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The Amateur Cracksman was the original short story collection by E.W. Hornung featuring his most famous character, A. J. Raffles, a gentleman thief in late Victorian Great Britain. It was first published in 1899. The book was very well received and spawned three follow-ups: two more short story collections, The Black Mask (1901) and A Thief in the Night (1904), as well as a full-length novel, Mr. Justice Raffles in 1909. Arthur Raffles is a prominent member of London society, and a national sporting hero. As a cricketer he regularly represents England in Test matches. He uses this as a chance to commit a number of burglaries, primarily stealing valuable jewelry from his hosts. In this he is assisted by his friend, the younger, idealistic Bunny Manders. Both men are constantly under the surveillance of Inspector Mackenzie of Scotland Yard who is always thwarted in his attempts to pin the crimes on Raffles. In the final story, ”The Gift of the Emperor”, Raffles is called into service on behalf of the Foreign Office who wish to recover a valuable pearl from a German diplomat staying in England. However, this is only in the TV adaptation; in the book he is working entirely for his own profit. The short stories included in the collection are: ”The Ides of March” ”A Costume Piece” ”Gentlemen and Players” ”Le Premier Pas” ”Wilful Murder” ”Nine Points of the Law” ”The Return Match” ”The Gift of the Emperor”
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In his youth, E. W. Hornung (1866–1921) was sent from his home in England to Australia to improve his health. He returned home to find his family destitute and resolved to restore their fortunes by writing popular books, a goal he quickly achieved with a series of tales about life in the outback. Inspired by the success of the Sherlock Holmes stories — written by his brother-in-law, Arthur Conan Doyle — Hornung created the celebrated Raffles adventures.
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