Major Bernard De Treville: The Crime Magnet

15 November 2003

"The Crime Magnet" was  Major Bernard De Treville. He appeared in sixteen stories, the common thread being his presence and the fact that strange, mysterious crimes occur. Any one of  the stories might be accepted, but the fact that one man should be present for sixteen strange, unrelated crimes can mean only one thing -- he attracts the crimes to himself.

"You must know, Mr. Arkwright, that I have sometimes been called The Crime Magnet. . . . I am constantly finding myself involved in strange cases which don't concern me in any way." Major Bernard De Treville. "The Mystery of the Paneled Room."

"Bernard De Treville, known as 'The Crime Magnet,' [was] a character very similar to one of Rohmer's early creation, Captain O'Hagan. A total of sixteen De Treville stories were published in the newspaper supplement This Week between September 1937 and May 1945. In the [BBC] radio adaptations the character of Gaston Max . . . was substituted for that of De Treville." -- Robert  E. Briney. Master of Villainy, Note 23, p. 298.

ThisWeek7_29_39.jpg (25964 bytes)

"Don't try anything," said a voice in my
ear. "Just move where I'm pushing you."

One of two C. C. Beale illustrations for "The Mystery of the Panelled Room"

The list below is based on one submitted  by Leonard P. Gray (Email, March 31, 1998). When I compared the dates he supplied (the earlier ones) with the dates on my copies, I found that my copies were all dated one day later. Robert E. Briney supplied the explanation for the discrepancy in the publication of "The Five Musketeers."

"When This Week was distributed with a Chicago weekend paper, it was dated 31 Dec 1937 (a Friday); in most other cities it was distributed with Sunday papers dated 2 Jan 1938.  There are similar variations in dates on a few of the other This Week stories.   Doug Rossman recently discovered these discrepancies." Robert E. Briney (Email, April 3, 1998)

There are sixteen "Trevvy" stories in total. The first eight and last seven stories  were presented  as two distinct series. "The Panama Canal" was presented as a four part serial.

"Major de Treville, witty, gallant, lovable, seeks adventure -- and finds it everywhere. A popular writer creates his most fascinating character for the readers of This Week. First of a series of complete short stories by Sax Rohmer, author of   'Dr. Fu Manchu' and many other best sellers."  This Week. September 11, 1937.

1. "The Black and White Bag"  September 11 and 12, 1937. 
2. "The Broken Ikon"  September  18 and 19, 1937. 
3. "An Egyptian Romance"  September 25 and 26, 1937. 
4. "The Five Musketeers" December 31, 1937 and January 2, 1938.
5. "Count D'Ambra's Widow" January 8, 1938.  
6. "The Persian Portfolio" January 15 and 16, 1938. 
7. "Cinderella's Slipper" February 26 and 27, 1938. 
8. "The Dutch Cheese" June 18, 1938. 

"Is the Panama Canal already marked for destruction? Does fiction ever point toward fact? . . . An exciting new serial of intrique and fast moving adventure" This Week. September 10, 1938.

9a. "The Panama Plot" (part one) September 10 and 11, 1938. 
9b. "The Panama Plot" (part two) September 17 and 18, 1938. 
9c. "The Panama Plot" (part three) September 24 and 25, 1938. 
9d. "The Panama Plot" (part four) October 1-1938. 

"First of a new series of crackling short stories about the amazing adventures of our fast-thinking Trevvy, the Crime Magnet." This Week. July 29, 1939.

10. "The Mystery of the Panelled Room"  July 29 and 30, 1939.
11. "Exit the Princess" August 5 and 6, 1939.  
12. "The Mystic Turban" August 12 and 13, 1939. 
13. "The Elusive Jackdaw" August 19 and 20, 1939. 
14. "The Oversized Trunk" October 21, 1944.
15. "The Stolen Peach-Stone"* November 18, 1944.
16. "The Secret of the Ruins" May 13, 1945. 

*A rewrite of an unsold story written in 1935 and not published in its original form until it appeared as "The Green Scarab" in Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine in June 1966.

In his Preface to This Week's Stories of Mystery and Suspence Stewart Beach notes that "It is a challenging task to select fiction for an audience the size of  This Week's. The magazine has presently a circulation of nearly 12,000,000, the largest of any publication in the world." Rohmer's "The Mystery of the Vanishing Treasure" was included but a De Treville story was not. Given the number of copies of  This Week that were printed, it is surprising how difficult it is to find specific issues.

Apparently, only two of the De Treville stories can be found in book form. "The Mystery of the Paneled Room" is included in The Bedside Bonanza. (ed. F. Owen. New York Frederick Fell, 1944), and "The Secret of the Ruins" can be found in   Fourth Mystery Companion (ed. A. L. Furman. New York: Lantern Press, 1946).

Six of the titles are known to have been reprinted in other periodicals. The first three episodes were reprinted in the British weekly, To-day. Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine reprinted one story and printed the original version of another. 

A Chandler illustration for "The Broken Ikon" in To-day

"The Black and White Bag" as
"The Mystery in the Black and White Bag" in To-day, June 4,1938 (British weekly)

"The Broken Ikon" as
"Terror in Council" To-day, May 28,1938 (British weekly)

"An Egyptian Romance" as
"The Imprisoned Prince" To-day (British), 11 June 1938

"The Stolen Peach-Stone" 
Scientific Detective Annual.   (New York: EBR Book Co., 1942) 25, 128pp, pulp.
"The Green Scarab" was the original story before being rewritten as a "Trevvie" episode. "The Green Scarab" eventually saw print in Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine. June 1966.

"The Mystery of the Panelled Room"
The Bedside Bonanza. ed. F. Owen. New York: Frederick Fell, 1944.
as "The Fifth Medallion" in Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine #15, October 1965.

"The Secret of the Ruins"
Fourth Mystery Companion. ed. A. L. Furman.
New York: Lantern Press, 1946.

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