'Before there was Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, there was Fergus Hume’s The Mystery of a Hansom Cab—the biggest- and fastest-selling detective novel of the 1800s, and Australia’s first literary blockbuster.
'Fergus Hume was an aspiring playwright when he moved from Dunedin to Melbourne in 1885. He wrote The Mystery of a Hansom Cab with the humble hope of bringing his name to the attention of theatre managers. The book sold out its first run almost instantly and it became a runaway word-of-mouth phenomenon—but its author sold the copyright for a mere fifty pounds, missing out on a potential fortune.
'Blockbuster! is the engrossing story of a book that would help define the genre of crime fiction, and a portrait of a great city in full bloom. Rigorously researched and full of arresting detail, this captivating book is a must-read for all fans of true crime, history and crime fiction alike.' (Publication summary)
'Blockbuster! is a fascinating and engaging read from start to finish. The exhaustive research which informs the book never overwhelms the flow of the narrative, which is expressed in clear, precise prose. The reader is offered here two intriguing subjects. While this is the publishing story of Fergus Hume’s famous detective book, The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, and an early example of the detective genre, it is also, side-by-side as it were, the story of Melbourne in the final two decades of the nineteenth century. Indeed Lucy Sussex labels three novels by Hume his “Melbourne Trilogy”: Hansom Cab (1886), Madame Midas (1888) and Miss Mephistopheles (1890), all three novels offering vibrant local colour: “a prospectus, in fiction” (200) as Sussex later puts it. The “trilogy” designation moreover lends a specific gravitas to Hume whose standing in literary terms has never had the prestige it should within the annals of Australian literature. Blockbuster! will considerably amend this situation. That Hume had published seventeen books by the end of 1892 will doubtless come as a surprise to most readers.' (Introduction)