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August 9th, 2004

NPR: The Case of the Horrifying Mystery Writer

Weekend Edition – Saturday, July 31, 2004 – Author Harry Stephen Keeler (1890-1967) wrote more than 70 books of what he called “webwork” fiction — mystery novels with highly complex, luridly bizarre and nearly inscrutable plots.

Keeler, who lived most of his life in Chicago, was the man behind such titles as The Skull of the Waltzing Clown, The Barking Clock and The Mystery of the Fiddling Cracksman. Among the characters populating his work: political boss Criocan Mulqueeny, Chinese xylophonist Ichabod Tsung and the infamous Sophie Kratzenschneiderwumpel.

But Keeler’s convoluted plots were the ultimate expression of his skill. He was known to grab a random selection of newspaper clippings from his extensive collection and begin weaving the stories together, often with ludicrous connections.

To make things even worse, Keeler’s narrative is filled with blind alleys and digressions. And the author frequently introduces essential characters in the final pages of his books — one even reveals the killer in the last sentence


follow-up post (2014)

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