The Amateur Cracksman

June 12, 2009
It occurs to me that I have never written about Raffles. Lots of people have heard of Raffles, I think, but not many people have read any of the stories. Until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t either, except for an attempt to listen to the audiobook of The Amateur Cracksman (no matter how hard I try, I will never have enough patience for audiobooks).

Anyway, Raffles. He’s an excellent cricket player! He has dark, curly hair! He leads his old friend Bunny into a life of crime!

Bunny is badly in debt. The night he encounters his old schoolmate, Raffles, he loses all he has left playing cards and decides the only way out is to kill himself. First, though, he asks Raffles for help, because Raffles is Inexplicably Trustworthy, which is hilarious because Raffles actually hasn’t got a lot in the way of moral scruples.

So Raffles is like, hey, don’t worry about it, I’m in debt too. Lets go get some money from a pal of mine. And then he takes Bunny to a jewelry shop and they rob it.

Bunny, unlike Raffles, has lots of moral scruples. Every time they’re between jobs, he agonizes over the fact that he really likes the money, but taking it is wrong. And every time he’s sort of feeling okay about the situation, Raffles shows up and says something like, So, our fence has discovered our true identities. I think we’re going to have to kill him.

So. The Amateur Cracksman, by E.W. Hornung. Lots of fun.




  1. I’ve read the Raffles stories before. He is very much the opposite of Sherlock Holmes in many ways and I just found out that the author was a brother in law to Arthur Conan Doyle who of course created the Holmes stories. The Raffle stories are quite British in attitude and atmosphere.

    Another character similar to Raffles and roughly the same time period as Holmes would be Arsène Lupin who was known as the gentleman thief. Since the author was French, the character isn’t as well known in the English world although there are some good early translations available at Gutenberg. It is interesting to see a more French take on that same time period.

  2. Arsene Lupin is sort of fun, yeah. It’s been a long time since I read those books, but if I recall correctly, the author is really preoccupied with the whole Sherlock Holmes thing. He’s so aware of Conan Doyle that he brings Holmes into one of the stories (I’m not imagining that, right?) and it’s kind of arch and gross. The Raffles stories, on the other hand, even though they never attained the popularity of the Holmes ones and aren’t really as good, are able to stand next to them as something that came out of the same literary tradition, and not something purely derivative.

  3. I LOVE raffles….i agree arsene lupin’s not great..but raffles is amazing….i howl hysterically when he dies at the end

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