Monday, April 22, 2019

Miscellaneous Monday—Number Thirty-two

"Murders and Why They Interest Us."
By E. Phillips Oppenheim (1866-1946).
First appearance: The Sunday Mail, Brisbane, Australia, 

4 January 1925 as "Psychology of Crime Discussed by 
Sensational Novelist."
Collected at Roy Glashan's Library (HERE).
Article (8 pages as a PDF).
Online at Roy Glashan's Library (HERE; HTML).


     "A profound student of crime from the age (as he now reveals) of eighteen, Mr. Oppenheim is to-day perhaps the best-known writer in the English language in his own particular field."

By the time this article appeared, Sherlock Holmes was very near the end of his career as a crime solver, preparing for his retirement to Sussex to cultivate bees, so that the editorial comment just above has some validity. Oppenheim's main concern is to establish a plausible rationale with the public for his own fictional output by comparing and contrasting it with 
real-life crime.

A few brief excerpts:
   "If you write about crime, you must be able to trace the mental process that led up to it."
   "Our interest is excited and our senses are kindled, for the simple reason that, victor or victim, the thing might have happened to us. This is the inner meaning of plausibility . . ."
   "In any modern criminal case—say a murder trial—the student is compelled to start at the wrong end."
   "There is a man of my acquaintance at the present moment who I am perfectly certain would commit a murder to-morrow if he had the courage."
   "My first personal association with crime was when, at the age of 18, I was spending a few months
on Exmoor—the loneliest part of England."
   "The activities of this order of being have increased since the war, possibly because since those days of wholesale slaughter the value and sanctity of human life have fallen in the scale."
   "[America's] ports, however, are still open, although to a restricted degree, to a constant stream of immigrants anxious to share in her prosperity. Naturally enough, this leaven of hot-blooded denizens of Eastern European countries, many of them newly arrived in the country, makes for a larger percentage of crime."

   ". . . this habitual criminal, this person who commits crime as a matter of business or through sheer moral degeneration, is of very little practical use to the novelist. No one 
wants to read about him and he makes no general appeal."
   "The novelist in his eager probing of life in search of material is attracted wholly and entirely by the second class of criminal, namely, the man or woman who commits an 
offence against society through lack of restraint. This is the man worth talking about, 
worth studying, worth analysing."
   "He was the victim of a code which exists for the benefit of the majority, and from 
which the minority must suffer."
   "A community must be governed by standardised statutes and not by the standard of a variable human intelligence subject at all times to variation of influence. . . . Fixed laws 
are the only practical deterrent."

Typo: "under a give set".

Resources:
- You can read more about Exmoor in Wikipedia (HERE).
- Roy Glashan has compiled an interactive bibliography of E. Phillip Oppenheim's works (HERE); for RGL's comprehensive Oppenheim page go (HERE).
- The IMDb's filmography (HERE) gives Oppenheim 48 screen credits from 1914 to 1973, 
the last being an episode of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes (HERE).

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Friday, April 19, 2019

"I Think That a Guy Like Stilson Was Expecting Too Much"

"Geared for Slaughter."
By John Benton (house pseudonym, possibly Norman A. Daniels).
First appearance: Thrilling Detective, March 1939.

Short short short story (2 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).

     "I'm a killer. I not only admit it, but I'm proud of it."

It's said we're living in the age of specialization—and apparently that goes for 
criminals, too . . .

Typo: "on the roof of an office buildings".

Resources:
- We're guessing "John Benton" really was Norman Daniels (Norman Arthur Danberg), who, as we've noted (HERE), can be regarded as a "nearly forgotten uberpulpster." If mystery stories about steam trains interest you, try Daniels's "Satan Turns the Timetables" (HERE).

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

"Ours Was the Most Security Conscious Project in the Whole Country; and This Was Where He Had Picked to Get Himself Killed"

TODAY WE RETURN to the golden days of yesteryear when a tape-fed electronic computer could—and often did—occupy the entire floor of a building . . .

"Witness."
By George H. Smith (1922-96).
Illustration by [Frank] Kelly Freas (1922-2005; HERE).
First appearance: Worlds of IF, May 1955.

Reprints page (HERE).
Short short story (7 pages).
Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE) and Archive.org (HERE).

     "Now he couldn't mistreat Edith anymore."

It's abundantly clear that if our killer ever read this precautionary observation from the Bard of Avon, s/he dismissed it: "To be wise and love, Exceeds man's might" . . .

Characters:
~ Dr. Dudley Ballard:

  ". . . had been as inconsiderate in his dying as he had been in his living."
~ Art MacKinney:
  "God! There'll really be a stink about this."
~ Bill Green:
  "I hated Ballard's guts and everyone knew it, so there was no point in being hypocritical now."
~ Edith:
  ". . . was only a computing machine, a mechanical brain, the final result of years of work by the best cybernetics experts in the world."
~ Mr. Thompson:
  "He looked nervous and I couldn't help wondering what he was thinking. There had been stories circulating about Ballard and Thompson's wife and the dome-headed little man must have heard them too."
~ A gray haired, gray suited security agent:
  "Are you nuts?"
~ The coroner:
  "'—and since it could not have been the work of an outsider, it must have been a crime of a private nature.' He looked closely at Thompson, MacKinney and me. 'A crime of a private nature with the motive either revenge, jealousy or ambition.'"

Resources:
- There's more about George Henry Smith at Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).

The bottom line:
   "Whether we are based on carbon or silicon makes no fundamental difference. We should each be treated with appropriate respect. . . . HAL was told to lie—by people who find it easy to lie. HAL doesn't know how."
   - Dr. Chandra

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Monday, April 15, 2019

"You See, My Health Altered"

"Change of Partner."
By Donald Shoubridge (?-?).
First appearance: Tit-Bits, March 24, 1951.

Short short short story (1 page).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).

     "Was a time when even a gun wouldn't have kept you sitting in a chair."

For most of us the absence of familiar people and places might make the heart grow fonder, but in Charlie's case the absence of his partner just makes him angrier—mad enough, indeed, to kill . . .

Resource:
- All we could find about Donald Shoubridge is FictionMags's story listing from the '30s and '40s (HERE), nothing later.


The bottom line:

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Friday, April 12, 2019

"There'll Never Be Anyone Else but You"

"Death Before Dishonor."
By Dobbin Thorpe (Thomas M. Disch, 1940-2008).
First appearance: Fantastic, February 1964.

Short short story (6 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE; PDF).

     "Rena Arblest was, perhaps, no better than she should be. But she was no worse, either. And therefore deserved less than she received."

If, like Rena, you take a vow, you'd better be prepared for what happens if you don't keep your promise; unfortunately, she wasn't . . .

Resources:
- For over forty years Thomas Michael Disch, a suicide, generated SFF on a consistent basis; see Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), the IMDb (HERE), and the thorough bibliography at the ISFDb (HERE).
- "It was a for-real tattoo"; see Wikipedia (HERE) for more about the practice.


The bottom line:
  "If I decide to get a tattoo, it'll be a map of where I live on my chest in case I ever get amnesia."
  ― Stewart Stafford

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

"Just What Are You Worried About—Your Life or Somebody Spoiling Your Night Club Act?"

LIKE MANY OF ELLERY QUEEN'S adventures, today's story began as a radio script which the author later converted into a short story . . .

"The Case of the Squealing Duck."
By George B. Anderson (1908-85).
First appearance: Mutual Radio Network, April 18, 1944.
First text appearance: Mammoth Detective, July 1947.

Short story (16 pages).
Online at Pulpgen (HERE).

 
    "Danny Dole tried to put them in the aisles as a comedian, but the Crime File of Flamond said something about murder—and it wasn’t funny . . ."

For Danny the apocryphal story about the terminally ill comic on his deathbed should have a special meaning: "Dying is easy," the moribund comic confesses to a concerned friend, "it's comedy that's hard . . ."

Characters:
~ Danny Dole:

  "And then I remembered the old adage: never shoot into a flock of ducks 'til you can see the whites of their—eyes. I wait. The ducks get closer. The time is ripe. I pull the trigger."

~ Flamond:
  "A gun is a sign of weakness. It's an admission that you aren't able to handle things with your head. It—"
~ Sandra Lake:
  "Flamond’s scared to death of firearms."
~ Sheila Ray:
  ". . . if it wasn’t for her—uh—curves, her voice wouldn’t get her a job callin’ trains in Winapausaukee, North Dakota."
~ Gus Klumb:
  "I’ve got some wonderful friends. They think the world of me. They don’t like people 
who give me bum deals. Sometimes they get sore about it. And when they get mad, 
they do funny things—a lot funnier things than you do in your act."
~ Josef:
  "And it was not attached to any wire, m’sieu."
~ Lieutenant Riordan:
  ". . . of the homicide squad could never have held a job as a movie detective. He simply didn't look the part."

Typos: "nobody could proved it"; "over a Josef's face".

Resources:
- A few then-current allusions crop up in our story:
  ~ When Danny Dole says, "My problem, Mister Ant’ony, is—aw nuts, it ain’t funny," he's referring to a popular personal advice radio program, the Good Will Hour; see (HERE) and (HERE).

  ~ Gus Klumb mentions "bank nights," a Depression-era attraction that ended with the advent of the Second World War (HERE).
  ~ "just like Jolson": That's Al Jolson, a household name at the time (HERE).
- FictionMags lists only two Flamond stories by George B. Anderson, this one and "Case of the Perilous Party," Mammoth Detective, August 1947. Flamond was already known to some readers for his "appearances" on radio (see The Thrilling Detective HERE); the Chicago Trib-une's obit for Anderson is (HERE), from which we quote:

   "In his spare time, Mr. Anderson wrote radio shows. WGN bought his idea for a radio show about a magician turned rackets detective. The hero was Mike Trent and the show was Easy Money, in which Mike beat gamblers and cheats at their game. The successful show, which Mr. Anderson helped write, moved to NBC.
   "He also wrote for such shows as Mystery House, Country Sheriff, Nick Carter and The Crime Files of Flamond. He said he wrote more commercially sponsored mystery shows than any other writer in the world.
   "HE RECEIVED writing credits on hundreds of radio and television shows, including Garroway-at-Large and Welcome Travelers, for which he was chief writer for three year[s]. He also created numerous dramatic shows."


- Old Time Radio has a log of Flamond's adventures (HERE), which debuted in January 1944; note that "The Squealing Duck" was the 16th episode broadcast. OTR also has the original show archived (HERE; MP3; 29 minutes 47 seconds), as well as 8 other shows (HERE) and (HERE).
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Monday, April 8, 2019

"I Played on His Madness to Make Him Do the Things I Wanted Done"

IT'S POSSIBLE THAT not every fan of Perry Mason knows that in his early days as a pulp writer the infallible lawyer's creator, Erle Stanley Gardner, produced several pulpy stories which can easily be considered science fiction/fantasy (SFF); certainly the Internet Science Fiction Database (ISFDb) classifies them as such, with one in particular being . . .

"The Human Zero."
By Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970).
Illustration by Virgil Finlay (1914-71) (HERE).
First appearance: Argosy, December 19, 1931.

Reprinted in Fantastic, January 1962.
Reprints page (HERE).
Collected in The Human Zero: The Science Fiction Stories of Erle Stanley Gardner (1981; reviewed HERE).
Novelette (45 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).

(Parental caution: Violence.)
     ". . . he leaped back, just as the panels of the door splintered under a hail of lead which came crashing from the muzzle of a sawed-off shotgun."

Caged mice are disappearing—too bad for them—but the same thing is happening to uncaged people, victims who leave behind only their empty clothes . . .

Chapter 1: "A Mysterious Kidnaping"
Chapter 2: "Who Is Albert Crome?"
Chapter 3: "Into Thin Air"
Chapter 4: "A Madman's Laboratory"
Chapter 5: "A Fantastic Secret"
Chapter 6: "Still They Vanish"
Chapter 7: "A Fiend Is Unmasked"


Characters:
~ P. H. Dangerfield:

  ". . . a millionaire member of the stock exchange . . ."

~ Arthur L. Soloman:
  ". . . [had] a dry, husky voice that was as devoid of moisture as a dead leaf scuttling across a cement sidewalk on the wings of a March wind."
~ Bob Sands:
  "What has the bank got to say about how much kidnapers demand?"

~ Sid Rodney:
  "I may have a hunch that's worth while. Will you give me a break on it, captain, if it's a lead?"
~ Captain Harder:
  ". . . nodded wearily."
~ Ruby Orman:
  "Scene one of greatest consternation. Men glanced at each other in an ecstasy of futility."

~ Charles Ealy:
  "Dramatic scene enacted in office of Captain Harder at an early hour this morning."
~ Detective Sergeant Selby:
  "Keep sober."
~ The servant:
  "When I count three, sir, I shall shoot."


Typos: "strength of the mortal"; "that shoes"; "The officer was pined"; "termperature"; "I dont know"; and several lines were chopped up on page 39.

Resources:
- If you're interested in absolute zero see Wikipedia's article (HERE).


(Click on image to enlarge.)
- Empty suits are also a prominent component of one of Anthony Boucher's stories (HERE).
- We recently revisited uberpulpster Erle Stanley Gardner (HERE).
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