Erle Stanley Gardner was a remarkably prolific mystery writer. He created Perry Mason, to be sure, as well as a variety of other series characters. Among them was a character called the Patent Leather Kid, who appears in just 13 stories written in the early 1930s. Those stories have been collected as "The Exploits of the Patent Leather Kid," edited by Bill Pronzini. The book is the subject of this week's Classic Mysteries podcast review, which can be heard by clicking here.
The Patent Leather Kid is an elegant crook, who disguises himself in a patent leather mask, gloves and shoes. He is the sworn enemy of both the corrupt big-city police force and the Prohibition-era gangsters and bootleggers who infest the city. The stories all follow the same basic line: the Kid hears about an injustice, usually involving the police making some innocent fall-guy take the blame for a crime he or she didn't commit. The Kid comes up with a complex and ingenious plot which results in the fall-guy being cleared (often enriched by the proceeds of the Kid's latest robbery or burglary), the real bad guys being killed or incarcerated, and the Kid's primary enemy, Inspector Brame of the police, being further infuriated by the Kid's bold schemes.
It's another entry in publisher Crippen & Landru's "Lost Classics" series, and the collection is a great deal of fun to read.