Wednesday, January 16, 2019


Autumn 2018. Issue #49.
Editor: Arthur Vidro.
Old-Time Detection Special Interest Group of American Mensa, Ltd.
36 pages (including covers).
Cover image: Jack Ritchie

For the first part of this OLD-TIME DETECTION review, please pop over to Steve Lewis's Mystery*File (HERE) first and then return here for related links to additional information.

(1) A review (2018) by Michael Dirda of the omnibus edition of Howard Browne's PI works, Halo for Hire: The Complete Paul Pine Mysteries (2018). Related: (HERE), (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE).
  "Browne's four Paul Pine novels . . . are quite consciously written in the wise-cracking, tough guy mode of Chandler's fiction and 1940s Humphrey Bogart films."

(2) "Looking Backward" by Charles Shibuk (1974, 1976, 1978):
   (a) Last Year's Blood (1947) by H. C. Branson. Related: (HERE), (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE).
   (b) The Longbridge Murders (1945) by Moray Dalton. Related: (HERE).
   (c) Too Good to Be True (1948) by J. F. Hutton. Related: (HERE).
(3) "Author Spotlight: Jack Ritchie" by Francis M. Nevins (2010). Related: (HERE).
(4) "One of My Favorites: Jack Ritchie" by Arthur Vidro.
(5) "Author Spotlight: Edgar Wallace" by J. Randolph Cox. Related: (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE).
(6) "The Fingernail," a teleplay by Charles Shibuk based on the 1941 short story by Cornell Woolrich.
(7) "The Woolrich Films," Part IV by Francis M. Nevins (from his 1988 book). Related (BEWARE of SPOILERS): (HERE), (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE).
(8) "Christie Corner" by Dr. John Curran. Related: (HERE) and (HERE).
(9) Three Books:
    (a) Arthur Vidro's review of Jack Ritchie's
The Adventures of Henry Turnbuckle (1987). Related (HERE) and (HERE).

    (b) Trudi Harrov's review of "Ellery Queen, Jr.'s" The Brown Fox Mystery (1948). Related: (HERE).
    (c) Amnon Kabatchnik's review (1974) of S. John Preskett's parodic Murders at Turbot Towers (1937).
(10) "My First Great Detectives" (1980) by Jon L. Breen. Related: (HERE).
(11) "The Paperback Revolution" (1970) by Charles Shibuk.
(12) "The Readers Write":
     "What's wrong with modern mysteries? How about the obvious fact that they contain every aberration known to man . . . and some of the writing is by devout enemies of the English language."
(13) The Puzzle.
~ ~ ~
Subscription information:
- Published three times a year: spring, summer, and autumn.
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- One-year U.S.: $18.00 ($15.00 for Mensans).
- One-year overseas: $40.00 (or 20 pounds sterling or 25 euros).
- Payment: Checks payable to Arthur Vidro, or cash from any nation, or U.S. postage stamps.
Mailing address:
   Arthur Vidro, editor
   Old-Time Detection
   2 Ellery Street
   Claremont, New Hampshire 03743
Web address:

Monday, January 14, 2019

"No Corpse, No Weapon, No Witnesses"

LONG BEFORE Inspectors Poole, Goodman, and Mooney and the efficient Saint-Marie crew started collaring malefactors in the Caribbean (HERE) using automobiles, Airplane Evans was doing it on a bicycle in the balmy South Pacific—but, as far as we can ascertain, the following is his only recorded case:

"Murder in Paradise."
By Ward Holm Tanzer (1910-97).
Illustration by Edwin Dawes.

First appearance: Collier's, October 15, 1954.
Short short story (6 pages).
Online at UNZ starting (HERE) and finishing (HERE; scroll down to page 76).

     "There were two men and a woman alone on a ketch in the middle of the Pacific. Then one man was gone—no witnesses, no clues, no body. Was this 
the perfect crime?"

Nobody could possibly anticipate that the clue which will break this case open is "a pepper mill with some salt in it."

Major characters:
~ Airplane Evans:

  ". . . opened his eyes and looked up at the rafters of Ah Choy's storeroom. His head hurt unmercifully. He felt sick. A face swam into view from the foot of the cot, huge blue eyes 
set in a gentle brown face."
~ Reri:
  "You're so smart, darling."
~ J. C. Allbright:
  "About fifty years old and rather rich."

~ Allan MacKenzie:
  "MacKenzie, a retired ichthyologist, had not been able to give any worth-while information about Allbright's visit to Tahiti; the only fact of any possible interest that Airplane had got was an anecdote."

~ Inspector Casteau:
  "I will give you half the fine I laid upon the drunken American sailor last week. Plus a little pourboire of fifty francs if you should prove murder."

~ Elias Shedder:
  "The hatch cover squeaked open. The head and sunburned shoulders of a heavily-muscled man in his thirties appeared in the companionway."

~ Louise Hugg:
  "She was unlike any other woman Airplane had encountered in his seven years of knocking about the South Pacific and the sight of her roused his sense of curiosity."

~ Ah Choy, Jr.:
  "This is what I get for mixing sentiment with business."

~ Teoro:
  "Have gun."

- FictionMags credits Ward Holm Tanzer, a California native, with two stories; his obit, which explains his familiarity with Tahiti, is (HERE).

- Much of the story takes place aboard a ketch; if you're unfamiliar with that type of sailboat, see Wikipedia (HERE).


Friday, January 11, 2019

"Under These Circumstances the Psychiatrist Must Become a Detective"

"Formula for Murder."
By Lee Gregor (Milton A. Rothman, 1919-2001).
Illustrations by Richard Kluga.
First appearance: Infinity Science Fiction, November 1957.

Reprints page (HERE).
Novelette (22 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     "We have just seen the real beginning of psychological warfare."

There's been a murder aboard a space laboratory orbiting a thousand miles up, and, based on all the evidence, the F.B.I. regards a young particle physicist as their prime suspect. After all, he was at the scene of the crime, he'd argued with the victim after being summarily removed from his research program on the ten-thousand-volt proton synchrotron after a year of hard work, and he even remembers doing it—a piece of cake for the psych team, with their advanced technology, to confirm; but they have to be sure because it's become a case of national security. To get to the bottom of it, two psychiatrists are forced to take drastic measures that could prove fatal—not to the killer, however, but to themselves . . .

~ Professor Glover, project director:
  "The figure of Professor Glover slipped from the surface of the space station and twinkled away among the stars."
~ Jim Britten, lowly Ph.D. candidate:
  "He was several yards away when another spacesuited figure emerged from the port and helped him stagger the rest of the way. Inside the airlock he collapsed."

~ John Callahan, research scientist:
  "Jim, what's the matter?"

~ Dr. Morris Wolf, high tech psychologist:
  "Now we find that he deliberately plotted to kill Glover, and the paranoid symptoms are now so intense that he gives us a completely phony story about making millions of dollars out of the discovery . . ."
~ Dr. Alma Heller, Wolf's colleague:
  "He might be making up this story to hide his real motive."

~ Lynne Wolf, Dr. Wolf's wife:
  "Well, I don't think it's an American. A bit too rich."

~ Bill Grady and Calvin Jones, in cognito:
  "Don't malign them. They are good, loyal G-men. But they sat outside my door too long . . ."

~ Charles Wilford, of the AEC:
  "Obviously, Dr. Wolf, if security were involved, it is a matter I cannot discuss with you, especially over the phone."

~ Whitehead, the laboratory chief:
  "I have a strangeness. A very great strangeness."

- Although Milton Rothman, a research scientist himself, is better known to SFFdom for his essays, he did generate science fiction stories over his long career; see Wikipedia (HERE) and the SFE (HERE) for his background and the ISFDb (HERE) for a bibliography.

- A TV series episode with a somewhat similar setup but a wholly different plotline is discussed on Steve Lewis's Mystery*File (HERE).


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

"What on Earth Had Prompted the Man to Rush Crazily into the Room and Commit Murder?"

"Four and Twenty Witnesses."
By Richard E. Glendinning (1917-88).
First appearance: Detective Fiction, May 1951.
Short story (11 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     "Psychology suddenly took on a new significance."

Murphy's Law tells us that, if anything can go wrong, it will; but when Professor Baxter's carefully planned surprise results in an unscripted murder, he knows he won't be able to 
blame this one on Murphy—in fact, the law just might pin it on him . . .

~ Professor Martin Baxter:
  "Who truly knows the channels of the human mind?"

~ Irene Daniels Keller:
  "It was murder and Irene was a witness."

~ Frank Hastings:
  "It was supposed to be a knife. That scoundrel, Hastings! Intentionally mixing things up. If this is his idea of a joke—"

~ Police Lieutenant Bill Kynder:
  "Word-association! There's nothing to it.
~ Ruth Glover:
  "Men are not allowed above the first floor, but the girls are permitted to entertain dates in a small and, I must say, quite dimly lighted parlor off the lobby. Miss Daniels had a man in there last night."

~ Dean Wicksley:
  "The ramp was high and George's head was crushed."

~ Calvert Wallace:
  ". . . who used to teach dramatics here until a few months ago."

~ Robbie Keller:
  "I'm an insurance salesman."

~ Mr. Andersen:
  "[His] strong right hand was holding aloft a soggy sponge, bent upon destroying the words forever."

Comments: Have you ever watched a TV show in which a crime occurs in a classroom full of unsuspecting students, a "crime" that's been preplanned as a demonstration and is sup-posed to harm no one, but somehow it goes wrong? We can't be sure, but our story might be one of the first, if not the first, to do so. The word association test, usually badly handled in detective fiction, is used in a fairly intelligent way here. However, the Lieutenant could be right: "The D.A. will have my scalp."

- Just about every one of Richard Edwin Glendenning, Jr.'s FictionMags Index list stories is hardboiled tecfic, making today's story different from his usual output: "Author, editor. Born in Elizabeth, New Jersey." You may recall that he was also responsible for "The Light Finger-ed Santa" (HERE).

- One of the characters says, "I never liked the story of John Alden, either"; see (HERE) for what he meant.

Monday, January 7, 2019

"You Fail to Recognize the Genius of Your Own Creation"

"Mobile Hack."
By Zack Lux.
Illustration by JACEY.
First appearance: Nature/Futures, 11 October 2018.
Short short short story (1 page).
Online at (HERE; PDF).

     "I should advise you that in field tests my central processor regularly exceeds 22 petaFLOPS on the LINPACK benchmark. I’m guessing you 
don’t know what that means."

We live in an analog world, but even now there are forces in motion that wouldn't mind seeing it totally digitized . . . totally . . . d-i-g-i-t-i-1011010-1000101-1000100 . . .

- "Mobile Hack" is evidently Zack Lux's initial publication (HERE).


Friday, January 4, 2019

"I Love to Follow a Detective When He Uses His Brains"

THE BASIC PREMISE of having two detectives, one a professional and the other an amateur, competing with each other to solve crimes opens wide vistas for plotting to a 
clever writer, as it clearly did to today's author, a man whose name you aren't likely to 
forget soon. Here, two years after they first met in a novel, are their initial adventures 
in the short story form:
~ ~ ~
   "I wish you to discover who I am."

"The Nameless Man."
By Rodrigues Ottolengui (1861-1937).
Illustrations by Stanley L. Wood (1867-1928; HERE).

First appearance: The Idler, January 1895.
Collected in Final Proof; or, The Value of Evidence (1898) (reviewed HERE; online HERE).
Short story (14 pages).
Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE; no illos; several clicks may be necessary) and (HERE; 6 illos).

     "As I am evidently a full-grown man, I can certainly claim that I have a past history, but to me that past is entirely blank. I awoke this morning in this condition, yet apparently in possession of all my faculties, so much so, that I at once saw the advisability of consulting a first-class detective, and, upon inquiry, I was directed to you."

Detective Barnes's detectival skills are tested when a man claiming to be an amnesiac comes to him for help. Little things, as always, contribute to the solution: a briefly-glimpsed watch and badge, small indentations on the sole of a shoe, initials on a handkerchief, and a regis-tration number for a bicycle.
~ ~ ~
   "Criminals who disdain aliases have brains, and use them."

"The Montezuma Emerald."
By Rodrigues Ottolengui (1861-1937).
Illustrations by Stanley L. Wood (1867-1928; HERE).

First appearance: The Idler, February 1895.
Collected in Final Proof; or, The Value of Evidence (1898) (reviewed HERE; online HERE).
Reprinted in Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, January 1974.
Short story (16 pages).
Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE; no illos; several clicks may be necessary) and Hathi Trust (HERE; 7 illos).

     "ROBERT LEROY MITCHEL DROWNED! His Body Found Floating in the East River. A DAGGER IN HIS BACK. Indicates Murder."

Much like it was with Mark Twain, the report of the amateur sleuth's demise isn't just exaggerated but also a trifle premature, as Detective Barnes will soon learn . . .
- Despite the impression his name might give you, Benjamin A. Rodrigues Ottolengui was from South Carolina, a dentist by profession, and a thriller writer by avocation. Like Conan Doyle, he probably dabbled in fiction while waiting for patients; see Wikipedia (HERE), the GAD (HERE), and Douglas Greene's brief background article (farther down this page) for more biographical information. The SFE (HERE) and the ISFDb (HERE) have data on his few SFFnal works.
- Amateur sleuth Mitchel and professional detective Barnes first meet on a train in the novel, An Artist in Crime (1892; online HERE), just after a robbery has occurred and a search is on for the thief:

"At the name Mitchel, Mr. Barnes was a trifle startled. It was the same as that 
which had been given by the woman who had been robbed. At this point, Mr. Mitchel, a man of forty-five, with a classic face, spoke:

"'Thanks, Arthur, I can take care of myself.'

"The conductor hesitated a moment, and then addressed Mr. Mitchel:
    "'I regret very much the necessity which compels me to ask you to allow your-self to be searched, but it is my duty.'
       "'My dear sir, I understand perfectly that it is your duty and have no personal 

feelings against you. Nevertheless, I distinctly refuse.'

"'You refuse?' The words came from the other three men together. It is diffi-cult to tell which was the most surprised. 

"Randolph turned pale and leaned against the partition for support. Mr. Barnes became slightly excited and said:

"'That amounts to a tacit acknowledgment of guilt, since every other man has been searched.'

"Mr. Mitchel's reply to this was even more of a surprise than what he had said before.

"'That alters the case. If every one else has submitted, so will I.'
Without more ado he divested himself of his clothing. Nothing was found. The satchels of both men were brought, but the search was fruitless. The conductor glanced at the detective [Barnes] helplessly, but that gentleman was looking out of the window. One who knew Mr. Barnes could have told that he was fearfully angry, for he was biting the end of his moustache."

- Carolyn Wells immortalized our author in her poem, "A Ballade of Detection" (HERE), one stanza of which reads as follows:

   To my mind nothing can exceed
       The tales of Edgar Allan Poe;
   Of Anna Katharine Green I’ve need,
       Du Boisgobey, Gaboriau;
       I’ve Conan Doyle’s works all a-row
   And Ottolengui and the rest;
       How other books seem tame and slow!
   I like Detective Stories best.

- In her The Technique of the Mystery Story (1913; online HERE), Carolyn Wells offers an oblique rebuke to Ottolengui for employing what was an already overused mystery trope 
a century ago:

   A trite and greatly worn device is the watch that stopped presumably when the crime was committed. Here is a typical use of this incident quoted from R. Ottolengui's "The Crime of the Century":

     "I found Mr. Mora's watch under the bed, where it must have been knocked from the dressing-table. The fall had caused it to stop, and the hands indicated seven minutes of two, agreeing with the time during which the watchman testifies that young Mora was at home."
     "Yes," said Mr. Mitchel, "but do not go too fast. The watch may have run down. It is uncommon for a good watch to stop merely because it falls to the floor."
     "Both of your points are good, in theory," replied the detective. "But neither applies in this instance. If a watch runs down, it cannot be started again without winding. By merely shaking this one I set it going, and to make assurance doubly sure, I let it run for an hour, when it was still keeping time. Next, though it be true that most watches would not be so easily stopped, this one, for some reason, is very sensitive to a blow. I tried the experiment of pushing it from the table to the floor, and at every attempt I found that it would cease its movement."

   This idea of a stopped watch is so obvious that it led authors at once to the idea of purposely stopping a watch with the intent of leading the detective and the reader astray. In fact, this was done as long ago as in Gaboriau's "Crime of Orcival," where Lecoq, finding a clock which has been overturned in the strug-gle between the victim and his assassin, purposely turns the hands some four hours backward. This device has been used so often that the astute reader now disregards the evidence of the stopped watch in fiction.

Of course, Wells's remarks didn't discourage Agatha Christie from using the stopped watch as either a clue or, more often, a red herring (e.g., "At the Crossroads"; Murder on the Orient Express; The Clocks). And TV writers have used it ad nauseum:

    "He was killed at 11:15."
   "So specific. I'm impressed."
   "His watch broke when he fell."
   "Ah, you shouldn't have told me. Less impressed."

- Here is FictionMags's listing for the first batch of Robert Leroy Mitchel/John Barnes short stories:

  (1) "The Nameless Man," The Idler, January 1895 (above)
  (2) "The Montezuma Emerald," The Idler, February 1895 (above)
  (3) "The Azteck Opal," The Idler, April 1895
  (4) "A Frosty Morning," The Black Cat, August 1898
  (5) "Mr. Mitchel’s First Problem," Ainslee’s Magazine, April 1901; a.k.a. “The Problem of the Suicide’s Letter”
  (6) "Mr. Alias, Burglar," Ainslee’s Magazine, May 1901; a.k.a. “The Randolph Robbery Farce”
  (7) "A Problem in Smuggling," Ainslee’s Magazine, June 1901; a.k.a. “The Elsemere Pendant Case”
  (8) "A Suggestion of Murder," Ainslee’s Magazine, July 1901; a.k.a. “The Trap of Green”
  (9) "The Art of Forgery," Ainslee’s Magazine, August 1901
  (10) "The Whirlpool of Society," Ainslee’s Magazine, September 1901; a.k.a. “What Happened at a Race-Course”
  (11) "Before the Fact," Detective Story Magazine, March 5, 1918.

- The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box has collected the final six Mitchel/Barnes stories in Before the Fact (2011; HERE). In his introduction Douglas Greene discusses Ottolengui's unorthodox approach to mystery fiction:

   "In 1893, Ottolengui added to has manifold activities the writing of a detective novel, An Artist in Crime, featuring two—sometimes cooperating, sometimes competing—sleuths, Jack Barnes (a professional private detective) and Robert Leroy Mitchel (a wealthy amateur). Why Ottolengui turned toward fiction is not known . . ."
   "[In his first novels] Ottolengui combined Holmesian-style deductions with drugs, hypnosis, glandular experiments and a lost Aztec temple under New York City."
   "In 1895, Ottolengui began writing a series of short stories about Barnes and Mitchel. At least four of them were published in Jerome K. Jerome’s London magazine, The Idler, and another appeared in the US magazine The Black Cat. They were collected in the 1898 volume Final Proof — and that book seemed to conclude the cases of Mitchel and Barnes . . . A recent discovery, however, has shown that Ottolengui did not desert the detection field in 1898. In 1901, Ainslee’s Magazine published six additional stories under the series title 'Before the Fact,' based on Mitchel’s claim that he could detect crimes before they took place. (Ottolengui, nevertheless, did not consistently use this conceit throughout the six stories.)"


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

"Officers in Armoured Suits Burst in, Guns in Hand — and These Guns Weren’t Loaded with Dough"

"The 133rd Live Podcast of the Gourmando Resistance."
By Beth Cato (born 1980).
Illustration by JACEY.
First appearance: Nature/Futures, 20 September 2018.
Short short short story (1 page).
Online at (HERE; PDF).

     "She’d read so many theories about what happened from here: hidden tribunals, imprisonment, prosecution."

Can it be that things are heading in this direction? You decide . . .

Comment: A reductio ad absurdum that makes a disturbing point; Swift would be proud.

- Beth Cato has been publishing poetry, novels, and short fiction since 2009 (ISFDb; HERE).