Original Story Titles: "Picture Palace" (July 2000); "The Man in the White Hat" (May 1999); Director's Cut" (December 1998); "The Frankenstein Footage" (July 1998); "Dark Lady Down" (March 1998).
Author: Loren D. Estleman
Publisher: Ellery Queen Magazine, March 1998-.
Christine Crawford-Oppenheimer, a special collections librarian/archivist with the Culinary Institute of America, posted this summary on the ARCHIVES mailing list of a detective short story series by veteran mystery and western author Loren D. Estleman:
A while back there was a request for ideas for an archival mystery. I was just reading the July 2000 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and found in it a story ["Picture Palace"] that is part of a series by Loren Estleman that I didn't think of at the time of the original request. The series "detective" is a man who is a film archivist at UCLA, who has the improbable name of Rudolph [?] Valentino. Of course, since he deals with film people, this means that at least once in each story, there is a conversation about how, although he looks something like his namesake, he is no relation. The mysteries happen as he does things like tracking down rare film footage that he wants to add to the archives.
In the current one, he goes to Italy where he is supposed to meet an elderly director who will give him film he wants. When he gets there, the director's wife slams the door in his face and refuses to let him in. Eventually, he does manage to get in and talks to the director--but there's something that bothers him about the man, and eventually he discovers that it is an impersonator. In this case, the crime is that the wife knew that the director's will gave all his assets to someone other than her, so if he died, she would be left homeless and penniless. So when he died, she buried the body, and hired someone who could impersonate him if it was absolutely necessary. The director's estranged daughter and the archivist convince the wife that the Italian courts will overrule the will to some extent and not leave her completely destitute, and we are left to believe that they will let her get off lightly for not reporting the man's death.
The Fictional World of Archives
Submitted by Christine Crawford-Oppenheimer, 2000.11.03. Updated 2000.11.04.