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S. S. van Dine, pseudonym of Willard Huntington Wright Biography

(1888–1939), pseudonym of Willard Huntington Wright, Smart Set, The International Studio, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Misinforming a Nation


American art critic and detective novelist, born in Virginia, educated at Harvard. He was editor of the magazines Smart Set and The International Studio, published works on modern art and on Nietzsche, and became known for a savage attack on the Encyclopaedia Britannica (Misinforming a Nation, 1917) before forming—during a two-year convalescence after a breakdown—a theory of detective fiction which he put into practice in twelve novels written between 1926 and 1939 and which enjoyed immense success. In all of them the detective is Philo Vance, a rich young man-about-town and polymathic aesthete, of whom Ogden Nash wrote ‘Philo Vance | Needs a kick in the pance’. His first two books, The Benson Murder Case (1926) and The Canary Murder Case (1927), both based on actual crimes, are perhaps his best, but the most characteristic is The Bishop Murder Case (1929), which contains a series of murders based on nursery rhymes.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Tre‐Taliesin Cardiganshire to Hilda Vaughan Biography