Tuesday, March 4, 2014

"Melodrama Running Amuck"

By Rupert Hughes (1872-1956).
Harper & Brothers.
1915. 606 pages.
Filmed in 1918.
Online HERE and HERE.
In his lifetime, Rupert Hughes was a multimedia presence in print, theater, and the movies; he was also related to the reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes.

Perhaps it's a good thing Hughes didn't try to write more mysteries:
Empty Pockets, by Rupert Hughes, is a queer conglomeration of minute realistic studies of the New York slums, fantastic pictures of fashionable life verging upon burlesque, and a glorified Nick Carteresque series of abductions, seductions and sudden deaths that can only be described as melodrama running amuck. And yet the reviewer must plead guilty to having enjoyed himself immensely in reading, and having, what is more, read it slowly, to make it last the longer.
The volume opens with a promising mystery. On top of one of the most sordid and grimy tenements in the unsavoury neighbourhood of Allen Street, a certain Perry Merithew, model of fashion, incurable spendthrift and ruiner of women's reputations, is found dead, and still grasping in his clenched hand the severed tips of some copper-coloured tresses.
Now, it would seem a simple task for a detective to discover what women, with copper-coloured tresses, had played a part in the life of so scandalously well known a personage as Perry Merithew. But when it develops that he had a predilection for hair of that special hue, and that his fair friends possessing it included a Polish cloak model, a society girl of fragile reputation, a vicious little cabaret singer and the pampered daughter of New York's leading millionaire, it becomes evident that the detective's task is less simple than was expected.
Much of the narrative takes us on breathless and utterly impossible taxi-cab chases through midnight streets, with gun-men shooting recklessly, and hitting everything excepting what they aim at. But the moving pictures have been educating the public to believe in the preposterous. And it is no more than fair to accredit Mr. Hughes with having succeeded in reducing a typical photoplay melodrama to the more difficult medium of printer's-ink. — Frederic Taber Cooper, "Some Novels of the Month," THE BOOKMAN (July 1915; scroll to page 550)
- A Wikipedia article about the author is HERE.
- More about Hughes's Hollywood involvement is HERE and HERE.

Category: Detective fiction

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