Marshall Jevons is the pseudonym for the team of William Breit and Kenneth G. Elzinga. The two friends and former faculty colleagues at the University of Virginia teamed up for their first murder mystery in 1978, Murder at the Margin, after Breit mentioned his idea of writing a detective novel with an economist-sleuth to Elzinga. According to Breit, the team “plunged right in,” and the rest, as they say, is history. Murder at the Margin was followed by three more installments in the series, The Fatal Equilibrium (1985), A Deadly Indifference (1995), and The Mystery of the Invisible Hand (2014). Henry Spearman, the protagonist of all four novels, is a Harvard economist who uses economic theory to solve crimes. Both entertaining and educational, Marshall Jevons’ mysteries are regularly used as teaching tools in college-level economics courses.
The penname Marshall Jevons is derived from two nineteenth century economists, Alfred Marshall and William Stanley Jevons. The first mystery, Murder at the Margin, was published without referencing the true identity of its writers. Instead, a fictional biography was created for the author:
Marshall Jevons is the President of UtilMax, Inc., an international consulting firm headquartered in New York City. A former Rhodes Scholar, he holds advanced degrees in economics, biochemistry, and oceanography. Mr. Jevons is an Olympic medal holder in kayaking whose hobbies now include rocketry and the futures market in cocoa beans. He is a native of Virginia but prefers to call ‘home’ the Queen Elizabeth 2. This is Marshall Jevons’ first novel.
At the time of his death on August 25, 2011, William Breit was Professor Emeritus at Trinity University. He was the E.M. Stevens Distinguished Professor of Economics at Trinity from 1983-99 and the Vernon F. Taylor Distinguished Professor of Economics from 1999 until his retirement in May 2002. At Trinity University, Dr. Breit taught, among other things, the History of Economic Thought and Antitrust Economics.
Prior to coming at to Trinity University, Dr. Breit was on the faculty at the University of Virginia (1965-83) and Louisiana State University (1961-65).
Dr. Breit received his B.A. and M.A. from the University of Texas. He received his Ph.D. from Michigan State University in 1961. In 1999, MSU presented Dr. Breit with its Distinguished Alumni Award.
Professor Breit’s publications focused on antitrust economics, market and non-market decision-making, and the history and intellectual development of modern economic thought. At Trinity University, he established the Nobel Laureate Lecture Series, which since has brought numerous Nobel economists to campus and whose talks form the basis for the MIT volume, Lives of the Laureates currently in its fifth edition. Under the pen name Marshall Jevons, Breit and Elzinga developed the economist as sleuth in a series of mysteries solved with the knowledge and tools of economics. Breit was a gifted communicator whose witty talks and lectures were peppered with clever insights into our foibles.
In addition to numerous scholarly articles, Dr. Breit has authored, co-authored, or edited the following books: The Academic Scribblers: American Economists in Collision; Lives of the Laureates; Readings in Microeconomics; The Antitrust Penalties: A Study in Law and Economics; and The Antitrust Casebook: Milestones in Economic Regulation.
Widely recognized in the profession, he was singled out for many honors by his peers. He has served as President of the Southern Economics Association, was a member of the Board of Directors of the Association for Evolutionary Economics, was awarded the Distinguished Service Award of the Southwestern Social Science Association, was a member of various editorial boards over the years, and was a long-time member of the market oriented Mont Pelerin Society.
Kenneth G. Elzinga
Kenneth G. Elzinga is the Robert C. Taylor Chair in Economics at the University of Virginia. He was the first recipient of the Cavaliers’ Distinguished Teaching Professorship at the University, a recipient of the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Professor Award, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Outstanding Faculty Award, as well as awards in education from the Kenan and Templeton foundations. In 1992, he was given the Thomas Jefferson Award, the highest honor the University of Virginia accords its faculty.
Each fall, Mr. Elzinga’s introductory economics course attracts over one thousand students and is the largest class offered at the University of Virginia. His Antitrust Policy seminar, which is taught using the Socratic method, often has a waiting list of two years.
Mr. Elzinga’s major research interest is antitrust economics, especially pricing strategy and market definition. He has been an economics consultant on several precedent-setting antitrust cases including three that were decided by the Supreme Court. The author of more than a hundred and ten academic publications, he also is known for three mystery novels, co-authored with William Breit (under the pen name Marshall Jevons) where the protagonist employs economic analysis to solve the crime. The novels have been used in classrooms across the country to illustrate introductory economic principles, and have been translated into seven languages. A former Fellow in Law and Economics at the University of Chicago and a Thomas Jefferson Visiting Scholar at Cambridge University, Mr. Elzinga also is a past president of the Southern Economic Association, a member of Mystery Writers of America, and serves on the national Board of Directors of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and the Board of Trustees at Hope College.
Mr. Elzinga has a B.A. and honorary doctorate from Kalamazoo College and a Ph.D. from Michigan State University. He has been a member of the faculty at the University of Virginia since 1967.
Go to Mr. Elzinga’s website: www.kenelzinga.com