Monday, July 30, 2018

Miscellaneous Monday—Number Twenty-nine

THIS ONE IS very miscellaneous indeed, comprised as it is of dribs and drabs that we've stumbled across in our random walk through the Interblab searching for vintage information about detective and crime fiction. One possible justification for highlighting them is the window into the life and times of our predecessors which such an approach affords, so you could regard it as of historical interest, if nothing else. Interestingly enough, however, we can't help noticing that even after a hundred years some things never change . . .
"The Pleasures of Mystery."
By Anonymous (?-?).
First appearance: All the Year Round, July 7, 1894.
Article (4 pages).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).

In a general article about the quality of mystery in everyday life and art, our critic presents a picture of the detective fiction of the day that is basically a cliched caricature of the genre, the hokey melodrama of the stage rather than the brilliant mentation of a Sherlock Holmes:

   "The pleasures of life are all built on the element of mystery. Literature in its most enjoyable form, fiction, would not attract if on the first page of each novel the reader could ascertain in a moment what fate befell the hero of the book. That agreeable mystery must not be solved until the end of the third volume, or thereabouts. Who would read detective stories if there was no doubt about the criminal from the opening chapter? No; the innocent and virtuous hero must be charged with the crime, must be embroiled in perplexities and woes as biting as Ulysses's own, must seem doomed inevitably to the hangman, and only be rescued when the rope is, so to speak, round his neck, and all the world has ceased to believe in him, save the fond girl who loves him and is prepared to adore him as a martyr after death."
"Start from the Conclusion":
   "The detective story has its separate art. It must practically be invented backwards. That is to say, the author must start from the conclusion and work out his clues, his false scents, and his wild-goose chases till he gets to the beginning. Then he is in a position to open his first chapter and have a fair run till he reaches earth." — Mr. Marriott Watson in the Daily Mail. Quoted in The Book Monthly (1903/4; HERE).
"The Detective Story":
   "Is there a product of romance so essentially a creature of the imagination as the detective of popular fiction? It is not that his exploits are more remarkable than the Real Thing, but his personality soars so much higher." — The Sunday Sun, London. Quoted in The Book Monthly (1904/5; HERE).
"Twenty-five Years Hence":
   "There are some kinds of fiction which have a greater chance of surviving than others, and the detective story is one of them. Take, in proof of this, Miss Anna Katharine Green's story, The Leavenworth Case. It was published a full quarter of a century ago, but it still sells merrily. Twenty-five years hence 'Sherlock Holmes' will be exciting a new generation of readers."
— Anonymous, "Personal and Particular," The Book Monthly (1904/5; HERE).
ONLY twenty-five years?
"The Detective Tale":
   "It is almost impossible for any detective story, be it ever so powerful, 
to be regarded as a serious addition to literature, for the very elements 
that are essential to its composition — mysterious crime, rival clues, 
startling coincidences, and breathless adventures — have little in com-
mon with the qualities that make up a literary masterpiece."
The Tribune. Quoted in The Book Monthly (1905/6; HERE).
. . . to which we add: Provide objective definitions of "literature" and "literary masterpiece."
"A Mere Plot":
   "A third work of fiction is from the pen of Mr. Robert Machray, and is called The Private Detective. As the title suggests, it is a highly sensational tale, but the delineation of character has not been sacrificed to a mere plot, however 'thrilling.'" — "New Books Nearly Ready," The Book Monthly (1905/6; HERE).
- ONTOS posts about Machray are (HERE) and (HERE).
   The old argument about character vs. plot is obviously a lot older than we thought.
"Shrieks and Throbs: Some Glimpses Into the Shaping 
of a 'Shocker.'"
By C. E. Lawrence (1870-1940; HERE).
First appearance: The Book Monthly, March 1912.
Book reviews (5 pages).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).

   The books mentioned in the review:
   ~ The Mystery of the Ravenspurs (1911) by Fred M. White (1859-1935).
     Online at Roy Glashan's Library (HERE; HTML) and (HERE; EPUB)
     Fred White bio-bibliography is at Roy Glashan's Library (HERE).

  ~ The Secret Tontine (1912) by R. Murray Gilchrist (1868-1917).
     Gilchrist Wikipedia article is (HERE).

  ~ The Triangle (1912) by Marie Connor Leighton (1865-1941).
     Bear Alley's article about Leighton is (HERE).

  ~ The Mystery of Nine (1912) by William Le Queux (1864-1927).
     Le Queux Wikipedia article is (HERE); the GAD Wiki entry is (HERE).

  ~ The Ruby Heart of Kishgar (1912) by Arthur W. Marchmont (1852-1923).
     Edwardian Review's short article about Marchmont is (HERE).

OUR CRITIC isn't condemning detective fiction here, just BAD ("second rate") detective fiction. This one should be of interest to anyone who cares about the genre.
"As Defaulters and Detectives":
   "Every now and then we hear of people being in trouble for petty thefts in shops, and that seems to suggest a new kind of detective story. It would be a detective story in which women played the chief part, alike as defaulters and detectives. This brings us to the other suggestion that such a detective story could best be written by a woman novelist. Who is going to try this new departure in fiction, because it would be that. It would be curious to see whether women, who do not like detective stories as a rule, would read one on those lines." — The Book Monthly (1913; HERE)
"According to Fiction the Criminal Is the Best-intentioned of All of Us":

"Villains! O Where and O Why Have They Gone?"
By C. E. Lawrence (1870-1940; HERE).
First appearance: The Book Monthly, September 1913.
Article (4 pages).

Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).
AS FAR as really bad guys are concerned, our critic thinks the advent of Sherlock Holmes "hastened the deterioration" of true villainy—or does he have his tongue-in-cheek?
"Cry Out Against the Age":

"Old Friends and New."
By Margaret Sherwood (1864-1955).
First appearance: The Atlantic Monthly, 1911.
Book reviews article (1 page highlighted).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE; SPOILERS) and 

(BELOW; no spoilers).
IT'S CLEAR that our critic doesn't appreciate the mystery story in general and A. E. W. Mason's At the Villa Rose in particular, viewing the genre and its practitioners as inferior. Unless you've already read Mason's book, it's probably not a good idea to read the original review with its SPOILERS intact:

   "In placing the poorer work of some of our contemporary authors side by side with the better, one is sometimes inclined to cry out against the age for the way in which it drags down talent. Why does the author of Peccavi turn to writing clever but mischievous tales of burglar life? Why does the man who could create The Four Feathers begin to write mere detective stories? That earlier book was a genuine contribution to art, an unusual interpretation of human character, worked out through a plot which kept alive the finer sort of suspense that comes from wondering which way the human will will turn. Countless people are writing detective stories; many can write them worse, and some can write them better than Mr. Mason does. To readers of this species of fiction, who enjoy the clever processes of reasoning by which, in logical succession, the many wrongfully suspected people are eliminated, and attention is fixed on the guilty one, it will prove a disappointment in this story to find that [SPOILER IN TEXT DELETED]. There proves to be [SPOILER IN TEXT DELETED], but the artistic as well as the ethical balance is better when [SPOILER IN TEXT DELETED]. Interesting as the book is in many ways in its foreign setting, one cannot help wishing that Mr. Mason would leave to lesser people the mystery and murder stories, and express in his earlier manner his rather remarkable insight into character and his subtle moral sense."

- Wikisource tells us about Margaret Pollock Sherwood: "American author, feminist and Professor of English at Wellesley College, 1889-1931. Pen names: Margaret Sherwood, Elizabeth Hastings."
- See the ONTOS article (HERE) and follow the links therefrom; other Mason works are highlighted (HERE) and (HERE).

Friday, July 27, 2018

"The Coup Had Been Cleverly Engineered, and Was Bound to Succeed"

"A Grand Coup: The Bank Manager's Adventure."
By Huan Mee (Charles H. Mansfield, 1864-1930, and W. E. Mans-field, 1870-1916).
Illustrations by Max Cowper.
First appearance: The Harmsworth Magazine, September 1900.
Reprinted in Home Cheer: A Family Journal, May 1901.
Short short story (8 pages, 5 illos).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).
(Note: Some text is faded.)

    "There was another factor yet to be dealt with, unlooked for, unexpected, and therefore uncalculated . . ."

Knocking over the Great Central Bank of Lombard Street should be a relatively easy affair, and it would be except for, believe it or not, the hue of a flower . . .

~ Harry and Richard:
  ". . . two well-dressed men were waiting apart from the other people on the platform—silk-hatted, frock-coated, prosperous-looking individuals, with, to a keen observer, just a tinge of nervous excitement in their faces."
~ Mr. Gerald Whitney-Brough:
  "Don't let me be branded a thief, as I shall be."
~ Miss Gladys Hunt:
  "Stop him! That man has my purse."

- We've featured stories by "Huan Mee" several times already; see the page (HERE) for those.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

"With More Than a Hundred Witnesses, His Alibi Could Not Be Broken"

WE'VE posted about a Ray Cummings story of the perfect crime variety in which time played a crucial role in the plot. Now we have a perfect crime tale in which time travel will shape the storyline. Curiously enough, it shares the same title with Cummings's story.

   "When you play with the fourth dimension there is always more than one—"

"Time for Murder."
By Sydney J. Bounds (1920-2006).
First appearance: Authentic Science Fiction, October 1955.
Reprints page (HERE).
Collected in Time for Murder: Macabre Crime Stories (2012; ISFDb HERE).
Short short story (9 pages).
Online at (HERE) and The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 81).

     "I have committed the perfect crime. Naturally I want you to know—now that you can’t do a damn thing about it!"

Alibi-breaking is stock-in-trade for the average police detective, but a major brain-bender of a problem awaits Inspector Burton of the C.I.D. in re the case of Gerald Laver, deceased . . .

Principal characters:
~ The vic:
  "Gerald Laver, age sixty-three, financier, bachelor, lived alone except for one servant. Shot through the heart from a distance of three yards by a .45 automatic—that's the gun on the table—died instantly. Time of death established by medical evidence, nine to nine thirty p.m. Wrist watch smashed and stopped at nine twenty-one p.m."
~ Clifford Webb:
  ". . . when the question of timing was brought out, caused a sensation by proving conclusively that he was nowhere near Laver’s house at nine twenty-one on the night 
of the murder."
~ Inspector Burton:
  ". . . stared glumly at his desk and wondered how the gun that had killed Laver could clearly show Webb’s finger-prints, and no others, if Webb had not been the last man to handle it. He already had a headache from thinking about that."

~ The Inspector's sergeant:
  "After you’d left Laver’s house, I was alone with the corpse, waiting for the mortuary van to come. It was quiet in that room. Just me and the deceased—then, all at once, there was this rabbit."

Comment: If the killer hadn't had the urge to brag, thus saving the Inspector from having to figure it all out by himself (highly unlikely), this story could easily have been ten or twenty times longer.


- An Englishman, Sydney James Bounds was prolific, using many pseudonyms over the course of a sixty-years-plus writing career; see Wikipedia (HERE), Bear Alley (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb's bibliography (HERE).
- It's remarkable how many authors have mashed crime and Professor Webb's technology together; the latest such story that we've featured on ONTOS is Milton Lesser's "Stop, You're Killing Me!" (HERE); two other similarly themed stories are highlighted (HERE) and (HERE).

Monday, July 23, 2018

"He Didn't Bother to Look Too Carefully When He Didn't See It"

HERE WE HAVE two stories by the same author about how smug killers who think they've committed the perfect crime haven't . . .

"Alibi in Red."
By David X. Manners (1912-2007).
First appearance: Ten Detective Aces, January 1943.
Short short short story (4 pages).
Online at Comic Book Plus (HERE; select page 98 from the dropdown menu).

  "Fingerprints don't lie—but sometimes they bear testimony that is subject to change without notice."

A robbed safe, a dead cop, and being caught red-handed at the crime scene—such is the frame unsuspecting Ralph Childs finds himself in; the only thing that will cancel his date 
with the electric chair is manifested in red, red as in red-handed . . .
~ ~ ~
"Dig It Deep."
By David X. Manners (1912-2007).
First appearance: Popular Detective, May 1948.
Short short short story (4 pages).
Online at Pulpgen (dead link).

     "Detective Carter lets a hunch lead him to a killer!"

This policeman is sure he's got the killer; the killer is sure he's thought of everything. We leave it to you to predict just who's right . . .

Erratum: On a subsequent re-reading of "Dig It Deep" we've come to realize that the author did indeed include that crucial element which does play fair with the reader; we therefore 
beg everyone's forgiveness for overlooking it and unjustly libeling the writer.

- Says FictionMags about our author: "According to his son Tim he wasn’t actually 'David X. Manners' but was 'David X Manners' as the 'X' was his whole name and not an initial."

Friday, July 20, 2018

Two Bank Jobs and a Wedding

   "His enemy was escaping—and he had a missile in his hand."

"The Attempt on St. Mary's Branch."
By Harold Steevens (?-?).
Illustrations by Cyrus Cuneo, R.I.
First appearance: The Strand, December 1912.
Reprinted in the January 1913 issue.
Short short story (7 pages, 3 illos).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).
(Note: Some text is faded.)

     "Unsupported by any visible agency, it appeared to be behaving in flagrant defiance of the law of gravitation."

In contrast to Americans, the English seem to prefer their bank robberies done differently
—you could say, with a certain flair; take that floating bag of gold sovereigns, for instance . . .

~ ~ ~

  "It was a fine shot and a lucky one . . ."

"The Service Revolver."
By Harold Steevens (?-?).
Illustrations by Norah Schlegel.
First appearance: The Strand Magazine, July 1919.
Short story (10 pages, with 6 illos).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).
(Note: Some text is faded.)

     ". . . he was fresh from a sphere where the ethics of killing did not concern him."

Cool customers, these bank robbers, but they never reckoned on the power of love . . .

- FictionMags's story listing indicates that over the course of sixteen years Harold Steevens published infrequently, starting with "The Attempt on St. Mary's Branch" and ending (as 
far as can be determined) in 1928.
- It might be instructive to compare the tone of Steevens's first story about a bank job from pre-War 1912 with the second one from post-War 1919.
- In "The Service Revolver," mention is made of "the forged Bradbury"; see the Royal Bank of Scotland's article (HERE) for full details.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

"When He Told the Police Who I Was, They Hit Me Over the Head with a Police Club Till I Was Quiet and Then Gave Me Some Coffee"

IT'S WIDELY ACCEPTED that humor is a highly subjective thing, so if you read the following sketches by Stephen Leacock and find them funny, you have no one to blame but him:

"The Criminal Face."
By Stephen Leacock (1869-1944).
Collected in The Iron Man & The Tin Woman: A Book of Little Sketches of To-Day and To-Morrow (1929).
Short short story (9 pages).
Online at Faded Page (HERE).

   "The brachiocephalic index of nearly every one of them was of a kind to alarm the police force, while the facial angle of those who had the hardihood to show it justified immediate arrest."

Biometric analysis can certainly be useful—if it's done by people with no preconceptions . . .
~ ~ ~
"Confessions of a Super-Extra-Criminal."
By Stephen Leacock (1869-1944).
Collected in The Iron Man & The Tin Woman: A Book of Little Sketches of To-Day and To-Morrow (1929).
Short story (10 pages).
Online at Faded Page (HERE).

   "However, nothing would do me but loafing around with a loose crowd of boys and talking about this man or that who’d made a clean-up as a plumber or garage man or a dry cleaning explosives expert, and never got caught."

He really shoulda listened to his muddah . . .
~ ~ ~
"A Midsummer Detective Mystery."
By Stephen Leacock (1869-1944).
Collected in The Iron Man & The Tin Woman: A Book of Little Sketches of To-Day and To-Morrow (1929).
Short story (10 pages).
Online at Faded Page (HERE)

   "Oh, yes, sir. What would you like, sir? We could give you a cold chicken, a made-up salad, sir, with a cold meat pie, if you care for it."

Ah, those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, when even murder must take a backseat to excellent brook trout . . .

~ ~ ~
"Living with Murder."
By Stephen Leacock (1869-1944).
Collected in Last Leaves (1945).
Short short story (5 pages).
Online at Faded Page (HERE).

   "I am a great reader of detective fiction. That is, I have been up to now, but I see I shall have to give it up."

If you're unwilling to chance contracting a case of full-blown paranoia, then by all means follow our narrator's example . . .
Pretend it says 7:01 . . . and ¼.
- This week marks our latest—and it saddens us to say it—possibly last encounter with Stephen Leacock, relative to crime fiction anyway; see (HERE) for last week's contact 
with him.

Monday, July 16, 2018

"By the Time the Police Get Through Questioning You You'll Be Meat for the Nut-hatch, Friend"

"Third Alternative."
By Sam Merwin, Jr. (1910-96).
First appearance: Fantastic Story, Spring 1952.
Reprinted in Science Fiction Yearbook, No. 2 (1968).
Short short story (8 pages).
Online at (HERE).

"There was a third alternative open to him."

Personally, we don't believe in the multiverse (for one thing, its existence is unprovable as a practical matter); imagine, though, the complications—political, legal, and personal—that would result from such a thing. To save us the trouble, Sam Merwin has already imagined it, and the prospect isn't all that good for one man, a murderer who keeps seeing his victim everywhere, alive and well . . .

Typo: "wainscoats"

- Read all about Sam Merwin's accomplishments in the SFF genre (HERE; Wikipedia), (HERE; the SFE), and (HERE; the ISFDb). Our previous encounters with him can be found on this page (HERE).
- What used to be called the concept of parallel worlds but is now referred to as the multiverse is discussed fairly thoroughly on Wikipedia (HERE):

     "The multiverse (or metaverse) is a hypothetical group of multiple separate universes including the universe in which humans live. Together, these universes comprise everything that exists: the entirety of space, time, matter, energy, the physical laws and the constants that describe them. The different universes within the multiverse are called the 'parallel universes', 'other universes' or 'alternative universes.'"
See also the SFE theme entry on parallel worlds (HERE).
- It might be an illusory notion, but the multiverse has been a boon to SFF authors like Merwin (and daydreaming theoretical physicists fishing for research grants), all of them exploiting it shamelessly ever since the idea first bobbed up; see the short "Multiple Timelines" section of Atomic Rockets (HERE) for still more.

Friday, July 13, 2018

"The Man They Wanted Her to See Was Slumped Face Down Across His Desk"

"Corpus Cryptic."
By Lee Killough (born 1942).
First appearance: Stellar 5 (1980).
Novelette (24 pages).
Online at The Luminist League Archives (HERE; go down 

to page 100; then use Full Screen button).

     "Death was a hell of a thing to start Monday."

It's remarkable how much the very late Dr. Lawrence Morgan, a professor of physics at 
a Kansas university, and the very late Wicked Witch of the East, a professional menace, 
have in common, as the Munchkin coroner confirmed: "I must aver, I thoroughly 
examined her, and she's not only merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead."

The professor, too, is most sincerely dead; in fact, it's safe to say he's way beyond that, 
as Dr. Dallas March, the coroner of a nearby town, discovers when she does a postmortem: "Dr. Morgan," she declares, "is the deadest man in medical history." Indeed, because it's impossible as a practical proposition for any preserved corpse to be that dead and because the police, lacking her expertise, don't see anything sinister in the case, Dallas initiates her own little investigation, which will, among other things, have her trying to find out just what the untimely demise of three rats has to do with the very late Dr. Morgan shuffling off this mortal coil . . .

Comment: This one is at least twenty years ahead of recent TV shows in its concern for the science that goes into a forensic investigation; you could think of it as a science fictional 
CSI episode.

Characters, one of whom is a murderer:
~ Dr. Lawrence Morgan:
  ". . . his face was peaceful, not distorted as it would have been after an agonal struggle. However he had died, death had come unexpectedly and unfought."
~ Dr. Dallas March:
  "Dr. Morgan's death bothered her more than most. Rigor gone but decomposition still minimal? That was most peculiar, and disturbing."
~ Death:
  "She finally recognized the tunnels as blood vessels when Death skimmed by her in a surfing position on an erythrocyte."
~ Dr. Esther Kastens:
  "Isn't one dead rat like another?"
~ Dr. Charles Nealey:
  "That's the way they come in pathology, sweetie."
~ Dr. Miles:
  "We never were able to determine exactly why they died . . . but they exhibited the same findings your patient does: broken DNA, wavy actin and myosin, and no living internal bacteria."
~ Dr. Morgan's graduate assistant:
  "That's why it was such a shock to find him there like that when I turned the light on."
~ Davis Oaks, campus security:
  "You were playing detective, I suppose. Look, life isn't like a television program. There's nothing more complicated than someone dying. It's bad enough if the death is suicide, 
but I'm not about to let you talk me into a murder investigation."
~ Sister Mary Luke:
  "I think I did something wrong."

- As a novelist specializing in SFF mysteries and horrorfic, Karen Lee Killough has enjoyed considerable success; see Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and (for a bibliography) the 
- At the time it was written the prospects were bright for an L5 program like the one mentioned in the story, but economic and political considerations have put it on
for now; see Wikipedia (HERE) for background.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

"It Is Not So Much the Crime Itself That Attracts As the Unraveling of the Mystery by the Super-brain of the Great Detective, As Silent As He Is Efficient"

FOR FAITHFUL READERS of this weblog (and, to be serious for a moment, we really do appreciate you), Canadian polymath and humorist Stephen Leacock needs no introduction. Our experience is that somewhere (or several somewheres) in one of his pieces the reader won't be able to resist laughing out loud, something that can't always be said of every writer wearing the label of "humorist." Today Leacock returns to one of his favorite themes . . .

"The Great Detective."
By Stephen Leacock (1869-1944).
Chapter (10 pages as a PDF) in Short Circuits (1928).
Online at Faded Page (HERE; go down to page 203).

     "The tempting point about a detective story—both for the writer and the reader—is that it is so beautifully easy to begin. All that is needed is to start off with a first-class murder."

Since the essence of humor is in how it's told, we won't interfere with the author any 
further. Enjoy.
   Bonus story:

"The Mariposa Bank Mystery."
By Stephen Leacock (1869-1944).
Chapter IX of Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (1912).
Online at Faded Page (HERE; go down to page 187).

     "But apart from the general merits of the question, I suppose there are few people, outside of lovers, who know what it is to commit suicide four times in five weeks. Yet this was what happened to Mr. Pupkin, of the Exchange Bank of Mariposa."

. . . and what, you're probably wondering, do Mr. Pupkin's multiple suicides have to do with a bank job? Read on, Macduff . . .

- Previous ONTOS encounters with Stephen P. H. Butler Leacock can be found (HERE) and (HERE).

Monday, July 9, 2018

"My Admiration Is Reserved for the Detective Who Detects, Whose Claim to Fame Is His Mind Rather Than His Way with a Girl or a Jury"

WHEN ONE THINKS of crime fiction authors the name of Kingsley Amis doesn't immediately spring to mind; SFF aficionados may remember him for his salubrious influence on science fiction and fantasy when the New Wave was cresting:

   ". . . we have noted an unfortunate tendency . . . to demand of [science fiction/fantasy] works . . . all the structures and depths and levels and characterizations and completenesses which, emerging from the English departments, have for so many decades now hung threateningly above ordinary fiction—without noticeably improving it. It would be a pity if 
science fiction were to become yet another well-policed province of 
today's or yesterday's literary ideologies.  . . .  The science-fiction 
writer introduces interplay of character at his peril."
   — Introduction to Spectrum V (1967), edited by Kingsley Amis and Robert Conquest

The very same could be said for detective fiction.

While he was lionized by the Literary Establishment for such mainstream efforts as Lucky Jim (1954; the one he's most remembered for in Academia) and condemned by the same people for his political views, he never lost interest in what he regarded as the minor genres, including SFF and crime fiction, producing such works as The Anti-Death League (1966), The Riverside Villas Murder (1973), and The Crime of the Century (1975), as well as his own idio-syncratic take on James Bond (Colonel Sun, 1968).

Amis was quite conversant with detective fiction, including the exploits of the Sage of Baker Street, and that brings us to the following story:

"The Darkwater Hall Mystery."
By Kingsley Amis (1922-95).
Collected in Collected Short Stories (1980).
Reprinted in The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories (2015).
Filmed for TV (IMDb HERE).
Short story (18 pages).
Online at The Luminist League Archives (HERE; scroll down to page 226).
(Note: Be prepared for a very slow load—or no load at all.)

Artwork by Edward Gorey
   "Thus it was that events conspired to embroil me in what I must describe as a truly singular adventure."

This time a fatigued Sherlock Holmes is shunted off to the Musgrave estate for a rest cure and Dr. Watson must step up to solve a mystery that isn't a mystery and disport himself in 
a most ungentlemanly fashion.

Comment: The "mystery" is negligible, by intention; the author could have practiced what he preached (see above), but character interaction gets the most emphasis, which is precisely 
what this story is all about.
Typo: "would have stolen hat weapon"

~ ~ ~
AMIS ALWAYS evinced his own unorthodox views in his nonfictional writings, including the following piece that should be of interest to regular readers of this weblog:

"Unreal Policemen."
By Kingsley Amis (1922-95).
First appearance: Where - unknown; when - 1966.
Reprinted in What Became of Jane Austen? And Other Questions (1970).
Article (18 pages).
Online at The Luminist League Archives (HERE; go down to page 108).

It's pretty hard to shock anyone these days, and we're not going to assert that such is the case here; but it is, let's say, surprising that Amis, a life-long socialist by habit, should hold such conservative-sounding opinions about detective fiction. Rather than steal Amis's thunder, we'll content ourselves with an outline of his article (and remember, he's writing in 1966, when venerable old pros like John Dickson Carr, Edmund Crispin, and Agatha Christie were still alive and producing fiction):

   - Nicolas Freeling (". . . one of the most promising arrivals on the post-war crime-fiction scene . . .") and Van der Valk (". . . very much a real policeman").
   - Inspector Maigret ("None of those brilliant intuitions, those miraculous leaps in the dark, those questions about what seem to be insanely irrelevant matters, that are so firmly in the middle of the great detective tradition inaugurated by Poe's Auguste Dupin").
   - Dashiell Hammett and Sam Spade; Raymond Chandler and Philip Marlowe; Mickey Spillane and Mike Hammer ("Spillane is the best of the three cited—an unpopular view, 
which I would defend hotly").
   - Erle Stanley Gardner and Perry Mason (". . . Mason has an impressive claim to being considered the most boring foe of criminality in our time . . .").
   - Arthur Conan Doyle, Dr. Watson, and Sherlock Holmes ("The magnifying lens and the dozen red roses belong to different worlds").
   - Edgar Allan Poe and Dupin ("Apart from his irritating mannerisims, all three of Dupin's cases are very shaky").
   - Dorothy L. Sayers and Lord Peter Wimsey ("With few shining exceptions, the heirs of Sherlock Holmes are an undistinguished lot.  . . .  Here I should in fairness make it plain 
that Wimsey is no more of a fag that Holmes is: he merely looks and sounds like one . . .").
   - Agatha Christie; Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple ("I have never understood the fame of 
the two Agatha Christie characters, both of whom seem straight out of stock—Poirot the excitable but shrewd little foreigner, Marple the innocent, helpless-looking old lady with the keen blue eyes").
   - Ellery Queen ("Ellery of the silver-coloured eyes is seldom much more than an extension of the plot").
   - Michael Innes and Sir John Appleby ("The Appleby method of detection is to sit back 
and wait for the unconscious to come up with a solution, though the sitting back is purely 
mental . . .").
   - Edmund Crispin and Gervase Fen (". . . an eccentric after the fashion of Holmes or Wimsey, but funnier and in one sense grander than they, in that he seems to create 
his own kind of adventure").
   - "The three great successors of Sherlock Holmes": G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown 
(". . . the good ideas are many and marvellous"); Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe and Archie 
Goodwin ("The weakness of Stout's hugely readable stories is always the story.  . . . 
I can seldom be bothered with the details of the investigation, which usually proceeds 
by revelation and discovery rather than by actual deduction"); and John Dickson 
Carr/Carter Dickson's Dr. Gideon Fell and Sir Henry Merrivale ("In Carr-cum-Dickson 
it [the detective story] does [offer ingenuity raised to the point of genius], perhaps 
two dozen times in all, and this author is a first-rate artist").
- Like a lot of other writers, Sir Kingsley William Amis was done in by chronic overdoses of booze and babes; see Wikipedia (HERE) for details.
- Amis's involvement with SFF is chronicled (HERE; SFE) and (HERE; ISFDb).
- No surprise that Lucky Jim wound up on television as both TVMs and series (HERE).


Friday, July 6, 2018

"I'll Be Lucky If, After These Other Cops Get Through Making Out Their Reports, Anybody Knows I Was Even on the Case"

BRINGING BACK FOR YOUR DELECTATION (we hope) another almost forgotten fictional detective whose adventures at one time were a regular fixture in popular magazines, in this case the old Collier's slickzine, mainly throughout the Depression Era and only just over-lapping with the Second World War; inexplicably, O'Malley, a smart police detective who ain't afraid of bad grammar, has faded into the dim mists of time. (There could be many reasons why he's so obscure, but we suspect one of them might have something to do with America's insane copyright laws.) At any rate, here are O'Malley's first two cases:

   ". . . the water spread out over the uneven, cracked concrete and then gathered into several small puddles and one larger one."

"Green Paint."
By William MacHarg (1872-1951).
Illustration by Frederic Dorr Steele (1873-1944; HERE).
First appearance: Collier's Weekly, November 29, 1930.

Reprinted in The Saint Detective Magazine, March 1957; 
The Saint Detective Magazine (Australia), November 1957; 
and The Saint Detective Magazine (U.K.), January 1958 
as "Green Paint and Neat Knots" [FictionMags data].
Short short short story (2 pages, 1 illo).
Online at UNZ starting (HERE) and finishing (HERE).

   "Meet Detective O'Malley, who will show you how a big-town sleuth actually goes after his man."

Finding a murderer isn't always simply a matter of following his tracks; sometimes a detective has to take other, unlikely things into consideration, such as flecks of paint, 
how knots have been tied, and the way water can behave when it's poured on the floor.

~ ~ ~

   "He was found in Manhattan, so we'll start in Brooklyn; if he'd been found in Brooklyn we'd do the other way about."

"The Ring."
By William MacHarg (1872-1951).
Illustration by Frederic Dorr Steele (1873-1944; HERE).
First appearance: Collier's Weekly, December 13, 1930.

Reprinted in The Saint Detective Magazine, May 1956; 
The Saint Detective Magazine (Australia), July 1956; 
and The Saint Detective Magazine (U.K.), September 
1956 as "The Murderer's Ring" [FictionMags data].
Short short short story (2 pages, 1 illo).
Online at UNZ starting (HERE) and finishing (HERE).

   "Wherein Detective O'Malley sets an ingenious trap and tests the truth of that popular saying: 'It pays to advertise.'" 

Something as unpromising as a theater ticket stub in a dead man's pocket can prove useful in a murder investigation; for O'Malley, though, that ring is the icing on the cake . . .

- The GAD Wiki has more about William Briggs MacHarg (HERE); if the name seems familiar, that's because we featured him along with writing partner Edwin Balmer just last month (HERE). A few years back William F. Deeck gave a concise once-over to the only collection so far of our detective's exploits, The Affairs of O'Malley (1940) (HERE): "Delightful hard-boiled police procedural tales from the ’30s." You can also consult Mike Grost's article on his megasite (HERE): "The brief tales are heavily plot oriented. Some of them have mystery puzzle plots, in others the killer's identity is simply found through police work." A contem-porary reviewer wrote:
   "Matter-of-fact New York cop solves thirty-three murders in short order. Crisp, straight-to-the-point short stories briskly written and ably plotted. Verdict: Hors d'oeuvres."
   — "The Criminal Record," The Saturday Review, March 2, 1940
If you want a first edition, Yesterday's Gallery & Babylon Revisited has one for a cool grand (HERE).