Sunday, March 27, 2016

"Let God Pardon Me, for I Wish Death, and Not an Easy One, for Those Who Peddle This Evil"

"He Had a Little Shadow."
By Charles B. Child (Claude Vernon Frost, 1903-93).
First appearance: Collier's Weekly, January 14, 1950.
Reprinted in EQMM, May 1953.
Collected in The Sleuth of Baghdad (2002; for sale HERE).
Short story (13 pages).
Online at UNZ HERE (start) and HERE (finish; scroll down to page 37).
The EQMM reprint is at SFFAudio HERE (PDF).
"Here was one who coldly calculated chances, made crime a business. Such a man would know no pity."
For months now there has been a crime wave in Baghdad due to a large inflow of narcotics into the city that Inspector Chafik and the police force at large have been unable to stanch:
In spite of his efforts hashish continued to enter the city and in its wake came violence and death.
Chafik is making no headway in the case, until he acquires a small shadow . . .

Principal characters:
~ Chafik J. Chafik: An inspector of the Criminal Investigation Department, a "meticulously neat man" like Poirot but more slender who, with his wife's continual presence, can be regarded as basically a cross between Maigret and, with his proclivity for making Delphic declarations, Charlie Chan.
~ Faisal: "He wore a ragged gown girdled with a piece of rope, his turban was a wisp, he had never owned shoes . . ."
~ Sergeant Abdullah: Chafik's assistant, "tall, gaunt, unemotional."
~ Leila: Chafik's wife, "a dark, slim little woman."
~ Najar Helmy: "A Turk, short, stocky, and olive-skinned."
~ Ali: ". . . a squat barrel-chested man . . ."

   "Temper is as intoxicating as alcohol."
   "Our records show crime increases with the waning of the week and in this is a clue. But like a photographic negative the image does not appear until developer is applied."
   "The graph of my life follows an even line . . ."
   "I object to 'but.' It is a sly conjunctive that conceals a dagger."
   "He who seizes a scorpion in haste repents with haste."
   "I am a policeman, not a seer."
   "Our heads are of the same density."
   "A policeman should not have emotions."
   "He has a virtue rare among criminals — he works alone and does not let his business become too big."
   "How demeaning that I should evidence pain!"
   "Did I rub a magic lamp?"

Fifteen of the Inspector Chafik adventures were collected in Crippen & Landru's The Sleuth of Baghdad:
Inspector Chafik J. Chafik of the Baghdad police was the creation of Charles B. Child (1903-1993), the pseudonym of British author Claude Vernon Frost. As a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force he worked with Military Intelligence in Iraq during the Second World War. Child wrote that Inspector Chafik was a composite of associates whom he met in the Middle East, whose "agile minds" could "wind through a complicated maze."
Beginning in 1947, the Chafik stories were some of the most popular features in Collier's Magazine, and many were reprinted in the annual Best Detective Stories of the Year. The stories about Chafik, his wife Leila, and his adopted son Faisal whom he found on the streets of Baghdad are superlatively constructed exer-cises in detection, but they have a more subtle level. They are also explorations of a culture and a time and place. The stories begin when the British still influ-enced Iraqi politics, and continue through the period of the monarchy and the country's attempts to identify its place in the world. Many years ago, Frederic Dannay ("Ellery Queen") lamented that there was no book collection of the Inspector Chafik stories. We are delighted to publish this First Edition. — Amazon product description
   (1) "The Inspector Is Discreet" (1947) [Mystery Digest, September 1957; online HERE]
   (2) "Inspector Chafik Closes the Case" (1947) [online HERE]
   (3) "Death Had a Voice" (1948) [EQMM, September 1952; online HERE]
   (4) "The Inspector Had a Wife" (1948) [EQMM, December 1952; online HERE]
   (5) "The Inspector Had a Habit" (1949) [online HERE]
   (6) "He Had a Little Shadow" (1950) [EQMM, May 1953; online HERE]
   (7) "All the Birds of the Air" (1950) [EQMM, September 1953 and AHMM, June 2003; online HERE]
   (8) "There Is a Man in Hiding" (1951) [a.k.a. "The Army of Little Ears"; Magpie, March 1952; online HERE]
   (9) "Death in the Fourth Dimension" (1952) [online HERE]
   (10) "Death Had a Birthday" (1953) [a.k.a. "The Lady of Good Deeds"; not online]
   (11) "Death Was a Wedding Guest" (1954) [EQMM, May 1961; online HERE]
   (12) "Invisible Killer" (1955) [a.k.a. "The Thumbless Man"; online HERE]
   (13) "Royal Theft" (1955) [a.k.a. "The Holy-Day Crimes"; online HERE]
   (14) "Death Starts a Rumor" (1956) [online HERE]
   (15) "The Man Who Wasn't There" (1969) [EQMM, April 1969; not online]
If you're looking for cerebral detection with Inspector Chafik, you might consider Mike Grost's appraisal of the series:
Child's stories of Inspector Chafik J. Chafik of Baghdad's Criminal Investigation Department ran in Collier's from 1947 through 1956, simultaneously with Blochman's Dr. Coffee tales. And like Blochman's series, Ellery Queen had the authors continue their work in EQMM in the sixties, after they had lost their slick magazine markets. The Chafik tales have a detailed Background of the Iraq of their era. They focus on the realistic police work of the Inspector. "The Inspector Had a Habit" (1949) was flagged by Collier's editors as the best of the series, and was reprinted in David C. Cooke's Best Detective Stories of the Year - 1950. Child was born in Britain, but was a US resident when these tales were published in an American magazine; he is included here as he has more in common with the later American realists than with the 1920's British realists such as the Coles.
The Chafik stories I have read emphasize adventure as much as mystery. Their general lack of rigorous, fair play puzzle plotting is frustrating to readers like me. — "Charles B. Child," A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection
- Information about the author is in the French Wikipedia HERE and the GAD Wiki HERE; The Sleuth of Baghdad received favorable notices at Kirkus Reviews HERE, Richard Robinson at Tip the Wink HERE, and Jack William Bell HERE.
- Charles B. Child's FictionMags list is HERE and the one for his brainchild, Chafik J. Chafik, is HERE.
- Chafik also appeared in four issues of Super Detective Library comics in 1955.

The bottom line: "My dear young lady, crime, like death, is not confined to the old and withered alone. The youngest and fairest are too often its chosen victims."
Charles Dickens

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