Saturday, March 12, 2022

"I Came in Here and Found a Dead Man and You, with a Gun Practically in Your Mitt"

THERE WAS A TIME when people looking for entertainment would travel sometimes for miles to a theater to watch live performers on a stage sing, dance, tell jokes, perform acro-batics and magic tricks, and do dozens of other amazing things that these ordinary folks would usually consider to be worth the trip. Vaudeville, it was called, and if vaudevillians wanted to survive in that milieu, they would need specialized skills, a couple of which will come in very handy in today's story, as an ex-vaudevillian solves not just one but two murders with the timely aid of . . .

"The Accusing Corpse."
By Paul Ernst (1899-1985).
First appearance: Detective Fiction Weekly, December 12, 1936.
Novelette (18 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE) and The Luminist Archives (HERE; PDF; go down to text page 64).
(Note: Text is in bad shape, especially page 73, but still comprehen-sible.)

  Chapter I: "Out of the Storm"
  Chapter II: "Frame"
  Chapter III: "The Test"
  Chapter IV: "From Dead Lips"

     "He thought it was funny: a stage magician retiring and going into the detecting business. But I was impressed."

Bill Cunningham, a newly minted private eye, is very anxious to divert a beautiful young heiress from what appears to be her inexorable path to the electric chair, the only way being to prove somehow that she didn't murder her uncle for his fortune. Unfortunately for Bill, there's a relentless police detective who's convinced otherwise, a clever cop who actively resents him and wouldn't mind in the least seeing him share the girl's fate . . . .

Principal characters:
~ Alvin Curtiss:
  ". . . was in the library, lying near the door. There was a—a bullet hole in his head."
~ Bill Cunningham:
  "So I shot him—with a detective as practically an eyewitness! Be your age, Montgomery."
~ Montgomery:
  ". . . was a blood-hound, devoid of all personal feeling; a law-enforcing machine."
~ Corlene Curtiss:
  "She wasn't there. The room was empty. On the leather davenport was a note, written in eyebrow pencil . . ."
~ Spencer Morgan:
  "Out to marry money, obviously."
~ John Geeza:
  "This is mad—a ghastly joke!"

Typo: "Dosen't".

References and resources:
- "the second-rate vaudeville tours":
  "Vaudeville developed from many sources, also including the concert saloon, minstrelsy, freak shows, dime museums, and literary American burlesque. Called 'the heart of American show business,' vaudeville was one of the most popular types of entertainment in North America for several decades. References to vaudeville and the use of its distinctive argot continue throughout Western popular culture. Words such as 'flop' and 'gag' were terms created from the vaudeville era and have entered the American idiom. Though not credited often, vaudevillian techniques can commonly be witnessed on television and in movies" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "the charges for harboring":
  "Harboring a fugitive refers to the crime of knowingly hiding a wanted criminal from the authorities. Federal and state laws, which vary by state, govern the crime of harboring a fugitive" (USLegal HERE).
- "his safety deposit box":
  "A safe deposit box, also known as a safety deposit box, is an individually secured container, usually held within a larger safe or bank vault. Safe deposit boxes are generally located in banks, post offices or other institutions. Safe deposit boxes are used to store valuable possessions, such as gemstones, precious metals, currency, marketable securities, luxury goods, important documents (e.g. wills, property deeds, or birth certificates), or computer data, which need protection from theft, fire, flood, tampering, or other perils" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "gilt-edged securities":
  "A security is a tradable financial asset. The term commonly refers to any form of financial instrument, but its legal definition varies by jurisdiction. In some countries and languages people commonly use the term 'security' to refer to any form of financial instrument, even though the underlying legal and regulatory regime may not have such a broad definition. They include shares of corporate stock or mutual funds, bonds issued by corporations or governmental agencies, stock options or other options, limited partnership units, and various other formal investment instruments that are negotiable and fungible" (Wikipedia (HERE).
- "a dictaphone in there":
  "Although the name 'Dictaphone' is a trademark, it has become genericized as a means to refer to any dictation machine" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "sold his securities at par":
  "Par value, in finance and accounting, means stated value or face value. From this come the expressions at par (at the par value), over par (over par value) and under par (under par value)" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "settle a dowry on her":
  "A dowry is a payment, such as property or money, paid by the bride's family to the groom or his family at the time of marriage. Dowry is an ancient custom that is already mentioned in some of the earliest writings, and its existence may well predate records of it. Dowries continue to be expected and demanded as a condition to accept a marriage proposal in some parts of the world . . ." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "produce artificial respiration":
  "Pulmonary ventilation (and hence external parts of respiration) is achieved through manual insufflation of the lungs either by the rescuer blowing into the patient's lungs (mouth-to-mouth resuscitation), or by using a mechanical device to do so. This method of insufflation has been proved more effective than methods which involve mechanical manipulation of the patient's chest or arms, such as the Silvester method" (Wikipedia HERE).
- The ISFDb tells us (HERE) that Paul Frederick Ernst was responsible for 24 adventures of The Avenger (1939-42) under the house name Kenneth Robeson and 8 stories in Weird Tales (1935-36) featuring Dr. Satan; also see Wikipedia (HERE) and the SFE (HERE).
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