Friday, June 29, 2018

"The Charges Are Planetary Slavery and Mass Murder"

"Kill Me If You Can!"
By S. M. Tenneshaw (Randall Garrett, 1927-87).
First appearance: Imagination, June 1957.
Short story (13 pages).
Online at (HERE).

   "Every five years the Autarch in power was murdered. Bartol knew this was why he had been picked as a stand-in for the reigning tyrant!"

You'd better pay attention to that man behind the curtain—because he plans to send his androids to burn you down . . .

Comment: This one moves so fast, especially through the resolution, that you might experience reader's whiplash.

- Other stories that feature societies which approve of murder include Robert Sheckley's classic "Seventh Victim" (HERE) and Jeffrey Goddin's "Who Murders, Who Dreams" (HERE).
- Being as prolific as he was it's not surprising that we would bump into Gordon Randall Phillip David Garrett fairly often in our never-ending quest to find stories that combine crime fiction with other genres. Garrett seemed to delight in mashing science fiction together with tecfic, tales of espionage, and political intrigue; see (HERE) for ONTOS's latest encounter with him.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

"I Hope I Am Not Conceited, but I Have Always Considered Myself a Bit of a Detective"

JAMES BARR wasn't nearly as prolific or well known as his older brother, but he could tell an interesting story, such as these two.

   "In the office we acted a scene that would have gladdened the heart of a Paris criminal judge."

"Setting the Detective a Puzzle."
By James Barr (1862-1923).
First appearance: The Strand Magazine, September 1921.
Short short story (7 pages, 2 illos).
Online at (HERE).

   "What is a detective for but to clear up mysteries? I have set you one all your own to unravel. Good day."

It doesn't happen very often, but in order to save a young man from himself a little safe robbing just might be necessary . . .

~ ~ ~
   "You give the burglar a square deal."

"The Eccentric Burglar."
By James Barr (1862-1923).
Illustrations by S. Abbey.
First appearance: The Strand Magazine, July 1922.
Short short story (7 pages, 3 illos).
Online at (HERE).
(Note: Some of the text is faded.)

   "You seem to have been fairly successful in doing the wrong thing at the right time."

A Dutch uncle doesn't have to be either Dutch or an uncle; instead, he could be someone who will unhesitatingly help himself to the silverware . . .

- James Barr was the younger brother of Robert Barr, whom we've encountered several times already (see HERE and HERE); the SFE and the ISFDb have more about James (HERE and HERE).

Monday, June 25, 2018

"Can You Also Conceive of How Helpless an Army Is That's Blind?"

"See No Evil."
By Charles E. Fritch (1927-2012).
First appearance: Cosmos Science Fiction and Fantasy, July 1954.
Short short story (5 pages, 1 illo).
Online at (HERE).
(Note: Text is crooked and somewhat faded.)

   "You tripped yourself up a dozen different times."

Dr. Schoener's invention is really amazing, with a zowie factor that has the government very interested; it's too bad for Jason, though, that he can be so easily blinded by science . . .

- As a short story writer Charles Edward Fritch wasn't very prolific, but he was persistent, with his first piece of fiction being published in 1951 and his last in 1999 (see the SFE HERE and the ISFDb HERE), meanwhile finding the time to edit a short-lived SFF magazine. The SFE characterizes his fiction as "written for a variety of markets but sharing a certain glibness and snappiness of effect."
- Last week we highlighted a story (HERE) in which the power of invisibility was misused to commit murder; in "See No Evil" the malefactors are considerably more ambitious.

Friday, June 22, 2018

"He Knew Now—Finally He Knew That She Was Dead and It Was Over"

"It Could Happen to Anyone."
By Charles Mergendahl (1919-59).
First appearance: Collier's, August 20, 1954.

Reprinted in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, January 1957; 
Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (U.K.), January 1957; and 
Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (Australia), April 1957.
Short short short story (2 pages).
Online at UNZ (HERE).

   "There had been silence, long and awkward, and he'd known then that he should never have been angry."

Ice is slippery, but it's nothing compared to love . . .

- FictionMags's thumbnail about Charles Henry Mergendahl: "Novelist, actor, traveller. Born in Lynn, Massachusetts; died in Glen Cove, Long Island, New York."
- "It Could Happen to Anyone" appears to be Mergendahl's only EQMM reprint; he did have several other original stories placed with AHMM before his untimely death [FictionMags data]:
  ~ "Premonition," Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, July 1957
  ~ "Secret Recipe," Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, January 1958
  ~ "Points Unknown," Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, March 1958
  ~ "Do-It-Yourself," Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, August 1958.


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

"His Head Was Missing, Neatly Severed from His Body"

"The Invisible Man Murder Case."
By Henry Slesar (1927-2002).
First appearance: Fantastic, May 1958.
Reprinted in Invisible Men (1960) and The Seven Deadly Sins of Science Fiction (1980).
Reprints page (HERE).
Novelette (35 pages in book edition).
Online at The Luminist League (HERE; scroll down to page 6).
(Note: Beware of slow load.)

   "But Rufe Armlock wasn't interested; he raised the automatic in his hand and tenderly squeezed the trigger. The bullet ripped into her soft white . . ."

Life's full of coincidences, isn't it? Just when a has-been locked room mystery author's career hits the skids, people start dying in impossible situations, thereby generating 
enough publicity for him to start preparing for a comeback; but another writer, one specializing in Spillane-style hardboiled private eye novels, doesn't think coincidence 
has anything to do with the murders. Unless he's very careful, though, he just might 
end up taking that skeptical attitude of his with him—to the morgue . . .

Characters, visible and otherwise:
~ Jeff Oswald:
  "For a moment, I was frightened. To tell you the truth, I scare easily. Even the stories 
I write sort of scare me sometimes, and the realization that my visitor was a man who 
hated me intensely was disturbing."
~ Kirk Evander:
  "I've heard quite enough about private detectives, Mr. Oswald. The occupation has 

been an excuse for the worst offenses against good taste that I have ever known."
~ Eileen:
  ". . . thrust me out the door like a cat."

~ Aaron Snow:
  "I think you're nuts."

~ Captain Bill Spencer:
  "Stick to the facts. I'm not fond of fiction; particularly your kind. All I'm interested 

in is murder. Real murder."
~ Borg Evander:
  ". . . why would anybody want to be invisible?"
~ Douglas Wharton:
  "I was being tickled. So help me God, I was being tickled. It was horrible . . ."
~ Greta:

  "It smelled like rotten eggs to me."

Typo: "People wold be talking"

- The nicely thorough article on Wikipedia (HERE) tells us that Henry Slesar, whose legendary association with Alfred Hitchcock proved lucrative for them both, "wrote hundreds of scripts for television series and soap operas, leading TV Guide to call him 'the writer with the largest audience in America.'"
- Slesar was as equally adroit at turning out SFF as he was thrillers; see (HERE) and (HERE).
- Considering how prolific he was, it's surprising that we've encountered Slesar only once before (HERE).

The bottom line: "To make Harry Potter invisible, one would have to liquefy him, boil him to create steam, crystallize him, heat him again, and then cool him, all of which would be quite difficult to accomplish, even for a wizard."
   ― Michio Kaku


Monday, June 18, 2018

"Elemental, My Dear Moriarity, Elemental"

"Mastersleuth Unmasked at Last!"
By S. J. Perelman (1904-79).
First appearance: Judge (1930).
Collected in That Old Gang O'Mine (1984).
Text below.

   "Then—then—will you marry me, Olga?"

Once upon a time, long before a Gore named Al invented the printing press and a Bush named George gifted us with the letter Dubya, there was an incorrigible Barefoot Boy 
with Entirely Too Much Cheek named S. J. Perelman writing for the bee's knees of 
humor magazines in the Twenties yclept Judge. Perelman was a good fit for Judge
with his transgressive, New York-style sense of humor.

S. J.'s "beat" ranged far and wide: "Chinese Bandits Kidnap Coolidge!" . . . "Chefs 
Chafe as Steak Smugglers Flood Turkish Baths" . . . "Phrenology—Yes or No?" . . . 
"Eppis Bars Boorish Bike Fans as Coaster Brakes Roar in Metropolitan Opera" . . . 
that sort of thing.

So it should come as no surprise that sooner or later Perelman would get around to the 
Great Detective, Sherlock Holmes—and bear in mind this was a full decade before Rex 
Stout went after Dr. Watson. Coincidence? We think not . . .

   All Sherlock Holmes fans sat up in bed with a start last Tuesday and rubbed their eyes in amazement as they scanned the morning papers. After their excitement had abated, they awoke whomever else was in bed and all four promptly telephoned the Judge office. From the Battery and the Harlem River Ship Canal, from Follinsbee Road and Pratt Street, from the Boulevard St. Germain, the Friedrichstrasse, and Paddington Heath, haggard-eyed inquiries poured in. Tight-lipped traders on 'Change halted their fevered barter to tensely discuss the astounding revelations. All day long wan operators in the offices of Judge heard the same trembling question drift over the wire: "Is Sherlock Holmes really a woman?" The climax of years of research by Pierre de la Matzos had at last borne fruit. The immortal detective stood forth unmasked at last as a member of the perfumed sex (woman).
   Meanwhile, in the midst of all this hubbub, Pierre de la Matzos, the French investigator who had raised this tempest in a tea-pot, sat calmly in the Hotel Hubbub in New York. I pushed my way past his horde of secretaries named Beaumont and Fletcherstein and found him quietly reading in his shirt sleeves.
   "Ah, Professor Moriarity, I had expected you," he greeted, looking up from reading the gas-meter. "Pray have a chair."
   "No, thank you, I already have one," I replied shortly, taking a folding camp-stool from my brief-case and disposing my lanky-knit tweed form upon it. I felt piqued that he had so easily penetrated my disguise of an Indian major retired on half pay.
   "I feel piqued that you have so easily penetrated my disguise of an Indian major retired on half pay," I hinted with just a shadow of pique.
   "Elemental, my dear Moriarity, elemental," dismissed de la Matzos, disposing his lanky-knit tweed form on another chair and puffing on his briar. "I knew you were an Indian major directly you refused to have a chair. All Indian majors have chairs. But I say, won't you have a bit of a bloater and a spot of tea?"
   "But I haven't even broached the purpose of my visit."
   "Yes, yes," waved Matzos wearily. "You want to know whether it's true that Sherlock Holmes is a woman. Sure he is. His name is really Sheila Holmes, and Dr. Watson used to be governess at Inverness for a mess of a man named Fess. They're all women, every one of them. Why even that Herbert Hoover—
did you know he's a graduate of Sweetbriar named Rosa Bonheur and runs a dress shop on the side? They're all women, even me."
   "Y-you?" I stammered. "Then—then—will you marry me, Olga?"
   "Yes, John," she faltered prettily, blushing like a rose. I took her hands in mine and looked into the mysterious violet pools that were her eyes. Some-
where in the bayou resounded the eerie call of a loon, but we did not pay heed.
   Gently I and the woman who had once been Olga Nethersole embraced, our kissers framed in the tangled doorway of the rose-colored cottage. And as the hull of the Maid of Bombay disappeared slowly under the horizon, the fierce chant of the Solomon Islands rang out once more over the virgin wilderness. Tonga-Wonga had found her man.
~ The End ~
- Sidney Joseph Perelman (HERE) is known to crime fiction aficionados for his two spot-on parodies of Robert Leslie Bellem, "Somewhere a Roscoe . . ." (1938) and Chandler/Hammett, "Farewell, My Lovely Appetizer" (1944; EQMM, July 1945); see (HERE) for a little more.
- Rex Stout's scandalous deconstruction of Dr. Watson is online (HERE).
- Two grand compilations of Perelmania are:
  ~ That Old Gang O'Mine: The Early and Essential S. J. Perelman (1984; for sale HERE).
  ~ The Most of S. J. Perelman (2011; for sale HERE).
- Finally, we're well aware that Perelman misspelled "Moriarty" as so many do, but we decided to leave it that way.

Friday, June 15, 2018

"There's Very Little Doubt As to Who Planned and Executed This Robbery"

THE OTHER DAY we featured a science fiction story told from multiple points of view; 
our next tale, written a half-century before, uses the same technique. Like Robert Bloch, Geraldine Bonner also decided to tell her story using the multiple POV method; we'll 
leave it up to you to decide if she made the best use of it.

"The Castlecourt Diamond Case: Being a Compilation of the Statements Made by the Various Participants in This Curious 
Case Now, for the First Time, Given to the Public."
By Geraldine Bonner (1863-1930).
First appearance: Ainslee’s Magazine, November 1905.

Reprinted in The Novel Magazine, March, April, May 1906 
and New Story Magazine, October 1915.
Novella (33 pages).
Online at (Part I HERE; 13 pages); (Part II HERE
9 pages); and (Part III HERE; 11 pages).
Book version (1906) at (HERE; 223 text pages).

     ". . . I don't think any actress ever barred her lover's exit with as much determination and zeal as I barred the exit of that burglar."

In the matter of the stolen Castlecourt diamonds, all one hundred and sixty-two of them, 
there was no apparent mystery about who absconded with them, how they did it, and what their intentions were regarding their final disposition; the diamonds themselves, however, seemed destined to follow a different course . . .

The various viewpoint characters: Sophy Jeffers, the lady's maid; Lily Bingham, 
a.k.a. Laura Bryce, a.k.a. Frances Latimer, a.k.a. Sara Wight, a.k.a. Mrs. Thatcher, 
a.k.a. Laura the Lady, of dubious repute; Cassius P. Kennedy, the surprised host; 
John Burns Gilsey, the private detective; Daisy K. Fairweather Kennedy, wife of 
the surprised host; and Gladys, Marchioness of Castlecourt, the soi-disant victim.

Comment: As far as detective fiction is concerned, one of the multiple viewpoint story's virtues is that it eliminates the tedious interviews that tend to make a story drag along, 
instead allowing the author to pepper the narrative with self-contained vignettes.

Typo: "We're gonig in here"

- Geraldine Bonner's life and career took her clear across America; see the brief Wikipedia article (HERE).
- A few years back Doug Greene had a review of The Castlecourt Diamonds Case (HERE) reprinted on the Mystery*File website:
  "[The book] is indeed charming, and it is made even more so by its brevity — with large type and margins it contains less than 30,000 words, a far cry from many Victorian and Edwardian detective novels, as anyone who has labored through, say, Lawrence Lynch’s novels with their 550 godawful pages will testify."

- The reviewer at The Nation (HERE) from a century ago tells us about Bonner's The Girl at Central (1915):
   "The mystery is concealed to the very end, unless the reader is a person of exceptional astuteness, for there is just one passage in the early pages of the book that points to the solution, while there are various false clues, cunningly contrived, that will start the earnest seeker running breathlessly in the wrong direction."

- The lady's maid refers to "the Gunnings"; see the articles (HERE) and (HERE) for more about them. At another point, Handsome Harry the hansom driver is cautioned about being "too much of a Jehu"; see (HERE) for what was meant.

The bottom line: "Living with a conscience is like driving with the brakes on."
    — Budd Schulberg


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

"I Sat There Holding the Gun"

THE MULTIPLE VIEWPOINT STORY has its good points and its bad; any tale in whatever genre, including the "mystery," can benefit from such an approach if handled well, but the central problem had better be a darned good one or readers just might find themselves nodding off.

The Japanese film Rashomon (1950; see HERE for its "effect") and a host of imitators have tried to tell a story from multiple viewpoints, presenting events from the limited POVs of various characters, the intention being to enlarge and enhance the significance of plot developments—but that can also be risky; remember the fable of the Blind Men and an Elephant?

"The Past Master."
By Robert Bloch (1917-94).
Illustrations by Ed Vebell.
First appearance: Bluebook, January 1955.
Short story (13 pages, 3 illos).
Online at (HERE).

(Parental caution: Some strong language.)

     "The tall man with the hypnotic stare came out of the sea carrying six million in cash. Only four people could furnish clues to his mysterious behavior. Here are their stories."

Six million clams can buy quite a lot in the present; the question is, though, is it enough to buy the future . . .

~ From the statement of Dorothy Laritzky:
  ". . . he didn't see the way the guy looked at George. Every time I think about it, I could just die!"

~ From the statement of Milo Fabian:
  "I went right down and bought a ticket to Paris. All this war-scare talk is simply a lot of fluff, if you ask me. Sheer fluff."
~ From the statement of Nick Krauss:
  "Lucky thing the cops shot up all four of the guys, the ones who made the haul. So they couldn't trace anything."
~ From the statement of Elizabeth Rafferty, M.D.:
  "No doubt about it. I didn't have to wait for the double-talk to know he was crazier than a codfish. A pity, too; he was really a handsome specimen."
- Our latest contact with Robert Albert Bloch was last year (HERE).
- Several years before Bloch published "The Past Master," Arthur C. Clarke wrote another SFF-nal story with a remarkably similar theme (HERE), which was adapted for live TV back 
in the early '50s.

- There's no mention of missiles in our story; both Cold War superpowers had only bombers until the Russians and the U.S. deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles in the late 1950s.

Monday, June 11, 2018


Spring 2018. Issue #47.
Editor: Arthur Vidro.
Old-Time Detection Special Interest Group of American Mensa, Ltd.
36 pages (including covers).
Cover image: Nine of the Best.

     "Countless millions in cinemas all over the world have thrilled—for at
     least the fifth time—to the ingenuity of one of Christie's most original
     plots. Sadly, not everything on view was the creation of Agatha Christie
     —nor, indeed, ingenious." — Dr. John Curran

Every previous issue of OLD-TIME DETECTION has proven its value to readers who are fond of the traditional detective story, and the Spring number keeps that winning streak going. In almost every OTD you'll probably encounter something that you've rarely or never run across before.

In this one: The late, great Ed Hoch offers background on a durable character "born" almost a century ago, one that readers still recognize—and, no, it's not Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes. - Michael Dirda reviews one of the latest books about the Sage of Baker Steet, and later gives us his take on the book and film versions of an Agatha Christie classic. - We have an excerpt from Francis M. Nevins's definitive book about Cornell Woolrich. - Editor Vidro reproduces correspondence between T. S. Stribling and Ellery Queen as well as a radio interview with Stribling, and gives us a reprint of one of his stories. - The results of two reader polls given forty-five years apart show remarkable similarities and contrasts. - Dr. John Curran keeps us up to date with the world of Agatha Christie and, like Michael Dirda, offers his thoughts on the same film adaptation. - And throughout the issue you'll find perceptive commentary and reviews by Arthur Vidro, John L. Breen, Ruth Ordivar, Charles Shibuk, and Amnon Kabatchnik.
~ ~ ~


(1) "Blackie and Boyle: An Introduction," by Edward D. Hoch (1979), 5 pages:
    "The character of Boston Blackie was conceived, and the first four stories written, from a cell in a state penitentiary."
    Related: Mystery*File (HERE).

(2) "New Non-Fiction": Review by Michael Dirda (2017) of From Holmes to Sherlock: The Story of the Men and Women Who Created an Icon, by Mattias Bostrom (2017):
    ". . . the best account of Baker Street mania ever written. Really."
    Related: The GAD Wiki (HERE).

". . . more than a treat, it's a smorgasbord."
(3) "The Sherlockian Revolution in Paperback," by Charles Shibuk (1975):
    "The Sherlockian revolution appears to subside somewhat from time to time, but future developments appear inevitable."
". . . an absolute masterpiece."
(4) "Murder on the Orient Express: The Book and the Movie," by Michael Dirda (2017):
    "The great detective's final revelations, with all the suspects assembled in the dining car, may strike some readers as almost fantastical. Who cares? In classic mysteries, dazzle is what counts, and realism tends to be inversely proportional to ingenuity."
    Related: The GAD Wiki (HERE).

(5) "Thirty-five Years Ago: Murder in Print," by John L. Breen (1983):
    "This is a wonderfully illustrated, richly rewarding reference that proves a book about mysteries can be both substantial and fun."

(6) "The Woolrich Films: Part Three," by Francis M. Nevins (1988):
    "It was the perfect story line for a suspense movie."
    Related: The GAD Wiki (HERE) - Mystery*File (HERE) and (HERE).

(7) "Stribling Letters," by Arthur Vidro (2018):
    "If the human race could have made such a great step as that last in seventy years, I see no reason why it should not disapprove of thieves with an ethical and moral culture extending over the next three hundred years."
    Related: The GAD Wiki (HERE).

(8) "Royal Archives: Two Pistols and Judge Lynch," by Arthur Vidro (2018):
    "I'll be delighted for you to use Judge Lynch at the price you name. You take the story, I'll take the check."
    Related: Mystery*File (HERE).

(9) Fiction: "Judge Lynch," by T. S. Stribling (Adventure, June 1934 and EQMM, September 1950), 8 pages (online HERE):
    "While the shot echoed amid the twilight swamp, the old man stood behind the flange of a cypress watching the threshing, struggling thing in the water."

(10) The Original Poll: "Did You Hear the One About the Two TADpolls?" by Jon L. Breen (The Armchair Detective, February 1973), 1 page:
     "Detective fiction is the great Anglo-American art form, yet only the compiler's wife represented the British in this poll."
The winner . . .
(11) "The Old-Time Detection Poll of 2018," by Arthur Vidro, 2 pages:
     "Reader response was surprisingly strong."
     Related: The GAD Wiki (HERE).

. . . and still Number One 45 years later.
(12) "Christie Corner," by Dr. John Curran (2018):
       "The Queen of Crime still reigns supreme."

"But whose Poirot was he portraying? Certainly not Agatha Christie's."
(13) Mini-ReviewsKeen appraisals of the known and the relatively obscure:
     ~ Mom Doth Murder Sleep (1991), reviewed by Ruth Ordivar:
       ". . . an unsung and often forgotten writer . . ."
       Related: The GAD Wiki (HERE).

     ~ The Case of the Counterfeit Eye (1935), reviewed by Arthur Vidro:
       ". . . the plot zips along at an ultra-rapid pace."
       Related: The GAD Wiki (HERE).

     ~ The Mysterious World of Agatha Christie (1975), reviewed by Amnon Kabatchnik (1976):
       "It is a treasure."
       Related: The GAD Wiki (HERE).

       ~ Artists in Crime (1938), reviewed by Arthur Vidro:
       ". . . I found the book a bit tedious."
       Related: The GAD Wiki (HERE).

(14) "The Readers Write":
       "Congratulations upon the reprinting of William Brittain's long-lost story."

(15) Puzzle Page
     Related: The GAD Wiki (HERE).
~ ~ ~
Subscription information:
- Published three times a year: spring, summer, and autumn.
- Sample copy: $6.00 in U.S.; $10.00 anywhere else.
- One-year U.S.: $18.00 ($15.00 for Mensans).
- One-year overseas: $40.00 (or 20 pounds sterling or 25 euros).
- Payment: Checks payable to Arthur Vidro, or cash from any nation, or U.S. postage stamps.
Mailing address:
   Arthur Vidro, editor
   Old-Time Detection
   2 Ellery Street
   Claremont, New Hampshire 03743
Web address:


- We had the pleasure of reviewing Issue #46 of OTD (HERE).