Wednesday, May 30, 2018

"Mallory and Carruthers Is Said To Be the Best Detective Agency in All New York"

"The Long and Short of It."
By Mike Resnick (born 1942).
First appearance: The Dragon Done It (2008).
Short story (19 pages).
Online at Baen Books (HERE).
(Parental caution: Adult themes and language.)

"This is the Manhattan that people in my Manhattan can sometimes see out of the corner of their eye, but when they turn to face it it's not there."
Circus performing team Macro, the ten-foot-tall giant, and Micro, "the Nineteen-Inch Dynamo," have a unique problem and come to Mallory and Carruthers for help. "Some 
fiend has been making me shrink down to normal size," says Macro, "and me grow up 
to it," says Micro, which will be ruinous to their careers in very short order. Who would 
do such a pernicious thing?

As Mallory soon learns, because of Macro and Micro's extracurricular activities with every attractive female in sight, his suspect pool is very large indeed: "I think what you're telling 
me is that if it works for the circus and has a wife or a girlfriend, it has a grudge against you," 
not forgetting "probably three or four million husbands wandering around Manhattan."

Winnifred, his .45 Magnum-toting female associate, convinces Mallory not to seek help from Grundy: "He's the most powerful demon on the East Coast—and in case it's slipped your mind, he's your mortal enemy! His last word was that he was going to disembowel you slowly and painfully." Instead, because of her big top connections, she and Mallory and Felina the catgirl head for the Ringling & Bailey Barnum Brothers Circus, to be confronted with a goblin, an elf, a troll and a leprechaun (bodyguards for a magician who isn't all that sure of his powers), as well as Circe, easily the most beautiful woman Mallory has ever seen ("She makes Sophia Loren look like a boy!"), astride a cantering centaur.

Eventually Mallory arrives at a solution resulting in "seventy-three long-stemmed roses, each with a scented thank-you note."

Comment: When she found herself trapped in Wonderland, little Alice was assured that 
one can believe six impossible things before breakfast—which would be a piece of cake compared to what Mallory, our sleuth (and by extension, the reader), has to do to suspend 
his disbelief. If over-the-top fantasy isn't your cup of tea, then this one's not for you—and forget about the cake.

- This is our first encounter with Mike Resnick (on the weblog; we've been reading his stuff for years), but it probably won't be the last; the relevant information about Resnick is at Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).
- The central character in a series of fantasy-hardboiled crime stories, John Justin Mallory (JJM) is a private eye who manages to get stuck in an alternate Manhattan; see The Thrilling Detective (HERE) for background on Mallory, the ISFDb for a list of the stories (HERE), and Wikipedia for a SPOILER-filled description of Stalking the Unicorn (1987; HERE), the first Mallory adventure detailing how he got stuck elsewhere in the first place.
- As you can see from the ISFDb bibliography, Resnick followed up Unicorn with the novels Stalking the Vampire (2008) and Stalking the Dragon (2009), along with another book entitled Stalking the Zombie (2012), that one being a collection of shorts the contents of which evidently are a deep, dark secret; in the interim he produced some short fiction featuring 
JJM in addition to "The Long and Short of It."

Monday, May 28, 2018

"The Audacity of the Thing Was Astounding, Yet the Completeness with Which It Had Succeeded Was Even More Astounding"

"The Mystery of the Churchill Pearls."
By Arthur Stringer (1874-1950).
Illustration by C. D. Williams.
First appearance: The Hampton Magazine, May 1912.
Short short story (9 pages, 1 illo).
Online at Hathi Trust starting (HERE) and finishing (HERE).

"Yet I was able to laugh a little as I put the magazine revolver down on the table; it had memories which were amusing."
A rainy night, a crowded theater, and around a beautiful young woman's neck . . .

   ". . . an extraordinarily large and vivid stone stood out in limpid ruddiness. It was a challenge to attention. It caught and held the eye. It stood there, just below where the hair billowed into its crown of Venetian gold, as semaphoric as a yardlamp to a night traveler. And I wondered, as I sat looking at it, what element beyond curiosity could coerce the man at my side into studying it so indolently and yet so intently."

All too soon it will become clear what that "element" is, leading to a wild chase through the rain-slick streets of Manhattan and culminating in an ironic finale.
Comment: If nothing else our author's above-average descriptive prose succeeds in setting the scene and establishing mood better than many other crime fiction writers that we've encountered; Queenian it is in its attention to detail but, unlike EQ on occasion, without overdoing it.

- The thriller and fantasy fiction of Arthur John Arbuthnott Stringer was quite popular in his day but is now almost completely forgotten; find all the relevant data about him at Wikipedia (HERE), the Science Fiction Encyclopedia (HERE), and the Internet Speculative Fiction Data-base (HERE).
- We first encountered Stringer not long after we started this weblog, but it has been nearly four years since our last contact with his work; see (HERE).

Friday, May 25, 2018

"We Have a Machine"

AS WE'VE NOTED BEFORE we like to bring to your attention the first appearances of what were to become well-known (but not necessarily great) detectives; today's case in point: Luther Trant, the psychologist and gadget whiz who's never without a crime-fighting gizmo regardless of the occasion.

"The Psychologist As Detective."
First appearance: Hampton's Magazine, April 1909.
Article (2 pages).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).

The editors prepare their readers for the coming introduction of "a real discovery, a startlingly original method of detecting crime by means of experimental psychology. 
To make an extreme, but nevertheless accurate statement, this new detective theory 
is as important as Poe's deductive theory of 'ratiocination.'"
~ ~ ~
"Writers and Their Work: The Originators of Luther Trant, Detective."
First appearance: Hampton's Magazine, May 1909.
Article (2 pages).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).

The next issue of Hampton's sees the introduction of this newfangled sleuth, the creation of Edwin Balmer and William B. MacHarg, "both Chicagoans; and they have had academic and literary training which, together with the merit of this initial story, indicates that readers of this magazine who enjoy fiction of real worth have a treat in store in the series of stories founded on the achievements of Luther Trant."

~ ~ ~
Then comes the story in question:

"The Man in the Room."
By Edwin Balmer (1883-1959; HERE) and William B. MacHarg (1872-1951; HERE).
Illustrations by William Oberhardt (1882-1958).
First appearance: Hampton’s Magazine, May 1909.
Collected in The Achievements of Luther Trant (1910; online HERE and HERE).

Reprinted in Boston Sunday Globe Magazine, February 11, 1912; Amazing Stories, April 1927; Scientific Detective Monthly, March 1930; and Great Detective Stories, April 1933.
Short story.
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE; 12 pages, 4 illos) and Comic Book Plus (HERE; 9 pages, 1 illo; select page 44 from the dropdown menu; faded text).

"Luther! You are charging murder!"
The chief financial officer of the university is found dead in a locked room permeated with gas; the circumstantial evidence supports the theory that he's been embezzling money from the school's accounts, couldn't cover his defalcations, and with an upcoming audit looming large has committed suicide in consequence. Young Luther Trant, however, thinks otherwise and vows to prove that not only was the dead man not a thief, "but—he was not even a suicide." It's plain to Trant that when the victim died, someone else was there with him; one of his three closest friends had to be the man in the room . . .
Comment: This could be the only story you'll ever read in which a character "laughed uglily."
Typo: "steal" [steel].

~ ~ ~
Of course it won't surprise you to learn that after the first handful of stories had appeared not everyone was enchanted with this sleuth, as one letter to the editor (HERE) reveals:

   "The special articles you publish are usually very fine. Peary is good, sugar, ditto; all the muckrake articles O. K. But in the fiction department you collapse most lamentably. Luther Trant will never amount to anything as a detective. His first exploit was fascinating, his second passable, but all the others have been rotten. There is not enough variation in them and there is no possibility of there being any further variation. The psychological side of a story appeals to one if it is properly presented, but this Trant stuff is always presented the same way and gets very tiresome.
   "You know I believe I could write better detective stories than these with my left hand. In fact, I believe I could write better stories than any you have published in a year. I don't like your fiction and I wish you would get better stuff in that department, because if I've got to read your magazine for another year anyway, I would like to get at least three good pieces of fiction in each number."
   — O.H.H., Minneapolis, Minnesota

We have no idea what happened to the dextrorotary O.H.H. after he or she canceled their subscription.
~ ~ ~
- Douglas G. Greene, book editor emeritus, has written in an introduction to The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box's collection The Compleat Achievements of Luther Trant, Psychological Detective (2012; HERE):

   "Nowadays, we would find psychological interpretation to be less absolute, and the lie detectors and other machines to be less dependable, than MacHarg and Balmer believed. But the stories are more than just the application of gadgets (as Reeve’s Craig Kennedy stories too often are). Trant often makes subtle deductions from physical evidence before he employs the machines. His judgments in the first story that the death was not a suicide are excellent, and in perhaps his best story, 'The Axton Letters,' the conclusions based on the different forms of observation in various letters are persuasive. The back-grounds of the stories are varied and colorful — Aztec magic, exotic ports, shipwreck, Russian radicals, the deep woods, mixed marriage. Although the stories appeared in a magazine deeply opposed to business practices, that issue is raised only a couple times. Several of the stories have a manufacturing or financial background, but only 'The Man Higher Up' emphasizes corruption, and 'The Empty Cartridges' shows how murder and betrayal were at the heart of a business enterprise."

- Michael Grost on his megasite (HERE) considers Luther Trant:

  "William MacHarg and Edwin Balmer's The Achievements of Luther Trant (1909-1910) are some of the pioneering American scientific detective 
stories. Trant is a psychologist, Chicago based, who works as a crimino-
logical consultant on mysteries. He is a young, clean cut and dynamic 
scientist, a characterization that probably influenced Arthur B. Reeve's detective Craig Kennedy."
- Here are the first seven Luther Trant stories as published in Hampton's Magazine:
(1) "The Man in the Room" [above].
(2) "The Fast Watch."
     First appearance: Hampton’s Magazine, June 1909.
     Short story (13 pages, 4 illos).
     Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).

(3) "The Axton Letters."
     First appearance: Hampton's Magazine, January 1910.
     Short story (14 pages, 2 illos).
     Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).

(4) "The Eleventh Hour."
     First appearance: Hampton's Magazine, February 1910.
     Short story (13 pages, 2 illos).
     Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).

(5) "The Hammering Man."
     First appearance: Hampton's Magazine, May 1910.
     Short story (12 pages, 2 illos).
     Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).
     Also see (HERE).

(6) "A Matter of Mind Reading."
     First appearance: Hampton's Magazine, October 1910.
     Short story (12 pages, 4 illos).
     Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).

(7) "The Daughter of a Dream."
     First appearance: Hampton's Magazine, June 1911.
     Short story (12 pages, 2 illos).
     Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

"We Do Affirm That There Is, There Must Be, Some Profound Mystery at the Bottom of This Affair"

IT ISN'T EVERY DAY that a literary hoax leads to a criminal icon, but when "Caxton" published a science fictional spoof that furrowed a lot of eyebrows in the state of 
California, he also inadvertently inspired the nickname of a real-life bandit (see the 
postscript to the Fantasy and Science Fiction version for details). As to why the 
authorities in the story refused to prosecute the man who without a shadow of a 
doubt murdered a frail septuagenarian by pushing him off a cliff, you'll just have 
to read . . .

"The Case of Summerfield."
By "Caxton" (W. H. Rhodes, 1822-76).

First appearance: The Sacramento Union, May 1871.
Collected in Caxton's Book: A Collection of Essays, Poems, Tales and Sketches (1876).
Reprinted in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Summer 1950.
Reprints list (HERE).
Novelette (26 pages).
Online at (HERE) and Project Gutenberg (HERE; WARNING: SPOILERS in Introduction).

"I have now the means at my command of rising superior to fate, or of inflicting incalculable ills upon the whole human race."
What would you do if you knew someone deserved to die and had a chance to do something about it?

Comment: Our author smartly employs all of the tools necessary to make a hoax of this kind sound plausible, particularly the focus on official documents, an abundance of technical details, and the deadpan delivery.

- Not exactly a household name, William Henry Rhodes is known best to hardcore SFF enthusiasts; see Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).
- Concerning our author, the Fantasy editor writes:
   ". . . W. H. Rhodes was in this and other stories one of the great pioneers of modern science fiction, who, in this story intended as a pleasant hoax, even anticipates, if crudely, the concept of chain reaction. As we read his bare, direct style, combining as it does imaginative romancing with the reportorial factualness of Defoe, we realize indeed what a great pity it was that Mr. Rhodes could never quite bring himself to forsake the law completely for 
his writing."

Monday, May 21, 2018

A Cursed Aristocrat, a Not-so-great Detective, and a Blackmailer in a Hurry

   "No marquis of Abbercrombie, for three hundred years, has died in his bed."

"The American Marquis: How the Abbercrombie Curse Worked Out."
By Huan Mee (Charles Herbert Mansfield, 1864-1930, and Walter Edward Mansfield, 1870-1916).
Illustrations by Frank Craig (1874-1918).
First appearance: The Harmsworth Monthly Pictorial Magazine, February 1900.
Short short story (7 pages, 5 illos).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).

"I'll kill the man who comes between us, be he the Marquis or another."
A family curse, in this day and age? "Don't forget," Hartleigh assures young Phillips, "we're in the nineteenth century. Curses went out of date with ruffles and knee-breeches . . ."
- No matter how you spell it, in England (HERE) a marquis is still very much a member of the aristocracy.
- It was just last Wednesday that we brushed against the bipartite author Huan Mee (HERE).

~ ~ ~

   "This is no common fraud, it is no amateur business, but the work of a most expert criminal."

"The Case of Monsieur Doulon: A Sensational Paris Hotel Story."
By Maud Isidore Douglas (?-?).
Illustrations by Robert W. Wallace.
First appearance: The Harmsworth Magazine, August 1900.
Short short story (9 pages, 8 illos).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).
(Note: Some text near illos is faded.)

"You forget, monsieur, that a detective must of necessity also be a spy."
Lecoq gets reprised in "the genius of Paolo Serge, private investigator," a master of disguise, if nothing else . . .
- We looked but couldn't find anything about Maud Isidore Douglas; FictionMags credits her with eleven stories overall, two of which sold to a crime fiction pulp: "Winged Assistance," Detective Story Magazine, November 13, 1917, and "Wolf’s Clothing," Detective Story Magazine, February 25, 1919.
- At one point the author writes "Jean Crapaud had become John Bull" in regard to a transformation of appearance:
   "Jean Crapaud, also Johnny Crappeau or Johnny Crappo, as defined by Webster's Online Dictionary, 'is a jocose name given to a Frenchman. It is intended as a national personification of the French people as a whole in
much the same sense as John Bull is to the English. It is sometimes used
as a literary device to refer to a typical Frenchman, usually in the form of Monsieur Jean Crapaud.'" — Wikipedia (HERE)
   "John Bull is a national personification of the United Kingdom in general
and England in particular, especially in political cartoons and similar graphic works. He is usually depicted as a stout, middle-aged, country-dwelling, jolly, matter-of-fact man." — Wikipedia (HERE)

~ ~ ~

   "If you are so foolish as to refuse payment, you will be murdered."

"My Blackmailing Secretary."
By Marvin Dana (1867-1926).
Illustrations by A. U. Soord (1868-1915).
First appearance: The Harmsworth Magazine, September 1900.
Short short story (7 pages, 4 illos).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).

"They say most folks are unhappy, so we're doing good in helping some of 'em out of their misery."
True enough, haste does make waste—but in this case it costs lives . . .
Comments: Even as recently as last week we noticed that crime fiction writers (especially in TV and films) have used the overheard confession on a recording device as an easy gimmick to resolve their plots; we have no idea, however, if this is the first one to do so. As for the solution, it's obvious that our author would never qualify as a Rival of Sherlock Holmes; a capable detective fiction author would have reorganized the last page to produce a more satisfying Big Reveal in the final few paragraphs.
- FictionMags tells us about Marvin Hill Dana: "Born in Cornwall, Connecticut; died in New York City. Graduated from Middlebury College, Sauveur School of Languages, law depart-ment of Union University, and General Theological Seminary in New York City; practiced law and then ordained and was pastor of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Stillwater, New York; later identified as an author; wrote poetry, novels and books on law, memory, arithmetic, language and etiquette"; Dana was involved in many of Victor L. Whitechurch's Thorpe
Hazell railway mysteries—see (HERE) for one of them.

Friday, May 18, 2018

"I Am Going to Kill You Tomorrow Night at Eight O’clock in Your Own Rooms and Would Appreciate It If You Warned Police in Advance"

"Perseus Had a Helmet."
By Richard Sale (1911-93).
First appearance: Argosy, February 5, 1938.
Reprinted in The Magazine of Fantasy and
Science Fiction,
Fall 1949.
Short story (15 pages).
Online at (HERE).

"It doesn’t sound like much of a build-up for a murder, does it? Just two guys in love with a girl."
It's never a good idea to push a little guy around; just ask Bill Jordan—if you can find him . . .

Dramatis personae:
~ Captain McGrail:

  "Listen, pencil-pusher, this is the homicide bureau. You know there ain’t a feature story for a paper up here. They do the bumping, we nab ’em, they sit in that chair where you’re resting it right now, and then they spill or they get a going over. That’s all it is. No color, no tricks, no malarkey."
~ Pencil-pusher:
  "All right. So my city editor is nuts and there isn’t a feature story to be had by the chief of the homicide bureau. But all that aside, Captain, think. There must have been some poor son-of-a-gun in here once upon a time who’d be worth a feature."
~ Perseus Smith:
  ". . . was an insurance salesman no less, about five feet five inches tall, a little bald, a little waistline, thirty-two years old, wore glasses, looked henpecked without being married, and jumped at the sight of his own shadow."
~ Ruby Miller:
  ". . . was a smart little girl. She had good looks, blonde hair (which she renewed at the hairdresser’s from week to week), and a pair of gams that would have put Dietrich to
shame. She had better looking guys than Perseus Smith on her trail and she knew it."
~ Bill Jordan:
  "Ruby Miller really liked this second guy, Jordan, but he was too cocky for her and he didn’t flatter her enough. He made out as if it were a privilege for her because he liked her and went out with her."
~ Mrs. Hannigan:
  "Don’t worry, Doctor. He can’t leave the house without me seeing him."
- Richard Bernard Sale graduated (if that's the right word) from pulp fictioneer to movie and TV screen writer, and from there to film director; see Wikipedia (HERE), What-When-How (HERE), the IMDb (HERE), and his New York Times obituary (HERE).
- "Perseus Had a Helmet" was the first of at least sixteen stories by Sale that featured one of his series characters, Captain McGrail, most of them appearing in DFW; concerning these tales the F & SF editor writes:
   ". . . there is a portion of Sale's pulp product which has always worried the whodunit fan. The narratives of Captain McGrail are unsettling; they exist somewhere on the borderline between logical crime and a world gone mad.
As in this story: Did Perseus Smith concoct the cleverest neck-saving yarn
on record, or did the magic of Mount Olympus arise to confound the homicide department! The answer is up to you . . ."
- The Captain McGrail stories that we know about [FictionMags]:
   (1) "Perseus Had a Helmet," Argosy, February 5, 1938

   (2) "Death Had a Pencil," Argosy Weekly, October 8, 1938
   (3) "He Floats Through the Air," Detective Fiction Weekly, September 30, 1939
   (4) "Pardon My Phobia," Detective Fiction Weekly, November 25, 1939
   (5) "A Dream of Death," Detective Fiction Weekly, January 20, 1940
   (6) "The Man with the Magical Ears," Detective Fiction Weekly, February 3, 1940
   (7) "The X-Ray Eyes," Detective Fiction Weekly, February 17, 1940
   (8) "The Curious Cop," Detective Fiction Weekly, March 16, 1940
   (9) "The Medusa of 49th Street," Detective Fiction Weekly, March 30, 1940
   (10) "The Magical Belt," Detective Fiction Weekly, October 5, 1940
   (11) "The Argus-Eyed Man," Detective Fiction Weekly, December 7, 1940
   (12) "The Old Oaken Eight-Ball," Detective Fiction Weekly, March 15, 1941
   (13) "The Black Spot," Detective Fiction Weekly, April 26, 1941
   (14) "The Deadly Meek," Detective Fiction, November 1, 1941
   (15) "A Violet for Violence," Detective Fiction, March 7, 1942
   (16) "The Lady from Japan," Baffling Detective Mysteries, March 1943.

- For more about Perseus's supernatural chapeau, see Wikipedia (HERE) and Ancient Origins (HERE).
- Richard Sale being a notable presence in the pulp fiction scene in the '30s and '40s,
it's to be expected that we'd bump into him now and then; see (HERE) and (HERE)
for those encounters.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Three from '99

HERE ARE SEVERAL unrelated crime fiction pieces that do have something in common: they were published in the same year and in the same magazine:

~ ~ ~
     "It is a clever copy."

"The Stolen Rubens: And the Part Played by a Pot-Pourri Jar."
By Huan Mee (Charles Herbert Mansfield, 1864-1930, and Walter Edward Mansfield, 1870-1916).
Illustrations by Leonard Linsdell.
First appearance: The Harmsworth Monthly Pictorial Magazine, February 1899.
Short short story (6 pages, 5 illos).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).
(Note: Some text is faded.)

". . . for London would smile."
Just about any conman will tell you that the Achilles heel of most marks is their vanity . . .

- One character in our story makes a remark about "playing the Duchess of Devonshire dodge," by which we think he means (THIS); reference, too, is made to "those enterprising gentlemen who annexed Gainsborough's picture," an allusion to (THIS).
- Our first meeting with Huan Mee was just last month (HERE).

~ ~ ~

    "A very nice little plot, I flatter myself . . ."

"How We Held Up the Bank."
By George Hudworth (?-?).
Illustrations by S. H. Vedder.
First appearance: The Harmsworth Monthly Pictorial Magazine, July 1899.
Short short story (6 pages, 5 illos).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).

"Who would look for bank robbers in a lady's type-writing office?"
Ah, those best-laid plans . . .
- So far, nothing doing with info about our author.

~ ~ ~

    "I was not going to let a man be murdered in my presence, if I could help it."

"On the Strict 'Q.T.'"
By G. Villari (?-?).
Illustrations by R. W. Wallace.
First appearance: The Harmsworth Magazine Monthly Pictorial Magazine, August 1899.
Short short story (7 pages, 6 illos).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).
(Note: Some of the text is faded.)

"Whatever may be his faults, he has one great virtue: he is always most grateful for benefits received."
The thing about being a Good Samaritan is that you can't be picky about who it is you're wanting to save . . .
- As far as G. Villari is concerned, we can't find anything about him or her.
- When M. Audran remembers that he served in soixante-dix ("seventy"), the reference is, of course, to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71; see Wikipedia (HERE) for background.