Footner, Hulbert: Thieves' Wit ... V1 21 Mar 2010
Hamilton, Ontario born novelist Hulbert Footner (2 Apr 1879 – 25 Nov 1944), wrote about what he knew: canoeing, New York and Chesapeake Bay. He moved to New York City as teenager, dabbled in acting (he toured briefly with William Gillette's Sherlock Holmes) and wrote magazine articles while supporting himself working as a clerk at a financial firm. As a freelancer for the New York Herald and Calgary Morning Albertan, he sent dispatches from two major canoeing adventures through north western Canada. Out of these flowed romantic novels and enough to purchase a summer home, "Charles' Gift", in MD and among the oldest homes in America. He continued to write magazine articles, plays for Broadway but soon turned to popular detective mystery novels beginning with The Fugutive Sleuth in 1916. He eventually wrote nearly 60 books, including an affectionate look at New York, histories of Maryland and about thirty mysteries. Madame Rosika Storey and Amos Lee Mappin were his two principle recurring sleuths, both fondly remembered today although his works are largely out of print.
His second mystery, Thieves' Wit, 1918, received glowing praise in the New York Times: "is a distinctly clever and entertaining yarn which no one who believes in keeping early hours ought to begin before bedtime". It was also praised for featuring human characters than "the puppets one usually meets in a detective story".
Detective Ben Enderby relates the tale of his first case – in the first person as a sort of precursor to Raymond Chandler – in which he gets involved in the theft of a wonderful necklace of blue pearls belonging to noted actress Irma Hamerton. On the trail, he uncovers an organized gang of criminals and receives various reports from agents and a mysterious "JM". He's also joined by Sadie Farrell, with whom he is in love, who fancies herself a proto-detective as well. The stylistic shifts between first person, character dialog and sundry written dispatches from JM and Enderby's agents, make an engaging read with no fear of monotony.