Sunday, September 25, 2016

"No Contributing Factors in the Way of Bullets, Poisons or Blows Were Found—It Was a Perfect Crime"

IF BY SOME miracle you've never seen a movie from the '30s, '40s, or '50s, then you've never been exposed to the screen work of Ben Hecht; he had a knack for film writing (and script doctoring) that kept him very busy in Hollywood (see "Resources," below); but on occasion he would produce a fine piece of prose having a criminous theme, such as the three stories that follow.

"Miracle of the Fifteen Murderers."
By Ben Hecht (1894-1964).
First appearance: Collier's Weekly, January 16, 1943.
Reprints (FictionMags data): The Avon Annual #3, 1946; The Saint Detective Magazine, Spring 1953; The Saint Detective Magazine (Australia), September 1954; The Saint Detective Magazine (UK), November 1954; Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, September 1962; Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (UK), January 1963; Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (Australia), March 1963; Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine, May 1965; and Ellery Queen’s Anthology #23, 1972.
Short short story (5 pages).
Online at UNZ HERE (start) and HERE (finish; scroll down to page 22).
"They were a congress of killers, but no jury, interested solely in justice, would find them guilty."
Doctor Alex Hume divulges what happened at a recent meeting of the X Club, an informal society of medical doctors who confess to the group their "murders" (i.e., unintentional medical blunders that kill a patient), unaware that what they've learned from their combined mistakes will lead to saving a life.

~ ~ ~
"Café Sinister."
By Ben Hecht (1894-1964).
First appearance: Collier's Weekly, August 21, 1943.
Reprints (FictionMags data): Avon Modern Short Story Monthly #37, 1947; The Saint Detective Magazine, October 1954; The Saint Detective Magazine (Australia), April 1955; and The Saint Detective Magazine (UK), June 1955.
Short short story (8 pages).
Online at UNZ HERE (start) and HERE (finish; scroll down to page 66).
(Note: Some text trimmed but readable.)
"Café El Granada — showcase for wealth, photographers' heaven, breeding ground of gossip and intrigue — spawns a revenge too long delayed, in a memorable tale told by a master."
A man of mystery is this Baron Corfus, an exile from his own country, indulging in ostentatious elitist dissipation while furtively working towards . . . what?

~ ~ ~
"Swindler's Luck."
(a.k.a. "The Sunset Kid").
By Ben Hecht (1894-1964).
First appearance: The Saturday Evening Post, January 12, 1952.
Short short story (6 pages).
Online at SFFAudio HERE (PDF).
(Note: Some text distorted but barely readable.)
"The mobsters would kill him if they ever caught on to his game. He was betting his life they wouldn't."
In this age of specialization, the Sunset Kid has an especially dangerous specialty: he's been astoundingly successful as "a crook who devoted himself to swindling members of the un-derworld. He specialized in trimming big-shot bookies and professional card gamblers," it being an understanding "between the Kid and his victims that they would have to catch him only once," after which . . . well, you don't need much imagination to know what that would mean.

But now the Kid wants to get married and go legit; he figures he can take mob boss Rocky Blair for the ten grand he needs to start a new life, but it's going to involve some clever planning, including a blown fuse and five automobiles . . .

- See Wikipedia (HERE) for biographical information about Ben Hecht and the IMDb (HERE) for his extensive filmography.

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