Saturday, December 31, 2016

EQ and the New Year's Eve Murder

"The Adventure of Auld Lang Syne."
Episode 1 of the Ellery Queen TV series (22 episodes, 1975-76).
Writers: Peter S. Fischer, Richard Levinson, William Link.
First broadcast: September 11, 1975.
"Really, Paul, if you must steal, you should show some imagination."
According to Wikipedia (HERE): "Soon after a wealthy industrialist threatens to disinherit family and staff at a New Year's Eve party, he is found murdered in a nearby phone booth by fellow guest Inspector Queen, who calls on son Ellery to help unmask the killer. Oddly the pilot is set well into 1947 but this episode is set on 12/31/1946."
It's available (for the moment) on Daily Motion (HERE). Running time: 49 minutes 46 seconds.
Sergeant Velie receives instructions from Ellery's dad:
Velie: What do you want me to do?
Inspector Queen: Four things.
Velie: Right.
Inspector Queen: Get every available unit to this hotel. I don't care that it is New Year's Eve. We've got a lot of brass here, we've gotta catch this guy.
Velie: Right.
Inspector Queen: Two: Pick up a guy named Joseph Kemmelman, 346 West 77th Street. Bring him here immediately. I'll explain later.
Velie: Right.
Inspector Queen: And third: Get Ellery down here. I don't care where he is, what he's doing, get him here!
Velie: Check. Four?
Inspector Queen: Take off that silly hat.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

"The Detectives Laid Hands on Him; Then All Turned at the Sound of Light Footsteps and a Clear Pleasant Voice"

By Gordon Young (1886-1948).
First appearance: Adventure, January 3, 1921.
Short short story (9 pages).
Online at Comic Book Plus (HERE) (select page 80).
"The detectives looked wisely at each other; this woman was saving them the trouble of thinking."
Sometimes our reputation precedes us, which in Grant Douglas's case definitely isn't a good thing. Believed by just about everybody, including his own father, to be a thief, Grant finds himself accused of robbing his paterfamilias's safe, stealing his will, and trying to kill the 
old man; Grant's brother John, however, staunchly maintains his innocence. As it turns out, though, only one person is in a position to know for certain that Grant didn't do these 
terrible things, the woman he loves; trouble is, she isn't who Grant, and everyone else, 
thinks she is . . .

Main characters:
~ Grant Douglas:
   "Grant felt that it was very bad to have his father and brother think him a thief; but to 
have the woman that he suddenly loved think so too—and not care! That was what really bewildered him, and he sat in the dark and brooded."
~ Frances Wyck:
   "Behind her almost flirtatious manner he had seen that she was warily alert, and her blue eyes at times had an abrupt chilliness that was not explainable by anything he knew of other women."
~ John Douglas:
   "Most people approved of John, though he was preternaturally suave as perhaps a rising young lawyer should be; and, so Grant felt, was always making people around him painfully aware of his attentiveness to business. Tall, noiseless, soft-spoken, dark-eyed, pleasant, with a quick brain and an exasperatingly modest air, John had become the pride of his father's eye . . ."
~ Judge Douglas:
   "The temptation was too strong. You thought you could invent the story of the masked robber. You are no longer my son. I rewrite my will—tonight—now. Get out!"
Comment: An old-fashioned (even in 1921), melodramatic, and too predictable story which would benefit greatly if written in today's stringent style.

- Gordon Ray Young was known primarily for his straight adventure stories and Westerns, but he did occasionally commit a crime—a crime story, that is (see next); a short autobio-graphical article about him has been reproduced at PulpFlakes (HERE); Wikipedia's entry is (HERE).
- Young had a continuing series character named Don Everhard ("the prince of gentleman adventurers") appearing often in Adventure; Everhard's exploits have been collected (in 2008) by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box (HERE), but be prepared to break the piggy bank.

The bottom line: "Attempted murder. Now, honestly, what is that? Can you win a Nobel Prize for attempted chemistry?"
Sideshow Bob

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

"How Could I Have Known the Truth?"

THE RUNNING MAN and THE HUNGER GAMES are nothing new . . .

"A Day for Dying."
By Charles Nuetzel (born 1934).
First appearance: Worlds of IF, July 1969.
Reprinted several times (HERE).
Short short story (9 pages).
Online at (HERE).
"Only one could survive the Games!"
"Know thyself"—so goes the ancient Greek aphorism. Today Charles David Travers will be given an opportunity to realize that goal—if he lives long enough:
"You will appear [says the judge] before the National Tele-Games of March 8th as a Man-at-Arms to do battle to the death. In the event you should be the sole survivor, you will be freed, never again to be sentenced to the Tele-Games. So is the fair judgment of the State's Justice."
Before it's all over, Charles David Travers will come to see that maybe, in the end, it isn't such a good idea to know too much about yourself after all, that what you see in the mirror might not be what you think it is . . .
Typos: "The major nodded an done of his assistants"; "over he rform."

- See the SFE (HERE) and the ISFDb (HERE) for the relevant data about Charles Nuetzel.

The bottom line: "Maybe there was once a human who looked like you, and somewhere along the line you killed him and took his place. And your superiors don’t know."

Monday, December 26, 2016

"How Can a Dirty Killer Lie There and Look So Peaceful?"

WHOEVER HOWARD FINNEY, JR. WAS, he evidently didn't produce very much crime fiction—or, for that matter, much fiction of any kind, as this FictionMags listing attests:

   (1) "Murder on the Limited," Detective-Dragnet Magazine, September 1932 (below)
   (2) "The Late Customer," Detective Fiction Weekly, October 8, 1932
   (3) "Death Rides at Anchor," Detective Fiction Weekly, April 22, 1933
   (4) "Personal—$5000 Reward," Detective Fiction Weekly, September 30, 1933.

At least our story today takes place on a train; railway-related mysteries, especially those from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, seem to have been quite a popular subgenre among writers of the period. Indeed, we've already stumbled across a few in our peregrinations about the Wide World Web (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE).

"Murder on the Limited."
By Howard Finney, Jr. (?-?).
First appearance: Detective-Dragnet Magazine, September 1932.
Short story (10 pages).
Online at ManyBooks (HERE).
"The section of his white pajamas from just below the shoulder blades to the small of the back was a dark, moist red that glistened like jelly in the yellow ray of the light. His head was half turned toward them, revealing the wild agony in his eye and the lips drawn back for the scream that had never passed them."
For Stanley, the Pullman conductor on the west-bound Mississippi Limited, tonight is 
going to be far from ordinary—a frightened woman searching for her lost husband, a 
bloody murder in one of the berths, an identity switch, getting coshed on the noggin and kicked like a mule, and to add insult to injury being called a "meddling old fool" by the 
man in Lower Ten—nope, these definitely aren't the usual things Stanley encounters 
on the normally tranquil Mississippi Limited.
- A Sherlock Holmes manqué has audio recorded some hitherto unreported railway mysteries from the pen of Dr. Watson (HERE).
- As a venue for crime, trains are still popular; go to AbeBooks (HERE) for a very short list.
(Click on image to enlarge.)

The bottom line: "I’m going to kill myself. I should go to Paris and jump off the Eiffel Tower. I’ll be dead. You know, in fact, if I take the Concorde, I could be dead three hours earlier, which would be perfect. Or — wait a minute! With the time change, I could be alive for six hours in New York but dead three hours in Paris. I could get things done, and I could also be dead."
Joe Berlin

Saturday, December 24, 2016

"Why Couldn’t One Shot Have Stopped His Watch, Like in a Story Mystery?"

"A Burning Clue."
By E. Hoffman Price (1898-1988).
First appearance: Ten Detective Aces, May-June 1933.
Short short short story (3 pages).
"A murder and a suicide! The insurance company held up $50,000 on the grounds that the shots were fired after 12 noon. But there was no proof. Neither was there proof that the shots were fired before 12 noon. Claire faced a difficult problem."
Time waits for no man, not even murder victims, as Claire Dennison and Martha Jarvis, two sisters, know only too well. Martha, a brand new widow thanks to a .25 caliber exclamation mark fired into her philandering husband by one of his less temperate playmates, won't be collecting big on the life insurance policy because, according to the insurors, there's no 
way to prove the victim died before the policy lapsed—but there is, in fact, a way, and in a moment of inspiration clever Claire, remembering one of the undearly departed's vices, 
finds it.
- We last met up with E. Hoffman Price, this time as a co-author, (HERE).

The bottom line: "'Smoking is just a habit. Tolstoy', she said, mentioning someone I hadn't met, 'says that just as much pleasure can be got from twirling the fingers.' My impulse was to tell her Tolstoy was off his onion, but I choked down the heated words. For all I know, the man might be a bosom pal of hers and she might resent criticism of him, however justified.” 

Friday, December 23, 2016

"And You Collect Butterflies?"

J. ALLAN DUNN, born in England, was an incredibly prolific fictioneer who churned out reams of American pulp—adventure fiction, Westerns, and detective fiction (but almost no SF), "well over a thousand stories" according to Wikipedia—from before the United States's entanglement in the First World War to just before its involvement in the Second; his Fiction-Mags listing, more than half of them Westerns, runs to seven pages!

Like James Bond vs. Blofeld but continuing a lot longer, Dunn had one hero vs. archvillain series of at least thirty installments going with The Griffin in Detective Fiction Weekly (DFW):
Adventure writer J. Allan Dunn gave us dozens of stories starring The Griffin in DFW. The Griffin was the king of extortionists using a simple threat: Pay me $50,000.00 or you will die on this date and time. The wealthy didn’t get that way by giving their money away. Instead, they hired bodyguards or put their faith in police protection, including being placed in a solitary jail cell. No matter, they all died at the Griffin’s predicted time.
The Griffin had enslaved dozens of people, having learned of their most terrible secrets and blackmailed them into virtual drones. The uneducated ones became assassins who were frequently killed themselves after the murders. Meanwhile his scientists were forced to develop slow-acting but precisely timed poisons. Gordon Manning, who had sworn to get The Griffin, was thrifty, brave, clean, reverent, obedient, cheerful. You get the idea. Time after time, he failed to stop the murders or get the Griffin. Finally, the readers had had enough . . . — Terry Sanford, Mystery*File (HERE)
We couldn't find a Griffin story on the 'Net, but we do have "The Ferret and the Bet," which dates from early in his writing career, and "The Flying Skull," coming towards the end.

"The Ferret and the Bet."
By J. Allan Dunn (1872-1941).
First appearance: Adventure, August 18, 1918.
Short short story (9 pages).
Online at Comic Book Plus (HERE) (select page 28).
A burglar widely known as the Ferret is being released from prison after a five-year stretch; Henderson, the detective responsible for sending the Ferret up, makes a wager with the prison warden: "Once a crook, always a crook! I'll bet you a month's pay he'll be back inside of six months, or, if he isn't, we'll be looking for him." The warden takes the bet, adding: "You know only the seamy side of human nature. There's a right and a wrong side to every man, but you never turn over the goods to have a look at the pattern that was intended to be shown. A crook may be always a crook, but all convicts are not crooks, Henderson."

But earning a living on the outside is another proposition entirely, and getting the money the Ferret needs to start a business looks impossible; so an invitation from his old criminal pals to pull another job proves irresistible. He's just about to do it when he happens to overhear a voice, a voice that ironically leads him away from one crime worth hundreds to another one worth thousands. It's beginning to look as if Henderson just might win that bet after all . . .
~ ~ ~
"The Flying Skull."
By J. Allan Dunn (1872-1941).
First appearance: Popular Detective, September 1935.
Short short short story (4 pages).
Online at PulpGen (HERE).
"Greer, the Swindler, Didn't Know the Grim Hand That Fate Was Dealing Him!"
Cheating somebody is bad enough, but humiliating them is something else. A shady financier who likes to go beyond a simple swindle pushes one man too hard—and gets 
his just deserts. Come to think of it, if only he had indulged in fewer desserts and kept his mouth shut a little more often, then he wouldn't have died writhing on the floor in violent convulsions, a victim of his own arrogance—and another man's hobby.

- Both Wikipedia (HERE) and PulpFlakes (HERE) have more about J. Allan Dunn.
- Our last visit to the dentist (HERE) proved equally fatal.

The bottom line: "Be true to your teeth and they won't be false to you."
Soupy Sales

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

"If I Tried to Tell This Story to the Police, It Would Get Me a Bed in the Psychopathic Ward"

"The Accidental Murders."
By Robert Moore Williams (1907-77).
First appearance: Amazing Stories, February 1941.
Reprinted in Amazing Stories Quarterly, Fall 1941.
Short story (13 pages).
Online at (start HERE) and (finish HERE).
(Parental caution: Strong language.)
"What unknown threat lay behind Agar's calm mention of a broken shoestring? Could he really control the destiny of any person?"
Most people leave life to chance, but not Agar; he is determined he's going to be rich regard-less of how many others he has to exterminate—and that's no idle threat, since he has the means of making them "accidentally" go the way of all flesh. The only thing with any hope of stopping him isn't something as dramatic as policemen with guns but the simple act of hav-ing a pretty girl change his mind . . .
   "I kept telling myself that Agar's forecasting that accident simply had to be coincidence. It couldn't be anything else."
Chapter II: "Death Strikes Again":
   "We could hold him long enough to find out what he was doing. Holding him was illegal, but to hell with the law."
Chapter III: "The Secret of Death":
   "In that explanation I saw clearly why those accidents had not been accidents at all, why they had been premeditated murder instead."
- The usual indispensable sources discuss Robert Moore Williams: Wikipedia (HERE), the ISFDb (HERE), and the SFE (HERE).
- A time viewer would be a wonderful thing to have, but just like any piece of technology, it can be used for good or ill; see Wikipedia (HERE; SPOILERS), the SFE (HERE; SPOILERS), and TV Tropes (HERE; SPOILERS), the last of which informs us:
"A chronoscope or time viewer is a device that uses images that show past or future events like a television. They can sometimes also cause time travel. They are common in sci-fi, and often take different forms.
"Some act like cameras recording past and future events and showing what an object would look like in a different time period. Others are more like TVs and show videos and visions of the past and future. Chronoscopes are often used as plot devices, as they can often reveal various details that are necessary for the plot."

The bottom line: "The future is already here — it's just not evenly distributed."
William Gibson

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Criminous Kris Kringle

Sometimes he's the perp, sometimes he's the vic, but 'tis the season for You-Know-Who:

For a science fictional take on the Jolly Old Elf, see these Ed Emshwiller Galaxy covers from the Fifties (HERE)

Sunday, December 18, 2016


Autumn 2016. Issue #43.
Editor: Arthur Vidro.
Old-Time Detection Special Interest Group of American Mensa, Ltd.
36 pages (including covers).
Cover image: Charlie Chan.

In the latest issue of OLD-TIME DETECTION, editor Arthur Vidro and his cohorts have amassed lots of information about the Golden Age of detective fiction, a period which is enjoying a renaissance of sorts thanks to electronic publishing and how it's retrieving these works from undeserved obscurity.

Among the highlights of Issue 43: News about Agatha Christie revivals — a modern review of an eighty-plus-year-old novel — a concise account of a thriller writer with his own unique style — an article about THE Chinese-American detective and his creator — a couple of items concerning detective fiction's Golden Age — two (count 'em, two) pieces of fiction relating to Isaac Asimov as mystery writer, plus an apologia from the Good Doctor justifying his affection for classic detective stories — and other smart reviews scattered throughout.

All in all, a fine issue.


(1) FROM THE EDITOR by Arthur Vidro:
   "The very first issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, dated Fall 1941, contained an error on its cover. Your editor created a story around that error."
   Related: (HERE).

(2) CHRISTIE CORNER by Dr. John Curran:
   ". . . the big, and as yet unanswered, question is: 'What will happen to Poirot?' Will a new actor don the spats and moustache? Unthinkable! Or, as in the current French TV series, is he to be excised completely from the plot?"
(3) MEGA-REVIEW: The Deadly Dowager (1934) reviewed by Michael Dirda (2016):
   "Though she lacks magical powers, Greenwood's deadly dowager emerges as one of the great witches of modern literature, insidious, cruel, hypocritical, and inveterately manipu-lative."
(4) MURDER IN PRINT by Jon L. Breen (1983):
   "As observers of the book market know, publication patterns have been changing in recent years."
   Related: (HERE).
(5) DORNFORD YATES by J. Randolph Cox:
   "The books of Dornford Yates are an acquired taste for some readers. His style has an elegance that resembles no other artisan in the English language . . ."
   Related: (HERE).
   "By now, you'll notice that I've fallen into the trap of discussing the Chan movies, not my intent at all for the books are different — and far better."
   "However you date it or define it, the Golden Age was the great period of the detective story, but alas, like all good things it had to come to an end. The reasons for this are 
numerous . . ."
   Related: (HERE).
   Comparing and (more to the point) contrasting Sayers's Busman's Honeymoon (1937) with Evanovich's Top Secret Twenty-One (2014).
(9) "I'M OLD-FASHIONED" by Isaac Asimov (1977):
   "I'm in a terrible situation. I like old-fashioned mysteries."
(10) FICTION: "The Men Who Read Isaac Asimov" (1978) by William Brittain (8 pages):
   "Are you telling us you've got the right solution? What are the numbers? How did you get them?"
(11) FICTION: "An Evening With the White Divorcés" (1976) by Jon L. Breen (4 pages). After-word by Isaac Asimov (1982):
   Breen's pastiche of a typical Asimov Black Widowers story and the Good Doctor's reaction.

(13) THE PAPERBACK REVOLUTION by Charles Shibuk (1969):
   Reviews of recent reprintings of Woolrich, Sayers, Chandler, Carr, and others, plus the six long-out-of-print Charlie Chan books: "This sextet of novels is noted for its quiet humor, its unpretentiousness, and its solid, old-fashioned (only by 1969's standards) storytelling virtues."
   ~ Full Crash Dive reviewed by Amnon Kabatchnik (1973): ". . . perhaps the best nautical detective novel ever written."
   ~ Motive reviewed by Charles Shibuk: ". . . an engrossing work, narrated in cold, remorseless prose . . ."
   ~ The Saint: A Complete History in Print, Radio, Film and Television, 1928-1992 reviewed by Bruce Dettman: ". . . for fans of Simon Templar it's a must."
   "I've seen many 'Best Lists' in my time, but the Kabatchnik-Aucott list is the best Best List I've ever seen."

(16) PUZZLE:
   "Below are illustrations of seven all-time detectives, some of them amateur, some of them professional. The question here is for you to identify . . . the talented artist who drew them."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Subscription information:
- Published three times a year: spring, summer, and autumn.
- Sample copy: $6.00 in U.S.; $10.00 anywhere else.
- One-year U.S.: $18.00 ($15.00 for Mensans).
- One-year overseas: $40.00 (or 20 pounds sterling or 25 euros).
- Payment: Checks payable to Arthur Vidro, or cash from any nation, or U.S. postage stamps.
Mailing address:
   Arthur Vidro, editor
   Old-Time Detection
   2 Ellery Street
   Claremont, New Hampshire 03743
Web address:

- Our review of the Summer 2016 issue of OTD is (HERE).

Saturday, December 17, 2016

"It Looked Safe—Absolutely Safe"

"Murder in Haste."
By John Baer (?-?).
First appearance: The Black Mask, August 1922.
Reprinted in Black Mask (U.K.), April 1935.
Short short story (7 pages).
Online at (HERE; text very faded).
"They can't do more than electrocute a man. The murder certainly seemed to be an absolute necessity. . . ."
"Detective Carr," we're told, "was one of the department's famous camera-eye men. No disguise had as yet fooled him. He was able to penetrate almost immediately any artificial changes of appearance." A grand talent indeed for a police detective, one that will lead him from a cold case of theft and murder to a dentist's office furnished with a desperate killer . . .

- John Baer's FictionMags list shows his most prolific period was the Roaring Twenties, with dozens of stories appearing in all the major crime pulps of the time, primarily The Black Mask and Detective Story; apart from that, we can find nothing else about him.
- Apparently dentists are no less susceptible to committing murder than the rest of us:
   ~ Clara Harris (HERE)
   ~ Glennon Engleman (HERE)
   ~ Colin Howell (HERE)
   ~ Tony Protopappas (HERE)
   ~ Virginia Larzelere (HERE)
   ~ Ricardo Barreda (HERE)
. . . and let's not forget the occasional homicidal faux dentist (HERE).
"Is it safe?"
The bottom line: "I told my dentist my teeth are going yellow. He told me to wear a brown tie."
Rodney Dangerfield