Friday, June 14, 2019

"We Gotta Look for a Southpaw"

"The Adventure of the Mouse's Blood: An Original Radio Detective Drama."
By Ellery Queen (1905-71; 1905-82).
First appearance on radio: The Adventures of Ellery Queen, May 26, 1940 on CBS; rebroadcast August 5, 1943 on NBC.
First appearance in print: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, September 1942.

Radio play (15 pages).
Online at (HERE).

The Characters
Ellery Queen . . . the detective
Nikki Porter . . . his secretary
Inspector Queen . . . his father
Sergeant Velie . . . of Inspector Queen's staff
Sam Buckley . . . a sports commentator
Johnnie Kilgore . . . heavyweight contender
Louie . . . his manager
Memphis Slats Mayo . . . baseball pitcher
Peewee Robbin . . . famous jockey
Dotty Dale . . . famous woman-swimmer
and Fight Fans — Baseball Crowd — Racing Fans — Detectives, etc.


The Garden — The Stadium — The Park — and A Private House in Flatbush

     "I wish somebody'd leave prints some time . . ."

A two-bit crook (he "sees all, hears all, says nuttin'—fer a price!") has the goods on a number of sports figures and is running a lucrative blackmailing operation—until, no surprise here, somebody decides to cancel all of his future appointments with a very sharp letter-opener . . .

Comment: Trained radio actors might be able to handle dialect dialogue effectively on the air but it tends to fall flat on the printed page.

- Nikki refers to Ellery as "the original Argus"; see Wikipedia (HERE) for the original original Argus.
- Other references in Wikipedia to actual sports figures mentioned in the play: Helen Wills (HERE); Sonja Henie (HERE), who made it big in the movies; and Jack Dempsey (HERE).
- Another Ellery Queen play involving the fight game, this one written for TV, is "The Adventure of the Sunday Punch" from the 1975-76 series (HERE; IMDb), with the video 
(HERE)—for the moment, anyway; as for a no-hitter in baseball, see Wikipedia (HERE), especially the part about "Superstitions."

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

"This Was to Be an Impossible Crime, One That Could Never Conceivably Be Proved on Him or on Any Innocent"

TODAY'S STORY definitely isn't a whodunit (we spend quite a lot of time overhearing the killer's thoughts), although it would be a dilly of a locked room problem for any supersleuth to try to solve; it is, rather, a fine example of "how in the world do we catch 'em?" when they have the advantages our killer enjoys . . .

By Anthony Boucher (William Anthony Parker White, 1911-68).
Illustrations by [Frank] Kramer (1905-93; HERE).
First appearance: Astounding, January 1943.

Reprints page (HERE).
Short story (16 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     "He felt warm blood trickling down his back. Involuntarily he released his grip . . ."

Some folks have entirely too much time on their hands . . .

~ Harrison Partridge:
  "My dear Agatha, I have invented the world's first successful time machine."
~ Agatha Partridge:
  "I suppose this will run the electric bill up even higher."
~ Faith Preston:
  "Simon and I are going to be married next month."
~ Stanley Harrison:
  "Bracket tells me you've something for me."
~ Simon Ash:

  "Bracket stared at him—stared at his sleep-red eyes, his blood-red hands, and beyond 
him at what sat at the desk."
~ Bracket:
  "Mr. Ash, sir. What have you done?"
~ Lieutenant Jackson:
  "You want a freer investigator, who won't be hampered by such considerations as the official viewpoint, or even the facts of the case. Well, it's your privilege."
~ Fergus O'Breen:
  "It's the perfect and only possible solution to a case."
~ Maureen O'Breen:
  "But you can't try to sell the police on that."

Typos: "carassed it"; "nothing more to it that that"; "show me how to unlocked this one".
- Anthony Boucher was equally at home with SFF (ISFDb HERE) and crime fiction ("The Girl Who Married a Monster" HERE), which explains a story like "Elsewhen."
- We're told that one character "felt like Harun-al-Rashid, and liked the glow of the feeling"; see "One Thousand and One Nights" (Wikipedia HERE), in which al-Rashid plays a part, and (Wikipedia HERE and HERE) for his history and influence on popular culture.
- The murderer fantasizes about having "a Javert, a Porfir, a Maigret on his trail": Javert (HERE) from Les Misérables, Porfir (HERE and scroll down) from Crime and Punishment, 
and Maigret (HERE), all of them very determined policemen.
- The Thrilling Detective Website (HERE) tells us that Boucher was "one of the first to write sci-fi/mystery cross-overs," and that "many of Fergus [O'Breen's] cases actually involve fantastic or science-fictional problems"; see the ISFDb (HERE) for the all-too-brief list of O'Breen's short stories and novelettes.

The bottom line:

Monday, June 10, 2019

Miscellaneous Monday—Number Thirty-four

HERE WE HAVE compact accounts of three writers (four, really) who, while all of them labored in the field of mystery-crime fiction, superficially bear little resemblance to each 
other . . .

Columbia Library Columns.
First appearance: February 1986.
Full issue online at (HERE).

* * *

   "He had the most wretched life of any American writer since Poe, and his funeral was attended by exactly five people."

"First You Dream, Then You Die."
By Francis M. Nevins (born 1943; RambleHouse 

mini-bio HERE and Goodreads entry HERE).
Essay (10 pages).

Online at (HERE).

Related: A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection (HERE) - Los Angeles Times book review (1988; HERE).

* * *

   "Surely the degree of success achieved by Holmes and his support team in tales such as these is not sufficient to validate Sherlock's reputation as a great detective; it is not what Holmes and Watson actually do that accounts for their enduring popularity. There are other factors . . ."

"Sherlock Holmes: The Detective As Hero."
By Mary Wertheim.
Essay (13 pages).

Online at (HERE).

Related: A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection (HERE) - Wikipedia (HERE).

Typos: Picture caption: "Sydney", "Moriarity", "Reichbach"; "occuring"; "Professor Moriarity".

* * *

   " . . . the combination of scruples and style, of playing too fair and saying too much . . ."

"Whatever Happened to Ellery Queen?"
By Anthony J. Mazzella.
Essay (10 pages).

Online at (HERE).

Related: A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection (HERE) - Wikipedia (HERE).

Typo: "sadily".

Friday, June 7, 2019

"So You're Suggesting That the Murder Was Really a 'Crime of Passion'?"

"Murder in Triplicate."
By Charles Sheffield (1935-2002).
Illustration by Richard Olsen (HERE).
First appearance: Amazing Stories, August 1978.

Novelette (3 separate stories, 26 total pages).
Online at (HERE).

     "They [these three stories] are an attempt to break a tradition in writing mystery stories, by combining certain elements of science fiction with the usual who-dun-it. In each story, the resolution depends on simple scientific facts or theories, readily available to the reader. Although suggesting the  who-dun-it form, they are more concerned with how than who or why."

Definitely not whodunits, but the solutions are satisfyingly clever.

   "She was poisoned, with some kind of gas from a bouquet that she was holding."

Lola Carmez, a world-renowned opera soprano, has died on stage during a performance and Don Shackley, a friend and client of the narrator, becomes the prime suspect; but there are others who wouldn't mind seeing her out of the way . . .

Typos: "her final area"; "the last part of the area"; "and octave lover"; "do you thing".

- The trill of the title is discussed in detail on Wikipedia (HERE), most particularly (HERE).

   "Like droplets of acid, envy had eaten slowly into the soul of John Laker. On the day that the shell of his soul was completely eroded he killed Alan Gifford; and on that day the time of true suffering began."

That Chinese philosopher nailed it when he said, "Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves" . . .

- Our author gets support for his ideas about tulips from Wikipedia (HERE).
- It certainly can be said of John Laker that "He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made."

   "We're in an unusual position—we know who did it, but we have no motive and no real evidence. If you can turn something up you'll save us an enormous hassle."

When Luther Carter's affluent cranium has been crushed ("In the library. With a blunt instrument"), the case falls into John Wilson's ambit; however, Wilson's not overjoyed 
at dealing with Carter's murder:

   "I thought about the information we had received from Police Chief Winters and felt a touch of irritation. I was raised on detective stories and the one sort that I couldn't stand was the English stately home murder mystery. Assort-ment of guests, bedroom hopping, and a story full of plans of the house and timetables of who was where when. I could neither read nor solve them. I had the horrible suspicion that Luther Carter's murder would fit that pattern."

Despite his reluctance, though, it would be the contents of the victim's library, a misun-
derstood conversation, and a broken string that will put a weary Wilson on the trail of 
the killer . . .

Typos: "when you arrives"; "insist om the best".

- By the time you've finished the story, you'll see how Humpty Dumpty (Wikipedia HERE) figures into the plot.
- The intractable "four-color problem" (technically the "four-color theorem"; Wikipedia HERE) seemed uprovable until computers came along.
- The painstaking police search for "a piece of paper" puts us in mind of a famous EAP story discussed (with SPOILERS) on Wikipedia (HERE) and featured (HERE).
- Murder in the Calais Coach (1934) gets a mention; see Wikipedia (HERE; SPOILERS—unless you skip the plot summary).
- The Senator says, "You saw what happened to Wilbur Mills"; see Wikipedia (HERE) about that Arkansas traveler.
- And Obey Russell says, "I know now I'll never be a Rampal," a reference to this gentleman (Wikipedia HERE).
- Another story with a musical background is Lawrence Treat's "Cop with an Ear," featured (HERE).

More resources:
- If you go to these websites then you'll know just about all the Web has to offer about the late Charles A. Sheffield: Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), the ISFDb (HERE), and a recent list of his available stories on the Free Speculative Fiction Online page (HERE).

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

"There Is a Maddening Unarguability about Ellery's Sermons"

"The Adventure of the Dead Cat."
By Ellery Queen (1905-71; 1905-82).
First appearance on radio: October 29, 1939 on CBS; 
condensed as "The Murder Game," June 1 & 3, 1944 
on NBC.
First appearance in print: Ellery Queen's Mystery 
Magazine, October 1946.
Reprinted in EQMM (Australia), April 1955; EQMM, November 1965 as "The Hallowe'en Mystery"; and Ellery Queen's Eyewitnesses (1983).
Collected in Calendar of Crime (1952) as "The Dead Cat."
Short story (14 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     "It is a curious phenomenon of crime fiction that storybook detectives always go to parties against their better judgment and always find them-selves involved in——"

"'Murder games,' said Inspector Queen gently. 'Hallowe'en,' said Inspector Queen. Ellery blushed. 'Well, son?'" . . .

~ John Crombie:

  "A tenner says I draw the fatal pasteboard."
~ Ann Trent Crombie:
  "I warn you, Nikki, I'm hitched to a man who tries to jockey every new female he meets."
~ Lucy Trent:
  "You spent four weekends with him."
~ Edith Baxter:
  "Don't third-degree me, you detective!"

~ Jerry Baxter:
  "I'm the killer type! Gack-gack-gack-gack!"
~ Nikki Porter:
  "But I'm running this assassination! Now stop talking, eyes closed."
~ Inspector Queen:
  "A man's been knocked off. What I want to know is not who was where when, but — who had it in for this character?"
~ Sergeant Velie:
  "'Oh, my,' said Sergeant Velie. He was studying the old gentleman as if he couldn't believe his eyes — or ears."
~ Ellery Queen:
  "How did the murderer manage to cross this room in pitch darkness without making any noise?"

The killer and the motive are revealed in the very last sentence. Neat.

Typo: "Gaelic," not "Gallic".

- FictionMags has a thorough bibliography of Ellery Queen's short stories; Wikipedia's comprehensive article about EQ is (HERE); and in six installments on his Mysteries, Short and Sweet weblog Christian Henriksson gives his assessments of Queen's collected short narratives commencing (HERE).
- It was last fall when we considered "Mum Is the Word" by the cousins comprising "Ellery Queen" (HERE).

The bottom line:

Monday, June 3, 2019

"Time Travel Has Its Moments, but It's a Tough Way to Make a Buck"

   "A TIME DETECTIVE is a strange person. He's got to be. Some people can handle paradoxes; some can't. I'm one of the few who can, that's all."

   That's Ben Hardy telling us about his qualifications as a temporal investigator—and it's a good thing he can tolerate paradoxes, because he's going to run into quite a few of them in his three known adventures: an identity crisis to end all identity crises, a plot to collapse all of reality, and unless he does something fast, there'll be—no kidding—a sterilized Earth populated only by blonds. In case you're wondering, Ben's time machine isn't a phone booth or a sports car or even a hot tub—just what it is, however, that's something you'll have to read for yourself.
   Our author, Warren M. Salomon, a lawyer by profession, told the editors at Asimov's that after the third Ben Hardy story there would be no more of them, and, true to his word, there haven't been any.
   (Note: It's best to read these novelettes in publication order.)


   "I don't change history for my clients. I can, but I won't."

"Time and Punishment."
By Warren M. Salomon (born 1943).
Illustrations by Jim Bearcloud (1949-2008; HERE).
First appearance: Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction 
Magazine, May 11, 1981.
Novelette (44 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archive (HERE; scroll down to PDF page 122, magazine page 120) and (HERE).
(Parental caution: Mild profanity.)
     "Are you telling me that someone has tampered with reality to do you out of your inheritance?"

What do Electra, Jocasta, Antigone, and Linda Honeywell have in common? Just ask Patricia Wadsworth. Better still, ask Ben Hardy. If anybody would have a reason to know, it's him . . .
~ Ben Hardy:
  "I've seen what happens when people try to pull reality apart, and it isn't pleasant."
~ Patricia Wadsworth:
  "She giggled all the way, the whole thirty years."
~ Linda Honeywell:
  ". . . lifted up her veil and her gaze met mine, the grave of her husband yawning between us. She smiled . . ."
~ Creighton Despard:
  "Anyone can adjust to being ruler of the world, don't you think?"
~ Aabner Aabbott:
  "For twenty years, people have tried to make sense out of Aabbott, and no one has succeeded."
Typos: "events occured"; "as we retured"; "I doesn't have to be".

~ ~ ~
   "You think you've got troubles? You don't know what troubles are. No one does unless he's in my line of work. Trouble is my business. I'm a time detective."

"Time on My Hands."
By Warren Salomon (born 1943).
Illustrations by Artifact (HERE) and Val Lakey 
[Lindahn] (born 1951; HERE).
First appearance: Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction 
Magazine, October 1982.
Novelette (40 pages).
Online at (HERE).
(Parental caution: Mild profanity.)
     "Beautiful women seem to defy the law of gravity. When they fall, they move up."

What's the easiest way to eliminate the competition? Vito and Max know, and they're the competition . . .

~ Ben Hardy:

  "It's times like this when I think I'm in the wrong business."
~ Candy Goodbody ("It's my real name"):
  "Her voice flowed over me and set my nervous system throbbing, as if I were a tuning fork made just for her."
~ Vito Gillotte:
  "You're not the law, and you're not the competition. You're nuthin'. I can rub you out any time I want. Understand?"
~ Max Finkheim:
  "But see to it that you stay out of my way in this matter. Is that clear?"
~ Chester Semester:
  "He seemed quite frightened when I grabbed him."
Typos: "Either one of them may try try"; "or it it were the other way around".

- For the Battle of Zama, see Wikipedia (HERE); also see the Amazing Bible Timeline (HERE) and Wikipedia (HERE and HERE) for some of Alexander the Great's military activities in the Middle East.
- Ever since it happened, the miraculous parting and crossing of the Red Sea (Bible account HERE) has made people nervous enough to try to rationalize the event (Wikipedia HERE).
~ ~ ~
   "Outwardly I'm callous, aloof, very professional. That impresses a lot of people, but not women. They can sense things. So I go my own way. That's how it has to be in my business. I'm a time detective."

"As Time Goes By."
By Warren Salomon (born 1943).
Illustrations by Val [Lakey] Lindahn (born 1951; HERE).
First appearance: Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction 
Magazine, February 1984.
Novelette (34 pages).
Online at (HERE).
(Parental caution: Mild profanity.)
     ". . . you have to remember that a kiss is still a kiss, and a sigh is still a sigh, and the fundamentals always apply—as time goes by. Yeah. Except it doesn't always work out that way."

"Dames," says Ben, speaking from experience. "Why am I always attracted to the kind that can rip through men like a chainsaw?" We may never know . . .

~ Ben Hardy:

  "Not tonight, okay? I've got a headache."
~ Mad Mike Mackin:
  ". . . hey, fellows, Sam Spade's here."
~ Bonnie Cockburn:
  "Beneath the bag, which she shifted slightly so I couldn't help but notice, she palmed a nasty-looking handgun."
~ Leon Aeon:
  "The future already exists, and it belongs to me."
~ Malcolm McGovern:

  "Then he looked around, saw a nearby tavern, and changed direction."
More resources:
- Our author's bibliography is on the ISFDb (HERE).
- As for "laws of time travel," see Niven's "law" (Wikipedia HERE); also see Sean Carroll's Discover Magazine article, "The Real Rules for Time Travelers" (HERE), as well as "Time Travel Tropes" at TV Tropes (HERE); and finally visit Winchell Chung's Atomic Rockets megasite (HERE) for why the idea of time travel has plenty of problems associated with it.

Friday, May 31, 2019

"He Could Not Possibly Go Through That Door!"

"The Vanishing Man."
By Jacques Futrelle (1873-1912).
First appearance: Associated Sunday Magazine, August 11, 1907 as “Problem of the Vanishing Man.”
Reprinted in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (Australia), October 1950 and Ellery Queen’s Anthology #47 (1983) as "The Vanishing Man."

Short story (15 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE; PDF), eBooks@Adelaide (HERE; HTML), and the dedicated Futrelle website (HERE; slightly 

different text).
     "Nothing is impossible. Please don't say that. It annoys me exceedingly."

First he's there, then he isn't there, and then . . .

~ Nick Carroll:

  "You young scoundrel, if you ever again mention resigning, I'll—why, confound it, we'll fire you!"
~ Charles Duer Carroll:
  ". . . wasn't thinking of work, he was thinking of—He snapped his fingers impatiently and entered the building."
~ Gordon Swayne:
  "Are you sure he isn't in there?"
~ Black:
  "Mr. Carroll certainly was not in that room when I first went in there."
~ The Thinking Machine:
  "Logic, man!—inexorable, indisputable logic!"

Comment: A financier pulling shenanigans behind locked doors was evidently interesting enough to Agatha Christie for her to use the premise in a Hercule Poirot story thirty-two years later.

- As has been noted on the Internet in many places, John Heath Futrelle, the creator of 

series sleuth Prof. Augustus S.F.X. Van Dusen (a.k.a. "The Thinking Machine"), has 
the sad distinction of having gone down with the Titanic in April 1912, along with, it's 
rumored, manuscripts of new Thinking Machine adventures; see ONTOS (HERE) for 
opinions of  Prof. Van Dusen's first batch of stories. Futrelle and his wife featured in 
a 1999 novel:

   "Jacques and May themselves have now become the main characters in 'The Titanic Murders' by historical mystery writer Max Allan Collins. In this fiction-alized account, the Futrelles solve two murders that take place on board the Titanic shortly before the disaster."
   — From Jacques Futrelle (HERE); see also J. Kingston Pierce's detailed review (HERE).


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

"It Could Well Have Been the Second Time He Died, So I Closed in to Make Sure"

"Mary C."
By Stephen Hunt (born 1966).
Illustrations by Bob E. Hobbs (born 1955; HERE).
First appearance: Expanse, Summer 1994.

Short short story (7 pages; 2 illos).
Online at (HERE).

     "It was clumsy and brutal, but I could honestly think of no other way at that moment."

The Professor was just joshing us, wasn't he, when he said, "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."

- Stephen Hunt is still with us and still producing SFF; see Wikipedia (HERE), the ISFDb (HERE), and his website (HERE).

- Wikipedia (HERE) confirms that the skipper of the Mary Celeste was indeed Benjamin Spooner Briggs (HERE).