William the Gangster

The facts

“I’ll just run and thank him before I put it on.”
“No, you mustn’t,” said William urgently. “Honest, you mustn’t.”
“Why not?”
“Well,” William’s face looked set and tense as he searched for a convincing reason. “Well, for one reason he hates being thanked. He said most particular that he hated being thanked.”
“Well, you see, he said he was an author an’ he was very busy trying to get to the end of a chapter in his book. An’ he said he was going away very early tomorrow morning. Somewhere a long way off. Jerusalem or somewhere like that.”

  • Number: 16.11
  • Published: 1934 (same year in magazine form) – originally titled William’s Night of Mysteries
  • Book: William the Gangster
  • Synopsis: Robert acquires a fancy dress costume from a mysterious source.


In an unusual filial setting, William and Robert are invited to a fancy dress party together. Robert’s car breaks down on the way and his costume gets greasy and oily while he is trying to repair the car – so William boldly goes forth to ‘borrow’ him a replacement.

“Me?” William said. “I’ve never messed anything up. Ever. I don’t know what he’s talking about.”

This gets Robert into a tremendous amount of difficulty (from which William artlessly tries to extricate him with, “He’s not exactly mad”) but he ends up doing rather well out of it so all’s well that ends well.

A fun story – and ordinarily I wouldn’t mind that the plot mirrors that of another one so precisely. But when William and the Russian Prince, 16.7, is literally in the same book it does seem a little bit much.

The facts

“I can’t steal it. She’d be sure to see me coming out of her room with it. Or somebody would. Besides, I don’t like telling really big stories, and it would be a really big story to say I didn’t know anything about it if I’d done it myself, and it would only be a little story to say I didn’t know anything about it if you’d done it.”

  • Number: 16.10
  • Published: 1934 (1933 in magazine form, not to be confused with the 1922 story, 2.14, of the same name)
  • Book: William the Gangster
  • Synopsis: William tries to improve on a girl’s prospective Christmas present.


The last time we encountered a story entitled William’s Christmas Eve, 2.14, William sought to give a litle girl the Christmas she had always dreamed of out of the pure goodness of his heart, and sympathy for her family’s impoverishment.

This story is in some ways the same, and in some ways different.

William is still in love with Diana Blake, the girl from the previous story The Outlaws and the Fifth, 16.9. His love only intensfies when he learns that for Christmas, she would much prefer to receive a train-set than a doll. Unfortunately her Aunt Alex is going to buy her a doll, so Diana commissions William to steal it so near to the time of giving that Aunt Alex will have no option but to give cash instead.

The visitor gazed out of the window till her eyes finally rested upon William. “What a qμaint old gargoyle up there on the roof!” she commented. “I’m short-sighted, of course, but to me from here it looks a delightfully quaint piece of work.”

William is somewhat aghast by this request, and even goes so far as to say coaxingly, “You know, it might be an awfully nice doll.”

But in the end he gives in and climbs through the window of Aunt Alex’s room.

And discovers, once again, how fickle little girls can be…

The facts

“But, darling,” Mrs Lane said, “they’re such horrid things. You might get hurt.”
“Not me,” Hubert reassured her. “I’ll keep well out of the way, you bet. Old Bertie’s going to let all the things off. Yes,” he continued with a snigger, “He can set ’em up, too, an’ get everything ready. An’ I’ll jolly well make him buy some of them.”
“Well, darling,” cooed Mrs. Lane, “as long as you don’t get hurt – that’s all I care about.”

  • Number: 16.9
  • Published: 1934 (1933 in magazine form) – originally titled William’s Prize Guy
  • Book: William the Gangster
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws and the Hubert Laneites have a competition on November the 5th.


The last time the Outlaws faced the challenges of Guy Fawkes’ Night was back in 1929 (Fireworks Strictly Prohibited, 10.7). And it doesn’t seem to have got any easier.

Hubert Lane has a pound to spend on fireworks, which rather puts the Outlaws’ ten shillings into the shade. But they decide to best him anyway by having a spectacular guy, modelled on Major Blake, who was renting the Botts’ mansion and did not allow William to trespass on his grounds.

The two gangmasters happen upon a girl in the street who not only offers to judge between their two firework shows, but even offers a camera as a prize.

Unfortunately, it turns out that she is Major Blake’s daughter. But the Hubert Laneites’ own greed and avarice works against them…