Did you know that in his spare time, American literary legend Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain was also an adroit and intrepid amateur sleuth who solved crimes that baffled even the most professional investigators?
Don’t worry, no one else did, either.
However, one Dr. Artemus Carbuncle, Professor of Linguistics and Linguini at the University of Northern South Dakota at Phoole (special virtual no-prize to all readers who spot the musical reference–VSB) claims to have uncovered a trove of papers in a hitherto unknown archive in which Samuel Clemens recorded his stirring successes as an amateur private detective. Professional Clemens researchers remain skeptical–“It seems most unlikely that Mr. Twain would have used official Spongebob Squarepants stationary” represents a typical snotty and envious comment–but Dr. Carbuncle remains undaunted in his efforts to bring this unknown side of Mark Twain to light.
(Ed. Note: Insofar as Twain was the author of the underrated and unfairly neglected Puddin’head Wilson, an early forensic detective novel, it seems highly probable that he possessed a greater knowledge of criminal science in that era than most other Americans.)
Consider the most curious case of the elderly Egbert Hieronymous Cuthbert XII, a fabulously wealthy puritanical right-wing mining magnate and family tyrant preparing his last will and testament. Every time the Spectre appears in the park, another relative who stands to inherit part of the family fortune gets trapped in an awful, embarrassing and yet hilarious scandal that causes Cuthbert to disinherit that individual.
Fearing that he’s next, Cuthbert’s son Egbert Hieronymous Cuthbert XIII enlists the aid of his old school chum Sam Clemens, already visiting San Francisco to enjoy one of the city’s brisk invigorating summers. Can Mark Twain use his unique skills and personality to uncover the connection between the spectre and the awful, embarrassing and yet hilarious scandals that plague the family? Can Mark Twain prevent his friend from getting trapped in another awful, embarrassing and yet hilarious scandal? And what do those anchor symbols drawn on the tree trunks mean?
Find out in The Spectre of Buena Vista. Not coming soon to a non-existent bookstore not near you.
Vonn Scott Bair