Friday, September 4, 2015

A Not-So-Nice Example of the Locked Room Mystery

"Top It Off With Death."
By Basil Wells (1912-2003).
First appearance: Ten Detective Aces, June 1946.
Short story (4 pages).
Reprinted at Pulpgen HERE.
"A killing in a locked room is always a puzzle—except to this Sheriff’s impractical brother-in-law."
Some people don't like being on the outside of a sweet deal and choose to shoot their way in:
. . . Three of them had a motive. The Stayn estate must be worth half a million dollars. Leonard and Ida would inherit that. The ten thousand dollar bequest to Mrs. Proctor was another motive. As for the repairman—he had been on the roof.  . . .
- Basil Wells is known for primarily being an SF and fantasy writer, a fact confirmed in this passage from Richard A. Lupoff's introduction to The Basil Wells Omnibus (HERE) compiled by Ramble House: "Over a span of fifty-eight years Basil Wells published no fewer than 71 science fiction stories, but that was only one aspect of his work. Basil Wells fan Richard Simms has compiled an extensive Wells bibliography, listing stories published in non-science-fiction magazines including Crack Detective Stories, Ten Detective Aces, Mike Shayne’s Mystery Magazine, Double-Action Western, Thrilling Western, and even one called Blazing Armadillo Stories."  . . .
- Wikipedia has a stubby entry on Wells HERE, and there's a tribute site to him HERE; some of his output is listed HERE.

Category: Amateur night in JohnDicksonCarrville (cf. HERE)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Summer 2015. Issue #39.
Editor: Arthur Vidro.
Old-Time Detection Special Interest Group of American Mensa, Ltd.
40 pages (including covers). $6.00

Here's yet another winner from Arthur Vidro, nicely blending the old with the new as he and his fellow contributors combine to cover over a century of crime, detective, and spy fiction. (Note: Off-site links to additional information are indicated with the word HERE.)


~ AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: CYRIL HARE (Charles Shibuk): They say write about what you know, and Cyril Hare (HERE)—a lawyer and judge—did just that.
". . . an unfaltering skill in plot and an urbane humour."
~ MINI-REVIEWS (Douglas Greene, Kathleen Riley, and Amnon Kabatchnik): The Blind Barber (1934), The Insidious Doctor Fu-Manchu (1913), and TV adaptations of Clouds of Witness (1926, HERE) and The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928, HERE) all receive careful attention.
"I was pleasantly surprised . . ."
~ MEGA-REVIEW (Michael Dirda): A practically forgotten crime fiction author from the '50s returns in this review of The Derek Smith Omnibus (2014, HERE).

~ AT THE CINEMA (William K. Everson and Arthur Vidro): Everson reviews Dangerous Corner, a 1934 film adaptation of a J. B. Priestley play (HERE), while Arthur analyzes 
the play itself (HERE).
~ LOOKING BACKWARD (Charles Shibuk): Reviews of The Melamere Mystery (1930) and Death Wears a Purple Shirt (1934).
~ NON-FICTION CORNER (Les Blatt and Martin Edwards): We should never forget our heritage, which is why Les says Martin Edwards's The Golden Age of Murder (2015, HERE
is worth your attention.

~ FICTION ("Death Deals Diamonds" by T. S. Stribling [HERE], Famous Detective Stories, November 1952): There's a jewellers' convention in town; could that have something to do with the threat of a disease outbreak, the death of a local fille de joie, and rumors of a smuggling ring? Dr. Poggioli thinks so and sets out to prove it: "Will you never learn that this world is a single intricate web-work, and that one abnormality leads into another."
~ ROYAL ARCHIVES (Arthur Vidro): In correspondence from sixty years ago T. S. Stribling and Frederic Dannay discuss plots and paychecks.

~ THIRTY-PLUS YEARS AGO (Jon L. Breen): Keen observations about crime fiction and nonfiction from a smart bibliophile.

~ THE PAPERBACK REVOLUTION (Charles Shibuk): "It's always a pleasure to return to the glories of the classical detective novel of the great Golden Age of the early '30s and re-eval-uate the work of one of its foremost practitioners . . ."

~ CHRISTIE CORNER (Dr. John Curran): Upcoming events and books celebrating Agatha's 125th birthday; A Is for Arsenic, "a survey of poisons used extensively in Christie's work," sounds intriguing.



- We talked about the Spring 2015 issue of OTD HERE.

~ ~ ~

Subscription information:
- Published three times a year: spring, summer, and autumn.
- Sample copy: $6.00 in U.S.; $10.00 anywhere else.
- One-year U.S.: $18.00 ($12.50 for Mensans).
- One-year overseas: $40.00 (or 20 pounds sterling or 25 euros).
- Payment: Checks or cash or U.S. postage stamps.
- Mailing address:
Arthur Vidro, editor
Old-Time Detection
2 Ellery Street
Claremont, New Hampshire 03743
- Web address:

Category: Quality amateur publications (so few there be)

Saturday, August 29, 2015

"This Point Writes Away the Life of the Living"

"Death Had a Pencil."
By Richard Sale (1911-93).
Short story (10 pages).
Found in Argosy Weekly, October 8, 1938.
Online HERE.
"Captain McGrail, that Scheherezade of the Homicide Bureau, rares back and lets fly with another of his yarns to prove that Manhattan can make Baghdad look like a one-night stand  . . ."
It's hard to decide who is more unbelievable, notorious raconteur Captain McGrail or a very worried Peter Hoff who says that with the stroke of a pencil he can kill people without being anywhere near them. Says McGrail:
. . . "I want to impress upon you that every one of these stories is the gospel truth." . . .
. . . but Peter Hoff seems certain that without really intending to he has killed more than once:
. . . "I didn't actually kill Wilbert Althouse with my own hands or anything like that, but I think—I know—I'm responsible for his death, and I wanted to give myself up."  . . .
. . . "Of all the men in the world, I said, this one would be a real test. A multi-millionaire, surrounded by guards with no chance of accident, no worry, in apparent good health. I drew an X on his picture. And he dropped dead last night."  . . .
". . . to try it out means that you condemn a living man. For I warn you, that pencil's mark will snuff the life out of the man you chose. If you chose anyone, don't do it foolishly, the way I did. Choose some one who might deserve to die—"  . . .
. . . "That dame was a plant and that dame—whoever she was—slipped him the cyanide. And between you and me, Morelli didn't commit suicide. He was no sap."  . . .
- "The Dumas of the pulps" is how Richard Sale has been characterized; for more about him and his career in Hollywood see Wikipedia HERE and this long background article HERE.
- Besides Captain McGrail (for 15 other titles see his story list HERE), Sale created several other series characters, including Daffy Dill; go HERE for more about Daffy and HERE for a list of stories.

Category: The pen isn't always mightier than the sword

"The Murderer Is Here in This Room!"

"Murder on the Mike."
By Arthur B. Reeve (1880-1936).
Short story (12 pages).
Found in Argosy Weekly, December 3, 1932.
Online HERE.
"Craig Kennedy, scientific detective, planned a radio third degree for the suspects in the broadcasting studio murder . . ."
Walter Jameson has written himself an exciting thriller that's going to be performed live in 
a radio studio—if, that is, his good friend Craig Kennedy can solve a real murder first. Of course Kennedy does, this time with the invaluable help of a circular paraboloid.

Some passages:
. . . "That interchange was like the dotted lines which cartoonists draw to carry dagger looks."  . . .
~ ~ ~
. . . At that instant a shot shattered through the plate glass picture window of the control room, and a steel-jacketed bullet pinged into the plaster over the head of the technician inside.
I started. That shot had been in this studio! It was not one of those revolver shots for the mike—a fingernail snapped against a piece of stiff cardboard. This one had been real.  . . .
~ ~ ~
. . . She had pitched forward, and he bent over her. A thin trickle of blood was slowly spreading upon the shiny cork floor of the studio, from the beautiful blond head now motionless against a shapely white arm. Wildly outstretched fingers seemed to grasp for something spectral in the thin air.  . . .
. . . Here was a real mystery, right in the midst of my own fiction drama mystery! . . .
. . . I TELEPHONED in a story with plenty of color—but I studiously left the deductions to Kennedy.  . . .
. . . The saxes wailed the finale of a rollicking ditty that should have romped allegro vivace, but they literally crept along, adagio lamentoso. That was the spirit of the occasion. It was more like an unusually dispirited wake than the liveliest mirth emporium that had so far escaped a padlock. How could it have been otherwise . . .
- On his megasite HERE Mike Grost has a great deal of info about Arthur B. Reeve.
- As complete a listing of all of the Craig Kennedy short stories as you're likely to find is HERE.

Category: The plants have ears

"I Mean to Find Her Murderer!"

"Murder for Fun."
By Norman H. White, Jr. (?-?).
Short story (12 pages).
Found in Argosy Weekly, September 19, 1931.
Online HERE.
"It was begun for amusement, that fashionable game of 'Murder,' but it was to have a more startling outcome than even Dapper Dick Carleton, the district attorney, anticipated . . ."
To paraphrase Hamlet, the play's the thing wherein we'll catch the conscience of . . . in this case, the murderer of "La Booth."

No one knew how Richard Carleton, or "Dapper Dick" as he was known to every one, from the big flat-foot who had the slaughter house beat to redheaded Captain McGinnis of headquarters, had ever found time both to make his brilliant record as district attorney and to keep up his contact with the circle of society which was his birthright.  . . .
. . . "Gloria Booth was a colorful, unconventional, passionate creature," he said softly. "Laws meant nothing to her—she lived and loved—and three weeks ago to-night she was murdered. I mean to find her murderer!" He raised his dark sardonic eyes slowly from his glass and searched the faces of the well-groom-ed men sitting about the room almost challengingly.  . . .
. . . "There is the fatal ace of spades," he said with a smile, holding up the card which for centuries has been the grim omen of death.  . . .
. . . "I now think I am ready to denounce the murderer of the beautiful young lady whose body lies near the piano."  . . .
. . . His thin face, a mask of demoniac fury, peered through the narrow aperture of mahogany.  . . .
. . . His voice rose to a shriek. He steadied his shaking right hand with his left and took careful aim . . .
- Our author, Norman H. White, Jr., seems to have been active producing crime fiction, usually for Dime Detective and DFW, only in the early '30s; see The FictionMags listing for him HERE.
- As with a previous author (HERE), we can't for the moment say whether White produced any other "Dapper Dick" Carleton adventures.

Category: McMillan & Wife without the wife

Friday, August 28, 2015

"If That Don't Yell Murder Out Loud Then I Don't Belong in the Detective Division"

"The Phony Alarm."
By Richard Howells Watkins (1895-1980).
Short story (7 pages).
Found in Argosy Weekly, May 4, 1935.
Online HERE.
There's no fooling this flatfoot when he's on the beat:
. . . "Clues, problems, mysteries—you look for 'em like—"
"Like you do pay, promotion an' ham and egg sandwiches," Francis X. Muldoon retorted.  . . .
~ ~ ~
. . . "A properly executed confession, all right," he said dryly, moving toward the telephone. "Executed is right."  . . .
. . . "He wasn't so tough with the chair facing him."  . . .
- Here's the most we could find of our author's background [from the Online Archive of California HERE]: "Richard Howells Watkins was an author in the adventure/detective genre, a World War I veteran, an inveterate traveler, and an auto racing, aviation, and maritime enthusiast. He was born in New York City on May 26, 1895, later residing in Riverside, Connecticut, and finally moving to Santa Barbara in 1956."
- The FictionMags list of Watkins's voluminous short fiction, the first of three pages, begins HERE.

Category: Hardboiled Oirish crime fiction, begorrah

"He Almost Wished a Black Cat Would Cross His Path"

"Superstition's the Bunk."
By Charles Victor Knox (?-?).
Short short story (3 pages).
Found in Argosy Weekly, March 10, 1934.
Online HERE.
" 'Nothing's unlucky except carelessness,' was the motto of Wolf McGowan, slickest of crooks . . ."
. . . and Wolf would never be careless, would he?
. . . Then he saw, right ahead of him, a ladder leaning against the side of a building. He smiled again, as he deviated slightly from the flow of pedestrians, in order to pass beneath it.  . . .
Category: No such luck