Boston Blackie by Jack Boyle. H. K. Fly Co. (1919), 318 pp.
In his initial, literary incarnation, Boston Blackie is a college educated safe-cracker with a loving wife (and accomplice) and a pleasant San Francisco apartment. He’s dedicated, the author says, to “a strangely twisted code of morals.” It’s certainly true that he has a weak commitment to private property rights. But beyond that Blackie and many of his criminal associates are paragons of honor. In nearly all the stories they willingly sacrifice their own interests to help out their friends. On the whole they’re more honest and less cruel than prosecutors, police officers and prison guards. The author isn’t in favor of crime, of course. He just wants his readers to consider the possibility that criminals might be decent people. Jack Boyle (d. 1928) was a newspaper reporter who may sometimes have wandered on the other side of the law himself. I don’t know how much fiction he published aside from the Boston Blackie short stories. This compilation is his only book. Boyle apparently wrote some original material for the dozen-or-so silent Blackie movies, but he was long dead when the character was revived for film, radio and television in the 1940s and 1950s.