Thursday, June 16, 2016

"There's No One Easier to Out-Fox Than the Human Fox"

"The Perfect Victim."
By J. Lane Linklater (Alexander William Watkins, 1892-1971).
First appearance: Detective Fiction Weekly, July 4, 1936.
Short story (12 pages).
Online at UNZ HERE.
"Paul C. Pitt, Modern Robin Hood and Inventor of Smart Methods, Comes to Grips with an Unscrupulous Banker—and Faces the Toughest Problem of His Mad, Perambulating Career"
Even in the smallest village there lurks evil. The moment he enters a little town out in the middle of nowhere Paul Pitt senses it, good people being oppressed by a petty tyrant:

   ". . . there's drama here, Dan—drama under the most placid surfaces. Drama — and misplaced wealth!"

Sure, Pitt is no angel (he is, in fact, a con man), but there are limits. Sizing up the situation, he evolves a clever plan to put things right. As he says:

   "There's no one easier to hoodwink than the legitimate crook. There's no one easier to take things away from than the man who wants everything for himself. And the desire for revenge endows such a man with all the attributes of a perfect victim!"

Main characters:
~ Paul C. Pitt, a horseless Lone Ranger:
   "You and your good people are in trouble. Perhaps I can help you. But I can do nothing unless you talk."
~ Dan, Pitt's limousine driver:
    ". . . geez, boss, I don't see how you're gonna make out. You give away most of your dough. You oughter take care of yourself, huh?"
~ The garrulous drug store clerk:
   "The free movement of information is one of the charms of a place like this. Everybody knows about everybody else. And there's no greater storehouse of information than the drug store."
~ Tom Lake, the reticent prospector:
   "I'd trust you anywhere, Mr. Pitt, although I know you're a much smarter man than I am. In fact, I think you're the smartest man I ever met."
~ Mrs. Lake, Tom's wife:
   "Mrs. Lake's lips seemed to tremble a little at the mention of the money. She was, apparent-ly, on the point of yielding. But the man standing in the room came forward, put his hand on his wife's shoulder."
~ Anna Lake, their daughter:
   "You're just another crook, Mr. Pitt!"
~ Mr. Kupp, president of the Bank of Buling:
   "Sitting at a desk, partially concealed by a partition, was a short, broad man whose thin lips were twisted in a never-wearying smile, but whose eyes were fixed and cold with the chill cunning of an ancient fox."
~ Clarence Kupp:
   "A young man wanted me to marry him. His name is Clarence Kupp, and his father is the banker here. But I don't even like him. I turned him down. His father blamed my father, so ever since he's hated dad."
~ Eggas, "pretty sure to be at the pool hall":
   ". . . furtive, dirty, dull-eyed . . ."

- Other Depression era semi-honest characters in the Paul Pitt vein include The Patent Leather Kid (HERE) and Mr. Amos Clackworthy (HERE).
- Like many other pulpsters of the era J. Lane Linklater had several series characters appear-ing in the magazines at the same time (at those pay rates, they practically had to): Paul C. Pitt; Hugo Oakes, lawyer-detective (see Monte Herridges's Mystery*File article about Oakes HERE); Sergeant "Hardboiled" Karney; Sad Sam Salter; and Roy Quick (one story only, apparently). Here are the Paul C. Pitt stories, four of which are readily available online (information from FictionMags; "(ss)" signifies a short story):

   (1) "The Face of Excitement" (ss) Detective Fiction Weekly, May 30, 1936
   (2) "The Wager" (ss) Detective Fiction Weekly, June 27, 1936
   (3) "The Perfect Victim" (ss) Detective Fiction Weekly, July 4, 1936 [online HERE]
   (4) "A Message from Philly" (ss) Detective Fiction Weekly, July 11, 1936
   (5) "Something for the Sheriff" (ss) Detective Fiction Weekly, August 8, 1936 [online HERE]
   (6) "The Prescription" (ss) Detective Fiction Weekly, September 5, 1936 [online HERE]
   (7) "Hooded Heads" (ss) Detective Fiction Weekly, September 26, 1936
   (8) "Mr. Dillping to Mr. Skutter" (ss) Detective Fiction Weekly, October 3, 1936 [online HERE]
   (9) "A Hundred a Minute" (ss) Detective Fiction Weekly, December 12, 1936 [online HERE]
   (10) "Meet Me in Jail" (ss) Detective Fiction Weekly, December 26, 1936
   (11) "Missing Money" (ss) Detective Fiction Weekly, February 27, 1937
   (12) "The King Goes Mad" (ss) Detective Fiction Weekly, April 10, 1937
   (13) "One More Alias" (ss) Detective Fiction Weekly, October 9, 1937
   (14) "The Road to Hazard" (ss) Detective Fiction Weekly, April 26, 1941
   (15) "Golden Ghosts" (ss) Detective Fiction, August 20, 1941
   (16) "A Copper for Breakfast" (ss) Double Detective, March 1943.

The bottom line: "The petty thief is imprisoned but the big thief becomes a feudal lord."
Zhuang Zhou

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