LibriVox: The Black Star by Johnston McCulley

Aural Noir: Online Audio

LibriVoxToday Johnston McCulley is probably best known as the creator of Zorro. But in his own day McCulley had several success in pulp fiction. The Black Star was among his first repeating characters – the titular character being a masked burglar with a massive ego and a five pointed signautre.

Proof listener “Betty M.” says that the titular Black Star reminds her of “the Scarlet Pimpernel, only the Black Star is a scoundrel” – after listening to the first chapter he sounds like a demented supervillain to me – he breaks-in to private residences and pastes black stars all over people’s headboards and dressing tables!!?!?!

The Wikipedia entry on Black Star describes him thusly:

Black Star was what was once termed a “gentleman criminal”, in that he does not commit murder, nor does he permit any of his gang to kill anyone, not even the police or his arch enemy Roger Verbeck. He does not threaten women, always keeps his word, and is invariably courteous, nor does he deal with narcotics in any of his stories. He is always seen in a black cloak and a black hood on which is embossed a jet black star. The Black Star and his gang used “vapor bombs” and “vapor guns” which rendered their victims instantly unconscious, a technique which pre-dated the Green Hornet’s gas gun by several decades.

That still sounds a lot more Lex Luthor, than Raffles, to me.

LIBRIVOX - The Black Star by Johnston McCulleyThe Black Star
By Johnston McCulley; Read by Roger Melin
36 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 8 Hours 7 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: May 17, 2011
The Black Star was a master criminal who took great care to never be identifiable, always wore a mask so nobody knew what he looked like, rarely spoke to keep his voice from being recognized, and the only mark left at the scenes of the crimes which he and his gang committed were small black stars which were tacked as a sign of their presence, and an occasional sarcastic note to signify his presence and responsibility. Even those who worked for him knew nothing of him, all of which were making his crimes virtually unsolvable. The police were at a complete loss as to his identity and at a method of stopping his criminal activities. He seemed to have the perfect strategic setup and all advantages were in his favor. He even somehow knew where the wealthy kept their jewels and money, and knew when they would remove valuable items from their safes and deposit boxes. Thus Roger Verbeck decided to take on the case of the Black Star using his own methodology. The Black Star will keep you guessing from beginning to end, just as he kept the police and Verbeck guessing.

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[Thanks also to Betty M. and David Lawrence]

Posted by Jesse Willis

One thought to “LibriVox: The Black Star by Johnston McCulley”

  1. Given all the real life chloroform-using burglars in old New York (man, did I love The Poisoner’s Handbook history!), you can see where all the “gas guns” and such came from. Always used to mystify me as a kid.

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