Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Pinkerton Prose

Well it's April already, and I hope that Spring will stick around instead of reverting back to winter temperatures again.

I'm currently reading about the Pinkerton Detective Agency again, but this time I'm not reading Allan Pinkerton's books any more. (His books are sometimes quite confusing and tedious to read.) This time I'm reading an ebook version of Cleveland Moffett's 1897 book True Detective Stories From the Archives of the Pinkertons. Because Moffett was a professional journalist and author, he seems to tell the stories better than Allan Pinkerton did. He summarized unnecessary details, such as each operative or "shadow" sent to follow a suspect around, and he provided endings, telling what happened to the criminals after they were caught. If a criminal has reformed and become a law-abiding citizen, his name has been changed in the story, which I thought was a nice detail. Moffett also reminded me that Allan Pinkerton also had a "General Superintendent" named George H. Bangs who ran many offices before he died. (So technically during the "missing year in America" that I want to place Holmes in the Pinkertons, it would be Bangs, not Robert Pinkerton, in charge of the New York branch.)

Anyway, the book is interesting, featuring train robberies, bank robberies, and the like. There's even mention of a Scott and Dunlop criminal gang who seemed to be contemporaries of Adam Worth and Charley Bullard. Helpfully for me, Moffett also discusses the Pinkerton methods of detection, showing that they often have to work in place of the police, because local authorities are corrupt or cowed. Sometimes criminals escape to Canada or other countries because at that time the U.S. didn't have extradition treaties with those countries. Even pursuing a criminal within the U.S., if you go to another state, you have to bring with you a "requisition" from the governor of one state to the governor of the other state, so you can arrest the guy and take him back to the state that he committed the crime in, so he can be tried.

It seems that the Pinkertons are also typically hired by big businesses like the Adams Express Company who will "spare neither expense nor time" to catch thieves, even if this means that the Pinkertons have to shadow suspects for years before having enough evidence to arrest a culprit. This makes me think that in my novel, I will have Sherlock Holmes disappointed and impatient that he doesn't get to do any detecting, just follow people around and write reports for superiors, and that's why he decides to create a method of detection that is faster and doesn't require so much manpower (at least not more than the Baker Street Irregulars); that way ordinary people can hire him too, for small domestic cases. That will be why he'll return to London after a year.

I also found a novel by Eric Lerner called Pinkerton's Secret, which is about Allan Pinkerton and Kate Warne having an affair while they work together. I haven't started reading it yet, and I'm not sure I believe that they had an affair in real life, but I'm curious enough to read it and see if it at least gives me more facts about Kate Warne's life. It will annoy me though not to know how much of the novel is fiction and how much is fact.

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