Friday, July 15, 2016

True Crime Vignettes from COLLIER'S

These entertaining and well-written short accounts, the Collier's editor assures us, are "taken from life"; since it's likely the names have been changed to protect . . . somebody, we'll just have to take his word for it.

"The Dallam Affair."
By Mark O'Neil (?-?).
First appearance: Collier’s Weekly, January 14, 1928.
Short short short story (2 pages).
Online at UNZ HERE.
"Here's an unusual detective story . . ."
"Sir Henry," we're told, "had always been reckless as to how and where he made his enemies"; so when he receives a death threat:
The warning was carefully dated—"London, noon, October 11th." Thin printed characters betrayed a Latin hand in the stiff hooks of the letters.
"Unless," it read, "you abandon trading with our enemies, you have only ten days from this hour to live. Consider."
Sir Henry laughed again as his wife muttered the words.
"Cheap melodrama," he chaffed. "I'm financing a cargo of arms for the Guatemalan government in the revolution there. Some schoolboy evidently thinks he can frighten me with a Deadwood Dick joke."
But it's no joke . . .
~ ~ ~
"The Red Room."
By Mark O'Neil (?-?).
First appearance: Collier's Weekly, March 3, 1928.
Short short short story (3 pages).
Online at UNZ beginning HERE and finishing HERE (scroll to page 48).
"An expert locksmith supplies the keys to some of the mysteries of Paris"
An American in Paris finds himself the prime suspect in a murder investigation, his only hope of being cleared reposing in a sharp French detective:
Objects glinted on a sideboard fringed with red tassels. Startled, he saw a black-handled revolver, with a blunt, blue-steeled snout, lying beside the cut stopper of a brandy decanter. He stiffened, glanced apprehensively about him, and wait-ed for a sound. Only the bark of a scurrying cab penetrated the windows. The atmosphere of the room oppressed him. He became aware of a tall mahogany table in a corner to his left. The thing seemed menacing.
"Look out," he warned himself, "this is a plant!"
Typo: ". . . the magistrate flecked his hand toward the clerk . . ."

~ ~ ~
"The Brantland Heir."
By Mark O'Neil (?-?).
First appearance: Collier’s Weekly, March 17, 1928.
Short short short story (2 pages).
Online at UNZ HERE and HERE (scroll to page 42).
"The true story of the kidnapping of a child and how an ice-cream cone led to the solution"
To a perceptive private detective, in this case all is not what it seems:
MRS. BRANTLAND, an aristocratic young woman, was roundly abusing the thick-set chief of detectives when Elbert Grantland, the husband's father, for whom the missing boy was named, motored from his law office. The old man, a wealthy and hard-headed citizen, assumed command the moment he appeared. He instantly ordered the police to confine their attentions to a physical search for his missing grandson, while to the press he announced a reward of $10,000 for the person who discovered the boy or for information leading to the arrest of whoever was responsible for his disappearance. Then he summoned from New York Thomas Coyle, the head of a private detective agency that had served him in many confidential investigations.
If you've read another story by Agatha Christie about a kidnapping (published five years before this one) then you probably won't be too surprised at the ending.

~ ~ ~
"Last Leg."
By Mark O'Neil (?-?).
First appearance: Collier’s Weekly, April 14, 1928.
Short short short story (2 pages).
Online at UNZ HERE and HERE (scroll to page 42).
"The true story of a young detective and a jewel smugger who had never been caught"
The Customs investigation squad in New York gets a warning cablegram from Scotland Yard that a "notorious jewel smuggler and fence, who had smilingly cheated the law and baffled its watchdogs for years" is on his way there with something not rightfully belonging to him:
They reported one of the boldest robberies ever accomplished in staid old London. Lady Waynecliff, wife of an English brewer recently elevated to the peerage, had gone into the London Mansion House for the lord mayor's ball. She had retired to divest herself of her cloak in one of a congeries of women's dressing-rooms, and as she entered was seized by a man, or men, and doused with chloroform. When she recovered to raise an alarm, she found her diamond necklace had been snapped off. Two hundred thousand dollars' worth of stones vanished, an excited old woman knowing no more about their loss than a grip at her throat.
Two hundred grand is certainly a lot, more than enough for our thief to brazenly attempt to fool the authorities; too bad for him, though, when in trying to pull off his deception he makes one small but crucial mistake . . .

Typo: "flecked ashes from his own into a tray"

- Concerning our writer named Mark O'Neil, we only know that he had these four pieces published in Collier's in early 1928, and then he just disappeared.

Category: True crime (we think)

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