Monday, April 15, 2024

"The Dog Did Nothing To Attract Attention"

"The Adventure of the Cat and the Fiddle - A Sherlockian Sonnet."
By Vincent Starrett (1886-1984; Studies in Starrett HERE).
First appearance: The Baker Street Journal, January 1948.
Reprinted in EQMM, October 1961 (today's text).
Poem (1 page).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 113).

   "And strange events went forward, as we know."

You don't have to be an expert Sherlockian (or "Holmesian") like Vincent Starrett to catch the allusion in the last line, but for those of you who miss it go (HERE).

~ ~ ~

NOT all of Vincent Starrett's mystery fiction centered on his most famous series character Jimmie Lavender, such as this one: the authorities conduct ("whenever the police had nothing more urgent to occupy them") a search for a . . .

"Man in Hiding."
By Vincent Starrett (1886-1984; Wikipedia HERE).
First appearance: EQMM, December 1964.
Reprinted in:
  - Masterpieces of Mystery: The Grand Masters Up to Date
  - Ellery Queen’s Anthology #56, Summer 1987
Short short story (7 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 105).

   "It was the dog that recognized him."

THAT brilliant detective M. Dupin taught us that, to conceal something, hiding it in plain sight might be the best approach.

Main characters:
~ Dr. B. Edward Loxley:
  ". . . sat quietly at his desk in the great Merchandise Exchange reading his morning mail."
~ Lora Loxley:
  ". . . murdered by suffocation, had been buried for nearly three weeks . . ."
~ Gloria:
  "The rest of his wealth, in cash, was waiting in Paris—as was Gloria."
~ Miss Marivole Boggs:
  "The newspaper stories about that doctor are getting shorter every day. I'm beginning to believe he really was murdered."
~ Lawrence (Larry) Bridewell:
  "There was no doubt about it—Larry was looking back."
~ Mrs. Montgomery Hyde:
  "He loves everybody."
~ Jackson:
  "The lawyer laughed heartily at his own witticism."
~ Sergeants Coughlin and Ripkin:
  ". . . from Headquarters."

Typo: "visitiors".

References and resources:
- "The Merchandise Exchange":
  "Chicago Mercantile Exchange was known as the Chicago Butter and Egg Board when it was founded in 1898, and futures available through the exchange were initially limited to agricultural products. In 1919 the Board was restructured and the name changed to Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which reflected a new focus on commodities beyond butter and eggs, including potatoes, onions, and cheese. In 1972, CME introduced the first financial futures market, offering contracts on seven foreign currencies." (Wikipedia HERE.)
The hideout
- "in the river or floating on its way to the Gulf of Mexico":
  "The Chicago River is a system of rivers and canals with a combined length of 156 miles (251 km) that runs through the city of Chicago, including its center (the Chicago Loop). Though not especially long, the river is notable because it is one of the reasons for Chicago's geographic importance: the related Chicago Portage is a link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Basin, and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- Hollywood loves to incorporate dogs into their productions, from Rin Tin Tin and Lassie to crime-busting canines like the one that fingers (paws?) the murderer in the adaptation of an S. S. Van Dine story (WARNING! SPOILERS! Wikipedia HERE).
- We're of the opinion that our author has taken one of the most sensational real-life murder cases of the early 20th century and reversed the geography—and he all but admits it was his inspiration: e.g., "as forgotten as Dr. Crippen"; "as he had looked, with the neat little beard and mustache." Just before that notorious wife killer was captured, an alert ship's captain noted in a wireless message: "Mustache taken off growing beard." (Wikipedia HERE.) It would be quite a while before Britain's Hollywood committed the story to film and inserted a kink into the usual narrative. (WARNING! SPOILERS! Wikipedia HERE.)
- We have made contact with Vincent Starrett, Sherlockian par excellence and fine mystery writer, several times in the past: (HERE), (HERE), (HERE), (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE).

The bottom line:

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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Friday, April 12, 2024

"The Cops Up There're Scared Witless"

"Problem in Murder."
By H. L. Gold (1914-96).
Illustrated by [Charles] Schneeman (1912-72; ISFDb HERE).
First appearance: Astounding, March 1939.
Reprints page (ISFDb HERE).
Novelette (20 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).

   "But all was silent, deserted; frightened faces peered through drawn curtains."

CATCHING a killer on the loose is hard enough without the impediments of politics and bureaucracy tripping you up at just about every turn, but a clever reporter goes the police and the national guard, themselves barely adequate to deal with this situation, one better when he devises a plan to save not only the reputation of a high public official, his boss's expense account, and his own job but also (get this) to save the wanted man from the 
electric chair, a fate that he really doesn't deserve . . .

Principal characters:
~ The night editor of the Morning Post:
  "It's a foot!"
~ The city editor:
  "A woman's foot! Cut off at the ankle. Ugh!"
~ Gilroy:
  "It's not as simple as that. Take a look . . . for some reason or other, this foot never walked."
~ Police Commissioner Green:
  "Martial law—that's the only answer to a maniac! I should have had it declared long ago. Now we'll see how soon the murders'll stop!"
~ Professor Leeds:
  "They must think I'm just a common Jack the Ripper."
~ Abner:
  "I know them durned coppers. Don't care who they send to the chair . . ."

References and resources:
- "the bulldog edition's just hitting the stands":
  "The term bulldog edition has been in print since the early 20th century and is used by newspaper editors to denote an early edition of a morning paper printed (and even sold)
 the day before its publication date." ("14 Words Inspired by Dogs" HERE.)
- "along the Concourse"; "Jerome Avenue":
  "The Grand Concourse (also known as the Grand Boulevard and Concourse) is a 5.2-mile-long (8.4 km) thoroughfare in the borough of the Bronx in New York City. . . .The Grand Concourse was designed by Louis Aloys Risse, an immigrant from Saint-Avold, Lorraine, France. Risse first conceived of the road in 1890, and the Concourse was built between 1894 and 1909, with an additional extension in 1927. The development of the Concourse led to the construction of apartment buildings (a plurality of six-story high-class semi-fireproof elevator apartment houses was perceptibly interspersed with buildings that ranged from a more affordable tier of five-story New Law walk-up apartment houses to a handful of taller fireproof apartment houses comparable to those on Manhattan's luxury thoroughfares) surrounding the boulevard. By 1939, it was called 'the Park Avenue of middle-class Bronx residents'." (Wikipedia HERE.) "Jerome Avenue is one of the longest thoroughfares in the New York City borough of the Bronx, New York, United States. The road is 5.6 miles (9.0 km) long and stretches from Concourse to Woodlawn." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "under the elevated"; "toward the Third Avenue el":
  "An elevated railway or elevated train (also known as an el train or el for short) is a railway with the tracks above street level on a viaduct or other elevated structure (usually constructed from steel, cast iron, concrete, or bricks)." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "the torso story"; "only a limb or part of a limb":
  "The Torso Murderer [Cleveland in the 1930s] always beheaded and often dismembered their victims, occasionally severing the victim's torso in half or severing their appendages. In many cases the cause of death was the decapitation or dismemberment itself." (Wikipedia HERE.) "The Thames Torso Murders, often called the Thames Mysteries or the Embankment Murders, were a sequence of unsolved murders of women occurring in London, England from 1887 to 1889. The series included four incidents which were filed as belonging to the same series. None of the cases were solved, and only one of the four victims was identified." (Wikipedia HERE.) "The Torso Murderer was never caught. His are among the goriest, most remarkable serial murder cases in history, but he’s not exactly a household name. I only learned of the case when I was researching Victorian-era crime for my Sarah Bain mystery series. Why isn’t it the notorious subject of a zillion novels, non-fiction books, TV shows, and movies?" (CrimeReads HERE.)
- "Not a trace of lactic acid!":
  "Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele was the first person to isolate lactic acid in 1780 from sour milk. The name reflects the lact- combining form derived from the Latin word lac, meaning 'milk.' In 1808, Jöns Jacob Berzelius discovered that lactic acid (actually l-lactate) also is produced in muscles during exertion." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "The man at the pneumatic tube":
- "block spies, like they have in Europe":
  Remember, this is 1939: "Contrary to popular belief, the Gestapo was not the all-pervasive, omnipotent agency in German society. . . . The majority of Gestapo informers were not full-term employees working undercover but were rather ordinary citizens who chose to denounce other people to the Gestapo. According to Canadian historian Robert Gellately's analysis of the local offices established, the Gestapo was—for the most part—made up of bureaucrats and clerical workers who depended upon denunciations by citizens for their information. Gellately argued that it was because of the widespread willingness of Germans to inform on each other to the Gestapo that Germany between 1933 and 1945 was a prime example of panopticism. The Gestapo—at times—was overwhelmed with denunciations and most of its time was spent sorting out the credible from the less credible denunciations." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- Ten years later Ellery Queen (the detective) came up against a serial killer in steamy Manhattan; see Wikipedia (HERE; no real spoilers).
- One year later (and for a different publication), H. L. Gold spun a rather different yarn about a different kind of crime, to which we gave some attention (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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Thursday, April 11, 2024

Mr. Pepper Makes the Scene

ROY GLASHAN has just added Mr. Pepper, Investigator to his Basil Thomson collection (HERE). Mr. Pepper predated Inspector Richardson by some eight years but, unlike Richardson, appeared only in short stories. Go (HERE) for the updated ONTOS article.
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Wednesday, April 10, 2024

"Science Proves That a Man Can Kill Himself Without Committing Suicide!"

"Perfect Murder."
By H. L. Gold (1914-96; ISFDb HERE; Wikipedia HERE).
Illustrated by [Frank R.] Paul (1884-1963; ISFDb HERE).
First appearance: Thrilling Wonder Stories, March 1940.
Reprints page (ISFDb HERE).
Short short short story (4 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE: It will be necessary to download the entire issue; go to text page 74).

   "Perhaps the only object worthy of attention was the corpse lying near the bile-green armchair."

"It was a perfectly ordinary perfect crime," we're told. "Random had been murdered in a locked room, with a gun that lay twenty feet away, and, as subsequent investigation proved, he hadn't an enemy in the world." Who, indeed, would have it in for Harold, a nonentity to the world at large, universally regarded as "meek and inoffensive"?

Main characters:
~ Harold Random, Sewage Disposal Department employee:
  "'I've stood for enough,' he stated. 'You're trying to get me out of the way so you can step in. You know I'll win her anyhow!'"
~ Mr. Feeney, the janitor:
  "Why couldn't it be suicide?"
~ "a man, faultlessly dressed":
  "Sarcasm always was wasted on you."
~ Marguerite:
  "She's such a lovely thing, even without her fortune, that I know you'd hate to lose her."
~ Will Hanson:
  "H-m-m-m. Then Marguerite hasn't married that ugly ape yet. You know—Will Hanson."

Typo: "she [?] going to take the leap" (missing "is").

Resource:
- Several years ago, we updated Gold's story "Grifters' Asteroid" (HERE). Since then, we've also updated the short story bibliography; see "Resources".

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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Monday, April 8, 2024

UPDATE: Basil Thomson Novels List

Added Roy Glashan's Library links for seven Basil Thomson novels (HERE).

Nathan Doesn't Get Serious

Solar Eclipse Edition

IN 1909 George Jean Nathan (1882-1958), theater critic at large, commented on "Business Men's Novels" in The Bookman, noting that "one of the most prominent lawyers in the business district said recently that the statement that lawyers as a class liked detective stories best, might be made in all truth." (See ONTOS HERE.)
As a professional drama critic, Nathan would attend and comment on staged mystery plays, which were fairly popular in the early 1900s. Nathan couldn't help but notice how clichéd such plays had already become: "The curtain is pulled aloft and, after two hours of mystery monkeyshines, the profoundest idiot among the characters is revealed to be a detective master-mind in disguise. Thus, year in and year out, it goes." (See ONTOS HERE.)
Armed with a sophisticated wit, Nathan could produce his own lampoons, such as the following:

     VILLAINY
The villainy of a character in the American drama is appraised by an American audience in accordance with the following schedule of black marks:

1. Black moustache - 20 points
2. Riding boots - 36 points
3. Riding boots and crop - 47 points
4. Foreign accent (save Irish) - 29 points
5. Top hat - 8 points
6. Patent-leather shoes - 8 points
7. Long cigarette holder - 4 points
8. Well-fitting clothes - 52 points
9. Sexual virility - 84 points
10. Good manners - 76 points
11. Inclination to believe that a woman over twenty is perfectly able to take care of herself - 91 points
12. Inclination to believe that a woman over twenty-five is perfectly able to take care of herself - 92 points
13. Inclination to believe that a woman over thirty is perfectly able to take care of herself - 93 points
14. Inclination to believe that women between the ages of thirty-five and ninety are perfectly able to take care of themselves - 94 points
15. Inclination to believe that women between the ages of twenty and ninety are perfectly able to take care of themselves if they want to, but that they usually don’t want to - 95 points
16. One who believes that when a woman is married she does not necessarily because of this fact lose all interest in the world - 82 points
16a. Or in a good time - 83 points
17. Boutonniere - 9 points
18. Suspicion on the part of the villain that the hero is a blockhead - 98 points
19. Verbal statement of the above fact by the villain - 99 points
20. Common sense - 100 points

(From Bottoms Up: An Application of the Slapstick to Satire, 1917, HERE).

We think that with his "Opera Synopses" (HERE) Robert Benchley was inspired by (paid homage to? borrowed heavily from? ripped off?) Nathan not too many years after the next one appeared. (Note: All of the real people that Nathan mentions were very wealthy—and well-known for it—at the time.)


STORIES OF THE OPERAS
   I PAGLIACCI

  (ē pal-yät-chē)

Two-act drama; text and music by Leoncavallo

        CHARACTERS
CANIO Tenor
TONIO Baritone
BEPPO Tenor
NEDDA (Canio’s wife) Soprano
SILVIO (a villager) Baritone

       THE STORY

    Act I

At Tonio’s signal, the curtains open disclosing a cross-roads with a rude portable theatre and Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt with a party of débutantes. The distant sounds of a cracked trumpet and belabored drum call the peasants together, and they greet with joy the familiar characters in whose costumes Canio, Nedda, and Beppo enter simultaneously with Mrs. O. H. P. Belmont’s party, Mrs. Otto Kahn’s party, Mrs. Goelet, in mauve faille d’amour silk, and a party of young people chaperoned by Mrs. Douglas Robinson. Silencing the crowd (on the stage), Canio announces the play for the evening—and is heard. Canio descends and boxes the ears of Tonio, who loves Nedda. Tonio, and two old gentlemen of decided snoring proclivities who have been sitting in the eighth row, wander off. A villager invites the players to drink. Twenty-seven gentlemen in the audience accept the invitation. The villager hints that Tonio lingers to flirt with Nedda, and the ladies in the boxes also get busy with recent scandal. Canio takes it as a joke, twenty-one of the twenty-seven gentlemen taking it with water. Canio says he loves his wife. And, after kissing her, he departs coincident with the arrival of the occupants of the Gould and Sloane boxes. The other peasants, and forty-two other gentlemen, leave the scene.

Nedda, left alone, broods over the fierce look which Canio and Gatti Casazza gave her. She wonders if Canio suspects her. The sunlight and the new gown and necklace on Mrs. Payne Whitney thrill her and she revels in the song and the sport of the birds (“Ballatella”). At the end of the rhapsody she finds that the hideous Tonio, if not the audience, has been listening. He makes ardent love, but she laughs him to scorn. He pursues her, however, and she, picking up Beppo’s whip, slashes him across the face. He swears revenge and stumbles away. Now her secret lover, Silvio, steals in with the twenty-seven gentlemen who have been over to Browne’s. Silvio pleads with her to go away with him. She promises in an undertone to meet him that night at Del Pezzo’s Italian Restaurant at the corner of Seventh Avenue and Thirty-fourth Street. Tonio, having seen them, hurries away. He gets the ear of Canio and returns coincidently with thirty-four of some forty-odd gentlemen who have been across the street. Silvio, however, escapes unnoticed and so do the two old gentlemen who have been sleeping in the eighth row.

Canio threatens to kill Nedda and Leoncavallo’s music. Beppo and one of the old gentlemen who has forgotten his overcoat rush back. Beppo disarms Canio. Tonio hints that Nedda’s lover may appear that night in the play and some bizarre looking ladies in the third row hint a lot of other things. Left alone, Canio bewails his bitter fate, and the gentlemen whose wives won’t let them get out do the same. In wild grief, Canio finally gropes his way off. And such gentlemen as are left in the audience follow suit.

(To be continued)

(Also from Bottoms Up HERE).

The entire book is on Project Gutenberg (HERE).


The bottom line:

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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