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).

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)
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
- See Curt Evans's THE PASSING TRAMP HERE for more about Elsa Barker.

Category: Detective fiction

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