Mary Helena Fortune (c. 1833-1910) was born Mary Wilson in Belfast of Scottish ancestry and emigrated to Canada (which she considered her ‘home') as a child. In 1851 she married Joseph Fortune, a surveyor, and they had one son before she travelled to Australia to join her father George Wilson in 1855, who was working on the goldfields. She had another son in 1856 before marrying (possibly bigamously) in 1858 Percy Rollo Brett, a mounted policeman. This marriage quickly broke up and from 1865 she wrote for the popular Australian Journal under the pseudonyms Waif Wanderer and W.W. She began writing crime fiction as part of a collaboration with James Skipp Borlase, who plagiarized her. After he was sacked from the AJ she became the magazine's principal crime writer, contributing over 500 detective stories between 1865-1908. Her one book publication was The Detective's Album (1871), possibly the first collection of detective stories published by a woman. She died in mysterious circumstances c. 1910.
The Detectives' Album collects stories from one of the longest-running series in crime fiction, which ran from 1868 to 1933 in the Australian Journal. Even more remarkably, its first forty years were the sole work of a woman, the Canadian-Australian writer Mary Helena Fortune. She wrote under the pseudonyms of W.W., her identity being kept secret by the magazine, possibly to preserve the ‘true crime' credibility of her detective stories, which were told by a policeman. In this she drew upon the experience of her marriage to a goldfields mounted trooper, the result being what we would now term ‘police procedurals.' She was probably the first woman to write stories centred on and narrated by a police detective; certainly the first woman to make a literary specialty of crime fiction. For the first time The Detectives' Album collects her crime stories for a modern audience.
The Detectives' Album collects stories from one of the longest-running series in crime fiction published from 1868 to 1933 in the Australian Journal. The writing of these exciting "first-hand" accounts of crime and detection is so comfortable for Sherlockians that one would almost believe that Watson had moved to Australia to write them. The cases were authored under the nom de plume, W.W. These short story narratives are ostensibly related as "first-hand" experiences by a member of the Victoria (Australia) police force, but true identity of the author was kept a secret by the magazine for years possibly to preserve the ‘true crime' credibility of these engrossing stories. Actually, these cases were the creation of the fertile mind of Mary Helena Fortune - a remarkable feat for any author of the late 19th and early 20th century, but especially remarkable for a woman writer in those times. The author drew upon the experience of her marriage to a goldfields mounted trooper, the result being what we would now term ‘police procedurals.' She was probably the first woman to write stories centred on, and narrated by a police detective; she was certainly the first woman to make a literary specialty of crime fiction. For the first time her crime stories are collected for a modern mystery-loving audience in The Detectives' Album. Hard cover, 214 pages, Dust Jacket with most attractive art.
Other Volumes of Victorian Detective Fiction from The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box