Thursday, September 1, 2016

"How Can You Solve It, If Everyone Is Dead?"

"Who Killed Gilbert Foster?"
By E. Hoffmann Price (1898-1988) & Ralph Milne Farley (Roger Sherman Hoar, 1887-1963).
First appearance: Five-Novels Monthly, January 1936.
Novelette (30 pages + 3 illos).
Online at Pulpgen HERE.
"A man accused of murder is on the run and must find the real murderer before the police find him!"
   ~ "The Missing Manuscript"
   ~ "When in Doubt, Attack!"
   ~ "Landon, Public Enemy!"
   ~ "The Congress of Crooks"
   ~ "Criminal's Alley"
   ~ "Troubles Pile Up"
   ~ "Out of the Frying Pan"
   ~ "When Danger Pursues"
   ~ "The Murderer at Bay"

Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time: No sooner does Raymond Landon come across the corpse of his boss in the library when this happens:
His senses sharpened, now that the shock of discovery had subsided, he dis-tinctly felt a menacing living presence in the room, and heard a faint rustle, as of the stirring of the window drapes or wall hangings. He wheeled around, but before he could complete the turn, a vase crashed against his head with a devastating impact that drove him flat to the floor. His fingers dug into the nap of the Feraghan carpet, as he sought by sheer force of will to recover and grapple with the enemy. Blinded and dizzy, he rose to a crouch and lashed out. But as his hands closed on his adversary’s wrists, a second blow drove home. Landon pitched forward, his brain a globe of roaring fire. Despite his lingering vestige of consciousness, he could not force his nerveless limbs to act.
Raymond, as you might've guessed, has just been neatly framed for the murder, and since the police don't mind taking pot shots in the dark he'll have to be especially agile just to escape the scene of the crime:
As he hesitated, a bullet sifted through the shrubbery at the foot of the fence and seared his ribs. He was cornered. Then he saw a way out. The stalk of an excep-tionally tall, sturdy plantain would give him the necessary elevation. He leaped and swarmed up. A volley spattered through the broad leaves. Then the police dashed forward, withholding their fire, certain now of an easy capture.
However, Raymond, proving himself to be far from "an easy capture," soon realizes what he must do:
Attempting to leave New Orleans would be fatal. The ferries across the river, the railroad stations, and the highways would all be guarded. The city was his only refuge. And while he was the hunted now, he would have to turn hunter to vindi-cate himself.
But the question remains: If Raymond's the hunter, who is it he should be hunting? Could it be that shady antiques dealer (he won't even take certified checks), or his employer's niece (a nice niece, this niece), or perhaps the dead man's private secretary (maybe too private)—and what about all of those underworld types swimming around in this case like a shoal of barra-cudas? Finally, what does all of this hurly-burly have to do with a prayer rug?
One of these is the maguffin.
Coshed with a vase, accused of murder, creased by the police, going incognito to escape the authorities, nearly strangled by a stranger (and a home movie snatcher, at that), roughed up by a couple of underworld types, kidnapped and slated to be taken for "a ride," caught in a crossfire between rival gangs, kidnapped again by a rug merchant, shot at by a brunette beauty with a Luger, forced to punch a motorcycle cop and steal his bike—no doubt about it, these days Ray Landon is a very busy man.

Main characters:
~ Gilbert Foster:
   "Professor Foster, in full evening dress, lay sprawled grotesquely on his back, his eyes staring sightlessly upward, his mouth open and distorted, his arms outflung, his fingers clawed, and the carved hands of an Oriental dagger protruding from a red splotch in the middle of the left side of his starched shirt front."
~ Ray Landon:
   "Suddenly Landon thought of his own situation. Lord, what a jam! He was a stranger in New Orleans. Foster had picked him up on one of his archeological expeditions to the Arabian desert. Who would vouch for him? Who would believe that he hadn’t robbed and murdered his employer? A frame-up from the start!"
~ Eloise Foster, Professor Foster's niece:
   "I know he didn’t do it. I’d trust him anywhere."
~ Bert Collins, Foster's private secretary:
   "It's Landon! Stop him!"
~ Alcide Dumaine, antiques dealer:
   "And you may as well give up the idea of trying to blackmail me. I have not the money. Take the rug, and leave me alone."
~ Schwartz:
   "Nice work, ain’t it? Instead of stallin’ around until we faked the holdup, he shot Foster, and now we have both dough and rug. Only—he should not try to hold out."
~ Pichetti:
   "Pichetti whipped out a gun from beneath his left arm pit. 'I said we want our cut!'"
~ Panopoulos:
   "I’ve got Pichetti and Schwartz just where I want them."
~ Jake:
   "But I still don’t see why we gotta croak this guy."
~ Barloff:
   "And now, where is the prayer rug?"
~ John Healy, Chief of Detectives:
   "Put the irons on him."

Typos: "pinning it on Landen"; "slumped in a comer"; "be flung the rug at her"; "London whirled"; "And yon can’t."

- Our authors are both better known for their science fiction and fantasy works than mysteries; for more info about Price go (HERE) and (HERE), and about Farley (HERE)
and (HERE).

The bottom line: "The boys with their feet on the desks know that the easiest murder case in the world to break is the one somebody tried to get very cute with; the one that really bothers them is the murder somebody only thought of two minutes before he pulled it off."
Raymond Chandler

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