Jacques Futrelle

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Jacques Futrelle
Jacques Futrelle.JPG
BornJacques Heath Futrelle
(1875-04-09)April 9, 1875
Pike County, Georgia, US
DiedApril 15, 1912(1912-04-15) (aged 37)
North Atlantic Ocean
OccupationMystery writer, journalist
GenreDetective fiction, science fiction
SpouseLily May Peel (1895–1912) (his death)

Jacques Heath Futrelle (April 9, 1875 – April 15, 1912) was an American journalist and mystery writer. He is best known for writing short detective stories featuring Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen, also known as "The Thinking Machine" for his use of logic. He died in the sinking of the RMS Titanic.


Futrelle was born in Pike County, Georgia. He worked for the Atlanta Journal, where he began their sports section, the New York Herald, the Boston Post and the Boston American, where, in 1905, his Thinking Machine character appeared in a serialized version of the short story, "The Problem of Cell 13".

Futrelle left the Boston American in 1906 to write novels. He had a harbor-view house built in Scituate, Massachusetts, which he called "Stepping Stones" and spent most of his time there until his death in 1912.[1] His last work, My Lady's Garter, was published posthumously in 1912. His widow inscribed in the book, "To the heroes of the Titanic, I dedicate this my husband's book", under a photo of him.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Lily May Futrelle 1912

In 1895, he married fellow writer Lily May Peel with whom he had two children, Virginia and Jacques "John" Jr.[1]


Returning from Europe aboard the RMS Titanic, Futrelle, a first-class passenger, refused to board a lifeboat, insisting Lily do so instead, to the point of forcing her in. She remembered the last she saw of him: he was smoking a cigarette on deck with John Jacob Astor IV. He perished in the Atlantic and his body was never found.[2][3] On July 29, 1912, Futrelle's mother, Linnie Futrelle, died in her Georgia home; her death was attributed to grief over her son.[4]

In popular culture[edit]

Futrelle is used as the protagonist in Max Allan Collins' disaster series novel The Titanic Murders (1999), about two murders aboard theTitanic.[5]

Selected works[edit]


Short story collections[edit]

  • The Thinking Machine (1907)
    • "The Flaming Phantom"
    • "The Great Auto Mystery"
    • "The Man Who Was Lost"
    • "The Mystery of a Studio"
    • "The Problem of Cell 13" (1905)
    • "The Ralston Bank Burglary"
    • "The Scarlet Thread"
  • The Thinking Machine on the Case (1908), UK title The Professor on the Case
    • "The Stolen Rubens"

Short stories[edit]

See Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen and JacquesFutrelle.com for more stories.

  • "The Problem of Cell 13" (1905)
  • The Gray Ghost (Perth Daily News, 30 September 1905)
  • The Man Who Found Kansas (Metropolitan Magazine, April 1906)
  • "The Phantom Motor"[8]
  • "The Grinning God" (The Sunday Magazine)[9]
    • I. "Wraiths of the Storm", by May Futrelle
    • II. "The House That Was", by Jacques Futrelle

In this literary experiment, The Thinking Machine provides a rational solution to the seemingly impossible and supernatural events of a ghost story written by Mrs. Futrelle.[9][10]


  1. ^ a b c Marks, Jeffrey A. "No Escape: Jacques Futrelle and the Titanic". Mystery Scene magazine. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  2. ^ "Biography: Jacques Futrelle". Encyclopedia Titanica.
  3. ^ "Futrelle Refused to Enter Lifeboat; His Wife Tells How He Parted with Her on Titanic, Commanding Her to Save Herself". The New York Times. April 19, 1912. p. 6.
  4. ^ "Futrelle's Mother is Dead; Sinks from Grief Following Loss of Son on the Titanic". New York Times. July 30, 1912. p. 1.
  5. ^ Colins, Max Allan (1999). The Titanic Murders. Berkley. ISBN 9780425168103.
  6. ^ The Diamond Master title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved 2019-06-20.
  7. ^ During February 1914 Variety reports the 3-reeler done, quoted here (Feb 13, p. 23), and ready for March 4 (Feb 27, p. 22)
  8. ^ Futrelle, Jacques. "The Phantom Motor". Jacques Futrelle. Archived from the original on February 26, 2016.
  9. ^ a b Futrelle, Jacques. "The Grinning God". Tales of the Thinking Machine. University of Adelaide. Archived from the original on June 20, 2019. Retrieved September 15, 2021. A note at the head of Part II implies publication in The Sunday Magazine (undated online): "Editor's Note. – Mrs. Futrelle undertook to set up a problem which The Thinking Machine could not solve. 'Wraiths of the Storm', in The Sunday Magazine last week, presented what she thought to be a mystery story impossible of solution. Printer's proofs of the story were submitted to Mr. Futrelle, who, after frequent consultations with Professor Van Dusen – The Thinking Machine – evolved 'The House that Was' as the perfect solution."
  10. ^ "The Grinning God by May & Jacques Futrelle". P.J. Bergman. The Locked Room (blog). April 27, 2014. Retrieved June 20, 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]