Literature / Ben Snow

The Ben Snow series by Edward D. Hoch is a series of American Old West mysteries set around the turn of the 20th century. Like the Dr. Sam Hawthorne series by the same author, these tales are carefully researched historical pieces, sometimes including real historical characters such as Butch Cassidy. He met another Hoch character, Sam Hawthorne, in "The Problem of the Haunted Teepee".

The first Ben Snow series appeared in 1961 in The Saint Mystery Magazine; the series has since been continued in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

The Ben Snow stories feature examples of:

  • Amateur Sleuth: Ben is a cowboy drifter in the old west who discovers and solves mysteries.
  • Animal Assassin: A snake in the story Suddenly, with Fangs. Subverted in that the snake wasn't that interested in attacking, and the intended victim ended up using it on the assassin.
  • Bandito: In the story "The Trail of the Golden Cross", Ben fights to protect the cross from the bandito Zanja who turns out to be a gringo and his gang.
  • Blow Gun: In "The Edge of the Year 1900", a blowgun dart coated in curare is used as the murder weapon. The murderer actually pressed the dart into the victim in the dark. using the dart was an attempt to frame the blowgun's owner.
  • Circuit Judge: Ben is hired to protect one of these in "Dagger Money"
  • Cult: In "The Edge of the Year 1900", Ben spends New Year's Eve 1899 with a group following a woman who had vision that the world would end withe coming of the year 1900.
  • The Drifter: Ben is a wandering cowhand looking for work who keeps stumbling into mysteries. It doesn't help that he is sometimes mistaken for Billy the Kid.
  • Headless Horseman: In the story "The Headless Horseman of Buffalo Creek", Ben investigates a local legend of a headless horseman and uncovers a brutal murder.
  • Locked Room Mystery: In "The Phantom Stallion", an invalid confined to a bed is murdered inside a room with the door latched and the window locked. The killer used a chip of ice to hold the latch open as they closed the door. When the ice melted, the latch fell into place. The fact that the door was locked provides Ben with a vital clue.
  • Pocket Protector: In the short story "The Trail of the Golden Cross", Ben is saved from being shot in the back when the bullet deflects off the cross, which he had concealed by hiding it in the small of his back under his shirt.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: In "The Phantom Stallion", the murderer attempts to make the murder look like an attack by a ghost horse.
  • This Bear Was Framed:
    • In "Banner of Blood", the murderers smash in a man's head with an axe handle, and then use a cattle stampede to make it look like an accident.
    • In "The Phantom Stallion", the murderer bludgeons the victim with a horseshoe nailed to a piece of wood to make it look like he was killed by a ghost horse (It Makes Sense in Context).
  • This Is My Name on Foreign: In "The Trail of the Golden Cross", the Mexican Bandito Zanja turns out to really be a white man named Cole Fosse; Zanja and Fosse being the Spanish and French, respectively, for 'ditch'.