"Oh, Mr. Peter, sir!"
Dashing, debonair and extremely discreet red-headed private investigator PETER CLANCY specialized in solving the problems of the very rich -- for a very big fee. He didn't even advertise, yet he never seemed to run out of clients among New York City's elite. He even eventually ventured abroad, travelling as far as Long Island, Canada and the Bermudas to help the movers and shakers with their little murder problems.
Okay, he was pretty much a doofus; a well-bred stick in the mud whose solutions to various crimes ranged from the sublime to, more often, the ridiculous. We're talking serious Golden Age Great Detective here, American Division perhaps, but about as far removed from the Black Mask school as you can get.
Yet he cracked case after case, 60 of them, starting in 1919 with Thayer's very first novel, The Mystery of the Thirteenth Floor, published when the author was 45. A late start, perhaps, but she continued cranking them out, one or two a year, for over forty years.
So we may snort and chuckle, but someone must have been reading them.
When we first meeet him, young Clancy was an amateur sleuth, and for a few subsequent books, he was a police officer, but he (and his creator) seems to have found their niche when he became a private investigator.
Ten year into the series, in Dead Man's Shoes (1929), confirmed bachelor Clancy was joined by his annoying British valet Wiggar, a would-be Watson whose chief duty seemed to be to remind us of the Great Man's, uh, Greatness.
Still, Clancy's far less annoying than S.S. Van Dine's Philo Vance who was just over the horizon, and he occasionally shows some grit -- or at least some mildly abrasive substance -- relentlessly pursuing clues and doggedly questioning suspects with little help -- or interference -- from the police. And despite some of his more outlandish conclusions, Clancy does -- to his credit -- engage in some actual detective work, including what must have been cutting edge forensics for the time, to reach those conclusions.
Emma Redington Lee was born in Troy, Pa. on April 5, 1874, and was an artist and illustrator as well as a mystery writer. in fact, her paintings were displayed at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, she worked for a while as an interior decorator for New York's elite, and with Henry W. Thayer, whom she would eventually marry in 1909, she co-founded Decorative Designers, a firm which (in the days before dust jackets) designed books and produced binding designs, interior illustrations and the like for various book publishers.
In 1932, the firm -- and the marriage -- ended, but the author would go by the name of Lee Thayer for the rest of her life, probably because it was the byline on her detective novels. She passed away in 1973, a few months shy of her hundredth birthday.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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