Wednesday, November 25, 2020

"And So Constantine's Murderer Must Be Aware That If He Tries To Sell, He Will Be Paid by the Hangman"

"Baghdad Manhunt."
Super Detective Library No. 47.
Characters created by Charles B. Child (Claude Vernon Frost, 1903-93).
Graphic novel (64 pages).

Online at Comic Book Plus (HERE).
     "Where is my escort into the next world?"

It's an old truism: one crime begets another. The theft of valuable antiques in the past culminates in a murder in the present—"a murder," says Inspector Chafik, "carried out, it would seem, to secure this priceless chalice," the color of which, an avid collector informs us, is "the sun-flecked blue of the canopy of heaven's throne!" But this case gets even more complicated when the Inspector's son goes missing and Chafik finds himself beset by a surfeit of street beggars . . . .
Major characters:
~ Esiah Constantine:

  "Battered to death with the club at my feet — a warrior's weapon."
~ George Topalian:
  "I was horrified to find him still here — murdered."
~ David Topalian:
  ". . . who better to buy them than David Topalian?"
~ Shah Murad:
  "His evidence, sir, is that he saw the deceased admitted to these premises."
~ Doctor Mohammed Ghaffari:
  "Value? Do you mean money? Inspector, one does not estimate such a treasure in money!"
~ Leila:
  "I am so afraid that some harm may have befallen him . . ."
~ Faisal:
  "And have you not shown me that one must have compassion for a waif?"
~ Sergeant Abdullah:
  "It is the way of boys . . . I have daughters!"
~ Inspector Chafik J. Chafik:
  "And I do not think it wisdom to enter a murderer's house . . ."
Typo: "Abdulla".

References and resources:
- "When a Sumerian noble was buried": See "Funerary practices" in Wikipedia's "Sumer" article (HERE) and the much more detailed account at Burial Practices of the Ancient World (HERE).
- "this dates to Sheba": It was "a kingdom mentioned in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and the Quran. Sheba features in Jewish, Muslim, and Christian, particularly Ethiopian Christian, traditions. It was the home of the biblical 'Queen of Sheba', who is left unnamed in the Bible, but receives the names Makeda in Ethiopian and Bilqīs in Arabic tradition." (Wikipedia HERE).
- Previously we followed the good Inspector as he dealt with a couple of criminous problems in "Inspector Chafik Tackles Two Cases" (HERE).
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Saturday, November 21, 2020

"Boss Says You've Had Firearms Training"

"Glitch."
By Wendy Nikel.
First appearance: Daily Science Fiction, October 26, 2020.
Short short short story (3 pages).
Online at Daily Science Fiction (HERE).

     "I couldn't go up against T-Port alone."

Sometimes even the simplest jobs can go south in a heartbeat: "I tried to pull myself together, but all I could think of is how much this was not what I signed up for . . ."

Characters:
~ "a pink-ponytailed, dragon-tattooed college dropout":
  "They'd have me disintegrated before I could say 'ethical responsibility'."
~ Supervisor Seth:
  "Did you press RESET first?"
~ Jeffrey Bloomsburg:
  "Your manager will hear from me!"

Resources:
- Wendy Nikel has a homepage (HERE); bibliographical data about her SFF is at the ISFDb (HERE).
- We've come across stories that make plot hay out of the idea of teleportation; for example, see Oscar Friend's "I Get Off Here" (HERE), Silverberg and Garrett's "The Incomplete Theft" (HERE), and Larry Niven's "The Alibi Machine" (HERE).
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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Inspector Chafik Tackles Two Cases

"Mystery in Baghdad."
Super Detective Library No. 71.
Characters created by Charles B. Child (Claude Vernon Frost, 1903-93).
Graphic novel (64 pages).
Two stories: "The Little Shadow" (pages 3-43) and "A Ghost Walks in Baghdad" (pages 44-66).
Online at Comic Book Plus (HERE).

     "There is a saying sir. When in doubt, do nothing."

In "The Little Shadow" Inspector Chafik is stymied by an epidemic of crimes related to hashish, while in "A Ghost Walks in Baghdad" he must determine who has murdered an Englishwoman and what is significant about a missing bronze statue.

Principal characters:
(1) "The Little Shadow":

~ A brutal drug addict, Faisal, Sergeant Abdullah, Leila, Najar Helmy, Ali, and Inspector Chafik J. Chafik.

Once more we have "the moment": "A graph! The key! The clue—the formula!" leading to "We have it then! This two week period when the graph flattens—when no hashish came to Baghdad!"

Reference:
- "The hashish smuggler": "Hashish, also known as 'hash', is a drug made by compressing and processing trichomes of the cannabis plant. It is consumed by smoking, typically in a pipe, bong, vaporizer or joint, or sometimes via oral ingestion. Hash has a long history of usage in eastern countries such as Afghanistan, India, Iran, Morocco, and Pakistan. Hash consumption is also popular in Europe, where it is the most common form of cannabis use." (Wikipedia HERE).

(2) "A Ghost Walks in Baghdad":
~ The boatman, Leila, Sergeant Abdullah, Violet Shaw, Madame Dejano, Daoud Shuman, Mr. Dejano, and Inspector Chafik J. Chafik.

Resources:

- We've covered Charles B. Child's short stories about The Sleuth of Baghdad before, in 2016 (HERE) and 2019 (HERE); you'll also find links to other online stories in those postings. Child's list of Chafik J. Chafik stories is presently residing (HERE), but that's subject to change. It's no coincidence that there are strong similarities between "The Little Shadow" and Child's Collier's story "He Had a Little Shadow" (1950), which was his sixth published case.
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Saturday, November 14, 2020

"They Have More on Their Minds Than Mere Looting"

THE MIXING AND MATCHING of science fictional tropes with hardboiled detective motifs has a long history and is still going on even today; a mid-20th century example of what we mean would be . . .

"S.O.S. Aphrodite!"
By Stanley Mullen (1911-74).

Illustration by A.[lden Spurr] McWilliams (1916-93; HERE).
First appearance: Planet Stories, Summer 1949.
Short story (15 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE).

     "This is a well-organized group of saboteurs, pirates and assassins backed by a ring of powerful and unscrupulous men, some of them in high places."

. . . so warns an unsympathetic ISP official. Most of us would think twice (and maybe more than twice) at the mere idea of opposing such people, especially when, as he says, "we can no longer give you official backing"—meaning that, as Lieutenant Steve Coran knows too well, if anything goes wrong he's on his own—and it doesn't help that he already has two black marks on his service record . . . .

Main characters:
~ Steve Coran:
  "I can't stand the smell of perfume around here. And the jobs don't come too tough. Relax, big shot. I'll run your stinking little errand for you. But it's the last one."

~ Gerda Mors:
  "Marry you!"

~ Shalm:
  "The upper part of his head had been blown away by a blaster gun, evidently fired at close quarters."
~ Hamlin:
  "In the frame of the opened doorway stood the purser, mouth open, pointing at the dead man with a trembling finger."

~ Harriman:
  "Where's the gun?"
~ Nalson:
  "Better send for Jomian."
~ Jomian:
  "After twelve years in the Space Patrol, I'm used to handling bad boys."

Typo: "we musn't".

Resources:
- In our story the colonization of Venus is well underway, but that's the Venus of 1949; what about the actual prospects of establishing Venus colonies? See the Wikipedia article (HERE) that briefly discusses some very ambitious proposals:
  "At least as early as 1971 Soviet scientists have suggested that rather than attempting to colonize Venus' hostile surface, humans might attempt to colonize the Venerian atmosphere. Geoffrey A. Landis of NASA's Glenn Research Center has summarized the perceived difficulties in colonizing Venus as being merely from the assumption that a colony would need to be based on the surface of a planet: 'However, viewed in a different way, the problem with Venus is merely that the ground level is too far below the one atmosphere level. At cloud-top level, Venus is the paradise planet.' . . . . As an alternative to floating cities, it has been proposed that a large artificial mountain, dubbed the 'Venusian Tower of Babel', could be built on the surface of Venus. It would reach up to 50 kilometres (31 mi) into the atmosphere where the temperature and pressure conditions are similar to Earth's. Such a structure could be built using autonomous robotic bulldozers and excavators that have been hardened against the extreme temperature and pressure of the Venus atmosphere." Also consult the Atomic Rockets website (HERE) for more details.

Artwork by Don Dixon.
- "It's 146 days to Venus": From the same Wikipedia article:
  "Venus's relative proximity makes transportation and communications easier than for most other locations in the Solar System. With current propulsion systems, launch windows to Venus occur every 584 days, compared to the 780 days for Mars. Flight time is also somewhat shorter; the Venus Express probe that arrived at Venus in April 2006 spent slightly over five months en route, compared to nearly six months for Mars Express. This is because at closest approach, Venus is 40 million km (25 million mi) from Earth (approximated by perihelion of Earth minus aphelion of Venus) compared to 55 million km (34 million mi) for Mars (approximated by perihelion of Mars minus aphelion of Earth) making Venus the closest planet to Earth."
- "Space Pirates," writes Winchell Chung, "is a science fiction trope that just won't go away. The image of pirate freebooters on the high seas is just too romantic for words, science fiction writers can't resist. Alas, in a scientifically accurate world, they are more or less impossible, much like space fighters and for similar reasons. There ain't no stealth in space, so it is practically impossible for a fat space galleon to be surprised in mid trip by a sinister space corsair flying the Jolly Roger. Or a rude surprise for a space merchant ship whose trajectory passes too near the Somali Asteroids for that matter. It would be several orders of magnitude easier for the 'piracy' to take the form of grand theft from the merchant's warehouses on the ground." See Atomic Rockets (HERE).
- Find out more about Stanley Mullen on Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).
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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

"If You Cross This Up, This Time for Sure I'll Kill You"

"The Thousandth Man."
By Aali Alexander (?-?).

First appearance: New Detective, October 1952.
Reprinted in New Detective (U.K.) #12, 1953 and Detective Tales (U.K.), December 1958.
Short short short story (5 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).

     ". . . in this world so often what you look like is what you are; or at least what you are, you come to look like."

Crime would be less commonplace if people paid more attention—for instance, someone like the "little lone man boiling his own tea and looking for ways to fill out the solitude . . ."

Principal characters:
~ Mr. Bibb:

  ". . . wished he had never chosen to be other than a hermit."
~ Mr. and Mrs. Bert Freel:
  "He could recognize at once that Mrs. Freel, after ten years of it [marriage], was not the gentlest of wives, nor her husband the best of men."

~ Mrs. Timothy Borse:
  "My baby's life is threatened!"

Resources:
- "as a Civil Defense warden": In England: "The advent of civil defense was stimulated by the experience of the bombing of civilian areas during the First World War. The bombing of the United Kingdom began on 19 January 1915 when German zeppelins dropped bombs on the Great Yarmouth area, killing six people. German bombing operations of the First World War were surprisingly effective, especially after the Gotha bombers surpassed the zeppelins. The most devastating raids inflicted 121 casualties for each ton of bombs dropped; this figure was then used as a basis for predictions." (Wikipedia HERE).

- "give blood to the Red Cross again": "The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is an international humanitarian movement with approximately 97 million volunteers, members and staff worldwide, which was founded to protect human life and health, to ensure respect for all human beings, and to prevent and alleviate human suffering. . . .Today in the developed world, most blood donors are unpaid volunteers who donate blood for a community supply." (Wikipedia HERE and HERE).
- "Criminal gangs are estimated to make up to $500 million a year in ransom payments from kidnapping. Kidnapping has been identified as one source by which terrorist organizations have been known to obtain funding." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "little Charley Ross . . . the Lindbergh baby": Two of history's most infamous kidnap victims; see Wikipedia (HERE and HERE).
- Aali Alexander is a complete mystery to us. The only other listing we could locate for this author was a story with an unknown title in Detective Tales, December 1958, not for sale on Amazon.com.
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Friday, November 6, 2020

"It's Up to You To Stop a Murder"

GATHERING ALL THE SUSPECTS together in the library might sound a trifle old fashioned in the 21st century, but for our space-faring sleuth it's one step in helping to solve a . . .

"Mystery in the Milky Way."
Super Detective Library No. 91, 1956.
Graphic novel (64 pages).
Online at Comic Book Plus (HERE).

     "P-p-pets d-d-di-didn't k-k-ki-kill redded . . ."

A daredevil aerospace designer and pilot has had no fewer than nine attempts on his life and is determined to find out who's doing it. The Prime Minister calls in Rick Random to investigate . . .

Cast of characters:
~ Sir John France:
  "I'm tired of being a clay pigeon. I'm going to solve this thing myself!"
~ Lady Alice France:
  "This is a list of all the people who hate you."
~ Dr. Marius Fisher:
  "He's made up his mind that one of them is the potential killer . . . and he's got them together in an isolated place to discover which."
~ Admiral Jose Henderson:
  "He's impatient when he thinks others are slow or inefficient. He needs handling, m'boy - with kid gloves."
~ Rusty Rogers:
  "Heck of a mess, Rick!"
~ Layne Gilbert:
  "What body? Are you crazy?"
~ Dr. Frank Wunsak:
  ". . . was jealous of Sir John . . ."
~ Princess Edwina:
  "It's crashing into the house!"
~ The Altron of Trovean:
  ". . . hates all Earthmen."
~ Drinda Filoos:
  ". . . blames Sir John for her son's death."
~ Captain "Black Jack" McLain:
  "If they have no luck they'll likely take pot shots at each other."
~ Lieutenant Dudley Brains:
  "Here he is!"
~ Gronge Hord:
  "Dead! Who killed him?"
~ Harvey France:
  "Meaning, ol' boy, I am now Sir Harvey France and all that goes with it."
~ Wilda North:
  "Oh, no! Not John!"
~ Miss Jacks:
  "As Rick studied the projecto-model map of Shangri-La, Miss Jacks supplied details."
~ Rick Random, Chief Trouble-shooter for the Interplanetary Bureau of Investigation:
  "This case has almost too many leads to follow."


Typos: "dexopod elephants" [should be decapod]; "wierd sense of humour"; "well let".
References and resources:
- "the Procyon planetary system": A real star: "Procyon is the brightest star in the constellation of Canis Minor and usually the eighth-brightest star in the night sky, with a visual apparent magnitude of 0.34. It has the Bayer designation α Canis Minoris, which is Latinised to Alpha Canis Minoris, and abbreviated α CMi or Alpha CMi, respectively. As determined by the European Space Agency Hipparcos astrometry satellite, this system lies at a distance of just 11.46 light-years (3.51 parsecs), and is therefore one of Earth's nearest stellar neighbours." (Wikipedia HERE and HERE).
- "the third planet of Sirius": "Sirius appears bright because of its intrinsic luminosity and its proximity to the Solar System. At a distance of 2.64 parsecs (8.6 ly), the Sirius system is one of Earth's nearest neighbours. Sirius is gradually moving closer to the Solar System, so it will slightly increase in brightness over the next 60,000 years. After that time, its distance will begin to increase, and it will become fainter, but it will continue to be the brightest star in the Earth's night sky for the next 210,000 years." (Wikipedia HERE and HERE).
- "a native of Jupiter": Unlikely: "Jupiter is primarily composed of hydrogen with a quarter of its mass being helium, though helium comprises only about a tenth of the number of molecules. It may also have a rocky core of heavier elements, but like the other giant planets, Jupiter lacks a well-defined solid surface." (Wikipedia HERE and HERE).
- The origin of a certain type of knife also figured into the plot of a Star Trek episode; see Wikipedia (WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE) and ONTOS (HERE).
- Here's "the moment" again:
  "The pieces of the puzzle had suddenly fallen together. In Rick's mind everything now pointed to one person . . ."
- Here is Andrew999's comment about this story:
  Rick [Random] finds himself in line to solve a locked-room (well, locked-island) mystery in this intriguing thriller where the victim apparently dies twice. It’s a textbook example of how to create a murder mystery – create seven suspects, each with an eccentricity and each with a motive to kill. Invent an intriguing way for the victim to die with an unusual weapon. Brew a few real clues with a few red herrings – share your time equally amongst the suspects with occasional summaries from the investigator so everyone can follow. Build up to a hellfire chase scene and an explosive finish. Rick pulls it off superbly - job done! Intrigued by the concept of driverless automatic flying cars with programmable destinations, I discovered they already exist – in Dubai! Another successful Rick Random prediction – I make that 137 in a row. Can’t help feeling Miss Jacks deserves a bigger role – what a stunner!
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Tuesday, November 3, 2020

"You've Broken His Neck!"

"The Riddle of the Frensham Will."
Super Detective Library No. 2, 1953.

Graphic novel (64 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE) and Comic Book Plus (HERE).

     "What had started as a rather dull and boring evening was beginning to develop into a really cozy piece of skulduggery — just my cup of tea!"

The Armchair Detective's latest client admits he has embezzled money from the firm, but vociferously denies he's guilty of murder . . . .

Main characters:
~ Lethbridge:

  "Unless you can help me, I'm going to hang! Hang, I tell you!"
~ Preedy:
  "I trust that they are all in order, and ready for my inspection?"
~ Hansard:
  "I guess we can help him out. Eh, Gilda?"
~ Gilda:
  "Sure we can, Pete! What's fifty pounds, between—friends!"
~ The waiter:
  "Good job that yapping fool likes the sound of his own voice so much!"
~ Sir Henry:
  "I have no heir!"

~ Lavery:
  "I've got nothing to lose!"

~ Ernest Dudley:
  "It's a strange thing, but the juiciest bits of mayhem and skulduggery always seem to drop out of the skies from nowhere when you're least expecting them."
Typos: "it's cradle"; "it's deadly steel point".
.
References and resources:
- "Big Ben was booming": Probably the most famous clock in the world: "Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the striking clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London; the name is frequently extended to refer to both the clock and the clock tower." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "turn Queen's evidence": "A criminal turns state's evidence by admitting guilt and testifying as a witness (also called crown witness) for the state against his/her associate(s) or accomplice(s), often in exchange for leniency in sentencing or immunity from prosecution. In the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth realms, the term is to turn Queen's or King's evidence, depending on the gender of the reigning monarch." (Wikipedia HERE).
- Ernest Dudley, an actor and screenwriter, originated a radio series entitled The Armchair Detective; see the Wikipedia articles (HERE) about him and (HERE) about the 1952 film in which he appeared.
- For more about The Armchair Detective, see the comments at Archive.org (HERE):
  "The last hurray for the Armchair Detective started in 1953 with a more dynamic version of Dudley as the Armchair Detective in five issues of the Super Detective Library . . . ."
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