25 June 2012

The World's Most Unusual Detective Magazine!


© The Estate of Leo Orenstein
Check out the gams! It took me a while to realize that that blonde's about to take a leap. Or is she being pushed? Whatever's happening here, the fella sure looks happy.

International Detective Cases was "THE WORLD'S MOST UNUSUAL DETECTIVE MAGAZINE!" No question. So unusual was the world's most unusual that it seems to have vanished without so much as publishing a single issue.

The above, which comes to me courtesy of the family of the late Leo Orenstein, looks to be yet another of the artist's unused covers. Formatting and presentation suggest that like Aphrodite, Against the Grain and Curious Relations of MankindInternational Detective Cases was an aborted effort of Toronto's Fireside Publications. But here's the thing, Fireside didn't produce any original material, rather they'd re-issue, re-package, re-package... My hunch here is that publisher meant to mine the corpse of a dead American true crime monthly by the same title.

International Detective Cases, December 1937
I'm keeping the file open.

An aside: Where the title of England's "A Case for Scotland Yard" seems rather ho-hum, the Canadian entry, "The Tale of Singed Dog Island", did intrigue. I spent a happy half-hour yesterday reading newspaper accounts of this forgotten case. It began 23 November 1935 when the appropriately named John Harms, a trapper, murdered his partner. He next terrorized a neighbour by showing her the body, then made repeated attempts to break into her home. Eventually Harms gave up, yelling: "Report to police that the kid is dead. I will be waiting for them at my cabin on Singed Dog Island."*

The Leader-Post, 30 November 1935
It's clear that the papers were hoping Harms would turn out to be another Albert Johnson, the "Mad Trapper" who had led the RCMP on a 16-day manhunt four years earlier. Instead, Harms sat in his cabin and gave himself up when the Mounties arrived on 3 December. Found guilty of murder, he was hanged five months later.

No detectives needed.
* There really is a Singed Dog Island; a nine-acre piece of land just inside the Saskatchewan portion of Lake Athabaska, from the air it resembles a rotting steak. The actual murder took place at nearby Spring Point, but "The Tale of Spring Point" doesn't sound nearly so interesting.

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