Friday, May 31, 2019

"He Could Not Possibly Go Through That Door!"

"The Vanishing Man."
By Jacques Futrelle (1873-1912).
First appearance: Associated Sunday Magazine, August 11, 1907 as “Problem of the Vanishing Man.”
Reprinted in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (Australia), October 1950 and Ellery Queen’s Anthology #47 (1983) as "The Vanishing Man."

Short story (15 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE; PDF), eBooks@Adelaide (HERE; HTML), and the dedicated Futrelle website (HERE; slightly 

different text).
     "Nothing is impossible. Please don't say that. It annoys me exceedingly."

First he's there, then he isn't there, and then . . .

~ Nick Carroll:

  "You young scoundrel, if you ever again mention resigning, I'll—why, confound it, we'll fire you!"
~ Charles Duer Carroll:
  ". . . wasn't thinking of work, he was thinking of—He snapped his fingers impatiently and entered the building."
~ Gordon Swayne:
  "Are you sure he isn't in there?"
~ Black:
  "Mr. Carroll certainly was not in that room when I first went in there."
~ The Thinking Machine:
  "Logic, man!—inexorable, indisputable logic!"

Comment: A financier pulling shenanigans behind locked doors was evidently interesting enough to Agatha Christie for her to use the premise in a Hercule Poirot story thirty-two years later.

- As has been noted on the Internet in many places, John Heath Futrelle, the creator of 

series sleuth Prof. Augustus S.F.X. Van Dusen (a.k.a. "The Thinking Machine"), has 
the sad distinction of having gone down with the Titanic in April 1912, along with, it's 
rumored, manuscripts of new Thinking Machine adventures; see ONTOS (HERE) for 
opinions of  Prof. Van Dusen's first batch of stories. Futrelle and his wife featured in 
a 1999 novel:

   "Jacques and May themselves have now become the main characters in 'The Titanic Murders' by historical mystery writer Max Allan Collins. In this fiction-alized account, the Futrelles solve two murders that take place on board the Titanic shortly before the disaster."
   — From Jacques Futrelle (HERE); see also J. Kingston Pierce's detailed review (HERE).


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

"It Could Well Have Been the Second Time He Died, So I Closed in to Make Sure"

"Mary C."
By Stephen Hunt (born 1966).
Illustrations by Bob E. Hobbs (born 1955; HERE).
First appearance: Expanse, Summer 1994.

Short short story (7 pages; 2 illos).
Online at (HERE).

     "It was clumsy and brutal, but I could honestly think of no other way at that moment."

The Professor was just joshing us, wasn't he, when he said, "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."

- Stephen Hunt is still with us and still producing SFF; see Wikipedia (HERE), the ISFDb (HERE), and his website (HERE).

- Wikipedia (HERE) confirms that the skipper of the Mary Celeste was indeed Benjamin Spooner Briggs (HERE).

Monday, May 27, 2019

"We Investigate, but We Do Not Always Detect"

"The Case of the Naked Niece."
By Edward D. Hoch (1930-2008).
First appearance: Double-Action Detective Magazine, September 1959.

Novelette (27 pages).
Online at starting (HERE) and finishing (HERE).
(Parental caution: Some mild profanity.)

     "I'm sure you know as well as we do that the two crimes are related."

A simple—but not easy—case of client protection turns into an investigation of not just one but two murders . . .

~ Jim Elliot:

  "They found him in his car, a mile or so from our house. He was in the back seat, stabbed horribly, several times. They—the sheriff said it looked like a woman's crime."
~ Narrator (unnamed):
  "Tell your troubles to the New Haven, not to me. This is a private investigation service."
~ Oscar Fammage:
  "She's lived with me for fifteen years now, since her parents died in an accident, and it's really getting out of hand."

~ June Fammage:
  "What you need is a padded cell without windows, young lady."
~ Mr. Bead:
  "Did you ever realize that death is the most important part of life?"
~ Sheriff McCoy:
  "What do I expect to learn? I'll tell you what I expect to learn, mister. I expect to learn how she killed young Jim Elliot."
~ The doctor:
  "Well . . . as you know, certain types of insanity are hereditary, but . . ."
~ Mrs. Fammage:
  "I could have picked her out of a crowd as June's mother, but I wouldn't have picked her as a husband-killer."
~ Simon Ark:

  "Sometimes he could make a baseball score or a weather report sound like the last chapter of The Hound of the Baskervilles."

Typos: "I could decide" [should be "couldn't"]; "She took refuse from her guilt"; "to proceed him into the house".

- We seem to keep returning to Edward Dentinger Hoch, don't we? See Mike Grost's Hoch page on his Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection (HERE) for assessments of other Simon Ark adventures; also see the TV Tropes page on Simon Ark (HERE; SPOILERS) and Clerical Detectives (HERE).

- According to FictionMags, our magazine started out as Double-Action Detective Stories 
for 6 issues (1954-57), then changed to Double-Action Detective and Mystery Stories for 
16 more issues (1957-60), before finally folding in May 1960; until then, Hoch placed nine 
Simon Ark stories there (1957-60). These weren't the first stories to feature Ark, however, 
his debut being in Famous Detective Stories in 1955 (six stories total).
- We last considered one of Hoch's stories, "The Woman Without a Past" featuring Captain Leopold, a couple of months ago (HERE).

Friday, May 24, 2019

"No Human Ever Killed a Telepath, That's Axiomatic"

"Death of a Telepath."
By George Chailey (?-?).
First appearance: Science Fiction Adventures (U.K.), January 1959.

Short short story (5 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     "After this we'll be changing a few axioms."

Details, details, details . . .

~ McClane:

  "Waiting for the lock to fill, he thought bitterly of his situation—promotion due and he had to get a job like this . . ."
~ Burke:
  "I suppose you loved him like a brother?"
  "No. I hated him. You can understand that—"

- "Death of a Telepath" is apparently the only fiction credit for the enigmatic George Chailey.
- Wikipedia has several entries about the subject: "Telepathy" (HERE), "Category: Fiction about telepathy" (HERE), "Category: Fictional telepaths" (HERE), and "Category: Films about telepathy" (HERE); also see "Telepathy" in The Skeptic's Dictionary (HERE).

The bottom line:

Wednesday, May 22, 2019


Spring 2019. Issue #50.
Editor: Arthur Vidro.
Old-Time Detection Special Interest Group of American Mensa, Ltd.
41 pages (including covers).
Cover image: Christianna Brand.

Note: The first part of this review can be found on Steve Lewis's Mystery*File weblog (HERE). Go there first.
~ ~ ~
This issue's contents:
  (Note: Some related off-site links have been included.)

  1. From the Editor: "In Memoriam: Barbara Dannay" by Arthur Vidro.

  2. "Introduction to Christianna Brand" by Francis M. Nevins (2010).
      Also see: The GAD Wiki (HERE) and Mystery*File (HERE).

  3. Introduction to "Cyanide in the Sun" by Tony Medawar.

  4. Fiction: The unabridged version of "Cyanide in the Sun" (1958; 13 pages) by Christianna Brand.

  5. "Christie Corner" by Dr. John Curran covers new screen and stage treatments of The ABC Murders ("I am not going to waste words discussing this abomination . . ."), Agatha and the Art of Murder (". . . released on an unsuspecting viewing public . . ."), The Mirror Crack'd ("Miss Marple begins to question her place in the world until . . ."), and Towards Zero (". . . the play is, even nowadays, rarely performed . . ."), plus a few snippets.
     See also: The GAD Wiki (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE).
  6. "The Paperback Revolution" (1970) by Charles Shibuk.
  7. A 1978 interview (14 pages) with Christianna Brand with background by Allen J. Hubin.

  8. "New Non-Fiction": Margalit Fox's Conan Doyle for the Defense (2018) reviewed by    Michael Dirda.
  9. Trudi Harrov's mini-reviews of The A.B.C. Murders (1936), The Greek Coffin Mystery (1932), Halfway House (1936), and Rumpole Misbehaves (2007).
     Also see: The GAD Wiki (HERE), (HERE), (HERE), and Book Reporter (HERE).
  10. "Letters from Christianna Brand" by Arthur Vidro.

  11. "The Readers Write," "This Issue's Puzzle," and the "Big News Department."

~ ~ ~
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 25 pounds sterling or 30 euros).
- Payment: Checks payable to Arthur Vidro, or cash from any nation, or U.S. postage stamps or PayPal.
Mailing address:
   Arthur Vidro, editor
   Old-Time Detection
   2 Ellery Street
   Claremont, New Hampshire 03743
Web address:


Monday, May 20, 2019

"He Fell Off a Cliff"

"Policeman's Lot."
By Henry Slesar (1927-2002).
Illustration by [Leo] Summers (1925-85; HERE).
First appearance: Fantastic, August 1961.

Short story (10 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     "As you'll see in my report, Saul Dexter is dead. I'll let the coroner decide why and how he died, but I don't think he'll know any more than I do."

Being a cop is seldom easy—and sometimes mind-blowing; take, for instance, how much more there is to an apparently innocuous indecent exposure case of a statistician employed by a small insurance company in San Diego . . .

- To judge from the story's title, it's obvious that our author was inspired by W. S. Gilbert's little ditty ( HERE) from the comic opera, The Pirates of Penzance (1879; Wikipedia HERE and HERE):

   When a felon's not engaged in his employment,
   Or maturing his felonious little plans,
   His capacity for innocent enjoyment
   Is just as great as any honest man's.
   Our feelings we with difficulty smother
   When constabulary duty's to be done:
   Ah, take one consideration with another,
   A policeman's lot is not a happy one!

   When the enterprising burglar isn't burgling,
   When the cut-throat isn't occupied in crime,
   He loves to hear the little brook a-gurgling,
   And listen to the merry village chime.
   When the coster's finished jumping on his mother,
   He loves to lie a-basking in the sun:
   Ah, take one consideration with another,
   The policeman's lot is not a happy one!

The bottom line:

Friday, May 17, 2019

"The More Detective Stories Are Unlike the Sort of Story I'm Living, the Better I'm Pleased"

SINCE THIS IS a detective fiction-related weblog, we were pleasantly surprised when a few years ago we first encountered the mystery fiction of well-known children's author and humorist A. A. Milne; a little research has shown our author's abiding interest in Sherlock Holmes and his own forays into the crime fiction genre. In "Not Guilty" (below), Milne tells us why having a good reputation for honesty could backfire; in "The Watson Touch" and "Dr. Watson Speaks Out" he has some fun with the Holmes-Watson dynamic; in "Introducing Crime" he scores humorous—but accurate—points against the prevalent detective fiction clichés of his time; and while "The Dear, Dead Past" and "Murder at Eleven" are rare examples of his short crime fiction, The Red House Mystery (1922) is even scarcer, his 
only detective fiction novel. [Note: All publishing data below are from FictionMags.]
~ ~ ~
   ". . . I knew that the day was bound to come when I should be arrested and hurried off to prison."

"Not Guilty."
By A. A. Milne (1882-1956).
First appearance: Unknown.
Reprinted in If I May (1920; HERE).

Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE and scroll down).
(Note: Might require more than one click.)
~ ~ ~
   "You can understand now how The Red House Mystery came into being."

"Introducing Crime."
(Introduction to a later edition of The Red House Mystery.)
By A. A. Milne (1882-1956).
First appearance: Unknown.
Reprinted in By Way of Introduction (1929).

Short essay (5 pages).
Online at (HERE).

~ ~ ~
   ". . . for though I am a man of even temperament (save when the weather adversely affects my old wound) I am not one who can sit down under injustice, and in the matter of this book 
I feel that a grave wrong has been done to me."

"Dr. Watson Speaks Out."
(A "review" of Sherlock Holmes: Short Stories.)
By A. A. Milne (1882-1956).
First appearance: Unknown.
Reprinted in By Way of Introduction (1929).

Review (8 pages).
Online at (HERE).

Note: The stories referenced—but not necessarily mentioned by name—in the article: "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax" (HERE and scroll down), "The Retired Colourman" (HERE and scroll down), "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane" (HERE and scroll down), "The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier" (HERE and scroll down), and "The Decentralized Tomato" (not HERE).
~ ~ ~
   "I am prepared to state, though I do not propose to make a song about it, that every nice man loves a detective story."

"The Watson Touch."
By A. A. Milne (1882-1956).
First appearance: Unknown.
Reprinted in If I May (1920; HERE).

Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE and scroll down); also reprinted and featured (HERE).
(Note: Might require more than one click.)

~ ~ ~
   "Sir Vernon knew that Scroope didn't like blackmailers—but would probably understand a youthful wild oat like murder."

"The Dear, Dead Past."
By A. A. Milne (1882-1956).
First appearance: Collier's, July 10, 1948.

Reprinted in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (EQMM), November 1952; EQMM (Australia), March 1954; and EQMM (U.K.), September 1954 as "A Perfectly Ordinary Case of Blackmail."
Short short short story (4 pages).
Online at UNZ starting (HERE) and finishing (HERE; scroll down to page 62).
(Note: Might require more than one click.)
~ ~ ~
   "A straight detective story by a famous British poet and humorist."

"Murder at Eleven."
By A. A. Milne (1882-1956).
First appearance: A Table Near the Band, and Other Stories (1950).
Reprinted in EQMM, March 1954 and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine (AHMM), April 1989.

Short story (11 pages).
Online at (HERE).

~ ~ ~
   ". . . if any of ‘em should happen to be murdered, you might send for me. I’m just getting into the swing of it."

The Red House Mystery (1922; Wikipedia HERE, no spoilers).
By A. A. Milne (1882-1956).

Novel (109 pages as a PDF).
Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE); featured (HERE) and (HERE).

* * * * *
- You can find out a lot about Alan Alexander Milne on Wikipedia (HERE), the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE); during and beyond his lifetime Milne racked up a respectable 97 TV and movie writing credits on the IMDb (HERE). Some of his mystery fiction was adapted for television, including, several times, his original play The Perfect Alibi (1949 HERE; 1956 HERE; and 1960 HERE) and two stories for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, "The Three Dreams of Mr. Findlater" (1957 HERE; SPOILERS) and "A Man Greatly Beloved" (1957 HERE).

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

"Just Because You Work in the Ultroom Don't Get to Thinking Human Life Doesn't Have Any Value"

"The Ultroom Error."
By Jerry Sohl (1913-2002).
Illustration by Gari (HERE).
First appearance: Space Science Fiction, May 1952.

Reprints page (HERE).
Short story (13 pages).
Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE).

     "Smith admitted he had made an error involving a few murders—and a few thousand years. He was entitled to a sense of humor, though, even in the Ultroom!"

Whatever Kanad wants, Kanad gets . . .

~ Reggie:

  "I wonder why they want our baby? He's just like any other baby."
~ Nancy:
  "I shot him in the legs. The other—the other turned and I shot him in the chest. I could even see his eyes when he turned around."
~ Joe:
  "I'm going to take the baby for a while."
~ Martin:
  "I can't understand why you believed him. It's just—just plain nuts, Nancy!"
~ The police sergeant:
  ". . . looked at the father, at Nancy and then at the dog. He scribbled notes in his book."
~ Dr. Stuart:
  "Say, by the way, there's that bill you owe me. I think it's $32, isn't that right?"
~ Dr. Tompkins:
  "Dr. Stuart stood by him, making idle comment until Dr. Tompkins came down the stairs with the sleeping baby cuddled against his shoulder."
~ The chief of police:
  "We've had him in jail for a week and we've all taken turns questioning him. He laughs and admits his guilt—in fact, he seems amused by most everything. Sometimes all alone in his cell he'll start laughing for no apparent reason. It gives you the creeps."
~ The state's attorney:
  "Maybe it's a case for an alienist."
~ Arvid 6:
  "I guess I have made mistakes. From now on you be the boss. I'll do whatever you say."
~ Tendal 13:
  "I hope I can count on that."

- Gerald Allan Sohl, Sr. was by no means a top-tier SFF author, but he could produce interest-ing stuff now and then; see the entries in Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE). The IMDb (HERE) shows Sohl's rare turns as a TV script doctor and teleplay writer, among them: four Alfred Hitchcock Presents episodes (1959-61), three The Twilight Zone eps (1963-64), two The Outer Limits installments (1964), two of The Invaders stories (1967), and three Star Trek episodes (1966-69).

Monday, May 13, 2019

Three Desperate Situations

IT'S RELATIVELY RARE that people get trapped in hostage situations, but it does happen. Today we have several fictional treatments of this popular theme (book and movie writers seem to love it), all of them featuring hostages who, against all odds, are able to get out of their predicament by unusual means: by having a police record, by noticing small details, 
and by doing exactly what they're told . . . exactly . . .
* * * * * * * * * *
"The Silent Witness."
By H. Frederic Young (1903-?; HERE).
First appearance: Ten Detective Aces, April 1941.

Short short short story (3 pages).
Pulpgen link has gone dead.

~ ~ ~
"One Shot Trick."
By Benton Braden (?-?; HERE).
First appearance: Thrilling Detective, September 1945.

Reprinted in Thrilling Detective (Canada), September 1945 and Thrilling Detective (U.K.), January 1946.
Short short story (7 pages).
Online at (starting HERE) and (finishing HERE).

Typos: "of his blue eyes hard" [dropped text]; "the bank in went broke" [dropped text].
~ ~ ~
"My Sister Mary."
By Keith Edgar (?-?; HERE).
First appearance: Collier's, April 24, 1948.
Short short short story (1 page).
Featured (HERE).

* * * * *
- Real-life hostage situations are covered on Wikipedia (HERE) and (HERE); the IMDb lists a hundred and seventy-six "Kidnapping/Hostage Movies" (HERE), while the Taste of Cinema website selects their ten favorites (HERE).

The bottom line: