Monday, August 8, 2016

"Luck Followed Him As It Sometimes Does the Evildoer"

"The Imperfect Crime."
By E. Phillips Oppenheim (1866-1946).
First appearance: Collier's Weekly, March 28, 1931.
Collected in Sinners Beware (1931, UK; 1932, US) (online HERE).
Short short story (5 pages).
Online in Roy Glashan's Library HERE (with nicely reproduced illos) and UNZ HERE (start) and HERE (finish; scroll to page 46).
"Monsieur Dumesnil was alone, and had the good taste not to utter even a groan when the long, marvellously tempered blade sank inch by inch through his shirt front into his heart."
It's good occasionally to reevaluate one's life, to see where improvements can be made and if necessary set out on a new course. In our story, a young man does this very thing, but he reaches a conclusion and sets a course that many readers might find profoundly reprehensi-ble:
He had been wasting years of his life. Crime—cunningly devised crime—was the brave man's adjunct to success. He had been a fool ever to have walked in the shadow of poverty, ever to have neglected those gifts of which he certainly now found himself possessed.
Just how far, however, is he willing to go to keep himself out of poverty's shadow? As far as murder, perhaps?
Our sleuth—Peter Hames:
   At his eponymous blog (HERE), Vintage45 has a review of Sinners Beware (1931), apparently the only Peter Hames collection published in Oppenheim's lifetime:
[Hames is] a former Inspector on the New York police department that got tossed off the force when he got involved in a murder case. The man on trial was being railroaded thanks in part to corruption on the force and two lying witnesses. As can only happen in fiction he inherited a million dollars the day after he lost his job. He moved to Monte Carlo and bought a villa where he is now an amateur artist. But the detective instincts never left and he gets involved in various adventures.
Peter Hames is one of numerous series characters concocted by Oppenheim over the years; apparently Hames appeared only in Collier's. (Data below are from FictionMags; links are to Roy Glashan's Library collection):

   ~ "One Terrible Night," Collier’s, January 10, 1931
   ~ "The Cafe Regal, the Mistral and the Lady," Collier's, January 17, 1931 [collected HERE]
   ~ "No Questions Asked" ("Anon £1,000"), Collier’s, January 24, 1931 [online HERE]
   ~ "The Dancing Man," Collier’s, February 14, 1931
   ~ "The Quarrel," Collier's, [date uncertain: February 21, 1931?] [collected HERE]
   ~ "The Tiger on the Mountains," Collier’s, February 28, 1931 [online HERE]
   ~ "Paddy Flaps His Wings," Collier’s, March 14, 1931 [online HERE]
   ~ "The Imperfect Crime," Collier’s, March 28, 1931 [above]
   ~ "In the Strongroom" ("What Sir Stephen Forgot"), Collier’s, April 11, 1931 [online HERE]
   ~ "Going, Going, Gone!" Collier’s, April 25, 1931 [online HERE]
   ~ "The Luckiest Young Man," Collier’s, May 16, 1931 [online HERE]
   ~ "Mademoiselle Anna Disappears," Collier’s, May 30, 1931 [online HERE]

- Last fall we examined several other works by our logorrheic author (HERE).
- If you've ever seen a James Bond movie then you might have witnessed a game of chemin-de-fer (HERE).

The bottom line:
   "In my day you'd be led to a room with a gun on the table. The door would be closed. A shot would ring out. A woman would scream."
   "I say, I did so like the part about the woman screaming!"
   — 'Those Fantastic Flying Fools'

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