Literature: Raffles

Raffles is a series of stories by E.W. Hornung, written beginning in the 1890s, and starring A. J. Raffles, Gentleman Thief.

Hornung was the brother-in-law of Sherlock Holmes creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Raffles was intended as a sort of dark reflection of Sherlock Holmes: rather than an asocial Bunny-Ears Lawyer who works toward law, Raffles is a seemingly respectable gentleman who commits crimes, and rather than the bluff Watson, he is assisted by his chronicler, "Bunny" Manders, something of a Cowardly Sidekick.

The Raffles stories have been adapted for various media; a number of Raffles films came out between 1905 and 1939. In 1975, there was a British made-for-TV movie which led to a Raffles television series. In addition, there was a BBC Radio 4 series broadcast from 1985 to 1993.

Contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Heroism: Tends to happen to Raffles a lot.
  • Adorkable: Bunny
  • Affably Evil: Raffles is this trope—-he's charming, funny, a good friend to have and a very valuable man to have on your side in a tight pinch...and an unrepentant thief.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Raffles and Bunny, who have lots of Ho Yay. Raffles is described as associating with Oscar Wilde's aesthetic movement and dressing according to that fashion, but being surprisingly macho.
  • Anti-Hero / Villain Protagonist: Raffles varies between the two
  • Blackand Gray Morality: While Raffles is presented as Affably Evil, some of his victims are no saints, and could be said to deserve some comeuppance... a crooked South African diamond magnate, an unscrupulous Australian land baron, and a brutal, brutish American prizefighter all fall into this category.
  • Cricket: Raffles is a professional cricketer and spin bowler, if an amateur cracksman.
  • Depending on the Writer: While Hornung intented Raffles to be a throuroughly unsympathetic character, the association of him with the Gentleman Thief trope meant he came to be seen as similar to Arsène Lupin or The Saint. Barry Perowne, who wrote Raffles stories after Hornung's death, took this perception and ran with it, to the extent that a parody by John L. Breen has Hornung's Raffles and Perowne's Raffles as seperate characters.
  • Disguised in Drag: Bunny does this in The Rest Cure.
  • Downer Ending: The series ends with both Raffles and Bunny getting shot in The Second Boer War. Raffles dies and Bunny becomes an invalid.
  • Driven to Suicide/Interrupted Suicide: How it all begins. After losing all his money and facing disgrace, Bunny comes to Raffles to ask for help. When Raffles explains that he doesn't have any money either Bunny tries to kill himself but Raffles stops him.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Raffles will not steal from a home while he is a guest there (stealing from other guests is OK by him, though); he will not cheat at games; he will not betray a fellow thief, even one who's blackmailing him (he despises blackmailers); and in many ways, thieves or no, he and Bunny retain most of their late-Victorian upper-class code.
  • Evil Counterpart: As noted above, Raffles and Bunny are this to Holmes and Watson.
  • Faking the Dead: Raffles does this. Twice.
  • Gentleman Thief: One of the first, although Raffles steals because he needs the money- he couldn't keep up his front as a gentleman-of-leisure without the profits from his crimes.
  • Hair Contrast Duo: Blond, naive Bunny and dark, cynical Raffles.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Although there would be plenty of Ho Yay without it, it's definitely furthered by Bunny's references to himself as being Raffles' "fag" while they were at school together. There is also some straight-faced talk of man-diddling.
  • Hero Antagonist: Inspector Mackenzie of Scotland Yard.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Sort of. While there's definitely subtext and most fans see their relationship as a homosexual one, it never actually states that their relationship is anything but platonic (being written in Victorian times and all) and both characters do have female love interests.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: And how!
  • Important Haircut: Raffles used to have a mustache, but he shaved it off after his first heist.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: The stories are presented as Bunny's memoirs.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: It's not only been the best time I ever had, old Bunny, but I'm not half sure-
  • Master of Disguise: Raffles, in a dept to Sherlock Holmes.
  • Of Course I Smoke: Mirabel Renny in "The Raffles Bombshell".
  • Older Than They Look: Bunny is implied to look quite young. In Mr Justice Raffles, when explaining he and Raffles knew each other from school, Camilla Belsize comments that she'd thought Raffles would have been a little before his time. After the Time Skip he is described as having a moustache that can only be seen in certain lights despite being in his 30s by now.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Bunny's real name is only ever mentioned in one story; The Last Word. (It's Harry)
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Raffles often steals from nasty, new-money people. And although he does not normally kill, he does cause the deaths of some very nasty Camorra men through an inadvertent plan. He also connives in allowing a murderer to escape, but the person in question killed a would-be blackmailer, which, by the standards of the time, "didn't count," according to Orwell's essay on Raffles.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: In Graham Greene's play The Return of A.J. Raffles as well as Kim Newman's The Hound of the D'Urbervilles Raffles and Bunny are depicted as a couple.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Raffles goes off to fight in the Boer War, thinking it's about time he gives something back to his country. He gets shot and killed.
  • The Second Boer War: Raffles and Bunny both fight in this war in the story "The Knees of the Gods".
  • Seme/Uke: Again, the pair aren't explicitly gay, but Raffles and Bunny fit rather well into these respective tropes.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Bunny and Raffles.
  • Sidekick: Bunny. More precisely a Cowardly Sidekick.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Raffles famously favors Sullivan cigarettes to the point that, when returning to London after being lost and presumed dead, he doesn't dare smoke them, since he was so well-known to love that particular brand.
  • The Syndicate: The Black Hand, which featured in two of the later stories, "The Fate of Faustina" and "The Last Laugh", and were a staple of Victorian melodrama in general.
  • Tall, Dark and Snarky: Raffles
  • The Watson: Bunny, of course.
  • Time Skip: Set between The Gift of the Emperor and No Sinecure.
  • Unbuilt Trope: While Raffles isn't the first Gentleman Thief, he comes from an era where people weren't as accepting of criminal heroes (who got away with it), and so he reads like a nastier version of the Gentleman Thief we are familiar with (Arsène Lupin is the straighter version of that trope).
  • With Friends Like These...: Raffles often treats Bunny cruelly in various ways, such as letting Bunny think Raffles is really dead, not telling him what the real plan is, and making it clear that he doesn't think much of Bunny's brainpower. But Raffles eventually does come around to admitting that in a crunch, there's nobody he'd rather have at his back...and Bunny would cheerfully die for Raffles.
  • Younger Than They Look: During the Time Skip Raffles' hair turns prematurely white and he is described as having aged 20 years.