Alleee and Franc's
INSOLITOLOGY

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Keeler This Page is Dedicated to
Harry Stephen Keeler (and his Appreciation Society)!
Misunderstood Genius!
Crackpot and Insolitoligist Hack!


Quote from "The Riddle of the Traveling Skull":

"For it must be remembered that at the time I knew quite nothing, naturally, concerning Milo Payne, the mysterious Cockney-talking Englishman with the checkered long-beaked Sherlockholmsian cap; nor of the latter's "Barr-Bag" which was as like my own bag as one Milwaukee wienerwurst is like another; nor of Legga, the Human Spider, with her four legs and her six arms; nor of Ichabod Chang, ex-convict, and son of Dong Chang; nor of the elusive poetess, Abigail Sprigge; nor of the Great Simon, with his 2163 pearl buttons; nor of--in short, I then knew quite nothing about anything or anybody involved in the affair of which I had now become a part, unless perchance it were my Nemesis, Sophie KratzenschneiderwŁmpel--or Suing Sophie!"

drawing of Harry Keeler Harry Stephen Keeler (1890-1967), to me, is more of an "insolitologist" than an actual kook. He wrote 70-odd(and I do mean "odd") novels between the turn of the century and the nineteen-sixties, novels that were love letters to the strange, secret, hushed-up and marginalized. His characters were often carnival freaks, radicals, even a wild, flying, murderous baby! He seemed quite enamoured of the Chinese, whom he called "celestials." The Chinese of his novels wore single, braided ponytails and silk tunics, and always seemed so...inscrutable. They always possess secrets that only the extremely clever white man could discover, hidden inside jade artifacts or mummified remains.

Keeler was a bit of a science-fiction writer as well, drawing up plans for amazing inventions (often diagramed in his books). His safes would never open in conventional ways. He imagined a wondrous device that played music with a beam of light! These contraptions were described in great detail, often eating up entire chapters in his books.
Harry was also quite fond of dialects of all kinds-Chinese, southern, scott, cockney-they're all there, going on for pages, challenging the reader more than the New York Times Crossword:

book jacket From "The Green Jade Hand" :

"I get so scared," Li went on. "I thinkee first, Wong Kwei telegraph Chicago and say I steal um lil gleen-jade hand. Before they gettee back in kitchen, I tossee gleen-jade hand in big pan chop suey I jus' make. They say: 'Li Ling Lee, comes by station. You livee in Clevelan', didn't you?' And then I knowee sure they wantee me for steal Wong's gleen-jade hand. They takee me to station, an' I say I not knowee anything, for why I arrest."

Don't get your PC panties in a bunch, however. It seems that Keeler was pretty cutting-edge for his day. Keeler was pretty clear on the subject of race in the 1928 four-parter, "Sing Sing Nights":

sing-sing nights
"The Princess O Lyra Sing dropped her eyes to the floor for one brief second. Then she raised them and faced the reporter bravely, a barely perceptable flush mounting to her cheeks.
"My solution is a radical one-but only one," she said simply. "And I think, Mr. Jason H. Barton, that you will agree with me. What is race? It is not color-although color is always one of the visible characteristics. As to color-pigmentation-science will overcome that in less than a few hundred years. Science will make us all of one shade. But race is something deeper-far deeper-than mere color. Racial distinctions date back thousands of years; they are rooted too deep to be outweeded by professors working in laboratories. And my solution is so-so simple. It is intermarriage! Intermarriage must take place between all races of earth until so-called racial distinctions are breeded out. Then, when in a thousand or five thousand years a great homo-homo-oh, dear, what is that terrible word in English? homogeneous race shall people the earth, then shall there no longer be any race but human race. Then shall there be no race hatred-no war. You see, Mr. Jason H. Barton, so long as the desire for war may remain in hearts of men, even though war itself is made impossible, then humanity is not yet even on road to reach its-its capabilities. Race antagonism must go, you see. Hence race and pride of race must disappear!"

...and then there was WWII.

I imagine what Harry would be like today, clicking away at his laptop, visited ocassionally by is wife Thelma (or would it be his new wife "Prima" or "Deepa?") He'd be happily downloading pirated songs-or would he still be listening to Raymond Scott '78's?

So how do I get my hot little hands on one of these gems, you ask? Try joining
The Harry Stephen Keeler Society

For about ten bucks (as of this writing) you can receive quarterly newsletters that list Keelers for sale. It includes a list of Keelerites, some who have their own Keeler sites and even a new publishing company that is printing out affordable copies of Keeler, Ramble House. There is a yearly "Imitate Keeler competition"-the best Faux Keeler stories are printed in the newsletter and the site. The best part of the site is the extensive Keeler Dustjacket Vault where conscientious collectors can print out fabulous jackets for their fragile, dogeared Keelers. I have noticed, in my own quest for Keelers (I now have eight) that sixth-edition reading-copies are going for over a hundred bucks. The Keelerites are determined to drive the price down in the hopes that Keeler will actually get read, and not relegated to a book-collector's glassed-in shelf. They recommend not paying over 25 or 30 bucks for a non-first-edition. I quite agree. Of course, this is possible due to Ramble House, who are thankfully now printing non-published manuscripts rescued from Thelma Keeler's home, a few years ago, before she passed away.


Harry Stephen Keeler Homepage

Visit this site for an explanation of Harry's brilliant concoction, "The Webwork Plot."



review written by Alleee, 07/2002.