For a while now (okay, many years), I’ve been meaning to read Maurice Leblanc‘s stories of Arsene Lupin. A couple of years ago, I noticed that a half dozen or so of his books are now in the public domain and available on Project Gutenberg, so I downloaded them, but never got around to reading them. Over vacation I’ve been toying with my new netbook, but mainly trying to get some decent ebook software on it. After a lot of testing, I’m using FBReader — it’s not ideal or all that pretty, but it works the best for me.
Yesterday, we had a conversation at work about old properties that have been turned into movies decades after they were popular, and the movie versions being more inspirational than the fiction to even later adaptations (Sherlock Holmes, of course, but Conan and Tarzan were also mentioned). Based on that, I remembered that Maurice Leblanc wrote a number of unauthorized crossovers between Lupin and Sherlock Holmes, and I was vaguely curious to much his presentation of Holmes diverged from Doyle’s vision. Plus, I read on Wikipedia that Lupin himself spawned a number of movies and TV spinoffs. Since I was mostly unfamiliar with Lupin, I decided to sit down with the first set of short stories and read up on him a bit. I expected to read one story and then maybe get some more work done that night.
By the time I went to bed, I had downloaded the same book to my iPhone so I could finish the last story, because I was not going to be able to sleep without knowing what happened.
For those who don’t know, Arsene Lupin is one of the original “gentleman thief” characters that inspired many similar characters (most notably, The Saint). He is a master of disguise, incredibly intelligent (sounds familiar?), and possessing of a certain sense of humor and nobility that puts him into bad situations, but also gives him a flair that makes him engaging. The first nine stories generally follow a kind of timeline, although there’s some jumping back and forth in Lupin’s career — it’s somewhere between an anthology and a novel. I read the English translation provided by Project Gutenberg, which has some errors and redundancies, but the stories are still quite engaging and easy to read despite that. I mean, this guy manages to steal from someone’s locked and guarded manor while he’s still in jail.
If you’ve finished up the Sherlockian canon and are looking for some new turn-of-the-20th-century action/crime stories, you can’t go wrong with Lupin.
The Extraordinary Adventures of Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Burglar
All of Leblanc’s work on Project Gutenberg
Footnote 1: I did actually listen to an audiobook reading of the first story, “The Arrest of Arsène Lupin,” so I wasn’t going in totally blind.