Dr. John K. Derden, Professor Emeritus of History at East Georgia State College, presented a paper at REVIVAL: Lost Southern Voices Festival held on March 23-24, 2018 at the Dunwoody Campus of Georgia State University. The annual literary festival featured readings and performances of works by twenty-nine Southern “voices deserving to be rediscovered, revived, and reread.” The event included presentations by 38 scholars from around the nation.
Dr. Derden’s topic was Jacques Futrelle (1875-1912), a Georgia author from Pike County who died in the Titanic disaster at the peak of his popularity and success. Futrelle was a novelist, short-story writer, poet, editor, journalist, playwright, theatre manager, actor, and early “automobilist.” In his short seven-year career as a free-lance author from 1905 to 1912, he wrote seven novels and published more than fifty short stories in more than twenty magazines of the day. His forte was the detective and mystery tale, and his locked-room story, “The Problem of Cell 13,” is considered one of the best ever written.
Futrelle was known mainly for his Sherlock Holmes-type character, the cerebral Augustus S.F.X. Van Dusen, Ph. D., LL.D., F.R.S., M.D., M.D.S. (the “Thinking Machine”), who solved mysteries through the process of ratiocination. His stories have continued to live through numerous radio, television, and film adaptations.
Futrelle had an Emanuel County connection in that his parents were living in Adrian when the Titanic went down, and his mother, Linnie Bevil Futrelle, is buried in the Poplar Springs United Methodist Church cemetery next to U.S. Highway 80 west of Adrian. On her gravestone is a memorial to her son, “Who in the supreme test proved himself.”