A Double Barrelled Detective Story

How Mark Twain Turned a Sherlock Holmes Parody into a Double Barrelled Detective Story

A Double Barrelled Detective Story by Mark Twain

Introduction

If you are a fan of detective stories, you probably know who Sherlock Holmes is. He is the famous fictional detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who uses his brilliant powers of observation and deduction to solve the most baffling crimes. Sherlock Holmes is one of the most popular and influential characters in literature, inspiring countless adaptations and imitations.

But did you know that one of the most famous American writers, Mark Twain, also wrote a detective story featuring Sherlock Holmes? Well, sort of. Twain’s novel, A Double Barrelled Detective Story, is actually a parody of the Sherlock Holmes genre, poking fun at its conventions and clichés. But it is also much more than that. It is a clever and original story that combines two different mysteries, one set in America and one in England, and reveals a shocking connection between them.

In this article, we will explore how Mark Twain turned a Sherlock Holmes parody into a double barrelled detective story, and why you should read this hilarious and entertaining novel.

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 Mark Twain

What is A Double Barrelled Detective Story?

A Double Barrelled Detective Story  is a novel that was first published in 1902. It consists of two parts: The first part is set in a mining camp in California, where a young man named Archy Stillman is accused of murdering his uncle, Flint Buckner. Archy has a peculiar talent: he can smell any person’s character and history from their scent. He claims that he can prove his innocence by using his nose to track down the real killer.

The second part is set in England, where Sherlock Holmes is hired by a mysterious client to investigate a case of blackmail involving a noble family. Holmes soon discovers that the case is connected to the murder in California, and that Archy Stillman is not who he seems to be.

The novel is full of humor, irony, and twists, as Twain mocks the absurdities and inconsistencies of the Sherlock Holmes stories, while also creating his own intriguing plot and characters.

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Why did Mark Twain write A Double Barrelled Detective Story?

Mark Twain was not a fan of Sherlock Holmes. He once wrote in a letter: “I have read six stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle … They are elementary and simple-minded things … I could write better myself.”

Twain was also annoyed by the popularity of the detective genre, which he considered inferior to his own realistic and humorous style. He wrote in another letter: “I am tired to death of this ceaseless & senseless demand for detective stories … I wish to God I had never heard of one.”

Twain decided to write A Double Barrelled Detective Story as a way of satirizing and criticizing the Sherlock Holmes phenomenon. He wanted to show how ridiculous and unrealistic the detective’s methods were, and how easily they could be fooled or manipulated. He also wanted to poke fun at the stereotypes and conventions of the genre, such as the loyal sidekick, the mysterious client, the noble family, the secret past, etc.

But Twain was not just writing a parody. He was also writing a creative and original story that had its own merits and surprises. He used his own imagination and wit to craft a plot that was both humorous and clever, with unexpected connections and revelations. He also used his own experience and knowledge to create realistic and vivid settings and characters, especially in the first part of the novel, which draws from his own time as a miner in California.

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What are some of the themes and messages of A Double Barrelled Detective Story?

A Double Barrelled Detective Story by Mark Twain is not just a funny and entertaining novel. It also has some deeper themes and messages that reflect Twain’s views on society and human nature.

One of the main themes of the novel is the contrast between appearance and reality. Twain shows how people can be deceived by their senses or their assumptions, and how things are not always what they seem to be. For example, Archy Stillman appears to be an innocent and harmless young man, but he is actually a cunning and ruthless criminal. Sherlock Holmes appears to be an infallible and brilliant detective, but he is actually easily duped and outwitted by Archy. The noble family appears to be respectable and honorable, but they are actually involved in a scandalous and shameful secret.

Another theme of the novel is the critique of social class and privilege. Twain exposes how the rich and powerful can use their influence and money to escape justice and cover up their crimes, while the poor and oppressed are often blamed and punished for things they did not do. For example, Flint Buckner is a cruel and abusive employer who exploits and mistreats his workers, but he is respected and feared by the community. Archy Stillman is a victim of his father’s abuse and neglect, but he is accused and hunted by the law. The noble family is guilty of a heinous crime, but they are protected and aided by Sherlock Holmes.

A third theme of the novel is the irony of fate and justice. Twain shows how life can be unpredictable and unfair, and how people can suffer or benefit from coincidences and accidents. For example, Archy Stillman’s talent of smelling people’s character is a result of his father’s experiment, which was meant to make him a genius. Sherlock Holmes’ reputation as a detective is a result of his luck and chance, which often lead him to the right clues. The final twist of the novel is a result of a random encounter and a mistaken identity, which leads to a tragic and ironic outcome.

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What are some of the benefits of reading A Double Barrelled Detective Story?

Reading A Double Barrelled Detective Story by Mark Twain can offer you many benefits, such as:

  • Enjoying a fun and engaging story that will make you laugh and keep you guessing.
  • Appreciating Twain’s skill and talent as a writer, who can create memorable characters, vivid scenes, witty dialogue, and clever plot twists.
  • Learning more about Twain’s life and times, especially his experience as a miner in California, which influenced his writing and worldview.
  • Exploring some of the themes and messages that Twain wanted to convey through his satire and criticism of society and human nature.
  • Comparing and contrasting Twain’s novel with the Sherlock Holmes stories, and seeing how Twain challenged and subverted the conventions and expectations of the detective genre.

FAQs

Q: Is A Double Barrelled Detective Story by Mark Twain a serious or a humorous novel?

A: A Double Barrelled Detective Story by Mark Twain is both a serious and a humorous novel. It is serious in the sense that it deals with some important issues and themes, such as social class, justice, fate, etc. It is humorous in the sense that it uses satire, irony, exaggeration, etc. to mock and ridicule the Sherlock Holmes genre and its flaws.

Q: Is A Double Barrelled Detective Story by Mark Twain suitable for children or young readers?

A: A Double Barrelled Detective Story by Mark Twain is not suitable for children or young readers. It contains some violence, profanity, racism, sexism, etc. that may be offensive or inappropriate for some audiences. It also requires some background knowledge and cultural context to fully understand and appreciate Twain’s references and jokes.

Q: Is A Double Barrelled Detective Story by Mark Twain based on a true story or real events?

A: A Double Barrelled Detective Story by Mark Twain is not based on a true story or real events. It is a fictional novel that uses some elements from Twain’s own life and experience, such as his time as a miner in California, but it is not a historical or biographical account.

Conclusion

A Double Barrelled Detective Story by Mark Twain is a unique and entertaining novel that combines two different mysteries into one hilarious and clever satire of the Sherlock Holmes genre. It is a novel that showcases Twain’s genius as a writer, who can create realistic and humorous characters, scenes, dialogue, and plot twists. It is also a novel that reveals Twain’s views on society and human nature, who can expose and criticize the hypocrisy, injustice, and irony of life.

If you are looking for a fun and engaging read that will make you laugh and think, you should definitely check out A Double Barrelled Detective Story by Mark Twain.

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