No. 540
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
October 24, 2021

Old King Brady.

February 14, 2012
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Old King Brady.

Hop-Lee
 
Old King Brady was probably the most popular of the nineteenth-century dime novel detectives. The first of his adventures was published in 1885 (though the action takes place in 1881) when New
Sleuth-Hound
Old King Brady, 1885
York City detective James Brady was between fifty and sixty years old. He was called “Old King Brady” because he was “…the most celebrated of all the famous detectives the United States has produced.” “Old” was probably added to his title as an attempt to ride the success of Old Sleuth, the first dime novel detective who was introduced in
Old-Sleuth
Old Sleuth
1872—though Old Sleuth was actually a young man who would disguise himself a wizened old man.

Old King Brady was tall and clean-shaven with short gray hair. He had gray eyes, an aquiline nose, and perfect white teeth. Brady always wore a long, blue, military-cut coat and a broad brimmed hat. He did not possess the keen intellect of Sherlock Holmes or Edgar Allen Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin, nor was he afflicted with any of the eccentricities of these literary detectives. He was pure and moral, solving his cases with dogged determination, and thorough police work. And in the inevitable showdown with the bad guys, Old King Brady was a man of action who never failed.

104 Old King Brady stories were published between 1885 and 1894 written by Francis Worcester Doughty under the penname “A New York Detective.” After a five-year hiatus, Old King Brady returned in 1899 forming the Brady Detective Bureau which reported directly to the United States Secret Service. Joining him was Harry Brady, known as Young King Brady—they had the same last name, but James and Harry were not related. Also with the Bureau was Alice Montgomery, a blond, attractive former operative for the Australian Secret Service.

Joss-House-Jim
The Bradys and Joss House Jim

Though they fought crimes throughout the United States and in exotic locations around the world, the Bradys spent much of their time on Mott Street in New York City, and in San Francisco’s Chinatown, fighting the “Yellow Peril.” Their enemies were most often Chinese highbinders, opium peddlers, and white slavers, with names like Hop Lee, Hi-Lo-Jak, and Joss House Jim.

After 726 more weekly adventures between 1899 and 1912 the Brady Detective Bureau closed up shop. “A New York Detective” had run out of plots and dime novels, in general, could not compete with moving pictures for the small change of American boys.














Sources:
  • Doughty, Francis Worcester. Old King Brady, the sleuth-hound. New York: F. Tousey, 1885.
  • Doughty, Francis Worcester. Hop Lee, the Chinese slave dealer, or, Old and Young King Brady and the opium fiends: a story of shrewd detective work in San Francisco. New York: Frank Tousey, 1899.
  • Doughty, Francis Worcester. The Bradys and “Joss House Jim,” or, Tracking a Chinese Crook. New York: Frank Tousey, 1909.
  • Hoppenstand, Gary. The Dime novel detective. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1982.
  • Old Sleuth, the detective, or, The Bay Ridge mystery. New York: G. Munro, 1885.
  • Dime Novel Castle