Jacques Futrelle
BornJacques Heath Futrelle
(1875-04-09)April 9, 1875
Pike County, Georgia, US
DiedApril 15, 1912(1912-04-15) (aged 37)
North Atlantic Ocean
OccupationMystery writer, journalist
GenreDetective fiction, science fiction
SpouseLily May Peel (1895–1912) (his death)

Jacques Heath Futrelle (April 9, 1875 – April 15, 1912) was an American journalist and mystery writer. He is best known for writing short detective stories featuring Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen, also known as "The Thinking Machine" for his use of logic. He died in the sinking of the RMS Titanic.


Futrelle was born in Pike County, Georgia. He worked for the Atlanta Journal, where he began their sports section, the New York Herald, the Boston Post and the Boston American, where, in 1905, his Thinking Machine character appeared in a serialized version of the short story, "The Problem of Cell 13".

Futrelle left the Boston American in 1906 to write novels. He had a harbor-view house built in Scituate, Massachusetts, which he called "Stepping Stones" and spent most of his time there until his death in 1912.[1] His last work, My Lady's Garter, was published posthumously in 1912. His widow inscribed in the book, "To the heroes of the Titanic, I dedicate this my husband's book", under a photo of him.[1]

Personal life

Lily May Futrelle 1912

In 1895, he married fellow writer Lily May Peel with whom he had two children, Virginia and Jacques "John" Jr.[1]


Returning from Europe aboard the RMS Titanic, Futrelle, a first-class passenger, refused to board a lifeboat, insisting Lily do so instead, to the point of forcing her in. She remembered the last she saw of him: he was smoking a cigarette on deck with John Jacob Astor IV. He perished in the Atlantic and his body was never found.[2][3] On July 29, 1912, Futrelle's mother, Linnie Futrelle, died in her Georgia home; her death was attributed to grief over her son.[4]

In popular culture

Futrelle is used as the protagonist in Max Allan Collins' disaster series novel The Titanic Murders (1999), about two murders aboard the Titanic.[5]

Selected works


Short story collections

Short stories

See Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen and JacquesFutrelle.com for more stories.

In this literary experiment, The Thinking Machine provides a rational solution to the seemingly impossible and supernatural events of a ghost story written by Mrs. Futrelle.[14][15]


  1. ^ a b c Marks, Jeffrey A. "No Escape: Jacques Futrelle and the Titanic". Mystery Scene magazine. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  2. ^ "Biography: Jacques Futrelle". Encyclopedia Titanica.
  3. ^ "Futrelle Refused to Enter Lifeboat; His Wife Tells How He Parted with Her on Titanic, Commanding Her to Save Herself". The New York Times. April 19, 1912. p. 6.
  4. ^ "Futrelle's Mother is Dead; Sinks from Grief Following Loss of Son on the Titanic". New York Times. July 30, 1912. p. 1.
  5. ^ Pierce, J. Kingston (April 1999). "A Case to Remember". January Magazine. Retrieved September 22, 2023.
  6. ^ "The chase of the golden plate | WorldCat.org". www.worldcat.org. Retrieved July 31, 2023.
  7. ^ "The simple case of Susan | WorldCat.org". www.worldcat.org. Retrieved July 31, 2023.
  8. ^ The Diamond Master title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved 2019-06-20.
  9. ^ During February 1914 Variety reports the 3-reeler done, quoted here (Feb 13, p. 23), and ready for March 4 (Feb 27, p. 22)
  10. ^ "The high hand | WorldCat.org". www.worldcat.org. Retrieved July 31, 2023.
  11. ^ "My lady's garter | WorldCat.org". www.worldcat.org. Retrieved July 31, 2023.
  12. ^ "Blind Man's Buff | WorldCat.org". www.worldcat.org. Retrieved July 31, 2023.
  13. ^ Futrelle, Jacques. "The Phantom Motor". Jacques Futrelle. Archived from the original on February 26, 2016.
  14. ^ a b Futrelle, Jacques. "The Grinning God". Tales of the Thinking Machine. University of Adelaide. Archived from the original on June 20, 2019. Retrieved September 15, 2021. A note at the head of Part II implies publication in The Sunday Magazine (undated online): "Editor's Note. – Mrs. Futrelle undertook to set up a problem which The Thinking Machine could not solve. 'Wraiths of the Storm', in The Sunday Magazine last week, presented what she thought to be a mystery story impossible of solution. Printer's proofs of the story were submitted to Mr. Futrelle, who, after frequent consultations with Professor Van Dusen – The Thinking Machine – evolved 'The House that Was' as the perfect solution."
  15. ^ "The Grinning God by May & Jacques Futrelle". P.J. Bergman. The Locked Room (blog). April 27, 2014. Retrieved June 20, 2019.

Further reading