First published in 1914, THE LONE WOLF is the tale of Michael Lanyard, gentleman thief and adventurer, and was the first of a series of eight novels through 1934(another by Carl W. Smith, The Lone Wolf and The Hidden Empire appeared in 1947). He appeared in some two dozen films, beginning in the silent era in 1917, a radio series beginning in 1948, and a TV series in 1954. By this time, he’d become a former jewel thief, now private eye, still distrusted by minions of the law. Moonstone Books resurrected the character as female for a comic book series.
There are some who say he was an inspiration for Leslie Charteris’ The Saint. Five Lone Wolf novels had appeared by the time of The Saint Meets The Tiger(or Meet The Tiger) in 1928.
As a five year old boy, he was dropped off at an establishment called Troyon’s by a man and grew up there. It’s never said, but one suspicions that it is a brothel as the Madam sends him to school when he gets old enough to avoid legal authorities from nosing around. It also seems to serve as a regular hotel and has an expensive restaurant on the premises as well.
As he grows, the boy cleans rooms, mops floors, whatever he has to to survive. He picks up a love of reading from books left by patrons and when he finds a French-English dictionary, he teaches himself to read English, without being able to speak it. He also roams the streets at night, learning things that school doesn’t teach. Savate, kick boxing, for one. Apache gangsters he frequently encountered.
He picks up bits of money by burgling the rooms of patrons, never taking enough to be noticed. He finally slips up by picking up coins from a man snoring loudly a few feet away and, as he’s leaving, looks back to see the man watching him. That’s how he hooked up with Bourke, the mentor that taught him other things about his profession. He stayed with him for six years until Bourke’s death.
During that time, and later, his reputation grew. The Lone Wolf, so named by a newspaper, is a mysterious jewel thief. No one knows what he looks like(he even gets credit for jobs he didn’t do). His civilian life is that of an art dealer, he’s quite good there, and at night, and on trips, he plies his real trade as jewel thief.
When he arrives back in Paris after two jobs in London, one planned, the Omber jewels, and the other by lucky circumstance, the Huysman Papers, he spies trouble right away at the train station: Inspector Roddy of Scotland Yard and the Prefecture of the Paris police. Lanyard slips through that and, on impulse, directs the cab to Troyon’s instead of his apartment.
While dining there, two more things put him on guard: a group at the nest table are discussing The Lone Wolf, with one reluctantly bragging about how his group has discerned the jewel thief’s identity, and Inspector Roddy comes in for dinner!
Roddy is staying at the hotel and Lanyard takes a room beside his to keep an eye on him, finally slipping out late at night to go to his apartment.
Lanyard had always operated by a simple tenet taught him by his mentor, Bourke:
“The more trouble you make for yourself, the less the good public will make for you.”
When he entered his apartment, it was immediately obvious that it had been searched. All his careful markers were moved. Nothing had been taken, though the apartment was filled with artwork, rare books, old manuscripts(his day job), and when he goes to his hidden stash, he finds one note has a message for him:
“To the Lone Wolf, the pack sends greetings and extends it’s invitation…”
An address and a time to meet, that very night.
The pack, he learns, is a group of Paris’ leading criminal lights and they want him as part of them, half the proceeds from the Omber jewels to go to them. It’s that or the police learn his identity.
Michael Lanyard is known as The Lone Wolf for a reason and refuses and the fight is on.
All exits from Paris are covered. He can’t make a move without being spotted and has to figure a way to get of the city. The German agent who murdered the French inventor Huysman and mistook Lanyard for his English contact has arrived in Paris and wants the aeroplane improvement plans back. And who is the beautiful young woman, Lucy Shannon, that keeps popping up at inopportune times, a young woman that soon captures Lanyard’s heart. The feelings are reciprocated, but she has a secret she refuses to tell him that prevents them from being together.
He has to make a momentous decision about his life, take a desperate gamble, and figure a way to get the two of them out of the city.
I first read this one several years ago from Project Gutenberg. At the time, other than that(along with three other novels in the series), it was only available on the used book sites. The prices are not outrageous, but in January of this year, the book pictured was released, a reproduction of the original publication. The photograph is that of Louis Hayward, the actor who played Lanyard on the TV series.