Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, May 31, 2019


"The Bacteriological Detective" by Arthur B. Reeve (first published in Cosmopolitan, February 1911; reprinted in Reeve's The Silent Bullet:  The Adventures of Craig Kennedy, Scientific Detective, 1912; later reprinted in Scientific Detective Monthly, February 1930 and in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, September 2003)

Craig Kennedy was America's answer to Sherlock Holmes.  A Columbia university professor aided by his "Watson," roommate and newspaperman Walter Jameson, Kennedy used the latest in scientific knowledge and machinery to solve seemingly unsolvable cases.  He first appeared in "The Case of Helen Bond" in the December 1910 issue of Cosmopolitan.  He made another 81 appearances in that magazine, ending in August 1918.  His adventures continues in many other magazines and many of his later appearances appear to have been ghost-written.  Four collections and 26 novels eventually appeared about the hero, ending in 1936.  Kennedy also appeared in two movie serials and in a 1951 television program, Craig Kennedy, Criminologist.

After gaining fame with the creation of Craig Kennedy, Arthur B. Reeve began writing film scripts in 1914, peaking "in 1919-1920, when his name appeared on seven films, most of them serials, three of them starring Harry Houdini."  When the film industry substantially moved to Hollywood, Reeve remained behind in New York.  Reeve entered a contract with Harry K. Thaw (the man who murdered Stanford White in 1906  and was found not guilty  by reason of insanity) to produce scenarios about fake spiritualism.  Thaw refused to honor the contract, forcing Reeve into bankruptcy.  Reeve was k own as an anti-racketeering advocate, hosting a radio show in the early 1930s.  He also was known to have been a consultant for the FBI.

"The Bacteriological Detective" has Kennedy investigating the mysterious death of millionaire Jim Bisbee, who recently died of typhoid fever in a private hospital.  Bisbee had recently been to his country house when five of his employees were struck with the disease.   A noted germaphobe, Bisbee retreated to his New York apartment, where he came down with typhoid a few days after.

To solve the case, Kennedy used microbiology, as well as the emerging sciences of fingerprinting and handwriting analysis and the practice of immunology.  In a case easily solved by the modern reader, Kennedy's investigation provided ample excitement and wonder for the readers of the time.

Along the way, Reeve bemoans the good old days.  "We [Kennedy and Jameson] had commented on the artificiality of the twentieth century.  No longer did people have homes; they had apartments, I had said.  They didn't fall ill in the good old-fashioned way any more, either -- in fact, they hired special rooms to die in.  They hired hall for funeral services.  It was a wonder they didn't hire graves.  It was all part of out twentieth century break-up of tradition."

An interesting story, quaint and fastly read.  Not everyone's cup of tea, though.

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