A Study in Sidekicks: The Detective's Assistant in Crime Fiction

deadline for submissions: 
November 13, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Crime fiction edited collection
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A Study in Sidekicks: The detective’s assistant in crime fiction


Editors: Dr Lucy Andrew (University of Chester), Samuel Saunders (Liverpool John Moores University)

‘I am lost without my Boswell’, Sherlock Holmes says of his trusty sidekick Dr John Watson in ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’ (1891). Biographer, narrator, observer, assistant, companion, conscience, foil, fool, audience surrogate – the role of the detective’s sidekick is multifaceted, complex and continually evolving.

This collection aims to explore the changing representations and functions of the detective’s sidekick across a range of forms and subgenres of crime fiction from the nineteenth century to the present day. Forms may include: magazine short stories, serial or non-serial novels, ‘penny dreadfuls’, juvenile story papers, dime and half-dime novels, comics and graphic novels, radio drama, stage plays, film and television, video games. Genres may include: sensation fiction, the locked-room mystery, Golden Age detective fiction (including the clue puzzle and the hard-boiled detective novel), the police procedural, historical crime fiction, supernatural crime fiction, the serial killer thriller, the psychothriller.

The collection aims to pose and explore a number of questions, including:

  • When did the detective’s sidekick first appear and why?
  • How do we define the sidekick? What is the distinction between the partner and the sidekick?
  • What functions does the detective’s sidekick perform? (How) do these functions change over time?
  • (How) does the representation of the sidekick vary between different forms and subgenres of crime fiction?
  • At which point in crime fiction’s development was the sidekick’s importance at its peak? Is the sidekick tradition declining in the twenty-first century?


Topics may include:

-        The origins and development of the sidekick

-        The functions of the sidekick

-        Detective/sidekick relationships

-        The female sidekick

-        The child sidekick

-        The animal sidekick (e.g. Jerry Lee (K-9); Diefenbaker (Due South); Pedro the bloodhound (Sexton Blake); Snowy (Tin Tin); Flash (Valerie Drew))

-        The sidekick in sensation fiction (e.g. Gabriel Betteredge/Ezra Jennings (The Moonstone); George Talboys (Lady Audley’s Secret); Captain Wragge (No Name))

-        The supernatural sidekick (e.g. Bob in The Dresden Files)

-        The criminal as sidekick (e.g. Dr Hannibal Lecter)

-        The sidekick as suspect/villain (e.g. Dr James Sheppard)

-        The sidekick as narrator and/or biographer (e.g. Dr John Watson)

-        The sidekick as hero(ine)

-        The sidekick as victim (e.g. George Talboys in Lady Audley’s Secret)

-        Multiple sidekicks (e.g. Mervyn Bunter, (Chief) Inspector Parker and Harriet Vane)

-        Modern interpretations of classic sidekicks (e.g. Joan Watson in Elementary)

-        The sidekick’s comic potential

-        The sacrificial sidekick

-        The corruption of the sidekick

-        The marginality of the sidekick

-        The absence and/or loss of the sidekick

-        Romance, sexuality and the sidekick


Sidekicks under scrutiny may include:

-        Gabriel Betteredge/Ezra Jennings

-        George Talboys

-        Dr John Watson

-        Captain Arthur J. M. Hastings

-        Mervyn Bunter/Chief Inspector Parker/Harriet Vane

-        Robert ‘Robbie’ Lewis/DS James Hathaway

-        Robin (in his various incarnations: Dick Grayson; Jason Todd; Tim Drake; Damian Wayne)

-        Maddy Magellan, Carla Borrego, Joey Ross, Polly Creek (Jonathan Creek sidekicks)


Please submit an abstract of 300-350 words and biography of 50-100 words to Lucy Andrew (l.andrew@chester.ac.uk) and Sam Saunders (S.J.Saunders@2014.ljmu.ac.uk) by Monday 13th November 2017.

Completed essays of 7-8,000 words will be due by Monday 4th June 2018.