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The boy detective, made famous in children’s literary favourites such as Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, is the focus of a new book written by a lecturer at University Centre Shrewsbury (UCS).

The Boy Detective in Early British Children’s Literature: Patrolling the Borders between Boyhood and Manhood by Dr Lucy Andrew was released last month.

The book, which is designed to appeal to both scholars and general readers, looks at the early appearances and development of the boy detective figure in British children's literature from the 1860s to the 1930s.

In particular, the book focuses on the tensions inherent in the boy detective figure: on the one hand, he is moral, law abiding, active, resourceful - a worthy role model for boys; on the other hand, the boy detective is often engaged in dangerous adult activities and worlds, possesses a power and status that destabilizes normal adult/child hierarchies, and necessarily interacts with crime and criminality, sometimes becoming a criminalized figure himself.

Dr Andrew, who is Programme Leader for English and Lecturer in English Literature at UCS, said: “Figures like the Famous Five, the Hardy Boys and Robin, the Boy Wonder, have all stood the test of time, but behind these characters is a rich tradition of boy detectives in cheap, ephemeral fiction dating back to the 1860s. These detective heroes were incredibly popular and influential in their own time, appearing in thousands of stories in weekly or monthly papers and responding rapidly to social and cultural changes. This book is an attempt to recover the boy detective’s lost history and to examine the relationship between the representation of the fictional boy detective and changing expectations of and attitudes towards real-life boys and their role in society during a crucial period of British history.”

Dr Andrew’s main areas of research are children’s and young adult literature, crime fiction and popular culture from the nineteenth century to the present day.

Dr Andrew is also co-organiser of the Short Story Network which facilitates communication and collaboration between scholars working on short fiction of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The Boy Detective in Early British Children’s Literature is out now and is published by Palgrave Macmillan. For more information go to:

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