By Tom Masson (1866-1934).
First appearance: The Smart Set, June 1903.
A burglar, a woman, a necklace, a detective, and an absent husband—there's more going on here than first meets the eye:
. . . As the burglar picked up the candlestick once more, he turned and faced the bed. With her head on the lace pillow, a beautiful woman lay sleeping. It was rather an interesting situation. There was the burglar, with the mask over his face to conceal his identity, and the hundred-thousand-dollar necklace, that the woman's husband had given her, loosely thrown in his pocket. There was the woman quietly sleeping as if nothing in the world was the matter; and there was the detective, watching—and waiting. . . .
"The Great Bingtop Mystery: In Which Our Modern Methods Are Revealed."
By Tom Masson (1866-1934).
Found in Well, Why Not! (1921), pages 154-158.
Another burglary, this one a little closer to home:
MR. BUNCUM POTTS, the world-famous detective, sat in his office one morning at nine o'clock, nonchalantly, as was his habit, tapping his pencil on his pink blotter, when the bell rang, and there was ushered in a short, stout man, very much out of breath.
"I have a very remarkable case to report to you," said the short, stout man. "Last night I was robbed." . . .
- There's a rather abrupt Wikipedia article about humorist Tom Masson HERE.
Category: Thefts with an ironic slant
By Archibald Marshall (1866-1934), illustrated by George Morrow (1869-1955).
Found in Simple Stories from 'Punch' (1930).
A story demonstrating that, in the hands of an accomplished writer, who needs punctuation? An excerpt:
. . . Well Miss Bargain didn't want to take him over the laundry because she knew that Mr. Priddo would come into the office where they were, so she said I would rather we stayed here and asked each other riddles, and I think I should like one of your chocolates after all as I am rather hungry.
Well Mr. Fruggin was pleased at this, because she smiled at him when she said it and she was really looking quite pretty although she was wearing her everyday clothes that she telephoned in and had only had time just to attend to her face and comb her hair, and he thought she might be falling in love with him. So he said very well that will suit me better still, pardon me but when is a door not a door?
So then they began asking each other riddles, and Miss Bargain had heard all his before but she pretended that she hadn't and laughed when he told her the answers, and Mr. Fruggin began to fall in love with her himself and to wish that he wasn't quite so dishonest. And he put his pistol down on the table, but some way off Miss Bargain, and kept on handing her chocolate-creams.
Well at last Miss Bargain asked him a really funny riddle about an elephant and a mangle, and when she told him the answer he leant back in his chair and laughed, and then she suddenly looked past him and said Hullo Ernest you are late. . . .
- The SFE has an entry about satirist Marshall HERE, and Wikipedia even more information HERE.
Category: Crime fiction (facetious school)
"End As a Robot."
By Richard Marsten (Salvatore Albert Lombino, 1926-2005).
First appearance: Thrilling Wonder Stories, June 1954.
What's not to like about robots? Apparently a "lousy metal-hating rat out there somewhere still roaming the streets" doesn't like them and has turned robicidal. It's up to Detective-Sergeant Mike Sneadley and the boys in Robicide Division to find out who—if they can get past an apoplectic boss, a nauseating rocket trip from Idlewild, a "tall and loose-hipped" female receptionist with a very strange accent (for a robot), and a bum steer. A few passages:
. . . "We got a 211 from WIG on the TT. Fish had a carry away with a grifter, and we put a hang on citation and dumped the dip in the high power tank. So I got out an APB and contacted AID, but I thought it was just a 4172 LAMC."
"I see," I said. . . .
. . . "He was a passer, Pancho was. We needed a short robot who could reach up under the fixed tubular discharger. He filled the bill nicely. When the parts were discharged, he reached up for them, and then passed them on to another man who put them into the aluminum bodies. He was always making passes, Pancho was." . . .
. . . "That's the first sensible thing you've said for the last twelve pages." . . .
. . . "Dom, da-dohm-dohm," I hummed . . . .
Parental caution: Strong language.
- As many of you savvy readers already know, "Richard Marsten" was a nom de plume of crime fiction writer Evan Hunter, also known as Ed McBain; see HERE for a Wikipedia article about him.
- Wikipedia also has a little something about Marsten's SF novel, Rocket to Luna (1953), for young readers HERE.
- The title? It might have been suggested by a controversial best-selling novel of the era by Calder Willingham: ". . . Willingham’s career began in controversy with End As a Man (1947), a withering indictment of the macho culture of military academies, introducing his first iconic character, sadistic Jocko de Paris. The story included graphic hazing, sex, and suggested homosexuality, which in a period celebrating military victory [World War Two] led the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice to file obscenity charges against its publisher, Vanguard Press. The charges were ultimately dropped, but not before a trial which made the book a cause célèbre, famous writers rallying to its defense. Reviews singled out its savage humor and realistic dialogue." [Wikipedia HERE]
Category: Not so serious crime fiction (cybernetics division)
SLEUTHS - 23 GREAT DETECTIVES OF FICTION & THEIR BEST STORIES.
Edited by Kenneth Macgowan (1888-1963).
Harcourt, Brace & Company.
Anthology: 23 stories.
1931. 595 pages. $3.50
1st editions for sale (for considerably more) HERE and HERE.
1. "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" / Edgar Allan Poe [online HERE, PDF]
2. "Silver Blaze" / A. Conan Doyle [online HERE]
3. "The Case of the Dixon Torpedo" / Arthur Morrison [online HERE]
4. "The Absent-Minded Coterie" / Robert Barr [online HERE]
5. "The Missing Necklace" / Jacques Futrelle [online HERE]
6. "The Dublin Mystery" / Baroness Orczy [online HERE]
7. "The Seismograph Adventure" / Arthur B. Reeve [online HERE, PDF]
8. "The Treasure Hunter" / Melville Davisson Post
9. "The Puzzle Lock" / R. Austin Freeman [online HERE]
10. "The Queer Feet" / Gilbert K. Chesterton [online HERE]
11. "Missing John Hudson" / Gelett Burgess [online HERE, PDF]
12. "The Inoffensive Captain" / E. C. Bentley [online HERE, PDF]
13. "The Holloway Flat Tragedy" / Ernest Bramah [online HERE]
14. "The Butler" / Bennet Copplestone [more about the author HERE]
15. "The Unknown Murderer" / H. C. Bailey
16. "The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim" / Agatha Christie [online HERE, PDF]
17. "Homespun Silk" / Octavus Roy Cohen
18. "The International Socialist" / G. D. H. and M. I. Cole
19. "The Entertaining Episode of the Article in Question" / Dorothy L. Sayers [online HERE]
20. "The Dancing Girl" / Anthony Wynne
21. "The Treasure Hunt" / Edgar Wallace [online HERE]
22. "The Fogull Murder" / Harvey J. O'Higgins [more about the author HERE]
23. "The Prints of Hantoun" / T. S. Stribling
From the Introduction: "This is a collection of fictional detectives, not of detective stories. It aims to present the best twenty-three detectives in English and American fiction, not the best twenty-three detective stories."
Herewith are two contemporary reviews in their entirety:
Here is one adventure of each of 23 well known fiction detectives, from Lupin to Lord Peter Wimsey. At the beginning of each story is a Who's Who of the hero, made up in most cases by the author. The editor has been obliged to omit those sleuths who—like Charlie Chan, Col. Gore and Inspector French—have never appeared in short stories. Nevertheless the collection is representative, and may introduce you to a number of human bloodhounds with whom you are not acquainted. — Walter R. Brooks, "Behind the Blurbs," The Outlook (September 16, 1931, online HERE)
Mr. Macgowan here presents twenty-three great detectives of fiction, and their most celebrated stories. They include such favorites as C. Auguste Dupin in "The Murders of the Rue Morgue", by Edgar Allan Poe; Sherlock Holmes in "Silver Blaze," by A. Conan Doyle; Craig Kennedy in "The Seismograph Adventure", by Arthur B. Reeve; Uncle Abner in "The Treasure Hunter", by Melville Davisson Post; Father Brown in "The Queer Feet", by Gilbert K. Chesterton; Mr. Fortune in "The Unknown Murderer", by H. C. Bailey; Jim Hanvey in "Homespun Silk", by Octavus Roy Cohen; J. G. Reeder in "The Treasure Hunt", by Edgar Wallace; and Detective Duff in "The Fogull Murder", by Harvey J. O'Higgins.
There is a biographical sketch of each detective, prepared by Mr. Macgowan with the assistance of the authors, an introduction by Mr. Macgowan, and an excellent bibliography of detective fiction at the end. — "Checklist of New Books," The American Mercury (October 1931, online HERE; scroll down to page xviii)
- According to Russell H. Fitzgibbon's The Agatha Christie Companion (1980), editor Mac-gowan thought Hercule Poirot was "born" in 1865, which would have made him 110 when he "died" in 1975, while Julian Symons thought he "passed away" at 120.
- Kenneth Macgowan's interests were widespread, as attested to in the Wikipedia article HERE; his theatrical background got him involved with Hollywood productions, including several mystery films, as detailed HERE.
- Mike Grost has speculated: ". . . the suspects in The Chinese Orange Mystery and The Origin of Evil named Macgowan (with a small g) could be a reference to Kenneth Macgowan, who edited the anthology Sleuths (1931)."
Category: Detective fiction
So what attracted the Scribner's reviewer's notice 77 years ago? HERE, from the June 1938 issue, are his opinions in full:
~ Grasp at Straws by Joel Y. Dane:
The hard-boiled school of detective stories is ornamented this month by Grasp at Straws (Crime Club, $2), Joel Y. Dane's tale of about as comprehensively nasty a lot of sophisticated New Yorkers as you'd snub in the Black Maria. You get your money's worth of killings; the atmosphere is all chromium plate and champagne highballs; and for good measure there's the superb full-length portrait of Hector Barbette, the radio lecturer and author of Success Through Perseverance. Yes, the murderer gets him, too. You're welcome.
~ The Cairo Garter Murders by Francis Van Wyck Mason (GAD Wiki entry HERE):
Van Wyck Mason's several stories of Captain Hugh North, 9-2, U.S.A., have always been long on adventure and thrills, and The Cairo Garter Murders (Crime Club, $2) in an exotic Egyptian background is no exception. Captain North and his British comrade in arms, Major Bruce Kilgouer, are, as usual, just too tarnation handsome to be real, but they both get pretty well mussed up before the person who decorated the corpses with red silk garters meets a deserved end.
~ The Death of a Celebrity by Hulbert Footner (GAD Wiki HERE):
The suicide note beside the corpse of Gavin Dordress, successful and envied playwright, was convincing to almost everyone except his friend, Lee Mappin, to whom it seemed a bit too much "in character." So he proceeds to solve The Death of a Celebrity, by Hulbert Footner (Harper, $2), in his own fashion and finally corners a desperate killer. The background of theatrical circles in Man-hattan is interesting.
~ Black Chronicle by William Edward Hayes (see HERE and HERE for other reviews and HERE for a movie based on another Hayes book with "Black" in the title):
Arthur Halstead, lugubrious private detective, and his chipper secretary, Marie Burton, rattle any number of cupboarded skeletons in Black Chronicle (Crime Club, $2), in which William Edward Hayes tells of the murders of a minister whose God was power and of his illicit sweetie—the dominie being a benedict. A rather unsavory yarn, but exciting.
- Previous notice of other Scribner's reviews is HERE.
Category: Detective fiction criticism
By Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961).
First appearance: Scribner's, March 1927.
Reprinted numerous times, including EQMM, June 1947.
Online HERE and HERE (Scribner's 1937 reprint).
Ernest Hemingway's terse classic of crime and retribution, the story works on many levels—but not as many as Hollywood has managed to add to it over the years. While we feel Hemingway's influence on American literature has been all out of proportion to his abilities, his telegraphic style does seem to work to best effect in crime fiction:
. . . "What are you going to kill Ole Andreson for? What did he ever do to you?"
"He never had a chance to do anything to us. He never even seen us."
"And he's only going to see us once," Al said from the kitchen. . . .
- A quite lengthy Wikipedia article about our author is HERE, a linked list of films adapted from his works is HERE, information about the 1946 film version is HERE and the 1964 remake is HERE.
Category: Crime fiction (revenge department)
"Who Killed Rutherford?"
By Walter D. Edmonds (1903-98).
First (and only) appearance: Scribner's, March 1927.
It's pretty obvious somebody murdered Rutherford, but good luck figuring out who . . . and why:
. . . " 'Very curious, that knife, Mr. Judd,' says Williams; 'we couldn't pull it out at all, though Mr. Bilberry used his feet tryin'. It took a very strong man to put that knife where it is, Mr. Judd'."
"Man?" cried Denslow. "Then it was a man—and he was murdered!"
"No doubt of it, and a strong man at that. 'It took weight skilful applied, Mr. Judd, power, I might say,' the lawyer says to me. 'He was lyin' like that when we found him. He hadn't stirred, sir'." . . .
Walter Edmonds lucked out with Hollywood by having some of his historical fiction works (most notably Drums Along the Mohawk) adapted for films and TV.
- Wikipedia has a short article about Edmonds HERE, his few film credits are HERE, and his Times obit is HERE.
Category: Crime fiction (and a whodunit of sorts)
By Robert E. Sherwood (1896-1955).
First appearance: Scribner's, July 1926.
Reprinted in EQMM, January 1950.
A sad story about why you can't go home again . . .
. . . Over the crib hung a colored photograph of the Taj Mahal, a lovely, white building that Mr. Whidden had always wanted to see. He also wanted to see Singapore, and the Straits Settlements, and the west coast of Africa, places that he had read about in books.
He was thinking about these places, and wondering, whether little Conrad would ever see them, when his wife's voice rasped at him from the next room. . . .
Robert Sherwood, a towering presence at 6 feet 8 inches, had many of his works adapted for movies and TV as well as producing screenplays, among them being The Petrified Forest (Bogart), Rebecca (Olivier), The Best Years of Our Lives (March), and The Bishop's Wife (Grant), some of which won Major Awards.
- The Wikipedia article about Sherwood is HERE, and his film credits are linked HERE.
Category: Mainstream fiction with no criminous content that we can discern