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.

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