C. S. MONTAYNE “The Perfect Crime.” Short story. Rider Lott #1. First appeared in Black Mask, July 1920 (Vol.1, No.4). Reprinted in The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps, edited by Otto Penzler (Vintage Crime, softcover, November 2007).

   Unless I’m very much mistaken, not only was this Rider Lott’s first appearance, it was also his last. Which is as it should be, since doesn’t the old saying go, “Crime Does Not Pay”? The story is included in “The Villains” section of Otto Penzler’s book, but to tell you the truth, Rider Lott is one very minor villain indeed.

   His modus operandi in “The Perfect Crime” is to recruit two others, one male and one female, to commit the crime of burglary for him, while he takes a third of the loot for being the mastermind behind the plot. But even though he warns his two underlings to be extra cautious in leaving no clues behind them, it goes without saying that if you want to commit the perfect crime, you’d be better off doing it yourself.

   As I suggested earlier, this is not a major piece of work. To me it’s historically significant because I’m fairly sure this is the earliest story in the long run of Black Mask I’ve ever read. Otherwise I think I’d rather have read one of Montayne’s stories about one of his other villains, namely a certain jewel thief by the name of Captain Valentine, a gentleman who appeared in a total of ten Black Mask stories, as Otto tells us in his introduction to this tale, plus one novel, Moons in Gold (1936).