Wednesday, December 30, 2015

"Man Likes to Break Laws, and I Suspect That Secretly His Heart Goes with the Daring Villain Who Breaks the Law and Escapes the Penalty": Reviews from THE BOOKMAN IV

"Murder Will Out!"
By Charles McMorris Purdy (?-?).
From The Bookman, October 1928.
Online HERE.

Our reviewer at The Bookman registers his complaints about a trend in mystery fiction that still hasn't gone away and isn't likely to:
. . . I doubt if I will ever live to see the day when a mystery-story will allow me the pleasure of a villain who is without virtue, kindness or any other, exceptional characteristics, who shall commit the most heinous of murders and shall not avoid lawful penalty by a little squib of deadly poison carried conveniently in a large seal ring, in a vest pocket, or under his finger nails, or by jumping or driving off a cliff into the sea, but shall be conducted to a good, standard death house and after the necessary electric interval shall be pronounced by an astoundingly large committee of medical men: dead, dead, dead!
More than a trend, it seems to be the new normal:
. . . let me bring to your attention the incredible fact that, in four-fifths of the novels under consideration, the murderer evades the ultimate decree of the law. And in the stray one-fifth, only one penalty is recorded as having been fully paid. If one reads mystery stories singly, this commentary on present day murder fiction is not obvious; but when, night after night, the guilty cheat legal retribu-tion, one wakes to this curious weakness of mystery story writers—or readers. For I am not certain that the mystery-story reader is not responsible for the murderer's evasion of legal death.
People, he insists, are born scofflaws:
. . . Just as ultimate escape is sought for the characters of our "happy" fiction so is the illegal escape of a perfectly good murderer expected, and perhaps, relished, in the murder-mystery story. For man likes to break laws, and I suspect that secretly his heart goes with the daring villain who breaks the law and escapes the penalty. What matter if he defeats justice only to do away with himself by his own hand? What if murderers be trapped by tides, to die a lingering death? The law is not paid in terms of the law. And the reader, although perhaps he may not admit it, inwardly gloats. The reality of life is defeated: the murderer escapes!  . . .
As to the books, there are some Golden Age classics that have either never been out of print or, thanks to the rise of e-books, are making a comeback:

~ The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie (1890-1976):
. . . by the time the actual crime is committed, one is so well acquainted with the characters in the story that the crime becomes almost personal, which is about the best tribute one can pay to a mystery storywriter.  . . .
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - ISFDb HERE

~ The Sea Mystery by Freeman Wills Crofts (1879-1957):
. . . Mr. Crofts lacks the imagination of Mrs. Christie, but his plot structure is more thorough . . .
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - ISFDb HERE

~ Mystery at Lynden Sands by J. J. Connington (1880-1947):
. . . Inspector French and Sir Clinton have much in common through general lack of picturesqueness, but while the former is at least a plodding and effectual human, Sir Clinton has little to recommend him.  . . .
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - ISFDb HERE

~ The Missing Partners by Henry Wade (1887-1969):
. . . The disclosure of the guilty one comes as a distinct surprise; it is one of the few times in the course of reading these stories that I had no inkling toward the close of a tale as to the identity of the murderer, and I entertain a sneaking suspicion that the author hasn't quite played an honest game with his readers. The end has the same psychologically illogical taint that The Greene Murder Case carried with it. The novel has one point in its favor, though, and that is that there is no Philo Vance in it.  . . .
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE 

~ The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957):
. . . Miss Sayers's mysteries are never intricate, but provide enjoyable enough reading—amusing, that is, if you can enjoy Lord Peter, who is what Philo Vance might have been if he had been amusing.  . . .
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - ISFDb HERE

~ Death in the Dusk by Virgil Markham (1899-1973):
. . . In spite of the author's irritating habit of going around in circles of description, and neglecting to clear minor points which might have been explained to better advantage—especially in those passages concerning the motive of the murderer—his story stands out in my mind above all the others in this list.  . . .
GAD Wiki HERE - Beneath the Stains of Time review HERE - ISFDb HERE

~ The Black House in Harley Street by J. S. Fletcher (1863-1935):
. . . What a perfect villain a doctor, with his opportunities for good and evil, can be is made evident [in this book].  . . .
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - ISFDb HERE

~ The Strange Case of "William" Cook by Richard Keverne (1882-1950):
... [a book that relies] less on the sensational, and more on the psychological ...

~ The Quartz Eye by Henry Kitchell Webster (1875-1932):
. . . centers about [sic] an antique dealer . . .
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - ISFDb HERE

~ The Secret of Mohawk Pond by Natalie Sumner Lincoln (1881-1935):
. . . It has the same strange charm that our childhood adventure stories had—the silent Indian, snakes in the grass, and a villain behind every tree.  . . .

~ Hurrying Feet by Frederic F. Van de Water (1890-1968):
. . . another outdoor mystery, written in an equally lurid style, but not unabsorbing . . .
Wikipedia HERE

~ Scissors Cut Paper by Gerard Fairlie (1899-1983):
. . . has thrills, but unless you are terribly unsophisticated in your mystery story reading, the improbabilities will down you.  . . .
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE

~ The Patriot by A. E. (?-?) and H. C. Walter (?-?):
. . . the author asks one to believe in a murderer who murders for the good of his country, and, uncaught in the end, is about to return to native England to wreak further vengeance. Here is where the escape motive leaves me enraged.
~ Sing Sing Nights by Harry Stephen Keeler (1890-1967):
. . . the author fails only through the overweaving of his plots . . .
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - ISFDb HERE

~ The Man in the Dark by John Ferguson (1873-?):
. . . the reader's point of view is that of a blind man's. An interesting experiment, and worth reading.  . . .

~ The Red Scar by Anthony Wynne (1882-1963):
. . . what might have been a good murder story is frustrated by the manner of presentation.  . . .
GAD Wiki HERE - Beneath the Stains of Time HERE ISFDb HERE

~ The Seven Sisters by Jean Lilly (?-?):
. . . capably written, and with an appeal to those who do not care for too much blood and thunder.  . . .
As for horror stories, which usually were and still are often lumped in with detective and mystery fiction, reviewer Purdy urges us to make allowances:
. . . Uncanny mystery stories hold a corner of the field all their own, and cannot rightly be judged with their more deductive brethren. One must be prepared to accept the supernatural and the abnormal without too much questioning.  . . .
~ The Beast with Five Fingers by William Fryer Harvey (1885-1937):
. . . good for a spine chilling . . .
Wikipedia HERE - Online HERE - Movie version described HERE - ISFDb HERE
~ The Runagates Club by John Buchan (1875-1940):
. . . I am sorry to report that this latest volume of Mr. Buchan's contains few of the qualities which brought him so great a circle of readers.  . . .
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - ISFDb HERE

~ The Six Proud Walkers by Francis Beeding (1885-1944/1898-1951):
. . . The mystery of the Six Proud Walkers, who navigate about the Catacombs of Rome, left me afraid of my own shadow.  . . .
Wikipedia HERE and HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - ISFDb HERE and HERE

~ Lafcadio's Adventures by Andre Gide (1869-1951):
. . . the amazing hero performed a perfectly cold-blooded murder . . .
Wikipedia HERE

- Our last visit with another Bookman's mystery fiction reviewer is HERE.

Category: Detective fiction criticism

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"Every Man Has Within Him the Seed of His Own Salvation"

By E. K. Jarvis (house pseudonym).
First appearance: Fantastic Adventures, February 1951.
Reprinted in Fantastic Adventures (U.K.), May 1951.
Short story (10 pages).
Online HERE.
"In anger, Roker had killed the girl he loved; yet the penalty for his crime was life and happiness—in a new world!"
A desperate man is Charles Roker, a wanted criminal on the run:
. . . They called him the Dillinger of 1990, they hunted him as Dillinger had been hunted in the old days.  . . .
Now Roker scurries through the decaying ruins of Old Chicago intent on revenge for being betrayed by the only person he's ever cared for:
. . . An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and death for a doublecross.  . . .
And he gets it . . . but he also gets something that he could never have anticipated.

Sidebar: Can criminals be "cured"? One online source puts it this way:
The concept of rehabilitation rests on the assumption that criminal behavior is caused by some factor. This perspective does not deny that people make choices to break the law, but it does assert that these choices are not a matter of pure "free will." Instead, the decision to commit a crime is held to be deter-mined, or at least heavily influenced, by a person's social surroundings, psychological development, or biological makeup. People are not all the same—and thus free to express their will—but rather are different. These "individual differences" shape how people behave, including whether they are likely to break the law. When people are characterized by various "criminogenic risk factors"—such as a lack of parental love and supervision, exposure to delinquent peers, the internalization of antisocial values, or an impulsive temperament—they are more likely to become involved in crime than people not having these experiences and traits.  . . .
This sounds like the old "nature or nurture" argument that's been going on from time immemorial:
. . . The rehabilitation model "makes sense" only if criminal behavior is caused and not merely a freely willed, rational choice. If crime were a matter of free choices, then there would be nothing within particular individuals to be "fixed" or changed. But if involvement in crime is caused by various factors, then logically re-offending can be reduced if correctional interventions are able to alter these factors and how they have influenced offenders. For example, if associations with delinquent peers cause youths to internalize crime-causing beliefs (e.g., "It is okay to steal"), then diverting youths to other peer groups and changing these beliefs can inhibit their return to criminal behavior.
Sometimes rehabilitation is said to embrace a "medical model." When people are physically ill, the causes of their illness are diagnosed and then "treated." Each person's medical problems may be different and the treatment will differ accordingly; that is, the medical intervention is individualized. Thus, people with the same illness may, depending on their personal conditions (e.g., age, prior health), receive different medicines and stay in the hospital different lengths of time. Correctional rehabilitation shares the same logic: Causes are to be uncovered and treatments are to be individualized. This is why rehabilitation is also referred to as "treatment."  . . . (Full article HERE)
The author of "Rebirth" seems to favor the "medical model" and the type of rehabilitation that Doc Savage, for example, employed:
. . . In earlier stories, some of the criminals captured by Doc receive "a delicate brain operation" to cure their criminal tendencies. These criminals return to society, unaware of their past, to lead productive lives. The operation is mentioned in Truman Capote's novel In Cold Blood, as an older Kansan recalls Doc's "fixing" of the criminals he had caught. (Wikipedia HERE)
- The "E. K. Jarvis" FictionMags listing is HERE, and a more extensive one is HERE at the ISFDb. Neither source can identify the big name author who may have been hiding behind the "Jarvis" cognomen.
- Whoever he was, we had an encounter with him HERE not long ago.

The bottom line: I've always hated criminals and crime. Life is hard enough without someone walking into your life on purpose and making it worse.
Pauley Perrette

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

"This Was a Curious Thing — The Whole Crux to the Mystery Lay in It"

"Sherlock Holmes and the Drood Mystery."
By Edmund Pearson (1880-1937).
First appearance: Boston Evening Transcript, April 2, 1913.
Incorporated into The Secret Book (1914).
Reprinted in The Game Is Afoot (1995) and The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories (2015).
Short short story (~ 9 pages).
Reproduced in full below.
For some reason we just can't escape from Edwin Drood. Recently we had Harry Smith dispatching Sherlock Holmes to solve the case (see HERE), having forgotten that Edmund Pearson did the same thing a decade before:


   "Watson," said Sherlock Holmes, beaming at me across the breakfast table, "can you decipher character from handwriting?"
   He held an envelope toward me as he spoke. I took the envelope and glanced at the superscription. It was addressed to Holmes at our lodging in Baker Street. I tried to remember something of an article I had read on the subject of handwriting.
   "The writer of this," I said, "was a modest self-effacing person, and one of wide knowledge, and considerable ability. He — "
   "Excellent, Watson, excellent! Really, you outdo yourself. Your reading is quite Watsonian, in fact. I fear, however, you are a bit astray as to his modesty, knowledge, and so on. As a matter of fact, this letter is from Mr. Thomas Sapsea."
   "The famous Mayor of Cloisterham?"
   "Quite so. And for pomposity, egregious conceit coupled with downright ignorance, he has not his peer in England. So you did not score a bull's-eye there, my dear fellow."
   "But what does he want of you?" I asked, willing to change the subject. "He isn't going to engage you to solve the mystery of Edwin Drood?"
  "That is precisely what he is doing. He is all at sea in the matter. Come, what do you say to a run down to Cloisterham? We can look into this matter to oblige the mayor, and take a ramble through the cathedral. I'm told they have some very fine gargoyles."
* * *
   An hour later, we were seated in a train for Cloisterham. Holmes had been looking through the morning papers. Now he threw them aside, and turned to me.
   "Have you followed this Drood case?" he asked.
   I replied that I had read many of the accounts and some of the speculations on the subject.
   "I have not followed it as attentively as I should have liked," he returned; "the recent little affair of Colonel Raspopoff and the czarina's rubies has occupied me thoroughly of late. Suppose you go over the chief facts — it will help clear my mind."
   "The facts are these," I said. "Edwin Drood, a young engineer about to leave for Egypt, had two attractions in Cloisterham. One was his affianced wife — a young school­girl named Miss Rosa. Bud. The other was his devoted uncle and guardian, Mr. John Jasper. The latter is choirmaster of the cathedral. There were, it seems, two clouds over his happiness. One of these was the fact that his betrothal to Miss Bud — an arrangement made by their respective parents while Edwin and Rosa were small children — was not wholly to the liking of either of the principals. They had, indeed, come to an agreement, only a few days before Edwin Drood's disappearance, to terminate the engagement. They parted, it is believed, on friendly, if not affectionate terms.
   "The other difficulty lay in the presence, in Cloisterham, of one Neville Landless — a young student from Ceylon. Landless has, it seems, a strain of Oriental blood in his nature — he is of dark complexion and fiery temper. Actual quarrels had occurred between the two, with some violence on Landless's part. To restore them to friendship, however, Mr. Jasper, the uncle of Edwin, arranged for a dinner in his rooms on Christmas Eve, at which they were to be the only guests. The dinner took place, everything passed off amicably, and the two left, together, late in the evening, to walk to the river, and view the great storm which was raging. After that they parted — according to Landless — and Drood has never been seen again. His uncle raised the alarm next morning. Landless was detained, and questioned, while a thorough search was made for the body of Drood. Beyond the discovery of his watch and pin in the weir, nothing has been found. Landless had to be released for lack of evidence, but the feeling in Cloisterham was so strong against him that he had to leave. He is thought to be in London."
   "H'm," remarked Holmes, "who found the watch and pin?"
   "A Mr. Crisparkle, minor canon of the cathedral. Landless was living in his house, and reading with him. I may add that Landless has a sister — Miss Helena — who has also come to London."
   "H'm," said Holmes. "Well, here we are at Cloisterham. We can now pursue our investiga-tions on the spot. We will go to see Mr. Sapsea, the mayor."
* * *
   Mr. Sapsea proved to be exactly the pompous Tory jackass that Holmes had described. He had never been out of Cloisterham, and his firm conviction of the hopeless inferiority of all the world outside England was so thoroughly provincial that I suspected him of some connection with the "Saturday Review." He was strong in his belief that young Neville Landless had murdered Drood and thrown his body into the river. And his strongest reason for this belief lay in the complexion of Land­less.
   "It is un-English, Mr. Holmes," said he, "it's un-English and when I see a face that is un-English, I know what to sus­pect of that face."
   "Quite so," said Holmes; "I suppose that everything was done to find the body?"
   "Everything, Mr. Holmes, everything that my — er — knowledge of the world could possibly suggest. Mr. Jasper was unwearied in his efforts. In fact he was worn out by his exertions."
   "No doubt his grief at the disappearance of his nephew had something to do with that, as well."
   "No doubt of it at all."
   "Landless, I hear, is in London?"
   "So I understand, sir, so I understand. But Mr. Crisparkle, his former tutor, has given me — in my capacity as magistrate — assurances that he can be produced at any moment. At present he can be found by applying to Mr. Grewgious, at Staple Inn. Mr. Grewgious is a guardian of the young lady to whom Edwin Drood was betrothed."
   Holmes made a note of Mr. Grewgious's name and address on his shirtcuff. We then rose to depart.
   "I see," said the mayor, "that you are thinking of paying a call on this un-English person in London. That is where you will find a solution of the mystery, I can assure you."
   "It is probable that I shall have occasion to run up to London this evening," said Holmes, "though I believe that Dr. Watson and I will stroll about Cloisterham a bit, first. I want to inspect your gargoyles."
   When we were outside, Holmes's earliest remark was, "But I think we had better have a little chat with Mr. John Jasper."
* * *
   We were directed to Mr. Jasper's rooms, in the gatehouse, by a singularly obnoxious boy, whom we found in the street, flinging stones at the passers-by.
   "That's Jasper's," said he, pointing for an instant toward the arch, and then proceeding with his malevolent pastime.
   "Thanks," said Holmes, shortly, giving the imp sixpence, "here's something for you. And here," he continued, reversing the boy over his knee, and giving him a sound spanking, "here is something else for you."
* * *
   On inquiry it appeared that Mr. Jasper was at home. He would see us, said the landlady, but she added that "the poor gentleman was not well."
   "Indeed?" said Holmes. "What's the matter?"
   "He do be in a sort of daze, I think."
   "Well, well, this gentleman is a doctor — perhaps he can prescribe."
   And with that we went up to Mr. Jasper's room. That gentleman had recovered, apparently, from his daze, for we heard him chanting choir music, as we stood outside the door. Holmes, whose love for music is very keen, was enraptured, and insisted on standing for several moments, while the low and sweet tones of the choirmaster's voice, accompanied by the notes of a piano, floated out to us. At last we knocked and the singer admitted us.
   Mr. Jasper was a dark-whiskered gentleman who dwelt in a gloomy sort of room. He had, himself, a gloomy and reserved manner. Holmes introduced us both, and informed Mr. Jasper that he was in Cloisterham at the request of the mayor, Mr. Sapsea, to look up some points in connection with the disappearance of Edwin Drood.
   "Meaning his murder?" inquired Mr. Jasper.
   "The word I used," said Holmes, "was disappearance."
   "The word I used," returned the other, "was murder. But I must beg to be excused from all discussion of the death of my dear boy. I have taken a vow to discuss it with no one, until the assassin is brought to justice."
   "I hope," said Holmes, "that if there is an assassin, I may have the good fortune — "
   "I hope so, too. Meanwhile — " and Mr. Jasper moved toward the door, as if to usher us out. Holmes tried to question him about the events of Christmas Eve, prior to the young man's disappearance, but Mr. Jasper said that he had made his statement before the mayor, and had nothing to add.
   "Surely," said Holmes, "I have seen you before, Mr. Jasper?"
   Mr. Jasper thought not.
   "I feel almost positive," said my friend; "in London, now — you come to London at times, I take it?"
   Perhaps. But he had never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Holmes. He was quite sure. Quite.
   We departed, and as we strolled down the High Street, Holmes asked me if I would object to spending the night in Cloisterham. "I shall rejoin you tomorrow," he added.
   "But are you going away?"
   "Yes, to London. I am going to follow Mr. Sapsea's advice," he added with a smile.
   "I thought you wanted to see the gargoyles," I objected.
   "So I did. And do you know, my dear fellow, I believe I have seen one of the most interesting of them all."
   Holmes's remark was entirely enigmatic to me, and while I was still puzzling over it, he waved his hand and entered the omnibus for the station. Left thus alone in Cloisterham, I went to the Crozier, where I secured a room for the night. In passing the gatehouse I noticed a curious looking man with his hat in his hand, looking attentively at Mr. Jasper's window. He had, I observed, white hair, which streamed in the wind. Later in the afternoon, having dropped in at the cathedral to hear the vesper service, I saw the same man. He was watching the choirmaster, Mr. Jasper, with profound scrutiny. This made me uneasy. How did I know but what another plot, like that which had been hatched against the nephew, was on foot against the uncle? Seated in the bar at the Crozier, after dinner, I found him again. He willingly entered into conversation with me, and announced himself as one Mr. Datchery — "an idle buffer, living on his means." He was interested in the Drood case and very willing to talk about it. I drew him out as much as I could, and then retired to my room to think it over.
   That he wore a disguise seemed clear to me. His hair looked like a wig. If he was in disguise, who could he be? I thought over all the persons in any way connected with the case, when suddenly the name of Miss Helena Landless occurred to me. Instantly I was convinced that it must be she. The very improbability of the idea fascinated me from the start. What more unlikely than that a young Ceylonese girl should pass herself off for an elderly English man, sitting in bars and drinking elderly English drinks? The improbable is usually true, I remembered. Then I recalled that I had heard that Miss Landless, as a child, used to dress up as a boy. I was now positive about the matter.
* * *
   I was on hand to meet Holmes when he returned the next day. He had two men with him and he introduced them as Mr. Tartar and Mr. Neville Landless. I looked with interest at the suspected man, and then tried to have speech with Holmes. But he drew me apart.
   "These gentlemen," said he, "are going at once to Mr. Crisparkle's. They will remain there until tonight, when I expect to have need of them. You and I will return to your hotel."
   On the way I told him about Mr. Datchery, and my suspicions about that person. He listened eagerly and said that he must have speech with Datchery without delay. When I told him of my belief that Datchery was the sister of Landless, in disguise, Holmes clapped me on the back, and exclaimed:
   "Excellent, Watson, excellent! Quite in your old vein!"
   I flushed with pride at this high praise from the great detective. He left me at the Crozier, while he went forth to find Datchery, and also, he said, to have a word with Mr. Jasper. I supposed that he was about to warn the choirmaster of the fact that he was watched.
   Holmes returned to the inn in capital spirits.
   "We shall have our work cut out for us. Tonight, Watson," said he, "and perhaps we will have another look at the gargoyles."
   During dinner he would talk of nothing except beekeeping. He conversed on this topic, indeed, until long after we had finished our meal, and while we sat smoking in the bar. About eleven, an ancient man, called Durdles, came in, looking for Mister Holmes.
   "Mr. Jasper he's a-comin' down the stair, sir," said he.
   "Good!" exclaimed Holmes, "come, Watson, we must make haste. This may be a serious business. Now, Durdles!"
   The man called Durdles led us rapidly, and by back ways, to the churchyard. Here he showed us where we could stand, hidden behind a wall, and overlooking the tombs and gravestones. I could not imagine the object of this nocturnal visit. Holmes gave our guide some money, and he made off. While I stood there, looking fearfully about, I thought I saw the figures of two men behind a tomb, at some little distance. I whispered to Holmes, but he motioned for silence.
   "Hush!" he whispered. "Look there!"
   I looked where he indicated, and saw another figure enter the churchyard. He carried some object, which I soon guessed to be a lantern swathed in a dark wrapping. He unfolded a part of this wrapping, when he reached one of the tombs, and I recognized by the light the dark features of Mr. Jasper. What could he be doing here at this hour? He commenced to fumble in his pockets, and presently produced a key with which he approached the door of the tomb. Soon it swung open, and Mr. Jasper seemed about to step inside. But he paused for an instant, and then fell back, with a fearful scream of terror. Once, twice, did that awful cry ring through the silent churchyard. At its second repetition a man stepped from the tomb.
   Then Jasper turned, and ran frantically toward the cathedral.
   The two men whom I had previously noticed sprang from behind a monument and pursued him.
   "Quick!" said Holmes, "after him!"
   We both ran in the same direction as fast as we could. Hindered by the darkness and by our unfamiliarity with the ground, however, we made poor progress. The fleeing choirmaster and his two strange pursuers had already vanished into the gloom of the cathedral. When at last we entered the building the sound of hurrying footsteps far above us was all we could hear. Then, as we paused, for an instant at fault, there came another dreadful cry, and then silence.
   Men with lights burst into the cathedral and led us up the staircase toward the tower. The twisting ascent was a long business, and I knew from Holmes's face that he dreaded what we might find at the top. When we reached the top there lay the choirmaster, Jasper, overpower-ed and bound by Mr. Tartar. The latter, then, had been one of the men I had seen behind the monument.
   "Where is Neville?" said Holmes quickly.
   Tartar shook his head and pointed below.
   "This man," said he, indicating Jasper, "fought with him, and now I fear he really has a murder to answer for."
   One of the men in the group which had followed us to the top stepped forward and looked down toward Jasper. It was the man whom we had seen step out of the tomb. I started when I saw that except for the wig and a few changes in his costume it was the same man who had called himself "Datchery."
   Jasper gazed up at him and his face was distorted with fear.
   "Ned! Ned!" he cried, and hid his face on the stone floor.
   "Yes, yer may hide yer face," said old Durdles, trem­bling with rage, "yer thought yer had murdered him — murdered Mr. Edwin Drood, yer own nephew. Yer hocussed him with liquor fixed with pizen, same's yer tried to hocus Durdles, an' tried to burn him up with quicklime in the tomb. But Durdles found him, Durdles did."
   He advanced and would have ground the head of the prostrate choirmaster under his heel, if some men had not held him back.
* * *
   "Of course," said Holmes to me on the train back to London next morning, "no one in Cloisterham thought of suspecting the eminently respectable Mr. Jasper. They started with the presumption of his innocence. He was a possible object of suspicion to me from the first. This was because he was one of the two men who last saw Edwin Drood. When we had our interview with him — Jasper, I mean — I recognized him as the frequenter of a disreputable opium den near the docks. You may remember that I have had occasion to look into such places in one other little prob­lem we studied together. He was, then, leading a double life. That was as far as I had gone when I returned to London last night But while there I had a talk with Mr. Grewgious, as well as with poor young Landless and his sister. From them I learned that Jasper was in love with his nephew's betrothed, and had, indeed, been persecuting her with his attentions, both before and after Edwin's disappearance. From Mr. Grewgious's manner I became convinced that he, at any rate, viewed Jasper with profound suspicion. But he was a lawyer, and very cautious; he evidently had no certain proof. Other hints which were dropped led me to suspect that he was not mourning the death of young Drood.
   "This was a curious thing — the whole crux to the mystery lay in it. I sat up all night, Watson, and consumed about four ounces of tobacco. It needed some thinking. Why, if Jasper had plotted murder, had he failed to carry it out? The opium, the opium, Watson — you know, yourself, that a confirmed opium-smoker is apt to fail, is almost sure to fail, in any great enterprise. He tries to nerve himself before the deed, and ten to one he merely stupefies himself, and the plot miscarries. This morning I saw Mr. Grewgious again, and charged him in so many words with keeping secret the fact that Drood was alive. He admitted it, and told me that Drood was in Cloisterham masquerading as Datch­ery."
   "But why should he do that?" I asked. "Why did he let Neville rest under suspicion of murder?"
   "Because he had no certain proof of Jasper's guilt," said Holmes, "and he was trying to collect evidence against him. He was himself drugged when the attempt was made upon his life, he was rescued on that occasion by Durdles, and his disappearance was connived at by Mr. Grewgious. The lawyer further told me of the ring which Edwin Drood carried with him, and which the would-be murderer overlooked when he took the watch and pin. Then, it was only necessary for me to drop a hint to Jasper about the ring. That sent him back to the tomb, into which he supposed he had flung Drood's body to be consumed by quicklime. There he found the living, and not the dead Edwin Drood, as you saw. But the opium was really the clew to the whole thing — I went to see the old hag who keeps the den he frequented, and learned from her that he babbled endlessly about the murder in his dreams. He had arrived at a point where he could not distinguish between the real attempt at murder and a vision. He acted as in a vision when he tried to commit the deed, and so it failed.
   "As for your theory about Miss Landless being Datchery — well, my dear fellow, I am glad for the sake of that proper, clerical gentleman, Mr. Crisparkle, that his intended wife has not been masquerading in trousers at the Cloisterham inns. Poor Landless — I shall never forgive myself for his death. His murderer will meet the fate he richly deserves, without a doubt.
   "And now, Watson, we were discussing bees. Have you ever heard of planting buckwheat near the hives? I am told that they do wonderfully on buck­wheat."


As a supplement to the story, Dickens scholar Pete Orford offers insights as to why Holmes would have to be the logical choice to "solve" the Drood mystery:
. . . The alternative route to gaining authority for a solution is to call in the experts, but for many this has involved not a chat with an academic, but the use of the ultimate expert on mystery, Mr Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street. True, he is a fictional character, but as the [British Library's 2014 Gothic] exhibition argued, many have not been deterred by this one small drawback, with Conan Doyle besieged in his life with letters to Holmes, offering advice on beekeeping or applying for the role of housekeeper. The Mystery of Edwin Drood stands alongside Jack the Ripper as the most popular cases for which Holmes has been referred to again and again. Both are mysteries that thwart a final solution, and in both cases the employment of Holmes on the case is wishful thinking inspired by the utmost faith in Holmes to always get it right – in a matter where choosing the right solution boils down to opinion over evidence, Holmes' opinion has a better track record of being correct.  . . .
True to his role as the world's only consulting detective, more than once Holmes has been called in due to, as Orford puts it, "an explosion of solutions and ingenious theories far beyond that which first appeared in the decade following Dickens’ death," all of them coming as a natural reaction to the story's lack of a resolution:
. . . The intrigue of Drood has less to do with the uncertainty of Dickens’s intentions and more to do with the simultaneous development of the detective genre and a passionate group of devotees to spotting and solving perplexing crimes. — Pete Orford, "Holmes and Drood," Cloisterham Tales, 11/12/2014 (full article HERE)
- There was a Hollywood version of Edwin Drood in the mid-thirties; see HERE for the details, and be sure to read the review by theowinthrop.

The bottom line: "And besides, where does escapism leave off and transcendence begin?"
— Charles Dickens

Saturday, December 19, 2015

"Franky Cordoni Was One of the Cleverest Automobile Thieves in the City, and He Knew It"

By Robert E. Larkin (?-?).
First appearance: Detective Fiction Weekly, February 15, 1936.
Short short short story (4 pages).
Online HERE.
"A Weak Battery, a Weak Heart, a Weak Head—and a Car, a Car-Thief, and a Patrolman"
Franky was smart all right; nobody could catch him:
. . . Anyone could steal a car from in front of a busy office building. It took a clever thief to steal from under the very noses of the people who let their cars stand in front of their homes.  . . .
- FictionMags HERE credits Larkin with 9 stories, all in Detective Fiction Weekly (DFW) in the late '30s, with "Outsmarted" being the first.
- For more about DFW, see Walker Martin's Mystery*File article HERE and another from Mystery*File by Terry Sanford HERE.

The bottom line: I would have probably stolen cars—it would have given me the same adrenaline rush as racing.
Valentino Rossi

"What He Wouldn't Give for a Cop Now!"

"The Man Who Spoke Too Late."
By William Lawrence Hamling (born 1921).
First appearance: Fantastic Adventures, October 1944.
Reprinted in Space Tales #5.
Short short story (5 pages).
Online HERE.
Parental caution: Strong language.
"Butch Mullens had an operation designed to make his disguise perfect. It didn't work out as planned; but it brought justice all around!"
It's true: Butch needs an operation, but it's also true that Butch is on the lam with fifty thousand purloined dollars belonging to Gus Braumberg, a racketeer with absolutely no scruples about perforating Butch the first chance he gets. For Butch, it all depends on what a reluctant Doc Slater can do for him:
. . . It was none of Doc Slater's business what went on in the Underworld, but he did know a lot more than some of the wise boys let on. He knew some things that weren't too healthy to know. For instance that Butch Mullens' number was up. Butch didn't know it, but Doc Slater did. He even knew that the only reason Mullens was still alive was that Gus Braumberg wanted to get his hands on the cache Butch had stored away during his reign as Beer Baron. Butch was a doomed man—even as he stood there, Doc knew.  . . .
You could say that in Butch's case the operation is a success but the patient dies.
- Our author has a FictionMags listing HERE and an ISFDb entry HERE; we learn from Wikipedia HERE and the SFE HERE that he later did some jail time.

The bottom line: The classy gangster is a Hollywood invention.
— Orson Welles

Thursday, December 17, 2015

"Syl Is a Violent Man and I Think He's Getting Suspicious"

"The Chase."
By E. K. Jarvis (house pseudonym).
First appearance: Fantastic Adventures, April 1952.
Reprinted in Fantastic Adventures (U.K.), May 1953.
Short short story (7 pages).
Online HERE.
Parental caution: Strong language.
"Through seven weary years—over the entire solar system—Syl stalked Johnny. Only—can you kill a man you really hate?"
Just back from the Mars run, Syl Martin returns home to Margaret, his wife:
. . . He found her in the bedroom. She had cut her wrists and most of her blood had soaked into the carpet around her. There was a shadow of regret in her eyes as he knelt beside her . . .
His grief turning to cold rage, Syl makes a fateful phone call to the man he thought was his friend:
. . . "I'm going to kill you, Johnny. You're a rotten son-of-a-bitch. I'm going to kill you."
Syl put down the receiver and turned back to the dead thing on the floor; the dead thing that had been his wife.
If Syl had just thought it through, he wouldn't have made that call—and for years he's going to pay for his mistake until, having come full circle, the moment arrives:
. . . Syl raised his gun: Johnny Martin's head settled into the sights.
But a question stayed Syl's finger. A strange, inane question: Why do I want to kill him?
Seven years. Now, at the last moment, he had to stop and remember.
Comment: This one shows how noir elements (as defined just below) had begun to penetrate science fiction:
Noir fiction (or roman noir) is a literary genre closely related to hardboiled genre with a distinction that the protagonist is not a detective, but instead either a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator. Other common characteristics include the self-destructive qualities of the protagonist. — From Wikipedia HERE

- FictionMags and the ISFDb have info on "E. K. Jarvis" HERE and HERE.

The bottom line: Vengeance is mine; I will repay.
The Bible

Saturday, December 12, 2015


Autumn 2015. Issue #40.
Editor: Arthur Vidro.
Old-Time Detection Special Interest Group of American Mensa, Ltd.
40 pages (including covers). $6.00
Cover image: Ellery Queen's Cat of Many Tails (1949).

Arthur Vidro's Old-Time Detection never disappoints. In this issue, as in every number, you will find highly perceptive commentary about the mystery field in book and movie reviews, old and new. The breadth of coverage is impressive and the insights are, at times, genuinely thought provoking. Not many publications are capable of such. (We've added some off-site links to whet your appetite.)


~ FROM THE EDITOR: "As for the most popular Golden Age authors in India, I'd say Christie, Gardner, Queen, and Marsh."

~ HERBERT ADAMS (Charles Shibuk, 1991): "Several of his works would bear, and deserve, revival today."
   *** GAD Wiki HERE- FictionMags HERE ***

~ AT THE CINEMA (William K. Everson, 1993): "Film noir peaked in 1947, both qualitatively and quantitatively, but thereafter maintained itself on a fairly high plateau, diminishing slowly as increasing color production and the virtual elimination of censorship removed both the stylistics and the moral attitudes that were essentials."
   *** Mystery Street (1950) - IMDb HERE ... The Undercover Man (1949) - IMDb HERE ***
~ MEGA-REVIEW (Michael Dirda, 2015): A review of Curtis Evans's Clues and Corpses: The Detective Fiction and Mystery Criticism of Todd Downing (2014): "Not just well read and literate, but also devoted to the fair-play puzzle in which the reader can match wits with the detective over who done it and how."
   *** Mystery Scene HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE ***
~ NON-FICTION (Art Taylor, 2015): A review of The Lost Detective: Becoming Dashiell Hammett (2015) by Nathan Ward: "The Lost Detective is less a formal biography than a loose, entertaining exploration of the many intersections of fact and fiction in the creation of a persona and a literary legacy."
   *** Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE ***
~ AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT (Michael Grost): Concerning Father Ronald A. Knox: "None of the Knox novels I've read is a gem, the kind of book you want to recommend to other people to rush out and read. But the best things in them are worth remembering."
   *** Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE ***
~ "LOST" FICTION (William Brittain): "The Girl Who Read John Creasey" (First appearance: EQMM, March 1975): "Emil and Dorothy both turned to stare at their daughter. Marilee was sitting bolt upright in her chair. Both hands were clapped over her mouth, and her eyes were big and round."
   *** Wikipedia HERE - FictionMags HERE ***
~ SPECIAL FEATURE (Charles Shibuk, Marvin Lachman, and Arthur Vidro): Presenting "The Aucott-Breen-Lachman-Nevins-Nieminski-Shibuk Indefinite Library of Detective-Crime-Mystery Fiction Since 1949 [to 1975]," the title pretty much explaining itself, wouldn't you agree?
Winner of a Major Award
~ LOOKING BACKWARD (Charles Shibuk): "These reviews by Mr. Shibuk were published decades ago but remain pertinent today."
   *** The books: Mad Hatter's Holiday (1973) - Wikipedia HERE ... The Grouse Moor Mystery (1934) - GAD Wiki HERE ***
"...another smoothly flowing and well-researched period detective novel..."
"...a thundering disappointment..."
~ 30-PLUS YEARS AGO (Jon L. Breen): "This column reproduces mystery news of 30-plus years ago. Mr. Breen's original audience was his fellow librarians."
" of the best books I have ever read about writing in a popular genre..."
"...displays his mastery of pace, suspense, and the creation of a vivid historical background..."
"...Best bet for private eye fans..."
~ MINI-REVIEWS (Ruth Ordivar, Amnon Kabatchnik, Charles Shibuk, and Arthur Vidro): 
   *** The books: The John Dickson Carr Companion (2015) ... The Clue in the Air (1917) plus The Twenty-Six Clues (1919) - GAD Wiki HERE ... Hide and Go Seek (1932) - FictionMags HERE ... Thursday the Rabbi Walked Out (1978) - Wikipedia HERE and GAD Wiki HERE ... Storm Against the Wall (1931) - GAD Wiki HERE and FictionMags HERE ... The Siamese Twin Mystery (1933) - Wikipedia HERE, GAD Wiki HERE, and FictionMags HERE ***
" encyclopedia-sized repository..."
"...The writing is a bit overblown..."
"...a little too easy to solve..."
"...early Queen at his most accessible..."
~ PAPERBACK REVOLUTION (Charles Shibuk, 1969): "Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin are both endearing and welcome protagonists in Rex Stout's long series of cases featuring the elephantine investigator and his brash assistant. It is unfortunate that most of Stout's puzzles and plots have been among the major disappointments of the contemporary detective novel."

~ THE READERS WRITE: "By the way, I think resorting to the Internet [to solve the puzzle in each issue] is cheating; the idea is to use your mind; any fool can look something up."

~ PUZZLE: "Here are pictures of two old-time detective-fiction authors. Can you identify either?"

- ONTOS covered the Summer 2015 issue of OTD HERE.

~ ~ ~

Subscription information:
- Published three times a year: spring, summer, and autumn.
- Sample copy: $6.00 in U.S.; $10.00 anywhere else.
- One-year U.S.: $18.00 ($15.00 for Mensans).
- One-year overseas: $40.00 (or 20 pounds sterling or 25 euros).
- Payment: Checks or cash or U.S. postage stamps.
Mailing address:
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Old-Time Detection
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The bottom line: "For some of us, the history of crime fiction provides a bonus that increases the pleasure of our current reading."
— Marvin Lachman