Wednesday, November 13, 2019

"I Have Repaired the Machine, Suh"

YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD the expression "a license to print money," but who needs a license when you have . . .

"The Money Machine."
By Clee Garson (David Wright O'Brien, 1918-44).
Illustration by Robert Fuqua (1905-59; HERE).
First appearance: Amazing Stories, March 1943.

Reprinted in Amazing Stories Quarterly, Fall 1943.
Novelette (44 pages as a PDF).

Online at Roy Glashan's Library (RGL) (HTML HERE;
(Parental caution: Mild profanity.)

     "The bigger the burg, the dumber the lambs."

Some lambs, though, aren't so easy to fleece . . .

~ Bert (the narrator):

  "I was beginning to have ideas."
~ Mindy:
  "Stop it, stop it. I hate to see a sharp mind like yours going to pieces this way!"
~ Nick Faroni:
  "It's your business, Bert. I can't tell you anything about how to run it. You seem to be doing well enough. But—in Chicago, such a simple gag—"

~ Col. Amos Marsh:
  "You see, suh, considering my age, and the probable number of years left to me, I estimated that I should need thirty or thirty-five thousand dollars to live out the rest of my life . . ."

- REFERENCES: ~ "They were about as big as a comptometer": "the first commercially successful key-driven mechanical calculator" (Wikipedia HERE).

~ "there weren't any Elevateds within two miles": "An elevated railway (also known as an El rail, El train or simply an El for short, and, in Europe, as an overhead railway) is a rapid tran-sit railway with the tracks above street level on a viaduct or other elevated structure (usually constructed from steel, cast iron, concrete, or brick)." (Wikipedia HERE).
~ "It gives me confidence, that zoot": "a men's suit with high-waisted, wide-legged, tight-cuffed, pegged trousers, and a long coat with wide lapels and wide padded shoulders". (Wikipedia HERE).

~ "He didn't do anything according to Hoyle.": A reference to an English card sharp: "Edmond Hoyle was a writer best known for his works on the rules and play of card games. The phrase 'according to Hoyle' (meaning 'strictly according to the rules') came into the language as a reflection of his generally perceived authority on the subject; since that time, use of the phrase has expanded into general use in situations in which a speaker wishes to indicate 
an appeal to a putative authority." (Wikipedia HERE).
~ "I did some vocal jujitsu with myself all over the room": A metaphor referencing a martial art: "Japanese jujutsu systems typically put more emphasis on throwing, pinning, and joint-locking techniques as compared with martial arts such as karate, which rely more on strik-
ing techniques." (Wikipedia HERE).
~ "steamer trunks of the sort that spelled Rhett Butler": Maybe you've heard of him (Wiki-pedia HERE).
~ "Grant might have had carried into town when he took Richmond.": A reference to a Union general and the capital of the Confederacy (Wikipedia HERE).
~ "It was like nothing Midas ever dreamed of.": The man with the golden touch (Wikipedia HERE).
~ "Confederate currency": "By the end of 1863, the Confederate dollar (or 'Greyback', to distinguish it from the then-new 'Greenback' paper US dollar, which was likewise put in-
to circulation during the war) was quoted at just six cents in gold, and fell further still." (Wikipedia HERE).
- It hasn't been so long since we regarded another science fantasy narrative by David Wright O'Brien (HERE).

Monday, November 11, 2019

"Each of the Three Planes Crashed Exactly One Hour After It Took Off"

BECAUSE OF A SERIES of low-budget films, Hugh Wiley's James Lee Wong is known today to far more people through that medium than he was even in his heyday in print (20 stories for Collier's, 1934-38 and 1940; 3 for Blue Book, 1940-41); Wong was personified in five cash-challenged movies (1938-40) by the great Boris Karloff and in one extra (1940) by 
an authentic Chinese actor, the also great Keye Luke. Today's story is Wiley's third from 
last adventure featuring James Lee [the "Wong" being omitted], a U.S. Treasury agent 
on the trail of . . .

"The Fourth Messenger."
By Hugh Wiley (1884-1968).
Illustrations by Austin Briggs (1908-73).
First appearance: Blue Book, May 1940.

Short story (10 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     "That famous Chinese-American G-man known as James Lee here deals with a most spectacular crime."

With three mysterious plane crashes in close succession, we'd do well to remember 
Auric Goldfinger's remark, "They have a saying in Chicago: Once is happenstance. 
Twice is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action." . . .

Major characters:
~ James Lee:

  "Bring me a drafting-board and a protractor, a couple of triangles, a scale and 
a straight-edge."
~ Chandler Hill:
  "Is this a Black Hand letter?"
~ Yut Sung:
  "Under cover, the old Chinaman had for long years played an important role 

in the complex politics of his native land."
~ The garage-man:
  "Mister, she must of landed like a ton of brick!"
~ Riley:
  "Five or six of them were evidently under cover."
~ Wilbur:

  "The terminal boys heard from that pilot forty minutes after he took off, and 
that was the last message."
~ Grace Howard:
  "There's a mystery angle to her that I never knew before."

- REFERENCES: "he came on the China Clipper": According to Wikipedia (HERE), "The 

Pan Am Boeing 314 Clippers brought exotic destinations like the Far East within reach 
of air travelers and came to represent the romance of flight." (Trivia: The aircraft that 
crash in our story could be Boeing 247Ds, which, unlike the DC-3 and the Stratoliner, 
had accommodations for only ten passengers; the Blue Book artist, however, elected 
to depict a DC-3.)
~ "training flyers for Chiang Kai-shek": Wikipedia (HERE) says, "Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975) was a Chinese nationalist politician, revolutionary and military leader who served as the leader of the Republic of China between 1928 and 1975, first in mainland China until 1949 
and then in Taiwan until his death."
~ "written with a thin brush in the Hing Shu or running hand": The stubbed article at (HERE) tells us that Xingshu is "a semicursive Chinese script that 
developed out of the Han dynasty lishu script at the same time that the standard 
kaishu script was evolving (1st–3rd century A.D.). The characters of xingshu are not abbreviated or connected, but strokes within the characters are often run together."
~ "there is a Chinese method of torture known as the Thousand Deaths": A reference to Lingchi (Wikipedia HERE).
- The always reliable FictionMags Index has a Hugh Wiley bibliography (HERE), while Fandango (HERE) has a concise article about him, and the IMDb (HERE) has a filmog-
raphy; for more about the movies, also consult Robert W. Finnan's page (HERE).
- Wikipedia (HERE) has an entry about James Lee Wong, and a comprehensive article about him can be found on The Thrilling Detective Web Site (HERE). (Apart from being adapted to movies in 1929, 1930, and 1946, we can't find out anything about Wiley's other series charac-ter, Wildcat, who appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, 1919-26, 1931-32, and 1934) [FictionMags data].

Friday, November 8, 2019

"Distilled Water, Jumper Cables, and Packs of Sulphuric Acid Were All Over the Room"

"The Tomkins Battery Case."
By Bud Sparhawk (born 1937).
Illustration by Doug Beekman (born 1952; HERE).
First appearance: Analog, August 1976.

Short story (11 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archive (HERE; to speed things up, you might want to dowload the entire issue; scroll down to magazine page 123).

     "New developments in society can be defined as new raw material for neuroses."

We can confidently anticipate that in the future our descendants will undoubtedly encounter, and have to deal with, novel and unpredictable addictions, but without meaning to George manages to get in way ahead of the curve . . .

~ Arthur Coggins:

  ". . . could tell that the small, middle-aged woman wanted a divorce when she walked through the door of his office."
~ Eleanor Tomkins:
  "Oh dear. I don't know where to start."
~ George Tomkins:
  ". . . one fine day a poorly designed bridge section had collapsed and crushed poor George's legs to a pulp."

~ Gwendolyn:
  "You mean sex, eternal triangles, drunken orgies, wild weekends and all that?"

- REFERENCES: "the thick Axminster on the floor": So luxurious, you hate to walk on it (Wikipedia HERE).
~ "Reefers are there near your elbow": A term of unknown origin for rolled marijuana cigarettes (Wikipedia HERE).
~ "the penlites in his pockets": A dated reference to certain types of batteries (Popular Science HERE).

~ "a golden glass of Haig in her hand": Whisky (Wikipedia HERE).
~ "the caduceus of the Federal Medical Corps": According to Wikipedia (HERE), "The modern use of the caduceus as a symbol of medicine became established in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century as a result of documented mistakes, misunderstandings and confusion."

- "The Tomkins Battery Case" was John C. Sparhawk's first published story: "Prior to this sale," he says, "I’d written about 20-25 non-salable stories." The Wikipedia article about him is (HERE) and the SFE entry (HERE), his homepage is (HERE) and weblog (HERE), and the ISFDb bibliography is (HERE).

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

"Two Guys Just Shot This Man!"

IF YOU ARE familiar with the term "biter bit" (if not, see "Resources" below), then you 
might be able to guess how the next story will turn out . . .
~ ~ ~
   "In his business fingers and nerves were everything—like with a piano player."

"The Last Haul."
By Fenton W. Earnshaw (1912-ca.1970).
First appearance: Thrilling Detective, September 1941.

Short short short story (4 pages).
Online at (HERE).
     "Benny Warner Proves to Be Dumber Than His Victim!"

Have you ever been admonished not to jump to conclusions? Evidently whoever gave Benny that advice was wasting his breath . . .

~ Benny Warner:

  "You got nothing on me, copper."
~ Captain Hendricks:
  "You're leaving by tomorrow night, Benny."
~ Detective Olsen:
  "He told you who shot him? He was talking when you got here?"
~ Mr. Carson:
  "It happened quickly. Carson's fists clenched, his mouth opened as if to yell."

- The term "biter bit" and its variations are defined on The Free Dictionary (HERE).

- The FictionMags Index shows that short story credits for Fenton William Earnshaw spanned a ten-year period, 1939-49, with 21 stories overall; Earnshaw had three short-lived series characters: Dan McGuire (Thrilling Detective, 3 adventures, 1939-41), whom he inherited from Robert Leslie Bellem; Johnny Wells (Thrilling Detective, 1 adventure, 1939), a character later used by uberpulpster Norman A. Daniels; and MacAnderson (Thrilling Detective, 2 adven-tures, 1941-42), a character all his own.

Monday, November 4, 2019

"I've Got a Bill of Sale, Made Out to Me, for One Space Worm"

"Murvyn the Magnificent."
By William E. Fark (1918-2010).
Illustrations by Scott Mavor (HERE).
First appearance: Fantastic, January 1980.

Short story (10 pages; 2 illos).
Online at (HERE).
(Parental caution: Some strong profanity.)

     "Who would care about the feelings of a 'space worm,' a creature with no real form or place to call home? His strange abilities made money for people, but he wanted something more . . ."

A meditation on show business, slavery, and love . . .

~ The narrator (unnamed):

  "In this racket, you're only as good as your current billing, and mine was never higher."
~ Murvyn the Magnificent:
  "The green material stirred and I met Murvyn."
~ Hank Milby:
  "As a third-rate comic, Hank was bearable; as a success, he was a first-rate bastard."
~ Hlassa:
  ". . . a dark, quiet girl from the Middle East, pretty in an unobtrusive way."

- Murvyn's wild talent is covered by an article at TV Tropes (HERE).

- The Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDb) credits William E. Fark with only two stories: "Hessie and the Spaced-Out Demon" (Fantastic, July 1979) and "Murvyn the Magnificent." See the extensive obituary for him in the San Diego Union-Tribune (HERE).

Friday, November 1, 2019

"I Daresay There's More to This Sherlock Holmes Business Than Just That?"

IF YOU'VE BEEN browsing through old copies of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, MacKill's Mystery Magazine, The Saint, Creasey, or Edgar Wallace Mystery magazines dating from the 1950s and '60s, you will have doubtless come across a variety of crime fiction by one Nigel Morland (not his real name); Morland had only two series characters (see "More resources" below), one of whom was Constable Gill, the star of these two stories . . .


   "He was taking a very long chance indeed, and if he made a mistake, dismissal and damnation would be his inevitable reward . . ."

"All in the Night's Work."
By Nigel Morland (Carl Van Biene, 1905-86).
First appearance: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (EQMM), 

June 1961.
Short short story (9 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; scroll down to page 21).
(Note: Faded, but legible, text.)

     "Nothing unusual ever happened on Constable Gill's beat—until that mid-summer night on aristocratic Hertford Street . . . Now observe a London bobby at work."

If a murderer, like the one in our story, ever finds it necessary to hoodwink the police, he could certainly benefit from knowing the difference between a male and a female . . .

~ Constable Gill:

  ". . . an old-fashioned man who clung faithfully to a drooping, curtain mustache which went well with a large and corpulent body."
~ Mrs. Gill:
  ". . . as stout and kindly as her husband . . ."
~ Tom Cowley:
  ". . . still a probationer with another year to serve."
~ Dane of the C.I.D.:
  ". . . a big man, as big as Gill, with a bleak face and rumpled clothes."
~ Farrar:
  "There's a secret drawer where I put a diamond I bought for—well, a lady friend. Paid nine thousand pounds for it."
~ Marshall:
  "The occiput's crushed like an eggshell—must've been a heavy blow."
~ The divisional surgeon:
  ". . . sighed but made no remark, knowing perfectly well the police cannot regard a corpse, even if it were cut into sections, as officially dead until the physician says so."
~ The Desk Sergeant:
 "Probably burn you at the stake, they will, chum!"

- REFERENCE: "the powerful Wootton lamp": Bobbies loved it (flickr: HERE; The Radio Museum: HERE).

~ ~ ~

   "I found the thief easily, sir."

"Glimpse of the Obvious."
By Nigel Morland (Carl Van Biene, 1905-86).
First appearance: Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine, January 1967.

Short short story (7 pages).
Online at (HERE).

A priceless diamond (aren't they all?) goes missing at a Christmas party, but the game's the thing wherein a clever copper will catch an incautious thief . . .

~ Constable Gill:

  ". . . glared mournfully across the waste of slush and snow which covered Curzon Street, 
his large body shivering a little under his heavy winter uniform."
~ Bellamy:
  "Been a robbery."
~ Sir Osgood (or is it Gerald?) Quarles:
  ". . . it was my diamond, hang it!"
~ Mrs. Quarles, John and Michael, Lady Thameshire and Miss Templeton, Fritz Kaune, and Reverend Mr. Thomas Wellbeloved:
  "The gathering gave a sort of shocked attention to the big, solemn policeman in the door-way, his helmet under his arm and his round, balding head possessing a sort of common-place courtesy as if a god had come to the aid of mortals but was not prepared
to play any favourites."

Typo: "Quarles expression" ["Quarles's"].

- REFERENCES: "He pointed to the epergne of walnuts.": For many of us, a new vocabulary term (Wikipedia; HERE) coupled with a familiar edible seed (Wikipedia; HERE).


More resources:
- According to FictionMags, Nigel Morland's only other series character was Mrs. Palmyra Pym, ancestor of today's ruff-n-tuff female PIs, making her first shorter-length appearance in the '30s ("The Hatchet Man," The Thriller Library, April 17, 1937) and then disappearing from short stories until reemerging in the '50s ("Flowers for an Angel," EQMM, September 1951) and showing up 11 more times (1952-53, 1955-56, 1964, 1965, and 1969) in MacKill's, The Evening Standard, Creasey Mystery, and finally Edgar Wallace Mystery. [All data from FictionMags.] Some of these stories were collected in Mrs. Pym and Other Stories (1976; WorldCat; HERE).

- As for Morland's book-length efforts, see William F. Deeck's Mystery*File 2013 review (HERE) of The Clue in the Mirror (1937), one of many Palmyra Pym adventure thrillers—
not surprising, since Morland was a protégé of Edgar Wallace (the GAD Wiki; HERE). A 
film featuring her ("extremely entertaining rubbish") was made in 1940 (IMDb; HERE).

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

"The Body Wasn't There"

"The Ghost Breakers."
By Fredric Brown (1906-72).
First appearance: Thrilling Detective, July 1944.

Reprinted in 5 Detective Novels Magazine, Summer 1952.
Novelette (17 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     "With a killer and a sexy medium around, George has plenty to excite him in that haunted house—without any walking corpses!"

"A private detective doesn't do any dreaming," George confidently tells his client—but that man lying dead at the bottom of the stairs right at George's feet in a house that's prone to "manifestations"—the corpse that nobody, not even the police, can find—was he just a dream? As far as everybody else is concerned, it's simply a matter of the little PI who cried wolf, but like George insists, a good gumshoe worthy of his trenchcoat doesn't hamstring himself with dreaming . . .

. . . making bad guesses, on the other hand, that's a different matter entirely: "You solved the thing, only you picked the wrong guy. . . ."

~ George Rice (the narrator):

  "This was an easy way to earn twenty bucks, but if I ever took another assignment like this, I thought, I would bring a thermos bottle of java, extra flashlight batteries, and a good book. Or a blonde."
~ Sergeant Carey:
  "If you know this joint is haunted, didn't you know that the ghost is supposed to be that of a tramp who fell downstairs here fifteen years ago?"

~ Captain Nelson:
  "That was my luck. I'd tangled with Nelson before, and he was going to make the most of this. He was grinning before Carey got halfway through his story. Then he wiped off the grin and glowered at me, pretending he wasn't enjoying it."
~ Norman Pollock:
  "Even unimaginative people sometimes tend to see and hear things they expect to see and hear . . ."
~ Zenas Wegs:
  "Mr. Wegs' opinion of me would make the difference between twenty bucks for one night's work or a lot of twenties from now on."

~ Shorty:
  "Criminetty, no bo would go any nearer that place than the tracks."
~ Jan Sharpe:
  ". . . is a screwball. Jan's a mystic and writes books about it."
~ Stanton Waldo:
  "Would you care to earn five hundred dollars, Rice?"
~ Scollini:
  "I'd have taken him for the devil, myself."
~ Irene Steiner:
  ". . . a medium—one Irene Steiner, a curvaceous number with an inviting eye, as I had found out . . ."

Typos: "I ddin't have to hunt"; "Strankled" [How often do people get strankled?]; "Green Street".

- REFERENCES: "You've probably heard of Scollini, who rated next to Thurston in his heyday.": That would be Howard Thurston (1869-1936; Wikipedia HERE), who "eventually became the most famous magician of his time."

~ "I walked on into the jungles.": The "Hobo" article on Wikipedia (HERE) includes a glossary of terms commonly used in the 1940s; "jungle" is defined as "an area off a railroad where hobos camp and congregate."
~ "I walked around the end of a string of reefers": "a refrigerated boxcar (U.S.), a piece 
of railroad rolling stock designed to carry perishable freight at specific temperatures" (Wikipedia HERE).
~ "It's worth a sawbuck": "a slang term for a U.S. $10 bill, derived from the similarity between the shape of a sawbuck device and the Roman numeral X (10), which formerly appeared on $10 bills" (Wikipedia HERE).
~ "he hadn't been vagged.": Meaning arrested on a charge of vagrancy (The Free Dictionary HERE).
~ "What do you say to a séance at my place tomorrow night?": Wikipedia (HERE) says, "In English the word came to be used specifically for a meeting of people who are gathered to receive messages from ghosts or to listen to a spirit medium discourse with or relay messages from spirits."
~ "I saw now that they were a speaking trumpet and tambourine.": No séance would be complete without these gimmicks.

Houdini destroying the credibility of a speaking trumpet.
~ "The phonograph started grinding out Lead Kindly Light": A hymn dating from 1833 (Wikipedia HERE).
~ "The tambourine in the corner rattled, and the table fell, thudding against the carpet.": 
A levitating table? See "Seance Table Trick" at Magic Secrets Explained (HERE).
~ "snatched out of his hand and used to garrote him.": A depressingly popular way to 
murder someone (Wikipedia HERE).
~ "if she starts throwing ectoplasm around": "a term used in spiritualism to denote a substance or spiritual energy 'exteriorized' by physical mediums" (Wikipedia HERE).
- The Ghost Breakers was also the title of a 1940 comic "horror" movie starring Bob 

Hope and Paulette Goddard (Wikipedia HERE and the IMDb HERE). At one point in 
our story, in a "frozen second," George admits he was "scared stiff," which happens 
to be the title of the 1953 Lewis & Martin remake of The Ghost Breakers (Wikipedia 
HERE and the IMDb HERE).
- Fredric William Brown (see The FictionMags Index HERE) must have gone through dozens of typewriters in his long career generating above average short fiction (1937-65); see also Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the IMDb (HERE).
- We've crossed paths with prolific and versatile Fredric Brown several times in the past—"Beware of the Dog" (HERE), "Daymare" (HERE), "Cry Silence" (HERE), and "The Night 

the World Ended" (HERE)—and will again in the future.