Although he may be a forgotten author today, M. P. Shiel developed a remarkable rival to Sherlock Holmes by creating the mysterious Russian exile, Prince Zaleski. If Shiel had continued writing short stories about his detective, the public wound have welcomed the eccentric Zaleski and made his name a household word. One can imagine the discovery of the prince by Hollywood in the 1940s and the subsequent call for Basil Rathbone to play the role of the sleuth. And if you disapproved of Holmes' cocaine use, don't worry, the Prince is strictly into hashish.
Prince Zaleski was Shiel's first book and it contains three fascinating detective stories. The influences of writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and Conan Doyle are evident throughout the volume.
Shiel received the most critical acclaim for his science-fiction novel titled The Purple Cloud. This book, published in 1901, describes a tragic and brutal world in which most human life has been eliminated by a toxic purple gas. The book became a movie in 1959 after being retitled The World, the Flesh, and the Devil. This dark and controversial film starred Harry Belafonte, Mel Ferrer, and Inger Stevens.