ‘The Suicide of Kiaros’ (1897) – L. Frank Baum
  7. ‘The Lost Special’ (1898) – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  8. ‘The Mystery of the Circular Chamber’ (1898) – L.T. Meade and R. Eustace
  9. ‘The Mystery of the Locked Room’ (1905) – Tom Gallon
  10. ‘Plague of Ghosts’ (1907) – Rafael Sabatini
  11. ‘The Mystery of the Flaming Phantom’ (1907) – Jacques Futrelle
  12. ‘The Unseen Hand’ (1908) – M. McDonnell Bodkin
  13. ‘The Round Room Horror’ (1911) – A. Demain Grange
  14. ‘The Mystery of Howard Romaine’ (1917) – Herbert Beerbohm Tree
  15. ‘Flashlights’ (1918) – Laurence Clark

I say “hopefully” because some of them are proving a touch difficult to find, so the final collection may not have quite this line-up.  I mean, I trust Adey and TomCat, so I’m hoping it will, but you can’t always get what you want.

It is my understanding that there should be no copyright issues attached to these works, and hopefully it’s clear that I’m doing this out of sheer enthusiasm.  If anyone wishes to mount a legal opposition to this…well, please be gentle.

With fair weather and a following wind it will be available sooner rather than later, so watch this space…and in the meantime, enjoy the awesome cover that TomCat knocked up for this undertaking above — hidden talents, I tell you.


P.S. — No, this is not the same as the publishing project I mentioned here, but as I’m waiting on a few things for that I thought this could be fun; I need to update you on that, too, but I need something to happen before I start talking about it and get everyone’s hopes up.

16 thoughts on “#119: An Undertaking – Ye Olde Book of Locked Room Conundrums

  1. haha I love the sketch at the top. Where does that come from?
    Great idea by the way for producing your own anthology. Not that familiar with the ones you’ve chosen so I’d definitely read it. You should also definitely write an introduction to it!
    P.S. Well done Tom Cat on the cover, it’s great!


    • Yeah, the sketch was something that I found online. Weirdly it shouldn’t be showing up, though, but I think I’ve fixed that now.

      Full credit for the selection of these stories goes to TomCat — I’m simply taking advantage of that excellent work to try and collate them since I’m the one who complained in the first place! And for an introduction I feel I should read them all, but it’s already 100 pages with five stories to find, so I think that may be beyond me. Never say never, though…


  2. What can I say? We’re pretty awesome!

    It’s still kind of sad that a bunch of plucky bloggers are slapping together a better and (historically) more interesting anthology of locked room mysteries than a professional writer with a big publisher behind him.


  3. This is a great idea and, as a fan of the short story format, I’d love to read the finished collection. Much kudos to all involved. Just goes to show that a project initiated out of love for the genre can have far more resonance than a collection cobbled together to make a fast buck. Which ones are you still searching for?


    • I also don’t have the text for ‘Flashlights’ by Laurence Clarke in a usable format — that is to say, one that I can easily export and turn into a written document. And I’m struggling with a conversion of ‘The Spectre of Presburg’ for…reasons. And I’m going to have to type up Tom Gallon’s story from the Chicago Tribune website, too it seems, as there’s no other version of that anywhere. Still, I love a challenge…!


      • The Spectre Of Presburg is the first story of the book Tales Of Wonder, Of Humour And Of Sentiment Volume 2. I suggest you download the epub version of this book from Google books (available free), then copy and paste the relevant text on to a word document and finally make the necessary modifications (changing the font size, deleting the gaps between the words etc).
        Regarding the other two stories, there do not seem to be any alternative to typing them out.


  4. Pingback: #129: Some Reflections on Editing A. Demain Grange’s ‘The Round Room Horror’ (1911) | The Invisible Event

  5. Pingback: #145: Some Reflections on Editing ‘The Mystery of the Locked Room’ (1905) by Tom Gallon | The Invisible Event

  6. Pingback: #149: The Tuesday Night Bloggers – A Plague of Flaming Phantoms… | The Invisible Event

  7. Great idea JJ and TomCat. If you can scan the pages of the tricky stories, there are free OCR applications on the web which will then turn them into text that’s 95%ish OK. It’s then just a mega-proofing job. If you guys then fancy turning this into a ‘proper’ ebook, I think I can help with that.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: #155: Ye Olde Book of Locked Room Conundrums – Publication Day! | The Invisible Event

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