AEW Mason, the forgotten writer who created Sherlock Holmes’ rival and inspired Hercule Poirot

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Alfred Edward Woodley Mason He could have starred in some of the novels he wrote. During World War I, when he was a successful writer and playwright in his late 50s, he decided to enlist and serve in the Manchester Regiment as an infantry officer, although he was later sent to Spain as an undercover agent for the newly formed British Secret Service.

He sailed his yacht along the Spanish coast, as if he were a millionaire on vacation, while creating a network of spies that controlled the enemy both by land and by sea. Among his collaborators was Hugh Pakenham Borthwick, an Englishman who lived during those years on an abandoned islet off the coast of Águilas (Murcia) and reported on the German and neutral ships that were supplied with iron extracted from nearby mines and that were the main target of the submarines.

That restless spirit of Mason is captured in his most famous book, ‘The four feathers‘, a work about cowardice, courage and redemption that has been made into a film in many versions. A year before its publication in 1902, the writer toured Sudan, which allowed him to faithfully reflect many of the novel’s settings.

Born in 1865 in Camberwell, he had cut his teeth as an actor on stage in England before settling in London and beginning his career as a writer, so he knew very well how to give the public what they wanted, such as adventures in exotic settings and characters who struggle between morality and passion. He was one of the most acclaimed authors at his time, although he was forgotten after his death in 1948.

To rescue his memory and bring his works to new generations, the Renacimiento publishing house has begun to publish Mason’s detective novels, of which he was also a precursor in contrast to his contemporary. Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. They also served as inspiration to Agatha Christie for the character of Hercule Poirot. After a brief stint in Parliament as a Liberal MP for Coventry, Mason published ‘The Mystery of Villa Rosa’ in 1910, in which he made his debut. Inspector Gabriel Hanaud of the French Sûreté to investigate several murders and jewelry thefts that occurred in Aix-les-Bains, a tourist town on the coast of France.

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