Wednesday, November 16, 2016

"Oh, Prophetic Soul! The Rubies Were Gone, and the Box Was Empty!"

GRANT ALLEN is known primarily to mystery aficionados because of his widely reprinted "African Millionaire" story series featuring roguish Colonel Clay, but Allen also produced other crime fiction like "A Deadly Dilemma" (below), which saw publication in the very first issue of George Newnes's magazine, The Strand, soon to be famous for stories featuring the world's first, and only, consulting detective.

"A Deadly Dilemma."
By Grant Allen (1848-99).
First appearance: The Strand, January 1891.
Short story (8 pages, with 8 illos).
Online at (HERE).
"For another indivisible second of time Ughtred Carnegie's soul was the theatre of a terrible and appalling struggle. What on earth was he to do? Which of the two was he to sacrifice? Should it be murder or treachery?"
A lovers' spat unexpectedly leads to a life-and-death situation for both of them.

Main characters:
~ Netta Mayne:
   "The ways of women are wonderful; no mere man can fathom them."
~ Ughtred Carnegie:
   "She wouldn't allow him to see her home, to be sure, and that being so, he was too much of a gentleman to force himself upon her. But he was too much a man, too, to let her find her way back so late entirely by herself. Unseen himself, he must still watch over her. Against her will, he must still protect her."
~ ~ ~
"The Great Ruby Robbery: A Detective Story."
By Grant Allen (1848-99).
First appearance: The Strand, October 1892.
Short story (12 pages, with 7 illos).
Online at (HERE).
"I told you the very last person you'd dream of suspecting was sure to be the one that actually did it."
To her very great annoyance, Persis will discover what magicians have known for centuries: The hand is quicker than the eye.

Principal characters:
~ Persis Remanet, an American heiress:
   ". . . [who] as a free-born American citizen, was quite as well able to take care of herself, the wide world over, as any three ordinary married Englishwomen."
~ Sir Justin O'Byrne, an acquaintance:
   "Sir Justin was one of those charming, ineffective, elusive Irishmen whom everybody likes and everybody disapproves of. He had been everywhere, and done everything—except to earn an honest livelihood."
~ Lady Maclure, a gracious hostess:
   "All the diamond-cutters in the world are concentrated in Amsterdam; and the first thing a thief does when he steals big jewels is to send them across, and have them cut in new shapes so that they can't be identified."
~ Bertha, a lady's maid:
   "Such a nice, noiseless girl; moves about the room like a cat on tiptoe; knows her proper place, and never dreams of speaking unless she's spoken to."
~ Harry, the postman:
   "There was a minute's pause, inarticulately filled up by sounds unrepresentable through the art of the type-founder. Then Harry spoke again. 'It's an awful lot of money!' he said, musing. 'A regular fortune!'"
~ Officer Gregory, a police detective:
   "Nobody was safe from his cultivated and highly-trained suspicion—not Sir Everard in his studio, nor Lady Maclure in her boudoir, nor the butler in his pantry, nor Sir Justin O'Byrne in his rooms in St. James's. Mr. Gregory kept an open mind against everybody and every-thing. He even doubted the parrot, and had views as to the intervention of rats and terriers."
- There is a Wikipedia article about Grant Allen (HERE) and a website dedicated to him (HERE); also see Mike Grost's page on Allen (HERE).
- You can find Allen's An African Millionaire (1897) at Project Gutenberg Australia (HERE) and Project Gutenberg (HERE).
- Allen also wrote a dozen stories for The Strand featuring Miss Lois Cayley, which were collected in book form in 1899; go to Project Gutenberg Australia (HERE) for those. Mike Grost (HERE) writes about the Miss Cayley stories:
"The tales form a story sequence, with each story building on characters and plot developments that have been introduced in previous ones. Most of the stories are not detective tales, in any sense of the word. Some are romances, some social comedies, others adventure tales. . . Eventually, this story sequence turns into something of a novel. The last stories in the book all deal with one common mystery case, whose unraveling carries over from story to story. The individual tales become episodes in the working out of this mystery. I cannot think of any other Victorian or Edwardian sequences that work this way — most of them have a self contained mystery in each short. Each story does have its own subject matter — one deals with a courtroom drama, another with a suspenseful chase — and its own tone. The whole thing produces a mosaic effect. . . Because of its unity of plot, readers should probably read all of Miss Cayley's Adventures, and in order, to get the book's full effect. This does not mean all chapters are equally good, far from it . . . ."

The bottom line: "Whatever hysteria exists is inflamed by mystery, suspicion and secrecy. Hard and exact facts will cool it."
Elia Kazan

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