Roland Laurence South
Fictional Character
Joe Steele
POD: 1878;
Relevant POD: July, 1932
Novel or Story?: Novel only
Type of Appearance: Direct.
Nationality: United States
Date of Birth: c. 1906
Date of Death: 1937
Cause of Death: Shot to death
Occupation: Soldier

Captain Roland Laurence South was a graduate of West Point and considered a young up and comer in the US Army. With his bright future, South had made friends with a number of high ranking officers. However, Captain South had become disenchanted with President Joe Steele. He loudly expressed his displeasure, and 10 days after his promotion to Captain, attempted to assassinate Steele.[1]

In March 1937, Steele spoke at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Captain South arranged to be in the front row for the speech. He was quite agitated as he waited for Steele, wiggling around with his eyes wide open leading to reporter Charlie Sullivan to wonder if he was about to suffer an epileptic fit. When President Steele began speaking, South pulled out his service pistol and began firing. South fired twice at Steele, hitting and wounding him once, then a third wild round in his general direction and a fourth into the ceiling as he fell to the Secret Service's returned fire.[2] Fortunately, President Steele survived with just a flesh wound that cracked a rib.[3]

The late Captain South's connections to high ranking officers led the creation of the Government Bureau of Investigation.[4] The new Director J. Edgar Hoover charged a number of generals and admirals with treason and had a press conference at the Justice Department Building to parade the accused before reporters and the newsreel cameras. The middle aged men were in dark blue or khaki but all rank badges and emblems had been removed. The military trials were quick leading to convictions and executions and with follow-up charges against others from evidence uncovered. This led to the clearing of wreckers from the military.[5]

Literary Comment[]

Captain South attempts to assassinate President Steele only in the novel. In the short story, a German named Otto Spitzer fills the same role.

South's name is based on Oliver Laurence North (b. 1943), a former U.S. Marine who is best remembered for his involvement in the Iran-Contra affair in the 1980s. (Roland and Oliver are a duo of knights from medieval French fiction.) There is no reason to think the real North has ever planned to assassinate any US President.


  1. Joe Steele, pg. 150, HC.
  2. Ibid. pgs. 147-148.
  3. Ibid, pg. 150.
  4. Ibid, pg. 153.
  5. Ibid, pg. 156-159.