Friday, December 13, 2019

"The Scene of a Few Quiet Tortures or Assassinations"

OUR TITLE comes from the Paradox Master himself, G. K. Chesterton; in his book The Uses of Diversity (1921), Chapter V: "The Domesticity of Detectives," Chesterton observes:

   "We might say that the great detective story deals with small things; while the small or silly detective story generally deals with great things.
   ". . . the good detective story is in its nature a good domestic story. It is steeped in the sentiment that an Englishman's house is his castle; even if, like other castles, it is the scene of a few quiet tortures or assassinations.
   "The real romance of detection works inwards towards the household gods, even if they are household devils. One of the best of the Sherlock Holmes stories turns entirely on a trivial point of housekeeping: the provision of curry for the domestic dinner." — ONTOS (HERE).

Authors of what is called these days "domestic suspense" (formerly the HIBK School) generally tend to be women and to limit their focus to what GKC terms the "small things," usually but not always about their uneasy relationships with men, whose principal failing seems to be that they're not mind readers. One such domestic suspenser was Ruth Chessman, all of whose limited output is, thanks to e-book publishing, now available. As 
an author, Chessman's biggest limitation is that she wants to tell more than show in one 
of today's stories ("Silently, Silently"), which these days is regarded as a cardinal sin, a technique which tends to slow down the narrative too much. Chessman is an almost 
completely unknown quantity to us; all we know are the comments made on (HERE). Her very brief bibliography comes from there and FictionMags (data below):

  (1) "Accused," Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, January 1943 (below)
  (2) "Poor Sherm," Manhunt, August 1958
  (3) "Murder—Early American," Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, November 1958
  (4) "The Harrington Farthing," Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, April 1959
  (5) "Is There a Doctor in the House?", Bestseller Mystery Magazine, November 1959
  (6) "[The Search for a] Dead Man's Body," Highway Patrolman, March-April 1957
  (7) "The Perfect Husband," Four Quarters #1, November 1960 (below)
  (8) "Silently, Silently," Four Quarters #3, March 1961 (below)
  (9) "The Crime That Did Not Follow," Four Quarters #11, November 1961 (below).


   "If he were to commit suicide, he thought, it would be by a bullet, or by drowning—certainly not by gas."

By Ruth Chessman (?-?).
First appearance: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (EQMM), January 1943.

Reprinted in EQMM (Overseas Edition for the Armed Forces), 
July 1945, and EQMM (Australia), July 1948.
Collected in The Second Golden Age of Mystery & Crime Megapack (2015; for sale HERE).
Short short short story (3 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     "A powerful vignette . . ."

The jury was satisfied, so why isn't he?

~ Stella:

  "The verdict said not guilty, and that's the truth."
~ Michael Carriday:
  "If what he feared were true, how could he accept a jury's verdict . . .?"
~ Mrs. Prentiss:
  "What makes you think I care how you feel . . .?"

~ ~ ~

   "It was a bullet, wasn't it?"

"The Perfect Husband."
By Ruth Chessman (?-?).
First appearance: Four Quarters #1, November 1960.
Collected in The Second Golden Age of Mystery & Crime Megapack (2015; for sale HERE).
Short short story (9 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     ". . . he couldn't lie to her."

Disillusionment—when it comes, it comes down hard . . .

~ Rickey Garber:

  "He was really the perfect husband every girl dreamed of."
~ Dad:
  "Never heard of him. He's a mighty slick-looking article, isn't he?"
~ Court:
  "How much do you know?"
~ The doctor:
  "I could have helped, earlier."
~ Ellen Garber:
  ". . . the appalling thing was that she did, she understood everything."

Quite a few movie matinee idols from the 1940s, '50s, and '60s get mentioned in our story; see the Wikipedia entries for Tony Curtis (HERE), Errol Flynn (HERE), Van Johnson (HERE), Clark Gable (HERE), Robert Mitchum (HERE), Joseph Cotten (HERE), Rock Hunter (actually 

a fictional character; HERE), and Robert Montgomery (HERE).

~ ~ ~

   "What would Ellen do?"

"Silently, Silently."
By Ruth Chessman (?-?).
First appearance: Four Quarters #3, March 1961.
Collected in The Second Golden Age of Mystery & Crime Megapack (2015; for sale HERE).
Short short story (9 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     "People like us don't need people like that."

The thing about trainwrecks is that nobody sees them coming, primarily because somebody somewhere wasn't paying enough attention to small, seemingly insignificant things like a loose coupling or, as in today's story, fingernail chewing . . .

~ Ellen Windsor:
  "I'm never together with anyone."
~ Letty Windsor:
  "Once and for all, stop looking for trouble!"
~ Janice Perrice:
  "Rowdy, noisy, rebellious Janice was poles apart from Ellen."
~ Peter:
  "So Janice finally had a tantrum big enough to draw notice."
~ Hilda Perrice:
  ". . . thought Janice was in bed when the police came!"
~ Mrs. Sturgess:
  "I'm glad you got here in time to say goodbye to Janice . . ."

- Ellen says, "A real J.D.," meaning a juvenile delinquent; juvenile delinquency was the cause célèbre of countless stories, TV shows, and movies during the 1950s and '60s:

"The two largest predictors of juvenile delinquency are [(1) parenting style and (2) peer group association]:

 (1) parenting style, with the two styles most likely to predict delinquency being:

     (a) 'permissive' parenting, characterized by a lack of consequence-based discipline and encompassing two subtypes known as:
    'neglectful' parenting, characterized by a lack of monitoring and thus of knowledge of the child's activities; and
    'indulgent' parenting, characterized by affirmative enablement of misbehavior;
     (b) 'authoritarian' parenting, characterized by harsh discipline and refusal to justify discipline on any basis other than "because I said so".

"According to Laura E. Berk, the style of parenting that would be most beneficial for a child, and thus stand[s] the highest probability of preventing delinquent behavior, is:

  'The authoritative child-rearing style - the most successful approach - involves high acceptance and involvement, adaptive control techniques, and appropriate autonomy granting.'

Berk’s accretions regarding parenting styles derive primarily from the studies conducted by Diana Baumrind.

 (2) peer group association, particularly with antisocial peer groups, as is more likely when adolescents are left unsupervised." — Wikipedia (HERE)

~ ~ ~

   "Children only love people who love them."

"The Crime That Did Not Follow."
By Ruth Chessman (?-?).
First appearance: Four Quarters #11, November 1961.
Collected in The Second Golden Age of Mystery & Crime Megapack (2015; for sale HERE).
Short short story (7 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     "She then made the innocent comment that was to lead to a policeman in the house, not to mention a pretty girl stiff with terror."

When Shakespeare told us, "The robbed that smiles, steals something from the thief," he probably never imagined what would happen next door to Mrs. Brace . . .

~ Mrs. Brace:

  "Within ten minutes of focusing all her lively mental powers on the problem, she was left with no alternative at all. There was only one thing to do. She reached for the telephone."
~ Mrs. Matthews:
  ". . . not at any point what you might call a social type, became frankly confused, although she remained grimly polite and gave courteous little answers as they were called for."
~ Elizabeth Caldwell:
  ". . . was a heartless, superficial woman. She couldn't have succeeded in making Billy smile where even his own mother failed."
~ Police Inspector Harrity:
  "Nobody every suspects a utility company."
~ Peter Brace:
  "Do you happen to like beef stew?"
~ Margery Varrick:
  "As a matter of fact I do."


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