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BALDPATE



The Long Road to the HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS


By Kim Newman


"It all began with a best-seller called THE SCARLET SATCHEL..."


Over a decade before he earned pop cul- ture immortality as the creator of Charlie Chan (who first appeared in the 1925 novel THE HOUSE WITH- OUT A KEY), Earl Derr Biggers came up with an avant la lettre post-modern take on the melodra- matic thriller. Published in 1913, Biggers’ SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE established a sub-genre which would, in the short term, lead to the Old Dark House comedy-mystery properties of the 1920s (THE CAT AND THE CANARY, THE BAT, etc.) and, in the long, to such clever exercises in deconstruction as SLEUTH and the Scream series.


Biggers’ protagonist is novelist Billy Magee, known for popular thrillers full of love at first sight and revolver shots in the dark (“wild thrilling tales for the tired businessman’s tired wife”). Taking heed of the critics who suggest he is squandering his talent, Magee rents Baldpate Inn in Asquehan, Up- state New York, to write a serious novel—seeking


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