Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"He Is to Be Deceived Only in a Straightforward Manner"

"The Detective Story."
By M. Thornton Armstrong.
First appearance: The Editor (May 1906).
Online HERE [PDF] and HERE.
This one, brief and to the point, should be required reading for today's generation of crime fiction writers. A few excerpts:
THERE ARE A FEW requisites of a good detective story which the seasoned reader of that class of fiction demands. The following list does not cover the whole ground, but without these the writer cannot hope to interest the true lover of detection.  . . .
1. A Good Plot — The plot is the whole of a detective story.  . . .
2. No Superfluous Characters — Every man, woman, and child, dog and darning needle, must have his, her, or its place in the plot . . . .
3. A Wrong Clue — The reader must be led gently and fatuously on to think that he alone, of all readers, has the true solution . . . .
4. Only Legitimate Deception — The reader is entirely at the mercy of the author, and hence he is to be deceived only in a straightforward manner.  . . .
5. A Tragic Plot — A murder is the only really enthralling subject for a detective story.  . . .
6. Plenty of Obstacles — Don't let the work of detection be too easy, the path too smooth. Let the detective's perspicacity fail, his carefully laid plans miscarry.  . . .
. . . The reader must not give up in despair, losing interest in the apparently clueless jumble. Keep him amused with his own private guess-work and conclusions until you throw his little imaginings aside and tell him all.  . . .
Thornton ends his page-and-a-half lecture with a nice rug-making metaphor.

Resources:
- Compare Thornton's prescription for writing mysteries with R. Austin Freeman's HERE.
- Other ONTOS visits with detective fiction critics can be found HERE and HERE.
Category: Detective fiction criticism (writer's school division)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"He Makes No New Conquests"

"The Passing of the Detective."
By Anonymous.
First appearance: The Academy (30 December 1905).
Online HERE [PDF] and HERE.
Reprinted in Haycraft's The Art of the Mystery Story (1946).
One anonymous critic thought the detective story was overdue for retirement—and this was 1905! Brief excerpts ensue:
THE DETECTIVE IN LITERATURE is hardly more than fifty years old, but already he is passing into decay. He has enjoyed extraordinary popularity, and may even claim to be the only person equally loved by statesmen and by errand boys. His old achievements enthrall as ever. But he makes no new conquests.  . . .
. . . It was inevitable, perhaps, that the prestige of the detective should fade in proportion as the business of detecting crime assumed a more specialized character.  . . .
. . . It was the creation of a personality supremely interested in the detection of crime which is due to [Edgar Allan] Poe, and even he hesitated to attach anything of a professional character to this novel species of hero.  . . .
. . .  As first imagined, the detective stood outside and worked for the love of investigation. This disinterested and slightly amateurish character has hung round the great detective of romance ever since.  . . .
. . . It is curious to note the shifts to which the novelist has been put in the attempt to clothe his detective with a garment of disinterestedness.  . . .
. . . the honor of chaining attention rests after all with him who unties the knot, and if he [the detective] is merely a business person, paid by the job, a shadow of something sordid rests on the whole proceedings.  . . .
. . . sooner or later there comes a moment in all such cases when the reader cries off these self-ordained ministers of justice [i.e., amateur detectives].  . . . let the police do their own work.  . . .
. . . Thus it will be seen that the detective has to be a personage of peculiar type.  . . .
. . . the weak point of the deductive system is that every indication found is capable of bearing a dozen different interpretations. The ideal detective of romance pieces details together as a thought-reader divines things from the pressure of a hand. He detects not by virtue of simple powers of observation, but by a trained intuition amounting almost to second sight.  . . . It is this which is working his decay. For—alas!—modern scientific methods have overtaken him, and he has fallen hopelessly behind the times.  . . . 
. . . it is modern education, the relentless adaptation of means to an end, which has prepared his [the detective of fiction's] downfall.  . . .
Among writers, stories, and characters mentioned in the article:
- Poe: Tales of Mystery.
- d'Artagnan: Le Vicomte de Bragelonne.
d'Artagnan, amateur detective?
- Gaboriau: Monsieur le Coq, Tir au Clair.
- du Boisgobey: Crime de l'Opéra.
- Mary Eleanor Wilkins: The Long Arm.
- Anna Katherine Green: That Affair Next Door.

Category: Detective fiction criticism

Friday, November 14, 2014

"Not an Escape from the World, but an Initiation"

"On the Floor of the Library."
By Simeon Strunsky (1879-1948).
Critical article.
From Sinbad and His Friends (1921).
Online HERE (go to pages 191-195).

Our critic Simeon Strunsky thinks that detective fiction has far more value as "the picture of humanity" than has been acknowledged until now. Excerpts follow—and we can only hope that you don't find Strunsky's satire too elusive:
Unfortunate people who never read detective novels; or, worse still, those who pick up a mystery story and wonder what in the world anyone can see in the book to keep him up till 1:30 in the morning with intermittent trips to the cold meat in the ice-box; or, worst of all, those who read the first chapter and then turn to the end to see who did the killing—such unfortunates think they are sufficiently kind when they describe the habit as a mild vice, not so hard on the family as liquor or drugs, but pernicious for the eyesight. They think they are 100 percent charitable when they tolerate the practice as one form of escape from the realities of a difficult world.
To such outsiders it is not given to understand that the "Mystery of the Chintz Room" or the "Smile of Gautama" is not an escape from the world, but an initiation. They simply do not know that a selected course in reading from Conan Doyle to Carolyn Wells is a guide to the institutions, culture, and life outlook of the nations from China to Chile.  . . .
Strunksy then commends the reading of detective fiction as a "field of research hitherto neglected by the sociologists" and offers detailed examples:
(1) The common belief that the British are an open-air people is utterly opposed to the facts.  . . .
(2) Economy and resourcefulness are not among the virtues of the classes addicted to being murdered in their bedrooms or in their libraries.  . . .
(3) Week-end guests in British baronial mansions or in wealthy residences on Long Island drink too much black coffee before going to bed.  . . .
(4) The number of servants who have been in the employ of wealthy families addicted to violent deaths, for a period of forty years and up, and for whose fidelity the survivors can vouch as confidently as for their own husbands and wives, is truly astounding.  . . .
(5) The victims of foul play in the best British and American families never, absolutely never, cut themselves when shaving, or scrape the skin, or raise a blister.  . . .
(6) Closely allied to the preceding topic, it appears that the principal occupation of the inhabitants of South America is the manufacture or the jealous preservation of the secret of instantaneously deadly poisons unknown to modern science and leaving no visible after-effects, excepting, of course, the corpse.
(7) Insurance premiums on the lives of the British nobility must be really enormous at Lloyd's.  . . .
(8) Nearly everybody in a mystery novel is a consummate athlete.  . . .
(9) The wealth of Burma and Tibet in priceless jewels would be enough to pay the German indemnity ten times over.  . . .

Category: Detective fiction criticism (tongue-in-cheek division)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

When Irish Eyes Aren't Smiling

When it comes to detective fiction, the Oirish have given the Brits a run for their money. Case in point: Nigel Fitzgerald, described this way on the GAD Wiki:
Nigel Fitzgerald was an Irish actor who starred in detective films as well as writing detective stories. He was born in County Cork and married Clodagh Garrett. His series characters were Alan Russell and Inspector Duffy. His series characters were Inspector (later Superintendent) Duffy and Alan Russell, an actor-manager. 
Fitzgerald's novels belong among the best of classic detective fiction. They are intricately plotted, suspenseful, and full of wit. — Jeanne Carter Emmons
In 14 years Fitzgerald produced an even dozen detective novels:

MIDSUMMER MALICE.
By Nigel Fitzgerald (1906-81).
Macmillan.
1953. 256 pages. $2.95
[Full review] Twin stranglings shock County Kerry community and company of strolling players; 'tis little enough sleep nice Supt. Duffy gets until killer is felled. Good color, background, nice characterization carry this one along. — Sergeant Cuff, "Criminal Record," THE SATURDAY REVIEW (February 27, 1960)
[Full review] I could not place the time in which this story was set. It is post-war but which war?.....The characters speak like people from the 1920s, so I am guessing it is WWI. Not that it matters much but it sometimes is helpful in order to make sense of situations and character reactions. Regardless, there is a little too much going on here involving some overly eccentric people and the story is very fragmented as we keep switching gears as to why the murder of a well liked young woman is committed and "who dunnit". The detective, Inspector Duffy, is almost incidental to the story. It is a pleasant read but certainly no classic. — Jill Hutchinson, GOODREADS (January 21, 2013)
[Full review] When a woman's body is discovered in the quiet Irish countryside, it seems obvious that a maniac is on the loose. But Superintendent Duffy wonders if there may not be a motive other than mania. No-one seems to have a motive for murdering Mary, except her sometimes beau, who has a firm alibi. There are two other women in the area, though, who are heiresses. Maybe someone wants to murder one of them? The story moves from a police procedural to something rather more eccentric, as a traveling theater troupe, a famously drunk society hostess, and Ireland's greatest painter all become involved in the crime. — Susan, GOODREADS (March 18, 2009)
[Full review] The setting, Ireland and its houses of quality, is a part of the brutal murder that also involves a touring Shakespearean company and the combination brews up into a nasty business for Superintendent Duffy. The killing and its small sinister accompaniments links into rural community affairs while an escaped incendiarist adds to the local confusion. Subtlety here sometimes overwhelms sense. — KIRKUS REVIEW
THE ROSY PASTOR.
By Nigel Fitzgerald (1906-81).
1954.
THE HOUSE IS FALLING.
By Nigel Fitzgerald (1906-81).
1955.
IMAGINE A MAN.
By Nigel Fitzgerald (1906-81).
1956.
THE STUDENT BODY.
By Nigel Fitzgerald (1906-81).
1958.

SUFFER A WITCH.
By Nigel Fitzgerald (1906-81).
1958.
[Review excerpt] . . . The vanishing is a genuine Carrian/Queenian miracle problem, well-presented, and there is impressive ratiocination concerning the identity of the murderer by Fitzgerald's series police detective, Superintendent Duffy. Local color is excellent and there are some fine eccentric Irish characters and even a love story.  . . . — Curt Evans, THE PASSING TRAMP (October 31, 2014)
THIS WON'T HURT YOU.
By Nigel Fitzgerald (1906-81).
Macmillan.
1959. $2.95
[Full review] Wrong injection throws London dental office into wild confusion; nice Supt. Laud of C.I.D. restores order and nabs killer. Extra-choice number, with A-1 comedy. — Sergeant Cuff, "Criminal Record," THE SATURDAY REVIEW (April 9, 1960)
[Full review] Scotland Yard is alert to any problems concerning the Armenian International Oil company, so misogynistic DS Laud and his sergeant Benson turn out for a minor burglary in the dentist's office that is located in the same building. That's how they become eyewitnesses to a murder, but still can't identify the criminal. Fitzgerald's first novel was set in rural Ireland, so central London is a big switch for him. — Susan, GOODREADS (March 9, 2014)
[Full review] This quotation from dental records turns out to be quite all wrong when, while Land [?] and Benson of Scotland Yard are investigating a theft in a combined dentists' offices, one partner is lethally administered a phenol injection by another instead of the regular anesthetic. From a kitful of oral practices to international oil dealings, to the probable identity of the intended victim, to fairly farcical happenings at a night club—this imposes detectives' dubiety upon professional paraphernalia in sometimes fragmented fashion. Nice touches give it a send-off. — KIRKUS REVIEW
THE CANDLES ARE ALL OUT.
By Nigel Fitzgerald (1906-81).
1960. $3.50
[Full review] Storm-bound actors on tour in Ireland confront unscheduled drama when lady house guest's body turns up in river; leading man plays sleuth. Conventional house-party job, with nice background. — Sergeant Cuff, "Criminal Record," THE SATURDAY REVIEW (February 25, 1961)
[Full review] An island, in Ireland, cut off by storm, is the refuge of a judge, an actor manager and two of his company, and two wanderers who are the guests of the owner and his niece. The escape of a prisoner, his connection with someone in the party and papers to prove his innocence add to the confusion when the owner's house guest is found dead and the actor manager, unhampered by police, hares to a melodramatic solution. Holds to the lightness of This Won't Hurt You. — KIRKUS REVIEW
GHOST IN THE MAKING.
By Nigel Fitzgerald (1906-81).
1960.
BLACK WELCOME.
By Nigel Fitzgerald (1906-81).
Macmillan.
1961. 192 pages. $3.50
[Full review] Yank visiting Western Ireland home of his forebears runs into double slaughter; fine Supt. Duffy asks plenty of questions. Firm job, with good scenery, well-drawn characters. — Sergeant Cuff, "Criminal Record," THE SATURDAY REVIEW (May 26, 1962)
[Full review] Hector O'Brien Moore has not visited Ireland since he was a child, but when he returns to his ancestral estate in western Ireland, he finds the place curiously deserted, save for a drunken servant and a dead body. The dead woman, English journalist Joan Allison, had been friendly with Hector's married cousin Dominic, whose two children disapproved of the rift between their parents. Cousins and curious farm folk confuse the issue, but fortunately Superintendent Duffy is on hand to tease out links between seemingly unrelated events. — Susan, GOODREADS (March 18, 2009)
THE DAY OF THE ADDER.
By Nigel Fitzgerald (1906-81).
Macmillan.
1963. 256 pages. $3.95
[a.k.a. ECHO ANSWERS MURDER]
[Full review] Supt. Duffy of Cork area toils overtime to solve killings on ancestral acres; few Irish eyes smile here. Excellent background, dialogue, characterization. — Sergeant Cuff, "Criminal Record," THE SATURDAY REVIEW (March 27, 1965)
[Full review] John Cane O'Corram returns to Torcleeve after his mother's death, and finds his old flame Nell waiting. John's new wife follows him from London, however, and is on hand when Nell's body is found. The O'Corrams become the main suspects, especially when they are less than frank with Superintendent Duffy, but there are others who may have had stronger motives for killing Nell. — Susan, GOODREADS (June 30, 2014)
[Full review] An Irish welcome in a most unusual guise awaits Hector O'Brien Moore, American representative of an Irish family. Nobody at the Shannon Airport; nobody at the house except a red haired girl, assigned to interview Hector—and a drunken family retainer. Everyone had no one of them airtight [?]. There were reasons for suspecting several people and then another death brought the matter right into the family. Superintendent Duffy finds abilities and intricacies and the necessity of handling sensitive, touch me not people a difficult challenge, but he narrows his case down to a reasonable conclusion. Good details of background and a way of life marred by some unbelievable people, to particular a smart girl child. — KIRKUS REVIEW
AFFAIRS OF DEATH.
By Nigel Fitzgerald (1906-81).
1967.
[Full description] At Dublin Airport Standish Wyse meets his pretty young cousin Juliet Carr; together they go bumping by bus across the Irish Midlands to the village of Rossderg. Wyse, an actor, is to holiday with friends including Stella Hazard – an old flame of whom he is still very fond.
An accident on a bicycle results in Wyse attending a curious party before he reaches his destination. At the party a harmless game gets out of hand, an attempt is made to cast a spell in an amateurish imitation of a black magic ritual. Soon after it looks as though the spell may actually have operated: two bloody and savage murders occur. — GOODREADS description

Category: Detective fiction

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Livingston, I Presume?

THE MONK OF HAMBLETON.
By Armstrong Livingston (1885 - ?).
International Fiction Library.
1928. 318 pages.
Online HERE and HERE.
Talk about a forgotten author! There's virtually nothing available on the WorldWideWeb about Armstrong Livingston except that he did turn his hand to detective fiction and sometimes got noticed, albeit often unfavorably, for it. See TomCat's review below for more.
[Full review] . . . Another small-town mystery is The Monk of Hambleton, which leads you, rather like "The Greene Murder" to two equally probable culprits—in this case to two confessions of guilt for the same crime. The way the actual criminal is disclosed in a single sentence on the last page is remarkable. — Gilbert Seldes, "An Outline of Mystery," THE BOOKMAN (September 1928; Jump To page 101, top right)
[Review excerpts] . . . The best way to describe the story is Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (1843) as perceived by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with a pinch of Scooby Doo. There's even a young, female investigative operative, named Kitty Doyle, who plays the Miss Climpson to Peter Creighton's Lord Peter Wimsey in the endgame of the story.  . . .
. . . Livingston has a nice, pleasant, albeit dated, writing style suiting the backdrop of a now bygone era, but the plotting was still (partly) in a previous era – making it not all that difficult to anticipate the eventual ending for the seasoned mystery reader. The normally clichéd ending of the dying murderer/confession was handled better that I could've hoped for. So there's that.  . . . — TomCat, BENEATH THE STAINS OF TIME (October 26, 2014)
A few other books and reviews where available:

~ THE MYSTERY OF THE TWIN RUBIES (1923).

~ THE JUJU MAN (1925) with Thomas H. Griffiths. Reviews HERE [Jump To page 500, top left] and HERE.
The authors of this weird and gory yarn seem to have taken it for granted that the perpetual slaughter of minor characters should constitute enough action to grip and satisfy the reader's appetite for adventure fiction.  . . .
~ ON THE RIGHT WRISTS (1925).

~ LIGHT-FINGERED LADIES (1927).

~ THE GUILTY ACCUSER (1928).

~ THE DOUBLECROSS (1929).

~ THE MONSTER IN THE POOL (1929). Review HERE [Jump To page 223, center of page].
. . . It is all quite light-hearted and giddy, with a highly irresponsible ending . . . .
~ THE MURDER TRAP (1930).

~ TRACKLESS DEATH (1930).

~ IN COLD BLOOD (1931).

~ MURDER IS EASY (1936). Review HERE.
To which of six potential heirs will Bellamy Batchelier leave his millions? That is his problem. Before he solves it, his own disappearance in puzzling circumstances falls to the police of a New England fishing village. "If this doesn't please you, you are very hard to please indeed." - Dorothy L. Sayers. — GOODREADS description
. . . You'll yawn.
~ NIGHT OF CRIME (1938). Review HERE.
. . . Mediocre.
~ MAGIC FOR MURDER (1945).
~ THE MURDERED AND THE MISSING (1947). Review HERE.
. . . Satisfactory.

Category: Detective fiction

Friday, October 31, 2014

True Crime Roundup IV

The '20s were a time of feverish activity in the fields of the arts, science, sports, politics—and crime.

~ "A Counter-Attack on Crime" (1922):
IF WE ASSUME that the first function of government is the protection of life and property, then government is failing in the United States, particularly in all the big cities, contends the New York World. In New York City, declares this paper, "crime is no longer an occupation; it is an industry, highly organized and directed with extraordinary cunning."  . . . — THE LITERARY DIGEST (March 4, 1922)
~ "Hair As a Detective" (1922):
A MICROSCOPIC STUDY OF HAIR for use in detective work has been made by the police department of Berkeley, Cal.  . . . material of this sort is being used by the Berkeley police, in solving crime mysteries, more extensively than in any other police department in America.  . . . — THE LITERARY DIGEST (April 1, 1922)
~ "Foiling Thieves with a Flexible Key" (1922):
A flexible key, one that will go into and work in a tortuous hole, has been developed in Germany. The many robberies that are constantly reported everywhere have created a demand for such a key.  . . . — THE LITERARY DIGEST (April 29, 1922)
~ "Conan Doyle's Heaven" (1922):
. . . Heaven is described by Conan Doyle, we read in newspaper reports, as the land of fulfilled ideals, the place where the disharmony and worry of this life are not, where the old resume young manhood and womanhood, and where children grow to maturity. Buildings and towns are there, and all our domestic animals; but everything is on a higher plane, where there is neither unhappi-ness nor wrong. In his creed, there is no such place as hell.  . . . — THE LITERARY DIGEST (May 6, 1922)
~ "Criminals on the Causes of Crime" (1922):
. . . "When he [a young man] gets into a life of stealing he finds that there are organized sets or gangs of thieves. He finds that they have their lawyers, that they have professional bondsmen and professional witnesses. He finds that the gang pools its procedure; that when he belongs to the gang that his chances of beating a case are good and he can go on stealing. He observes that the man who works alone easily gets caught and is put away."  . . . — THE LITERARY DIGEST (May 6, 1922)
~ "Ending the Narcotic Menace" (1922):
. . . It is not yet realized, we are told, that drug addiction is also rapidly spreading in this country, and that the habit of taking hypodermic "shots" and "sniffing coke" is becoming wide-spread among all classes of society, while the criminals are said to be finding opium a tonic for their trade.  . . . — THE LITERARY DIGEST (June 10, 1922)
~ "Sterner Justice for Criminals" (1922):
. . . "The trouble with the rules of evidence . . . is that the changes which have been made in them have been almost invariably in favor of the defendant."  . . . — THE LITERARY DIGEST (June 24, 1922)
~ "Ireland from a Scotland Yard Notebook" (1922) [12 pages]:
. . . From late September to the week before Christmas, when Archbishop Clune of Australia made his plea for a Truce of God, the rupture was complete. Both sides flooded the press with attacks; attempts were made to bomb the House of Commons; military activity in Ireland was multiplied and magnified.  . . . THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY (April 1922)
~ "Janus-Headed Ireland" (1922) [13 pages]:
. . . The United States was both the thorn and the rose of the Irish problem. . . — THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY (June 1922)
~ "America and the Opium Trade" (1922) [8 pages]:
. . . These smuggling gangs are powerful and well organized; and the profits are so enormous that the trade is well worth the risks involved. The conditions that exist in New York could be duplicated in other cities, both in Europe and America. At present, London and Paris papers contain almost daily accounts of raids on these peddlers and smugglers; and the reason that these cities are not as alive to the danger as ourselves is because of matters of public health are of less interest to Europeans than to Americans. The cause of this immense supply of drugs is the immense overproduction of opium, for which Great Britain is chiefly responsible.  . . . — THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY (June 1922)
~ "To Stop Automobile Bandits" (1922):
THE THOMPSON SUBMACHINE-GUN, intended to prevent getaways in motor-cars by gangs of robbers, has now shown its value as an effective weapon for this purpose . . . This weapon . . . is the lightest automatic gun in existence, weighing only 9½ pounds and firing .45-caliber bullets at the rate of 1,000 per minute.  . . . — THE LITERARY DIGEST (July 15, 1922)
~ "Bootlegging Airplanes" (1922):
These people are probably not smuggling rum.
. . . In course of time there must be a State police driving airplanes as well as riding horses. Then suspicious planes will be 'held up' or followed by 'traffic cops' lying along aerial routes connecting such cities as Montreal and New York.  . . . — THE LITERARY DIGEST (July 22, 1922)
~ "Murder by Wholesale" (1922):
. . . "Laws are the product of civilized society. They are made to protect the innocent and punish the guilty. When they fail in doing either one of these two things, they fail society, and society degenerates into savagery. Whenever you find a lax enforcement of law you find crime. Public officials can never have an alibi."  . . . — THE LITERARY DIGEST (July 22, 1922)
~ "Dime Novels in Lavender" (1922):
Time was when the very term "dime novel" sent a thrill of horror down the spine of many a worthy parent. The agency of dime novels was thought to be responsible for the moral downfall of youth in great numbers. Now that they no longer interest the young, their only place seems to be a museum . . . . — THE LITERARY DIGEST (July 29, 1922)
~ "Inkless Finger-Prints" (1922):
. . . police use of finger-prints, while still important, is numerically surpassed by commercial use.  . . . — THE LITERARY DIGEST (August 19, 1922)
Resource:
- Our last True Crime Roundup is HERE.

Category: True crime

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Who Was Dexter Drake?

The creation of pulp writer Elsa Barker, Dexter Drake appeared in both novels and short stories; his creator, however, preferred spending more time on Western romances and spiritualism (see the Wikipedia article HERE for more).

THE COBRA CANDLESTICK.
By Elsa Barker (1869-1954). 
J. H. Sears & Co.
1928. 293 pages. $2.00
[Full review] Somebody busted Mr. Marshbitter over the head with that old prop of the detective-fictioneers—the heavy blunt instrument. Yes, he was sitting in his library, and although the nearby landscape was fairly crawling with friends and relatives, nobody heard a sound or saw a sign of the murderer. Then in came the amateur sleuth—rather dumb, this one; and after that we got sort of mixed up. We guess the plot is all right, but we couldn't seem to get excited about it. We've read so many detective yarns lately that we have to have our suspense drawn pretty taut, and the rubber in this one was weak. Still, it has a map of the scene of the crime that you may like to puzzle over. — Walter R. Brooks, "Picked at Random," THE OUTLOOK (December 5, 1928)
[Full review] DEAD men tell no tales, and so John Marshbitter, having inadvertently found a strange letter that presaged evil, is murdered, leaving his entire family under an apparently impenetrable cloud of suspicion. Dexter Drake, master detective, solves the secret. — THE BOOKMAN (March 1929; Jump To page 126, middle)
[Review excerpt] . . . The outcome is a gratifying and complicated plot, which does a surprisingly competent job at directing attention away from the obvious suspect and dropping clues that played fair with the reader. The only blotch on the solution is that Dexter Drake withheld one piece of information . . . — Tom Cat, BENEATH THE STAINS OF TIME (January 14, 2012)
THE C.I.D. OF DEXTER DRAKE.
By Elsa Barker (1869-1954).
J. H. Sears & Co.
1929. 302 pages. $2.00
Collection: 10 stories.
It was unclear how many shorter stories the Drake character appeared in; this review says a dozen, but the FictionMags Index lists only ten (and one of those is questionable). Doug Greene, THE source for all things related to mystery and detective fiction, says FictionMags got it right:
[Full review] THESE twelve [sic] episodes of Dexter Drake, international detective, are the reminiscences of his assistant, Paul Howard. He reviews some of the most interesting and prominent cases in which his principal stepped in and succeeded where the police had failed. Those familiar with Drake's solution of the Cobra Candlestick case last year will be keenly interested in his newest exploits. — "Notes on New Books," THE BOOKMAN (December 1929)
The FictionMags listing of the Dexter Drake stories:
   (1) "The Mystery of Cabin 135" (ss), The Red Book Magazine, Dec 1925
   (2) "The Stains on the Mantel" (ss), The Red Book Magazine, Feb 1926
   (3) "The Sauerkraut Riddle" (ss), The Red Book Magazine, Mar 1926
   (4) "The Starbuck Puzzle" (ss), The Red Book Magazine, Jun 1926
   (5) "The Seven Threats" (ss), The Red Book Magazine, Aug 1926
   (6) "The Jade Earring" (ss), The Red Book Magazine, Nov 1926
   (7) "The Key in Michael" (nv?), The Red Book Magazine, Jan 1927 [reprinted in EQMM, May 1942 and AHMM, December 15, 1985]:
"In 1920, Dexter Drake solves a mixed-alphabet monoalphabetic substitution cipher that uses the numbers on a roulette wheel to mix the alphabet. The cipher message uncovers a puzzle in the form of a short poem that leads to a Russian family treasure. The story is very well written and plausible and there is a good discussion of Drake's thought processes as he unravels the mystery." — Cryptology in Fiction
   (8) "The Green Face" (ss), The Red Book Magazine, Mar 1927
   (9) "The Manicure Mystery" (ss), The Red Book Magazine, May 1927
   (10) "The Galt Case" (ss), The Red Book Magazine, Jul 1927
Resource:
- See Curt Evans's THE PASSING TRAMP HERE for more about Elsa Barker.

Category: Detective fiction