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).

No comments:

Post a Comment