Saturday, February 25, 2017

"The Crime Simply Couldn't Have Been Committed at All, but It Was"

THE NAME OF Charles S. Wolfe isn't well known today, but at one time (1918-1922) he was regularly churning out stories for Hugo Gernsback's publications: Electrical Experimenter 
(6 tales), Science and Invention (the new name for Electrical Experimenter, 11 stories), and Radio News (3 stories), in addition to getting three more tales placed in The Black Mask 
(all data from FictionMags).

Was Charles S. Wolfe a nom de plume for Gernsback? We can't find any information that indicates he was, but Wolfe's writing does bear a striking resemblance to the publisher's 
(and that's not necessarily a compliment; remember, the scientific idea's the thing, not plotting and certainly not characterization).

At the moment we're considering returning to this author in the future, simply because he sometimes wrote about one of Gernsback's favorite notions, the scientific detective. The following story is typically Wolfe-ian:

"The Educated Harpoon."
By Charles S. Wolfe (?-?).
First appearance: Electrical Experimenter, April 1920.
Reprinted in Amazing Stories, December 1926.
Short short story (6 pages).
Online at Comic Book Plus (START HERE: select page 64) 
and (FINISH: select page 102, et seq.).
"Our author Chas. S. Wolfe seems at home with murders and the police. He has a special talent in bringing a mystery before us and in picturing some of the efforts of the ordinary mind, solving it and then in his own gripping way developing all the details so as to bring the story to a conclusion which is a revelation of a mystery. Here is a mysterious stabbing, no weapon to be seen or found, the ingress and regress of the murderer a profound mystery, and we almost fear the very name of the story tells too much, but we know our readers will find plenty of suspense in its text."
You've heard of the "magic bullet," but how about the "magic knife"?

Comment: This one strongly reminds us of a Dr. Thorndyke mystery, but is far less plausible—and if Gernsback's so concerned about the story's title, what about the illo, Hugo?
- Of course the ISFDb hasn't overlooked our author; go (HERE).

The bottom line: "Human madness is oftentimes a cunning and most feline thing. When you think it fled, it may have but become transfigured into some still subtler form."
   — Melville

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