Monday, January 22, 2018

"The Poor Fool Was Planning a Trip He'd Never Make"

"Killer's Turnabout."
By William P. McGivern (1922-82).
First appearance: Amazing Stories, April 1941.
Short short short story (3 pages).
Online at (HERE).

"I'll be seeing you," he repeated savagely, "but it'll be in hell."
If there's no such thing as honor among thieves, then what about when it comes to murderers?
- The usual: Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).
- Previous encounters between ONTOS and our author are (HERE) and (HERE).

Friday, January 19, 2018

"The Critic Who States the Solution of These Plays Is Really Spoiling Sport"

"The Popularity of the Mystery Play."
From The Graphic, January 28, 1922.
Article (½ page, 5 photos).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).
(Note: Use "Full Screen" to center text.)

"Two turn on mysterious robberies, one on misappropriation of bank funds and a mysterious murder, and in each there is a great deal of 'black out,' so that the stage electrician may well claim to be one of the collaborating authors. Each play is like a jig-saw puzzle, and in each the interest is maintained to the last . . ."
The plays that are briefly mentioned in the article are Old Jig, The Bat (HERE), The Night Cap (HERE), and The Beggar's Opera (HERE).
- Michael Grost and Mary Reed have a Mystery*File article about The Bat (HERE); the text for The Beggar's Opera is (HERE).
- Dorothy L. Sayers's Whose Body? (1923) has been converted into a stage play; see the 2002 Chicago Tribune review of it (HERE). A couple of years later they had a go at staging Strong Poison, from 1930 (HERE).

Thursday, January 18, 2018

"I Arrest You for the Murder of X.Y.Z."

"The Mystery of a Handsome Cad: A Story for the Bar."
By Moll. Bourne (?-?).
First appearance: Time, (month?) 1888.
Reprinted in The Armchair Detective, Winter 1986.
Short short story (7 pages).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).

(Note: Use "Full Screen" button to center text.)
"In a moment she had developed from an innocent and unheeding girl into a self-reliant reader of 'The Leavenworth Case.'"
In times of crisis, some people cope by rising to the occasion; in May Nettleby's case, she does the opposite . . .

Odd bodkins:
~ Gerald Annesley:
  "The only surviving scion of a fine old Irish stock, proud and impoverished as the ill-fated race from which he was believed to have sprung, emigrated to Australia . . ."

~ May Nettleby:
  ". . . the devoted and only daughter of the millionaire who had begun life with a rusty nail and closed it with a rusty temper."

~ Mr. Nettleby:
  "At that instant a figure dashed violently past them, waving in his hand a scroll of paper."

~ Mr. Johnson:
  "You are aware that a murder has been committed on the person of an unknown individual, bearing the initials X.Y.Z.?"

~ Fred Addlepate:
  "One can overdo this kind of thing, you know."

- All handsome cads aside, you might be interested in an article about the author of The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (HERE).

The bottom line: "They were shot with a shotgun and put in garbage bags and thrown under a bridge," Shrake said. "If it wasn't murder, it was a really weird accident."
John Sandford

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

"A Handsome Fellow, of Good Family, with a Heart Big and Manly, If He Was a Cut-throat Gambler and a Bad Man All Around"

"Stateroom Six."
By William Albert Lewis (1856-?).
First appearance: The Black Cat, November 1895.
Short short short story (3 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE).

"This spot has a fascination for me."
Death has a way of never letting go . . .

- The FictionMags thumbnail about William Albert Lewis: "Born in Maryland; a journalist in 1901 census; death not traced." This was evidently the first of three known stories he sold

to The Black Cat.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Kiwi Appraisals of Doyle, Sherlock, and That Dog

WE'VE REPRODUCED the articles below, but you can also follow the links to the originals.

From "Literary Chat."
By "The Sage."
The New Zealand Illustrated Magazine, 1 March 1901.
Online (HERE), continued (HERE).

   "The following is Conan Doyle's account of how he came to originate Sherlock Holmes:

   "'At the time I first thought of a detective — it was about 1886 — I had been reading some detective stories, and it struck me what nonsense they were, because forgetting the solution of the mystery the authors always depended on some coincidence. This struck me as not a fair way of playing the game, because the detective ought really to depend for his success on something in his own mind, and not on merely adventitious circumstances, which do not by any means always occur in real life.

   "'For fun, therefore, I started constructing a story, and giving my detective a scientific system, so as to make him reason everything out. Intellectually that had been done before by Edgar Allan Poe with M. Dupin, but where Holmes differed from Dupin was that he had an immense fund of exact knowledge to draw upon inconsequence of his previous scientific education.

   "'I mean by this that, by looking at a man's hand, he knew what the man's trade was, as by looking at his trouser's leg he could deduce the character of the man. He was practical, and he was systematic, and his success in the detection of crime was to be the fruit, not of luck, but of his qualities.'"
~ ~ ~
From "Literary Chat."
By "The Sage."
The New Zealand Illustrated Magazine, 1 July 1902.
Online (HERE).

   "From Messrs. Upton and Co., of Auckland, I have received Conan Doyle's latest work, 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' (which the sub-title announces to be another adventure of Sherlock Holmes), published in Longman's Colonial Library.

   "In this welcome addition to his previous efforts the author has taken a West Country Legend as the foundation for a most exciting story.

   "A certain Dr. Mortimer calls on our old friend, Sherlock Holmes, for his professional assistance to solve a 'most serious and extraordinary problem.' He commences by reading an old manuscript, dated 1742, to Holmes and his friend, Dr. Watson, which he stated had been committed to his care by Sir Charles Baskerville, whose sudden and tragic death had created so much excitement in Devonshire some months before. This M.S. describes the origin of the Hound of the Baskervilles, having been written by one of the race who had the story from his father, who had it from his.

Artwork by Selman Domagk

   "At the time of the Great Rebellion it appeared, Hugo Baskerville, whose wanton and cruel humour made his name a by-word through the West, loved the daughter of a yeoman. The young lady avoided him. He forthwith carried her off to his Hall, and placed her in an upper chamber while he held his usual nightly carousal with his friends. She escaped by climbing down the ivy-covered wall, and fled across the moor.

   "When her flight was discovered one of the revellers suggested putting the hounds after her. No sooner said than done. Hugo, on his black mare, was first and foremost in the chase. A scared shepherd, asked if he had seen the hunt by those who followed, said he had seen the unhappy maid with the hounds on her track, and he added, 'Hugo Baskerville passed me ... and there ran mute behind him such a hound of hell as God forbid should ever beat my heels.'

Artwork by John Patience at Deviant Art

   "Following on, they found the maid and the squire lying dead, with an enormous black hound standing over Hugo, plucking at his throat. After reading this Dr. Mortimer explained that the late Sir Charles had been
found lying dead in the Yew Alley, and that some little distance off he
had himself seen the footprints of a gigantic hound!

   "It will be at once seen that Conan Doyle had here a subject after his own heart, and in the elucidation of this mysterious death he puts his favourite detective to a very sharp test, out of which it is needless to say Sherlock comes victorious. But few authors have the faculty of using the same hero for several successive works without wearying the reader. The present work, however, proves, if proof were wanting, that Conan Doyle possesses it in no ordinary degree. The reader, on putting down 'The Hound of the Baskervilles,' cannot fail to acknowledge that both author and hero have lost no whit of their power to excite and interest, if indeed they have not increased it."

~ ~ ~
Completely unrelated bonus review of The Ace of Spades (HERE):

   "Messrs. Wildman and Lyell, of Auckland, send The Ace of Spades, a psychological romance, written by Messrs. R. Andre' and G. Leitch Walker,
and published by Messrs. Ward, Lock and Co., of London, Melbourne and
New York.

   "This is a gruesome story of insanity, red murder and sudden death, which should be highly pleasing to those who delight in sensational reading. The plot is too incredible for serious consideration, but the story might be an agreeable change to readers whose literature consists of the Newgate Calendar and the New York Police Gazette [sniff]."

The book doesn't seem to be listed on Worldcat, but it is for sale for £50 on Amazon.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Miscellaneous Monday—Number Twenty-four

"The Life and Times of Perry Mason: The Evolution of Today's Legal Thrillers."
By J. Madison Davis.
First appearance: World Literature Today, November 1, 2012.
Article (4 pages as a PDF).
Online at The Free Library (HERE).

". . .  authenticity is mostly a question of seeming so. A courtroom battle in reality is usually a dreadful bore. As a fellow juror once whispered to me, 'It ain't exactly Matlock, is it?'"
In addition to Perry Mason's career, our author gives us more than the usual dope on Erle Stanley Gardner's life and times, a man whose early history would never indicate he'd be destined for fabulous fame and fortune.

Davis also makes a crucial point about the appeal of a court trial being very similar to a tried-and-true detective fiction trope:

  ". . . if a courtroom can be made tolerably convincing for an audience, it has all the elements for exciting drama. There are two worthy opponents doing battle over something of great consequence. One side is usually the under-dog—Perry Mason defends the debutante found holding the murder weapon,
or a prosecutor goes after an evil mastermind who looks to outwit the legal system again. A fictional trial also provides a steady diet of revelation similar to the traditional gathering of suspects in the dining room by Hercule Poirot and his ilk. The suspects are all present and the case is reviewed clue by clue until the malefactor is exposed, though courtrooms tend, I think, to greater drama than dining rooms, in which the solution is explained by the detective rather than revealed by the process."

- We like to think of Ben Matlock as the anti-Mason: short-tempered, prone to error, often quite contentious in court, and much more humorous; see Wikipedia (HERE) and (HERE) for run-downs on both TV series:

  "[Matlock's] format is similar to that of CBS's Perry Mason (with both Matlock and the 1980s Perry Mason TV movies created by Dean Hargrove), with Matlock identifying the perpetrators and then confronting them in dramatic courtroom scenes. One difference, however, was that whereas Mason usually exculpated his clients at a pretrial hearing, Matlock usually secured an acquittal at trial, from the jury."

Normally, too, Matlock would strive to establish the innocence of his clients "beyond a reasonable doubt" (HERE), leaving it to the prosecution to cinch the case:

  "Beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest burden of proof in any court in the United States. Criminal cases must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt."

- TV Tropes has good summary articles about Matlock (HERE), Perry Mason (HERE), and "Hollywood Law" (HERE). (WARNING: Following all of the available links at TV Tropes is guaranteed to chew up a large chunk of your day.)
- See the GAD Wiki (HERE) for a comprehensive article about Erle Stanley Gardner.
- We last heard from J. Madison Davis (HERE).

Friday, January 12, 2018

"A Burglar He Was, in Truth and Deed"

   "To such depths of frightful duplicity does the downward path, once embarked in, rapidly conduct even an originally right-minded clerical lady!"

"A Social Difficulty."
By Anonymous (Grant Allen, 1848-99).
First appearance: The Cornhill Magazine, February 1887.
Short story (18 pages).
Online at (HERE).
(Note: Text is faded but readable. Use "Zoom In" button three or four times to enlarge.)

"This figure of speech is known to grammarians as an aposiopesis. The name is for the most part unknown to young ladies, but the figure itself is largely employed by them with great effect in ordinary conversation."
The Bishop's daughter is in love with a young officer who moves under a cloud of suspicion, even though he's been acquitted at the court martial. Unsurprisingly, the Bish opposes their relationship and would just as soon see the last of the young man—until, quite by accident, he happens to overhear a crucial conversation . . .

~ Bishop Arthur Brandreth:

  "How easily even the most innocent and respectable of men may fall unawares under a disgraceful suspicion."
~ Captain Harry Burbury:
  "No, no darling, I can never marry you while the shadow of this hideous, unworthy doubt rests over me still."
~ Iris Brandreth, their daughter:
  "And, for the present, we're not to be engaged at all to one another . . ."
~ Charlotte Brandreth, the bishop's wife:
  "My dear Iris, what would your papa say if he only heard you talk like that?"
~ The policeman:
  "You're loiterin' about with intent to commit a felony, that's just about the size of what you're doin'."

Comments: The story depends too much on coincidence; moreover, the author evidently had it in for Episcopalians.
~ ~ ~

   "What a blessed thing it is, to be sure, to be born into this world with the easy-going, happy-go-lucky, artistic temperament!"

"The Conscientious Burglar."
By Grant Allen (1848-99).
First appearance: The Strand Magazine, June 1892.
Reprinted in The Strand Magazine (U.S.), July 1892.
Short story (11 pages, 8 illos).
Online at (HERE).

". . . his impecuniosity arose, strange to say, neither from want of industry nor want of talent, but from pure force of circumstances."
If there are eight million ways to die, then surely there are at least eight million ways to go broke, and young Guy Lethbridge, the proverbial starving artist, has managed to find the very one that will run him afoul of "that blood-sucker of an evil and inequitable social system" and "the Revised Criminal Code of Germany," as well as his own guilt-stricken conscience . . .

~ Guy Lethbridge:
  "He despised his own act with all the contempt and loathing of which his nature was capable."
~ Sir Richard Lavers:
  "Jolly good light on the Thingumbob-berg. You've caught the colour well. If you go on
like that, in the course of a century or so you ought, I should say, to make a painter."
- We last touched based with Grant Allen with respect to "The Great Ruby Robbery" (HERE; scroll down).