
Vijay Fafat
 Published on
Pearson was kidnapped by some gang members and was being taken in a car to be executed. He had the presence of mind to keep a count of a particular sound in the car and once he escaped, it was a relatively easy way for the police to catch the gangsters. As the spoiler ahead recounts:
“Sure,” said Pearson. “ I got the idea as soon as I heard it. Count the number of times that loose chain slapped the fender between each turn, and you’d have the distance the car went with me blindfolded in it. So I did. “We went fifteen hundred slaps north from the electric bread sign, eight hundred and twelve to the left, sixteen hundred and fiftyfour to the right. But on the last turn I stopped us at fourteen hundred before we gave our hand away. That left two hundred and fifty four more turns of the wheel. Thirtytwo inches wheeldiameter, times 3.141, or about three and a seventh. is the number of inches the car travels with each wheel turn. Multiply ’em out and you get four tenths of a mile —which was the distance ahead of us to Golden’s hangout.”
Ames shook his head.
“God help the crooks in this burg if you ever get past mathematics and start using algebra on them!” he said.
Further Commentary:
Alex Kasman had asked me the following question:
Can you argue for the inclusion of this story despite my usual rule that I do not generally include elementary mathematics? (As you may recall, I’ve arbitrarily drawn the line at college level mathematics for mathematical content — or characters who are professional mathematicians.)
Here are my 3 reasons for considering this a work of mathfiction:

The story’s ending hinges entirely on this mathematical calculation. Without it, you don’t have much left. That, to me, is a hallmark of mathfiction.

I found it to be a reasonably nice plot device. Not too strained to shoehorn a square into jambottle. The fact that a nonmathematician is able to use some elementary concept in a life situation brings a smile (I am reminded of so long ago, when one of my tuition student’s mother asked me why her MBAstudying daughter needed to know all that math and how it could possibly help her in the grocery store or while traveling, say…)

The math, though at an elementary level, is certainly much more solid and tangible and more legitimately used than the handwaving fourth dimension that is conjured in many stories which we do include in mathfiction.
Given that this was in 1936, I think it was a good effort (it would not count much in a 2021 submission)