Vincent Starrett

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Vincent Starrett
Born(1886-10-26)October 26, 1886
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
DiedJanuary 5, 1974(1974-01-05) (aged 87)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Resting placeGraceland Cemetery
OccupationNewspaperman, writer
GenreDetective fiction, fantasy, horror

Charles Vincent Emerson Starrett (/ˈstærɪt/;[1][2] October 26, 1886 – January 5, 1974), known as Vincent Starrett, was a Canadian-born American writer, newspaperman, and bibliophile.


Charles Vincent Emerson Starrett was born above his grandfather's bookshop in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. His father moved the family to Chicago in 1889 where Starrett attended John Marshall High School.

Starrett landed a job as a cub reporter with the Chicago Inter-Ocean in 1905. When that paper folded two years later he began working for the Chicago Daily News as a crime reporter, a feature writer, and finally a war correspondent in Mexico from 1914 to 1915. Starrett turned to writing mystery and supernatural fiction for pulp magazines during the 1920s and 1930s.

In 1920, he wrote a Sherlock Holmes pastiche entitled The Adventure of the Unique "Hamlet". Starrett on at least one occasion said that the press-run was 100 copies, but on others claimed 200; a study of surviving copies by Randall Stock documents 110.[3] This story involved the detective investigating a missing 1602 inscribed edition of Shakespeare's play Hamlet.[4]

Starrett's most famous work, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, was published in 1933. Following that, Starrett wrote a book column, "Books Alive," for The Chicago Tribune. He retired after 25 years of the column in 1967. Starrett was one of the founders of The Hounds of the Baskerville (sic), a Chicago chapter of The Baker Street Irregulars.

Starrett's horror/fantasy stories were written primarily for the pulp magazine Weird Tales, and are collected in The Quick and the Dead, (Arkham House, 1965).[5] His story "Penelope," published in the May 1923 issue of Weird Tales, was also featured in the anthology The Moon Terror (1927) anonymously edited by Farnsworth Wright, and published by the magazine.

Starrett's other writing included poetry, collected in Autolycus in Limbo, (Dutton, 1943), detective novels, such as Murder on 'B' Deck, (Doubleday, 1929, and others).[5]

He had also created his own detective character, Chicago sleuth Jimmie Lavender, whose adventures usually first appeared in the pulp magazine Short Stories. The name Jimmy Lavender(sic) was that of an actual pitcher for the Chicago Cubs; Starrett wrote to ask the ball player for permission to use his name for a gentleman detective, which the pitcher granted. The stories are collected in The Case Book of Jimmie Lavender (Gold Label, 1944).

Starrett was a major enthusiast of Welsh writer Arthur Machen and was instrumental in bringing Machen's work to an American audience for the first time.[6]

Starrett's grave at Graceland Cemetery

His influential weekly column "Books Alive" ran in the Chicago Tribune for 25 years.[7] He also wrote Best Loved Books of the 20th Century, a collection of 52 essays discussing popular works, published in 1955.[8]

He died in Chicago on January 5, 1974, and was buried at Graceland Cemetery next to his wife, Rachel Latimer Starrett.[9][5]

A complete edition of Starrett's works is being published by George Vanderburgh's Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, a print-on-demand publisher, with 22 of a projected 25 volumes already in print. A publication in the Vincent Starrett Memorial Library is Sherlock Alive, compiled and edited by Karen Murdock, and first printed in August 2010. Sherlock Alive is a collection of the Sherlockian references from Starrett's "Books Alive" column.

Film adaptations[edit]

Among his film adaptions his 1934 story "Recipe for Murder", first published in Redbook magazine in one installment, was filmed as The Great Hotel Murder by Fox in 1935.[10]


Walter Ghost mysteries[edit]

  • Murder on 'B' Deck, Doubleday, 1929.
  • Dead Man Inside, Doubleday, 1931.
  • The End of Mr. Garment, Doubleday, 1932.


  • Buried Caesars: Essays in Literary Appreciation, Covici-McGee Company, 1923.
  • Coffins for Two, Covici-McGee Company, 1924.
  • Penny Wise and Book Foolish, Covici-Friede, 1929.
  • The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, Macmillan, 1933. A revised edition was published by The University of Chicago Press in 1960. A paperback edition was published in 1975 by Pinnacle Books and another paperback edition was published by Otto Penzler Books, 1993, ISBN 1-883402-05-0. (A movie called The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes had no connection to Vincent Starrett.)
  • Books Alive, Random House, 1940.
  • Bookman's Holiday: The Private Satisfactions of an Incurable Collector, Random House, 1942.
  • Autolycus in Limbo, Dutton, 1943.
  • The Case Book of Jimmie Lavender, Gold Label, 1944.
  • Murder in Peking, The Lantern Press, 1946.
  • Books and Bipeds, Argus Books, 1947.
  • Book Column, The Caxton Club, 1958.
  • Born in a Bookshop: Chapters from the Chicago Renascence, University of Oklahoma Press, 1965.
  • The Quick and the Dead, Arkham House, 1965, OCLC 1855899
  • The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Penguin Books, 1985, ISBN 0-14-007907-6

See also[edit]


  • Clute, John; John Grant (1997). The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 893. ISBN 0-312-15897-1.
  • Ruber, Peter (2000). Arkham's Masters of Horror. Sauk City, WI: Arkham House. pp. 403–410. ISBN 0-87054-177-3.
  • Ruber, Peter (1968). The Last Bookman: A Journey into the Life and Times of Vincent Starrett: Author, Journalist, Bibliophile. New York, NY: Candlelight Press.
  • "Vincent Starrett, Writer, Sherlock Holmes Expert". The Washington Post. January 13, 1974.


  1. ^ "Episode 61: The Private Life of Vincent Starrett".
  2. ^ "Live from the Pratt - Enoch Pratt Free Library".
  3. ^ The plan had been to have half the press-run of 200 with the imprint of bookseller Walter M. Hill, and half with Starrett's imprint; the printer misunderstood the instructions and only 10 have Starrett's imprint. Randall Stock has done a census of surviving copies.(The Unique Hamlet by Vincent Starrett: A First Edition Census) He located one unbound and nine bound copies with the Starrett imprint, and 41 copies (with a possible 4 copies of unknown location) with the Hill imprint. Stock believes that the press run was 100 plus 10, and the number of surviving copies seems to confirm that number.
  4. ^ Included in The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes collection.
  5. ^ a b c "Vincent Starrett Papers". University of Minnesota Libraries, Special Collections and Rare Books. Retrieved August 9, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ "Vincent Starrett Manuscripts and Papers Collection". Kent State University Library, Special Collections and Archives. Retrieved August 9, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ "Vincent Starrett Collection, Northern Illinois University". Northern Illinois University Library, Rare Books and Special Collections. Retrieved August 9, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ "Vincent Starrett Collection - Rare Books and Special Collections at Northern Illinois University - LibGuides at Northern Illinois University". Archived from the original on December 21, 2018. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
  9. ^ "Vincent Starrett dies at age of 87". Chicago Tribune. January 6, 1974. p. 68. Retrieved May 22, 2021 – via
  10. ^ Peter A. Ruber The Last Bookman - 1995 Page 64 "Sun Dial Mysteries published a widely distributed hard-cover reprint of the book — though not before Vincent had sold it to Redbook under the title of Recipe for Murder, and to 20th Century-Fox for a perfectly ghastly film starring Edmund Lowe ..."

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