Julian Symons, Great Detectives: Seven Original Investigations
Illustrations by Tom Adams
Harry N. Abrams Publishers, 1981
Available from used book sellers
Symons tells/makes up lives for 7 major figures of detective fiction: Sherlock Holmes, Jane Marple, Nero Wolfe, Ellery Queen, Jules Maigtry, Hercule Poirot, and Philip Marlowe. Presumable someone thoought this was a good idea. It was not. It's impossible to try to construct a biography of a fictional character who (essentially) does not age, and none of these characters ages noticeably in the course of the books/stories. The best (least disappointing?) chapters result from Symons writing a pastiche instead of trying to do the biography thing--the Holmes and Maigret chapters. I'm glad I only paid $4 for it; anything much more than that would have been excessive. I might add that the illustrations are mostly easily ignored, and mostly not worth doing anything but ignoring.