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KESTNER OF THE SECRET SERVICE

hearst_191408 hearst_191411 hearst_191412 hearst_191506 hearst_191505 hearst_191510 kestner_bk_tdod hearst_191508 hearst_191511 sat_even_post_19100702 kestner_bk_thop hearst_191509 hearst_191410 kestner_mv_thop hearst_191507
 
Full Name: Kestner
Nationality: American
Organization: Secret Service
Occupation Agent

Creator: Arthur Stringer
Time Span: 1910 - 1916

ABOUT THE SERIES

       Kestner is an agent with the American Secret Service.
       Often in stories from just after the turn of the 20th century, that designation really means an unnamed agency inside the American intelligence community but in this case Kestner is actually a part of the real Secret Service. He acknowledges that he is a "roving agent for the Treasury Department". His membership in this compendium comes about because of that 'roving' part as well as the activities he gets involved with, especially in the second collection of adventures.

       His position with the Treaury as an agent stationed in Europe was in no way "imperial. He had no actual jurisdiction over the territory he patrolled. He acted only under a tenuous extension of his own National Government's prerogatives. Beyond this, again, he was never permitted to act openly. He could never officially disclose himself, never personally purchase data or lay a charge or order an arrest He saw more inconvenience than romance in this system of preserving the full circle of anonymity. He was always face to face with his own limitations...He often thought of himself as a gardener set to watch a vegetable patch, warding off the hungry pullets without the power to wring their necks".

       Kestner is described in the opening page of one of the recorded adventures as being a 'wandering mouchard' [def:an undercover investigator; a police spy, especially in a French-speaking country]. Sitting at an outdoor cafe and told to note a woman, he watched her "as his many years in the service had taught him always to watch his quarry, with that casual and intermittent glance, with that discreet obliquity, which could so easily be interpreted as the idle curiosity of an idle-minded sightseer".
       Elsewhere we are told that Kestner "at times gave the appearance of being as lethargic as a blacksnake [but] could on occasions move with the astounding rapidity of that reptilious animal." He is known to apparently laze about as though he had no where else to be and then suddenly move with great speed and agility to accomplish a task without hesitation.
       Kestner, as would be expected in a T-Man, is an expert in detecting forgeries, especially currency, but as we learn through his activities, he is well up on his knowledge of spy craft and the science of catching foreign agents. Interestingly, "faces were Kestner's penchant. He had what has been called 'a camera eye' for such things", all of which meant that if he had seen someone associated with a particular event, he could recall it perfectly years later.

       We do not get to know anything really about Kestner outside of his work. This extends to never learning what his first name is. [Note: the synopsis of the movie mentioned below gives Kestner the first name of James but the name James does not appear in either of the books.]

Good line:

In explanation as to why a description of a female suspect contained information about her ear lobe, "this was a feature to which the Department's Service always gave minute and scrupulous attention, for both the Secret Agent (Kestner) and the T D (Treasury Department) itself had long since leanred that an ear lobe is a most dependable short cut to identification."

"Nothing much mattered with Kestner. He felt that he had peeled life like an onion, layer by layer, and that in getting at its heart he had lost the onion itself. He had seen too much of things to respond to their surprises."

"New and mildly amusing hands were dealt out [by Fate to Kestner] but it was always from the same soiled old pack."

"[Kestner] abominated idleness."

"A Secret Agent, like a surgeon, should always work impersonally."

BOOKS

Number of Books:2
First Appearance:1915
Last Appearance:1916

1 The Hand Of Peril The Hand Of Peril
Written by Arthur Stringer
Copyright: 1915

Subtitled Supertales of Modern Mystery
Likely a fix-up of the eight stories published earlier in Hearst's Magazine under the collection name of The Counterfeiters.
Kestner is in Paris when he is brought in to find the proof behind a band of highly successful currency counterfeiters who have been plying their trade all over Europe and is now planning on heading to the States.
[Note: available online at The Hand of Peril

2 The Door of Dread The Door of Dread
Written by Arthur Stringer
Copyright: 1916

Subtitled A Secret Service Romance
Likely a fix-up of the seven stories published earlier in Hearst's Magazine under the collection name of On Secret Service.


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NOVELLAS AND SHORT STORIES

Number of Stories:16
First Appearance:1910
Last Appearance:1915

       The very prolific, and obviously entertaining, Arthur Stringer, wrote for a good number of periodicals starting just before the turn of the 20th Century.
       For The Saturday Evening Post in 1910 he wrote a novella about Kestner which was serialized in two parts in July of that year.
       Kestner would go silent for several years before reappearing in more adventures which would be run monthly in Hearst's Magazine in 1914. Interestingly the first set of adventures in this return, titled The Counterfeiters would be retold, according to the Philsp.com, in Nash's Pall Mall Magazine a few months later but rewritten so the part of Kestner would be divided between Detectives King and Wilson.


1 The Secret Agent The Secret Agent
Written by Arthur Stringer
Copyright: 1910

Published in two parts in The Saturday Evening Post, Jul 2 - 9, 1910.
Kestner has been on the trail of a master criminal and spy, Tawney, for some time with no success. Now he is pulled off that case for a time to surveille a woman headed his way in Homburg. He is surprised to find that she was somehow connected to Tawney.

2 The Counterfeiters: In the Paris Quarters The Counterfeiters: In the Paris Quarters
Written by Arthur Stringer
Copyright: 1914

Published in Hearst's Magazine, Aug 1914. Collected in the book The Hand of Peril
[plot unknown]

3 The Counterfeiters: Their Palermo Quarters The Counterfeiters: Their Palermo Quarters
Written by Arthur Stringer
Copyright: 1914

Published in Hearst's Magazine, Oct 1914. Collected in the book The Hand of Peril
[plot unknown]

4 The Counterfeiters: The Quarters in Manhattan The Counterfeiters: The Quarters in Manhattan
Written by Arthur Stringer
Copyright: 1914

Published in Hearst's Magazine, Nov 1914. Collected in the book The Hand of Peril
[plot unknown]

5 The Counterfeiters: The Quarters off the Avenue, Part 1 The Counterfeiters: The Quarters off the Avenue, Part 1
Written by Arthur Stringer
Copyright: 1914

Published in Hearst's Magazine, Dec 1914. Collected in the book The Hand of Peril
[plot unknown]

6 The Counterfeiters: The Quarters off the Avenue, Part 2 The Counterfeiters: The Quarters off the Avenue, Part 2
Written by Arthur Stringer
Copyright: 1915

Published in Hearst's Magazine, Jan 1915. Collected in the book The Hand of Peril
[plot unknown]

7 The Counterfeiters: The Quarters on the River, Part 1 The Counterfeiters: The Quarters on the River, Part 1
Written by Arthur Stringer
Copyright: 1915

Published in Hearst's Magazine, Feb 1915. Collected in the book The Hand of Peril
[plot unknown]

8 The Counterfeiters: The Quarters on the River, Part 2 The Counterfeiters: The Quarters on the River, Part 2
Written by Arthur Stringer
Copyright: 1915

Published in Hearst's Magazine, Mar 1915. Collected in the book The Hand of Peril
[plot unknown]

9 The Counterfeiters: The Quarters in Rome The Counterfeiters: The Quarters in Rome
Written by Arthur Stringer
Copyright: 1915

Published in Hearst's Magazine, Apr 1915. Collected in the book The Hand of Peril
[plot unknown]

10 On Secret Service: Story 1 On Secret Service: Story 1
Written by Arthur Stringer
Copyright: 1915

Subtitle unknown. Published in Hearst's Magazine, May 1915. Likely collected in the book The Door of Dread
[plot unknown]

11 On Secret Service: Story 2 On Secret Service: Story 2
Written by Arthur Stringer
Copyright: 1915

Subtitle unknown. Published in Hearst's Magazine, Jun 1915. Likely collected in the book The Door of Dread
[plot unknown]

12 On Secret Service: The Secret Coast-Gun On Secret Service: The Secret Coast-Gun
Written by Arthur Stringer
Copyright: 1915

Published in Hearst's Magazine, Jul 1915. Likely collected in the book The Door of Dread
[plot unknown]

13 On Secret Service: The Secret Wireless Code On Secret Service: The Secret Wireless Code
Written by Arthur Stringer
Copyright: 1915

Published in Hearst's Magazine, Aug 1915. Likely collected in the book The Door of Dread
[plot unknown]

14 On Secret Service: The Secret Explosive On Secret Service: The Secret Explosive
Written by Arthur Stringer
Copyright: 1915

Published in Hearst's Magazine, Sep 1915. Likely collected in the book The Door of Dread
[plot unknown]

15 On Secret Service: The Secret House On Secret Service: The Secret House
Written by Arthur Stringer
Copyright: 1915

Published in Hearst's Magazine, Oct 1915. Likely collected in the book The Door of Dread
[plot unknown]

16 On Secret Service: The Secret Conference On Secret Service: The Secret Conference
Written by Arthur Stringer
Copyright: 1915

Published in Hearst's Magazine, Nov 1915. Likely collected in the book The Door of Dread
[plot unknown]

MOVIES

Number of Movies:1
First Appearance:1916
Last Appearance:1916

1 The Hand of Peril The Hand of Peril
Director: Maurice Tourneur
Writer: Maurice Tourneur
Actors: House Peters as James Kestner, June Elvidge as Maura Lambert, Ralph Delmore as Frank Lambert, Doris Sawyer as 'Bull's Eye' Cherry
Released: 1916

According to IMDB: "James Kestner is a government secret agent on the trail of a band of counterfeiters and particularly anxious to locate the head of the gang, Frank Lambert, who, in addition to his skill as a counterfeiter, is known to the underworld as the only man who can fill in the perforations of a used bank check." It was 1h 6min in length and apparently there are no known copies extant.

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