Monday, October 26, 2015

"There Wasn't a Chance Any Life Remained in That Torn Flesh, in Those Broken Bones"

"Favors Can Be Fatal."
By H. B. Hickey (real name: Herbert B. Livingston, 1916-87).
First appearance: Fantastic Adventures, April 1951.
Parental caution: Strong language.
Short story (14 pages).
Online HERE.
"What's a girl to do when she's being followed — especially when she hasn't the least idea she has something the guy wants bad enough to kill for?"
For Kylie Kenton, an asteroid prospector and our first person narrator, it all starts with what seems to be an innocent question:
. . . "I hear you might be going on to Earth. Care to take a passenger?"
Kenton knows better than to say no to the commander of the Space Patrol:
. . . As long as I was stuck, I might as well be stuck properly. I took Shirley Crando to the Interplan Club, which has a clear-view roof and a head waiter with X-ray eyes. He saw right straight through my bankbook.  . . .
Besides, Shirley does have her finer points:
. . . A girl with a calendar-picture shape, a face like a valentine, and a blonde, page-boy bob that swirled perfume in my nostrils. And a very nice girl.  . . .
It comes as a shock, however, when Shirley tells Kenton about her involvement with Harry Dillon—the late Harry Dillon, a murdered colleague of his—and their plans to marry:
". . . when I got here [to Mars], Harry was dying in a hospital room, and I took one look at him and knew I'd never really loved him. But I said I did anyway, because it was the only thing to do at such a time."  . . .
Then out of nowhere a couple of thugs attempt a kidnapping:
. . . He ran right into my fist and then there were two of them down. And I was running like crazy, with the whole Club going in shouts and screams, and Shirley holding onto me.  . . .
In the scuffle someone dies, and Kenton is now a wanted man ("on the lam, like a cheap crook") hightailing it for the Asteroid Belt, in a quiet moment musing in typical hard-boiled fashion:
. . . Women and trouble may not be necessarily connected, but the probability tends toward certainty.  . . .
Now, though, with enough time to think, he connects the dots between Harry Dillon's murder and the kidnap attempt; it all boils down to . . .
. . . "Something about solid thorium, nothing but thorium, pure thorium, whole damn planetoid of thorium." . . . It was the biggest thing that had ever happened . . .  It could mean interplanetary war. Or, used properly, it could be of tremen-dous benefit.  . . .
But to make a getaway he'll need some help—only . . .
. . . His body was lying just inside. And it wasn't pretty. He had been worked over before they'd killed him.  . . .
It all looks hopeless, but Shirley knows a lot more than she realizes . . .

- H. B. Hickey wrote in several genres, including Westerns and SF; go HERE for a couple of autobiographical sketches.
- See HERE for his FictionMags listing and HERE for bibliographical data at the ISFDb.
- For all of its credible technobabble, the story does stumble over several scientific mistakes, which many of you should be able to find.
We THINK this is our author, but we're not sure.

Category: Life and death down these mean spaceways

Saturday, October 24, 2015

"We Are Not Dealing With an Ordinary Murder—Or an Ordinary Murderer!"

"The Talkie Murder."
By Albert Edward Ullman (1879-?).
First appearance: Thrilling Detective, January 1932.
Short story (10 pages).
Online at Pulpgen HERE.
"Sudden Darkness—the Grim Hand of Death Strikes—And the Unknown Murderer There on the Movie Lot!"
Inspector Corot is a sharp cop, but even he has trouble making headway in this case of murder on the set:
. . . For a moment there was dead silence, then out of the Stygian blackness came a piercing, shattering scream of agony, a frenzied cry that froze the blood. Then a thud, as of a falling body.
As for the unusual murder weapon, a Philippine bolo, the M.E. is more impressed with the killer who wielded it:
. . . "Only a man—with the strength of a brute—could inflict such a wound," vigorously asserted the examiner. "It’s demoniacal!"
The victim, though, is "a mystery woman":
. . . Stony-faced, some had called her at her first appearance upon the lot. But under the magic touch of the director, some spark of life had kindled, to make of her a creature of flame and passion. However, when not acting, she was passive, unresponsive, like a woman buried within herself.
Gruff Detective-Sergeant Moody's investigation leads to a sobering conclusion:
. . . "Not so much as a penknife on any of those babies, though there were plenty of corkscrews . . . There was two actors in front of that door, and they’re just as certain that nobody passed them in the dark. If everybody’s right, then the murderer didn’t lam. He’s still with us!"
Inspector Corot admits:
". . . this is a mystery within a mystery. Were we to solve the modus operandi of the murder, we would still be confronted with the problem of the slayer."
The solution, when it comes to the Inspector, arrives in a flash on four legs:
. . . It was on the evening of the third day that the slight figure of the head of the Homicide Squad shot out of the projection room and flashed by so fast that the newspaperman’s frantic dash to the lower street level enabled him only to see the retreating tail-light of the police car. On the silent screen in the dark room something had pointed a finger of guilt at the murderer!
- Amazingly enough, a similar situation arose in a movie at almost the same time; see HERE for more.
- Ullman's FictionMags listing is (HERE).

Category: Thanks to our sleuth's reticence, you'll never figure this one out on your own

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"Old Friendships, However Outworn, Die Hard"

"Notorious Tenant."
By Margery Sharp (1905-91).
First appearance: Collier's Weekly, February 3, 1956.
Filmed in 1962 as The Notorious Landlady (IMDb HERE).
Short short story (6 pages).
Online HERE.
"Sherrard's apartment was his castle; in Cecilia he'd found exactly the right person to sublet it. Or had he? Was she witch or woman, wanton or wonderful?"
In Sherrard's narrow universe, what mattered most wasn't whether or not Cecilia was a murderer but whether she might be something far worse . . .
. . . The first conclusion he came to was that if a nice woman like his Aunt May thought Mrs. Tablet hadn't shot her husband, there must be at least some ground for thinking that she had.  . . .
. . . "It's like a new pin. I took her out to lunch. We talked about you a lot. I should say she's not only a remarkably nice woman, but a fine judge of character."  . . .
Three people you won't find in the original story
. . . Sherrard discovered that he had been deceiving himself. He knew perfectly well why he was uneasy. He was uneasy because while it is one thing to sublet one's flat to a woman who didn't shoot her husband, it is quite another to introduce her, even in absentia, to one's simple but millionaire friend.  . . .
. . . THE preliminaries were fairly banal: on the evening of June 5, 1954, after a cocktail party at their second-floor flat in Cashmere Mansions, Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Tablet violently quarreled. What wasn't so banal was the result: Mr. Tablet being shot dead.  . . .
. . . Sherrard at this point felt considerable sympathy with Mrs. Tablet. There are heroes and heroes—some, in civil life, a damned nuisance . . .
. . . Cecilia Tablet, thought Sherrard, was either an extraordinarily honest woman or else an extraordinarily accomplished liar.  . . .
. . . "Since the case, they've been inseparable. Where Mrs. Tablet goes, there goes Miss Brown also."  . . .
. . . He found it difficult to reach a conclusion. What he'd heard, he now realized, was what, subconsciously, he'd expected to hear—the unpronounceable word as if it were whispered . . .
. . . Sherrard got the point without difficulty. A millionaire's wife's pin money might well keep a Miss Brown in affluence. He found the whole matter extremely distasteful . . .
. . . Malcolm—the signs were only too obvious—was plodding steadily on toward matrimony. And while it is one thing to let one's flat to a woman one doesn't think shot her husband, it is quite another to see her marry one's oldest friend.  . . .
. . . Sherrard stared at her. He had a wide knowledge of human nature (see Profile of a Correspondent in one of the Sunday papers), he had been used all his life to backing his judgment, and successfully, of whatever fellow creatures crossed his path. He still couldn't make up his mind about Mrs. Tablet.  . . .
- Margery Sharp is best-known for her children's fiction, especially The Rescuers series as filmed by Disney; see HERE for her filmography.
- She also wrote for adults; see Wikipedia HERE for more.
- Some of her stories appeared in EQMM in the '40s, '50s, and '60s; see the FictionMags listing HERE.

Category: Did she or didn't she—and if she did, will she do it again?

Monday, October 19, 2015

"It Was All So Needless, So Utterly Stupid!"

"Pay for Your Peanuts."
By Tom Thursday (pseudonym, 1894-1974).
First appearance: Crack Detective, May 1943.
Short short story (6 pages).
Online at Pulpgen HERE.
"Andy Dann was a rookie cop who had unorthodox ideas about the way a police officer should treat the taxpayers. And, whether the rest of the force liked it or not, Andy’s methods paid off!"
A girl can't be held responsible when a man is consumed with jealousy, can she? Snippets:
. . . Farr was lying face to the floor. The two bullet holes in his head were almost within an inch of each other. It couldn't have been suicide because no gun was found.  . . .
. . . The dead attorney was a peanut addict. He had not missed a single day without buying a bag of nuts . . .
. . . strange things happen to the human mind. A person may be an honorable citizen for years; then, a cog misses in his brain, and he or she goes off his base.  . . .
. . . "I understand that it is the duty of all officers to be on the alert and I think I have a sound theory about the murder of Thomas Farr."  . . .
. . . Shafts of moonlight half-lit the apartment. All was quiet. Then his nostrils caught a distinctive odor. There was no other scent precisely like it. Andy knew it was blood.  . . .
- Wikipedia HERE and FictionMags HERE.

Category: Sometimes virtue can be more than its own reward

Sunday, October 18, 2015

"It Is a Difficult Thing, However, to Hush Up As Serious a Matter As Murder, Particularly on Shipboard"

"The Mid-Watch Tragedy."
By Vincent Starrett (1886-1974).
First appearance: Short Stories, June 10, 1925.
Reprinted in Adventure Tales #5, Summer 2008.
Short story (16 pages).
A nice, restful ocean cruise is what Gilruth, Jimmie Lavender's Watson, has prescribed for the weary detective, but when jewels are stolen and murder happens, Lavender must swing into action to resolve it. This is the sixteenth of over forty stories featuring Starrett's favorite character:
. . . My acquaintance with Jimmie Lavender had not been without its practical value, and I had learned to distrust plausible strangers.
. . . Actually, it was the evening of the second day at sea that the first whisper of the trouble I had predicted reached our ears.
. . . "I awoke suddenly—I don't know why I awoke. I suppose I felt someone there. There were little sounds in the room—soft, brushing sounds—and breathing. Light, so light, I could scarcely catch it. It was only for an instant . . ."
. . . There was no particular disorder. The port stood half open, as it had stood through the night, to allow ventilation. On the upholstered wall bench stood the baroness' bags. Her trunk half projected from beneath the bunk. The curtains blew gently with a soft, swishing sound. 
. . . We were a little world of our own, isolated from the rest of civilization by hundreds of miles of salt water; our inhabitants were comparatively few in number, and there was no opportunity whatever of escape. Somewhere in our midst actually moved and ate and slept a man or a woman guilty of a hideous crime of violence; yet not a single clew apparently existed to the identity of that individual.
. . . "The selected victim has been killed, and for the murderer the episode is over. Quite the last thing he would do, unless he is crazy, is kill someone else. What he wants to do now is keep himself a secret, not to advertise himself by further crime. People are funny, Gilly; they don't think. Most murderers are really very safe men to be near, after they have committed their murder."
. . . "It is the sort of case the very simplicity of which makes it difficult; but I believe it is yielding to treatment. I believe, quite honestly, that before long I shall be able to present you with the murderer . . ."
. . . Clearly, there was only one thing for me to do, and that was to watch everybody. I resolved to watch the entire ship from the captain down, not excluding Rittenhouse himself. Since I was to be Lavender's guardian, by Heaven, I would suspect everybody!
. . . "His reputation depended upon his silencing her, at least until he could talk to her. If he had not killed her, he would have offered her—when she caught him in the act of theft—a share of the profits. Unfortunately, she died under his hands; he is stronger than he suspects."
- You can find Starrett's FictionMags Jimmie Lavender listing HERE.
- See our rather superficial survey of Vincent Starrett's output HERE.

Category: Mal de mer

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Try to Remember the Kind of September and If You Remember Then Follow . . .

As an addendum to the last post, we wish to note that ONTOS got its start in September 2013; so it might (or might not) interest you to know what have been the most popular posts in each of the first two Septembers:
This has nothing to do with this post.
September 2013
(1) Julian Symons Reviews Robert Barnard's A TALENT TO DECEIVE HERE.
(2) Detective Fiction — Private Detective vs. Private Eye HERE.
(3) A Collection of Edgar Wallace Thrillers HERE.
(4) Random Internet Comments By and About Poe HERE.
(5) "A Shilling Shocker" HERE.

 September 2014
(1) The Three Dr. Thorndykes HERE.
(2) "The Melodramatic Development of the Latter Pages Stretches the Rubber Band of Suspense to Its Limit. It Might Snap." HERE.
(3) "He Has Discovered At Least One New Trick in the Detective Story Writer's Bag" HERE.
(4) "Beware of Trying to Rouse Our Pity and Terror with a Penny Whistle" HERE.
(5) "Full of Surprises So Varied and Extreme That They Make the Ordinary Flow of Descriptive English Look Rather Foolish" HERE.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

September's Top Five

Here are the five most popular ONTOS posts in September 2015, the five all-time most popular posts, and the top five countries that constitute our audience:
September 2015
(1) A Not-So-Nice Example of the Locked Room Mystery HERE.
(3) SCRIBNER'S Reviews V HERE.
(4) True Crime from Erle Stanley Gardner HERE.
(5) "Where Is Alice?" HERE.

All-Time Top Five
(1) "A Book Remarkable for Completeness, Accuracy, and Infallible Soundness of Judgment" HERE.
(2) "A Thoroughly First Rate Detective Story, Rapid, Absorbing, and Credible" HERE.
(3) Not Quite So Idiosyncratic HERE.
(4) Julian Symons Reviews Robert Barnard's A TALENT TO DECEIVE HERE.
(5) Detective Fiction — Private Detective vs. Private Eye HERE.

Top Five Countries
(1) United States
(2) Ukraine
(3) France
(4) Germany
(5) China

We thank all of you regular (and irregular) visitors to ONTOS, wherever you may live, and hope you'll drop in often.

A Good Idea Ahead of Its Time . . .

. . . was Alphonse Bertillon's system of anthropometry. It's too bad Alphonse (1853-1914) didn't have the one thing that would make his system a true success—the modern electronic computer:
IT is not generally known by the honest public how large a number of malefactors have recourse to concealment of identity. We may assert without exaggeration that there is not a single habitual criminal who does not seek to hide his individuality when the circumstances of his arrest permit.
The immensity of modern cities and the increasing facility of communication make this course more and more easy. International criminals, such as bank-robbers and pick-pockets, traverse two continents, changing their names from country to country. The greater, therefore, becomes the necessity of some methodical system of identification.  . . . — Alphonse Bertillon, "The Bertillon System of Identification," THE FORUM, May 1891 (12 pages; online HERE)
- Our position here at ONTOS is that you can't attach morals to technology, and that people who set out to use (for examples) biometrics, steak knives, or guns to harm others are abusing things which can actually preserve and improve life.
- Wikipedia articles about Bertillon (an odd character alleged to be a forger) HERE, biometrics HERE, and anthropometry HERE, plus Bertillon's book HERE (456 pages) and related pieces HERE (4 pages), HERE (2 pages, about the triumph of dactyloscopy over anthropometry), and HERE (a 2013 article casting doubt on the reliability of dactyloscopy because of Bertillon's alleged forgeries).

B & E

How much muscle would your average burglar need to pull off his nefarious deed? Leave it to Bertillon (who else?) to seek to answer that very question. Excerpts:
ALPHONSE BERTILLON, chief of the anthropometric service of the Paris police, and inventor of the system of measuring criminals that bears his name, believes that, in the elucidation of crime, the more exact facts we collect, and the more methodically we seek, verify, and give a logical grouping to the evidence, the greater is our chance of discovering the true cause and the perpetrator of the crime.
He has recently invented a special dynamometer to facilitate judicial investiga-tion by furnishing measurements of the muscular efforts made by a burglar in entering a house, room, or desk, and making it possible to reproduce the traces left by the burglar on doors and furniture. The device consists of a steel frame to which may be attached two dynamometers of unequal power.  . . .
. . . The idea of employing a dynamometer in the study of burglary appears so simple, that it is surprizing that it was not done long ago. Henceforth judicial inquiries will be guided by the results of a series of experiments which will furnish points of reference. From measurements made with the Bertillon dynamometer, it is possible to discover whether the burglarious entrance was effected by a man, a woman, a child, or several persons.  . . . — "A Measure of Burglarious Effort," THE LITERARY DIGEST, July 23, 1910 (2 pages; online HERE)
Après vous, Alphonse

Category: True crime

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

"One of the Strangest Cases Dr. Jerrodby Sparrow Ever Tangled In"

"Murder on Gibraltar."
By Theodore Roscoe (1906-92).
Novelette (25 pages).
Found in Argosy Weekly, February 24, 1934.
Parental notice: Strong language.
Online HERE.
"Death and horror were storming the mighty Rock of Gibraltar and striking down the garrison . . ."
Dr. Jerrodby Sparrow, attempting to enjoy a relaxing ocean cruise, and his erstwhile collaborator, Sir Henry Macklington, Inspector C.I.D., must work to solve an especially messy series of murders, coming close to getting murdered themselves:
". . . there's hell to pay, Jerrodby; and there hasn't been such hell since the British stormed and captured the place under Rooke. The last time you saw me was in a morgue in America, right enough. Well, I'm in one again, here and now—in Gibraltar. And I hope to Heaven you'll help me out!"  . . .
. . . Murder had struck through the Pillars of Hercules, at the strongest fortress in the world. On the frowning cliffs above the little town a colonel's wife, the colonel himself, and a major had been shot down. Scotland Yard had come, because the killing guns weren't pistols, but cannon. Also, because death had struck in daylight and had left no trail. Because blasts were fired by a hand unseen, from guns that hadn't spoken for three hundred years.  . . .
. . . "There was blood," he whispered. "It was spattered all over the stones; all over the blocks on either side of the gunport; everywhere. The body was found halfway down the cliff, on an old, unused gallery far below. Blown right over the wall, by gad! Not enough left of it to put in a coffin!"  . . .
. . . "Five days later, after a whirlwind investigation that led nowhere, the old commander declared it to be a case of accidental death. And then—"  . . .
. . . "The man was riddled—body in tatters—chest filled with bits 'of slag iron, nails, chunks of bottle glass, and even stones. You can load those old pieces of ordnance with anything, it seems." . . .
. . . "Murder in the British army is no joke, you know."  . . .
. . . "Any one within a radius of ten feet would have caught it. A fearful blast, like shrapnel. The man got a fragment through his brain.—Two minutes later, half the post was on the scene. Nobody was seen leaving the vicinity. No witnesses. Not a clue. No message on the dead man. Nothing."  . . .
. . . "And this is Gibraltar—Gibraltar! The proudest stronghold under the Union Jack, smelling of murder and uproar. I tell you, Jerrodby, it's a blow at the whole Empire."  . . .
. . . "You're the smartest medical examiner and the shrewdest criminologist in the business, Jerrodby Sparrow."  . . .
. . . That the ancient guns of the long vanished Moors should thunder among those walls again was something to make a man look over his shoulder, even a one-eyed detective on vacation. Something to give him pause.  . . .
. . . Floor, cliff wall and railing were spattered crimson, as if some prankish hand had scattered a can of red paint. Wind sweeping out of the sky played with the dead man's white hair and carried a scent of scorched metal and powder burns . . .
. . . It was like the entrance to a tomb, or the opening into a pyramid a thousand feet in the sky.  . . .
. . . "How about it, Scotland Yard? Ain't it true you been sayin' it's some one those as was murdered would trust? Didn't you say it was a man they'd never be suspicious of supposin' he was standin' by the gun-breech?"  . . .
. . . It was touch-and-go, with hot lead crooning in that inner dusk of the corridor. Darting around blind corners. Galloping across open stone spans. Playing hare and hounds on the crust of that towering mountain.  . . .
. . . "The mind is an extremely delicate mechanism, Sir Henry. We've scarcely scratched the surface in the study of it."  . . .
. . . "I can see it, all right. Harris, the young lieutenant, blundering into that scene of murder in the tent. He sees the three officers standing around the body, maybe robbing the pay money. There's the girl—his fiancee—with the red knife—his knife—in her fist. Something snaps in his brain."  . . .
- Theodore Roscoe was the subject of a book that Mystery Scene magazine briefly reviewed HERE.
- Wikipedia HERE, GAD Wiki HERE, and FictionMags HERE.

Category: Still another improbable crime that depends too much on perfect timing

Monday, October 12, 2015

Four More for EQ and One That Didn't Make It

"What a Pal!"
By Hugh MacNair Kahler (1883-1969).
Found in Collier’s Weekly, April 18, 1931.
Short short short story (1 page).
Reprinted in EQMM: Overseas Edition for the Armed Forces, May 1946 and EQMM (Australia), May 1949.
Online HERE.
If you plan to doublecross somebody, be sure to think it through first:
. . . "What a pal you turned out to be, Butch! What a pal!" . . .
Found in Collier’s Weekly, July 8, 1933.
Short short short story (1 page).
Reprinted in EQMM: Overseas Edition for the Armed Forces, January 1946, EQMM, January 1947, and EQMM (Australia), May 1949.
Online HERE.
People who can't carry a tune should never commit murder:
. . . He was squat and beefy and bull-necked; there was cruelty in his small, deep-set eyes and in the lines about his mouth. He looked as if he loved his trade of sending men to prison and to death, and Martin Dole, studying him, told himself that it wasn't any wonder that so many crooks and killers were ready to confess when they'd gone into the back room with Carney to see the pieces of rubber hose which Carney playfully called goldfish.  . . .
By Hugh MacNair Kahler (1883-1969).
Found in Collier’s Weekly, February 27, 1937.
Short short short story (1 page).
Reprinted in EQMM, September 1943, EQMM: Overseas Edition for the Armed Forces, May 1945, and EQMM (Australia), September 1948.
Online HERE.
Usually the simplest solution is the best; just ask Skinner:
. . . He leaned back and lighted a cigarette. His hands were cupped about the match when somebody came around behind the car, a gun barrel poked through the window and a mild Southern drawl invited him almost amiably to keep 'em up.  . . .
By Hugh MacNair Kahler (1883-1969).
Found in Collier’s Weekly, December 3, 1938.
Short short short story (1 page).
Reprinted in EQMM: Overseas Edition for the Armed Forces, April 1946 and EQMM (Australia), January 1949.
Online HERE.
If you're a criminal, you can never, ever, ever relax:
. . . He was still grinning, with his hands still on the steering grips, when the first slug struck him . . .
By Hugh MacNair Kahler (1883-1969).
Found in Collier's Weekly, August 24, 1929.
Short short short story (4 pages).
Online beginning HERE and finishing HERE (scroll down to page 48).
"One trivial detail overlooked has spoiled many a perfect crime. This is the story of a criminal who decided to overlook nothing . . ."
They say you should expect the unexpected, words to live—and avoid the electric chair—by, as this murderer learns too late:
. . . Certainly luck, as far as such a thing existed, was on his side.  . . .
. . . the record was full of well-laid plans brought to grief because their inventors fled from dangers instead of facing them. . . .
. . . "I'm apt to be alive and kicking a long time after they hang you . . ."
. . . The reason his plans moved smoothly was because he'd thought them all the way out.  . . .
. . . They had a word for it, the word-loving lawyers; he groped for it as his fingers dealt nimbly with the fat pea pods. Accessory. That was it. Accessory before the fact and, far more inportant, after the fact as well.  . . .
. . . The sickness gave way, now, to a revival of the blind desire to kill, an unreasoning hunger that was like the craving of choked lungs for breath.  . . .
. . . It seemed unreasonable that such a thing could be done so easily; the way people talked and wrote about it there ought to be something more impressive about killing a man than just three or four swings of the arm!  . . .
. . . When he went out of this room he would know to the minute how long there would be a light behind the drawn window shade.  . . .
. . . "I have been asking him why, with three other taxi drivers to choose from, he should hire a sheriff's deputy to drive him to and from a murder. It was either very clever, as I see it, or very stupid."  . . .
Notice how the middle name is spelled.
- We have previously encountered other micronarratives by Hugh MacNair Kahler HERE.

Category: Brevity is the soul of crime

Saturday, October 10, 2015

"This Room of Death Grew Slowly Darker"

By Jeffery Farnol (1878-1952).
Found in Collier's Weekly, May 11, 1929.
Reprinted in EQMM, July 1946.
Short short short story (4 pages).
Online beginning HERE and finishing HERE (scroll down to page 44).
"Who killed Sir Gregory Glendale? Jasper Shrig had to find out quickly; but clues were so scarce that he had to help make them himself . . ."
Out of a house full of suspects, Jasper Shrig tracks down the murderer by following his, well, tracks:
. . . "DEAD!" she cried in awful, gasping voice.  . . .
. . . A stately chamber whose luxurious comfort was rendered cozier by the bright fire that flickered on the hearth with soft, cheery murmur; and before this fire a great, cushioned chair from which was thrust a limp arm that dangled helplessly with a drooping hand whose long, curving fingers seemed to grope at the deep carpet.  . . .
. . . "Killed by a downward stab above the collar-bone, lookee, in the properest place for it. . . . A knife or, say a dagger and same wanished . . ."
. . . "By heaven, there seems to be some curse upon this house, some horrible fate that dogs us Glendales!" . . .
. . . "I'm Death-in-Life, a living corpse, live brain in dead body—look at me!"  . . .
. . . A faint, faint rattle at the door and into the room crept a sound of soft movement with another sound very strange to hear—a crunching rustle that stole across the carpet towards the hearth; a moving, shapeless blot against the feeble fire-glow, a faint tinkle of china and then a voice sudden and harsh and loud . . .
"The Shadow."
By Jeffery Farnol (1878-1952).
Found in Collier's Weekly, April 7, 1928.
Reprinted in EQMM, June 1950.
Short short short story (1 page).
Online HERE.
. . . "You be th' ninth as 'e've stopped 'ereabouts this month—nine, sir! And two on 'em shot stone dead and five on 'em wounded! Desprit, sir—I should say so! A bloodthirsty rogue is the Shadder!"  . . .
"The Rook."
By Jeffery Farnol (1878-1952).
Found in Collier's Weekly, July 27, 1929.
Short short short story (1 page).
Reprinted in EQMM, June 1950.
Online HERE.
. . . Reaching for the bell-rope, Sir Robert paused as from the road came sudden hubbub, loud voices . . . a noise of horses . . . and then, clear-ringing on the stilly evening air, a sharp report, followed by others in rapid succession.  . . .
- Wikipedia talks about Jeffery Farnol HERE and the GAD Wiki does the same HERE ("His detective stories feature Regency thief-taker Jasper Shrig"), and one of his books is unfavorably reviewed HERE by Jon Jermey.

Category: Regency deviltry

Friday, October 9, 2015

"Something Had, Obviously, Gone Wrong"

"The Last Trick."
By John B. Kennedy (1894-1961).
Found in Collier's Weekly, February 2, 1929.
Short short short story (3 pages).
Online HERE.
"The Great Alexander was a very clever man. But even he slipped—just once ..."
Sufficiently motivated, people will do almost anything; could $150,000 be enough motivation to kill a man in a fiery conflagration in front of hundreds of people?
. . . Flames spread outward and upward, smoke broke in wisps from black draperies, which curled and spat out other flames. These rippled swiftly along a hanging sky-piece, and suddenly there were shouts and the rush of feet on the stage. The asbestos shot down, and ushers ran the aisles warning the stirring crowd to go carefully to the exits. With the bite of smoke in their nostrils the crowd obeyed, while alarms sounded. And as the frightened spectators tumbled into the afternoon sunshine the clanging of fire apparatus greeted them.  . . .
- Here we have a crime author with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; see Wikipedia HERE.
- Almost all of John B. Kennedy's output was published in Collier's; see the FictionMags index HERE.
- A couple of other crime stories involving stage magic and a dogged detective, both of them Columbo TV episodes, are outlined HERE and HERE.

Category: Tricky

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

"A Master of the Psychology of Fear, of the Torments of the Crime-Burdened Conscience"

IN the field of crime and mystery fiction one normally doesn't associate the name of Thomas Burke—mainly remembered for his superlative "The Hands of Mr. Ottermole"—with the pulps, but during the '30s, '40s, and '50s quite a few of his stories saw reprintings in pulp mags, including EQMM and AHMM:

"The Knight-Errant."
By Thomas Burke (1886-1945).
First appearance: Colour, May 1916.
Reprinted in Limehouse Nights (1916) and Mystery and Detection, May 1935.
"The Paw."
By Thomas Burke (1886-1945).
First appearance: Limehouse Nights (1916).
Reprinted in Mystery and Detection, June 1935.
"Tai Fu and Pansy Greers."
By Thomas Burke (1886-1945).
First appearance: Limehouse Nights (1916).
Reprinted in Mystery and Detection, July 1935.
"Haunted Murderer" (a.k.a. "The Yellow Imps").
By Thomas Burke (1886-1945).
First appearance: Pleasantries of Old Quong (1931).
Reprinted in The Saint Detective Magazine, February 1958.
"The Hollow Man."
By Thomas Burke (1886-1945).
First appearance: Collier's Weekly, October 14, 1933.
Reprinted in Avon Fantasy Reader, March 1947 and Argosy, November 1953.
"The Watcher."
By Thomas Burke (1886-1945).
First appearance: Night-Pieces (1935).
Reprinted in Rex Stout’s Mystery Monthly, May 1947.
"The Bloomsbury Wonder."
By Thomas Burke (1886-1945).
Reprinted in EQMM, May 1942.

"Roses Round the Door."
By Thomas Burke (1886-1945).
First appearance: Dark Nights (1944).
Reprinted in EQMM, May 1946 (online HERE).
"The Hands of Mr. Ottermole."
By Thomas Burke (1886-1945).
First appearance: The Story-Teller, February 1929.
Reprinted in EQMM, January 1950 (online HERE) and EQ's Anthology #59, Fall 1988; adapted for TV (see HERE) and radio (see HERE); GAD Wiki HERE (Warning: SPOILERS).
Online HERE (18 text pages, PDF).
"The New Hat" (1926).
By Thomas Burke (1886-1945).
Reprinted in EQMM, July 1951 (online HERE).
"The Pariah."
By Thomas Burke (1886-1945).
First appearance: Vanity Fair, January 1920.
Reprinted in EQMM, January 1954 (online HERE).
"Johnson Looked Back."
By Thomas Burke (1886-1945).
First appearance: Night-Pieces (1935).
Reprinted in AHHM, June 1984.
By Thomas Burke (1886-1945).
Longman's, Green & Co.
1936. 177 pages. $2.00

Full review:
True tale of murder of card sharper Wm. Weare by John Thurtell in 1820's and its sad consequence. - A brilliant bit of sporting England and flash life in London handled with artistry and restraint. - Verdict: For connoisseurs. — "The Criminal Record," THE SATURDAY REVIEW (May 9, 1936; review HERE).
By Thomas Burke (1886-1945).
Collection: 18 stories.
1935. 309 pages. $2.50
(Among dealers right now the popular asking price for a first edition is $450.)

1. "Miracle in Suburbia"
2. "Yesterday Street"
3. "Funspot"
4. "Uncle Ezekiel's Long Sight"
5. "The Horrible God"
6. "Father and Son"
7. "Johnson Looked Back"
8. "Two Gentlemen"
9. "The Black Courtyard"
10. "The Gracious Ghosts"
11. "Jack Wapping"
12. "One Hundred Pounds"
13. "The Man Who Lost His Head"
14. "Murder Under the Crooked Spire"
15. "The Lonely Inn"
16. "The Watcher"
17. "Events at Wayless-Wagtail"
18. "The Hollow Man"

Full review:
To those readers who still like to have a storyteller tell a story, these eighteen tales by Thomas Burke are recommended. They are in the neat and well-tailored tradition of the British short story as practiced by Maugham and Walpole and Chesterton. Many of them recount sinister adventures laid in the Limehouse district, in the docks and taverns and dim alleyways along the London water-front. Mr. Burke is a master of the psychology of fear, of the torments of the crime-burdened conscience. In this volume he ventures now and again into the realm of the supernatural; though there is nothing fuzzy or mystical about even his supernaturalism. "The Lonely Inn" is pretty close to a masterpiece of this kind of thing. Also worthy of note is "Uncle Ezekiel’s Long Sight", a humorous anecdote with a gruesome twist of irony. — "The Check List: Fiction," THE AMERICAN MERCURY (June 1936; review HERE).
- You can find Limehouse Nights (containing "The Knight-Errant," "The Paw," and "Tai Fu and Pansy Greers") online HERE.
- Wikipedia HERE, FictionMags HERE, ISFDb HERE.

Category: "The psychology of fear"