Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Dumpling: A Detective Love Story (1907).

"A great detective was lost to the world when it was decided that you should come into it wearing petticoats instead of a wig and a gown."—Coulson Kernahan, The Dumpling: A Detective Love Story of a Great Labour Rising, p. 206
After Paul Collins nominated The Dumpling: A Detective Love Story of a Great Labour Rising by British author Coulson Kernahan as "the most incoherent book title of 1907," I couldn't resist having a look.

In an opium den, Max Rissler, commissioned to write an article on such places, encounters a criminal dubbed The Dumpling, who has a Napoleon complex and mesmeric abilities. (The scene has echoes of Watson encountering a disguised Holmes in "The Man with the Twisted Lip.") The Dumpling plans to kidnap prominent men for ransom to promote a more egalitarian society. Rissler learns of the murder of his friend, private detective Robert Grant, at the hands of The Dumpling and vows revenge. Along the way, he is smitten by the forthright Kate Carleton, daughter of a millionaire.

The overheated narrative takes some time to get to the point, and the reader may weary of lots of anticapitalist declaiming by The Dumpling. A revolutionary uprising in London and the kidnapping of King Edward VII form the melodramatic climax.

Kernahan (1858–1943) was an author, critic, and poet, possibly best known for the book In Good Company (1917), which features his recollections of Swinburne, Wilde, and other literary lights.  Captain Shannon (1898), with Rissler in pursuit of an Irish anarchist (Kernahan's parents were Irish), may be of interest to mystery fans.

About the image: "There peered through a broken pane of glass. . . the white and wicked face of The Dumpling." Illustration by Stanley L. Wood for Coulson Kernahan's The Dumpling (New York: Dodge, 1907).

No comments: