Friday, June 30, 2017

"There Wasn't a Flaw; There Couldn't Be a Flaw"

"Murderers Shouldn't Overlook Little Things!"
By John Hawk (Helen Sybil Norton Kestner Cournos, 1893-1959).
First appearance: Scribner's, February 1930.
Short story (10 pages).
Online at UNZ (HERE).

"For several years he had been enjoying a steady and substantial income, and he had no mind to see death deprive him of it."
It's never a good idea to try over-milking a cash cow—the "cow" could finally tire of giving too much too often and decide, as in this particular instance, that the only way out is with a bullet . . .

Comment: Another ingenious perfect crime (HERE and HERE) undone because of one overlooked element.

The characters:
~ Ralph Saunders:
"Relentlessly the powerful hand which gripped his raised the automatic to his temple. He felt the cold steel against his head. He tried to pray."
~ Tim:
"They say as 'ow ther master killed 'isself, but I disagree with them young 'uns. I says, says I, 'What fer should ther master kill 'isself'?"
~ Stone:
"Terrible 'bout poor Saunders. Terrible. But I always allowed that he was a bit funny. . . ."
~ Mrs. Atkins:
"You're late to-night, dear. Did you stop in for a game with Saunders?"
~ Fred Atkins:
"He had rehearsed over and over again the part. Everything had happened as he had planned. Not in one jot had his calculations miscarried."
~ Miller:
"He stopped and felt in his pocket. Then, lying in the palm of his hand, he held it out to their gaze. Like a drop of blood, it lay against the pallor of his skin."

- There's a Dorothy L. Sayers connection with John Hawk; go (HERE) for that.
- FictionMags, one of only two sources of biographical information about this author that we could find (Curt Evans is the other; see below), tells us that "John Hawk" was, in reality, a woman who evidently preferred novel-writing to short fiction; here are contemporary and not-so-contemporary reviews of several of "his" other works:

    "This is the second detective story by John Hawk that we have read. We liked 'The Serpent-Headed Stick' better. Sark, 'the renowned and brilliant private detective' didn't strike us as remarkable. And the characters seemed all out of old stock. After all, your detective story has to be so devilishly ingenious and swiftly moving that it doesn't matter about the characters; or the characters, at least one or two, must have convincing identity. The jacket on the book is crudely drawn, and, without the title, one would suspect a French farce within. The story is English in setting, and two of the villains are Americans not at all noticeably American. All the people concerned are mediocre. We should call the narrative machine-made a 1 rather tiredly written."
  — "The New Books," The Saturday Review, September 29, 1928

    "STUMPED for a new method of death, John Falcon, the famous mystery-story writer, asks his dinner guests for a thought, and strangling is proposed. That night, while he is typing out his story, he is strangled in his study. Whereupon all his guests put in several unpleasant days. Not until another innocent man is 'done in' is the real perpetrator found. Plenty of action and excitement."
  — "Notes on New Books," The Bookman, July 1929

  ~ IT WAS LOCKED (1930):
    [Review excerpt]: "Sloppy writing and careless plotting fairly ruins an intermittently entertaining detective novel that turns into a thriller in the final chapters." (Also see the "Comments" thread.)
    — J. F. Norris, Pretty Sinister Books, December 8, 2013

    [From the dust jacket]: "During District Attorney Pulver's vacation, the sleepy little town of Dartford was startled by the unusual events surrounding the death of David Ribblesdale, one of its prominent citizens. Rodney Colt, young, enthusiastic, and a sentimentalist at heart, found in his office as Assistant District Attorney the necessity for running to earth the criminal whose activities caused Ribblesdale's lovely residence to become known as The House of Sudden Sleep—a house where one by one the inmates were threatened with a death that quietly, yet suddenly ended their worldly activities. It is with such a series of events that John Hawk, already well known for his ability to provide the thousands who read his every book with new thrills, is at his best. From the moment that Jimmy Armstrong, Colt's warmest admirer, calls him into the case, the story moves at a pace that makes each new page a quivering adventure. The search light of suspicion slowly and inexorably swings to each member of Ribblesdale's household." — From (HERE)

The bottom line: "What careful planning, what painstaking attention to detail, goes into extinguishing a man's life! Far more than the hit-or-miss, haphazard circumstances of igniting it."
"New York Blues"

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Salmagundi—Number One

TODAY WE HAVE a small miscellany of small items: a very, very, very short story; an artist's slightly cockeyed look at the court system; and a video (and we all know what happens to videos on the World Wide Webbie, don't we?).

"Beware of the Baby."
By Corey Ford (1902-69).
First appearance: Collier's, March 20, 1948.
Short short short story (1 page).
Online at UNZ (HERE).
"Mister, I woulden steal that baby."
A nervous Mr. Timkins, revolver in hand, must decide just where his priorities—and his affections—really lie.

- Among many other things Corey Ford is responsible for the Philo Vance sendup, The John Riddell Murder Case (1930) (HERE); the source material for a World War Two spy film, Cloak and Dagger (1946) (HERE); and even one of the Topper series films (HERE).

~ ~ ~
"Courtroom Lithographs."
By William Sharp (1900-61).
First appearance: Scribner's, June 1937.
Caricature essay (3 pages).
Online at UNZ (HERE).

   "A KEEN sense of drama and character, an unusual differentiation between types—these are the qualities which distinguish the work of William Sharp. The lithographs published here were executed by him from scenes in the courtrooms of New York."

~ ~ ~
Mission Impossible.
Running time: 1 minute 25 seconds.
Online at YouTube (HERE).

This should have been the final version . . .

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Top 5 in May

It's gratifying that two of our Miscellaneous Monday excursions made into the Top 5 last month (they're not that easy to produce, you know), plus a classic Christie short story, a haunted house exercise, and the always-of-interest OLD-TIME DETECTION.

Once more we feel that we must apologize for any dead end links that you might encounter; we can only say that there was something at the end of them when we first posted. While there could be any number of reasons for them evaporating, the most egregious, in our view, is the frustrating and Byzantine copyright laws that currently prevail, resulting in, to take a ridiculous for instance, stories being deleted from fifty-year-old magazines when they're scanned and uploaded to the Interblab—if it's been out there for a half century already, IT'S OUT THERE, the horse has long since escaped the barn, and provided the scanners don't attempt to turn a profit from someone else's work, we see no problem.

~ May 2017 ~
(1) "Miscellaneous Monday—Number Nine" - (HERE)
(2) "OLD-TIME DETECTION, Spring 2017" - (HERE)
(3) "A Moment Later a Cry Rang Out into the Night, and the Great Train Came to An Unwilling Halt in Obedience to the Imperative Jerking of the Communication-Cord" - (HERE)
(4) "Miscellaneous Monday—Number Ten" - (HERE)
(5) "Murderers Always Come Back, Mr. Harter, and There Was Murder in That Old House on Lonesome Hill" - (HERE)

~ May 2014 ~
(1) "Murder Is an Amateur Crime in England" - (HERE)
(2) "Dr. Thorndyke Times Three" - (HERE)
(3) "The Whole Sherlock Holmes Saga Is a Triumphant Illustration of Art's Supremacy Over Life" - (HERE)
(4) "An Example of the Kind of Outside the Box Thinking That Made Philo Vance and Ellery Queen So Distinctive in the Realm of Amateur Sleuths" - (HERE)
(5) "Absolutely One of the Best Locked Rooms" - (HERE)

~ May 2015 ~
(1) "OLD-TIME DETECTION, Spring 2015" - (HERE)
(2) "A Diffusion of Darkness" - (HERE)
(3) "Sherlock Holmes Lives in a Peculiarly Definite Sense as Real as D'Artagnan or Cyrano" - (HERE)
(4) "Feminist Thrillers by Vera Caspary" - (HERE)
(5) "The Erudite Flatfoot" - (HERE)

~ May 2016 ~
(1) "OLD-TIME DETECTION, Spring 2016" - (HERE)
(2) "The Manifold Moods of Arthur Porges" - (HERE)
(3) "The Cat Must Know" - (HERE)
(4) "It Appears To Be An Impossible Crime, but There Are No Impossible Crimes, Only Misunderstood Crimes" - (HERE)
(5) "Two Impossibilities from William Brittain" - (HERE)

Sunday, June 25, 2017

"He Wished This Had Been Robbery and Murder, Instead of Just Murder"

"The Fellow Who Killed Felix."
By Thomas W. Duncan (1905-87).
First appearance: Detective Fiction Weekly,
September 19, 1936.
Short short story (8 pages).
Online at UNZ (HERE).
"The Evidence Pointed to Cliff Barton as the Murderer. But Old Jim Laurel, Veteran Sheriff at Broken Ax, Found It All Added to: Frame-Up!"
He might call himself "a dumb hick sheriff," but the spirit of Sherlock Holmes lives on in Jim Laurel ("That's my business, to know things"), with nothing getting past him unnoticed: the missing wallet at the crime scene, the overlooked diamond ring, the handkerchief with the brown splotch under the victim's hand (a dying clue not left by the dead man), and the killer's rare ability to walk a straight line. In the end, however, Sheriff Laurel modestly attributes his ability to solve this case to one thing: "You know, it's a great advantage for a man to enforce the law among the fellows he's known all his life. It's hard for 'em to put anything over."

Nice phrasing: "The wind came to them and sniffed at them and then rustled away through the bushes."
Unusual verb: "body blurted back into the room."
Typo: "do have money enough" [left out you]

- FictionMags's
thumbnail about Thomas William Duncan: "Poet and writer. Born in Casey, Iowa; lived in California." FictionMags lists Duncan's short story output in both the pulps and the slicks as running from 1930 to 1947, most of which seems to have been crime fiction.

The bottom line:

Friday, June 23, 2017

Hat Tricked

"Long Odds."
By Hugh MacNair Kahler (1883-1969).
First appearance: Collier's, September 6, 1930.
Short short short story (1 page).
Online at UNZ (HERE).

"He saw that he'd been a sucker, after all, kidding himself that he was safe."

That's funny. Normally Pinner isn't particularly antisocial, but now that everybody wants his attention, he won't let them have it . . .

- A thumbnail from FictionMags about Hugh MacNair Kahler: "Born in Philadelphia; educated at Princeton University; contributed fiction to numerous magazines"—for thirty years, we might add, from 1913 to 1943.
- Our last meeting with Kahler was (HERE).
- Not only can hats be used in the commission of a crime (HERE, HERE, and HERE), but they can also lead to crime (HERE).

The bottom line: "Every day's an adventure when I step out of my door. That's why I usually wear a hat and keep my head low."
Steve Buscemi

Thursday, June 22, 2017

"The Only Safe Plan When You Hold a Fortune on Your Knees Is To Trust Nobody"

"The Thieves' Terror."
By W. E. Norris (1847-1925).
First appearance: The Strand Magazine, April 1907.
Reprinted in The Strand Magazine (U.S.), May 1907.
Short short story (6 pages, with 4 illos by Sidney Paget).
Online at (HERE).

"They call me 'The Thieves' Terror,' I'm told; and between you and me, I don't know but what I've fairly earned the name."
Moving a fortune in diamonds safely from one continent to another has always been a knotty problem for those entrusted with the task, and it's no different with bailiff John Henderson:

   "It would have been permissible even to the one who was not fidgety by temperament
to feel some anxiety respecting the custody of the famous Alstonborough diamonds,
which would never have left England if their owner could have helped it. But as his wife
had accompanied him on a special mission of ceremony to an important Court, it had been thought necessary that she should exhibit herself there in full splendour, while certain engagements stood in the way of an immediate return to Alstonborough Castle. Thus it
came to pass that John Henderson, a huge, powerful, stolid fellow, who looked no
promising subject either for violence or cajolery, was given the precious cases,
together with very precise instructions for his guidance, during the long journey
which lay before him."

Even with the unexpected intervention of Inspector Barnes of Scotland Yard, a sleep-deprived Henderson will nevertheless be subjected to violence and cajolery; a wide-awake thief will fatally underestimate our bailiff's resolve; and a would-be biter will get bit . . .

Plothole: A thief would always check the swag before absconding with it, wouldn't he?

- A remarkably prolific author, William Edward Norris's writing career straddled the late 19th and early 20th centuries, generating reams of what is nowadays called "mainstream" copy, but like some other authors he sometimes strayed into crime fiction; see the Wikipedia book and story listing (HERE) for more.
- The Online Books Page offers rapid access to more of his works (HERE).

The bottom line:
   Let every eye negotiate for itself
   and trust no agent.
   — Claudio

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Curtain Call

ONE OF THE German authors mentioned in Grace Isabel Colbron's article (covered in the previous post HERE) committed the following—to paper, that is:

"Well-Woven Evidence."
By Dietrich Theden (1857-1909).
First appearance: Unknown.
Short story.
Reprinted in The Lock and Key Library (Volume III,

1909) and World's Great Detective Stories (1928).
Online at UNZ (HERE, 10 pages) and Google Books
(HERE, 14 pages).

"Isn't it pretty? but look at this coronet here! What should we want with a coronet? I am just ripping it out, and it's no easy work, I assure you!"
Police Commissioner Wolff learns of an entreating letter from Johann Behrend to an old friend, Police-senator Lachmann, asking for whatever help he can offer: "On Sunday, the 18th of June," it reads, "the safe in my business office was robbed of the sum of 58,000 marks." A cursory investigation has led Behrend to believe, reluctantly, that it was an inside job:

   "There remains, therefore, only the, to me, very sad explanation that some member of my business force must have thus ill repaid my confidence. I could easily lose the actual amount of money but my relations with my employees are such that the thought that I might find the thief among them would depress me most terribly. There is nothing proven as yet, and I can still hope that some outsider may have committed this crime — indeed I wish from the bottom of my heart that it may be so."

Almost as an afterthought Behrend adds a postscript:

   "P.S. — Simply to complete my report, not because I believe it to be of any importance, I would add that the thief took also a large package of lace curtains which lay in my own private office."

More than anything else in this case, however, it will be that offhand P.S. which will lead an undercover detective straight to the thief, confirming a good rule of thumb in just about any investigation: you can hardly go wrong if you cherchez la femme . . .

The characters:
~ Commissioner Wolff:

  ". . . dropped the letter and sat in deep thought. Then he turned his cold gray eyes on his chief . . ."
~ Police-senator Lachmann:
  "I have, as you know, an only daughter. It is the heartfelt wish of the parents in both families that my child and my friend's son should be united in a bond that will bring us all still closer together."
~ Johann Behrend, business owner:
  "Behrend, Sr., was not particularly imposing in appearance, not quite so much so as Engel had imagined he should be as the head of a great enterprise, and a self-made man. But the high forehead and clear eyes of the delicate looking man of scarcely medium height had an expression of such high intelligence that it was quite easy to understand his success."
~ Bernhard Juritz, the firm's cashier:
  "Juritz's sharp-featured face showed energy, but the dull glance of his eyes and the foolish play with the evidently unheeded instrument in his hands showed a physical and mental weakening, for the moment at least. His low forehead and broad, full-lipped mouth pointed to strong animal desires, and the dark rings about his eyes were evidence of dissipation."
~ B. Düfken, a widow:
  "There was nothing refined or aristocratic in her appearance, her manner was awkward, her clothing very ordinary. She was one of a kind that could be seen by the hundred anywhere, a woman brought up in quite other surroundings than these, and who had evidently not yet been able to adapt herself to affluence."
~ Lore Düfken, her daughter:
  "In the next room they found a young woman in a white house-gown, who turned her

bright brown eyes on the stranger in curiosity, and then quickly pushed aside her work,
which covered almost half the floor, so that they might enter. The young lady, evidently
the daughter of the other woman, was very pretty, slender, and graceful, with a delicate
face and attractive expression."
~ "Engel":
  "A single passenger descended from the ten o'clock train of the same evening in Neuenfelde, a gentleman of military bearing, in clothes of fashionable cut, with a

sharply marked face and cold gray eyes."

Comment: Our author apparently believes that physiognomy is a certain indicator of moral character.
- There's more about Dietrich Theden on the German Wikipedia (HERE) and the German Project Gutenberg (HERE). In her article, Grace Colbron briefly mentions him:
   ". . . Theden's The Counsel for the Defence [is a] clever story of the conventional sort."

Monday, June 19, 2017

Miscellaneous Monday—Number Fourteen

"The Detective Story in Germany and Scandinavia."
By Grace Isabel Colbron (1869-1948).
First appearance: The Bookman, December 1909.
Article (6 pages).
Online at UNZ (HERE).
(Note: Plot SPOILERS for some stories.)

John Thaw in "The Sensible Action of Lieutenant Holst" (1973), from 'The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes' TV series.
HERE IS THE FictionMags thumbnail about Grace Isabel Colbron:

   "Born in New York City; stage actress; reader of European language books for New York publishers, theatrical managers and play-brokers; lecturer on economic and literary subjects; translator from German and Scandinavian languages."

Using her translation skills to good effect, she rendered crime fiction stories by German author Augusta (or August or Auguste) Gröner into English, as well as several other obscure (to Anglophones, at any rate) Northern European writers, such as Danish author Palle Rosenkrantz's "Letter from Another World" (1909), which saw American publication in the July 1943 issue of EQMM.
Colbron divides her article into two areas:

I. In Germany:

In Colbron's opinion, pride of place belongs to a Viennese author:

    "THE best writer of detective stories in Germany to-day is undoubtedly Augusta Gröner [1850-1929], of Vienna. Her name is never mentioned in the magazines that set a standard of criticism, and the essayists who discourse on modern literature know not her fame. This is natural, for detective stories are not literature, according to German ideas. But Augusta Gröner's novels are sold in cheap editions in enormous quantity, and there is a steady demand for her work.

   "With Anna Katherine Green she shares a lonely niche as an example of what women can, but usually do not, do as writers of detective stories. Mrs. Gröner's work is uneven, but in the best of it her skill in inventing and unravelling a mystery places her in the front rank. She makes no pretence at literary style; her manner of writing is quaint and old-fashioned, but most of her characters are alive, and there is no disputing her gift as a spinner of yarns. The plot is full of interest always, and grips from the beginning. There are a few isolated examples of good detective stories by other German writers, and there is an immense deal of poor work of the same kind to be found. But there is no other writer of detective stories whose collective work would stand comparison with the books of the best French and English writers in the same field.

   "Within the limits of her chosen line of work Augusta Gröner is very versatile. She does not tie herself down to any particular method, no two of her novels are alike in construction. She gives us the crime-mystery where the main interest hinges on the revealing of the truth by the work of skilled professionals; and she gives us also the crime-mystery sufficient unto itself, the story where the theme centres in the fate of those near to the victim. But there is always a mystery, and a good one, which does not let the reader's attention flag.  . . . Taken all in all, Mrs. Gröner's work is excellent and entitles her to be named with the best of other lands. She improves as she goes on, her later works are free from a certain old-fashioned style of narrative which dulls the others at times, the action is quicker, the method of construction more up to date."

Colbron then briefly surveys other contemporary German detective fiction authors, few of whom in her opinion equalled, much less excelled, Mrs. Gröner: Dietrich Theden, Carl Rosner, Frederick Thieme, J. Kaulbach, and August Schrader. She also covers what could
be termed near-detective writers who dabbled in mystery but didn't commit themselves
fully to the detective tale: Zschokke, Wilhelm Hauff, Baroness de la Motte Fouqué, E. T. A. Hoffman, Paul Lindau, and Ernst von Wildenbruch.

II. In Scandinavia:

Since Colbron's time, things have really changed for Nordic detective fiction authors, to say the least:

   "Detective, or even mystery, stories are rare in Scandinavian literature. But good examples may yet be found, because whatever the writers of the wonderful Little Nations of the North essay to do, they do well."

Colbron does single out one Danish author as commendable:

   "Among contemporary Scandinavian writers, the Dane, Baron Palle Rosenkrantz [1867-1941], is already known to American readers as the author of two detective stories which have recently appeared in English. Another of his novels, What the Forest Pool Hid, publish-ed as yet only in the original Danish, is a better story than either of those done into English. Both in the inventing and unravelling of the mystery, and in the sheer human interest of the story which lies back of the murder, this novel ranks high. It is full of action, and the plot is an unusually strong one in its tragic intensity. It is even in construction and the style is very modern."

- If you're interested in any of Colbron's subject matter, these might help:

  (1) "The Sensible Action of Lieutenant Holst" is outlined on the IMDb (HERE).
  (2) A short bio of Augusta Gröner at Google Books (HERE), part of Early German and Austrian Detective Fiction: An Anthology (1999) by Tannert and Kratz (for sale HERE).
  (3) A Mobileread thread (HERE).
  (4) The Online Books page (HERE); unless you're a major institution, you will have to

settle for reading these online.
  (5) The short SFE entry (HERE) about Augusta Gröner's only known fantasy.

  (6) Other Gröner stories :
    ~ "The Case of the Lamp That Went Out" (1910; 57 pages; online HERE)
    ~ "The Case of the Registered Letter" (1910; 19 pages; online HERE)
    ~ "The Case of the Pocket Diary Found in the Snow" (1910; 22 pages; online HERE)
    ~ "The Case of the Pool of Blood in the Pastor's Study" (1910; 26 pages; online HERE)
    ~ "The Case of the Golden Bullet" (1910; 22 pages) (online HERE).
. . . plus one more anthologized in Julian Hawthorne's Lock and Key Library:
    ~ "The Story in the Notebook" (1909; 24 pages; online HERE).

Augusta Gröner

Friday, June 16, 2017

"Everyone Slips Sometimes, and He Was No Exception"

"Mystery on Base Ten."
By William P. McGivern (1922-82).
First appearance: Amazing Stories, January 1942.
Reprinted in Amazing Stories Quarterly (Reissue), Summer 1942 and The First William P. McGivern Science Fiction Megapack (2014).
Short story (11 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE) (PDF).

"Veya Mallon knew her father wasn't a traitor, so she blasted spaceward to prove it—right into a hornet's nest of conspirators."
True, Veya is spunky and determined but not, unfortunately, subtle . . .

The characters:
~ Space Commander Wilson:

  "Believe me, I'm as anxious as you are to clear your father's name. Unfortunately, the facts point to his guilt."
~ Veya Mallon:
  "My father was killed because the information he possessed would have incriminated some Earth officer as a traitor. For that reason he was murdered."
~ Lieutenant Tom Vickers:
  "Everything, somehow, had lost its meaning, when Veya had dropped his ring contemptu-ously at his feet."
~ The second lieutenant at Base Ten:
  "The quieter things are, the better we like it."
~ The mastermind:
  "Without those papers, your case will be declared ridiculous."

Comment: You could replace our heroine with Dale Evans, our hero with Roy Rogers, the villain with Roy Barcroft, the incriminating papers with the deed to the ranch, and the rocket ships with horses and you'd basically have a typical '40s B-Western.

How many mystery story protagonists have experienced this?

   "He felt as if he were in a labyrinth of strange motives and actions, and if he could find the right path to follow it would lead directly to the heart of the puzzle. And it was a puzzle. He appreciated that with greater force as each instant slipped past. Looking back he could see the puzzle. But he knew he would have to look forward and move forward to find the key."

Techno-fail: They have rocket ships and electron guns, but important documents are committed to paper and carried in leather cases.

An interesting footnote:

   "Squeelah—a potent drink fermented from the carnivorous plant forms that exist in great abundance on the dank planet of Saturn. It is green in color, bittersweet in taste and TNT if imbibed in quantity. — Ed."
Typos: "Vickers hands clenched" [missing apostrophe]; "his eyes glitteringly triumphantly behind the concealing mask" [should be glittering].
- Hollywood was very kind to William P. McGivern, making classic films from some of
his works and providing him with steady employment as a script writer, mostly for TV
(see IMDb HERE); there's more info on him and his crime and SFF product on Wikipedia
(HERE), the GAD Wiki (quite a lot HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).
- If you carefully examine those posters just above, preferably with a magnifying glass,
you should be able to find McGivern's name.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

"There Is Someone Lying Dead Under the Stars—Because of Her"

"Death Comes in Motley."
By Tom Gallon (Thomas Henry Gallon, 1866-1914).
First appearance: The Strand Magazine, October 1907.
Reprinted in The Strand Magazine (U.S.), October 1907.
Short story (7 pages, with 4 illos).
Online at (HERE).
(Note: Some fuzzed-up text, but readable.)

"He was in the way—and I hated him."
Two complete strangers confront each other at four in the morning; one is a hardened criminal with no regrets, the other, as he admits, "with the brand of Cain upon me"—and between them a loaded revolver . . .

The characters:
~ The man in motley:

  "You'll start up at my elbow when I'm most secure; you'll put in an appearance when I least expect you; you'll be my shadow, haunting me, as another shadow will haunt me, till I die."
~ Jim Filer:
  "After all, you've got to pay for sich a little game as this 'ere."

- Street juggling dates from ancient times, and still goes on today (HERE), but unfortunately it has criminal associations (HERE).

- There's more about Tom Gallon on Wikipedia (HERE) and the IMDb (HERE); Steve at Bear Alley also has a succinct bio of Gallon (HERE). We think—but we're not sure—that before his death Gallon managed to revise and expand "Death Comes in Motley" to novel length as The Man in Motley (1915), subsequently filmed the following year (HERE). The FictionMags listing indicates that he was both versatile and prolific, his short story output, running from 1897 to 1916, almost entirely in the mainstream but with occasional excursions into crime fiction and the macabre.

The bottom line: "I had killed a man, for money and a woman. I didn't have the money and I didn't have the woman."
   ― Walter Huff

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

"I Can't Think Who—Who Could Want to Kill This Poor Young Gentleman"

"The Murder in the Mayor's Parlor."
By Joseph S. Fletcher (1863-1935).
First appearance: Unknown.
Reprinted in The Secret of the Barbican (1925; online

at FadedPage HERE) and World's Great Detective
Stories (1928).
Novelette (15 pages).
Online at UNZ (HERE).

"I saw headlines in the papers, certainly, but I didn't read what was underneath them. I don't know anything. That's my way, superintendent—I like my facts at first hand."
The young mayor of a very old English village, in the person of Mr. Guy Hannington, has been done in, and the local police, in the person of Superintendent Sutton, have called in Scotland Yard, in the person of Detective-Sergeant Milgrave, to investigate.

On the face of it, there seems to have been just barely enough opportunity for a murderer to have done it without being observed, but because the victim didn't appear to have an enemy in the world there also seem to be virtually zero candidates for committing this heinous act—which perplexities have D. S. Milgrave virtually scratching his head, since a crucial one-third of the requirements for solving a crime—a clear motive—is missing.

Milgrave is certain that if he just can find that motive it'll be a much shorter and easier path to the killer—but what he doesn't know, and has to be shown by someone who is commonly thought of as the village crackpot, is that the murderer's opportunity to stab the mayor to death was greater than anyone has yet realized, and that the short and easy path to the killer is beyond the veil . . .

The characters:
~ Detective-Sergeant Milgrave, C.I.D.:

  ". . . a quietly-dressed, middle-aged, spectacled man, whom casual observers, had they looked at him at all, would have taken for a member of the professional classes, a doctor, a solicitor,
a chartered accountant."
~ Superintendent Sutton:
  ". . . a big, burly man, who held out a stout fist, and showed unmistakable pleasure and relief at his visitor's coming."
~ Mr. Guy Hannington, the deceased mayor of Lyncaster:
  "Dr. Winford, he says that the mayor had been writing, or was writing, at his desk when the murderer drove a knife, or something of that sort, clean through his heart from behind. He says—the doctor—that he'd leap up, throw out his arms, twist round, and fall where he was found, on his back. He says, too, that death would be practically instantaneous."
~ Learoyd, the caretaker, and his wife:
  "The person—the only person—who saw him come in was the caretaker, Learoyd, a pensioned policeman. Learoyd and his wife live in the ground floor rooms of the Moot Hall—you can't enter at all from the front without passing their door and window . . ."
~ Leggett, the borough treasurer:
  "How do you know that Hannington hadn't made an appointment with his murderer? It's all nonsense, of course, about Learoyd not seeing anyone enter or leave. Learoyd was too busy with his supper to attend to things of that sort. A man could easily have slipped in and out; and as to getting away, why, it's not two minutes' walk to the outskirts and the open country from any point of this town . . ."
~ Anthony Mallalieu (a.k.a. "Snuffy"), rabid antiquarian:
  "Then the shadowy figure turned up the wick of a lamp, and Milgrave found himself staring at the queerest old man he had ever seen in his life, the sort of man who might have been imagined by Dickens or drawn by Doré."

Typos: "while you and find out what this old man's got to show us" [I left out]; "I should thing everything that can be told"; "secret passages and suck-like"; "they [should be he] asked."

- Biographical information about J. S. Fletcher is on Wikipedia (HERE), while the GAD Wiki has extensive bibliographical data about Fletcher's output (HERE); his very short filmography is (HERE).

The bottom line:
   There is thy gold, worse poison to men's souls,
   Doing more murder in this loathsome world,
   Than these poor compounds that thou mayst not sell.
      — Romeo

Monday, June 12, 2017

Miscellaneous Monday—Number Thirteen

"Dickens the Crime Writer—A Reading of Dickens' Pioneering Crime Novels."
By Shukla Chatterjee & Sanjukta Banerjee.
First appearance: Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary

Studies in Humanities, 2012.
Article (7 pages).
Online (HERE) (PDF).

"It is true that Dickens did not set out to write crime fiction."
Most of us don't think of Charles Dickens (1812-70) as a crime fiction writer (perhaps due
to fond childhood memories of A Christmas Carol), but good old Boz can justifiably be considered as a pioneer in the field:

   "Crime and its detection; criminals and their motives behind it; victims and their predicament; investigation and its outcome: such elements produce the sensation
that has always mesmerized the imagination of the readers. The enthusiastic audience
was never turned down [but] rather catered with caution by specialized writers since
the dawn of this genre in the 18th century. The popular psyche that sometimes gets
tired of other literary forms never really finds it too much to digest suspense, thriller,
mystery and crime that usually involve the dark secrets of human hearts.

   "This may be the reason why we still enjoy Dickens’ writings for we often come
across such elements in his writings. As we read Dickens more and more in the
perspective of the Victorian age and its special obsession towards crime, jail,
prison and policing, it is observed that he was drawn towards the secret that
excites curiosity. Perhaps it is this element of secrecy that renders his work as
universal in nature and still provides the same pleasure experienced by his
contemporary audience.

   "A close analysis of Dickens’ great body of work including both fiction and
non-fiction marks the evolution of crime fiction from the initial success of the
detective story to the height of Holmes' popularity in the early twentieth century.
This is also perhaps the reason why even after two centuries, his works are so
much in demand that they are reproduced in various media. In spite of this
insight, Dickens’ crime writing is perhaps an undervalued aspect. In this paper,
therefore, we propose to read Dickens, as a crime writer with reference to his
revolutionary crime novels and try to find a reason for undervaluing his aspect
of crime writing, which in a way would attempt to prove either his success or
weakening of his ability as a crime writer."

When it came to sensing which way the winds of the literary market were blowing, Dickens was never one to let himself get becalmed:

   "In fact Dickens was always with the trends of the market. Thus with the
publication of Newgate Calender, as Newgate novels became popular, Dickens
gave his readers Oliver Twist [online HERE]. Though published initially as a
series from 1837-39, Oliver Twist is an extremely successful and highly
controversial novel where perhaps for the first time Dickens profoundly
focused on the master criminal Fagin, who seduces young homeless boys
and turns them into criminals, and introduced to his readers his inclination
towards writing crime fiction."
Even in other novels in which criminality wasn't Dickens's primary concern, it still obtrudes:

   "Crime during the Victorian age was an inescapable social problem. So as a social
novelist, Dickens tended to view crime in his novels more liberally. Not only Oliver
Twist, but even in Great Expectations [online HERE] Dickens’ dissatisfaction with
the prison system as well as a sympathetic portrayal of criminals is suggested."

   ". . . as a journalist, Dickens’ non-fiction took a more conservative stance towards
crime where he suggested that it was more important to focus on the punishment of
criminals rather than giving them a second chance to redeem themselves. This
becomes even more clear on a close scrutiny of the description of Inspector Charles
Field and his detection in his short article 'On Duty of [sic] Inspector Field' (1851)
[online HERE] and Mr. Bucket from Bleak House (1853) [online HERE]."
Dickens understood that curiosity is endemic to humanity and that the solution of a conundrum can prove satisfying to readers:

   "Just as Fagin in Oliver Twist became a popular character through the sympathetic portrayal, Dickens’ contribution is worth mentioning in creating the prototype of the
literary detective as well. Though he did not set to write crime fiction, there is always
at least one puzzle to be solved in a Dickens novel and the crime and justice system
often comes in for castigation."

. . . which takes us to his only full-blown mystery novel:

   "Dickens' fascination with the practice of detection continued in more articles
for Household Words on the detective force, and in his later novels. The unfinished
The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870), of which there had been numerous assumed
solutions, in particular represent[s] a move towards the detective fiction of the late
nineteenth century. Dickens was not only drawn towards the secret that excites
curiosity, he loved to introduce the game of hide and seek with the reader who
tried to anticipate the solution of the secret. It is perhaps the demand of his readers
as well as his keen interest and obsession with crime and policing that he intended
to write a mystery story that would reveal the secret to his readers at the end.
Unfortunately, Dickens died half way before solving the mystery."
For Dickens, crime and how it was punished served as bellwethers for social progress—or the lack of it:

  ". . . when we focus on the literary skill of his pioneering crime novels, we find that

he displayed a shrewd insight into the criminal character, meanwhile demanding
harsh penalty for those who broke the law.  . . . In these novels specifically we find
the treatment of crime for Dickens was far more than an authorial device: it was a
focal point for his deep concern with social problems and played a vital role in his
attempt to understand these ills."

Endnotes and References (2 pages)

Typos: [Very uncertain punctuation and capitalization]; "or on [should be an] adult"
- There's more about Inspector Field on Wikipedia (HERE), the Jack the Ripper Tour

webpage (HERE), and in Grace Moore's Strand article (HERE), from which we quote:

   "Dickens eventually became friends with the detective Charles Frederick Field
(1805-74), immortalized in his article 'On Duty With Inspector Field' and widely
regarded as the model for Inspector Bucket. Bucket is credited as being the first
detective to appear in an English novel. He stands out as the one figure in the
world of confusion that is Bleak House who never loses control."

- Our last entanglement with Edwin Drood was probably (HERE).

Sunday, June 11, 2017

"Sometimes There Ain't No Justice"

"Account Settled."
By Robert Zacks (1915-95).
First appearance: Bestseller Mystery Magazine, March 1959.
Short story (8 pages).
Online at UNZ (HERE).

"Alice Robbins was a sweet young thing with everything to live for—but she killed herself when her boss left town with a $10,000 necklace that wasn't his . . . Big Bill Johnson figured he'd just have to find the guy and pin it on him—which proved surprisingly difficult." 
Same old story: Like the moth to the flame, a small-town kid gets an overload of bright lights, big city, starts hanging with the wrong people, and ends up paying an extended visit to the morgue. Once she's found out just how rotten the man she's working for is, he does a bunk with some valuable jewelry which the Acme Collection Agency has an intense interest in, and she winds up dead. For Big Bill Johnson, Acme's best bill (no pun intended) collector, track-ing this individual down will take him from New York, to smalltown America, and finally to the Chicago office of an extremely nervous, uncertain man with a gun in his desk drawer and a strong motive to use it . . .

The characters:
~ Big Bill Johnson:

  "Boss, this is a tough one. I'm getting nowhere."
~ Doc Watson:
  "If we can catch up with this guy and squeeze the ten thousand out of him, we make ninety-five hundred dollars profit."
~ McGillicudy:
  "We're in a funny position. As far as we're concerned it's suicide without question. He's got a right to disappear if he wants to. It's a free country."
~ The landlady:
  "It's a lie. I didn't find any money."
~ Carruthers:
  "When his eyes adjusted to the semi-gloom and indirect lighting he saw Carruthers of the Gazette at the bar. Carruthers, small and egotistical, was a good friend of Bill's."
~ Reverend Smith:
  "The Reverend was a kindly, loquacious man with graying hair. He'd heard about Alice Robbins' death, it turned out."
~ Dr. Lord:
  "He looked at Big Bill with pain-filled eyes, and in them was a flicker of hope, a moment of indecision."
~ Randall Craig:
  "This guy is deadly. His advertising agency is a front—his business is blackmail."
~ Alice Robbins:
  "Alice Robbins was an orphan and poor. Alice helped Sybil spend her money. Probably the first good time Alice ever had in her life. Made her yearn for the big city."

- To judge from FictionMags, Robert Zacks specialized in crime fiction and SFF, getting published in the pulps and the slicks from 1945 to 1959; "Account Settled" was apparently his last story.
- Zacks's comparatively small SFF output is listed on the ISFDb (HERE); he also has five screen credits on the IMDb (HERE).

Saturday, June 10, 2017

"Every Time I Get a Murder All Sewed Up, You Go Digging Up the Pavement and Upsetting the Apple Cart"

"These Shoes Are Killing Me."
By Leroy Yerxa (1915-46).
First appearance: Mammoth Detective, May 1943.
Short story (11 pages).
Online at Roy Glashan's Library (HERE).
"Footprints all around the corpse; but they were all prints of the left foot!"
What looks like an ordinary case (for the police anyway) of a young woman's strangulation rapidly turns strange when all of the crime scene evidence starts pointing to "a one-legged murderer hopping around, fighting with the girl and finally killing her"—forcing Inspector Hall to admit to his best detective that, "by the saints, Case, it's impossible." Eventually it'll all boil down to shoes. Shoes, shoes, shoes—that charming prince never came close to having this much aggravation with Cinderella's footgear.

The characters:
~ Inspector James Hall:
  "Hall didn’t like puzzles and he didn’t like details. Puzzles troubled his solid head, and right now, as he slammed down the phone, the toughest problem he’d faced in months sent three thick fingers scratching over his bald head."
~ Homicide Detective Robert Case:
  According to Inspector Hall, "the little wonder boy of the detective squad."
~ Helen Kane:
  The victim, "age twenty-six, came from a decent family, worked in a down town office and lived for nights like last night when she could put on the only nice things she owned and go stepping out among the bright lights."
~ Glenn Halliday:
  The prime suspect, age thirty-two and in good health—until, that is, according to the coroner he "died from a gunshot in the head. He held the gun close to his temple and fired it after stretching out on the bed and removing his shoes."
~ Percy Wallace:
  A shoe salesman at the Regent Shoe House who confesses to . . . a mistake: "I insisted on leaving the other right shoe and taking the muddy one back to the store."

- Leroy Yerxa is remembered primarily for his SFF, hence these listings in the SFE (HERE), the ISFDb (HERE), and also (HERE); FictionMags shows that he was active exclusively in the '40s until his death in 1946, during which time he produced roughly a handful of crime fiction stories for Mammoth Detective, his main series character, Paddy O'Sheen, appearing in a half dozen of them.
- Footwear also figured heavily in the story which we highlighted in a previous posting (HERE).
- There's always somebody out there who'll catch an author's error, no matter how trivial:

  "In 'That Affair Next Door,' by Anna Katharine Green, an important piece of evidence is the pair of shoes worn by the murdered woman, for of course, the book being by Mrs. Rohlfs, there is a murdered woman to be considered. It is expressly stated, possibly by way of free advertisement, that these shoes were purchased from B. Altman & Co., a somewhat well known dry goods firm on Sixth Avenue. The crime was committed in September, 1895. We wonder if it has occurred to Mrs. Rohlfs that Altman did not sell shoes until the opening of the present season. These are small matters, but it is well to be accurate, especially in the case of circumstantial evidence." — "Literary Chat," Munsey's, April 1897