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ERNEST BRAMAH

1868-1942
English

"When struck by a thunderbolt it is unnecessary to consult the Book of Dates as to the precise meaning of the omen."

Ernest Bramah is the pseudonym of Ernest Brammah Smith (1868-1942). He was born in Manchester, and was the son of Charles Clement Smith, a warehouseman, and his wife, Susannah Bramah. On leaving school, Smith trained for two years as a farmer in Erith, Kent, then spend five years working as one, before deciding that the agricultural life was not for him. He used the experience to write a humorous autobiographical account 'English Farming, and Why I Turned it Up', which he published under his pseudonym. This was part of his ongoing attempts to avoid publicity: he was so reticent about his personal life that at one time the idea was current that he did not exist, his works being the efforts of several people, or of an established author in disguise. 

Smith then turned his hand to journalism, and after working for a provincial newspaper, he moved to London to work as Jerome K. Jerome's secretary, before joining the staff of Jerome's twopenny weekly newspaper, 'Today'. Then for two years, until late 1897, he edited 'Minster' magazine. He left to devote himself to full-time writing, and married Lucie Maisie Barker on 31 December 1897. It was in 1900 that he first came to the attention of the public, with the publication of his book, 'The Wallet of Kai Lung'. This collection of short stories about a wandering Chinese storyteller who recounts tales in the manner the 'Arabian Nights' in an amusing mock-Chinese language sold well, and his creation caught the public imagination to the extent that a Kai Lung Club was founded in London. Further Kai Lung stories would follow in his later writing career, but Smith continued to produce short stories, a science-fiction novel and some short plays for radio and theatre. These works are now largely forgotten, but 1914 saw the appearance of his second major creation. Max Carrados was a blind detective, whose other senses had developed to a remarkable degree to compensate for his lack of sight. The first collection of stories, 'Max Carrados', was followed by 'The Eyes of Max Carrados* (1923) and Max Carrados Mysteries (1927). The stories, particularly the earlier ones were original and well told, demonstrating Smith's ability for sharp, witty dialogue, and the stories were extremely popular with both the reading public and critics. Smith also published works relating to his hobby of coin collecting.

Continuing to maintain his privacy throughout his forty-year writing career, little more is known about his personal life, beyond the fact that he and his wife had no children.He published a total of twenty-one books during his lifetime, and died at his home in Weston-super-Mare in 1942.

* The Wordsworth edition of The Eyes of Max Carrados includes the best stories from all three of the Max Carrados books.

TITLES BY ERNEST BRAMAH

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