Wednesday, July 31, 2019

"We're Like a Bunch of Vultures Awaiting the Faltering Step of the Desert Wanderer"

"Blind Time."
By George O. Smith (1911-81).
Illustrations by Swenson (HERE).
First appearance: Astounding Science Fiction, September 1946.

Reprints page (HERE).
Collected in The Worlds of George O. (1982).

Short story (14 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     "It's blind time, and there is nothing we can do about it."

The men at the Oak Tool Works are having a problem with accidents—the same ones that they know with absolute certainty are going to happen . . . again . . .

~ Edwin Porter, the President of Interplanetary Industrial Insurance (I.I.I.):

  "Go prepared for anything from simple abrasion to loss of limb. I doubt the possibility of death, but—."
~ Peter Wright:
  "There came a stabbing pain, and Peter whirled with a wordless scream. The shock was searing."
~ Joe Simpkins:
  "Just try to hire men for a plant that can't be insured by your outfit. They'll ask a thousand credits a day."
~ Ben:
  "It's the uncertain certainty—the wondering just which one of us gets caught in the certain accident."

Typos: "I can't tak it"; "the loading deck".
- The usual sources have info about George Oliver Smith: Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb bibliography (HERE).
- Our story has an industrial background, where, believe it or not, accidents have been known to happen, which eventually require the involvement of an insurance claims adjuster (HERE; Wikipedia); a lot of industries like the one in the story call for the use of rivets (HERE; Wiki-pedia) installed with rivet guns (HERE; Wikipedia), as well as drills (HERE; Wikipedia) employ-ed in drilling (HERE; Wikipedia).
- It has been well over two years since we first considered some of Smith's fiction: "The Undetected" (HERE), a story of psi powers and a locked room murder.

The bottom line:

Monday, July 29, 2019

"Somewhere, At the Back of His Mind, Two Small Details Clashed and Contradicted"

TODAY'S STORIES by Max Afford, appearing four years apart, both feature his most famous series characters:

   "Jeffrey [sic] and Elizabeth Blackburn, stars of a long-running Afford radio series as well as several novels, made a late curtain call in Detective Fiction. 'Vanishing Trick' typifies the mannered, slightly tongue in cheek, stories of the period—heavy on drawing rooms, witty dialogue and deductive brilliance."
  — PGA Biographical Note

There's much more than just a whiff of some of John Dickson Carr's favorite tropes here . . .

"Poison Can Be Puzzling."
By Max Afford (1906-54).
First appearance: The Australian Women's Weekly, 12 February 1944.
Collected in Two Locked Room Mysteries and a Ripping Yarn (2009; HERE).

Short story (23 pages; 1 illo).
Online at Project Gutenberg Australia (HERE).

     ". . . an engineered death is merely a polite euphemism for murder!"

A victim who is "murdered while dressing alone in a hermetically-sealed room, with four witnesses standing not a dozen yards away!" Black magic, you say? No way to pin down the murderer, you say? Our amateur sleuth knows better: "With the exception of the inevitable mistake. Extraordinary how criminals will never learn!"

~ Ferdinand Cass:

  ". . . [is] so crooked he could hide behind a circular staircase! That's why he's got more enemies than a monkey has fleas."
~ Arthur Harkness:
  ". . . Ferd believes my sister warned him that she could see him lying dead."
~ Chief Inspector William Read:
  "What's this foolery, Cass? Your wife is dead!"
~ Elizabeth Blackburn:
  "Darling, you can't have an abscess lanced without bleeding—"
~ Jeffery Blackburn:
  "So that's it, at last! The missing piece of the jig-saw puzzle! It slots into place perfectly

—the whole picture's complete!"

Typos: "he said Jeffery"; "maybe Cass going"; "he rang the hell"; "dialled a number".
~ ~ ~
"The Vanishing Trick."
By Max Afford (1906-54).
First appearance: Detective Fiction (Australia), December 1948.

Collected in Two Locked Room Mysteries and a Ripping Yarn (2009; HERE).
Short story (24 pages; no illos).
Online at Project Gutenberg Australia (HERE).

     "And then, right at her very side, something chuckled."

To lose one person in a sealed room in less than fifteen seconds could be excused as sheer unpreparedness, but two in the same day . . .?

Major characters:
~ Jim Rutland:

  "Believe it or not, Satan himself is supposed to have come down here, breathed on a 
man—and he vanished! Just like that!"
~ Benson:
  "Some mistake, sir, surely? Nothing like that happened while I was in service with the Lattimer family."
~ Sally (Van Peters) Rutland:
  "Benson says the police brought a couple of architect guys from London. They tapped 
and measured for weeks and all they got was housemaid's knee."
~ Elizabeth Blackburn:
  "My one thought was to get back to sanity."
~ Evan Lambert:
  ". . . his professional imagination piqued, moved around giving perfunctory taps on the walls, but their solidness precluded any suggestion of secret passages."
~ John Wilkins:
  "All this doesn't explain one very essential point."
~ Florence Rountree:
  "We must remain perfectly tranquil in mind. Thoughts are things—tangible things."

~ Jeffery Blackburn:
  "Me—I'm a detective, so now I'm going to start to detect."

Typos: "the Dalls oil magnate"; "Without a world, Rutland pushed"; "Wilkin's face"; "a ease for the police".
- Malcolm R. ("Max") Afford was at one time well-known throughout the Land Down Under primarily due to his involvement with radio serials production, being . . .

   ". . . Australia's most prolific radio dramatist. Before television, there was radio and it took a man of Afford's skill and professionalism to turn out as many hours of entertainment as he did right up until his death in 1954. Born in Parkside, Adelaide, in 1906, Afford was a journalist before turning to radio serials and stage plays. From 1932 until his death, Afford wrote many of the most popular serials of the time . . ."

  — PGA Biographical Note

See Wikipedia (HERE), the Australian Dictionary of Biography (HERE), and the PGA 
collection of his available works (HERE).
- Additional info about Afford's series featuring his husband and wife sleuths is on GoodReads (HERE).
- Both stories have been recently collected; see the Beneath the Stains of Time review (HERE). (Caution: Possible spoilers; better to read it after the story.) Also see TomCat's 
other reviews of two of Afford's Jeffery Blackburn novels, Blood on His Hands (1945;
HERE) and The Dead Are Blind (1946; HERE).

Friday, July 26, 2019

"Only One Thing That He Knew of Could Kill a Man Instantly and Painlessly, and That Had Not Yet Been Invented in 2092"

MIRIAM ALLEN deFORD, like more than one science fiction-fantasy (SFF) author we've already encountered if you've been following this weblog for a while, occasionally tried her hand at SFF and "mystery" mashups; whether or not she has succeeded with these two stories with twists in their tales we'll leave up to you to decide . . .

   ". . . he fingered nervously through his pocket what he thought of always, in capitals, as The Weapon."

"The Absolutely Perfect Murder."
By Miriam Allen deFord (1888-1975).
First appearance: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, February 1965.

Reprints page (HERE).
First English collection: Xenogenesis (1969).

Short short story (9 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     ". . . there was nothing left, to avoid the wreckage of his own life, except to murder her."

One of the most annoying things about a lie is how it can force people to go to places they're better off staying away from and to do things they might never otherwise do—like commit murder . . .

Major characters:
~ The scientist:

  "No, you can't go back into the past and kill your grandfather, as people used to fancy . . ."
~ Roger Tatum:
  "I'm expecting no package."
~ Mervin Alspaugh:
  ". . . under his surface perception his constant preoccupation, which was becoming an obsession, dug into him as always."
~ Doreen Alspaugh:
  ". . . was completely, blandly satisfied with what to him was a persistent torture."

Typo: "home all eve-tening to video lectures".

- "Doreen sat there, watching her telecast. Ears plugged, eyes encased, she did not even notice him"—which suggests to us virtual
(or simulated) reality; see Wikipedia (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE).
~ ~ ~
   "How the perpetrator of the Crime of the Century ever got onto the train was never explained."

"Murder in the Transcontinental Tunnel."
By Miriam Allen deFord (1888-1975).
First appearance: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, May 1973.

Reprints page (HERE).
Short story (15 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     "I'm not going to harm anybody in this car except one person. And don't worry whether you're the one . . ."

You've heard of the ugly American? How about the ugly Terran . . .

Typos: "in wpite of having"; "I had know".

- The idea of drilling a tunnel under the Earth and sending trains through it isn't really new; see Wikipedia (HERE).

- In the narrative we have a reference to an actual incident involving "a piece of fiction" which led to an author and his editor being "hauled before the FBI"; that would be "Deadline" writ-ten by Cleve Cartmill and edited by John Campbell (go HERE; scroll down to "Resources"; follow links).
- The dwarf planet Ceres (it was an asteroid when we were a kid) is an important element in the story; see Wikipedia (HERE) and (HERE).

- Red blood or green? TV Tropes has the 411 (HERE).
More resources:
- Miriam Allen deFord enjoyed quite an extensive career in SFF-dom; see Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), Tellers of Weird Tales (HERE), the ISFDb (HERE), and the IMDb (HERE), which has her few contributions to television, including a couple of Alfred Hitchcock episodes and the memorable "Death in the Family" segment on Night Gallery.
- Our first encounter with deFord was with her tale of a slippery character called "The Eel" (HERE).

The bottom line:
  "I have a higher and grander standard of principle than George Washington. He could not lie; I can, but I won't."
  ― S. L. Clemens


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

That's Trant, Not Trent

SINCE LAST MONTH saw the publication of Crippen & Landru's The Cases of Lieutenant Timothy Trant, a reprint collection of the shorter works by the authors known collectively as Q. Patrick, we wondered if any of those stories might be floating around in the cybersphere; as it turns out, we did manage to locate two of the twenty-two in the collection, which might whet your appetite for more Timothy Trant adventures, and one story with a supernatural slant that didn't make the cut:

   "This was the most disappointingly rapid murder investigation of his career."

"Death and Canasta."
By Q. Patrick (Richard Wilson Webb, 1901-70 & Hugh Callingham Wheeler, 1912-87).
First appearance [FictionMags]: "United Newspapers Magazine Corporation; probably from This Week" (1950).
Reprinted in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, April 1954.

Collected in The Cases of Lieutenant Timothy Trant (2019).
Short short short story (4 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     "How were you to know that this particular jerk happened to be the police?"

A friendly card game turns into an opportunity for murder . . .

~ Arlene Wentworth:

  "She's — dead."
~ Molly Evarts:
  ". . . must have bumped against the shelf and knocked the radio into the water, and . . ."
~ Boyd Redfield:
  "Damn fool thing to let her have a radio in the bathroom. Everyone knows it's dangerous."
~ Jim Evarts:
  ". . . all this about an obstruction behind the bathroom fuse . . . What sort of obstruction?"
~ Lieutenant Timothy Trant:
  "For several seconds now he had realized exactly how Molly Evarts had met her death."

- Read all about the card game of canasta on Wikipedia (HERE).

~ ~ ~
   "This was a classic murder set-up, in which the wife or the playwright should obviously kill the critic before his lethal review could get into the papers."

"The Glamorous Opening."
By Q. Patrick (Richard Wilson Webb, 1901-70 & Hugh Callingham Wheeler, 1912-87).
First appearance [FictionMags]: "United Newspapers Magazine Corporation; probably from This Week" (1951).
Reprinted in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, January 1954.

Collected in The Cases of Lieutenant Timothy Trant (2019).
Short short short story (4 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     "Trant, who doted on murder as much as Dodo doted on gossip, wished rather wistfully that Life would sometimes behave a little more like Fiction."

The reviews are in: It's murder all right . . .

~ Dodo Mulligan:

  ". . . looked haughty as a challenged Empress."
~ Larry Race:

  ". . . [is] penniless. His whole future hangs on the play. A bad review from Hunt will 
slaughter it. And will Hunt's typewriter be dipped in venom!"
~ Hunt Brickell:
  "Hunt, doll, you shouldn't have come with that dreadful cold. Right back to bed after 
your review!"
~ Hilda Brickell:
  ". . . screamed but, unexpectedly, shied away and clung to Larry Race."
~ Lieutenant Timothy Trant:
  ". . . had his murder. But perversely he felt almost guilty, as if his irresponsible reveries 

had somehow brought it about."

- What's the difference between theater criticism and a theatrical review? See Wikipedia (HERE).

~ ~ ~
   "You might suggest that he start chewing on the works of Charles Fort."

"The Red Balloon."
By Q. Patrick (Richard Wilson Webb, 1901-70 & Hugh Callingham Wheeler, 1912-87).
Illustration by Vincent Napoli (1907-91; HERE).
First appearance: Weird Tales, November 1953.

Short story (12 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     "It was only two days before the great festival of love and goodwill, but I was gripping the revolver in my pocket and there was murder in my heart . . ."

The sudden and bizarre deaths of two children aren't only a gruesome affair, but they also have scientists scratching their heads—a puzzle to everyone but a highly eccentric college professor . . .

Major characters:
~ Lieutenant Timothy Trant:

  "Though a traditional terror to the malefactor, Trant was as pleasant a fellow as one could wish to meet."
~ Edgar James (narrator):
  ". . . since Trant's name was synonymous with Homicide, I presumed the Greiser children had been murdered, or at best kidnapped."
~ Professor Edgar Saltus:
  ". . . had moved noiselessly towards us and was staring at Trant over an antiquated pair of spectacles."

Typos: "so-called comet of Halley, due in 1896" [should be 1986]; "an invisible creatures"; "In twenty-eight yeras".

- Professor Saltus makes a reference to "my late and very much lamented friend Mr. Charles Fort," the subject of a Wikipedia article (HERE); doubtless of great interest to Fort would have been the Siberian mammoths (Wikipedia; HERE) and the "lost planet" (Wikipedia; HERE) mentioned by the Professor.

More resources:
- For Wikipedia's entry on Patrick Quentin go (HERE) and Hugh Wheeler (HERE); Wheeler also co-wrote the pilot movie teleplay for the short-lived The Snoop Sisters TV series (1972; HERE).
- Curtis Evans has done a thorough job of researching the Q. Patrick writing team; see one of his latest articles (HERE) and other related postings starting (HERE). His assessment of the stories in The Cases of Lieutenant Timothy Trant:

   "It's a remarkably rich collection (taking us around New York, New England, the Atlantic Ocean and Europe), from the shortest to the longest story. The way Rickie and Hugh planted clues in even the briefest stories to make them sparkling examples of fair play detection is impressive indeed."

- Steve Lewis's Mystery*File has also covered Q. Patrick's work over the years; his collection of articles begins (HERE).

Monday, July 22, 2019

"Who Else Is There to Judge You Except Yourself?"

DOUBLE INDEMNITY, Wikipedia tells us, is . . .

   ". . . a clause or provision in a life insurance or accident policy whereby the company agrees to pay the stated multiple (i.e., double, triple, etc.) of the face amount in the contract in cases of death caused by accidental means. This includes murder by a person other than, and not in collusion with, the bene-ficiary of the insurance policy, and most accidental deaths. It excludes suicide, and deaths caused by the insured person's own gross negligence, as well as natural causes."

   — which works just fine in the 21st century, but what about the 22nd or 23rd or . . .?
   Experience shows a direct correlation between technological innovation (e.g., automobiles) and the expansion of civil laws (e.g., speed limits for cars) and criminal laws (e.g., prison time for hit-and-run), in light of which it seems our author, Robert Sheckley, has crafted a tale built around a piece of technology that, for the moment at least, exists only in the fertile imagina-tions of science fiction writers, but one which, if it ever does become a reality, will certainly generate its own unique set of legal sanctions.
   A double indemnity clause in an insurance policy can be a blessing to those who deserve it, of course—but to those who don't deserve it, it can just as easily become an irresistible temptation. For instance, take the Sales Manager for the Alpro Manufacturing Company, a conniving conniver who knows—or thinks he knows—how to make himself look deserving 
. . .

"Double Indemnity."
By Robert Sheckley (1928-2005).
Illustrations by Dillon [Diane (born 1933; HERE) and Leo (1933-2012; HERE)].
First appearance: Galaxy, October 1957.

Reprints page (HERE).
First collected in Notions: Unlimited (1960).

Novelette (28 pages; 3 illos).
Online at (HERE).
(Note: Text faded and wrinkled in some places but readable.)
(Parental caution: Mild profanity.)

     "To commit the flawless crime, all Barthold needed were centuries in which to plan and execute it — and an insurance policy . . ."

We don't know who Murphy was, but his "law" is well-nigh inescapable . . .
Major characters:
~ Everett Barthold, Sales Manager for the Alpro Manufacturing Company (Toys for All the Ages):
  ". . . didn't take out a life insurance policy casually."
~ Mavis Barthold:
  "They'll lock you up and throw away the key."
~ Mr. Gryns, Regional Manager of the Inter-Temporal Insurance Corporation:
  "The policy protects you over a distance of 1000 years on either side of the Present. But no further. The risks are too great."

~ Mr. Carlisle, President of Alpro:
  ". . . by the way, I've got an address in Kansas City, 1895, that you might be interested in."
~ Bully Jack Barthold:
  "Now what in hell was that all about?"
~ Ben Bartholder:
  "Lost it at Vicksburg."

~ Hans Baerthaler:
  "He looked closer and noticed the blank, vacuous expression in the beggar's eyes, the slack jaw, the twisted, leering lips."
~ Thomas Barthal:
  "The family resemblance was unmistakable."
~ Connor Lough mac Bairthre:
  "I could be a baron with that money. A king, perhaps, in Ireland!"

- Today's political climate coupled with the inexorable passage of time makes it unlikely 

that many, if any, will publicly criticize the post-Civil War Reconstruction era (1865-77); 
see Wikipedia for an extensive article about the time period in which Barthold spends 
several harrowing hours (HERE).
- The best insurance fraud movie yet to appear is probably Billy Wilder's generally acclaimed classic Double Indemnity (1944) (HERE; SPOILERS; Wikipedia), making us wonder if our author might have had it in mind; an entirely different approach to defrauding the insurance company was also a Billy Wilder product, the black comedy The Fortune Cookie (1966) (HERE; SPOILERS; Wikipedia).
- Another time travel tale by Sheckley is "A Thief in Time" (HERE).
The bottom line:
  "His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate."
  - Scripture


Friday, July 19, 2019

"He Was a Man with No More Substance Than a Shadow on a Screen"

THE REAL-LIFE MYSTERIOUS death of Isadore [variously spelled] Fink in a locked 
room in 1929, a case unsolved to this day, set journalist-screenwriter Ben Hecht's 
authorial antennae aquiver strongly enough to produce . . .

"The Mystery of the Fabulous Laundryman."
By Ben Hecht (1893-1964).

First appearance: Liberty, October 31, 1931.
Reprinted in Avon Modern Short Story Monthly No. 11, 1943; Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, June 1954; EQMM (U.K.), June 1954; EQMM (Australia), August 1954; Ellery Queen's Anthology #19 (1970); and Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, April 1971. [FictionMags data.]
Collected in Actor's Blood (1936).
Short story (10 pages).
Online at (HERE).
     ". . . a deliberately rococo chronicle of little Meyer Nobody, who was most foully slain in a locked room and whose identity was a deep, dark secret . . ."

To be murdered is a bad enough fate, but the victim probably never imagined he'd be the proximate cause of so much controversy among the living . . .

~ Unnamed narrator:
  "I will write this story out as it was told to me with the hope that you will believe it, as 
did I . . ."
~ Dick McCarey:
  ". . . when I looked down on this dead laundryman I saw a cross in his left hand."
~ Monsoor Gavin:
  ". . . a toad among toads, a snake and a varlet whom it will give me great pleasure 
to betray. Foully."
~ Meyer:
  ". . . died on a hot night a month ago, shot through the head twice. And his right hand 
chopped off at the wrist, for good measure."
~ Mrs. Maum:
  "This foul dinosaur . . . Cupid bombarding this hippogriff with a battering ram . . . mark 
you, there was a woman scorned and roundly."
~ Lieutenant Neidlinger:
  "There was some wretched mystery about the business that filled this pretzel-headed 
police official full of confusion and alarm. . . . All these nuances were rattling around 
inside that vast, empty policeman's skull on this hot night."

- Ben Hecht (Wikipedia; HERE) wasn't the only writer to use this case as the basis for a story; another author, William March, produced one for EQMM, which we featured (HERE) several days ago.
- You'll find this short account of Fink's murder under "Locked-room mystery—Real-life examples" on Wikipedia (HERE):

  "According to a report in The New York Times, March 10 and 11, 1929, Isidore Fink, of 4 East 132nd Street, New York City, was in his Fifth Avenue laundry on the night of March 9, 1929, with the windows closed and door of the room bolted. A neighbor heard screams and the sound of blows (but no shots), and called the police, who were unable to get in. A young boy was lifted through the transom and was able to unbolt the door. On the floor lay Fink with two bullet wounds in his chest and one in his left wrist. He was dead. There was money in his pockets, and the cash register had not been touched. No weapon was found. There was a theory that the murderer had crawled through the transom, but to do so he or she would had to have been no bigger than a small child and would have had to leave the same way, as the door was bolted. Another theory had the murderer firing through the transom, but Fink's wrist was powder-burned, indicating that he had not been fired at from a distance. More than two years later, Police Commissioner Mulrooney, in a radio talk, called this murder in a closed room an 'insoluble mystery'."

- Other online coverage of the Isadore Fink locked room murder:
  Historic Mysteries (HERE) - The Lineup (HERE) - Morbidology (HERE) - Strange Company (HERE) - P. J. Bergman's The Locked Room (HERE; Note: Story SPOILERS for "The Mystery of the Fabulous Laundryman" and "The Bird House").

- CRYPTIC ALLUSIONS: When someone sarcastically says, "Hello, how's Parnell?" the individual being alluded to would be the Irish nationalist politico Charles Stewart Parnell (HERE; Wikipedia), who by the time of our story has been in the grave going on forty years; as for the reference to "your thirty pieces of silver," it too is made with great sarcasm (HERE); a victim is said to be "Dead and under a slab in Potter's Field," meaning (THIS); and "Nikolai the Second" refers to no less a personage than "the Czar of all the Russias" (HERE).
- Several years ago we focused on a trio of crime-related stories (not whodunits) by Ben Hecht, "Miracle of the Fifteen Murderers," "Café Sinister," and "Swindler's Luck" (collected HERE). (Note: The link to "Swindler's Luck" has changed to THIS; PDF.)

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

"We're Lucky He Was Such a Fool"

"I'll Think You Dead!"
By Paul W. Fairman (1909-77).
First appearance: Imaginative Tales, September 1956.

Short story (15 pages).
Online at (HERE).
(Parental note: Mild profanity.)

     "So what do we have at the moment? Six devoted, law-abiding husbands brutally murdering their wives last night."

Sometimes solving a murder requires concentrating on what doesn't fit . . .

~ Sam Courtney:
  "As stated, the whole massacre makes no sense. The connecting link isn't there — and it's got to exist."
~ Bart Henderson:
  "Then let's say, rather, that the data is incomplete, and it's up to you to find this link you speak of."
~ Clarence Smith:
  "I must have gone crazy."
~ Wilton Michener:
  "We'd planned to do so much together. You'll capture the swine, won't you officer? You'll get him?"
~ Peggy Carson:
  "I never saw him before."
~ Hally Andrews:
  "She stood out like a signal flare in a dark sky."

- A publisher as well as a writer, Paul Warren Fairman enjoyed a 27-year SFF-nal career; see Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).
- Subliminal suggestion (Wikipedia: HERE and HERE) presupposes an intention to deceive; 

hypnosis (Wikipedia: HERE and HERE) has had a long and checkered history.

Monday, July 15, 2019

"The Most Beguiling Mystery of Our Time"

MURDER IS NORMALLY a grubby affair, and who's responsible is often immediately and glaringly apparent; so when a murder occurs in a locked room under impossible circum-stances with no obvious explanation, an aura of mystery automatically attaches itself to 
the case. So it was with the real-life murder of a Polish immigrant ninety years ago, its impossibilities being mysterious enough to prompt today's fiction author to write . . .

"The Bird House."
By William March (1893-1954).
First appearance: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, February 1954.

Reprinted in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (U.K.), 
February 1954; EQMM (Australia), April 1954; and 
Ellery Queen’s Anthologies #19 (1970) and #57 (1987).
Short story (13 pages, including introduction).
Online at (HERE).

     "When the homicide experts saw all this, they looked at one another in astonishment, and shook their heads."

Even the Park Avenue crowd have their own ideas about locked room murders; some are ingenious and some are . . . well . . .

Major characters:
~ Emmanuel Vogel:

  "He moved his lips three times, as if trying to speak, then shuddered and slumped somehow from within. His eyes opened and fixed themselves on the ceiling in the patient, impersonal stare of death . . ."
~ John Littleton:
  ". . . I think I know how it was done."
~ Walter Nation:
  ". . . he [the victim] had been shot from a distance of several feet, by a revolver held level with his head. It was murder, he said; it couldn't possibly be anything else."
~ Dr. Hilde Flugelmann:
  "Being killed by a pistol was not at all right for him."

~ Phil Cottman:
  "He might have picked up the pistol while he was alone in the room. Did anybody think of that?"
~ Marcella Crosby:
  "I think God happened to be over Harlem on the night of the laundryman's death."

Typo: "couldn't discoverer the murderer".

- William Edward March Campbell's novel The Bad Seed (1954) was adapted as a play before being filmed several times; see Wikipedia (HERE) and (HERE; SPOILERS).
- To echo Ellery Queen, "we shall bring you the Hecht version soon." Stay tuned.


Friday, July 12, 2019

"Surely There Is a Simpler Explanation Than the Impossible"

"Inside the Box."
By Edward M. Lerner (born 1949).
First appearance: Asimov's Science Fiction, February 2008.

Reprints page (HERE).
Collected in Frontiers of Space, Time, and Thought: Essays and Stories on the Big Questions (2012).

Short short short story (4 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     "It was where something had happened. Only it couldn't have."

In a quantized universe, murder is so much easier . . .

~ Thaddeus Fitch:
  "Now you claim that my grandson traveled through time to kill me . . ."
~ Mr. McDowell:
  "Professor, the black board has a bullet hole."

- Edward M. Lerner collaborates frequently with fellow hard-SF author Larry Niven; see Wiki-pedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), the ISFDb (HERE), and his own website (HERE). If you're a regular ONTOS habitué, you know that we've already dealt at length with Niven's criminous-SFF mashups (HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE).
- Few felines, real or fictional, have been as famous as Professor Schrödinger's imaginary cat; see Wikipedia (HERE) for the full story.