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."  . . .
Resources:
- "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

2 comments:

  1. Richard Sale's BENEFIT PERFORMANCE is one of my favourite Hollywood murder mysteries. I'd like to read more of his stuff but it's hard to find and pricey.

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    1. Maybe it's just coincidence but the few pulp items I've read by Sale were quite entertaining. I'd love to collect more of his work but, as you say, it's rare and not cheap. Sale also co-created one of my favorite '50s TV Westerns, YANCY DERRINGER.

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