A rare surviving oil on canvas depicting the rogue pulp detective magazine villain Maxwell Sanderson in one of his serialized escapades. This was created as a commissioned cover for the July 16, 1929 issue of Street and Smith’s Detective Story Magazine. Painted by John A. Coughlin, this work finds Sanderson with his hand caught in the safe–verso is notated with a publishing date and the title “Sanderson Trapped.” Relined and ready to frame and enjoy.
Maxwell Sanderson debuted in “All But His Hands,” in the 17 January 1925 issue of Detective Story Magazine; he was created by John Jay Chichester, a pulp writer, and ran through 1932. Sanderson is the “Noiseless Cracksman,” the American version of Raffles, albeit not nearly so annoying. Sanderson is a man about town, rich from an inheritance, young and handsome, and generally seen as a wastrel by society. When a desperate thief tries to break in to his apartment he is caught by Sanderson. The thief, Mr. Clark, discovers not only that Sanderson is a thief like him, but that Sanderson’s lifestyle emptied his coffers and drove him to crime. Sanderson, flat broke and out of ideas, was at a performance of La Boheme when he noticed the woman sitting in front of him was wearing a $250,000 necklace. When the lights came up, the necklace was gone. Sanderson sold the necklace in Paris and began studying crime techniques, especially safe mechanisms. He began drilling safes left and right, becoming known to and sought by the police as “the Driller.” Unfortunately, Sanderson spends so much of his money that despite his success he remains almost broke.
Clark appears, and the pair become a team. In their first heist a butler is killed, and Sanderson is forced to cover for Clark. They have a fairly successful career, despite being pursued by “Bulldog” Blodgett, a rather dogged detective hired to catch Sanderson by another jewel thief. Sanderson also takes on Magnus, a paralyzed genius and crime king, and foils his plans. Sanderson does time, of course, but inevitably breaks out.
Sanderson, as mentioned, is handsome and smooth. He doesn’t mind violent crime, and uses a gun when he needs to, but keeps his word no matter what. He is, of course, vain, but not unbearably so.