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Literature / Sage Adair

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The Sage Adair Historical Mysteries, by S.L. Stoner, are Historical Mystery stories set in early 20th Century Portland, Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. They follow undercover labor activist John Sagacity "Sage" Adair and his comrades as they investigate land fraud, strikebreaking, and the myriad crimes and schemes that take advantage of the powerless. Sage was born into grinding poverty in the Pennsylvania coal fields. After saving the mine owner's grandson from a collapse, the owner took him in and paid for his education before turning him out into the world. Sage went prospecting in the Yukon and got lucky and rich, whereupon he took his money and went to fight the good fight. Today he owns and operates a high-class eatery in Portland while spying on the politicians and business owners on behalf of the labor organizer St. Alban. Meanwhile, helped by his mother and their friends, he works to help the oppressed and foil their oppressors throughout Oregon.


The series to date includes:

  • Timber Beasts: A young man is accused of a murder he didn't do, and Sage must find the real culprit. His investigations lead him to discover a vast land fraud.
  • Land Sharks: Two union organizers have disappeared; Sage's search leads him through the dockyards among the crimps and Shanghaiers.
  • Dry Rot: The leader of a losing strike is arrested for murder and the city's bridges are collapsing; Sage must free his comrade, help the strikers, and find the connections.
  • Black Drop: Someone plans to assassinate President Roosevelt during his visit to Portland, and blame it on the unions. Meanwhile, Sage is determined to put an end to the house of child prostitution he learned about in Timber Beasts before more boys are sold to them.
  • Dead Line: A range war is brewing east of the Cascades. In the town of Prineville, cattle ranchers and sheep herders are fighting over increasingly restricted grazing land, and if something's not done soon, killings will start.

This series provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Always Murder: In addition to murders, Sage investigates fraud, theft, kidnapping, and various other crimes, but sooner or later bodies always start turning up.
  • Expy: St. Alban stands in for real life labor leader Vincent St. John, who did all the things he does in the books except use agents like Sage. The dastardly Dickensons stand in for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, and the Boys Christian Society does duty for the YMCA. Many of the villains are also based on real people, who did commit most of the crimes described, although with less murder.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: Earl Mackey and his men think that this is what they're doing to Leo Lockwood in Dry Rot.
  • Historical Domain Character: All over the place. Notable examples include Herman Eich the Ragpicker Poet, Bicycle magnate and politician F.T Merrill, and union lawyer E.J. McAllister. Indeed, practically every character who isn't an Expy of a real person is a real person.
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  • Never One Murder: Not only does someone always die, several someones always die.
  • Press-Ganged: Land Sharks deals with both 'legitimate' crimps and outright shanghaiers.
  • Motive = Conclusive Evidence: Sage's allies are constantly being arrested on these grounds.
  • Who Murdered the Asshole?: In Timber Beasts, Matthew is arrested for killing railroad bull Clancy Steele. Steele is known far and wide as a Jerkass, and Sage immediately learns about several other people with a grudge against him.

Alternative Title(s): The Sage Adair Historical Mysteries


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