This year will mark the 90th anniversary of the release of the first “Bathroom Detective” novel, Strangers in the Stalls. These novels, first published by the now-defunct Pointer Publications in 1931, followed hardened T.I. (toilet investigator) Maynard McClelland, whose father’s assassination in a public restroom leads him to a life of investigating the crimes involving one of humanity’s most intimate interiors.
Strangers in the Stalls, 1931
I smiled at the bathroom attendant as I bent to check under the door for feet. Seeing none, I shouldered my way into the stall. The toilet was pristine. I placed the back of my hand on the porcelain. Cool to the touch.
I was stupefied. What kind of hoodlum could enter a bathroom, leave it completely spotless, and disappear with ten rolls of toilet paper?
The Woman in One Ply, 1949
As I entered the diner I noticed a throng of spectators surrounding the door to the restroom, from under which blood had pooled. Rather than enter the fray, I headed straight for the crime scene.
“Sir, you’re going to have to buy something if you want to get in that bathroom,” squeaked the teen behind the counter.
“Excuse me? Look, kid, I really have to get in–”
“You heard me. Either you buy a float or you turn around and scram.”
Unable to convince the sassy soda jerk of an alternative, I waited for my chocolate malt as the puddle of blood grew.
The Furtive Faucet, 1954
Chandra Thorn sat at my desk, rays of streetlight shimmering in her earrings, as shiny as the seat of a clean Whirlpool.
“My Neville was in perfect health,” she insisted, wiping the mascara-tinted tears on her cheeks. “I can’t bring myself to believe that his body failed him while… defecating.”
“It’s one of the few activities where physical exertion isn’t recommended,” I agreed.
Toilets at Dawn, 1960
“I’d be able to better suss out your opinion if you’d cut the crap and be transparent for once,” said the cop, tossing his cigarette to the ground and snuffing it with his foot, the sizzling reminiscent of a toilet’s flush.
“Let me just say, sir, that the family’s claims are something of a scented candle,” I replied. “This is a scented candle of a case.”
“They’re covering something up. Something that stinks.”
Dial “B” for Bathroom, 1965
Returning to my office, I found a single piece of two-ply, the good stuff, gently pinned to my door. Ripping the toilet paper off with a satisfyingly thick snap, I inspected it. Scrawled on the tissue was a phrase that brought me back to my time as an unseasoned gumshoe, scrambling to solve my first case.
“If you sprinkle when you tinkle, be neat and wipe the seat…”
He was back.