Back to The Beginnings of the Mystery Novel
Charles Grant Blairfindie Allen was born on February 24, 1848 in Kingston, Canada. He was the only surviving son of Joseph Antisell Allen, a minister of the Irish Church, and Charlotte Ann Grant, daughter of the fifth Baron de Longuiel. Allen was first educated by his father, then by a Yale tutor when the family moved to Connecticut. He received a first class degree in classical moderations from the University of Oxford in 1971.He married while at Oxford, but his wife died two years after the marriage.
In 1873, he was appointed professor of mental and moral philosophy at the first university for Blacks established in Jamaica. He married Ellen Jerrad before leaving for his new position. His new position did not go well because the students were not literate and ill prepared to study mental and moral philosophy. Allen returned to England in 1876.
In England, he supported his family by writing. At first, he wrote scientific essays, but then turned to fiction. His first novel Philistia was published in 1884. He would go on to write 30 works of fiction.
In 1892, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle became Allen's neighbor. They were good friends even though they differed markedly on politics and social and religious issues. When Allen realized that he was dying in 1899, he asked Doyle to complete the last two chapters of Allen's mystery novel Hilda Wade. Allen died of liver disease on October 28, 1899. He was survived by his wife and a son.
Allen wrote potboilers. His works appeared first in serialized form in popular magazines such as Cornhill and The Strand. They were later published as collections. He is best known for The African Millionaire writted in 1897. Its central character is Colonel Clay who has been called "the first great thief of short mystery fiction". He also wrote two novels which featured female sleuths. Miss Cayle's Adventures was published in 1899, and Hilda Wade in 1900.
If you wish to read some of Allen's work, it may be found at the On-Line Literature web site.
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