Monday, June 20, 2016

"What're You Trying to Do—Prove I'm a Murderer or Something?"

"Murderer's Luck."
By Ray Cummings (1887-1957).
First appearance: Hutchinson’s Adventure-Story Magazine, May 1927.
Reprinted in Detective Fiction Weekly, February 15, 1936 and The Phantom Detective, June 1937.
Short story (9 pages).
Online at UNZ HERE.
"Water Would Wash the One Bloodstain and the Sea Would Swallow the Victim of Canne's Flawless Crime"
Two men alone on the ocean, one contemplating a good catch, the other contemplating murder . . .

Main characters:
~ Bob Canne:
   "Being the ward of a rich man wasn't such a soft seat, when you were twenty-one, as when you were sixteen. Jenks had his own ideas—getting a job and earning your own living, for instance—and you couldn't budge him."
~ Peter Jenks:
   "If only Jenks would die . . . That would fix everything. But he wouldn't. He was only in his forties. Stunted, misshapen, almost grotesque little fellow. But he was hardy, there wasn't a thing wrong with his health. An accident would kill him. Thoughts are queer things."
~ Outerbridge:
   "Handle it easy! Don't get your fingerprints on it! Take it to the policeman."
~ Policeman:
   "Bring him down here—I want to show him this!"

Nice little bits of personification, always useful to set the scene and reflect back the characters' emotions:

   "The sun was a great dull-red ball, just sinking at the horizon. It laid a golden sheen on the blue of the water, the surface of which rose and fell with lazy ground swells as though it were the chest of some gigantic sleeping monster."

   "A night breeze had sprung up; out over the purple horizon of the sea a bank of sullen black clouds had appeared. The wind came now with occasional puffy gusts which rippled the surface like a school of fish being chased."

- Ray Cummings could do it all as far as pulp writing was concerned; you might remember him from a previous ONTOS posting (HERE) about Dr. Feather, one of several series charac-ters Cummings concocted.

The bottom line:
   "Do you really believe in the perfect murder?"
   "Mmm, yes, absolutely. On paper, that is. And I think I could, uh, plan one better than most people; but I doubt if I could carry it out."
   "Oh? Why not?"
   "Well, because in stories things usually turn out the way the author wants them to; and in real life they don't ... always."
   "No, I'm afraid my murders would be something like my bridge: I'd make some stupid mistake and never realize it until I found everybody was looking at me."
   — 'Dial M for Murder'

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