Friday, November 30, 2018

"I Just Had a Chat with Our Killer"

"Homemade Murder."
By Rodney Worth (?-?).
First appearance: 10-Story Detective, October 1947.
Short short story (7 pages).
Online at Pulpgen (HERE).

     "This rod may look small, but I can put five bullets just a little smaller than .22’s in your face before you could move two feet."

A police detective is certain he knows whodunit, but there's a snag. He already has motive and opportunity, natch, but it's the means that's proving hard to nail down, since the murder weapon is not only unique but also, as our detective suspects, it's likely that the cunning killer has already destroyed it . . .

Comment: With its humorous buddycop dynamic working for it, this efficient little police procedural wouldn't have been out of place as a Dragnet episode, either radio or TV.

Characters:
~ Jack Arnold, a.k.a. "Jack Fort":

  ". . . looked thoughtful for a moment. 'No, I can’t say that I did. The garbage truck goes by about that time. It’s hard to hear anything,' he replied. 'I didn’t even know this Marlowe had been shot until you told me.'"

~ Charles Marlowe, a.k.a. "Lefty":
  "Yes, that had been a good many years ago. But he had still recognized Lefty when he suddenly showed up two months ago. Lefty hadn’t known him, but that was just as well. 

This way he would get Lefty for old time’s sake, and not even Lefty would know he had 
done it."
~ Tommy, a.k.a. "Tommy":
  "Some guy moved in about a month ago. Last night he was shot while he was sitting in 

front of his window, but they didn’t find him until this morning."
~ Logan, homicide detective:
  "How many times do I have to tell you not to talk when you’re eating?"

~ Monk, Logan's partner:
  ". . . opened his mouth to say something, remembered the apple, and shut it again."

~ Haley, police ballistician:
  "I’m kind of sorry you brought that damned thing in. I won’t sleep for a week wondering about it. If somebody told me about it, I’d say they were nuts. I’ve seen just about every 

piece of lead a gun can throw, but that thing has got me stumped. I’ll tell you one thing, produce the gun that shot this bullet and I’ll prove to any jury it’s the murder weapon."
~ The landlady:
  "'Oh, Lieutenant, I wish you would find the murderer and take the'—she didn’t say what, 

but pointed at the corpse on the floor without looking at it—'out of my house.'"

Resources:
- So far not much has turned up about our author, Rodney Worth; FictionMags lists only two stories by him, the one above and "The Hammerless Heater," Ten Detective Aces, January 1948.

- The killer's motive stems from what happened during Prohibition; see the Wikipedia article (HERE). If you'd like to brush up on firearms ballistics, see Wikipedia (HERE), (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE), and the American Bar Association's book extract (HERE; PDF).


The bottom line:
   “How simple death without weapons was. How safe for the killer."
   ― Cornell Woolrich

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Two Way-Out Problems for Solar Pons

SOLAR PONS: As far as Sherlock Holmes pastiche characters go, many enthusiasts concede that August Derleth's "Great Pretender" is probably the best. As with Holmes 
(and Max Carrados, for that matter), the majority of Pons's adventures involve down-to-
earth situations with earthly solutions, but unlike Holmes a few of them have an unmis-takable aura of the supernatural, of Poe's grotesque and arabesque, for which no ordi-
nary explanation can be found. Here are two of them.
~ ~ ~
   "Unless I am in egregious error, our visitor is from another world."

"The Adventure of the Snitch in Time."
By August Derleth (1909-71) and Mack Reynolds (1917-83).
First appearance: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July 1953.
Collected in A Praed Street Dossier (1968; HERE).
Reprints page (HERE).
Short short story (7 pages).
Online at The Luminist League Archives (HERE; scroll or jump down to page 17).
(Note: Anticipate a very slow load.)

   ". . . the complete story of the one truly science fictional problem ever faced by the great detective." [But, as it turned out, it wouldn't be the last.]

The fate of more than one universe could be at stake as the greatest detective since You-Know-Who consults with an individual who is, as far as Dr. Parker is concerned, evidently either a mountebank or a lunatic . . .

Characters:
~ Mr. Solar Pons, the Sage of Praed Street:

  "I have always felt that one death at the Reichenbach was as false as the other."
~ Dr. Lyndon Parker, our narrator, friend and chronicler of Solar Pons's adventures:
  "Our visitor looked briefly at me and said, 'Ah, the famous literary doctor, I presume?' and smiled, as if in jest."

~ Tobias Athelney, Agent of the Terra Bureau of Investigation, Planet Terra, of the Solar System League (or so he says):
  [About the individual threatening our world] "He sent one of his own men to another space-time continuum to acquire the services of a most astute lawyer named Randolph Mason." [And there's still more name-dropping in the story.]


~ ~ ~
   "There is a sinister pattern in the very fact that there is no similarity whatsover . . ."

"The Adventure of the Ball of Nostradamus."
By August Derleth (1909-71) and Mack Reynolds (1917-83).
First appearance: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June 1955.
Collected in A Praed Street Dossier (1968; HERE).
Reprints page (HERE).
Short story (10 pages).
Online at The Luminist League Archives (HERE; scroll or jump down to page 42).
(Note: Anticipate a very slow load.)

   ". . . here is a possibly even stranger episode [than 'The Adventure of the Snitch in Time'] in the annals of Praed Street: the one case which Solar Pons occasionally wishes that he had never solved."

There are almost as many reasons for someone to commit murder as there are people, but if Solar Pons were to be pressed for what he thinks of the motive for this series of murders he would probably smile ruefully and simply shake his head . . .

Characters:
~ Dr. Parker:

  "On that day in the 1920's that Pons entered the case, in the second decade of our sharing his quarters at Number 7B, Praed Street, I had been reading about the murder of a child — 
the second in the streets of London."
~ Abraham Weddigan:
  "I hope and pray that you are not of the race of doubters and the army of the Philistines. I have the gift of true precognition."

~ Inspector Jamison:
  "This time, Pons, we have done it without you!"

~ Solar Pons:
  "My congratulations! But what is it you have done?"


Resources:
- There is much more about August William Derleth (HERE; Wikipedia), (HERE; the SFE), (HERE; the IMDb), (HERE; the ISFDb), and (HERE); as for Dallas McCord Reynolds, see (HERE; Wikipedia), (HERE; the SFE), and (HERE; the ISFDb).

- For a good background article on our sleuth, see the one by Charles Prepolec:

   "Solar Pons may have started out merely as a Holmes pastiche, but through attention to character and a distinctly lighter tone he had developed into his own persona. Derleth created a character, to borrow a phrase 'which was not so much a 19th century man looking into the 20th as a 20th century man harkening back to the 19th.' The stories take place in the 1920's and 30's, yet have a distinctly Holmesian feel to them. The relationship between Pons and his chronicler Dr. Parker is almost identical to Holmes and Watson as is the method of their meeting. The locale for our stories has shifted from 221B Baker Street to 7B Praed Street. Likewise Mrs. Hudson has become the erstwhile Mrs. Johnson and Mycroft is represented by Bancroft. There is far more to these stories than merely the changing of names. There is a charm to these stories that somehow manages to differentiate them from Doyle's work. Pons is a less melancholy figure and more prone to laughter than his illustri-ous predecessor. Pons is not so much a clone as he is cut from the same cloth and could stand shoulder to shoulder with Holmes."
   — "The Great Pretender: Solar Pons" at Baker Street Dozen (HERE)

- The Internet Speculative Fiction Database (otherwise the ISFDb) has a fine Solar Pons bib-liography (HERE), and The Thrilling Detective has a short but informative page devoted to Pons (HERE).
- Mack Reynolds wrote four Solar Pons adventures, the last two without Derleth:
  (1) "The Adventure of the Snitch in Time," F & SF, July 1953 (above)
  (2) "The Adventure of the Ball of Nostradamus," F & SF, June 1955 (above)
  (3) "The Adventure of the Extra-Terrestrial," The Final Adventures of Solar Pons (1998)
  (4) "The Adventure of the Nosferatu," The Final Adventures of Solar Pons (1998).
- We've met Reynolds before: (HERE) and (HERE).
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Monday, November 26, 2018

Three by Zook

NICHOLAS ZOOK seems destined to be at or very near the bottom of anyone's list, whether it be for crime fiction or Christmas cards. We can find no biographical information about this author, who evidently eschewed using series characters, although the fine researchers at FictionMags have managed to track down eight stories by him (or her):

   (1) "The Twisted Alibi," Ten Detective Aces, November 1948 (below)
   (2) "Murder’s Crystal Ball," 10-Story Detective Magazine, February 1949 (below)
   (3) "Man of Violence," Ten Detective Aces, March 1949
   (4) "The Pearl Button," The Phantom Detective, Winter 1950
   (5) "Paid in Part," 5 Detective Novels Magazine, Spring 1950
   (6) "The Case of the Spying Spinster," Thrilling Detective, December 1951
   (7) "Luck of the Irisher," Popular Detective, March 1952 (below)
   (8) "Blaze of Glory," 5 Detective Novels Magazine, Winter 1953.


Pulpgen has reprinted three of them, and here they are.
~ ~ ~
   "My only chance was to break down the alibi."

"The Twisted Alibi."
By Nicholas Zook (?-?).
First appearance: Ten Detective Aces, November 1948.
Short short short story (3 pages).
Online at Pulpgen (HERE).

     "Five thousand dollars I paid them and look what they did to me."

A criminal's worst enemy frequently turns out to be himself, as the police detective (our narrator) tells us:

   "Some of the tricks that criminals pull have long led me to believe most thieves and murderers are stupid or careless. Of course, there are some bright ones, and I’ll even admit the perfect murder is not only possible but has been recorded many times in reports of unsolved-crimes. In my years with the department I’ve seen many silly blunders. Often the only thread by which we catch a criminal is the one he made himself of his own stupidity or careless-ness."

When it comes to an expert at such "silly blunders," you could have consulted Eric Bligh while he was still with us and available for comment—up until, that is, his final date with 
Old Sparky . . .
~ ~ ~
   "Everything happened on Flanagan's beat—he really needed a fortuneteller to keep him straight. And then he ran into a horoscope artist who knew more about murder than he did about the stars."

"Murder's Crystal Ball."
By Nicholas Zook (?-?).
First appearance: 10-Story Detective Magazine, February 1949.
Short short story (7 pages, 3 illos).
Online at Pulpgen (HERE).


     "A fat lot of good you are on the beat. A man is murdered and you let the murderer slip through your fingers."

Between a drug-smuggling ring running loose on his beat, allowing a killer to run away 
from him, and assaulting a feeble old man without a probable cause, a young foot patrol 
cop is heading for the traffic division—if he's lucky. When salvation comes, it arrives in 
the unexpected form of hands, hands that were "long, white and smooth, with freshly 
trimmed nails. They looked just like what they were, a gambler’s hands that hadn’t seen 
work in years. . . ."
~ ~ ~
   "We stopped for a red light. In the rearview mirror I spotted the blue uniform of a cop, walking our way. Then the idea hit me."

"Luck of the Irisher."
By Nicholas Zook (?-?).
First appearance: Popular Detective, March 1952.
Short short short story (4 pages, 1 illo).
Online at Pulpgen (HERE).

     "Casually he stuffed the bottle in a paper bag and just as casually put the leather money bag in with it. 'Pay me some other time,' he said. I took the package with hands that trembled slightly."

As counterintuitive as it seems, damaging your car can save your life . . .


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Friday, November 23, 2018

"Nasty Things, These Custom Viral Patches"

"The Ghost in the Machine."
By Anna Novitzky.
Illustration by JACEY.
First appearance: Nature/Futures, 6 July 2017.
Short short short story (1 page).
Online at Nature.com (HERE).

     "It winked out, and a diagram flicked up. Thank heavens for woolly logic."

Who knew you could kill somebody just by asking the librarian?

Resources:
- The origin of our story's allusive title is discussed in Wikipedia (HERE); to see how often the phrase has been used by TV and movie producers, go (HERE).

- Anna Novitzky is relatively new to SFF; see her bibliography at the ISFDb (HERE). There's a substantial article about alchemy, which serves to kickstart the plot, in Wikipedia (HERE).
- The "woolly logic" referred to in the story is presumably the same as "fuzzy logic" . . .

   ". . . [which] is based on the observation that people make decisions based on imprecise and non-numerical information, fuzzy models or sets are mathematical means of representing vagueness and imprecise information, hence the term fuzzy. These models have the capability of recognising, representing, manipulating, interpreting, and utilising data and information that are vague and lack certainty. Classical logic only permits conclusions which are either true or false. However, there are also propositions with variable answers, such as one might find when asking a group of people to identify a color. In such instances, the truth appears as the result of reasoning from inexact or partial knowledge in which the sampled answers are mapped on a spectrum."
   — "Fuzzy logic," Wikipedia (HERE)

(Artwork by S. Harris.)
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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

"Green Was the Danger Colour"

"The Knight's Cross Signal Problem."
By Ernest Bramah (Ernest Brammah Smith, 1868-1942).
First appearance: The News of the World (HERE), August 24-31, 1913, as "The Mystery of the Signals."
Reprinted in Great Detective Stories (1927, 1931); Alfred Hitchcock's Fatal Attractions, Anthology #14, Summer 1983; Murder on the Railways (1996); and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, April 2007.
Collected in Max Carrados (1914; 8 stories; HTML HERE; EPUB HERE).
Novelette (16 pages as a PDF).
Online at Roy Glashan's Library (HTML HERE; EPUB HERE; scroll to 9%).

     "What Boadicea did and—and Samson, so have I. If they were heroes, so am I."

Freeman Wills Crofts's Inspector French based his detective career on railroad time-tables, since determining where a suspect was (or wasn't) could make or break an alibi. In our story, the fact that a train has been consistently detained at the same time and on the same day of the week will prove crucial in explaining how a blue ribbon railway crash wasn't an accident or the result of human error, as everyone supposes, but a deliberate act of cold-blooded murder . . .

Major characters:
~ Max Carrados:

  "It is very unpleasant being hanged on a dark winter morning; very cold, very friendless, very inhuman. The long trial, the solitude and the confinement, the thoughts of the long sleepless night before, the hangman and the pinioning and the noosing of the rope, are 
apt to prey on the imagination. Only a very stupid man can take hanging easily."
~ Louis Carlyle:
  "Here we are and I know nothing, absolutely nothing, of the whole affair."
~ Parkinson:
  ". . . was kept busy that journey describing what he saw at various points between Lambeth Bridge and Knight's Cross. For a quarter of a mile Carrados's demands on the eyes and the memory of his remarkable servant were wide and incessant. Then his questions ceased. They had passed the 'stop' signal, east of Knight's Cross Station."
~ Mr. Ghoosh:
  "He had said that he could not sleep on any other side. She had had to turn out of her own room to accommodate him, but if one kept an apartment-house one had to be adaptable; and Mr. Ghoosh was certainly very liberal in his ideas."
~ Mead:
  "The heavy train was in the wrong. But was the engine-driver responsible? He claimed, 

and he claimed vehemently from the first and he never varied one iota, that he had a 'clear' signal—that is to say, the green light, it being dark."
~ Hutchins:
  "The signalman concerned was equally dogged that he never pulled off the signal—that it was at 'danger' when the accident happened and that it had been for five minutes before. Obviously, they could not both be right."
~ Margaret Hutchins:
  "'Here is a gentleman to see you, father,' explained Miss Hutchins, who had come to the door. She divined the relative positions of the two visitors at a glance."
~ Miss Chubb:
  ". . . replied that she quite understood. Some gentlemen, she added, had their requirements, others their fancies. She endeavoured to suit all. The bedroom she had in view from the first did face north. She would not have known, only the last gentleman, curiously enough, had made the same request."

Robert Stephens as Max Carrados (The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, 1971).

Resources:
- In terms of wit and literary skill, Ernest Brammah Smith had much more than the average scribe of his time period; even better, he could plot well. Although his Kai Lung adventures drew many readers, he's largely remembered for his Max Carrados stories (Wikipedia summary, HERE), 19 of which he produced between 1913 and 1927, seven of them subse-quently seeing reprintings in AHMM and EQMM; see the laudatory biographical sketch of Bramah at PulpFlakes (HERE), the Wikipedia article (HERE), the SFE (HERE), the ISFDb bibliography (HERE), and David Langford's splendid article in which he catalogs Carrados's capabilities:


   "The tales of Max Carrados lie squarely in the classic English detective tradition, told in plain though polished prose . . . [Bramah's collections] 
are full of pleasant things, if you can swallow the perverse idea of a 
consulting detective – one of the profession whose badge is the Holmes magnifying glass – being blind. Though equipped with a keen observer 
in the perfect manservant Parkinson, Carrados does not merely sit around deducing: he makes his own observations with ears, nose and fingertips. . . Carrados normally maintains an unbroken flow of smooth talk, especially 
when being menaced or kidnapped, and many of the little deductive treats 
he offers his acquaintances are plausibly implausible in the genuine Holmes manner . . . [He also] unseeingly penetrates disguises, detecting false mous-taches at five yards' range by the pong of spirit gum; smells the anaesthetic from a drugged posy placed momentarily on the ground, out in the open, 
two weeks previously; and with sensitive fingers observes not merely that 
an 'ancient' coin is forged but that the forgery carries the unmistakable stylistic marks of Pietro Stelli of Padua. . . . Some of the charm of these 
stories lies in the less magical uses of Carrados's blindness. It's vaguely pleasing when, as so often happens, his skills lead to his being taken for a sighted man until the moment of revelation. It's a useful disability, too: a 
blind investigator has the perfect excuse for wandering 'accidentally' into private gardens, blundering into darkrooms, and the like – and when the 
lights go out he has the upper hand at once. . . ."
   — David Langford, "Ernest Bramah: Crime and Chinoiserie" (1991) (HERE)


- Success attracts imitators; one such was John Dyce, another blind detective (HERE).
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Monday, November 19, 2018

"Either You Join Us or We Black Flag and Incarcerate You"

"Browsing."
By Ian Whates (born 1959).
Illustration by JACEY.
First appearance: Nature/Futures, 26 May 2016.
Short short short story (1 page).
Online at Nature.com (HERE; PDF).

     "This sort of sophistication he expected to find guarding the core secrets of a major corporation, not an individual strolling along 52nd Street."

Note to self: When those security updates arrive, upload them—tout de suite . . .

Resources:
- Ian Whates has been around the SFF scene long enough to be noticed by Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb's bibliography (HERE); he also has his own webpage (HERE).

- Until or unless there's a revolution in human behavior, crime—and that includes cyber-crime—will always be with us; see Wikipedia (HERE, HERE, and HERE) and Forbes online (HERE): "Three seconds in the microwave will kill the chip. Five seconds will set it on fire."

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Friday, November 16, 2018

"It Was an Extremely Heavy Chair"

"Alibi in Reverse."
By Robert Leslie Bellem (1902-68).
First appearance: Mammoth Detective, March 1943.
Short short story (6 pages).
Online at Pulpgen (HERE).

     "Nosey Logan had a peach of an alibi; so perfect it was foolproof. But if he’d been without one, he’d have been safer!"

When hardcore criminals disagree, they tend to do more than sniff and walk away . . .

Characters:
~ Tim Jarnegan:
  "'If you’ve got a gun in there, better let it alone. Mine’s already out.' He displayed the snub-nosed .32 special in his fist."
~ Pop Conway:
  "'Sure I remember,' Pop said. 'We sent him up for three years on a bunko rap. It was Ace Cullane, the guy he worked for, whose testimony nailed the lid on him. We figured it was another case of thieves falling out—a big one feeding a little one to the wolves.'"
~ Ace Cullane:
  "Okay. Now get this. I’m gunnin’ for Ace Cullane, see? He ratted on me three years ago, 
an’ tonight I’m gonna get even."
~ Nosey Logan:
  ". . . swaggered in, a sallow little rat with a certain rodent bravado."

~ Dice Vallardo:
  "'Have it your way, copper,' Vallardo said smoothly. His voice matched his hair, sleek and oily. Sun lamps gave him a healthy tan the year around. He cast a flickering glance at Nosey Logan. 'Hello, skunk.'"


Resources:
- Sound recording and wiretapping become plot points in the story; for background, consult the following Wikipedia articles: "LP record" (HERE), "Phonograph record" (HERE), "History of sound recording" (HERE), and especially "History of sound recording: The Electrical Era (1925 to 1945) (including sound on film)" (HERE), as well as "Telephone tapping" (HERE).
- A one-man pulp machine, Robert Leslie Bellem wrote literally thousands of stories under at least 45 pseudonyms in addition to his own (FictionMags); since his forte was crime fiction, he was able to enjoy a latter-day career in television script writing (which one may consider as pulp fiction in another medium; see HERE). As Kevin Burton Smith at The Thrilling Detec-tive Website says:

   "In his prime, it was said that Bellem was pumping out a million words annu-ally, and selling almost every single one of them to the pulps. But he was more than merely prolific—he was a riot. The question, though, is did he know it? Was he was trying to parody the hard-boiled detective genre, barely ten years after its birth, with his stories of [Dan] Turner [the Hollywood detective], or (and this is even scarier) was he simply, completely unaware of how funny and original his style was?"
  
— "Robert Leslie Bellem," The Thrilling Detective Website (HERE)


- Also see Wikipedia (HERE) for a brief article about our author; (HERE) for one of Bellem's rare forays into SFF ("Robots Can't Lie"); and (HERE) for the influence he had on S. J. Perelman, the American humorist.
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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

"There Was an Arrow Sticking Out of His Chest"

"Murder Spends the Week-End."
By Donald Bayne Hobart (1898-1970).
First appearance: Triple Detective, Fall 1950.
Reprinted in Popular Detective, September 1952 and 

Triple Detective Novels #2 (U.K.) (FictionMags data).
Short short story (7 pages).
Online at Pulpgen (HERE).

     "Uncle Hank liked jokes, but the corpse wasn't a bit funny!"

They shot an arrow into the air
And it fell to earth precisely where
  they aimed it.
But still they have a reason for regret
Because, you see, it
Came to rest inside the wrong @#$%&@ target.


Characters:
~ Thomas Marshall:

  An insurance salesman.

~ "Mugs" Kelly (narrator):
  "'The name is Kelly,' I said. 'I’m six feet four, weight two hundred and ten, and the last fellow who made cracks about my looks is still recovering.'"
~ Dexter Blake:
  "As I told you in the taxi, I’m an old friend of Mrs. Clayville. She invited me for the weekend. I’ve never met her husband."

~ Fred Steele:
  "If you should ask me, which of course, you won’t, Kelly, you are a fool to go to the Clayvilles’."

~ John Porter:
  "The taxi driver apparently knew everything about everyone. 'Uncle Hank is just a boy at heart, and every time he pulls one of those practical jokes of his he nearly kills somebody.'"

~ Martin Clayville:
  "'Good Lord!' Clayville said. 'Uncle Hank has killed that friend of Nancy’s. He’s murdered Dexter Blake!'"

~ Uncle Hank Dawson:
  "You know that if anything should happen to me Nancy will inherit all my money. How you would enjoy hearing of my execution, Martin!"

~ Nancy Clayville:
  "She gasped as she saw the dead man, but she didn’t scream."

Resources:
- Donald Bayne Hobart, FictionMags tells us, was "born in Baltimore, Maryland; died in New York City." Hobart could be described as one of those reliable, all-purpose pulpsters who churned out stories in many genres; in our author's case he specialized in Westerns and crime fiction, with a few romances tossed in. Hobart hit his stride in the mid-'20s and consistently produced copy for the next three decades, his last credit being "Rainy Night" in the January 1965 Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine. Hobart had several series characters weaving in and out of the pulps in the '20s, '30s, '40s, and '50s: Whistling Waddy (1928, 1933, 1935, 1947), Hal Denning (1930), and Wayne Morgan (The Masked Rider), a character he shared with a lot of other publishing house scribes (19 stories of his own, 1938-42, 1944, 1945, 1951). In addition to those, he had "Mugs" Kelly, the hardboiled dick in today's story, in 23 adventures (the first one, "Suicides Are Saps," is HERE) spread throughout Black Book Detective, Triple Detective, G-Man Detective, Popular Detective, 2 Detective Novels, Triple Detective, Detective Novel Magazine, Thrilling Detective, Exciting Detective, and Thrilling Mystery (1938-48, 1950, and 1952) (FictionMags data).
- If you want to read more by Hobart, Pulpgen has nine of his stories (HERE; scroll down).
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Monday, November 12, 2018

"It Raises an Interesting Question: Is It Possible To Change the Future?"

"Cronus of the D.F.C."
(a.k.a. "D.F.C.").
By Lloyd Biggle, Jr. (1923-2002).
Illustration by Paul Orban.
First appearance: Worlds of IF, February 1957.
Reprinted as "D.F.C." (HERE).
Short story (14 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).

     "Maybe I didn't make myself clear. We saw the holdups on that screen but we couldn't prevent a single one."

You would think that being able to view yet-to-happen events would be a huge advantage to law enforcement, making "crime prevention" a literal reality. Nonetheless, when a young detective falls in love with a woman he's convinced is going to die soon, every time he makes a move it becomes more and more obvious that he won't be able to do anything about it . . .

Major characters:
~ Detective Jim Forsdon (narrator):

  "He lunged at me like a pile driver, and forced me back towards the open window. I got my gun out, and he just casually knocked it out of my hand."

~ Captain Marks (unofficially, "the Old Man"):
  "You looked at him and wondered how he'd ever gotten on the force in the first place, until you saw his eyes. I'd never felt comfortable in his presence."

~ Dr. Howard F. Walker:
  ". . . we can't get that kind of support by predicting a few piddling holdups. But a murder, now—that would make someone sit up and take notice."

~ Stella Emerson:
  "Then I dispensed with the handshaking. She clung to me, and it might have been her first kiss. In fact, it was."

~ Mike Gregory:
  "He's not a criminal—but he is a potential criminal, and he doesn't know that."


Resources:
- Philip K. Dick's novelette with a very similar theme of preventing crime before it happens ("The Minority Report," Fantastic Universe, January 1956; movie, 2002; TV series, 2015), was published a year earlier than "Cronus of the D.F.C." If you've already read Dick's story or have seen the movie/series, then you may (or may not) benefit from the Wikipedia articles (HERE; SPOILERS), (HERE; SPOILERS), and (HERE; SPOILERS).

- For decades starting in 1956, Lloyd Biggle was a steady source of entertaining SFF and mystery fiction, but he had other interests and talents as well; see Wikipedia (HERE), the SFWA (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).

- Biggle wrote science fiction mysteries featuring Jan Darzek, whom the SFE characterizes as . . .

   ". . . a late-twentieth-century private eye who becomes involved in adven-tures made possible by matter transmission, from investigating aliens sabo-taging Earth's matter transmitters to chairing the Council of Supreme, which itself governs the home galaxy; by the third volume he is pitted against the inimical Udef, a Dark Force destroying civilization after civilization in the Smaller Magellanic Cloud."

The Jan Darzek books:
  (1) All the Colors of Darkness (1963)
  (2) Watchers of the Dark (1966)
  (3) This Darkening Universe (1975)
  (4) Silence Is Deadly (Worlds of IF, October 1957; expanded and revised in 1977)
  (5) The Whirligig of Time (1979).
- Biggle also wrote straight mysteries starring several of his own creations and one you've almost certainly heard of:
A. Grandfather Rastin:

   (1) "The Face Is Familiar" (a.k.a. "The Greatest Robbery on Earth"), AHMM, August 1957
   (2) "A Case of Heredity," EQMM, June 1959
   (3) "Grandfather and the Gentle Swindler," EQMM, February 1960
   (4) "Grandfather Predicts a Murder" (a.k.a. "The Lesser Thing"), EQMM, August 1960
   (5) "Grandfather and the Great Horseshoe Mystery" (a.k.a. "The Great Horseshoe Mystery"), EQMM, April 1962
   (6) "Have You a Fortune in Your Attic?" (a.k.a. "The Fabulous Fiddle"), EQMM, May 1963
   (7) "The Great Alma Mater Mystery" (a.k.a. "The Unmurdered Professor"), EQMM, November 1964
   (8) "Grandfather and the Labor Day Mystery" (a.k.a. "The Pair of Knaves"), EQMM, October 1965
   (9) "Grandfather and the Phantom Thief" (a.k.a. "The Phantom Thief"), EQMM, May 1968
   (10) "Grandfather and the Automation Mystery" (a.k.a. "The Automation Mystery"), EQMM, August 1969
   (11) "Grandfather and the Right Question" (a.k.a. "The Unasked Question"), EQMM, October 1971
   (12) "Grandfather and the Little Bone" (a.k.a. "The Mother Goose Murder"), EQMM, January 1972
   (13) "The Knave of Hearts" (a.k.a. "A Matter of Friendship"), EQMM, November 1998 (FictionMags data).

   These were collected by Crippen & Landru as:
   ~ The Grandfather Rastin Mysteries (2007)

B. The Fletcher and Lambert books:
   (1) Interface for Murder (1987)
   (2) A Hazard of Losers (1991)
   (3) Where Dead Soldiers Walk (1994)
   (4) Murder Jambalaya (2012).
C. Sherlock Holmes novels:
   (1) The Quallsford Inheritance (1986)
   (2) The Glendower Conspiracy: A Memoir of Sherlock Holmes: From the Papers of Edward Porter Jones, His Late Assistant (1990).
D. A non-series book completed by Kenneth Lloyd Biggle:
   Murder Applied For: A Classic Crime Mystery (2013)
E. Stories featuring Lady Sara Varnley:
   (1) "The Case of the Headless Witness," AHMM, November 1999
   (2) "The Case of the London Safari," AHMM, June 2001
   (3) "The Case of the Wolf with Two Tales," AHMM, April 2002
   (4) "The Case of the Fractured Puzzle," AHMM, September 2002
   (5) "The Case of the Sickley Mansion," AHMM, July/August 2003
   (6) "The Case of the Chinese Santa Claus," AHMM, January/February 2004
   (7) The Case of the Unrepentant Ghost," AHMM, September 2006 (FictionMags data).

The bottom line:
   The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
   Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
   Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
   Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.
   — Omar Khayyam (via Edward Fitzgerald)

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Friday, November 9, 2018

"Only a Fool Like You Would Try To Save a Memory by Wiping It from Your Mind"

"The Memory Ward."
By Wendy Nikel (?-?).
Illustration by JACEY.
First appearance: Nature/Futures, 9 June 2016.
Short short short story (1 page).
Online at Nature.com (HERE).

     "That’s the difference between us. You put stuff in there to remember it; I put stuff in there to forget it."

Liza would readily understand what the poet meant when she wrote about how "last year’s bitter loving must remain heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide. And so stand stricken, so remembering him." For Liza, however, "remembering him" will always carry with it a bitter memory of death . . . unless—"The glimmer of a Cube caught her eye. She gripped the knife, the answer now crystal clear . . ."

Resources:
- Wendy Nikel has a respectable story listing to her credit; see the ISFDb (HERE) and FictionMags (HERE).
- Editing memories, which seems to be just around the corner in neuroscience research, doesn't have to be a threat; see the Scientific American article (HERE). Of course, if you can control people's memories (see "Memory" in Wikipedia HERE) you're basically controlling them, and that can be dangerous; see Wikipedia's articles on "Mind control in popular culture" (HERE), "Drug-induced amnesia" (HERE), and "Mindwipe" (HERE). Who knows? Maybe neuralyzers already exist (HERE).

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