Henry Spearman, the Sherlock Holmes of economics

I was reminded of Milton and Rose which made me think of the Marshall Jevons crime fiction series:

Marshall Jevons is a fictitious crime writer invented and used by William L. Breit and Kenneth G. Elzinga, professors of economics at Trinity University, San Antonio and the University of Virginia, respectively.

It was Breit’s notion to write a mystery novel in which an amateur detective uses economic theory to solve crimes. Elzinga was enthusiastic about his colleague’s idea and not only encouraged him to proceed but also decided to take an active role in writing the book. Over the next twenty years, on top of their academic schedules, Breit and Elzinga co-authored three mystery books featuring Harvard economist-sleuth Henry Spearman. The first Henry Spearman Mystery, Murder at the Margin, came out in 1978, and was followed by The Fatal Equilibrium (1985), A Deadly Indifference (1995) and The Mystery of the Invisible Hand (2014).

Ken Elzinga was at Freedomfest, attesting to his fine economic credentials, and gave a presentation on how he came to write the series with his partner who has unfortunately passed away. But the one thing that I learned that has helped bring the books alive – I am reading the third one right now – is that the main character, Henry Spearman, is designed after Milton Friedman, Professor of Economics at Harvard though he may fictionally be. And the one problem they had in writing the series was that Rose Friedman did not see herself mirrored by Pidge Spearman, and for reasons I cannot see doesn’t like the way Henry’s wife is depicted. The books are fun to read, but are better if you are an economist, although it is not an essential. A large part of their sales, it turns out, are as assigned texts as part of an economics course.

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