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Before there was Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, there was Fergus Hume’s The Mystery of a Hansom Cab—the biggest- and fastest-selling detective novel of the 1800s, and Australia’s first literary blockbuster.
Fergus Hume was an aspiring playwright when he moved from Dunedin to Melbourne in 1885. He wrote The Mystery of a Hansom Cab with the humble hope of bringing his name to the attention of theatre managers. The book sold out its first run almost instantly and it became a runaway word-of-mouth phenomenon—but its author sold the copyright for a mere fifty pounds, missing out on a potential fortune.
Blockbuster! is the engrossing story of a book that would help define the genre of crime fiction, and a portrait of a great city in full bloom. Rigorously researched and full of arresting detail, this captivating book is a must-read for all fans of true crime, history and crime fiction alike.
‘An absorbing, at times fascinating companion to The Mystery of a Hansom Cab.’
‘Told with wit and lightly worn scholarship…Sussex has written a fine, thoroughly engaging and multifaceted history. Generously, she has shared her fun with the rest of us.’
‘The book is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of crime fiction or Australian literature, but is highly recommended even if you’re not: Sussex is a superb story-teller and leavens this fascinating account with dry wit. It deserves to be a blockbuster.’
‘This is a fine book about a novel that defined the burgeoning genre of crime fiction, full of wit, important discoveries and fascinating insights – like its subject, a real page-turner.’
‘Sussex skillfully assembles the known information about a very private man and his times, and reveals a Victorian world whose machinations and mysteries are equal to those of his most famous fiction.’
‘A very interesting whodunit about a whodunit.’
‘Blockbuster! is almost too much to take in. It’s a wealth of well researched information, but readable and informative just the same. The book is equipped with bibliography, end notes, epitaphs and reviews, enough to keep the curious occupied for hours.’
‘For those interested in the minutiae of Marvellous Melbourne, the intricacies of the theatre and publishing world and the rogues and characters who played there, this is a great read.’
‘[Sussex] provides a rich picture of Victorian life and a revealing account of late 19th-century publishing practices…Fascinating.’
‘Blockbuster! makes for highly enjoyable and informative reading.‘