Tiger Dick (1875) Spotlight
About the Novel
Tiger Dick, the Faro King; or, the Cashier’s Crime is a tale of love, revenge, and forgery featuring several criminals, with some being more evil than others. A good but convoluted read, it is distinctive in three respects: 1) its title is somewhat misleading in that the main character is not Tiger Dick, who only makes his appearance well into the story; 2) it is a detective fiction (DF) story featuring one of the least used of the five DF story types, the inverted detective mystery, in which the crime is committed first, the perpetrator is revealed, and then the detection process ensues with the reader following along, wondering how and when the culprit will be apprehended; and 3) it is notable for being written by the only known mixed race dime novelist of African-American descent.
The story details the plight of Cecil Beaumont, a bank cashier who is unlucky in everything he undertakes--including love--and who is also a criminal, having embezzled a large sum of money from the Wall Street bank where he works. Desperate to find a way to replace the money before his theft is discovered, Cecil, pretending that he returns May Powell’s affections, courts the banker’s daughter and intends to marry her so he will inherit her fortune. One thing standing in his way, however, is her brother Fred Powell, the joint heir to May’s fortune and the lover of Florence Goldthorpe, the young woman Cecil really loves who has rejected him. Before Cecil can figure out what to do about Fred Powell, he reencounters Tiger Dick, a gambler and swindler with whom Cecil has conducted shady deals in the past. After cornering Cecil and threatening his life, Tiger Dick, desiring a sizable cut of Cecil’s pending good fortune, forces Beaumont to incriminate Fred Powell by forging Fred’s father’s signature on a $500 bank draft and then by planting fake evidence of the forgery in Fred’s desk. Subsequently, Fred is condemned as a thief by his family, is jailed, and is sentenced to hang.
Beyond this point, more suspense, excitement, and plot twists occur before the story’s startling conclusion. In an unexpected plot twist, it is Florence Goldthorpe rather than a professional detective or policeman, who serves as the amateur sleuth who helps Fred Powell to escape execution and who ultimately proves his innocence.
Originally serialized in Beadle’s Saturday Journal nos. 271 to 289 between May 22 and September 25, 1875, Tiger Dick, the Faro King was later published complete in one volume as Beadle’s Dime Library, no. 29 on March 5, 1878. Warne also features Tiger Dick’s character in three other Beadle’s Dime Library dime novels: Tiger Dick, the Man of the Iron Heart; or, the Dumb Bandit, no. 171, February 1, 1882; Tiger Dick vs. The Iron Despard; or, Every Man Has His Match, no. 251, August 15, 1883; and The Golden Serpent; or, Tiger Dick’s Pledge, no. 380, February 8, 1886.
- At the beginning of the story, how does Warne inform the reader about Cecil Beaumont’s state of mind regarding his theft of the bank’s money? Why or why not should readers view Beaumont’s perception of his crime as remorseful? Be specific in your answer.
- Given that Tiger Dick is not the main character in this story, why do you think Warne titled this story as he did?
- Given the presumed literacy of their times, dime novel writers often include references to historical, biblical or mythological characters in their stories. Identify one or two such characters in this story and the circumstances in which they are mentioned.
- As mentioned in the story’s synopsis, some characters are more evil than others. Who are these characters and why are they more evil?
- A common theme for a story like this is, “Good always triumphs over evil.” What other themes can be extracted from this story?
- By what means does Florence Goldthorpe, the amateur detective in this story, help to exonerate Fred Powell? What is the importance of her character?
- How might perceptions regarding the events in this story have changed from its era to the present day? For instance, would modern relatives of a character accused of a crime react the same way Fred Powell’s father and grandfather do in this story? Why or why not?
- Like the nervous and nameless narrator of Edgar Alan Poe’s short story, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Cecil Beaumont is consumed by his bad luck and guilt. Identify two or more passages which illustrate Beaumont’s descent into madness.
- Given what ultimately happens to Cecil Beaumont and to Tiger Dick, what conclusion(s) can be reached about Warne’s viewpoints about crime and punishment?
- ---. “Just Desserts: Crime and Punishment in Philip S. Warne’s Dime Novel Mysteries.” Dime Novel Roundup, vol. 77, no. 1, February 2008, pp. 13–18.
Dime Novel scholar Marlena E. Bremseth examines the characterizations and resolution of Philip S. Warne’s Tiger Dick, the Faro King; or, the Cashier’s Crime dime novel mystery. Bremseth concludes that Warne possessed a surprisingly ambivalent viewpoint about crime and punishment.
- ---. Who Was Guilty? Two Dime Novels by Philip S. Warne and Howard W. Macy. Crippen & Landru Publishers, 2005.
In her introduction to this text, Bremseth discusses her research into the life and works of Philip S. Warne and Howard W. Macy and discloses the steps she took to ultimately conclude that the two authors were one and the same person.
- Bremseth, Marlena E. “Investigating a Dime Novel Mystery: Philip S. Warne.” Dime Novel Roundup, vol. 69, no. 663, June 2000, pp. 75–88.
Dime novel scholar Marlena E. Bremseth discusses her long journey to track down reliable information about Philip S. Warne. Bremseth posits that Warne was a pseudonym of author Howard W. Macy. A comparison of biographical content attached to both names follows.
- Johannsen, Albert. The House of Beadle & Adams and Its Dime and Nickel Novels: The Story of a Vanished Literature. University of Oklahoma Press, 1950.
Geologist and dime novel collector Albert Johannsen’s two volume set of books compiles the history and biographical author information of the Beadle & Adams publishing firm. Johannsen’s first volume details the firm’s history and lists its publications by series. The second volume offers biographical and bibliographical information about the authors.
- Streeby, Shelley. “Dime Novels and the Rise of Mass Market Genres.” Cambridge History of the American Novel, Cambridge University Press, 2011, pp. 586-99.
Shelley Streeby’s chapter in the Cambridge History of the American Novel offers a broad overview of dime novel history, famous characters, and significant authors. Part of this chapter addresses Warne, detailing his sympathetic view toward the poor, particularly in his 1881 serialized story, Who Was Guilty?