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Project Bartleby has not gotten around to digitizing Keeler yet. So to give you a rough idea of what a Keeler novel encompasses, here is a synopsis of The Man With the Magic Eardrums (1939). Bookmaker Mortimer Q. King returns to his Minneapolis home in the middle of the night to find a burglar, Peter Givney, entering an upstairs window. King pulls a gun on Givney and demands how he knew the house would be deserted. Givney shows him a clipping from the newspaper (the first of several that advance the plot) that claims that King is in a sanitarium in Virginia and that his wife, Laurel, is in sackcloth and ashes for her annual three-day novena in memory of her father at the Convent of the Sisters of St. Ethelreda in Milwaukee. The story about King being in the sanitarium, however, was a lie given out by the Kings to confuse subpoena servers, who want King to appear before an upcoming Senate hearing on the abolishment of racetrack betting. The burglar alludes to a seemingly unrelated chain of events then making front-page news. In London, murderess Jemimah Cobb is due to be hung at sunrise. Jemimah, who is black, has murdered her Chinese lover. Cobb is also the madam of England's most notorious whorehouse, specializing in deformities and freaks. In a last-ditch attempt to save herself, Cobb has threatened to reveal the identity of the white man in America to whom she is secretly married. This information, she swears, will somehow cause a war between the United States and England if she is executed. Chapter One ends on the revelation that Mortimer King is the white American legally married to Jemimah Cobb. Years previously, King married Cobb under the influence of voodoo drugs. Since the newspapers had erroneously reported Cobb's death years ago, King never got a divorce from Cobb before marrying Laurel, nor (in view of Laurel's Southern background) did he have the nerve to tell Laurel about the marriage. In a vain attempt to get her sentence commuted, Cobb revealed the solution of the "Mulkovitch riddle" to the British Home Secretary. This is a mystery that had been puzzling British police for years: Nikolai Mulkovitch, a bearded Russian anarchist of about 40, was under observation by two American agents on suspicion of dynamiting the American Embassy. Mulkovitch was trailed to Cobb's whorehouse in Exham Heath, London. With both entrances under surveillance the British police
King makes a deal with Givney: If he can open the safe. By accident he was given a set of hearing aids that work so well that he can hear noises normally inaudible. The jewels and the house are in Laurel's name. King will not call the police but will allow Givney to escape. Givney discovered that he can even hear slight magnetic stresses in the wall of safe caused by the electric mechanism and thus can open the safe about half the time. in the walls. alive or dead. wants to come over immediately. and Katie. King is anxious to get the safe open because he returned home with the intention of stealing his own wife's jewels. King hides the skull in the wastebasket in case Steenburg intends to take it by . Givney explains that he is virtually stone-deaf and hears only with hearing aids. King has suffered a series of business reverses in his bookmaking operations and had actually been sleeping in flophouses in San Francisco. but insists that they must speak in private. He has not told his wife this. King wanted to use the jewels to finance a new bookmaking operation. Mulkovitch was never seen again. and she would not help him.closed in to arrest Mulkovitch. Cobb and each of the prostitutes were identified by an officer who raided the house previously. The furnace was checked for evidence of cremation. Steenburg. Each seemed genuinely not to know what had happened to Mulkovitch. In fact. the owner of the building. Just after King makes this proposal to Givney.French Theodora. who offers King $500 for the human skull he keeps as a good luck charm. The Home Secretary vowed to publish Cobb's explanation of the puzzle in his memoirs. a German with seven fingers on each hand. King asks the burglar how he planned to open the safe. Finally. and in all possible hiding places. Koko from Singapore. he receives a phone call from Sol Steenburg. Inside they found Cobb and five prostitutes -. however. a religious man appalled at its use. hunchbacked Minnie. an attorney from Buffalo. The police looked under the beds. calling from a nearby drugstore. King has Givney take out his hearing aids (so that he won't be able to eavesdrop) and hide in the closet. Mulkovitch was not there. but while he was in San Francisco Laurel had the safe replaced with the burglar-proof model without telling him the combination. Each person seized in the raid was isolated from the others and interrogated separately. demolished the structure before the eyes of the police. because she had always said that if he ever goes broke. No secret panels or chambers were found. it would be God's sign of disapproval of gambling. cross-eyed Gertrude. but not so much as a button or belt buckle was found. a "burglar-proof" five-dial Nixon-Duvall model with no tumblers.
knows of Big Shoes' involvement. forgot the previous deed in his delirium and made out another deed in the name of his nephew. Long. The deed was made out to "S. Christopher Schurz also had a nephew by the name of Samuel Long and. and because of the Habitual Criminal Acts of various midwestern states. The customer gave Soo Long a deed." a one-eyed gigolo." Steenburg needs the skull because. This employee mentioned King's belief in superstitions. It is feared that the New York City police will soon arrest Cokey. such as never allowing his picture to be taken and belief that any part of the skeleton of a murdered man was good luck. "Big Shoes. he will tell them about the murder of Blinky. who happens to be an expert on the evils of racetrack betting and is scheduled to appear at the same Congressional hearing that King is being subpoenaed to attend. He is the son of Rabbi David Steenburg. When they do. Soo Long. The principle of corpus delicti identifactus operating in Wisconsin and Minnesota requires that the identity of a dead body or remains be established before a charge of murder can be brought. Cokey. who happened to be a hunting partner of one of King's employees. claiming he is legal owner of the land on which their new skyscraper is constructed. Since a bullet-hole proved the skull was from a murdered man. on his deathbed. they will bribe Cokey with shots of morphine and. Steenburg is representing Soo Ching.force. a drug addict. in the agonies of withdrawal. however. was given the land by Christopher Schurz. Steenburg says. a Chinese laundry owner who is suing the Buffalo Trust and Savings Bank. which was discovered hidden in the wrapping of an ironing board 55 years later by Soo Ching. a grateful customer disgusted with the sawtooth edges other laundries left on his shirts' detachable cuffs. In one of the many subplots that is never resolved. Steenburg has a client. unknown to King. The skull can be identified as that of Blinky because Blinky suffered from an unusual facial neuritis and a set of X-rays of his head are on file at a medical institute. Another gangster. a Wisconsin farmer. Long." who was unwittingly involved in the murder of Blinky. The skull was dug up by Henry Speevy. who he also carelessly referred to as "S. Big Shoes has a criminal record." By coincidence. Steenburg arrives and tells his story. his grandfather. it is the only shred of physical evidence of the gangland-style murder of "Blinky. According to Soo Ching. Speevy sold it to . he can be sentenced to life imprisonment for the most trifling transgression if he ever leaves the state of Illinois.
The bet came in. it will be thought to contain a pet lizard or horned toad) and meet Big Shoes outside the Quincy Street post office. In San Francisco. Rozalda. Steenburg leaves. King tells Steenburg that the skull (actually in the wastebasket) has been sent to a friend who needed it for a Halloween party. For King's maid. he was down to his last five dollars when he found a local bookie offering extremely favorable odds on a long shot. for not only does he feel it is bad luck to have his picture taken.D. Sciecinskiwicz decided that he needed to perform three practice operations before operating on Eddy. And. This is a double whammy for King. King tells Givney of his financial plight. to passers by. Big Shoes will look in the shoe box and give King or the messenger $500. however. Steenburg proposes that King or a messenger go to Chicago with the skull in a crimson shoe box with holes punched in it (so that. even though Sciecinskiwicz had not performed sinus operations in years. and the man was so grateful that he repaid King by giving him information . King lets Givney out of the closet. Since the police had requested that doctors report anyone with this condition. He bet two dollars on a parlay paying off 100 to 1. King notices another newspaper clipping in Givney's pocket. It reveals that Givney was arrested for making fun of "Long John" van Critchford. This agreed. who is the cousin of King's wife Laurel and a Harvard-educated Ph. Dr. King's skull was returned but the "operation" left a drill hole and. a 7-foot-high traffic officer.King. The man said he was dying of cancer and wanted passage to Australia where his only relative ran a nursing home and could make his last days a comfortable as possible. in King's view. says Steenburg. so he obtained two skulls (one from Rozalda) and one cadaver head to work on. As he left the office he met a man asking for an inside tip. with his name in the headline and a candid snapshot of King four columns wide. the skull has been drilled without King's knowledge. King told him about the bet. Eddy had to go to his brother for the operation. Stefan Sciecinskiwicz. that a good luck charm that has been altered is bad luck. lent it to a friend. Sciecinskiwicz's brother is the notorious gangster Two-Gun "Polack" Eddy. for a mock operation. ruined it as a talisman. suffering from a painful pus-impacted sinus. but a legal agreement with his wife requires that he do everything possible to keep his name out of the papers. King also believes. This story is interrupted by an anonymous phone call warning King that the Minneapolis Morning Bugle has learned he is the husband Jemimah Cobb will name and has already set the story in type.
however. Meanwhile. This would allow friends to send someone posing as her brother to give her a vial of poison. King calls up a late-news service of the newspaper. feels he has the upper hand and balks at opening the safe. no questions asked.C. Givney. These elaborate plans come to naught. Rozalda and Otto. Rozalda's lover. to an eccentric emerald collector for $1000 cash. Givney. King knows that Jemimah Cobb. While employed in the King household. Hetchel learned that both Rozalda and Otto had love interests in other cities. He asks an operator for any new developments on the Pentonville Prison matter -. Not knowing of the new safe. King sweetens the deal by offering Givney the chance to take the skull to Chicago in the crimson shoe box and get the $500." a former employee and ex-actor who is so deathly afraid of being burned alive that he carries a vial of cyanide on his watch chain to swallow should he ever be trapped in a burning building. King's $1000 from the emerald would induce Horse (who is black) to pose as Jemimah's brother and slip her the poison. King planned to stop Cobb from revealing him as her husband. who had been hired by Laurel in Minneapolis as gardener in King's absence. after learning King's story. were out of the house at the same time on some night when Laurel was at the convent.that would allow him to rob his own wife -. is so afraid of being lynched that she will do anything to avoid it. his plan foiled only by the new burglar-proof safe. King found a former professor of languages on San Francisco's skid row and had him compose two letters. Hetchel and King thought he only needed to make sure that the servants. During their brief stint as man and wife. The letters told Otto and Rosalda to meet their lovers on the evening of October 22nd in different cities. Otto's German mistress. This money King plans to wire to Britain to a friend named "Horses. Thus King came home expecting the house to be empty. Smith typewriter with red ribbon. wrote in Polish on an Underwood machine. she told King that if she were ever facing the gallows she would tell the police that she has a brother. typing them on the respective machines in typewriter dealers' shops. however.but the operator hears only the . did not overhear the conversation with Steenburg and suspects that it is a trick. in turn. wrote in German on an L. Gretchen. Tomacek. Both lovers were married and thus communicated to Rozalda and Otto only by typewritten letter. In the safe is an emerald ring of Laurel's that he can sell.for the man was actually Alonzo Hetchel. the hour of Cobb's execution is drawing closer.
the British Home secretary reveals the solution to the Mulkovitch Riddle: Mulkovitch was actually a circus bearded lady. Theodosia Brianza. a journalist fired by the morning newspaper. It turns out that Man With the Magic Eardrums is just the first part of one of those mega-novels that Keeler's publishers demanded he break into smaller pieces.so it seems -. Maybe the next installment makes sense of all this -. At the very end. so there was no telltale evidence in the furnace. She took off her cheap Russian man's suit and burned it -. When the house's occupants were arrested. and "King" is a burglar -. Sick of carnival life.that Givney is really Mortimer King. Theodosia's circus ranged through Russia and Poland." Oliver Peebe. Penton. This was the anonymous phone call that King received earlier. smuggled a razor to Theodora so that she could remain clean-shaven in prison.] . Theodosia/Mulkovitch went to Cobb's whorehouse only to learn the sad news that Cobb had just returned from identifying the body of Theodora at the morgue. She named the President of the United States as her husband.or maybe the book after that does. that's where the novel ends. Cobb. Theodosia got a passport under a man's name so that she could travel without having to shave her beard. she learned some English from a "human skeleton. Meanwhile. [Huh?!? Sorry. Anxious to see her sister. Penton used this service to call every man in Minneapolis and tell them that they would be named as Jemimah Cobb's husband in the next issue of the Morning Bugle. out on bail. broke into the Minneapolis Telephone Exchange and tapped into an experimental service that allows authorities to call and address every phone in the Minneapolis area simultaneously in time of emergency. it is revealed -. twin of Cobb's French prostitute Theodora. Cobb was executed but went mad in her last hours.first part of his request and connects him to a recording of developments about a certain William Penton.who climbs out the window and runs away with the skull and his last two dimes in his pocket.the buttons were celluloid. Theodora agreed to shave her beard and assume the role of her sister.