Keeper of the Keys: A Charlie Chan Story

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Author: Biggers, Earl Derr (1884-1933)

Year: 1932

Publisher: Bobbs-Merrill Company

Place: Indianapolis


307 pages. Small octavo (7 3/4" x 5 1/2") bound in original publisher's black cloth with red lettering to spine and cover with pictorial end papers in original jacket. First edition.

Earl Derr Biggers is remembered primarily for his novels, especially those featuring the fictional Chinese American detective Charlie Chan, from which popular films were made in the United States and China. Derr Biggers was born in Warren, Ohio, and graduated from Harvard University in 1907. He worked as a journalist for The Plain Dealer before turning to fiction. His novel Seven Keys to Baldpate was popular in 1913, and George M. Cohan quickly adapted the novel as a hit Broadway stage play of the same name. Cohan starred in the 1917 film version, one of seven film versions of the play, and a 1935 revival. More than 10 years after Baldpate, Derr Biggers had even greater success with his series of Charlie Chan detective novels. The popularity of Charlie Chan extended even to China, where audiences in Shanghai appreciated the Hollywood films. Chinese companies made films starring this fictional character. Derr Biggers publicly acknowledged the real-life detective Chang Apana as the inspiration for the character of Charlie Chan in his letter to the Honolulu Advertiser of June 28, 1932.

Keeper of the Keys (1932) is the sixth and last mystery in the Charlie Chan series of Earl Derr Biggers; Biggers was planning on continuing the series, but died in 1933 before he could. The films continued the series for him. Once again, the setting of the novel is rural California, where Chan has been invited as a houseguest. He meets a world-famous soprano, Ellen Ladona, who is murdered not too long after the meeting. Chan does not have far to look for suspects—the host is her ex-husband, as are three of the other house guests. Her servants, entourage and husbands all come under suspicion. Once again, Chan is expected to solve the murder, which he does by understanding the key clues—the actions of a little dog named Trouble, two scarves, and two little boxes. When he understands how the murder is committed, he learns the role of elderly house servant Ah Sing—the keeper of the keys. This was the only one of Biggers' Chan novels never to be adapted into a film, while some of the others were used more than once to create films. However, it was adapted into a short-lived Broadway play in 1933, with William Harrigan playing Charlie Chan.


Previous owner's name on lightly on front paste down. Jacket with edge chips and closed tears with creases, front fold over edge chipped with tear at heal, spine ends chipped, lightly soiled, previous owner's name at edge of front fold over edge, stabilized with archival backing else a bettering than good copy in about a very good jacket.

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