[Manuscript of William F. Vassall’s 1916 New York City Mystery “Pearls and Canes,” published in Detective Story Magazine].
A Sherlockian case of stolen pearls solved by an American consulting detective team
Manuscript fair copy of the detective story “Pearls and Canes” by mystery writer William F. Vassall. Set in New York City, the short story recounts the mysterious theft of a pearl necklace.
Handling the case are the cool Mr. Thorne and his hapless assistant George Barron. This Sherlockian couple—with Barron playing the amanuensis and hapless assistant role of “Dr. Watson” to Thorne’s “Sherlock Holmes”—are consulted by a woman who is expecting a messenger in disguise bearing a valuable parcel.
The woman explains that the messenger, who arrives by ship the next day, will be delivering to her a pearl necklace given to her by her father. Her father, who had long worked in India, had the pearls made into a necklace by a London jeweler. A telegram from a Detective Murdock of Scotland Yard urges her to have a detective meet the boat. George Barron—“silly as a goose” in an emergency—goes to meet the vessel. What could go wrong?
As the messenger, disguised as a man limping with a cane, debarks the ship, he is jostled on the gangplank by a “drunken ruffian” and his cane is stolen—a hollow cane in which he had hidden the pearl necklace. Barron is distraught:
I was helpless—unequal to the emergency. The only practicable thing to do was to go to Thorne and admit the failure. The necklace had been stolen before my very eyes, and here, after more than half an hour I had accomplished nothing toward recovering it. To set Thorne on the case at once was now the only hope. (p)
As it happens in many a Sherlock Holmes story, Thorne the master detective was also there at the dock in disguise. How will the mystery be solved?
William F. Vassall’s short story “Pearls and Canes” was published in the January 20, 1916 issue of Detective Story Magazine. It was the first story he had published in that magazine.
Between January 1916 and August 1918, ten stories by Vassall were published in Detective Story Magazine. In addition, he was also the author of the 309-page novel Under the Skin (1923), published in Brooklyn by F. Stone Williams Co.
The manuscript for “Pearls and Canes” is arranged in seven parts; each leaf comprising two manuscript pages is a discrete part. Parts I-V end with the tantalizing phrase “To Be Continued,” Part VI with “To be Concluded,” and the final part ending, yes, “The End.” This arrangement suggests that Vassal’s story was intended to be serialized.
Was it published in a newspaper as a serial before it made its appearance in Detective Story Magazine? Is this manuscript fair copy in Vassall’s own hand? Mysteries abound…
Description: [Manuscript of William F. Vassall’s 1916 New York City Mystery “Pearls and Canes,” published in Detective Story Magazine].
[Np, c.1916]. pp. Manuscript Fair Copy. Seven 8vo. leaves. Folds, very good.