Tuesday, October 31, 2017

"Every Emotion Reacts Upon the Pulse, Which Strengthens in Joy and Weakens in Sorrow, Changes with Anger and With Despair"

"The Hammering Man."
By Edwin Balmer (1883-1959) and William B. MacHarg (1872-1951).
First appearance: Hampton's Magazine, May 1910.
Reprinted in Boston Sunday Globe Magazine, April 7, 1912; Top-Notch Magazine, May 1, 1915 (as "Decidedly Odd"); Amazing Stories, March 1927; and Scientific Detective Monthly, April 1930.
Short story.
Online at The Pulp Magazine Project (HERE, 14 pages; slow-load PDF; scroll down to page 75), Wikisource (HERE, 19 pages), and Comic Book Plus (HERE, 12 pages; select pages 27 and 93 from the drop-down menu).

"The case has suddenly developed far darker and more villainous aspects even than I feared."
Chapter I: "Advertised in Cipher"
Chapter II: "The Anniversary"
Chapter III: "The Clever Pencil"
Chapter IV: "With Nerves of Steel"
Chapter V: "An Intrusion of Science"

Scientific sleuth Luther Trant is called upon to investigate what at first seems to be a simple disappearance, but before you can say sphygmograph he's confronted with a politically-motivated kidnap-and murder-plot . . .

Dramatis personae:
~ The hammering man:
  "They say he was unusually large, gross, almost bestial in appearance, and red-headed."
~ Luther Trant:
  "I have the right, Mr. Edwards, to take up or drop cases only as I myself see fit."
~ Winton Edwards:
  "Eva! You are not married to this man?"
~ Eva Silber:
  "No! Until last Thursday, when he came to the office, I never saw him."
~ Cuthbert Edwards:
  "The loud rat-tat-tat of a cane had shaken Trant's door and cracked its ground glass from corner to corner, and the door was flung open to admit a determined little man, whose carefully groomed pink-and-whiteness was accentuated by his anger."
~ The little girl:
  "But to-night, or to-morrow, he goes away for good. He have paid only till to-morrow."
Typo: "A letter is made but giving first"
- The Russian revolution mentioned in the story was, inferring from the date of publication, the one of 1905; see the Wikipedia article about it (HERE).
- Edwin Balmer (HERE) and William MacHarg's (HERE) work was quite popular in the early part of the 20th century; Balmer's greatest fame came with When Worlds Collide (1933), crisply filmed in 1951 (HERE), which he co-authored with Philip Wylie. For more bio/biblio-graphical data about MacHarg and Balmer go (HERE), (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE).
- FictionMags's listing of the Luther Trant stories would seem to indicate that "The Hammering Man" was the eleventh of either twelve or thirteen Trant adventures.
  A few years ago The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box published The Compleat Achievements of Luther Trant, Psychological Detective (2013), with an informative introduction by Douglas G. Greene that you can read (HERE):

   ". . . what Trant (and the authors) mean by 'psychology' is one’s physical reaction in telling the truth or a lie, and upon the instruments that can measure that response.  . . .  Eventually, a great number of machines is either used or referred to in the [Trant] stories: chronoscope, galvonometer, automatograph, electric psychometer (or 'the soul machine'), sphygmograph, plethysmograph, kymograph, pneumograph. Not every reader was thrilled . . ."

- Luther Trant is an early and prime example of the Scientific Detective School, to which Mike Grost has devoted a page on his Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection megasite and where you can find a section devoted to Trant (HERE).

Monday, October 30, 2017

Miscellaneous Monday—Number Nineteen

PHILO VANCE, the product of Willard Huntington Wright's (S. S. Van Dine's) feverish imagination, may never make a comeback in any form, but eight decades ago he was wildly popular. The question before us is, how did this situation come about? It might help if we check on what Vance's creator had in mind for not only his sleuth in particular but also detective fiction in general, and the place to start is Van Dine's first shot across the bow,
so to speak, declaring his intentions:
"The Detective Novel."
By Willard Huntington Wright (1887-1939).
First appearance: Scribner's, November 1926.
Article (8 pages).
Online at UNZ (HERE).

Although a high-brow aesthete, Wright/Van Dine tells us that even in his world detective fiction is a possibility:

   "Of these four kinds of literary entertainment the detective novel is the youngest, the most complicated, the most difficult of construction, and the most distinct. It is, in fact, almost sui generis, and, except in its more general structural characteristics, has little in common with its fellows—the romantic, the adventurous, and the mystery novel. In one sense, to be sure, it is a highly specialized offshoot of the last named; but the relationship is far more distant than the average reader imagines.  . . .  If we are to understand the unique place held in modern letters by the detective novel, we must first endeavor to determine its peculiar appeal; for this appeal is fundamentally unrelated to that of any other variety of fictional entertainment."

For detective fiction to find a place in his aesthetic, however, would require it to be subjected to systemization, and that typically means attempting to impose rules on the unruly:

"Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories."
By S. S. Van Dine (1887-1939).
First appearance: The American Magazine, September 1928.
Article (4 pages as a PDF).
Reproduced at the GAD site (HERE).

"Of course"—you won't be surprised to learn—"Van Dine felt compelled to share with the world at large his rules for writing detective fiction . . .":

   "The detective story is a game. It is more—it is a sporting event. And the author must play fair with the reader. He can no more resort to trickeries and deceptions and still retain his honesty than if he cheated in a bridge game. He must outwit the reader, and hold the reader's interest, through sheer ingenuity. For the writing of detective stories there are very definite laws—unwritten, perhaps, but none the less binding: and every respectable and self-respecting concocter of literary mysteries lives up to them. Herewith, then, is a sort of Credo, based partly on the practice of all the great writers of stories, and partly on the promptings of the honest author's inner conscience. . ."

The major problem for anyone who would establish rules, though, is practicing what they preach, and not even Van Dine could always pull that off; still, he deserves credit for trying:

"The Evaporation of the Extraordinary Gentleman: S. S. Van
Dine's Rules."
By J. Madison Davis.
First appearance: World Literature Today, November 2015.
Article (3 pages as a PDF).
Reprinted at The Free Library (HERE).

In his younger days, Davis informs us, Wright loathed the genre that would make him fabulously wealthy:

   ". . . he [Wright] seems to have justified his condescending to the detective novel in the first paragraphs of his Scribner's article in saying that different standards apply to different genres. To try to apply the standards of Parsifal to The Mikado, or of Michelangelo to Degas, is unjust. 'In fact,' he wrote, 'they are unable to fulfill each other's function; and the reader who, at different times, can enjoy both without intellectual conflict, can never substitute the one for the other.' Perhaps this is merely the rationalization of a man whose own literary novel and short stories hadn't been notable successes and who had written viciously about mystery fiction in his youth. His ambiguity about his path in life is captured in the title of his article 'I Used to Be a Highbrow and Look at Me Now,' mentioned in the preface of his posthumous novel, The Winter Murder Case. His embarrassment over his success as Van Dine contributed to his penchant for drink, but Philo Vance was providing too good a living to reject him."

As for his maxims:

   "[Wright's 'Twenty Rules' are] considered by some mystery afficionados to be a classic, but it reveals exactly how much the fictional detective has changed since then. About the time Wright was codifying the elements of the mystery, Black Mask writers such as Carroll John Daly and Dashiell Hammett were finding a new path. As the interwar period continued, Philo Vance began to seem like a privileged and affected fancy-pants of a bygone era."

As a consequence of those rules, it seems we must inevitably come again to the perpetually vexed question of not only what constitutes realism in fiction . . .

   "Curiously, Wright distinguished the detective novel from other literature by its reliance on verisimilitude, the very thing he was attacked for. 'A sense of reality,' he wrote, 'is essential to the detective novel.' The reality he seeks, however, is the reality of the physical world.  . . .  In the detective story, the world must be as our familiar world is, or it is impossible to draw conclusions based on the evidence."

. . . but also just how "realistic" detective fiction should be:

   "All in all, Wright's way of looking at the detective story was as a crossword puzzle: rigorous in its methodology and structure but serious only to that extent. Those who, like Chandler or the many practitioners of contemporary noir, attempt to raise the detective story to the realm of—for lack of a better term—'literature' are, quite naturally, offended by this point of view and ridicule the Philo Vance novels.  . . .  In the arts, each generation thinks it is more realistic than the previous, which seems merely comical."
- According to the description in Wikipedia (HERE):

   "Literary realism, in contrast to idealism, attempts to represent familiar things as they are. Realist authors chose to depict everyday and banal activities and experiences, instead of using a romanticized or similarly stylized presentation"—which, it seems to us, automatically eliminates any form of detective fiction from that category.

- Michael Grost, on his megasite (HERE), has a large and well-reasoned page devoted
to how realism and detective stories have interacted over time.
- We previously covered some of this same ground (HERE).

Friday, October 27, 2017

"The Flesh Surrounding His Heart Is Charred to a Cinder"

"Murder from Mars."
By Richard Wilson (1920-87).
First appearance: Astonishing Stories, April 1940.
Reprinted in The 23rd Golden Age of Science Fiction Megapack (2015).
Short story (10 pages).

Online at Archive.org (HERE).
(Note: Text is very faded, so you'll likely need the "Zoom In" function.)

"Ray Carver, vacationing top-notch Earth detective, looks for the first interplanetary killer and finds a wife."
Carver and his manservant Murphy make nabbing a vanishing murderer look easy, but The Green Hornet and Kato they ain't.
Comment: This could have been a real whingdinger, but there's no real mystery here—and even the artist gets it wrong. Disappointing.
Typo: "Its not a receiving set"

- You can find a lot of info about Richard Wilson (HERE), (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE).
- Project Gutenberg has a few of Wilson's stories online (HERE).
- The author describes the Barsoom's captain as having a "Menjou mustache"; see (HERE) for a collection of images of that actor and you'll get the idea.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

"They Were Your Faces"

"Rogues' Gallery."
By MacKinlay Kantor (1904-77).
First appearance: Collier's, August 24, 1935.
Reprinted in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, May 1945 and May 1956; Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, "Overseas Edition for the Armed Forces," May 1945; Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (Australia), September 1947 and May 1948; and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (U.K.), May 1956.
Collected in Author's Choice (1944) and It's About Crime (1960).
Short short short story (1 page).
Online at UNZ (HERE).

"You haff trampled mein statue . . ."
Never, never get between an artist and his work . . .
~ ~ ~
"The Watchman."
By MacKinlay Kantor (1904-77).
First appearance: Collier's, February 22, 1936.
Reprinted in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, March 1944; Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, "Overseas Edition for the Armed Forces," November 1944; and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (Australia), August 1947.
Collected in It's About Crime (1960).
Short short short story (1 page).
Online at UNZ (HERE).

"Heavy breathing beneath him—his arm would come up, like this, and then go down . . ."
It has to come to him in a blinding flash, but Benny Hackett finally comprehends the full import of an old saying—you know the one, about how in the dark all cats are gray . . .
- For a while there MacKinlay Kantor was a household name; see Wikipedia (HERE) and Mystery*File (HERE), as well as the SFE (HERE) and ISFDb (HERE) for his few contributions to SFF.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

"Do You Think I Want Those Fiends to Mutilate the Finest Pitching Arm in the World?"

"Southpaw Snatch."
By Herbert Koehl (?-?).
First appearance: Ten Detective Aces, May 1936.
Short story (12 pages).
Online at Pulpgen (HERE).

"A private dick found a kidnaped mound man in time for the World Series, by playing tricks with a bowling alley and baiting peroxide blonde’s rival—only to see a kill-crazy mobster’s knife flashing down at the ace hurler’s pitching fingers."
It's World Series time, and while baseball is just a game for the average Joe, a tough guy P.I. named Cane knows that there are some people who'll always insist on playing it for keeps . . .
Suspicious characters:
~ Densmore:
  "You’ve blundered around like an idiot and ruined everything. I’ll run you out of town for this."
~ Joe Borden:
  ". . . a short, plump man with graying hair and a blue chin, looked at me and nodded. He was a cool cuss."
~ Leslie Grandt:
  ". . . our pitching staff went blooey. I had to use Leslie Grandt about every other day. He’d already won twenty-four games. And then his arm went dead from overwork. We finished two games behind."
~ Rowdy Ames:
  ". . .  he’s a left-hander. That means he’s a little screwy. Only not that bad. Loves to play baseball and the horses, poker and the ladies. He used to like to bowl, but I put my foot down there. Bad for his arm. Outside of those things, he’s a great pitcher."
~ The attendant at the bowling alley:
  "Looks to me like you ain’t naturally left-handed."
~ The guy at the pool hall:
  "A tall, redheaded fellow with a loose mouth and dull eyes opened the door and stuck his head out."
~ Mitzi Lanning:
  "She ran her tongue around her full, scarlet lips and stared at me a minute. Then she threw back her head and laughed."
~ C. C. ("See See") Cane:
  "You don’t think I’m nuts enough to give you a loaded gun, do you."
~ Sniffer Dario:
  "He’s a doper and kill-crazy. If he can’t kill, he loves to cut."
~ Deuce McCoy:
  "There was a swell collection of pictures of hotcha women in Deuce McCoy’s desk and not much else, outside of a little black notebook with some names and addresses in it."

- Judging from the list that FictionMags has compiled of Herbert Koehl's stories, we're safe in assuming he specialized in 'tec fiction: Black Mask (1), Ten Detective Aces (1 - "Southpaw Snatch"), Detective Fiction Weekly (10), Ace-High Detective (1), Dime Detective (2), Detective Tales (4), Double Detective (1), Private Detective Stories (1), and Super-Detective (1). He was most active in the '30s and '40s, the heyday of the detective pulps.

The bottom line:

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

One-page Shorts

"Why Gloria Smiled."
By Stewart Robinson (?-?).
First appearance: Collier's, December 13, 1930.
Short short short story (1 page).
Online at UNZ (HERE).
(Note: You'll probably need the Ctrl + function for legibility.)

You'd smile, too, if you managed to fool everybody . . .
~ ~ ~
"In the Shade."
By Stewart Robinson (?-?).
First appearance: Collier's, November 5, 1938.
Short short short story (1 page).
Online at UNZ (HERE).

(Note: Same as above.)

Mr. Bleecker doesn't know it, but he's involved in something very shady . . .

- None to speak of; except for two other stories, one for MacLean's and the other for Munsey's, noted in FictionMags, that's presently all we know about our author.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Miscellaneous Monday—Number Eighteen

IT HAS BEEN quite a while since we last ventured into the tenebrous world of professional literary critics and their judgments with respect to crime/mystery/detective fiction, but we're game if you are. Today it's Edgar Allan Poe again, and you would do well to read, or re-read, the stories under discussion beforehand . . . but soft! Let the critics themselves send their enlightenment breaking through yonder occluded window of ignorance . . .
~ ~ ~
   ". . . as the shades of the second evening came on, I grew wearied unto death, and, stopping fully in front of the wanderer, gazed at him steadfastly in the face. He noticed me not, but resumed his solemn walk, while I, ceasing to follow, remained absorbed in contemplation."

"The Limits of Reason: Poe's Deluded Detectives."
By J. Gerald Kennedy (born 1947).
First published: 1975.
Reprinted in On Poe (1993; HERE).
Article (13 pages).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).
(Note: SPOILERS for "The Man of the Crowd" and "The Oblong Box.")

By examining two stories, Kennedy shows how over time Poe's fiction veered from Gothic to Enlightenment and back to Gothic again:

   ". . . publication of 'The Purloined Letter' [1844] marked the last of Poe's investigative fiction; none of the tales after 1844 returned to the subject of ratiocination. Two basic questions to be considered here, then, are why Poe initially became interested in the detective story, and why, after the technical achievement of 'The Purloined Letter,' he abandoned the genre, reverting to the familiar materials of horror and the grotesque."

   ". . . the ratiocinative tales posit a vision of reason and order not elsewhere evident in Poe's fiction."

   ". . . [unlike the typical protagonist in Gothic fiction] the ratiocinator discerns the causes behind effects, proving that nature's laws are accessible 
to the man of reason. The emergence of this man of reason and his eventual disappearance from Poe's fiction can be observed in 'The Man of the Crowd' (1840) and 'The Oblong Box' (1844), tales which respectively signal the beginning and end of Poe's ratiocinative cycle."

   "Though not a major work in the Poe canon, 'The Oblong Box' delivers, through the narrator's grotesque misinterpretations, a clever satiric version 
of the detective hero.  
. . . The tale portrays the reductio ad absurdum of rational analysis: reason dissociated from reality."

   ". . . Poe came to see the detective story as a rather superficial and mechanical exercise in mystification . . ."

- "The Man of the Crowd" is online (HERE; PDF, 7 pages), and "The Oblong Box" is (HERE; PDF, 10 pages).

~ ~ ~
   "'The Gold-Bug' . . . was the most popular of Poe's tales. Upon its original publication in 1843, this story secured fame for its author that in later years was second only to 'The Raven'."

"'The language of the cipher': Interpretation in 'The Gold Bug'."
By Michael Williams (born 1949).
First published: 1982.
Reprinted in On Poe (1993; HERE).
Article (15 pages).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).

Williams argues that in "The Gold-Bug" Poe, whether intentionally or not, points up how much language use is commonly conditioned by social context, often leading to misinter-pretation and confusion:

   "Throughout the tale, the contingent nature of the sign is repeatedly implied. The narrative's shifting terminology for its central image, the gold-bug, emphatically illustrates the arbitrariness of the relationship between word and referent."

   ". . . the tale again stresses that meaning is created by conventions of use and context, which alone stabilize the interpretation of signs. The text similarly dramatizes the obstacles to communi-cation which arise when words are considered to be naively referential, as if the word and thing were indissolubly linked."

   "In a tale that demonstrates the value of heightened intellectual powers, the narrator's laziness of mind is marked."

   "Legrand's task is doubly difficult; he has not only to cope with the unreliability but also to discover meaning in a text which human ingenuity has deliberately rendered obscure."

   "Legrand's belief in that process of discovery by which nature appears to conform to man's need for order is clear."

   "His [Legrand's] steps are governed by thoughtful common sense, intuition, and an insistence that the meanings of words and signs is contingent on a multiplicity of possible contexts."

When Legrand tries in his mind to find a "connexion—a sequence of cause and effect" but fails to do so, causing him to fall into a "species of temporary paralysis"—a state of mind his less clever friend sees as a sure sign of insanity—we find the situation echoed later in Holmes's drug-induced reveries, which a worried Watson is never able to obviate. No doubt about it: As far as detective fiction is concerned, Poe laid the foundation for everything that was to follow.


- You can read "The Gold Bug" (HERE; HTML; several clicks may be necessary) and (HERE; HTML, 27 pages as a PDF).
~ ~ ~
   "At such times I could not help remarking and admiring (although from his rich ideality I had been prepared to expect it) a peculiar analytic ability in Dupin."

"The Psychology of 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue'."
By J. A. Leo Lemay (born 1935).
First published: 1982.
Reprinted in On Poe (1993; HERE).
Article (24 pages).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).

The author basically argues that in Poe's story, as with Freudian thinking in general, it all boils down to you-know-what:

   "Actually, throughout the story, Poe repeatedly suggests that it concerns psychology and sex, and particularly an opposition between the mind and 
the body."

   "Poe thus directly tells the reader that although puzzles, mysteries, riddles, and detective stories (such as, on the plot level, 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue') may be amusing for the analyst or creator, they are trivial in comparison with the 'glorious' fascination of psychological investiga-tion."

   "The murderer and those murdered, the solver of the mystery and the teller of the tale are, symbolically, one person."

   "Poe gives two direct clues that the story should be read as an exploration in sexual psychology."

   "The primary effect of Poe's tales of ratiocination is, of course, a delight in analysis—or, at least, a seeming delight in a seeming analysis. But as Poe wrote in defending Longfellow from a foolish criticism, no development is possible without susidiary ideas and effects."

   "Dupin alone seems able to order the universe through his superior analysis—but he is grotesquely naive. Dupin is himself the astronomer 
unable to see Venus because his scrutiny is too abstract.  . . .  Dupin is an incredible egghead, an intellectual, blind to the facts of life."

   ". . . every reader is made imaginatively to feel (and the ideal reader 
will ultimately perceive) that he is the murderer and the murdered."

   "Poe uses thematic irony as a clue to the truth."

   "Psychologically, the L'Espanayes cut off their own heads."

   "Poe proves that every reader will find that his own subconscious lusts 
and aggressions make the crime explainable."

   "Poe implies that we will free the good in man when we correctly identify 
the murderer as the repressed libido . . ."


- "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" is available (HERE; HTML, 27 pages).

~ ~ ~
Still more resources:
- For Poe, like many others in the 19th century, the word "mystery" meant more than one thing; see "On Poe's Use of 'Mystery'" (Poe Studies, June 1971) by S. K. Wertz and Linda
L. Wertz (HERE; HTML, 6 pages as a PDF):

  "The 'genuine' sense of 'mystery' then, for Poe, is best depicted as that which involves the subject and the reader in preternatural or abnormal speculations—in astute analyses of the bizarre. In all of the stories which we have considered under these three locutions of 'mystery,' we find that the plot structure is determined by the concept employed—that of puzzle, problem, 
or mystery."
- A remarkably strong correlation between C. Auguste Dupin and extra-terrologist Wendell Urth is noted in "Isaac Asimov’s Debt to Edgar Allan Poe" (Poe Studies, June 1973) by Jack D. Wages (HERE; scroll down):

  "In addition to his ability to perform astounding feats of analysis, Urth’s love of music and books, his cloistered existence — invariably he is enclosed in his cocoon-like habitat — and his chiding of obtuse policemen are only a few traits that remind one of Poe’s chevalier."

- One critic believes it was Poe who initiated an often overlooked personal characteristic common to many fictional detectives of later eras; see "Play and Games: An Approach to Poe's Detective Tales" (Poe Studies, December 1977) by LeRoy L. Panek (HERE):

  "Behind these tales, then, is a version of the Poe who challenged his readers to play cryptography games with him and composed articles allowing them to be spectators at his victories. It is no wonder that when the detective novel appeared in the 1920’s, it showed Dr. Fell playing checkers and chess, Philo Vance and the Continental Op playing poker, and Wimsey of Balliol playing cricket. It is no wonder that Ronald Knox and W. H. Wright wrote 'rules of the game' for composing detective plots. They got it all from Poe."

- A recent appreciation (although "depreciation" might be more accurate) of Poe:

  "Poe’s is the shakiest of all large American reputations, and yet, if I remember rightly a statement of Malcolm Cowley’s, there have been more studies of him than of any other native writer. There is, as Whitman said, an 'indescribable magnetism' about Poe’s much romanticized life, and that would be part of the explanation. It is also true that Poe is an important point in any brief for Southern letters, that his supposed morbidity has attracted many diagnosticians of psychic and cultural sickness, and that some critics have been annoyed into writing about Poe by a desire to comprehend or explain away his high standing abroad. Finally, and on the whole recently, a number of people have attempted direct literary analysis of Poe, moved by a sense that there is more to him than obsession, mystification, and—as Yeats put it of 'The Pit and the Pendulum' —'an appeal to the nerves by tawdry physical affrightments'."
  — Richard Wilbur, "The Poe Mystery Case," The New York Review of Books

- Our most recent Miscellaneous Monday (HERE) covered Australian crime fiction; the last MM to deal exclusively with Poe is (HERE).

Friday, October 20, 2017

"Two Green Eyes Glowed at Him Out of the Darkness—Then Blinked Shut"

"Black Light."
By Ralph Milne Farley (Roger Sherman Hoar, 1887-1963).
First appearance: Astounding Stories, August 1936.
Short short short story (4 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE) (PDF).

"The dull thud of a falling body. Then silence."
How do you protect someone when the would-be killer can't be seen? With "pigments which, although invisible to unassisted eyesight, nevertheless produce all the different colors of the octave above human vision; also the octave below. . . . Simple, isn't it?"

- The technology employed in our story, relatively new at the time, is discussed in a Wikipedia article (HERE).
- Ralph Milne Farley was the very definition of the early science fiction pulp writer, but

at crime fiction he wasn't anything to write home about; for more go (HERE), (HERE),
and (HERE).
- We've communed with Farley a couple of times already: "Who Killed Gilbert Foster?" (HERE) and "The Time-Traveler" (HERE).

Thursday, October 19, 2017

"No Physicians Ever Attended Frane's Murders, Except at Inquests"

By Winston K. Marks (1915-79).
First appearance: Planet Stories, November 1953.
Reprinted in The Test Colony and Other Stories (2012).
Short short story (5 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE) (PDF).

"They told you space piracy was impossible, didn't they?"
"Clothes make the man," goes the old saying. Lewis doesn't know it yet, but they can also have the opposite effect . . .
- You can read more about our author at the SFE (HERE), which characterizes his style as "mildly hard-bitten and amusing," as well as the usually fine summary bibliography at the ISFDb (HERE).

- People have been running around in spacesuits for a long time; see Wikipedia (HERE) and Atomic Rockets (HERE).

The bottom line: "Dress yourself in heavy fishing waders, put on an overcoat and boxing gloves and a bucket over your head, then have somebody strap two sacks of cement

across your shoulders and you will know what a space suit feels like under one gravity."
   — Heinlein

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

"Everything the Long Way, the Hard and Devious Way"

"Tydore's Gift."
By Alfred Coppel (Alfredo José de Araña-Marini y Coppel, 1921-2004).
First appearance: Planet Stories, September 1951.
Reprinted in Science Fiction Gems, Volume 7 (2014).
Short short short story (4 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).

"So unpredictable, these dead-world Tower Dwellers! Take old Tydore, who placed such an inestimably valuable gift in the greed-hands of one he hated."
Too late Marley learns that Earth is Earth and Mars is Mars and never the twain shall meet . . .
Typos: "millenia"; "miniscule."

- The Big Three with the Big Scoop about our author: Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).

- There's up-to-date information about Mars in fact (HERE) and fiction (HERE), in addition to The Red Planet's impact on human culture (HERE).
- Maintaining a viable colony on Mars is an iffy proposition at best, as demonstrated in a story we featured a year ago (HERE).

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

"The Bank Note Forger" and "A Warning in Red" (Updates)

WHEN WE INITIALLY posted about these stories, apparently scans of their original magazine appearances weren't online (or, at least, we couldn't find any), but thanks to the Hathi Trust they are now. When first published, these stories were enhanced with illos by some of the finest magazine illustrators of their era, but book publication usually meant most or all of the drawings would be sacrificed. If you've already read them or/and you don't really care about illos, then feel free to skip this post. Additionally, we've included links to both ONTOS and the new scan pages.

"The Bank Note Forger" (1899).
By Cutcliffe Hyne (1866-1944).
Short short story (8 pages; 6 illos by Ernest Prater).
ONTOS (HERE) and Hathi Trust (HERE).

~ ~ ~
"A Warning in Red" (1899).
By Victor L. Whitechurch (1868-1933) and E. Conway (?-?).
Short short story (8 pages; 6 illos by Max Cowper).
ONTOS (HERE) and Hathi Trust (HERE).

Monday, October 16, 2017

Two Criminous Misadventures from H. G.

   "He ran away with it to poison the water of London."

"The Stolen Bacillus: A Tale of Anarchy."
By H. G. Wells (1866-1946).
First appearance: Pall Mall Budget, June 21, 1894.
Reprinted many times since (HERE).
Short short story (5 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE), Online Literature.com
(HERE), and Roy Glashan's Library (HERE).
"The sense of imminent death gave him a certain dignity."
 It isn't every day that a little white lie could save millions of lives . . .

- Wikipedia has a couple of articles that relate to our story's theme (HERE) and (HERE).
- There are also references to a pair of French Anarchists, noted in Wikipedia (HERE) and (HERE).

~ ~ ~

   "This is burgling in style!"

"The Hammerpond Park Burglary."
By H. G. Wells (1866-1946).
First appearance: Pall Mall Budget, July 5, 1894.
Short short story (8 pages).
Online at Roy Glashan's Library (HERE) and Project Gutenberg, Australia (HERE).

"It was lucky he had escaped these snares. And they showed him the jewels."
Art, they tell us, is a high calling, so why is a lowlife like Teddy Watkins stumbling around in the dark in Sussex encumbered with two virgin canvases, a brand-new easel, a paint-box,
and a portmanteau, grimly determined, he tells one and all, to capture the essence of Lady Aveling's charming country estate? If you've guessed he's up to no good, then congratula-tions, you know your Teddy Watkinses.

Typo: "Person" or "Porson"?

- Two real-life personages get mentioned in the story, one an artist (HERE) and the other a criminal (HERE).

- As one critic has noted in retrospect, H. G. Wells's skills as an author were vastly superior to his abilities as a prophet; see Wikipedia (HERE) and the ISFDb (HERE) and a complete bibliography (HERE; as a PDF, 105 pages) at Roy Glashan's deluxe website.

The bottom line: "A burglar who respects his art always takes his time before taking anything else."
William Sidney Porter

Friday, October 13, 2017

"All the Lust, the Greed, the Insane Ambition, the Cruelty, the Ignorance; the Fiend-Spawned Secrets of His Soul"

"The Suicide in the Study."
By Robert Bloch (1917-94).
First appearance: Weird Tales, June 1935.
Reprintings list (HERE).
Short short short story (4 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE) (PDF) and Archive.org (HERE).
"A short story of dual personality"
If your other, hidden self kills you, is it suicide or murder?

Comment: Clearly inspired by Stevenson and Poe, the author gets to revel in Lovecraftian purple prose—much more effectively than his preceptor, we think.

Charming phrases: "worm-demolished scrolls of primal dread"; "the sable silence of the locked room"; "tentacles of terror"; "The reflection from the surface of the knife stabbed through his retina like the fiery ray of a burning sun."

- Being a member in good standing with the Lovecraft circle (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE), Robert Bloch couldn't resist introducing "the 'Mad Arab' Abdul Alhazred's" Necronomicon (HERE) into our story.
- ONTOS's previous encounters with Bloch are (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE).

The bottom line: