Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Hoch Goes Off-trail

"The Seventh Assassin" and "The Seventieth Number."
By Edward D. Hoch (1930-2008; A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection HERE).
First appearance: EQMM, March 1970.
  - "The Seventh Assassin": Argosy (U.K.), August 1973
  - "The Seventieth Number": 100 Dastardly Little Detective Stories (1993) (as by Stephen Dentinger).
Short short short stories ("The Seventh Assassin," 5 pages; "The Seventieth Number," 9 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; "The Seventh Assassin": go to text pages 86-90; "The Seventieth Number": go to text pages 91-99).

   "Mr. Hoch also writes off-the-trail stories—clever, provocative, baffling tales . . . here are two more off-the-trailers . . ."

ELLERY QUEEN (the editor) tells us that Edward D. Hoch didn't always stick to his series characters (at that time being Rand, Velvet, and Leopold). The following departures from 
the norm are fine examples of what he means:
  "The Seventh Assassin" demonstrates how, without meaning to, we can become our own worst enemy.
  . . . and in "The Seventieth Number" a patent dispute culminates in what looks to be a perfect murder case but unravels because of something that can be found on an office 
desk just about anywhere on the planet.

Principal characters:
(1) "The Seventh Assassin":
~ Prince Alla-Khad:
  "'War!' he shouted, thumping the table with a shiny scimitar. 'War!'"
~ Prince Jamarra:
  "I need no war to defeat you. I will send against you seven assassins, and one year from this day all that my eyes can behold—all will be mine."

Typo: "assasin".

(2) "The Seventieth Number":
~ Gordon Khan:
  "When his hand reappeared it held a .22 caliber automatic."
~ Dennis Marret:
  ". . . slumped in death across the table, a thin trickle of blood widening into a stain on the white cloth."
~ Sergeant Frost:
  "The inventors were left out in the cold, with maybe a few grand if they were lucky."
~ Lieutenant Burns of Homicide East:
  "The feeling had grown in him that the number was the key to the entire case—if they could only decipher it."
~ Burbank:
  "Can I borrow your stapler, Lieutenant?"

References and resources:
- "the Patent Office in Washington":
  "The patent rights for a new invention belong to the inventor by default unless the inventor concedes the rights to another individual. However, this rule changes when an invention is created within the employment context. Depending on the employee’s employment agreement, the employer may be granted the rights to the patent of an invention, and there would be an assignment agreement. When a company employs an individual to create something or solve a problem, the resulting inventions are considered to be made 'within the course of employment.' They are, therefore, properties of the employer. However, while the default rule leans towards employer ownership, there are notable exceptions that can alter this scenario." (Goldstein Patent Law HERE.) Also: Wikipedia (HERE).
- "the old exchange letters":
  "Telephone exchange names were used in many countries, but were phased out in favor of numeric systems in the 1960s." (Wikipedia HERE.) Also: Wikipedia (HERE).
- Our last encounter with Ed Hoch was his SFF-nal story, "Co-incidence" (HERE).

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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