Friday, May 15, 2020

"The Black Button Was a Harmless Thing, but It Represented a Speeding Limousine Filled with Desperate Gangsters"

POLICE PROCEDURES from eighty-six years ago, surprisingly enough, haven't really changed all that much; here's a story told from the other side of the microphone . . .

"The Radio Patrol."
By James Perley Hughes (1883-1969).

First appearance: Blue Book, June 1934.
Short short story (6 pages).
Online at (HERE).
     "A stirring drama of metropolitan police work."

It's great when you can outwit the bad guys by remote control . . .
Major characters:
~ Operator Harry Cassidy, Joe Halpin, Captain Michael McNab, and the Commissioner.

Photo by Berenice Abbott.
- "It's another Lindbergh or McMath case.": Sensational kidnapping crimes of the era. Lindbergh (1932): Wikipedia (HERE); McMath (1933): The Boston Globe (HERE) and 

eFootage (HERE; good luck).
- "Meantime teletype machines were buzzing.": They go back a surprisingly long way in history. "A teleprinter (teletypewriter, teletype or TTY) is an electromechanical device 
that can be used to send and receive typed messages through various communications channels, in both point-to-point and point-to-multipoint configurations. Initially they were used in telegraphy, which developed in the late 1830s and 1840s as the first use of elec-
trical engineering, though teleprinters were not used for telegraphy until 1887 at the ear-
liest." (Wikipedia HERE and The History of Policing in the City of New York HERE).
- "Street call boxes": Necessary before radio and cell phones. "Police call boxes were installed in large cities beginning in the 1880s and continuing until the 1960s. They 
were used by officers that 'walked a beat.' Officers were required to 'pull a box' every 
hour to confirm they were on patrol, to report crimes, to request a 'paddy wagon' for 
the transportation of prisoners and to receive information from dispatch. With the 
invention of two-way radios and most recently cell phones, police call boxes have 
become a thing of the past. Police call boxes utilized two technologies: telegraph 
and telephone." (Law Enforcement Services HERE).
- The FictionMags Index (HERE) lists a large collection of stories by James Perley Hughes starting in 1921 and ending nearly thirty years later in 1952; in between he was published in both the slicks like Blue Book and the pulps, including Argosy All-Story, War Birds and Sky Birds (he produced quite a lot of aviation yarns), and Western Story Magazine, but relatively few crime stories. Among the last he had a couple of series tecs who didn't last long: Mort Holborn, 4 adventures for Gold Seal Detective, 1935-36; and Ted Bosworth, 2 stories for Secret Agent X, 1936.
- Hughes's grave is in the United States, but his remains are elsewhere: "Although his third wife had a headstone placed here [Bay County, Florida], he actually moved to Progreso, Yucatan, Mexico and married again to Berta Solis. He died August 10, 1969 and was buried 
at the cemetery general, Progreso, Yucatan, Mexico." (Find a Grave HERE).

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