Homer G. Wells
Pardon me if this seems arrogant, but sometimes I like to think I’m quite a detective when it comes to solving interesting old mysteries. But way back when, Memphis had a real detective in town, a tough guy who not only nabbed plenty of bad guys in his long career, but also cranked out famous true-crime stories for national detective magazines.
His name was Homer G. Wells, and he called himself “The Bloodhound Man.”
Homer’s early days, like my own, are veiled in mystery. I do know that he was born near Paris, Tennessee, in the late 1800s. At the age of 23, he got himself appointed coroner of Henry County, and he started a bloodhound business on the side, offering, “Old Dogs With a Record for Catches.”
In 1921, Homer and his hounds tracked down a killer in Clarksville, Tennessee, who had fled into nearby woods. This and other adventures convinced him that catching live crooks was better than dealing with dead bodies, so he moved to Memphis, where he began to work as a special investigator. When bandits held up the Bank of Millington in March 1929, Homer found the getaway car, leading to the arrest of the robbers.
In 1924, he discovered a new career when he answered an ad seeking writers for True Detective Mysteries and got hired. Hunched over a typewriter in his room at the old Claridge Hotel, Homer pecked out his first story, “The Capture of the Memphis Terror,” which ran in the September 1925 issue. The thrilling story told of a double murder near Highland and Summer, and Homer certainly knew how to describe the drama of a crime scene: “As the staccato bark of the death-dealing weapon was repeated in rapid succession, the stillness of the night was pierced by the terrified screams of the frightened girl. Five times a spurt of flame leaped from the darkness, and …” — well, you get the picture.
Over the next 20 years, Homer wrote dozens of true-crime stories, with dramatic headlines that captured readers of the day, such as “The Red Riddle of Marked Tree,” “The Mystery of the Traveling Corpse,” and “Tennessee’s Astounding Voodoo Slaying.” The stories made him a celebrity. National radio programs broadcast them. Local newspapers kept readers up-to-date on his latest escapades. And Morrow Rambler Sales in West Memphis even ran an ad showing Homer standing beside a gleaming new car, with the headline, “Homer G. Wells Buys His Second Rambler. Wonder Why?”
Homer’s last detective story ran in the October 1950 issue of Saga magazine, but his journalism career didn’t end there. In the 1960s, he became editor of Lawman magazine, “the official publication of the Tennessee and Mississippi Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association.”
For a while, he operated a little tourist court on the outskirts of town. It seems he was always up to something. At one point, he designed a bizarre cigarette vending machine shaped like a camel. You dropped a penny in its mouth, and a cigarette dropped from its belly. He hoped to get the Camel cigarette company to purchase hundreds of these gadgets, but there’s no record they showed any interest. What a shame.
Homer never married, and other family members really never knew much about him. His nephew, Dale Wells, once told me, “He was just one of these tough old guys. When he’d come in at night, he’d just sling his pistol and holster over the headboard, and the hotel maids were afraid to come in there.” I know hotel managers across the country have made the same complaints about me, but with assassins and kidnappers lurking on every corner, they surely can’t expect me to travel unarmed.
The picture here shows a young and rather gentle-looking fellow, but that was just an illusion. Homer was as tough as they come.
Bad health finally caught up with the Bloodhound Man. When an ambulance came to his hotel to take him to the hospital, he covered his face with a sheet so no one could see him — a tough guy to the very end. He died in 1973 and was laid to rest in Forest Hill Cemetery.
I wish I had known Homer better, because I would have hired him to find out what exactly happened to my family’s fortune. Surely the readers of True Detective Mysteries would be mesmerized by a hard-hitting exposé on “The Lost Lauderdale Loot.” And if it resulted in certain family members going to jail for squandering my rightful inheritance, well, it’s their own fault.