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Frank L. Packard (1877–1942), Canadian author in the Rogue School tradition wrote the popular Jimmie Dale mystery series, set in the city of New York.
The Adventures of Jimmie Dale (1917), The Further Adventures of Jimmie Dale (1919), Jimmie Dale and the Phantom Clue (1922), Jimmie Dale and Blue Envelope Murder (1930) and Jimmie Dale and the Missing Hour (1935) concluded the series. "Jimmie Dale Alias the Gray Seal" was a serial movie series made in 1917, one of many, written by Packard and starring E.K. Lincoln.
Dale, also known as the "Gray Seal" for the stickers he left as calling cards, is a wealthy New York society St. James club-crawler figure by day, and an expert safecracker by night. He is often blamed for crimes he didn't commit. At his halfway house, "Sanctuary", he can surreptitiously change from one identity to the next. He's a suave and sophisticated cat burglar working to expose the corrupt and seedy underbelly of New York. In the detective romance Phantom Clue the mysterious unseen woman "Tocsin" blackmails the gentleman thief Dale, luring him into the dark underworld of the city, only to be hounded by the police. He haplessly falls in love with the siren but ultimately exposes the evil-doers.
Frank Lucius Packard was born on 2 February 1877, to U.S. born parents in Montreal, Québec. He attended McGill University in Montreal and became a civil engineer, obtaining a position with the Canadian Pacific Railway where he worked for most of his life. He started his writing career with railroad adventures including The Man Who Confessed and his collection of short stories On The Iron At Big Cloud including Shanley's Luck, which is based on the CPR Beavermouth Riots of 1885 that interfered with construction until the legendary Sam Steele intervened.
The film "The Miracle Man" (1919) is based on Packard's novel of the same name. Head con man "Doc" Madison reads a newspaper article about a healer named "The Patriarch" and sets in motion a foolproof seeming plan to scam the locals with his sidekicks The Flopper and Pale Face Harry. The Night Operator was published the same year. The White Moll (1920) and The Locked Book (1924) followed. The Dragon's Jaws (1937) is a mystery set China, with lots of intrigue featuring "the evil, mysterious Lan Chao-tao, a Chinese star bandit whom few have ever seen but whose appalling activities have spread octopus-like throughout the world."
Packard's books are deemed a critical bridge between late 1800s Victorian era style writings and the newer grittier Rogue school of the 1930s and 1940s. His city of New York is immoral and dirty with evil-smelling tenements, the back alleys the haunts of dope fiends, thieves and murderers. Jimmie Dale's life work and passion was to clean it up, usually with a happy ending. Frank L. Packard died in Lachine, Quebec on 19 February, 1942.
Biography written by C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc. Copyright Jalic Inc 2005. All Rights Reserved.
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