Bill Kelly passed along the photo of Oswald under arrest at the Texas Theater along with a revealing quote from Dashiell Hammett, the 20th century American writer who specialized in hard-boiled detective fiction.
Within 24 hours of his arrest, Oswald had shouted to reporters that he was “a patsy,” and everyone knew what he meant. He was claiming to be “a fall guy,” an innocent set up to take the blame for the deeds of others.
How did Americans know about the concept? As Kelly notes, Chapter 14 of Hammett’s classic detective tale, The Maltese Falcon, is called “The Fall Guy.” In it, detective Sam Spade (played by Humphrey Bogart in the movie version) explains:
“There’s another thing that’s got to be taken care of first. We’ve got to have a fall-guy. The police have got to have a victim — somebody they can stick those murders on. The way to handle them is to toss them a victim, somebody they can hang the works on.”
“I get away with it because I never let myself forget that a day of reckoning is coming. I never forget that when the day of reckoning comes I want to be all set to march into headquarters pushing a victim in front of me, saying ‘Here, you chumps, is your criminal!'”
“As long as I can do that I can put my thumb to my nose and wiggle my fingers at all the laws in the book.”
“We’ve got to give them a victim. Let’s give them the punk. He’s made to order for the part. Let’s pin the necessary evidence on him and turn him over to them.”
“(But) Will they stop right there? Or will the Fall Guy be a fresh clue that as likely as not will lead them to information about the falcon?”