“The Silver Heel” is a complete synopsis penned by Robert E. Howard, outlining a complex detective narrative featuring Steve Harrison. It’s from the Otis Adelbert Kline Agency. This precursor sketch details a web of murder and deceit set in the city’s Oriental quarter, setting the stage for the intended full-length story.

This synopsis, intended by Howard as a framework for a fuller narrative, outlines a story rich in intrigue and betrayal, featuring a tapestry of interconnected characters driven by dark motives and hidden pasts.

A second, incomplete and untitled, synopsis also exists and is listed under “Untitled Synopsis”. It was returned from Margulies to Kline on January 28, 1935.

See The Silver Heel for details about the story.

Summary of the synopsis

In the synopsis for “The Silver Heel,” detective Steve Harrison receives an enigmatic note warning of a crime set to occur on Water Street at midnight. He arrives to find the scene alongside Jack Bissett, a stranger, and together they discover the body of Jelner Kratz, a lawyer linked to both Chinese and Western communities, who has been murdered with a Chinese dagger.

Harrison’s investigation uncovers several clues at the crime scene: Kratz’s intact pocketbook, a newspaper clipping about another murder in Shanghai, and a distinctive silver cigar-case. A silver heel from a woman’s slipper is also found, hinting at a connection to a local shop selling unique slippers.

Suspicions lead Harrison to Zaida Lopez, a Eurasian dancer. Upon reaching her apartment, he finds her dead, with her Arab friend Ahmed nearby, claiming an attack by an unknown assailant. As Harrison delves deeper, evidence suggests that Ahmed might have murdered Zaida to silence her about what she knew regarding Kratz’s death.

In a dramatic turn during a blackout, Bissett and Ahmed are found incapacitated; Ahmed is fatally shot. The trail of clues leads to Kratz’s partner, Lepstein, and the revelation of a blackmail plot involving a precious ruby. The Ti Woon tong, a Chinese gang, becomes involved when their member is spotted fleeing Zaida’s murder scene.

The synopsis reaches its climax as Harrison discovers the dying Lepstein, who reveals the location of the Dragon Ruby before succumbing to his injuries. Bissett is unmasked as the murderer of both Wu Shun and Kratz, driven by his desire for the ruby.


  • Steve Harrison: The central detective, navigating the labyrinthine murder mystery.
  • Jelner Kratz: The lawyer with deep connections in diverse communities, whose murder sparks the narrative.
  • Jack Bissett: A seemingly helpful stranger, ultimately revealed as the mastermind behind the murders.
  • Zaida Lopez: A dancer entangled in the mystery, murdered as part of the unfolding plot.
  • Ahmed: An Arab linked to Zaida, who ends up another victim of the escalating violence.
  • Joseph Lepstein: Kratz’s business partner, involved in a blackmail scheme and ultimately another murder victim.
  • Ti Woon: Leader of the Ti Woon tong, whose involvement deepens the complexity of the plot.

Comparison of Howard's synopsis and the full story


  • Synopsis: The crime is set on Water Street in the Oriental quarter of the city.
  • Full Story: The story mentions River Street, and the Oriental quarter is referred to as the setting, aligning with the synopsis. Additionally, specific locations like China Alley, The Purple Cat, and The French Shop are described in more detail.

Characters and Development:

  • Steve Harrison: In both versions, he is the central detective. The full story expands on his methods and his relationship with other characters like Bissett and the police.
  • Jack Bissett: Introduced similarly in both versions as a companion to Harrison, though in the full story his background and interactions with Harrison are more fleshed out, providing deeper character development.
  • Zaida Lopez: Both versions present her as involved in the murder plot. The full story details her background and her role more comprehensively.
  • Ahmed: Mentioned in both, with his role and backstory similarly expanded in the full story.

Plot and Murder Mystery:

  • Murder Details: Both versions feature the murder of Jelner Kratz and its investigation. The full story includes additional murders and complex interactions among characters, including a more intricate involvement of various secondary characters.
  • Investigative Process: The synopsis gives a streamlined version of Harrison’s investigation. The full story includes several additional scenes that show Harrison’s investigative methods, interactions with the police, and confrontations with suspects.
  • Clues and Resolution: The full story contains more detailed clues (like the silver heel, the newspaper clipping, and multiple murder scenes) and a more elaborate resolution involving more characters and motives. The resolution in the synopsis is more straightforward due to its condensed format.

Style and Tone:

  • Writing Style: The full story has a more developed style, with richer descriptions and more dialogue that flesh out the setting and characters. The synopsis is more straightforward and less descriptive.
  • Tone: Both maintain a mysterious and suspenseful tone, but the full story has more tension due to the expanded plot and character dynamics.


The full story of “The Silver Heel” offers a more complex and detailed narrative compared to the synopsis, with additional characters, subplots, and a richer portrayal of the setting and character interactions. While the synopsis provides a basic outline, the full story explores the nuances of the plot and characters, making for a more engaging and intricate detective story.

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