Let the reader beware: the author of this writeup has never seen an entire Keeler story, but is enchanted with the whole idea all the same. I like my Agatha Crispy!

Harry Stephen Keeler (1890-1967) wrote the most insane mystery novels ever to see print. He wrote what he termed “webwork novels,” which broke all the rules of detective fiction. Really. His stories tended to have the most bizarre characters he could come up with linked through only the most tenuous thread of coincidence.

In one story which had all the makings of a standard paint-by-number puzzle mystery, Keeler blatantly disregarded the conventions of this Scooby-Doo genre by not introducing the character who would later be revealed as the killer until the page-before-the-page-before-last of a 440+ page novel! But his next story topped this, for in that story – girls, hold on to your boyfriends – the reader discovered, to his great dismay, that the “murderer” revealed in the final sentence of the novel was an aberrant gene passed down to the victim from Napoleon Bonaparte that caused him to die with all the physical signs of strangulation, and also caused him to hallucinate the demonic baby that he thought was his killer, this being the reason he was screaming about a baby moments before death, which had put the police on the trail of the Flying Strangler-Baby, a homicidal midget operating in the area whose modus operandi was dressing as an infant and sneaking up upon his victims via helicopter.

I am not making this up, damn it!

Harry Stephen Keeler would be the Ed Wood of mystery fiction, except that one can never be quite sure that his work isn’t meant to be bad.

Further reading:
Harry Stephen Keeler Homepage: http://users.aol.com/bigsecrets/Keeler/
The Harry Stephen Keeler Society: http://xavier.xu.edu/~polt/keeler/index.html

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