Created by Arnold Fredericks
Pseudonym of Frederic Arnold Kummer
“Good Lord, Chief, am I losing my senses? What is this affair, anyway, a joke?”
— Richard, sharp as a tack as always, in The Blue Lights
An early sleuthing couple, preceded only in the genre as far as I can tell, by M. McDonnell Bodkin’s Paul Beck & Dora Myrl, Arnold Frederick’s RICHARD AND GRACE DUVALL, known as “The Honeymoon Detectives,” appeared in several serialized novels between 1912 and 1917.
In the aptly titled “The Honeymoon Detectives,” the five-part serial which made its debut in the March 23, 1912 edition of The Cavalier, we meet “gifted” young hotshot New York private detective Richard Grace whose reputation is good enough that he’s recently been summoned to France to work as an assistant to Monsieur Lefevre, the Paris Prefect of Police.
But it’s while he’s in the City of lights that he hooks up with young, beautiful American heiress Grace Ellicott, the victim of a conspiracy to cheat her out of her inheritance, masterminded by her evil step-uncle, Count D’Este.
Fortunately love (and detective work) conquer all, and there’s a lovely wedding at the conclusion, but as The Ivory Snuff Box, the second novel, begins, exactly one hour later, before the marriage can even be consummated, Richard is sent by Lefevre to London to recover a stolen snuff box. The fate of France may lie in his hands!
Meanwhile, Grace has checked herself into an asylum!
But even better? It’s all part of a plan!
And so it goes. As would prove to be the formula for the rest of their adventures, Richard and Grace dash off in different directions, rarely working together, but end up working the same cases from different angles. He relies more on logic and reason (yeah, right) and she relies on–what else?—intuition!
Not that Grace is a bimbo, mind you. She may lack any formal training as a detective, but she’s both clever and curious, and more than willing to help out hubby on a case, whether he wants her help or not.
Pulp historian Robert Samson had a lot of fun in his wonderful Yesterday’s Faces, Volume 4: The Solvers (1987), laughing at the outlandish plots and forced, melodramatic contrivances of the series, and slamming its “prose as bland as unsweetened farina.” Evil masterminds, torture chambers, dubious disguises, secret codes, improbable coincidences, outlandish clues and comic misunderstandings, not to mention assorted faintings and swoonings among various female characters, abound. There’s even a killer monkey in a red silk suit!
After a blow-by-blow account of ther entire series, Sampson concludes that “thousands of similar stories” filled the fiction magazines of the day, and that “they deserve neither condemnation nor memory.”
But this was, nonetheless, a rather important series, simply by virtue of the fact that Grace, once married, didn’t vanish from the plots or serve as a mere sounding board for hubby. In each adventure, both she and Richard shared the spotlight more or less equally. And, to tell the truth, for all of Richard’s fabled “gifts” and her flying leaps of deduction, Grace seemed the smarter of the two, and arguably the better detective, cracking most of the cases herself while he often came off as just a wee bit dense.
Still, as their good friend M. Lefevre points out at the end of one of their cases,
“The credit belongs equally to both. And that, my children, is as it should be. This affair, so happily terminated, has taught me one important lesson. It is this: The husband and the wife should never be in opposition to each other. They must work together always, not only in matters of this sort, but in all the affairs of life… Hereafter, should Monsieur Duvall and his wife serve me, it must be together, or not at all.”
Hokey? You bet. But the series proved popular enough at the time to inspire a couple of silent film adaptations, The Ivory Snuff Box and One Million Francs (1915), in which the action moves from Paris to India, and introduces a magical crystal globe into the plot.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Civil engineer, amateur artist, novelist and playwright, Frederic Arnold Kummer was born in Cantonsville, Maryland, in 1873, and attendedRenssaeler Polytechnic Institute, before becoming a writer. Although pretty much reduced to a trivia question among mystery buffs now, the success of his work, both in print and on the screen, was not insignificant, with many of his short stories adapted as silent films. Besides the two films from 1915 featuring Richard and Grace, he created Octavius, an rather doltish amateur detective, who poked his nose into a slew a silent, screwbally shorts, including The Adventure of the Wrong Santa Claus, The Adventure of the Hasty Elopement, The Adventure of the Smuggled Diamonds, and The Adventure of the Lost Wife, all 1914. His light may have dimmed upon the advent of talkies, but he continued to sell to the detective pulps (most notably, perhaps, a short series featuring Jerry Todd and Judy Baker, presumably another sleuthing couple, which appeared in Mystery in the early thirties) and his novels and collections sold well. His son, Frederic Arnold Kummer, Jr. (1913-90); who used the pseudonym Martin Vaeth, apparently carried on, writing plenty of crime fiction himself, although his primary focus seems to have been on science fiction. Kummer Senior died in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1943.
- “(Richard’s) a Southern aristocrat with “Massa” mumbling servants and an arrogant ass, but she’s a tough early private detective and at least two of their cases set in Paris and the early film industry are worth reading.”
— David Vineyard on Facebook (2023)
SERIALS & SHORT STORIES
- “The Honeymoon Detectives” (March 23, 30, April 6, 13, 20, 1912, The Cavalier)
- “The Changing Lights” ( January 11, 18, 25, February 1, 1913, The Cavalier)
- “The Little Fortune” (August 9, 16, 23, 30, 1913, The Cavalier)
- “The Mysterious Goddess” (April 17, 24, May 1, 8, 1915, All-Story Cavalier Weekly)
- “The Film of Fear” (March 24, April 7, 14, 1917, All-Story Weekly)
- One Million Francs (1912) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
Previously serialized as “The Honeymoon Detectives”
- The Ivory Snuff Box (1912) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
Originally published in its entirety in the May 11, 1912 issue of The Cavalier.
- The Blue Lights (1915; previously serialized as “The Changing Lights”) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- The Little Fortune” (1915; previously serialized) | Buy this book
- The Film of Fear (1917; previously serialized) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- THE IVORY SNUFF BOX
(1915, William A. Brady Picture Plays)
Black & white
Premiere: September 13, 1915
Based on the novel by Arnold Fredericks (aka “Frederic Arnold Kummer”)
Screenplay by E. Magnus Ingleton
Directed by Maurice Tourneur
Starring Holbrook Blinn as Richard Duvall
and Alma Belwin as Grace Ellicott
Also starring Norman Trevor, Robert Cummings
- ONE MILLION DOLLARS
Black & white
Premiere: November 22, 1915
Based on the novel One Million Francs by Arnold Fredericks (aka “Frederic Arnold Kummer”)
Screenplay by George D. Proctor
Directed by John W. Noble
Starring William Faversham as Richard Duvall
and Carlotta De Felice as Grace Elliott
Also starring Henri Bergman, George LeGuere, Mayme Kelso, Arthur Morrison, Charles Graham
- Married to It!
Hitched! Married Eyes and Their Spouses…
THE DICK OF THE DAY
- May 21, 2023
The Bottom Line: A popular early detecting couple, the Honeymoon Couple even inspired a couple of silent films. He’s a bit of a drip, but she rocks… when she isn’t “swooning.” Gee-whiz melodrama served here.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks for the nudge, Mr. V.