THE PUZZLE OF SIDEWINDER GULCH [The Arizona Mysteries] by Clarence Budington Kelland

The classic Saturday Evening Post romantic mystery—for the first time ever in book form!

“[Kelland is] a writer of distinction.” —The Detroit News

“His mysteries are on the ball.” —Criminal Record

Before he began writing, Post editor Ben Hibbs warned Kelland, "don't have too many cockeyed characters."

"Whereupon," said Kelland, "I turned out seven installments about a good guy surrounded by cockeyed characters."

What happens when a Korean War vet recovering from serious injuries wins a ghost town in a contest, meets a hard-riding, gun-toting cowgirl, and is threatened by three dangerous people all in a few short days? Answer: Cockeyed characters, pixilated dialogue, zany romance and heart-stopping suspense. In short, everything Kelland fans love about Kelland novels. Based in part on real events—and set in a real ghost town that was actually given away (by The Saturday Evening Post) in a real contest, a place you can still visit today.

Waldo Emerson Whitelaw was pleasantly surprised when he won a supposedly worthless Arizona ghost town named Sidewinder Gulch in a "write a jingle" contest. He was less pleasantly surprised when the glowering Hugo Pung offered him six thousand dollars for the deed—and threatened his life if he refused. Was Sidewinder Gulch somehow more valuable than Whitelaw believed? So he took laconic, plain-spoken New Englanders Habakkuk Ware and his wife Melinna, who had raised him after his parents' death, and set off for Arizona.

When they arrived, Whitelaw met the rear end of a cow backing toward him in a clear state of hysteria, with ranchwoman Gwendolin Carver attached to a rope at its head. "You underfed, skinny-legged dude," she said to Whitelaw, "grab hold of this rope and help!" Everything he said and did after that only seemed to irritate her more. That night, self-styled land speculator Miles Winter and his seductive gal-friend, Mona Avery, showed up and made him an even bigger offer for the deed to Sidewinder Gulch. A few hours later a shot rang out.

Thus begins one of Clarence Budington Kelland's finest, and rarest, novels, previously published only as a seven-part serial in the legendary and bestselling magazine of its era, The Saturday Evening Post. Now in book form for the first time.

Reader bonus: How The Puzzle of Sidewinder Gulch came to be written; photos of the real Sidewinder Gulch, yesterday and today; sample chapters from three of Kelland's most famous mysteries: Miss Drugget Rides the Train, The Cardiff Giant Affair, and Murder and the Key Man.

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About the Author

Clarence Budington Kelland was author of nearly 100 novels of mystery and romantic suspense, had enough careers for several men: attorney, reporter, manufacturer of clothespins, director of a major newspaper group, and more. Kelland became best known as a fiction writer, penning some 100 novels, and selling them as serials to the biggest and highest paying magazines of the time—like The Saturday Evening Post, The American Magazine, Colliers, and Cosmopolitan. Many were immortalized on film, of which the romantic suspense comedy and Oscar-winner, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, is undoubtedly the most famous. Kelland appeared alongside Agatha Christie, Rex Stout and Erle Stanley Gardner in the same magazines, but was the most popular of the four. The New York Times described Kelland’s novels as “lively stories, designed to prick the jaded palate, that keep readers pleasantly entertained” and noted that “Kelland demonstrates the emotions of his lovers with a psychological penetration.” Kirkus Reviews called his novels “Bright and breezy, with plus appeal for murder-mystery addicts.” His magazine publishers kept besieging him for more novels because every time they serialized one of them (typically in 6-8 installments), circulation shot upward. Kelland obliged, and produced far more each year than his publisher (Harper and Row) could keep up with, leaving more than three dozen unpublished in book form when he died. His inimitable characters, trademark dialogue and deftly plotted stories, according to Harper, “made him an American tradition and won him more loyal, devoted readers than almost any other living author.” Kelland, as ever self-depreciating, simply described himself as “the best second-rate writer in the world.” His legions of fans, old and new, would likely disagree. There was nothing second-rate about his work.