Lester Leith

Created By Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970)

"Do you know, Scuttle, an impartial observer hearing Sergeant Ackley's theories might come to the conclusion I was guilty of some crime or another..."

He's not really a private eye, in that he doesn't really take on paying customers, but he certainly gets paid for his, uh, investigations.

One way or another.

Because wealthy lawyer LESTER LEITH is arguably the greatest con artist to ever appear in the genre; a Raffles-like gentleman thief (or is that "crook detective"?) whose shenanigans make Jim Rockford or Max Latin look like rank amateurs.

It's been estimated that, over a career of over sixty short stories, mostly in Detective Fiction Weekly, Leith swindled, scammed and cheated over seven million dollars from assorted thieves, blackmailers and other confidence men and donated to charity (minus his customary 20 per cent for "expenses").

Much to the chagrin of Sergeant Ackley, who's convinced Leith is a crook himself, and who resorts to installing an undercover cop, Edward Beaver, as Leith's personal valet, whom he cheekily dubs "Scuttle." Needless to say, Leith sniffs out the subterfuge immediately, but keeps him on, further enraging Ackley.

Were his adventures related by anyone else, Leith would probably be considered a major pulp character, but coming from the pen of Erle Stanley Gardner, Leith was just one of a slew of endlessly inventive series characters that Gardner cranked out for the pulps before (and even after) he created meal ticket Perry Mason. In fact, he was so popular that the editors of Detective Fiction Weekly insisted that Gardner submit at least one Lester Leith story every three weeks.

And let's face it: the charming, glib, crafty, high-flying Leith was always a lot more fun than the righteous and increasingly stodgy old Perry ever was.

SHORT STORIES

  • "The Painted Decoy" (February 23, 1929, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "A Tip from Scuttle" (March 2, 1929, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "The Dummy Murder" (March 23, 1929, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "The Case of the Fugitive Corpse" (April 6, 1929, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "The Pay-off" (April 27, 1929, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "A Hot Tip" (May 11, 1929, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "A Peach of a Scheme" (July 20, 1929, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Even Money" (August 3, 1929, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "It's a Pipe!" (August 10, 1929, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Faster than Forty" (August 31, 1929, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Double Shadows" (September 21, 1929, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "The Artistic Touch" (October 26, 1929, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Lester Takes the Cake" (November 23, 1929, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "The Doubtful Egg" (January 11, 1930, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Both Ends Against the Middle" (May 3, 1930, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "The Purple Plume" (May 24, 1930, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Put it in Writing!" (June 7, 1930, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Hot Dollars!" (July 26, 1930, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "In Round Figures" (August 23, 1930, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "The Man on the End" (September 27, 1930, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Lester Frames a Fence" (December 13, 1930, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Cold Clews" (January 24, 1931, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "The Candy Kid" (March 14, 1931, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Big Money" (April 18, 1931, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Hot Cash" (May 23, 1931, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Not So Dumb" (June 27, 1931, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "The Girl with the Diamond Legs" (July 11, 1931, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "The Gold Magnet" (September 26, 1931, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "The Crimson Mask" (November 7, 1931, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Rolling Stones" (November 21, 1931, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Red Herring" (December 26, 1931, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "The Play's the Thing" (February 27, 1932, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "The Bird in the Hand" (April 9, 1932, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Thieves' Kitchen" (June 4, 1932, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Closer than a Brother" (July 9, 1932, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "A Deal in Cement" (July 30, 1932, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "False Alarm" (November 5, 1932, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Juggled Gems" (December 24, 1932, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "One Jump Ahead" (February 4, 1933, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "The Radio Ruse" (April 1, 1933, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Thin Ice" (June 10, 1933, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Crooks' Vacation" (July 8, 1933, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "The Burden of Proof" (December 2, 1933, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Lost, Strayed and Stolen" (February 24, 1934, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Dead to Rights" (June 2, 1934, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Crocodile Tears" (June 30, 1934, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Queens Wild" (January 26, 1935, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Screaming Sirens" (November 2, 1935, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Bald-Headed Row" (March 21, 1936, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Planted Planets" (December 1938, Detective Story)
  • "The Monkey Murder" (January 1939, Detective Story)
  • "The Seven Sinister Sombreros" (February 1939, Detective Story)
  • "The Fourth Musketeer" (March 1939, Detective Story)
  • "With Rhyme and Reason" (April 1939, Detective Story)
  • "The Queen of Shanghai Night" (May 1939, Detective Story)
  • "The Ring of Fiery Eyes" (August 1939, Detective Story)
  • "Lester Leith, Magician" (September 16, 1939, Detective Fiction Weekly; aka "The Hand is Quicker Than the Eye")
  • "A Thousand to One" (October 28, 1939, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Fair Exchange" (November 18, 1939, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Sugar" (January 20, 1940, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Monkeyshine" (March 16, 1940, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "The Exact Opposite" (March 29, 1941, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "A Sugar Coating" (November 29, 1941, Flynn's Detective Fiction)
  • "Something Like a Pelican" (January 1943, Flynn's Detective Fiction; also May 1965, MSMM)
  • "Caws and Effect" (July 1943, Flynn's Detective Fiction)

COLLECTIONS

  • Ellery Queen Presents The Amazing Adventures of Lester Leith (1980) ...Buy this book

Includes "In Round Figures," "The Bird in the Hand," "A Thousand to One," "The Exact Opposite" and "Lester Leith, Magician"

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


| Home | Detectives A-L M-Z | Film | Radio | Television | Web Comics | Comics | FAQs | Search |
| Trivia | Authors | Hall of Fame | Mystery Links | Bibliography | Glossary | Advertising |
| This Just In... | Word on the Street | Non-Fiction | Fiction | Staff | The P.I. Poll |

Drop a dime. Your comments, suggestions, corrections and contributions are always welcome.
"...and I'll tell you right out that I'm a man who likes talking to a man that likes to talk."

Copyright 1998-2017, thrillingdetective.com. All rights reserved.
Web site by The Thrilling Detective Web Guy.