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The Ringer. The Ringer was created by Edgar Wallace (Viola Beech, Brigand, Wireless Bryce, Felix Carfew, Dixon, Elegant Edward, Inspector Elk, Educated Evans, Four Square Jane, Dixon Hawke, Heine, Felix Jenks, Just Men, King Kong (I), Larry Loman, Superintendent Minter, Policy Sleuth, Oliver Rater, John G. Reeder, Sanders, York Symon, Tam o’the Scoots, Inspector Wade, Kate Westhanger) the Ringer appeared in fifteen short stories, a collection of stories, a play, a movie, and a novelization of the play, from 1925 to at least 1933, beginning with “The Ringer” (Detective Story Magazine, Apr. 18, 1925).
The Ringer is Henry Arthur Milton. He is an escaped convict with a serious grudge against society and humanity as a whole, which manifests itself in his work as a Killer Vigilante. He is “a cold-blooded, logical man, without the slightest respect for human life—or personal property.” His wife Cora Ann says “he’s got one idea—kill…kill…kill!” He’s called “the Ringer,” short for “the Ringer of Changes,” because he is a nonpareil at disguises and at assuming identities. He’s also very talented with the knife. During World War One he was a Captain in the “Flying Corps,” but even there he was on the cold side. He refused to be photographed or accept the medals he earned. After the war he met Cora Ann on a liner. She was fleeing from the States—a small matter of a blackmail ring she was a member of—and found Henry attractive, and so married him. Unfortunately for the marriage, although they are both devoted to each other, the police hunt Henry everywhere he goes (there are warrants against him in eighteen countries) and try to use Cora to get close to him. He is forced to visit her in disguise.
Henry is independently wealthy and travels widely, in Europe and elsewhere. His travels are not without purpose, however; his goal in life is to eliminate those whose business is wrongdoing. Those who the Ringer targets are given a warning to desist from their evils. If they do not, the Ringer sends them another note, telling them when they will die and why they will die. As the stories progress the Ringer becomes less cold-bloodedly murderous, showing a streak of what might be called, in someone else, altruism. The Ringer is hunted by Inspector Bliss of Scotland Yard; Bliss never gets close to catching the Ringer, but the Ringer likes Bliss and sends him encouraging notes, even saving his life twice.
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