Ernest William Hornung (1866–1921) was an English poet and author who also happened to be the brother-in-law of Arthur Conan Doyle. He also worked as a journalist in England, France and Australia, and centered many of his Stories around Aussie settings and culture. He's perhaps best known for his series featuring gentleman Thief A. J. Raffles, who first appeared in a story in Cassell's Magazine in 1898.
Raffles may have been one of the earliest anti-heroes in crime fiction, spending his days playing cricket and his nights carrying out ingenious burglaries, aided by his sidekick Harry "Bunny" Manders, a man he once saved from suicide and disgrace. Raffles the "Amateur Cracksman" appears in several stories that divide into two periods, one before he was unmasked while plying his trade on board a cruise ship and presumably jumped overboard and drowned, and the other following his return where he and Manders continue their thieving ways in disguise.
The stories were collected into several volumes, including A Thief in the Night, published in 1905. They include "The Criminologists," about a society of crime experts who invite Raffles and Manders to discuss crime in sport, but have more nefarious purposes in mind, believing him to be the notorious gentleman thief; "A Trap to Catch a Cracksman," in which Raffles attempts to rob American heavyweight boxing champion Barney Maguire, only to have it backfire on him; and "The Raffles Relics," where Ruffles—now in hiding—hears about an exhibit dedicated to his "work" at Scotland Yard's Black Room, and decides to steal back his trophies.
Raffles is a cynical character, whose philosophy is "we can't all be moralists, and the distribution of wealth is all wrong anyway." Still, he has his own code of honor, once stealing money from a miserly man to make a donation to their former school and volunteering for the Boer War, where he dies in battle after exposing an enemy spy. The stories in A Thief in the Night are actually told from Bunny's point of view, a la Watson and his accounts of Holmes, as Bunny reflects back on their adventures prior to the master thief's demise.
Several of Hornung's stories were later adapted for the theater, television and film, including portrayals by John Barrymore, David Niven, and as recently as 2001, a production starring Nigel Havers (Dangerfield, Coronation Street, Downton Abbey).
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