Earl Derr Biggers (1884-1933) is best remembered as the creator of Chinese detective Charlie Chan, whose long-running series of exploits (portrayed in the movies first by Warner Oland and later Sidney Toler) made him a world-famous character from the 1930s to the 1950s. At the height of the series, Charlie Chan was nearly on par with Sherlock Holmes...and he spawned such Oriental detective imitators as Mr. Moto and Mr. Wong. Biggers had always been interested in mystery fiction, but his interest in Hawaii clearly stems from a 1919 vacation in Honolulu. While there, he read a newspaper article on a Chinese detective named Chang Apana. Apana would become the model for Charlie Chan in Biggers' 1925 novel, House Without a Key, and there quickly followed five more Charlie Chan novels. Fifty Candles--first published just two years after that 1919 vacation--shows how Hawaii, China, and murder had already begun to come together in Biggers' imagination. The story starts in a courthouse in Honolulu, moves to China, then to fog-shrouded San Francisco. Many of the elements used in the Charlie Chan series are present: Chinese characters (both sinister and sympathetic), the Honolulu legal system, a shrewd detective (in this case, the lawyer Mark Drew rather than a policemen), and a baffling murder complete with red herrings and plenty of suspects. Though Fifty Candles is a murder mystery, it is also a romance, with the romantic elements at times in the forefront. Mostly, though, it is a book that will delight Biggers' many fans as they trace the origins of Charlie Chan.
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