Richard Edward Connell was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, on October 17, 1893. His father served in the House of Representatives for approximately one year before his death in October 1912. Precocious and verbal, Connell had a knack for writing since childhood and had become an editor for his local newspaper, the Poughkeepsie News-Press, by age sixteen. He served as his father’s secretary and congressional aide while attending Georgetown but left Washington, D.C., after only a year to fight in Europe during World War I. He enrolled at Harvard University upon returning to the United States, editing both the Harvard Lampoon and Harvard Crimson.
Connell turned to freelance writing in 1919 and began a prolific period that spanned more than three decades. From his home in Beverly Hills, California, he published four novels, four collections of short stories, numerous Hollywood screenplays, and many articles for local newspapers. Critics quickly recognized him as a new master of short fiction, and his stories frequently appeared in Collier’s Weekly and the Saturday Evening Post as well as foreign publications. He published more than 300 short stories during the course of his lifetime, including the well known “A Friend of Napoleon,” “Big Lord Fauntleroy,” “Hero of the Devil’s Kitchen,” and “Ssssssshhh.” His short story “The Most Dangerous Game,” first published in 1924, proved to be his greatest success and won him the prestigious O. Henry Memorial Award. He continued to write short stories until his death from a heart attack in 1949.
Adventurous and suspenseful, “The Most Dangerous Game” struck a chord with readers far and wide. Integrating elements of both popular and literary fiction, Connell’s story provides fast-paced escapism and a menacing, Gothic atmosphere of mystery, horror, and the grotesque. Hollywood produced a silver-screen adaptation of the story eight years after its initial publication, pitting Rainsford and a shipwrecked brother-and-sister duo against the evil General Zaroff. The early “talkie” B-film’s crisp pace, strong performances, and breathless suspense made it an instant classic. The story was twice adapted into popular radio dramas in the early to mid-1940s, the first starring Orson Welles as General Zaroff and the second starring Joseph Cotten as Rainsford. The human-hunting-humans scenario in “The Most Dangerous Game” has since inspired countless other films, television episodes, and novels, all trying to recapture the heart-pounding terror of Connell’s original story.