Between-the-wars newspaper headlines indicate that the "rumble" indeed offered go-to disposal for gangsters saddled with inconvenient cargo (for example, "Two Gunmen Slain, Left in Parked Car: Blood Stains on Mudguard Lead to Finding of the Bodies Jammed in the Rumble Seat").
"Mason Deal" not only wrote about bodies left in rumbles in his only detective novel; he named this novel The Rumble Murders. It is being reissued in the coming month, with an introduction by me and an afterword by David Chinitz, professor of English at Loyola University Chicago.
|rumble seat, filled this time, happily, with live bodies|
One of the admirers of this entertaining detective novel was mystery fiction fan and renowned poet, playwright and essayist T. S. Eliot, who in 1932 wrote the author an admiring letter about his book:
I read any detective story with enjoyment, but I think yours is a very good one; I am simply amazed at any human mind being able to think out all those details. I am quite sure I could never write a detective story myself....But apart from my astonishment at your skill in plot, I was especially interested by the book as a social document....
|Henry Ware Eliot, Jr. and his|
wife, artist and illustrator
Theresa Anne Garrett
Henry later became a Research Fellow on Near Eastern Archaeology at the Peabody Museum, Harvard, where his principle work, published posthumously, was Excavations in Mesopotamia and Western Iran: sites of 4000-500 B.C.: Graphic Analysis (1950). As this title suggests, Henry had a mind for intricate detail that was well-suited to the writing of classic detective fiction.
The Rumble Murders is set in a wealthy suburban development (Tom Eliot divined that the setting of the novel was Winnetka, Illinois, near Chicago) and concerns the disruption of life that takes place when two dead bodies are inconveniently discovered in rumbles in the area. Several of the locals, including a visiting detective and a detective story writer, decide to investigate the crime for themselves, as a sort of moonlighting "homicide squad." One reviewer noted the series of delicious complications which follows:
What with footsteps going up a concrete wall; a burglarized silo; a missing Colt 45; a barrel of excelsior; a lost family cemetery rediscovered, the queer cryptogram...; and the baboon shooting the babyroussa; not to mention the two bodies crammed into the rumble seats of two cars, one driven into the lake--Mr. Deal provides all the elements necessary for a neat little puzzle.
|T. S. Eliot|
Modern fans might be reminded of the donnish detective fiction of Ronald Knox and Michael Innes. Eliot and his characters don't treat murder with grave solemnity, seeing it more in the nature of a mental game. I think you will enjoy playing.