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Scarlet Fox. The Scarlet Fox was created by Eustace H. Ball (The Voice (I)) and appeared in eight stories in Black Mask in 1923 and 1924, beginning with “The Trail of the Scarlet Fox” (Black Mask, January 1, 1923); the stories were collected in The Scarlet Fox (1927).
The Scarlet Fox is a Lupin. John Smith is a handsome, grey-eyed aristocrat. The police do not suspect that he is also the notorious Scarlet Fox, who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. One story calls him the “the Prince of Robin Hoods” and notes that he gives his money to “every poor crook he knows, sending them straight.” He is a veteran of the French Foreign Legion and during World War One served in the American Expeditionary Force. When Smith returned to the United States after the war he discovered that his family property had been stolen by unscrupulous business associates, and Smith becomes a Rootless Veteran.
Smith turns to crime. When he meets Jem O’Brien, a petty crook whose life he’d saved in the Argonne Forest, Smith takes O’Brien on as a partner, and the two begin stealing, specializing in the theft of precious stones. In one story, fourteen sacred emeralds are stolen from an Indian Nadir, and a race war in India threatens unless the emeralds are recovered. After a number of complications, violent exchanges, escapes, alarums and complications, the emeralds are recovered, and it is revealed that Smith had been commissioned to hunt down the emeralds and that he'd been made an agent of the Secret Service, working under the Department of Justice. Police Detective Lieutenant Peter Brady is a bog Irish stereotype cop who idolizes the Fox as much as he wants to put him away. Brady's wife Mary similarly looks up to the Fox.
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