Frederick Irving Anderson

Frederick Irving AndersonFrederick Irving Anderson (1877-1947) was an American journalist and short story writer, born in Illinois. He was a prolific contributor to The Saturday Evening Post, and other magazines. Anderson began publishing fiction around 1910, before World War I, and was still at it up to the time of his death in 1947. He married Helen de Zouche, and retired after her death in 1937 to Vermont. There are four book collections of his short stories. But much of his work has never been published in book form. His character the Infallible Godahl is a self-proclaimed master criminal whose Watson is the writer Oliver Armiston. Both Godahl and the female jewel thief Sophie Lang manage to outwit the New York detective Deputy Parr.

Frederick Irving Anderson has shown perhaps the greatest mastery of the American short detective story . . . in ingenuity, command of plot, and the carefully integrated backgrounds of his work. So wrote the great mystery critic and historian, Howard Haycraft, in 1941. Ellery Queen added that his style is rich in detail and double-rich in expression. Many of his stories take place in New York City during the 1920s and the 1930s, and they feature the manhunter Deputy Parr and the ;extinct author, Oliver Armiston, who stopped writing ingenious crime stories because criminals were copying his gimmicks.

Read “The Unknown Masterpiece” by Frederick Irving Anderson. Published June 5, 1915, in the Post .

Further reading:

Short stories collections:

  • The Adventures of the Infallible Godahl (1914) [“The Infallible Godahl”; “Blind Man’s Buff”; “The Night of a Thousand Thieves”; “Counterpoint”; “The Fifth Tube” and “An All-Star Cast”].
  • The Notorious Sophie Lang (1925) [“The Signed Masterpiece” (1921)”; “The Jorgensen Plates” 1922)].
  • Book of Murder (1930) [“Beyond All Conjecture” (1928); “The Japanese Parasol” (1926); “The Magician” (1925); “A Start in Life”  (1926); “The Recoil” (1929); “Gulf Stream Green” (1929) and “The Door Key” (1929)].
  • The Purple Flame and Other Detective Stories (2016) [“The Purple Flame” (1912); “The Phantom Alibi” (1920); “Wild Honey” (1921); “The Footstep” (1925); “The House of Many Mansions” (1928); “Hangman’s Truce” (1928); “Vivace-Ma Non Troppo” (1929); “Thumbs Down” (1930); “The Two Martimos” (1930); “The Pandora Complex” (1932); “Unfinished Business” (1933); “At Early Candlelight” (1937); “What Is the Goat’s Name?” (1937); “Murder in Triplicate” (1946) and “The Man from the Death House” (1951)].

As far back as 1914, Frederick Irving Anderson (1877 – ), one of the best known magazine authors of his generation, had turned his attention to crime with the episodic adventures of The Infallible Godahl. A later series of related short stories dealt with the career of The Notorious Sophie Lang (memorialized in several cinema incarnations). Neither of these efforts represented pure detection, but the seed was planted. A character who had appeared in both series was Deputy Parr of the New York police. Beginning in 1921, Parr was given a series of his own in The Saturday Evening Post. The stories covered a leisurely decade an d then were collected in The Book of Murder (1930). Because of his small output between permanent covers, Frederick Irving Anderson has escaped the attention of many devotees of the form; yet it is no exaggeration to say that he has shown perhaps  the greatest mastery of the American short detective story of any writer since Melville Davisson Post, whom he greatly resembles in ingenuity, command of plot, and the carefully integrated backgrounds of his work. Like Post, also, his stories have a quality of timelessness which makes them as readable to-day as when they were written. (Murder for Pleasure: The Life & Times of the Detective Story, by Howard Haycraft. Dover Publications, 2019).


(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Thomas Y. Crowell Company (USA), 1914)

The Adventures of the Infallible Godahl, by Frederick Irving Anderson. Six short stories featuring a roguish master thief: “The Infallible Godahl”; “Blind Man’s Buff”; “The Night of a Thousand Thieves”; “Counterpoint”; “The Fifth Tube” and “An All-Star Cast”.

This book narrates six adventures of a remarkable master thief. Otto Penzler says it best in TAD, Volume 19, Number 2, Pages 158-159, “He (Frederick Irving Anderson) is one of the distinguished short-story writers in the history of the American short story in general, and the short crime story in particular.” “The Infallible Godahl”, the first of Anderson’s creations, is the most perfect criminal mind ever devised. He does not rely on luck or daring to achieve his ends; he employs flawless logic. It is his belief that, if he thinks a problem through to its logical end, it will be impossible for him to get caught. He achieves his aims so impeccably that he has not only never been caught, but he has never even been suspected of a crime.” He states further that this book, “is surely one of the great cornerstone volumes in the far-reaching world of mystery fiction. The omission of the book from Queen’s Quorum, Ellery Queen’s selection of the 125 most important volumes of detective short stories, is one of the major flaws in that otherwise excellent work.”  (Source: AbeBooks IberLibro).

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