The Wire Gang are a criminal outfit in the southwest with the gimmick of sending each other coded messages over the railroad’s telegraph lines. They keep getting beaten to the punch, however, by the Hawk, who has deciphered their code and manages to steal the money/gold/jewels before them. Though the Wire Gang would like to see him dead, the press and local police assume the Hawk must be the Wire Gang’s chief. But the Hawk is actually an undercover Secret Service agent. Oh no, I spoiled it. You know, I’ve read a number of Packard’s crime-action novels and they are pretty samey, but this one felt really by the numbers.
Roberta is an American woman of German ancestry who marries Sir Ashton Trask, a member of the British War Office. Bobs doesn’t dislike Ashton, but he certainly loves her a great deal more than she does him. She’s openly flirtatious with a number of other men, one of them being Captain O’Toole. O’Toole is ostensibly in the British Army, but in secret he hopes to win his Irish homeland’s independence by collaborating with the Germans. With Roberta’s allegiance already torn between Germany, England, and America, it isn’t a difficult task for O’Toole to use her to get at Ashton’s war plans. They are, at last, discovered and arrested. Both are sentenced to death, but while O’Toole faces the firing squad, Roberta is spared that public humiliation on the condition that she kill herself. Bobs takes her punishment with remarkable calm, finding in it relief from the uncertainty of which side she should back, and in her final few days, she comes to realize how much she actually does love her husband.
I’m uncertain whether to call this book fiction or nonfiction. It’s a collection of anecdotes about filmmaking in the silent era written in narrative form from the perspective of a star, an extra, a director, a writer, and a publicist. The names and places are admittedly fictionalized, but often only just. It takes very little to connect the book’s “Jackson X. Kerriman” to the real Jack W. Kerrigan, for example. The studios as well — there are fairly transparent references to shooting jungle adventures at Selig or slapstick comedies at Keystone. I imagine the stories are punched-up, so to speak, and reimagined as though they were all coming from the same source, but that they’re ultimately based in somebody’s real experiences.
Inscription: Pasted on the inside front cover is a plate that reads “Brainerd Memorial Library, Haddam, Connecticut, No. 114, July 17, 1918”. Beneath it is carefully written “In memory of Martha E. Brainerd”.
Autobiographical account of the Armenian genocide.