Tuesday, October 4, 2016

"All You Had To Do Was Take the Gun Instead of the Spray, and the Money Was Yours"

By Frank Kane (1912-68).
First appearance: Crack Detective Stories, January 1945.
Reprinted in Verdict, July 1953 and Verdict (UK), September 1953.
Short short story (6 pages).
Online at Pulpgen HERE.
"The case was closed until Johnny Liddell arrived to tear it open!"
Johnny Carroll was a big time gambler and something of a hypochondriac who, to all appearances, has blown his own brains out. For the police, it's an open and shut case; 
but for Johnny Liddell, PI, things simply don't add up—the psychology is all wrong, 
the fatal bullet is found in the wrong place, and where there should be money, it's 
conspicuous by its absence. To Johnny Liddell it's plain to see: Carroll is a victim, 
not of a suicide wish, but of someone dead set on committing murder . . .

Main characters:
~ Detective Sergeant Terence Grady:
   "That makes your hunch bat 1,000, doesn’t it, Johnny? Shot through the mouth; no strug-gle; his own gun and nobody else’s prints on the gun. That sure makes it out a good case of murder."
~ Johnny Liddell:
   "Sure, sure. It sounds screwy, but not as screwy as the idea of Johnny Carroll knocking himself off! He wouldn’t give the world a break like that, Terry. He was mean enough to live forever. A guy that has so many birds out gunning for him just naturally doesn’t knock him-self off."
~ The deceased:
   "Nobody’s convincing me that Johnny Carroll killed himself. You might as well ask me to believe that Hitler has underwritten a Jewish asylum."
~ Dr. Matthews:
   "Somehow he got the idea he had a cancer. Insisted on being treated. I prescribed an anti-septic spray and tried to talk him out of it."
~ Emmy Wilson:
   "That must have been the way it happened. I knew you hated him. You always hated him—"

Comment: The author's propensity to use his characters' full names almost every time might become tiresome to some readers.
- This was the third of over fifty Johnny Liddell short stories; the crew at Pulpgen Online Pulps characterize "Suicide" this way:
Not exactly classic noir, but it has all the right ingredients. As a 'police proce-dural' it doesn't stand up, and probably didn't when it was written in 1945. But it is crisply told and the plot hinges on a clever murder method.
- Over time Frank Kane has drawn a lot of interest on the Internet for his hardboiled fiction; see the following online sources, some of which include bibliographies and reviews of other stories by Kane: The Thrilling Detective (HERE) and (HERE); Mystery*File (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE); Killer Covers of the Week (HERE); James Reasoner's weblog (HERE); and Tom Rizzo's (HERE).
- According to the IMDb (HERE), Kane was responsible for two dozen episodes of the Mike Hammer TV series starring Darren McGavin (1958-59).

The bottom line: "It takes two to make a murder. There are born victims, born to have their throats cut, as the cut-throats are born to be hanged."
Aldous Huxley

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