American Detective Fiction    Prior to July 1891

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  Published in
Ballou’s Dollar Magazine, September 1862

This story was later included in the collection Leaves from the Note-Book of a New York Detective: The Private Record of J. B. Edited by John B. Williams, M.D. (New York: Dick and Fitzgerald, 1865. 51-55). The stories in this volume were purportedly written by the fictional character James Brampton.


Stabbed in the Back

by a New York Detective

  subtlety necessary to make a first rate detective. He was too frank, too boisterous, too conceited, to deal with refined villainy. He was fully acquainted with all the ordinary modes practiced in such cases, such as disguise in dress, decoy letters, and tracing out a chain of circumstantial evidence when the first link was found, but he was deficient in the power of analysis, so that when he had to do with a more acute mind than his own, he was generally foiled.

I was not surprised to learn, then, that after he had been absent a week, a letter was received from him, to the effect that all his efforts had been entirely fruitless. On receipt of this letter the chief-of-police sent for me, and desired me to go at once and take Lewis’s place. My instructions were written out, and the next day I started on my errand.

In the first place, I provided myself with a book of patterns, clothed myself in a suit of checkered cloth, assumed a certain jaunty air, and was for the occasion transformed into . . .


Find the full text here.






    I had been engaged in my profession about a year, when rumors reached New York that a small town in the extreme western portion of the State was the theatre of crimes. Several atrocious murders and robberies had been committed there, and not the slightest clue had been found as to the perpetrators of these deeds. There was no telegraph or railroad to the town in question, therefore, the reports that reached the metropolis were in the first instance vague and contradictory, but they soon assumed a more decided character, and a full endorsement as to their truth was received in the shape of a letter from the local authorities to the police department, begging that a most skillful detective might be sent down, to ferret out the real criminal.

A brother officer of mine, Mr. George Lewis, was dispatched to the theatre of these events, and he went with the full assurance that he would be successful. George was a good fellow, and a capital hand at discovering ordinary criminals, but he did not possess the




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