Sunday, February 5, 2017

"I Believe in Scientific Methods in Crime Detection, Of Course, but I Do Not Believe They Have Yet Reached the Stage Where They Can Begin to Supplant the Tried and Tested Methods of Scotland Yard"

SOMETIMES EDITORS seem to be tone-deaf. When this story was first published, the telegraphic chapter headings, later added by Amazing's editor Hugo Gernsback, weren't there; if you skip over those as you read, you might enjoy it more.

"The White Gold Pirate."
By Merlin Moore Taylor (1886-?).
First appearance: Serialized in Illustrated World, October, November, December 1922 (HERE).
Reprinted in The Regent Magazine, June 1924, and Amazing Stories, April 1927.
Short story (13 pages).
Online at Comic Book Plus (HERE) (select page 31).
(Note: Text is faded but legible.)
"The white gold in this amazing scientific detective tale is, of course, platinum, which is far more precious than gold. It is a story in which science is used at every angle to defeat the criminal—a plausible story, too, that sweeps you along with it until the final denouement. The X-ray episode is particularly interesting an account of its true scientific aspect. We assure you a good half hour's reading in this story."
Chapter I: "A Suspicious Offer by Telephone, for the Sale of Platinum to the Government":
   Robert Goodwin is a scientist, inventor, and the head of a group of experimental labora-tories who, along with the Department of Justice (DOJ), has been anticipating that he would soon be contacted by a mysterious individual known to only a few as "The White Gold Thief," and sure enough he gets a phone call from the super criminal offering hundreds of ounces of platinum at a hundred dollars an ounce. The question on Goodwin's mind, and everybody else's who's in the know, is just where is this platinum coming from? There haven't been any reported cases of large-scale theft so far.

Chapter II: "Setting the Trap for the Suspected Thief; It Is Believed the Metal Has Been Stolen from Government Vaults":
   Goodwin and his DOJ pal Barry, a detective, decide to go after the platinum pirate independently, with Barry using "tried and tested" detective methods and Goodwin going about it more scientifically. "Why not eliminate the human element as represented by detectives and their stool pigeons," argues Goodwin, "with all of a human being's liability 
to err badly and often, and substitute the inventions and devices of science which cannot 
go wrong?"

Chapter III: "A Sample of the Platinum Is Left for the Purchaser to Examine":
   Overnight the thief manages to leave a little platinum in Goodwin's lab unobserved; through careful analysis Goodwin believes he knows where that sample came from.

Chapter IV: "Some Detective Work à la Sherlock Holmes":
   The authorities just miss catching the thief, but Goodwin dazzles his federal agent friend with this Sherlockian characterization based primarily on a few hair strands: ". . . the pirate 
is a man in his thirties, fair skinned, wears his hair brushed back from the forehead and rather long. Also he is tall, a neat dresser and left-handed."

Chapter V: "The Clues Interpreted Give the Appearance of the Criminal":
   Goodwin impresses Barry again when he comes up with another sample, this one of the pirate's voice.

Chapter VI: "The Government Vault Is X-rayed by the Detectives":
   Goodwin and Barry travel to the depository from which, Barry maintains, none of the platinum could have been stolen without being detected.

Chapter VII: "It Is Ascertained That Platinum Has Been Taken from the Vault":
   After X-raying the storage vault, it seems as if Goodwin has been wrong, until he stumbles across a box that should be lighter than it is.

Chapter VIII: "Taking Finger Prints from a Bottle Which the Thief Had Used As a Missile":
   A violent assault leaves behind some telltale evidence, confirming for the investigators that the theft was an inside job all along.

Chapter IX: "Arrival of the Conspirators by the Air-Route. The Pursuit. The Airplane Disabled":
   As usual, the bad guys foolishly fall into a trap.

Chapter X: "The Intricate Plot Unravelled and the Guilt of the Conspirators Proved":
   The final confirmation comes with the aid of, would you believe, a sphygmomanomoter.
- According to the ISFDb (HERE), our author produced only two stories that could be class-ified as SFF; FictionMags's description: "Journalist and writer; spent time in Papua"—and wrote about it (HERE).
- If you want to know everything about platinum, go (HERE) and (HERE); as for how precious (and pricey) platinum has been to the world market (around a thousand dollars an ounce this afternoon), see (HERE).

The bottom line:
   I shoot the Hippopotamus
       With bullets made of platinum,
   Because if I use leaden ones
       His hide is sure to flatten 'em.
   — Hillaire Belloc

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