Melville Davisson Post
Melville Davisson Post (April 19, 1869–June 23, 1930) was an American author, born in Harrison County, West Virginia. His family settled in the Clarksburg, West Virginia area in the late 18th Century. He earned a law degree from West Virginia University in 1892, and was married in 1903 to Ann Bloomfield Gamble Schofield. Their one child died while an infant, and Mrs. Post died of pneumonia in 1919 which was very common during that period. He was an avid horseman, and died on June 23, 1930, after a fall from his horse, and was buried in Harrison County. His boyhood home, "Templemoor", was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
Although Post's name is not immediately familiar to those outside specialist circles, many of his collections are still in print and many collections of detective fiction include works by him. Post's best-known character is the mystery-solving, justice dispensing West Virginian backwoodsman, Uncle Abner. The 22 Uncle Abner tales, written between 1911 and 1928, have been called some of "the finest mysteries ever written."
Post also created two other recurring characters, Sir Henry Marquis and Randolph Mason. He also wrote two non-crime novels. His total output was approximately 230 titles.
Uncle Abner is Post's best-known literary creation, the character having appeared in 22 stories that were serialized in American newspapers (primarily The Saturday Evening Post) between 1911 and 1928. The first tale, "The Angel of the Lord", is perhaps the very first work in the historical mystery genre. Uncle Abner solved the mysteries that confronted him in a backwoods West Virginia community, immediately prior to the American Civil War and before the infant nation had any proper police system. He had two great attributes for his self-imposed task: a profound knowledge of and love for the Bible, and a keen observation of human actions. One example of Uncle Abner's keen deductive skills is his showing a deaf man had not written a document, because a word in it was phonetically mis-spelt.
Ellery Queen would later call the stories "an out-of-this-world target for future detective-story writers." In his 1924 book of literary criticism Cargoes for Crusoes, Grant Overton called the publication of Post's "The Doomdorf Mystery" a "major literary event", and in Murder for Pleasure (1941), Howard Haycraft called Uncle Abner "the greatest American contribution" to the list of fictional detectives after Edgar Allan Poe's C. Auguste Dupin.
- The Strange Schemes of Randolph Mason (Putnam, 1896) (available from Internet Archive)
- The Man of Last Resort (The Clients of Randolph Mason) (Putnam, 1897) (available from Internet Archive)
- The Corrector of Destinies (Clode, 1908)
- The Nameless Thing (Appleton, 1912)
- Uncle Abner, Master of Mysteries (Appleton, 1918) (available from Project Gutenberg of Australia)
- The Mystery at the Blue Villa (Appleton, 1919)
- The Sleuth of St. James Square (Appleton, 1920) (available from Project Gutenberg)
- The Mountain School-Teacher (Appleton, 1922)
- Monsieur Jonquelle (Appleton, 1923)
- Walker of the Secret Service (Appleton, 1924)
- The Bradmoor Murder (Sears, 1929)
- published in Britain in 1929 as Garden in Asia by Brentano
- The Silent Witness (Farrar, 1930)
- The Methods of Uncle Abner (published posthumously by Aspen in 1974)
- Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing by Rosemary Herbert (Oxford University Press, 2000)
- Sullivan, Ken (ed.), The West Virginia Encyclopedia, West Virginia Humanities Council, 2006. pg. 578
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
- Bottum, Joseph (May 1, 2007). "America's Greatest Mystery Writer". FirstThings.com. First Things. Retrieved November 13, 2013.
Norton, Charles A. Melville Davisson Post: Man of Many Mysteries. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green U Popular P, 1973.
- Melville Davisson Post works available at the Internet Archive
- Works by Melville Davisson Post at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Melville Davisson Post in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Melville Davisson Post at Find a Grave