dr cunliffe bookDR. CUNLIFFE, INVESTIGATOR (1913) – Written by Harold Frankish. This book was a collection of short stories centered around Frankish’s fictional “scientific detective” Dr. Theodore Cunliffe.

A brilliant man, the British Cunliffe has granted himself enough strength to lift just over a ton and he is such a man of action that he wrestles with an ape in one story. A definite forerunner of later Pulp heroes, Dr. Cunliffe is a physician, scientist and criminologist who is often called in by Scotland Yard. Theodore is also a cosmopolitan world traveler and is well-versed in a variety of esoteric subjects.

The stories featuring his adventures:

THE ADVENTURE OF THE ATOMIC RAYS – The Adonis-like Dr. Cunliffe is called in by Scotland Yard when high-profile scientists begin to disappear. Cunliffe traces the disappearances to the mad scientist Dr. Burton, who has created a disintegration weapon powered by atomic rays. Our hero must prove Burton’s culpability in the evidence-free disintegration deaths of the missing scientists while making sure that he himself survives.

THE MYSTERY OF THE NORFOLK MERE – Dr. Cunliffe is consulted when multiple children are found dead near a Norfolk lake. The bodies are mangled and mutilated, have multiple puncture wounds and have been drained of all bodily fluids, not just blood. Theodore’s investigation leads to a recently-fallen meteorite which is home to a deadly alien monstrosity which has been venturing forth to feed on the local children.

              The extraterrestrial beast has an ovular body with tentacles and eyes like a lobster’s. Cunliffe and a band of armed men battle the beast in a savage grudge match.

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THE MYSTERY OF THE QUEEN OF BEAUTY – With Oxonians being found dead from puncture wounds on their cheeks, Dr. Cunliffe investigates. He infiltrates a secret society of people who worship a charismatic blonde beauty called Marie, the Queen of Beauty. Her many admirers are a stable of lovers for her and must vow to never marry or love any other women. The “queen” also possesses incredible strength.

              Disobedience and unfaithfulness arouse Marie’s ire and are punishable by death. She bares her serpentine fangs and forked tongue and bites her victims on the cheek to kill them. Theodore witnesses this but by then has become another of her entranced lovers.

              Ultimately, Cunliffe’s conscience wins out. He pumps his incredibly strong body full of antitoxins, then, with multiple policemen lying in wait as witnesses, provokes Marie into biting him by claiming he has cheated on her. The antitoxins in his body weaken her, but she still possesses enough strength to kill several police officers and innocent bystanders before committing suicide by fatally biting herself. Cunliffe is still hung up on her even after her death.

MY ADVENTURE WITH THE MAN-MONKEY – Dr. Cunliffe’s colleague, Dr. Bradwire, needs our hero’s help when an experiment of his goes awry. Bradwire had gotten the okay to experiment on a condemned prisoner. He removed part of the felon’s brain and used it to replace part of the brain of an ape.

              The criminal died but the ape survived the transplant. The murderous side of the dead man’s brain took control of the ape, following which the Man-Monkey escaped and began a series of murders. Dr. Cunliffe uses brains, brawn and bullets to finally end the beast’s reign of terror.

THE WASP DEVILS – Theodore’s friend Jack has inherited a fortune from his late grandfather. An evil uncle of Jack’s plans to do away with his nephew so that he can inherit the money instead. To that end he invites Jack to visit him at his estate but luckily the young man takes his friend Dr. Cunliffe along with him.

              Before too long our hero and his pal are fighting to survive against Uncle Pentagon’s (really) diabolical creations. Those creations are a hybrid of wasps & adders and are now cat-sized wasps with a very deadly sting.

There were two more stories in the book but I have not been able to discover any details on them. This book is incredibly rare and so, like with the ancient Greek comedies that I write about, second-hand sources are largely what’s left.

To quote from a 1913 review: “The quality of imagination is not lacking in these rather blood-curdling detective stories, but the author has not troubled greatly about plausibility, and he generally discloses the plot too early. The investigator himself, who relates the adventures, is somewhat pretentious, and the writing is not improved by the frequent use of cliches.”The Atheneum

Dr. Cunliffe, Investigator combined penny dreadful chills with pulp and dime novel thrills. The odd love/ hate relationship between Cunliffe and the villainous Marie was an early example of the “loving enemy” trope.

It’s hard to believe that the Brits have let this character fade into oblivion. At the very least you’d have thought Alan Moore would have done his usual ripping off of the character for one of his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen volumes. 

FOR TEN MORE EXAMPLES OF ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION CLICK HERE:   https://glitternight.com/2014/03/03/ten-neglected-examples-of-ancient-science-fiction/

FOR WASHINGTON IRVING’S 1809 depiction of an invasion from the moon click here:   https://glitternight.com/2014/05/05/ancient-science-fiction-the-men-of-the-moon-1809-by-washington-irving/        


Filed under Ancient Science Fiction


  1. The Wasp Devils sounds pretty neat. These stories would be perfect for an animated series, in my opinion. Great read and an unusual book.

  2. OH! THANK YOU, Good Sir!!! I needed that laugh! You just gifted many! Love this!!! After reading the plot lines I particularly loved seeing this in the review: “..the author has not troubled greatly about plausibility…”. That’s beyond brilliant! Let’s hope not!!! 🤣 Cheers and rock on with Your brilliant self, Balladeer!!! 😃💕

  3. Zamiast szukać podziałów lepiej się jednoczyć, łątwiej wielką bandą po trudnej drodze kroczyć, zmowa milczenia u nas nic się nie zmienia, wszystkim dorbym blogom życzymy powodzenia cyt. Firma

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