THE PUZZLE OF ARCHIBALD THE GREAT [The Arizona Mysteries] by Clarence Budington Kelland

A geek, a nerd and two tough-as-nails ranch women fight rubber rustlers during WWII—when rubber meant $$$$!

"A delightful, fast-moving, merry tale, a credit to Mr. Kelland." —Daily Oklahoman

"Kelland, with his sharp dialogue and humor, at his best." —Menasha Record

A masterpiece of screwball romcom from Clarence Budington Kelland, the man who invented the genre, set against the background of the Homefront during the Second World War. The Puzzle of Archibald the Great is filled with his trademark delirious, pixilated battle-of-the-sexes dialogue. Archibald Cloyd was an ubergeek and as pedantic as it is possible to be. He looked like Napoleon, he strutted like Napoleon, so naturally he made himself the world's greatest expert on the Little Corsican. Naturally Hollywood hired him at thousands of dollars a week as the technical director on a movie about Napoleon.

Wilson Page, Cloyd's secretary, was a nerd. He didn’t fit in anywhere, and when the Air Force turned him down due to a childhood heart problem, Wilson gave up on life. He figured he didn't deserve anything better than being nursemaid to a strutting egomaniac like Archibald Cloyd. He looked down on himself and Cloyd in equal measure.

But when Archibald fell for a gangsters' moll, the gangster took exception to the relationship, and Cloyd proved too stuck-up to back down even when faced with torture, Wilson Page discovered he had developed affection for the pompous little geek, and swore to extract him from the situation.

Then the movie company moved to Arizona to shoot desert scenes about Napoleon's Egyptian venture, and with Archibald now thousands of miles away from the hot-tempered gangster, Wilson Page breathed a sigh of relief.

But his relief didn't last long. For, in the desert, Page discovered a complication he had never dreamed of, when they encountered the Widow Hammer, an outsized woman with an outsized voice that could call the cattle home from a range beyond the mountains in a different state, who took a shine to Archibald because, as she said, "He talks beautiful. He don't always make sense a body can understand, but the sound of it is lovely."

And matters became even more complicated for Wilson Page when he fell for the irritating Miss Jemima Ward, a young woman who was used to running her own ranch, which she had inherited from her father, and looked down on soft men who earned their keep at soft jobs sitting in chairs—like secretaries to academic pedants—and looked even further down on young men who were not enlisted and off fighting in defense of their country against the fascist regimes of Italy and Germany.

Then just when it looked like things couldn't get more complicated, Page and Jemma discovered an old abandoned mine filled with a fortune in stolen rubber tires, one of the Homefront's least obtainable and most valuable commodities. And who did it belong to? The same hot-tempered gangster who had sworn to do the dirty to Archibald the first chance he got…

"Kelland addicts will not be disappointed." —Arizona Star

"Typical Kelland ingenuity and humor. Good reading." —L.A. Times

"It has long been a popular theory that pompous, strutting individuals who take great pains to let the rest of the world know their opinions on every situation and who act as authorities on any question that may arise, are actually empty shells, using their loud voices to hide the fact that their mental and physical facilities are not exactly what they should be. But leave it to Clarence Budington Kelland to disprove this theory and do it in a manner both interesting and highly entertaining. As usual, the dialogue is in the humorously sly vein." —Allentown Morning Call

"Another of Kelland's custom-tailored jobs. Diverting." —Kirkus Reviews

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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.