MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The One Best Bet (1911)
Samuel Hopkins Adams
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Contributed by Vijay Fafat

The story is about an amateur detective who uses some elementary geometric triangulation to foil an assassination. The last paragraph is a great touch, “Why, Governor, you’re giving me too much credit. It was worked out by one of the greatest detectives of all time, some two thousand years ago. His name was Euclid”

Interesting story about a bored, rich guy named Adrian Van Reypen Egerton Jones (known to his friends as Average Jones) who uses his intellect to solve crimes, like an American Sherlock Holmes, written by an author known in his day as a muckraking reporter. In this story it is certainly intended that we see how he can use mathematics to prevent an attempted assassination of the governor, but I must admit I don't quite follow it. Here is the portion where the mathematics is explicated:

(quoted from The One Best Bet)

"Well, indeed," said the governor. "May I congratulate you, Mr. Morrison, on this interesting achievement in ballistics?"

"As there is no way of properly resenting an insult from a man in your position," said Morrison venomously, "I will reserve my answer to that outrageous suggestion."

"Meantime," put in Average Jones, "let me direct your attention to a simple mathematical formula." He drew from his pocket an envelope on which were drawn some angles, subjoined by a formula. Morrison waved it aside.

"Not interested in mathematics?" asked Average Jones solicitously. "Very well, I'll elucidate informally. Given a bullet hole in a telegraph pole at a certain distance, a bullet scar on an iron girder at a certain lesser distance, and the length of a block from here to Harrison Avenue--which I paced off while you were skillfully ordering luncheon, Waldemar--and an easy triangulation brings us direct to this room and to two fugitive gentlemen with whom I mention the hypothesis with all deference, Mr. Morrison, you are probably acquainted."

I cannot quite see how that information would allow one to triangulate a source for the bullets. Can someone explain it to me?

Also, as long as I'm asking for help, does anyone know anything more about the publication history of this story? Apparently, it appeared in a book in 1911. Was it published separately in a pulp mystery magazine before then?

Contributed by Vijay Fafat

It appears that the OBB was first published under the title, "Flashlight" in a magazine called "Success" in April, 1911.

More information about this work can be found at books.google.com.
(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)

Works Similar to The One Best Bet
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Musgrave Ritual by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  2. The Bishop Murder Case by S.S. van Dine (pseudonym of Willard Huntington Wright)
  3. The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  4. The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Leigh Sayers
  5. The Problem of Cell 13 by Jacques Futrelle
  6. Holy Disorders by Edmund Crispin
  7. Death and the Compass (La Muerte y La Brujula) by Jorge Luis Borges
  8. The Image in the Mirror by Dorothy Leigh Sayers
  9. And Be a Villain by Rex Stout
  10. The Ingenious Mr. Spinola by Ernest Bramah
Ratings for The One Best Bet:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
2/5 (1 votes)
..
Literary Quality:
4/5 (1 votes)
..

Categories:
GenreMystery,
Motif
TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry,
MediumShort Stories, Available Free Online,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)