Max Pemberton

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Max Pemberton
ca. 1895
ca. 1895
Born(1863-06-19)19 June 1863
Paddington, London, England[1][2]
Died22 February 1950(1950-02-22) (aged 86)
London, England
OccupationJournalist and author
Alma materMerchant Taylors' School
Caius College, Cambridge.
Notable worksThe Iron Pirate
Notable awardsKnight Bachelor
SpouseAlice Agnes Tussaud

Sir Max Pemberton JP (19 June 1863 – 22 February 1950) was a popular English novelist and publisher working mainly in the adventure and mystery genres.[3]


He was educated at St Albans School, Merchant Taylors' School, and Caius College, Cambridge.[4] A clubman, journalist and dandy (Lord Northcliffe admired his 'fancy vests'), he frequented both Fleet Street and The Savage Club.[citation needed]

Pemberton was the editor of boys' magazine Chums in 1892–1893[5] during its heyday. Between 1896 and 1906 he also edited Cassell's Magazine (see [1]), in which capacity he published the early works of R. Austin Freeman and William Le Queux.

"I'm essentially an outdoor man." ca. 1903

His most famous work The Iron Pirate was a best-seller during the early 1890s and it initiated his prolific writing career (see below). It was the story of a great gas-driven iron-clad, which could outpace the navies of the world and terrorised the shipping of the Atlantic Ocean. Other notable works included Captain Black (1911). Pemberton's 1894 collection Jewel Mysteries: From a Dealer's Note Book was a series of Mystery stories revolving around stolen jewels.[3] Pemberton also wrote historical fiction. Pemberton's I Crown Thee King is set in Sherwood Forest during the time of Mary I.[6] His novels Beatrice of Venice (1904) and Paulina (1922) centre on Napoleon's military campaigns in Italy.[7]

During January 1908, and just one year after the death of Pemberton’s friend and fellow Crimes Club member, Bertram Fletcher Robinson, he had a story titled Wheels of Anarchy published by Cassell (publisher). This book includes the following book dedication in the form of an 'Author's Note':[8]

This story was suggested to me by the late B. Fletcher Robinson,
deeply mourned. The subject was one in which he had interested himself for
some years; and almost the last message I had from him expressed the desire
that I would keep my promise and treat of the idea in a book. This I have now
done, adding something of my own to the brief notes he left me, but chiefly
bringing to the task an enduring gratitude for a friendship which nothing can

The Wheels of Anarchy is an adventure tale about anarchists and assassins, which is set across Continental Europe. The novel's hero, Bruce Driscoll, is a recent graduate of Jesus College, Cambridge and he appears to be modelled upon Robinson. In December 2010, Wheels of Anarchy by Max Pemberton was compiled, introduced and republished in facsimile form by Paul Spiring and Hugh Cooke.[9]

During the autumn of 1914, Pemberton published a Father Brown story titled The Donnington Affair by G. K. Chesterton in an obscure British periodical named The Premier. This short story was reprinted in the Chesterton Review in 1981.[10]

In 1920, Pemberton founded the London School of Journalism, and wrote a biography about Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe. He was married to Alice Tussaud, granddaughter of Madame Marie Tussaud and daughter of Joseph Tussaud.

Pemberton also wrote a biography of Sir Henry Royce published in 1934 soon after Royce's death.


Pemberton was knighted in the 1928 Birthday Honours, gazetted on 1 June 1928.[11]

Selected works[edit]

Cover of A Puritan's Wife (1902).
Wheels of Anarchy (1908)



  1. ^ General Register Office index of births registered in July, August, September 1863 – Name: Pemberton, Max District: Kensington Volume: 1A Page: 9.
  2. ^ Note: He sometimes gave his place of birth as Edgbaston, Birmingham (his mother was from Birmingham)
  3. ^ a b LeRoy Lad Panek, After Sherlock Holmes: The Evolution of British and American Detective Stories, 1891–1914.McFarland, 2014. ISBN 9780786477654 (pp. 66-7).
  4. ^ "Pemberton, Max (PMRN881M)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  5. ^ "Pemberton, Max". Who's Who. Vol. 59. 1907. p. 1378.
  6. ^ Jonathan Nield, A Guide to the Best Historical Novels and Tales. London, E. Mathews & Marrot, 1929 (p.151).
  7. ^ Daniel D. McGarry, Sarah Harriman White, Historical Fiction Guide: Annotated Chronological, Geographical, and Topical List of Five Thousand Selected Historical Novels. Scarecrow Press, 1963 (p.221)
  8. ^ "Fletcher Robinson, Pemberton & Doyle". BFRonline.BIZ. Archived from the original on 16 March 2010. Retrieved 24 July 2009.
  9. ^ Pemberton, Max; Cooke, Hugh; Spiring, Paul R. (December 2010). Wheels of Anarchy by Max Pemberton. MX. ISBN 978-1907685316.
  10. ^ Smith, Marie (1987), Introduction, Thirteen Detectives, by Chesterton, G. K., Smith, Marie (ed.), London: Xanadu, p. 11, ISBN 0-947761-23-3
  11. ^ The London Gazette Issue 33390, 1 June 1928 (Supplement), p. 3846
  • The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes: Early Detective Stories, ed. Hugh Greene (Penguin, 1971)

External links[edit]