Jack Boyle and the Innkeeper’s Daughter

August 29, 2011 at 8:11 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

One of the oddest anecdotes that my ongoing research has brought to light comes from the pen of a writer other than Jack Boyle.  Instead, it appeared in the syndicated newspaper feature “Modern Parables” written by columnist and author Fulton Oursler  –  but, nonetheless, it raises questions about the creator of Boston Blackie.  Published in March 1950, the story was circulated more than two decades after Boyle’s death.  Here is the piece in its entirety:


“The Innkeeper’s Daughter”
By Fulton Oursler (from his MODERN PARABLES column of 3/5/50)

One of the strangest stories I know happened to the late Jack Boyle, fiction writer.  He was late on the deadline for a magazine yarn, and found himself
helpless at his typewriter.  For some reason, he was unable to to write; his mind was obsessed with another plot.  The story, struggling in his mind to be born, was not anything he wanted to write.  But he finally surrendered and now his fingers fairly flew over the keys: within two hours the manuscript was finished.  Then he read it over.  “This crazy piece is no good,” he said, tossing it aside.  Not for two years was he to look at it: not until an editor wired for a story in a hurry.  Once again the author read that unlikely tale.  It told of two brothers who enlisted in the war.  One night, while sleeping in a front line trench, the younger man had a dream.  He saw a battle coming to an end, smoke lifting, the coming of morning.  In deepening light he beheld a ladder into the sky.  Up this ladder two men were climbing.  One of the two was trying to climb upward, while the other held
stubbornly back.  The dreaming brother ran to the bottom of the ladder calling: “What does it mean?”  The lower of the figures replied: “There are two of me – there are two of everybody.  One is my higher, the other my lower self.  The higher self would rise, the lower holds back.”  The dreamer awoke, to receive word that his brother had been killed.  That was Jack’s queer manuscript, which soon was published in a magazine.  And then the author got a letter from an innkeeper’s daughter.

“To me your story of the higher and lower self is a matter of life and death.  I was in love with a boy named Ned.  When the war came, he enlisted, and we were married the night before he left.  He told me when we said good-by that if anything happened to him, his spirit was going to come back to me.  “He was killed four days before the Armistice was signed.  Ever since then I have been trying to get the message he promised me, but it has never come.  Finally I couldn’t stand it any longer; I went into an empty room in my father’s hotel, resolved to die.  But I noticed a magazine lying on the bed.  It was open at your story.  Now I have got to know whether that story is just made up – or whether it is true.  Did it really happen?  If it is true, then I think the reason Ned can’t get through to me is because my lower self is holding me back.  I am willing to follow my other self.  Please – is the story true?  If not, I can’t wait any longer.”

Jack felt strange as he sat down to answer her.  The story, he told her, was really true in its meaning for her.  The reply he got was astonishing.  She was going all the way to  France, where she would be a clerk, cataloging graves in the American cemetery where her husband was buried.  “You see,” she wrote, “I am going to be near him.”  More months passed by and then came the last letter Jack was ever to have from her:

“I want you to know how glad I was that I waited.  I am in a hospital here with tuberculosis.  The doctors tell me there is absolutely no hope.  In three months at the most I shall be with Ned.  Hasn’t God been good to me?”


This vignette is a total puzzle to me.  Is Mr. Oursler referring to Jack Boyle of Boston Blackie fame?  By the 1950s, Boyle was hardly a household name any longer, so Oursler’s mention of “Jack Boyle, fiction writer” with no further elaboration is surprising.  Even more curious is the story he relates.  Despite having unearthed some 40 of Boyle’s tales (his entire output of fiction, to the best of my knowledge), I have found no published counterpart to this unlikely yarn.  It’s certainly atypical of the remainder of his canon, but that is not proof that the story is not his.  So the question remains, is this an anecdote of another Jack Boyle, a fabrication, or are more Boyle stories still lurking out there, waiting to be discovered?

JBF 8/29/11

1 Comment

  1. angeliathatsme (@angeliathatsme) said,

    Could it be an opium dream?

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