An African Millionaire. Episodes in the Life of the Illustrious Colonel Clay - Grant Allen 1897 - Grant Richards, London - First Edition A bright sharp copy of what is considered to be the first work to feature a criminal protagonist, and the first great gentleman rogue of mystery fiction - Colonel Clay.

‘Wealthy, confident and handsome, Charles Van Drift is not accustomed to being swindled and his brush with Colonel Clay both rattles and infuriates him. As his South African diamond fortune takes hit after hit from the quick-witted master of disguise, Allen leaves even the reader guessing: who can you trust? Van Drift grows more suspicious of those around him and a few too many misguided accusations shake the millionaire's confidence. Colonel Clay is in his head.’
  ‘The "illustrious" Colonel Clay has been shamefully neglected. The Adam of yeggmen preceded the infinitely celebrated Raffles by two years – long enough to entitle the Colonel to top honors as the first great short-story thief on the criminal literary scene. The rare first edition of his fancy filching and fleecing shows an illustration in gold-leaf, on the front cover, of a Pied Piper followed not by children but by winged money-bags.’ – Queen’s Quorum.

Charles Grant Blairfindie Allen (1848) was born near Kingston, Ontario, in Canada. Though largely forgotten today, during his lifetime he was a prolific and popular writer who published widely in diverse areas, which were as various as his own intellectual pursuits that ranged from the sciences to literature. Titles of several of his books reveal his breadth of interests, including
The Evolutionist at Large, and Biographies of Working Men. As a naturalist and professed socialist, he embraced a number of radical views for his time, such as the advancement of women's rights. For example, his novel The Woman who did, espoused a then controversial literacy critique of sexual conventions and marriage. His best stories, which featured the notorious con-artist and thief, Colonel Clay, first appeared in the Strand Magazine and later were collected in this book.

Provenance: James Jennings, with 1898 gift inscription from Harry L. Ann.

Reference: Ellery Queen,
Queen’s Quorum, 21. Ellery Queen, The Detective Short Story (1969), 4. Penguin classics.

Octavo. pp. viii, 317 [1] [2 (publisher’s ads)]. In publisher’s dark green ribbed cloth, spine lettered in gilt, front board lettered and elaborately illustrated in gilt, publisher’s logo in blind to rear board, top edge gilt.
  Condition: Near fine, bright gilt to boards, light wear to corners and spine ends, foxing to endpapers, one or two gatherings a little loose as often encountered with this work, hinges weak.   Ref: 109112   Price: HK$ 3,500