Tales of Thubway Tham, by Johnston McCulley (epub/Kindle/pdf)
Thubway Tham is a small, short-tempered gnome of a man, a professional pickpocket with an annoying lisp. But he is no mere thief . . . he is the king of his chosen profession, a master "dip" who works only in the subways of New York City. Like all such villains, he faces a cunning adversary in Police Detective Craddock, who is always half a pace behind. Craddock has sworn to put Tham behind bars, where he belongs. But Tham is clever enough to always remain one step ahead of Craddock and everyone else. Despite being a criminal, Tham always comes off well: the people whom he relieves of their wallets are often deserving of it, and he has a tendency to take on other, much worse crooks to give them their just desserts. And, of course, there are scoundrels aplenty in his world: a rival pickpocket who moves in on his turf in "Thubway Tham's Baggage Check;" Shifty Shane, the holdup man, who calls Tham a coward because he doesn't use a gun; and Mr. Clackworthy, a slick grifter from Chicago, who looks down on dips as the lowest of thieves.
Call him an early antihero. Tham endears himself to readers because he has a moral compass. He knows his place is in the gutter of the world, but that doesn't mean he can't strive to better himself -- or others.
Thubway Tham got his start in the June 4, 1918 issue of Detective Story Magazine, and continued on through more than 100 original stories (published in various magazines, including the aforementioned Detective Story Magazine, Black Book Detective, Clues, Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, and The Saint Detective Magazine). Tham’s last apperance was in January, 1960. That’s quite a run.
This volume collects 10 stories and includes an introduction by John Gregory Betancourt. And don't miss the companion volume — ADVENTURES OF THUBWAY THAM!