If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

October Interviews

10/07 M.E. Browning, Shadow Ridge

10/14 Alexia Gordon

10/21 Adam Meyer

10/28 Barbara Ross, Jane Darrowfield and the Madwoman Next Door

October Guest Bloggers

10/03 Kathleen Kalb

10/17 S. Lee Manning

10/31 Sharon Dean

WWK Weekend Bloggers

10/10 Jennifer J. Chow

10/24 Kait Carson


For The Love Of Lobster Tales by Shari Randall is now available to download free for a limited time. Go to Black Cat Mysteries at: https://bcmystery.com/ to get your free copy! Thanks for the freebie, Shari.

Keenan Powell recently signed with agent Amy Collins of Talcott Notch. Congratulations, Keenan!

KM Rockwood's "Secrets To The Grave" will appear in the new SinC Chesapeake Chapter's new anthology Invitation To Murder, which will be released by Wildside Press on 10/6.

Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!

Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!

Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!


Monday, November 4, 2013

Vintage Volumes: Thirty Years a Detective

"We Never Sleep"

In the late 1800s, a series of books was published by Allan Pinkerton, the Ur-detective who gave his name to one of the world’s most famous security companies.
There is some doubt as to the extent of Allan Pinkerton’s participation in the series of “Great Detective Books” – so many experts state that ghostwriters were used that I will say that “Pinkerton” was the author – but there is no doubt that Thirty Years a Detective is a lace curtained but grimy window onto morality and crime circa 1880. The prose is purple, the detectives noble, the criminals (“knights of darkness”) detestable but well dressed and improbably well mannered. If you are writing historical fiction, this book is a gold mine.
Plus, it’s a ripping read! Thirty Years a Detective is an unintentional how-to for criminals, replete with stories of justice served, spiced with a surprisingly sultry chapter on a scamming seductress for good measure.
If you didn’t know how to run a confidence scheme, rob a steamboat, bilk society worthies, or break into hotel rooms, you will after reading this book. In each chapter on different flavors of criminal - The Society Thief, The Pickpocket, Store Robbers, The “Boodle Game” (“cupidity greater than judgment”), Sneak Thieving, Palace Car Thieves (“Mr. Potter Loses some Diamonds”), Steamboat Operators, Confidence and Blackmail (“The Confidence Man About Town”), The Burglar (“Burglars and dynamite”), Forgers and Forging, Counterfeiting and Counterfeiters, and the Express Robber - “Pinkerton” helpfully delineates each stage of the criminal’s work.
With diagrams.
Thirty Years a Detective by Alan Pinkerton
The great detective invariably praises the intelligence, wiliness, and preparation of what we would call the perpetrator, the better to showcase the intelligence, wiliness, and preparation of the Pinkerton Operatives who take them down.
The author, an émigré from Scotland, often mentions the superiority of the American criminal, American criminals being more apt to fashion their own burglar tools to break into tough-to-crack bank vaults and homes. Even then, Americans were leveraging technology to get the job done.
He also includes what we’d call the Dumb Criminal file (“The Biter Bitten”), a tale of two of New York’s most brazen confidence men being fleeced by a cowboy cousin.
The chapter on the seductive scammer, titled “A Social Leper,” breathlessly inspires all Fifty Shades of “Pinkerton’s” Violet Verbiage.
He begins on this somber note: “Crime, I regret to say, is not entirely confined to the male portion of humanity…. I am reluctant to confess it, but her fair fingers have more than once been bathed in blood.” What an introduction! We set aside our refined cup of tea for a delicious wallow in the account of Helen Graham, a tale of “genuine romantic deviltry.” The pages turn themselves.
“Pinkerton” describes Graham as “truly beautiful, her eyes beamed with a bright softness that own the hearts of those around her.” Graham’s scam was answering help wanted ads and then accusing the respectable businessmen she visited of “accosting her with most vile and degrading proposals.” She then flung cayenne pepper into the eyes of the businessman to ensure he’d have to call for help - and witnesses. Accosting ladies with vile proposals got you arrested in 1884. Her mark, Mr. Ingalls, did not give in to her blackmail and hired “trusty detectives.”
Thank goodness Ingalls’ trusty detectives – “Pinkerton’s” modesty does not permit him to spell out the identity of those detectives - revealed Graham as a “beautiful fiend whose seductive wiles had been the ruin of many who had been led by the witching spell of her charms into the abyss of moral destruction.” Whew! Bring me my fan! These operatives discovered that Helen Graham was actually Mary Freeland, a barmaid who left a trail of dozens of duped men from a dockside London bar to the palatial homes of Manhattan. “Pinkerton” devotes several heavy breathing but disapproving pages to the tale of her depraved descent into “genuine romantic deviltry.” Take that, E. L. James!
As you can see from the above excerpts, one also wonders if the ghostwriter was paid by the word.
The inside cover advertisement for the other books in the series Allan Pinkerton’s Great Detective Books contains this blurb: “The interest which the reader feels from the outset is intense and resistless; he is swept along by the narrative, held by it, whether he will or no.”
Translation to Modern Book Cover: “A thrill ride!”
Selling on abebooks.com for $98.42, Thirty Years a Detective is a priceless window into the past. You can check out “Pinkerton’s” adventures, which are accessible online free through many digital libraries such as projectgutenberg.org.


Jim Jackson said...

I’m in the midst of reading the memoirs of Daniel Drew – one of the first great American financial swindlers. And boy, was he proud of it. Famous for his “work” with the Erie Railroad. These old books are fun both for the deeds and the prose.

~ Jim

Warren Bull said...

Sounds like a really interesting read.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Wow, Shari! I'm envious. I want that book. It sounds fascinating!

Gloria Alden said...

What a fun read that would be, Shari. Is it only available as a vintage book at a sizable price? I once heard about some detective author from the 20s or early 30s and because of his over the top descriptions and plots, etc. he had acquired a large following of readers today. I was able to get a copy of one of his books, but I forget his name now so I can't even locate the book on my shelves, if I still have it.

Patg said...

Shari, very funny. Thanks for the more than interesting description.

Kara Cerise said...

Fascinating stories, Shari. I suppose flinging cayenne pepper is the equivalent of using pepper spray.

I'll have to put this book on my wish list.

Paula Gail Benson said...

I agree. This is a book I would definitely like to read. Thanks for introducing it to us, Shari!

Shari Randall said...

Jim, I am going to have to check out Daniel Drew - and his "work"

Warren, Linda, and Pat - thank you for stopping by - the nice thing is that all of "Allan Pinkerton's" work is in the public domain, so you can find the books for free online. No big payment to abebooks required.

Gloria - those hardboiled detective novelists from the 20s and 30s are fun to read. Many of the books from this series are available for free online since they are not under copyright anymore.

Kara - I am still laughing - you are so right - it was an early version of pepper spray!

E. B. Davis said...

Traveling yesterday, Shari. Sounds as if Pinkerton knew the PR game, and he hired ghostwriters to account for his exploits. Sounds like a fun read!

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