Tuesday, September 29, 2015

SCRIBNER'S Reviews V

Several classics crossed the reviewer's desk in September 1938:

~ Midnight Sailing by Lawrence G. Blochman (1900-75):
The steamer is Japanese, the detective is a newspaperman sent on board to get an exclusive yarn from a lovely "missing" heiress. There are several murders, a spot of international intrigue, and a fiery conclusion in which all is cleared up. Bang-up in every way.
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE

~ Coffins for Three by Frederick C. Davis (1902-77):
. . . a very slick article. The action is in high gear from the third or fourth page, and runs all the way from a shooting outside of a New York honky-tonk to the penthouse eyrie of a Manhattan carrier-pigeon fancier—and the windup has a gruesome touch that supplies a shiver where, too often, there's a sigh.
Pretty Sinister review HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE

~ The Case Without a Clue by Nigel Morland (1905-86):
Nigel Moreland's tough lady cop, Mrs. Pym of Scotland Yard, gets better with each story of her bellicose exploits. The third and newest Pym perpetration is The Case Without a Clue and, while it has the sturdy Elvira shouting and stomping and slamming around as usual, contains more scientific deductive material than its predecessors. Three murders, with a tempestuous mid-channel finale.
GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE

~ This Is Mr. Fortune by H. C. Bailey (1878-1961):
Mr. Reginald Fortune returns to our midst in This Is Mr. Fortune and demon-strates neatly the superiority of a series of short stories to the all-too-frequent, overstuffed, full-length affairs. There is at least one murder in most of the stories, and the famous Fortune brand of deducing, plus the familiar manner-isms, is turned on full strength.
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE

~ Clouds of Witness and the Documents in the Case by Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957):
Those who hone for the happy days before Peter Wimsey saved Harriet Vane from the gallows for the fate of courtship and marriage will rejoice in the knowledge that Clouds of Witnesses [sic] and The Documents in the Case, by Dorothy Sayers (in the last named Robert Eustace collaborated), are now available in a combined edition. Clouds of Witnesses [sic] is Wimsey at his best; the other yarn, although it is told through a series of letters—a device which, for all its classical justification, your correspondent abhors—is top-flight fare for the mystery-story reader with a nose for the scientific; and though the tales are ten and eight years old respectively, they stand the test of time excellently.

Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE and HERE - FictionMags HERE

~ Rope Enough by John Stephen Strange (Dorothy Stockbridge Tillett, 1896-1983):
Barney Gantt, ace newspaper pix-man and camera-eyed amateur detective, gets tangled up in a couple of political murders in Rope Enough, not to speak of a kidnaping and other criminal carryings-on. For some reason or other, killings in a fictitious New York political campaign leave one rather cold, but the most captious reader couldn't complain about any lack of action.
GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE - Ramble House HERE

Category: Detective fiction criticism

Monday, September 28, 2015

"The Little Girl Who Wasn't There"

"All at Once, No Alice."
By Cornell Woolrich (Cornell George Hopley-Woolrich, 1903-68).
Novelette (29 pages).
Found in Argosy Weekly, March 2, 1940.
Reprinted in EQMM, November 1951.
Adapted to film as The Return of the Whistler (1948).
Online HERE.
"He stepped out of the warm sunlight into a dark, empty room; he groped in terror, and his hands met only the constricting black void. And no one would believe what he said—about the little girl who wasn't there."
Embarking on a lifetime of wedded bliss should be a joyful event; for our first person narrator, however, it's just the beginning of a nightmare . . . but, so that you first time 
readers of this story can engage the full Woolrich experience, we'll say no more except 
to offer a few excerpts:
. . . "I just thought of something. There's a little bit of a dinky room on the top floor."  . . .
. . . I held the page up toward the light and tried to squint through it, to see whether it showed thinner there, either from rubbing or some other means of eradication. It was all of the same even opacity.  . . .
. . .  something was already trying to make me feel a little cut off from them, a little set apart. As if a shadowy finger had drawn a ring around me where I stood, and mystic vapors were already beginning to rise from it, walling me off from my fellowmen.  . . .
. . ."What're you doing this for? What're you trying to do to me? All of you?". . .
. . . There was a pause, while I fought against this other, lesser kind of death that was creeping over me—this death called strangeness, this snapping of all the customary little threads of cause and effect that are our moorings at other times. Slowly they all drew back from me step by step, until I was left there alone, cut off. . . .
. . . Suddenly I was very passive, unresistant. Because suddenly I had a dread of arrest, confinement. I wanted to preserve my freedom of movement more than all else, to try to find her again. If they threw me in a cell, or put me in a strait-jacket, how could I look for her, how could I ever hope to get at the bottom of this mystery?  . . .
. . . He looked as if he'd seen every rotten thing there was in the world. He looked as if he'd once expected to see other things beside that, but didn't any more.  . . .
. . . Ainslie filled a paper cup with water at the cooler in the corner, strewed it deftly across my face, once each way, as if I were some kind of a potted plant, and one of the other guys picked me up from the floor and put me back on the chair again.  . . .
. . . "What you're doing to me is worse than if you were to kill me. You're locking me up in shadows for the rest of my life. You're taking my mind away from me."  . . .
. . . he stopped and looked me over from head to foot as if I was some kind of a microbe.  . . .
. . . "Those four square inches of linen handkerchief will be wearing pretty thin, if this keeps up . . ."
. . . "This is where I was married to a ghost."  . . .
. . . "If we can get the reason behind it all, the source, we don't have to bother with any of these small fry."  . . .
. . . I went cold all over, but I put down the camp chair I was fiddling with and edged over toward it on arched feet. The taper-flames bent down flat as I approached them, and sort of hissed. Sweat needled out under the roots of my hair.  . . .
. . . Then he turned and I never felt my shoulder grabbed so hard before, or since. His fingers felt like steel claws that went in, and met in the middle. For a minute I didn't know whether he was attacking me or not; and I was too dazed to care.  . . .
. . . he dropped on my curved back like a dead weight and I went down flat under him, pushing my face into the parquet flooring.  . . .
. . . a door opened surreptitiously somewhere close at hand; and a stealthy, frightened tread began to descend toward us . . .
. . . She gave a scream like the noon whistle of a factory.  . . .
Resources:
- Wikipedia HERE, the IMDb HERE, and FictionMags HERE.
- See HERE for more about the film version; we briefly touched on another movie adapted from a Cornell Woolrich story HERE.

Category: One of us is crazy

Saturday, September 26, 2015

"He Seems Rather a Versatile Sort of Crook"

"Caught Out."
By Fred C. Smale (1865-1917).
First appearance: The All-Story Magazine, March 1914.
Short short story (8 pages).
Online at Pulpgen HERE.
A newspaperman with an eidetic memory and an unlikely name is assigned to track down an embezzler who has absconded with nearly four thousand dollars not his own, with the trail leading to a comfortable drawing-room, an edacious servant girl, and a dodgy housekeeper. Several passages:
. . . "There’s a woman in it somewhere, of course."  . . .
. . . Left to himself, he carefully poured the coffee into the pot of a tall palm which adorned one corner of the room.  . . .
. . . "What—what do you mean?" she replied in a voice strangely hoarse and unsteady. "Who are you—a robber?"  . . .
. . . Apparently maddened by the sound of the woman’s voice, the disguised man sprang at his captor and tried to wrest his revolver from him, but Bat Miller’s muscles were like whipcord.  . . .
. . . "Ah!" sighed Bat, "that’s no way to treat a lady; but I suppose you’ll say ladies don’t make meals off policemen’s hands."  . . .
. . . "That’s the way with all these smart crooks that always slip a cog sooner or later, and being something of a good-looker, vanity was his rock."  . . .
Resources:
- Information about Fred Smale on the Internet is sparse, to say the least; his FictionMags entry is HEREand he's also earned the attention of the ISFDb HERE.

Category: Be careful how you catch a vase

Thursday, September 24, 2015

"This Family Has Had a Lot of Bad Luck"

"Murder's Handyman."
By Woodrow Wilson Smith (real name: Henry Kuttner, 1915-58).
(Note: This seems to be the only story for which Kuttner used the "Woodrow Wilson Smith" byline.)
First appearance: Popular Detective, March 1948.
Short story (11 pages).
Online at Pulpgen HERE (or if the link fails go HERE and click on the title).
"When three of Paul Ogden’s relatives die—and he collects on their policies—Johnny Curtin decides to investigate!"
An insurance investigator's suspicions are aroused by several deaths which he's certain can't be just coincidences, but when he tries to catch the murderer he literally falls into a deadly trap set for somebody else.  . . . Yet another variation on the inheritance-by-murder plot that Agatha did so well; "Smith's" take, however, is only so-so in comparison. Several passages ensue:
". . . when you authorize the payment of two fifty-thousand-dollar policies and another thirty-thousand-dollar policy with one man as the beneficiary, you naturally get suspicious."  . . .
. . . "There’s an experiment I want to try."  . . .
. . . "I wouldn’t like your job," he said. "Not at all. You’re always following on the coattails of death."  . . .
. . . The water had flowed over. It was cold water. Johnny waded through it. He touched the body and found it stone cold. There was no way of telling how long the man had been dead.  . . .
Resources:
- "Woodrow Wilson Smith" was, of course, an alias for well-known SF-fantasy author Henry Kuttner; his FictionMags entry is HERE and a previous ONTOS article about one of his best science fiction-crime stories is HERE.

Category: I love you but not as much as your money

"I Seen Some Things To-dye"

"The Affair in Cabin Twelve."
By James Warner Bellah (1899-1976).
Short story (12 pages).
Found in Argosy Weekly, December 10, 1932.
Online HERE.
"Torn scraps of paper, a burned towel—such were the clews that led Steward Archie Simms to the heart of a shipboard mystery."
When he sneaks a smoke "agynst regulytions," a Cockney ship's cabin attendant unintentionally burns down an attempt at extortion.  . . . This one's an instance of an unsuspecting sleuth solving a once-in-a-lifetime case. A few excerpts:
. . . Strange things, liners. Small worlds in themselves, moving in well defined orbits, gathering the threads of many lives and knotting them loosely, for a week, into a new entity that, however insignificant, remains in the mind.  . . .
. . . It came with the suddenness of a knife in the ribs—a loud banging as of doubled fists beating frantically on the panels of a cabin door—the sharp bark of a revolver shot—a woman's scream and a man's voice frenzied with anger, shouting.  . . .
. . . "A—a steward can't help but see some things, 'e can't, beggin' your pardons. It ayn't necessarily snoopin', it ayn't. They just 'appens natural like. I seen some things to-dye." . . .
Resources:
- James Warner Bellah is remembered nowadays primarily for his Western fiction and movie work on such films as Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Rio Grande, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance; go HERE for the Wikipedia article about him, HERE for the IMDb filmography, and HERE for his FictionMags listing.

Category: The accidental Sherlock

Saturday, September 19, 2015

FANTASTIC FlashFanFic from the Fabulous Fifties

Until the 1960s, when space probes finally reached the planets, fiction writers could safely imagine that Mars wasn't unlike Las Vegas and Venus was a swamp.

Here is a small collection of very short science fiction vignettes with criminous elements. If you can endure the typos (e.g., "gynos" for "gyros"), smudgy text, and stilted prose but still go with the flow, you might enjoy some of them:

"The Telepathic Murder."
By Dan Corliss (?-?) (FictionMags list HERE).
First appearance: Fantastic Adventures, February 1950.
Short short short story (1 page).
Online HERE.
. . . "The thought impact was almost physical. Something happened within me.  . . . I shot him four times."  . . .
"Murder Moon."
By John Weston (?-?) (FictionMags list HERE).
First appearance: Fantastic Adventures, March 1950.
Short short short story (1 page).
Online HERE.
. . . Blackie cradled the slim barrel of the rifle in his bulky plasto-gloves. A touch of the side button and a searing lance of flame would lash out from the muzzle—to crisp, Blackie thought, the tall figure of the man for whom he waited.  . . .
"Do Unto Others . . ."
By Lee Owens (?-?) (FictionMags list HERE).
First appearance: Fantastic Adventures, April 1950.
Short short short story (2 pages).
Online HERE (scroll to page 161).
. . . Morland glanced at the calendar. The rocket was due in seven more days. He'd collected enough soron to make him happy for a long time with the credits it'd bring. He was going to get out of this swamp once and for all.  . . .
"The Dopesters."
By Lee Owens (?-?) (FictionMags list HERE).
First appearance: Fantastic Adventures, May 1950.
Short short short story (3 pages).
Online HERE (scroll to page 158).
". . . We prefer to say we'd like to assist you. Our chemists have done an excel-lent job." The man was all suavity, all coolness, as if he was discussing a straight business proposition rather than a rocket race fix.  . . .
"Magnetic Bomb!"
By Lee Owens (?-?) (FictionMags list HERE).
First appearance: Fantastic Adventures, July 1950.
Short short short story (2 pages).
Online HERE.
. . . As he passed the cargo chambers holding the powerful drug destined for the government medical agency, he felt almost despairing. Not only would that disappear along with their eight months' work, but the vicious criminal world would get its hands on the most powerful and potent maddening drug known to man throughout the System.  . . .
"Shanghaied . . ."
Same author and issue.
Short short short story (3 pages).
Online HERE (scroll to page 158).
". . . Don't try anything funny and you'll get paid just like the rest of the officers and crew. Act up and. . ." He left the implied threat unfinished.  . . . 
"Venusian Claim-Jumper."
By Lee Owens (?-?) (FictionMags list HERE).
First appearance: Fantastic Adventures, December 1950.
Short short short story (3 pages).
Online HERE.
. . . She laughed, a short ironic, bitter laugh. "If you raise that gun a centimeter, I'll have you blown to shreds."  . . .
"Shanghaied Into Space!"
By Lee Owens (?-?) (FictionMags list HERE).
First appearance: Fantastic Adventures, February 1951.
Short short short story (2 pages).
Online HERE (scroll to page 129).
. . . "You men should know you're aboard the Ceres II," he said calmly. "You're signed as navigator—" he pointed a finger at one, "and you're engine gang—and you're—" this was me, "—assistant to Scotty on the engines."  . . .
"Terran Treachery Trips Luna."
By Charles Recour (real name: Henry A. Bott, ?-?) (FictionMags list HERE).
First appearance: Fantastic Adventures, January 1952.
Short short short story (1 page).
Online HERE (text especially hard to read).
. . . An uneasy feeling gripped me. For some reason I sensed everything wasn't all right.  . . .
"The Girl Was a Ziller!"
By John Weston (?-?) (FictionMags list HERE).
First appearance: Fantastic Adventures, January 1952.
Short short short story (1 page).
Online HERE.
. . . Zilleen is the System's most savage and insidious drug! This girl was either a peddler or a smuggler and certainly a user.  . . .

Category: Criminality on the High Frontier

Monday, September 14, 2015

"A Grimly Humorous Little Tale with Almost Perfect Unity of Setting and Action"

"In the neighbourhood of country-towns hanging matters used to form a large proportion of the local tradition."

"The Three Strangers."
By Thomas Hardy (1840-1928).
First appearances: Longman’s Magazine and Harper's Weekly, March 1883.
Reprinted in AHMM, July 1996.
Long short story (23 pages in PDF).
Online HERE and HERE.
There's certainly more than meets the eye when during a blustery, rainy evening three complete strangers drop in on a christening.  . . .  With his brilliant skills at description and character drawing, if Thomas Hardy had decided to become a full-time crime fiction writer, we believe his name would today rank right up there with Doyle, Carr, Christie, and Sayers. A few excerpts:
 ". . . the oddity of my trade is that, instead of setting a mark upon me, it sets a mark upon my customers."  . . .
. . . All this time the third stranger had been standing in the doorway. Finding now that he did not come forward or go on speaking, the guests particularly regarded him. They noticed to their surprise that he stood before them the picture of abject terror—his knees trembling, his hand shaking so violently that the door-latch by which he supported himself rattled audibly: his white lips were parted, and his eyes fixed on the merry officer of justice in the middle of the room. A moment more and he had turned, closed the door, and fled.  . . .
. . . The firing of the alarm-gun went on at intervals, low and sullenly, and their suspicions became a certainty.  . . .
". . . you've got to come and be our prisoner at once!" said the constable. "We arrest 'ee on the charge of not biding in Casterbridge jail in a decent proper manner to be hung to-morrow morning. Neighbors, do your duty, and seize the culpet!"  . . .
. . . Stories were afloat of a mysterious figure being occasionally seen in some old overgrown trackway or other, remote from turnpike roads; but when a search was instituted in any of these suspected quarters nobody was found.  . . .
Resources:
- For more of Hardy's shorter writings go to The FictionMags Index HERE. You can find a detailed discussion (Warning: SPOILERS) on The Victorian Web HERE that includes Hardy's use of biblical, classical, and medieval allusions in "The Three Strangers."
Apparently the only time he ever smiled was when he was cashing a paycheck.

Category: Paleo-Jamesian crime fiction

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

"Where Is Alice?"

Sometimes the solution to a mystery isn't out there but in here.

"The Memory of Mars."
By Raymond F. Jones (1915-94).
First appearance: Amazing Stories, December 1961.
Novelette (32 pages in PDF).
Online HERE.
The doctor can't believe it:
. . . "The woman you brought in here last night—your wife—is completely un-normal in her internal structure. Her internal organs cannot even be identified. She is like a being of some other species. She is not—she is simply not human, Mr. Hastings." . . .
. . . and neither can Mel:
. . . "It must not be Alice. But if that's the case, where is Alice?"
"That might even be a matter for the police," said Dr. Winters. "There are many things yet to be learned about this mystery." . . .
And then there are the dreams:
. . . THE nightmare came again that night. Worse than Mel could ever remember it. As always, it was a dream of space, black empty space, and he was floating alone in the immense depths of it. There was no direction. He was caught in a whirlpool of vertigo from which he reached out with agonized yearning for some solidarity to cling to.
There was only space.
After a time he was no longer alone.  . . .
Resources:
- Wikipedia's article about Jones is HERE, ably supplemented by The FictionMags Index HERE and the ISFDb HERE.
Several of Jones's stories were combined to make a movie.

Category: Science fiction

"It Was Perfect, You Rotten Little Snake, Perfect"

"Footprints."
By C. K. M. Scanlon (a Standard Publications house pseudonym).
First appearance: Popular Detective, September 1935.
Short short short story (1 page).
Online at Pulpgen HERE.
Like Othello, a man succumbs to "a jealousy so strong that judgment cannot cure"—mistakenly thinking that two bullets might be the solution:
. . . “Bart Tyson,” the sheriff announced, “has been found dead—shot in the back by some yellow-livered skunk!”  . . .
"Blood for Breakfast."
By C. K. M. Scanlon (a Standard Publications house pseudonym).
First appearance: Popular Detective, December 1935.
Short short short story (2 pages).
Online at Pulpgen HERE.
Sometimes when you win, you lose:
. . . “You were a fool to flash a roll as big as you did in a strange town. I seen it when you bought them cigars.”  . . .
Resources:
- A list of stories by many different pulp authors using the "C. K. M. Scanlon" alias begins HERE; Pulpgen has other tales as by the Scanlon pseudonym that we might get around to, but in the meantime you're free to seek them out yourself HERE.

Category: Biters get bit

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"A Crimson Fountain Cascaded Up From the Low Cut Neck of Her Black Dress As She Slumped Down"

"Crime by Chart."
By Harl Vincent (real name: Harold Vincent Schoepflin, 1893-1968).
First appearance: Exciting Detective, March 1941.
Short story (11 pages).
Online at Pulpgen HERE (Note: Link might not be working).
"Detective Jerry Cochran Traces a Sinister Murder Pattern and Spikes a Wily Killer's Design for Dying!"
An industrial accident or murder? What do you think? This story is an instance of where the author's knowledge of mechanical engineering has a bearing on the plotline. A few passages follow:
. . . Where the coupling had been, there wasn’t anything but smashed flooring and twisted girders underneath. There was a big hole in the brick wall behind, where they said a hundred pound chunk had bulleted through and landed two hundred feet away out in the yard. Another chunk, about the same size, had just about torn off MacDermott’s head. Funny, he happened to be there just at the right time.  . . .
~ ~ ~
. . . “Chauncey MacDermott died today.”
“So what?” Jerry snapped. “And who’s he?”
“He was General Super of the DeLacey Pump Works, just outside of Frankford. And he had a straight life coverage for fifty thousand bucks. For six months he held it, and now he’s supposed to be croaked by an accident in his own shop. Double indemnity, too.” Dudley’s voice became almost hysterical at the end.
“Don’t cry about it,” said Cochran, sighing. “So I suppose there’s a one-year suicide clause in the policy. And you want to prove he bumped himself off, is that it?”
“Anything you can learn, Deke,” Dudley said. “It’s fishy, somehow—a hunch of mine.”  . . .
~ ~ ~
. . . “Hey, you!” The snarled words were almost hissed in his ear.
The investigator whirled to walk right into a vicious punch that caught him under the chin and snapped his head back. He saw a million stars and sat down abruptly. A kick in the ribs tipped him over.  . . .
~ ~ ~
. . . "I’m the undertaker," said Jerry, mournfully. "The guy who finally caught up with you."  . . .
Resources:
- Read the Wikipedia article about Harl Vincent HERE, the Online Science Fiction Encyclopedia about him HEREand The FictionMags Index of his short fiction HERE.

Category: Another one of those incredible bumpoffs with perfect timing

Monday, September 7, 2015

"I Sometimes Defend Men Who Are Accused of Crime"

"The Case of the Irate Witness."
By Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970).
Found in Collier's Weekly, January 17, 1953.
Collected in The Case of the Irate Witness, A Perry Mason Mystery and Other Stories (1970) for sale HERE.
Short short story (5 pages).
Starts online HERE and finishes HERE (scroll down to page 39).
"Perry Mason refused to believe the proof against his client. The district attorney was too smug. The evidence was too good . . ."
As it turns out, the witness has a right to be irate when Perry Mason proves he's in possession of payroll money stolen from a large corporation's safe:
. . . "They're laying for you up there," Paul Drake warned. "Better watch out, Perry. That district attorney has something up his sleeve, some sort of surprise that's going to knock you for a loop."  . . .
. . . "I'm going to issue the subpoena," Judge Haswell said, testily, "and for your own good, Mr. Mason, the testimony had better be relevant."  . . .
Resource:
- We recently encountered our author writing about real life crime HERE.
Artwork by Mort Drucker

Category: "Perry Mason" says it all

True Crime from Erle Stanley Gardner

". . . the most important clue in the case was invisible to all human eyes."

"The Case of the Invisible Circle."
By Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970).
True life crime account (5 pages).
Found in Mercury Mystery Book-Magazine, July 1956.
Online HERE.
"A beautiful coed is raped and murdered. Only one clue is found, and that so small that it is invisible to the naked eye. Here, Erle Stanley Gardner recounts how one tiny lead enabled the police to bring a murderer to justice . . ."
The creator of Perry Mason, Lester Leith, The Patent Leather Kid, and other memorable fictional characters helps to solve a real life crime:
ANY VETERAN INVESTIGATOR WILL tell you that it's very easy to overlook the most significant clue in a murder case. I remember one such case where the most significant clue was a circle on the naked right hip of a beautiful young coed. This girl had been murdered in a sex crime. The significant thing about that circle on her hip was that no one ever saw it.  . . .
. . . As it turned out that murder case had all of the weird, bizarre facets one could well imagine. There were clues so utterly perplexing, there was a mystery so completely baffling that it would make the wildest fiction tale seem tame in comparison.  . . .
"The Case of the Knockout Bullet."
By Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970).
True life crime account (5 pages).
Found in Mercury Mystery Book-Magazine, September 1956.
Online HERE.
"Almost everyone knows that Stanley Ketchel was one of the great boxing champions of all time, but many have forgotten that he was murdered—and under baffling circumstances. All the evidence pointed to a gambling syndicate yet the case was obscured by a missing diamond stickpin, a lucky bracelet, and a pretty cook. Here Erle Stanley Gardner relates how this strange case was solved by not following the logical clues . . ."
Once again jealousy rears its lethal head:
BY A TWIST OF IRONY, THE FAMED sports celebrity destined for death at the hand of a murderer, that autumn morning long ago, had been known to millions as "The Michigan Assassin."
It was an appellation in no way related to the crime of murder, in its customary meaning. Sportswriters had created it as a tag for a brilliant young boxer as he fought his way in the prize ring to a world's championship title.
So, oddly, in this case it was to be the "assassin" who would be the victim. And it was a bullet instead of the fist of an opponent that delivered the knockout that ended forever the career of Stanley Ketchel, world's middleweight champion of his day.  . . .
Stanley Ketchel, 1886-1910
Resources:
- There's plenty to learn about Erle Stanley Gardner on Wikipedia (HERE) and The Thrilling Detective website (HERE); the first of many pages listing his shorter works is on The FictionMags Index (HERE).
- As for The Patent Leather Kid, we covered some of his exploits HERE.
- Craig Rice was another mystery fiction author who wrote about real life crime; go HERE for more.

Category: True crime

Sunday, September 6, 2015

"This Was the Secret, Scientific Death"

"The Puzzle Duel."
By Miles J. Breuer, M.D. (1889-1945[7?]).
Short short short story (4 pages).
Found in Amazing Stories Quarterly, Winter 1928.
Online (with typos and faded text) HERE (scroll to page 133) and HERE (FlipBook or PDF).
In his introduction to the story, a locked room mystery of sorts, editor Hugo Gernsback informs us:
OUR author, who is also a practicing physician, is well known to readers of Amazing Stories. Here Dr. Breuer has given us a most astonishing story with an novel theme and a surprising ending, thrown in for good measure. We promise you an interesting twenty minutes with this story.
However, although this is Amazing Stories, the flagship of science fiction magazines, "The Puzzle Duel" isn't really SF:
. . . Again my mind returned to the mystery. The only window in the room was closed and locked on the inside. Outside, five stories of smooth, gray brick wall stretched down to the ground, with a feeble wisp of ivy here and there. There was no exit save through our sleeping room; this had one door into the corri-dor, locked on the inside. No one could have gotten in or out unobserved. What a foolish idea! Of course no one had gotten in or out. This was the secret, scien-tific death . . .
. . . I stood off from the crowd and reflected. Things seemed to balance now. Appropriately, by the hand of a man several days in his grave . . . .
Resources:
- You can find a lot more information about Miles Breuer on Wikipedia HERE and the ISFDb HERE.

Category: Fiction with science but not science fiction

True Crime from Craig Rice

"People are not murdered by strangers. They are murdered by their friends. And often by their best friend."

"The Murdered Magdalen."
By Craig Rice (real name: Georgiana Ann Randolph Craig, 1908-57).
True life crime account (5 pages).
Found in Mercury Mystery Book-Magazine, October 1955.
Online HERE.
"Craig Rice, best known for such mystery fiction as her 'Home Sweet Homicide,' has also delved often into the realm of true crime. Here, in a tale possibly even stranger than many of her famous fictional stories, Miss Rice tells of a young prostitute whose determination to go straight led her, ironically, into a fiery death . . ."
When Craig Rice took an interest in real life crime, she brought her fiction writing skills with her:
BOOGIE-WOOGIE JAM SESSIONS IN A deserted farmhouse, murder by fire, and a manhunt that rivaled anything ever seen in a movie thriller, combined to pro-vide the police of a dozen cities and the Federal Bureau of Investigation with a neat puzzle in crime detection back in the Fall of 1945.  . . .
"The Air-Tight Alibi."
By Craig Rice (real name: Georgiana Ann Randolph Craig, 1908-57).
True life crime account (5 pages).
Found in Mercury Mystery Book-Magazine, February 1956.
Online HERE.
"If young and beautiful Minnie Tucker had been unfaithful to her husband, you could hardly blame her. Felix Tucker, after all, had been a cruel man. But the fact that he beat his wife was not conclusive evidence that he might also have killed her. Besides, there were two other men in Minnie's life . . ."
Life abounds in ironies—and so does death:
WHEN BEAUTIFUL, YOUNG MINNIE Margaret Tucker finished her washing that May morning in 1942 and poured out the water over the side of the porch, she did not know that she had just set the trap that would catch her murderer.  . . .
Resources:
- If you'd like to read more about Craig Rice, the crime fiction author, go HERE, HERE, and HERE; a list of her shorter writings is HERE.
- Jeffrey Marks's definitive biography of Rice, as both Kindle and discounted paper texts, is HERE.

Category: True crime

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 short 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.  . . .
Resources:
- 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)