Tue 17 Sep 2013
William F. Deeck
“DIPLOMAT” – Murder in the State Department. Jonathan Cape & Harrison Smith, hardcover, 1930.
“Diplomat” dedicates this, his first mystery, to the “pacifists and bootleggers of the United States, without whom the author would have been at a loss for a motive for a murder in the State Department.” This gives you some idea of the tone of the book, and those who are neither pacifists nor bootleggers may read safely on with the pleasant anticipation that someone else’s ox will be gored.
A guard at the State Department finds Harrison “Handsome” Howard in his office, a steel filing spike transfixing a top-secret unsigned treaty, Howard’s hand, and Howard’s heart, in that order. Also in the office is a revolver with a silencer, unused.
(Who is it that makes silencers for revolvers? Does anyone outside the characters in mysteries purchase them? Why is there never dissatisfaction with their performance?)
Only one other person is working in the building — Howard’s rival for position and prestige. He, however, has an unimpeachable alibi. Dennis Tyler, Chief of the Bureau of Current Political Intelligence (Now there’s an oxymoron! Oops. Sorry.) has a low opinion of police investigators, so he takes charge.
Tyler talks like a mixture of Bertie Wooster and Reggie Fortune; his intellect, at least to this reader, is closer to Bertie’s than Reggie’s. Still, he does come up with the solution, which is for the most part plausible. Those who can accept an exchange like the following with good heart and maybe even appreciation should enjoy the novel:
“Ether?” Nichols suggested.
“Either that or something like it,” Tyler admitted.
Amiable nonsense, for which I admit a weakness.
Bibliographic Notes: “Diplomat” was, according to Hubin, the pseudonym of John Franklin Carter, 1897-1967. According to Wikipedia, Carter was an American journalist, columnist, biographer and novelist. Dennis Tyler appeared in all of the novels Carter wrote under that name, as follows:
Murder in the Embassy (n.) Cape & Smith 1930.
Scandal in the Chancery (n.) Cape & Smith 1931.
The Corpse on the White House Lawn (n.) Covici Friede 1932.
Death in the Senate (n.) Covici Friede 1933.
Slow Death at Geneva (n.) Coward 1934.
The Brain Trust Murder (n.) Coward 1935.
Al Hubin reviewed this same title earlier on this blog; you may check it out here. In the course of the review and the update that followed, much more information about the author was supplied. (You may also enjoy Al’s opinion of the book, and compare it with Bill had to say.)