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Arsène Lupin
a long time ago
"Easily the equal of Gaston Leroux or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in fame, and arguably superior in style, Maurice Leblanc (1864-1941) was the creator of the character of gentleman-burglar Arsène Lupin who, in France, has enjoyed a popularity as long-lasting and considerable as Sherlock Holmes in the English-speaking world.

There were twenty volumes in the Lupin series written by Leblanc, and five sequels written by the notorious mystery writing team of Boileau-Narcejac, better known for Diabolique and the novel on which Alfred Hitchcock based Vertigo. While the Arsène Lupin saga only occasionally featured any fantasy elements, its preeminence in French pulp fiction warrants its inclusion in any serious genre study.

The character of Lupin was first introduced in a series of short stories serialized in the magazine "Je Sais Tout", starting in 1905. A literary descendent of Ponson du Terrail's Rocambole, Lupin was, like Holmes, a literary archetype. Although he was on the other side of the law, he was clearly a force for good, and those he defeated, always with characteristic gallic style and panache, were worse villains than he. In other words, Lupin was the Simon Templar of early 20th century France.

Another thing Lupin shared with Holmes was that Leblanc spared no effort in making him appear "real" to the readers, including playing the part of John D. Watson and appearing as Lupin's own biographer in several of the books. Also, like Doyle's hero, some of Lupin's best adventures dealt with burning political issues of the times -- torn from the headlines, as it were. And finally, like Doyle, Leblanc often alluded to other stories that had not yet been told -- his "frightful battle against the Red Sultan," the "horrible death of Sonia Krichnoff," and more.

Indeed, the two characters were bound to meet and, in an unprecedented act of literary pastiche and cross-over, Sherlock Holmes himself appeared several times in the Lupin novels, first as himself, then in the transparent guise of "Herlock Sholmes," after some legal objections from Conan Doyle."


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