Friday, March 29, 2024

"He Left Me a Clue to His Murderer's Identity"

"The Lithuanian Eraser Mystery."
By Jon L. Breen (ISFDb HERE; Fantastic Fiction HERE; Ellery Queen megasite HERE).
First appearance: EQMM, March 1969.
  Best Detective Stories of the Year: 24th Annual Collection (1970)
  Ellery Queen’s Anthology #42, Fall/Winter 1981
  Hair of the Sleuthhound (1982; online HERE).
Short short story (7 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 134.)

   "Can you solve a murder without a dying message?"

Because we have great respect for humor and humorists, especially regarding how difficult it can be for them to construct it, we don't intend to steal Mr. Breen's thunder by rehearsing all of the inside jokes that permeate this pastiche-parody. Just read it for yourself and enjoy.

Main characters:
The great detective:
~ E. Larry Cune:
  "Since murder seemed to follow E. Larry, he had taken on the aspect of a Jonah, or so some thought . . ."
The long arms of the law:
~ Inspector Richard Cune:
  "It's just like 1929 all over again!"
~ Sergeant Healy:
  ". . . the hammy hands and beefy arms of Sergeant Healy."
and a plenitude of show biz types, all equally clueless, among them:
~ Orson Coward:
  ". . . the famed writer-director-producer-composer . . ."
~ Pat Alison:
  "Is that a clue?"
~ Nora Redcap:
  "'E. Larry,' Nora almost screamed, 'that's supposed to be the finale'."
~ Van Washington:
  "We couldn't understand why he did that."
~ Hugh Vivyan:
  "Really, Mr. Cune, is this necessary?"
~ Millicent Grady:
  "I'm her mother . . ."
~ Alfie Tanager, the stage manager:
  ". . . looked truculent . . ."
~ Flossy Blore:
  ". . . a Broadway showgirl romantically linked with Orson Coward . . ."
~ Victor Towne:
  "Mr. Cune, who could possibly have done this terrible thing?"

References and resource:
- "Frank Norris' turn-of-the-century novel, McTeague":
  "McTeague: A Story of San Francisco, otherwise known as simply McTeague, is a novel by Frank Norris, first published in 1899. It tells the story of a couple's courtship and marriage, and their subsequent descent into poverty and violence as the result of jealousy and greed." (WARNING! SPOILERS! Wikipedia HERE.)
- "Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy and John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath":
  "An American Tragedy is a 1925 novel by American writer Theodore Dreiser. . . . It was based on the notorious murder of Grace Brown in 1906 and the trial of her lover, Chester Gillette." (Wikipedia HERE.) "Set during the Great Depression, the novel [The Grapes of Wrath] focuses on the Joads, a poor family of tenant farmers driven from their Oklahoma home by drought, economic hardship, agricultural industry changes, and bank foreclosures forcing tenant farmers out of work." (WARNING! SPOILERS! Wikipedia HERE.)
- Michael Grost has much more info about Jon L. Breen on his megasite (HERE):
  "Breen began his literary life as a satirist and pastiche artist, mainly writing short spoofs of Golden Age detective writers. His best stories of this period are loving recreations of S. S. Van Dine and Ellery Queen. Breen is remarkably good at conveying the 'feel' of these authors - although it is a parody, 'The Lithuanian Eraser Mystery' recaptures all of the excitement of reading the Ellery Queen stories themselves. Similarly, some of his Van Dine pastiches are very good detective stories in their own right."

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.

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