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S.S. Van Dine Books In Order

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Publication Order of Philo Vance Books

The Benson Murder Case (1926)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Canary Murder Case (1927)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Greene Murder Case (1928)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Bishop Murder Case (1928)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Scarab Murder Case (1929)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Kennel Murder Case (1933)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Dragon Murder Case (1934)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Casino Murder Case (1934)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Garden Murder Case (1935)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Kidnap Murder Case (1936)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Gracie Allen Murder Case / The Smell of Murder (1938)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Winter Murder Case (1939)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Anthologies

S.S. Van Dine is the nom de plume of a very popular American writer and art critic named Willard Huntington Wright, who was famous for writing detective novels. He is best remembered for creating the 1920s popular fictional character, Detective Philo Vance. This character was immensely well known on radio programs and in movies besides featuring in Van Dine’s books. Author Van Dine was considered an important figure in the cultural circles of the avant-grade during the pre-First World War era in New York. He had adopted the pen name to keep his real identity concealed in the literary world. Author Van Dine was born on October 15, 1888, in Charlottesville, Virginia. His younger brother named Stanton Macdonald-Wright was a well-known painter and the co-founder of Synchromism, a modern art school.

Van Dine and Stanton were brought up by their parents, Annie Van Vranken and Archibald Davenport Wright, in Santa Monica, California. Their father was the owner of a hotel in Santa Monica. Van Dine studied at Pomona College, Harvard University, and St Vincent College, but did not complete his graduation. He was self-taught for a large part of his life. Van Dine’s first marriage was with Katherine Belle Boynton in 1907, with whom he had a daughter named Beverly. He divorced Katherine in 1930 and abandoned Beverly too. Later, he entered into a marriage for the second time with Eleanor Rulapaugh, a socialite and portrait painter, who was professionally known as Claire De Lisle. The two remained husband and wife until Van Dine’s death. He breathed his last on April 11, 1939, in New York at the age of 50. He was having the habit of excessive drinking that had given him a heart condition and ultimately resulted in his death.

Before dying, Van Dine had completed writing a story for Sonja Henie for adapting into a film. It was released posthumously in the form of a novel called The Winter Murder Case. A painting of Van Dine, drawn in 1914 by his brother, is kept as a permanent collection in Washington DC’s National Portrait Gallery. Author Van Dine had started his professional literary career at 21 years of age when he was hired by the Los Angeles Times as a literary editor. While working for the agency, Van Dine was popular for his irreverent opinions and scathing reviews of books. He was known to be caustic about detective fiction and romance stories. One of the great inspirations of Van Dine’s earlier writings was his mentor and friend named H.L. Mencken. The other important influences for him from the literary world included Ambrose Bierce and Oscar Wilde.

Throughout his life, Van Dine remained an advocate of Theodore Dreiser’s naturalism. In fact, he used a style similar to his in writing his 1916 book called The Man of Promise. In 1909, he was asked by the LA Times to write Edgar Allan Poe’s perceptive profile, which he did with his best of abilities. After moving to New York City, Van Dine started working for a literary magazine called The Smart Set as an editor. He worked for the magazine until 1914 publishing realistic fiction and was fired by the insecure owner on charges of publishing sexually explicit and unconventional content that provoked the middle-class readership. On a trip to Munich and Paris in 1919, Van Dine was very much impressed by the works of Synchromist and Impressionist art and wrote an article about it in the NY magazine that introduced abstract art to the people of America.

Van Dine was involved in a wide range of projects that reflect his wide areas of interest. However, he was most respected in the intellectual society for his descriptions of artworks. He had predicted that the future of art will be in color abstraction that would become more popular than realism. Van Dine was highly admired by Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz and was regarded as a progressive art critic of his time. In 1920, he returned to New York and began working as a freelancer. A bedridden illness made his life full of boredom and restlessness. This is when he began reading detective fiction and crime stories to get rid of boredom. The idea interested him so much that he started writing his own detective fiction stories, thereby creating Philo Vance’s character. With the first three Philo Vance books, author Van Dine established himself as a bestselling author. His popularity continued to grow with the later books in the series that were published in the later years.

The Philo Vance series written by author S.S. Van Dine is comprised of 12 books in total published between 1926 and 1939. Each of the novels of this series is based on a different murder case and features Philo Vance as the chief investigator in all of the cases. The debut book of the series is entitled ‘The Benson Murder Case’. This 1926 book was re-published in 1988 by the Hogarth publication. It consists of the main characters as Alvin Benson, Philo Vance, and several others. The novel begins by introducing Alvin Benson as a playboy stockbroker. When he is found dead in his huge mansion, amateur sleuth Philo Vance is asked to lead the investigation. While examining the bullet wound to his head, Philo discovers that Alvin’s false teeth and toupee are missing. While going through the clues, he confronts several suspects and sets himself in the pursuit of a cunning murderer. Philo’s quest for truth also unravels some family skeletons that help him in solving the murder case.

Another intriguing book written in this series by Van Dine is called ‘The Greene Murder Case’. After its first publishing in 1928, the novel was re-released in 1980 by the Scribner Books. The primary characters of this novel include Philo Vance and the members of the Green family. Philo Vance takes charge of the case that involves the murders of the members of the contentious and wealthy Green family one after the other. The family consists of three daughters and two sons with their mother as the head of the family. She is bedridden because of an illness and spends her days cursing her children and feeling sorry for her condition. Due to a certain condition in the will of their father, the Greenes are forced to reside in the Greene mansion. One evening, one of the daughters gets murdered while another gets mounded badly. When this case comes to the limelight, Philo Vance begins his investigative work and gets involved in yet another thrilling case of murder and intrigue.

Book Series In Order » Authors » S.S. Van Dine

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