The Wire Devils
Publication Year: 2013
Best known for his Jimmie Dale series of books, which have sold more than 3 million copies worldwide, Frank L. Packard first published The Wire Devils in 1918. A “wire thriller” that uses the booming railroads and telegraph lines of the old West as its backdrop for fast-paced adventure, The Wire Devils follows a criminal gang of the same name who hijack a railroad’s telegraph lines to glean information about profitable shipments. But foiling them again and again is the Hawk, the outlaw hero who robs from the robbers and is ultimately on the side of law and order.
Combining elements from dime-store novels and Packard’s own experience on the rails, The Wire Devils is at once a hybrid western and a thriller still worth reading nearly a century after it was written.
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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Industrial America was born, according to Henry Adams, in May 1844. On the twenty-fourth day of that month, Samuel Morse demonstrated his telegraph to a gathering of dignitaries in the Supreme Court chambers of the U.S. Capitol. ...
Chapter I: The Secret Code
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Two switch lights twinkled; one at the east. and one at the west end of the siding. For the rest all was blackness. Half way between the switch lights, snuggled close against the single-tracked main line, the station, little more than a shanty and too insignificant to boast a night operator, loomed up shadowy and indistinct. ...
Chapter II: The Ten-Dollar Counterfeit Note
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The Hawk crawled out from under the tarpaulin and dropped to the ground, as the freight, slowing down, began to patter in over the spur switches of the Selkirk yard. He darted, bent low, across several spurs to escape the possibility of observation from the freight's caboose; then began to make his way toward the roundhouse ahead of him. ...
Chapter III: The Paymaster's Safe
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From the roundhouse it was only a few yards to the rear of the long, low-lying freight sheds and, unobserved, the Hawk gained this new shelter. He stole quickly along to the further end of the sheds; and there, crouched down again in the shadows, halted to make a critical survey of his surroundings. ...
Chapter IV: At Bald Creek Station
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A half mile away, along a road that showed like a grey thread in the night, twinkled a few lights from the little cluster of houses that made the town of Bald Creek. At the rear of the station itself, in the shadow of the walls, it was inky black. ...
Chapter V: In Which a Cash Box Disappears
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Twenty minutes later, as No. I7 pulled into Selkirk, the Hawk, his erstwhile drowsiness little in evidence, dropped to the platform while the train was still in motion, and before MacVightie and Lanson in the rear car, it might be fairly assumed, had thought of leaving their seats. ...
Chapter VI: Some of the Little Spiders
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The Hawk reached the door, as Calhoun stepped into the corridor from the general office and passed by outside, evidently making for the main entrance of the building. He opened the door cautiously the width of a crack—and held it in that position. ...
Chapter VII: Wanted—The Hawk—Dead or Alive
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MacVighte had become troublesome. For two days MacVightie had very seriously annoyed the Hawk. It was for that reason that the Hawk now crept stealthily up the dark, narrow stairs, and, on the landing, listened in strained attention before the door of his own room. ...
Chapter VIII: Threads in the Web
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It was not far to the station—down through the lane from the Palace Saloon—and close to the station, he remembered, there was a little short-order house that was generally patronised by the railroad men. Old Mother Barrett's short-order house, they called it. She was the wife of an engineer who had been killed, ...
Chapter IX: The Looting of the Fast Mail
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The minutes went by, ten, fifteen, twenty of them—a half hour—and then, from far down the track, hoarse through the night, came the scream of a whistle. From his pocket the Hawk took out his diminutive flashlight, thin as a pencil. It might have been the winking of a firefly, as he played it on the dial of his watch. ...
Chapter X: The Third Party
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The Hawk felt upward with his hand over the safe. It was faced, he found, toward the rear of the wagon. This necessitated a change in his own position. He listened tensely. They were coming back with the horses now, but they were still quite a little way off. ...
Chapter XI: The Lead Capsule
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The Hawk yawned. He had been almost forty-eight hours without sleep. He had slept all day after he had regained his room, following the night at "Five-Mile Crossing," but after that—— ...
Chapter XII: Blindman's-Buff
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Five minutes later, standing in another room—his own—the Hawk rapidly changed the light-grey suit he had been wearing for one of a darker material. From the pockets of the discarded suit he transferred to the pockets of the suit he had just put on, amongst other things, his automatic and his bunch of skeleton keys. ...
Chapter XIII: The Man with the Scar
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The two men left the room. The Hawk did not move. He was fingering in a curiously absent-minded sort of way the edges of the newspaper that still protruded from his pocket. It was very simple, very easy. The window was open, the cupboard was not locked, the room was empty, there were only the Bantam and the Butcher to look out for, ...
Chapter XIV: The Clue
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Two days had passed—two days, and a night. The Hawk's fingers drummed abstractedly without sound on the table top; his eyes, in a curiously introspective stare, were fixed on the closely drawn window shade across the room. From the ill-favoured saloon below his unpretentious lodgings, there came, muffled, a chorus of voices ...
Chapter XV: The Ladybird
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The Hawk rose, and began to move forward. Conmore was certainly an idealistic spot—from the Wire Devils' standpoint! He frowned a little. There was no doubt in his mind but that in a general way he had solved the problem, that somewhere in this vicinity the right of way held the wire tappers' secret; ...
Chapter XVI: An Even Break
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It took the Hawk some twenty-five minutes to reach the spot he had selected as his objective, a spot some fifty yards east of the Conmore siding switch, and here he lay down in the grass under the shelter of the embankment. It was very quiet, very still, very dark; ...
Chapter XVII: A Hole in the Wall
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The wound was healed—partially, at least. If the Hawk had unduly shortened his period of convalescence, he was perhaps justified, and not wholly without excuse! He stood now in the black shadows, hugged close to the wall of the roundhouse. ...
Chapter XVIII: The Hawk Packs His Valise
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The Hawk looked at his watch again, removed his feet from the table, knocked the ashes from the bowl of his pipe, stood up, and crossed leisurely to the window. The window gave on the fire escape. He lifted aside the shade, and stood there for a moment staring out into the darkness, then drew the shade very carefully back into place again. ...
Chapter XIX: Birds of a Feather
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It took twenty minutes for the run to the Junction. And at the Junction, as far as the Hawk could tell, since, yielding to what had become a sort of habit with him, he descended to the ground on the opposite side from the station, he was the only passenger for that stop. It was dark here; strangely silent, and strangely lonely. ...
Chapter XX: "Confidential" Correspondence
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Two days later MacVightie received a letter that had been posted the day before from a city quite a number of miles nearer the East than Selkirk was. In the left-hand, lower corner of the envelope, heavily underscored, was the word: "Confidential." What MacVightie read, when he opened the letter, was this: ...
About the Author
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Frank L. Packard (1877–1942) was a popular writer of crime fiction. Born in Montreal, Quebec, his early years were spent working as a civil engineer for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Between 1914 and 1938 he authored nearly thirty books, including the popular Jimmie Dale series. ...
Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2013