Dover One: A Mystery

by Joyce Porter
first published in 1964, first in a series.

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For its own very good reasons, Scotland Yard sends Dover off to remote Creedshire to investigate the disappearance of a young housemaid, Juliet Rugg. Though there’s every cause to assume that she has been murdered – she gave her favors freely and may even have stooped to a bit of blackmail – no body is to be found. Weighing in at sixteen stone, she’d be rather hard to overlook. But where is she? And why should Dover, of all people, be called upon to find her? Or, for that matter, even bother to solve the damned case?

I’m not sure what to say about this book! I’m of mixed opinion. The main detective, Chief Inspector Dover, is as unlikable as they come!  To be honest there really wasn’t any character in the whole book likable.  Sgt. MacGregor might have been if his character had been delved into a little, he was overshadowed by Dover. Let me introduce you to Chief Inspector Dover…

 ‘Detective Chief Inspector Wilfred Dover was a big man. His six-foot-two frame was draped, none too elegantly, in seventeen and a quarter stone of flabby flesh, an excessive proportion of which had settled round his middle.  Well-cut clothing can, of course, do wonders to conceal such natural defects as the spread of middle age, but Dover bought his suits ready-made, and the one he was wearing at the moment had been purchased a long time ago. It was made of shiny blue serge. Round his thick, policeman’s neck he wore a blue-striped collar which was almost submerged in the folds of fat, and a thin, cheap tie was knotted under the lowest of his double chins. He wore a long, dark blue overcoat and stout black boots.

   Over the whole of this unprepossessing ensemble there was, naturally enough, Dover’s face. It was large and flabby like the rest of him. Only the details – nose, mouth and eyes – seemed out of scale. They were so tiny as to be almost lost in the wide expanse of flesh. Dover had two small, mean, button-like eyes, a snub little nose and a sulky rosebud of a mouth. He looked like one of those pastry men that children make on baking day out of odd scraps, with currants for eyes – an uncooked pastry man, of course. His hair was thin and black and he had a small black mustache of the type the the late Adolf Hitler did so much to depopularize.’

He burps, scratches, rumbles and when he speaks its describes as…screamed in fury, snapped, commented nastily, growled sourly, grunted, roared, he digested moodily, scowled blackly, made no attempt to keep exasperation out of his voice. Not a very pretty picture painted of this lazy man!

The victim, Juliet Rugg, wasn’t painted much better. She was ‘obese’, wore layers of make-up which was never washed off, nails thick with grime, revolting, intolerable behavior, a nymphomaniac, blackmailing single mother who pawned her kid off on her mother. No one had a kind word to say about her. We don’t know for almost the whole book if she is murdered or kidnapped.

I do love eccentric, quirky characters and this book is full of them! I wish just one of them stood out as likable. That said, I did read a review on Goodreads that said this is not one to judge Porter or the Dover books on. It is the first one and the character of Dover gets better with each one as Ms. Porter developed him and that she does eccentric characters beautifully. I’m glad to hear that as I have Dover Two and Dover Three on the shelf too. There are 15 in the series! It wasn’t a book that pulled in and begged me to pick it up. I sort of thought oh, I need to finish this, but when it was all said and done it wasn’t a half bad mystery. I told you I had mixed opinions on it!

This fulfills the hat category in the Silver era Vintage Cover Scavenger Hunt @ My Reader’s Block.

Dolly’s House, a Brothel

One fun historical place to see if you go to Ketchikan is the famous brothel, Dolly’s House.    Thelma Copeland was born in 1888 in Idaho, left home as a teenager and eventually worked her way up to Ketchikan. Having learned early on that she could make more money by serving up more than just food to men in a restaurant she put her ‘people’ skills to good use and set up a thriving business on Creek Street. Thelma started working in The Star, the largest brothel in Ketchikan. She changed her name to Dolly Arthurs. After one and half years she bought a house and set up her own business. It operated from 1919 to 1954 with Dolly being the only girl working there.

In 1919 there were roughly 100 men to every woman in Alaska and the average salary was $1 a day. Dolly bought her house in 1919 for $800 and paid it off in two weeks! She was a busy girl! In 1917 Prohibition came to Alaska and Dolly didn’t like moonshine so she brought in bootleg Canadian whisky and kept one bottle and one glass in a little hide-a-way built into the wall. It was easier to dispose of in the creek if she was raided that way. She charged 50 cent for a half shot and $200 for a full. The charge for three minutes with Dolly was $3 and it was often said of her establishment that you could ‘get hammered and nailed’ at Dolly’s for $5.

Creek Street is the infamous ‘Red Light District’ in Ketchikan. It operated from 1903 to 1954. It’s origins lie in a 1903 city ordinance banishing brothels from the city center to the ‘Indian Town’ area on the east side of the creek and it operated until the brothels were outlawed and shut down in 1954. Numerous houses of prostitution sprang up on this difficult terrain, supported by wooden stilts. Winding behind the houses into the hills behind the houses is Married Man’s Way, a trail used by patrons of the brothels to escape raids. Creek Street is now a tourist shopping district and the only brothel is  Dolly’s House, left as it was and now a museum. Creek Street was put on the National Register of Historical Places in 2014.

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You can see the house is not in very good shape! The siding is missing outside where that sign is hanging. The owners don’t seem to take very good care of it. The guide said it was all original, everything  just like Dolly left it when she moved out and into a nursing home. They have only replaced some wall paper in one area because it was coming off the wall so bad. It was $10 a person to go in and you can roam around all you want and take any pictures or video you want. There was a guide at the front room to tell us a little history of the place and she was dressed in costume. It probably wasn’t worth the $10 dollars, but it was fun and I love ‘going back in time’!

One of the ‘big’ selling points in the tour is the shower curtain in the upstairs bathroom. The flowers on the top of the curtain are made from silk condoms! The guide told a  story about a Frenchman who developed them, named Joseph Condom, thus the name condoms. That is a lot of hooey! You can read the quite interesting history of the condom HERE if you want. No telling what other info the guides told us was really true or made up! Check out the cool, round toilet tank!

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Dolly plied here trade until she was 72! Can you believe that! She did end up lonely in a nursing home, she died just two months before her 88th birthday.

You can check out the ‘men’s restroom’ in this short video I found on Youtube and see her 1910 model vibrator and other paraphernalia in a case in her bedroom on this video by the same man.

I’ll leave you with a lunchtime in Ketchikan shot…

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Barn Swallows

This afternoon we heard so much racket from birds in the front and went out and looked and there was a bunch of barn swallows out front. They were perched on the electric lines and flying around and a bunch were down on the road laying on their bellies on the hot asphalt! Strange indeed. Small groups were in the lawn eating insects. This is a first! I found it fascinating. They are only here in the States in the summer for breeding, then they go south of the border. 

I found this great app for bird lovers yesterday. It’s put out by the Cornell Lab for Ornithology. They have a great website too. Click the link to check it out!

Here’s the photos I took today…


Ketchikan

IMG_2569 Ketchikan is Alaska’s First City, the first city along the Inside Passage and our first stop on the cruise. A lovely town, wet though, they get an average of 200 inches of rain a year! Their record rainfall was 202.55 inches in 1949! Can you imagine that much rain!? Their average low in January is 32.6* and high in July 57.5*. In the 2010 census the population was at 8,050 and it is the fifth-most populated town in Alaska. Flat near the harbor the land slowly starts raising up and a lot of homes are built going up the side of a hill or mountain. Everyone parks on the street in front of their house and most of them have several sets of steps up to the house from the road. The houses seemed crowded into each other. We noticed that because it is so wet there the houses and even old cars that haven’t moved in awhile were covered with green algae or something. The roofs of houses had thick moss like growth on them. You would have to be ‘on top’ of that I would think to keep your roof in good condition! I took several pictures of neighborhoods as we walked around outside of the ‘touristy’ area… IMG_2546

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I thought you might find that more interesting than the usual pictures you see in the tourist brochures! The downtown tourist shopping area, we found out quickly, is mostly jewelry stores! Very geared towards the cruise line ships. All of the towns along the Inside Passage were like that. A local jeweler in Skagway told us the cruise lines get kickbacks from the jewelry stores. On board they give a ‘shopping’ event where a gal tells you about all the jewelry stores and which stones are hot right now and gives coupons for free items to get you in. In a tiny town like Ketchikan there were multiple stores of the same brand of jewelers! We were a little disappointed.  We walked the back town streets and observed local life as best we could. Here are the photos from ‘downtown’… IMG_2530

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Creek Street

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Gilmore building and hotel. built in 1927 oldest hotel in Ketchikan

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We went in a small museum, Tongass Museum. It had some lovely exhibits of Tlingit native clothing and baskets etc. There was also a museum about totem poles which we didn’t go in.

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This is all tiny beadwork!

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An interesting day in all. They did have one small bookstore, Parnassus Books & Gifts. I picked up a free bookmark, that was all. There is a museum of Dolly’s house, she was the notorious ‘madame’ in town. She willed her house to be shown as a museum and it is just as she left it. It’s in bad repair, water stains on the walls and ceiling, but it was really like walking back in time. There are many personal photos scattered around and some stories the guide told us about. There are so many photos already in this post, I’ll do a post just on Dolly’s House.

I’ll leave you with a picture of a couple of Ketchikan natives!
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Creepy Head Update

Well, I did take the pictures of the ‘head’ to my local Greeneville police department and it really got them buzzing over there! They thought it was a head too. They called the Elizabethton police and sent the pictures to several people and got my info. This morning the Elizabethton city police called me and got directions to where we saw it again as they were all jumbled from Greeneville. She said that area would be county police and they were forwarding it to them. They were going out today and check it out and she would call me with what they found. They also really thought it could be a head. Late this afternoon she called and it was a head…. a mannequin head! Thank goodness! A prank just like Bossman said. It was really high up in the tree, down a steep hill. It took some work to get it up there. The police said they were surprised I was the only call they got on it as it really did look like a real head from a distance. They are sending someone out to remove it. I’m getting to old for all this excitement!

What is this?

Okay, this is just creepy! We threw a picnic lunch in the car this morning and headed out to explore Watauga Lake and Dam up near Elizabethton and found this at a scenic overlook. Something hanging in a tree down the hill. We couldn’t tell what it was. I thought some kind of hornets nest or something. Boss man wouldn’t walk down to look so I took a couple of shots zoomed in with the camera so we could take a good look on the computer when we got home. I swear it looks like a human head! It appears to be tied on the branch by some of the hair. 


Don’t you think it looks like a head? Bossman said there were no flys or bugs swarming around it so he thinks it’s nothing. A real mystery that will drive me nuts now!