Friday, January 31, 2020

"Each Voice Was Raised Against the Interloper When Crime Stained the Last Inheritors of the Great House"

"The Missing Husband."
By H. C. Bailey (1878-1961).

First appearance: Flynn's Weekly, September 18, 1926.
Reprinted in Mystery and Detection No. 2 (1934).
Short story (13 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     "Slight flavor of the late Dr. Crippen upside down."

Inspector Lomas accidentally on purpose gets his friend Reggie Fortune, who is recovering from injuries incurred in a previous case, involved in what the local authorities assume to be a likely instance of suicide but which, as Lomas says, spirals into "a cursed mess of a case." Recuperating he may be, but Reggie's abilities at rightly interpreting the evidence don't seem to be seriously impaired: ". . . shot in the left temple at close quarters by a service revolver 
. . . death was immediate . . . he died some days ago . . . It wasn't suicide, you know . . . the blood wasn't there . . . not a drop on the ground. Very tidy of him . . . he wasn't killed where you found him." When pressed as to what it all means: "You supply the sense. I only pro-
duce the facts."

Major characters:
~ Julian Brase, very late of Brase Hall, Wessex:

  ". . . has been found. This morning his body has been found in his own park. Of course this alters the whole case."
~ The Hon. Sidney Lomas, Chief of the C.I.D.:
  [Speaking to Reggie] "You're really not yourself, you know. It's not like you to be so keen."
~ Reginald Fortune, "our medical expert":
  "Well, look at it. He was missing a week ago. His wife bolted yesterday. He was found this morning. Not quite normal crime, Lomas, old thing. Very odd sequence."
~ Superintendent Bell, Lomas's able assistant:
  "Not himself, Mr. Lomas. Not up to it yet, he isn't."
~ Inspector Warnham and Dr. Harcourt:
  ". . . conferred and agreed that Mr. Fortune was too clever by half."
~ The Chief Constable of Wessex:
  "Cherchez la femme, what, what?"
~ Roger Brase, the brother:
  "Knelt down and stuffed something into a rabbit hole."

~ Mrs. Julian Brase, the subject of an APB:
  "The case against her is that the rector's wife don't like her, the county don't like her, the county police don't like her and the county inspector is God's own ass."
~ Timothy Arnold, the artist:
  "I'm here to say she didn't kill the man."

Comment: We have no patience with careless proofreaders, especially with their negligence regarding quotation marks.

- "Dr. Crippen": At the center of one of the most sensational murder cases of the early 20th century and the subject of a major motion picture; see Wikipedia (HERE and HERE), Brit-movie (HERE), and the IMDb (HERE).
- Henry Christopher Bailey held his own among detective fiction writers, with his favored series character, Reginald Fortune, appearing more or less continually in short stories and novelettes from 1923 onward; see Wikipedia (HERE) and Mike Grost's megasite (HERE). Concerning today's story, Grost writes:

   "'The Missing Husband' shows sound detective work, with Fortune using logical steps to track down the killer. This work makes absorbing reading. SPOILER. 'The Missing Husband' is an early example of modern-day ballistics work used to identify a gun. Such an approach is standard today, but was perhaps innovative in the 1920's. Fortune also makes deductions using blood stains. In addition to such scientific forensic techniques, Fortune uses a non-technological but sound approach: finding out who was the last person to 
see the victim alive."

- Alongside Bailey, detective fiction's successors to Sherlock were hyperactive at this time, as a Times Literary Supplement reviewer couldn't help noticing (HERE). (Note: Some links may have gone the way of all flesh in the past five years, such is the nature of the evanes-
cent Internet.)
- We've bumped into H. C. Bailey before, the latest collision being almost two years ago (HERE).


Wednesday, January 29, 2020

"The Clues I Hope To Find Will Probably Be Invisible!"

"Gold Dust and Star Dust."
By Cyril G. Wates (1883-1946).
Illustration by [F. S.] Hynd (HERE).
First appearance: Amazing Stories, September 1929.

Reprints page (HERE).
Short story (16 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     ". . . this time we’re going to turn detectives and go on a hunt for desperate criminals."

Auric Goldfinger (the book villain) hoped to make all the gold in Fort Knox disappear by loading up trucks and hauling it away, but as our story shows there's more than one way 
to make tons of bullion vanish. Fifty million dollars in gold is a tidy sum, even allowing for inflation, and when it goes missing under impossible circumstances it's enough to pique 
the interest of brilliant polymath Hilary Corwin, the Buckaroo Banzai of his day . . .

~ Hilary Corwin:
  "Having in mind the methods of Sherlock Holmes and other great detectives in the world 
of fiction, I looked for my friend to produce a magnifying glass and begin a long hunt for fingerprints, footmarks and other clues, but I was doomed to disappointment."
~ Cogswell, U.S. Treasury:
  ". . . immediately started to give a long-winded account of the mysterious robbery, as he called it, but Corwin cut him short without ceremony."
~ Frank (the Watsonian narrator):
  "Even a child could see that the whole story was a tissue of lies, very unskillfully designed to conceal the real facts. No doubt existed in my mind that the four guards were in collusion with the actual thieves. A duplicate key, a gang of men to carry the chests to a plane, hidden at a distance—why the whole plot was obvious!"
~ The sergeant:
  "Well, sir, don’t blame me if it sounds crazy, but we saw the cases, only we couldn’t see them. They were tumbling all over each other, but they were standing perfectly still. They looked misty, kind of, and for a moment I could see the gold inside quite distinctly."
~ The engineer in charge:
  "We turned on the power for a few minutes this morning and ran a thousand horse motor 
in Paris successfully, but the main circuit breaker blew out after about three minutes."

- "the tremendously rapid strides the new Central African republic had been making in the 
last few years as the result of the extensive development of the radium mines there": A reference to Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe), which "was the de facto successor state 
to the British colony of Southern Rhodesia, which had been self-governing since achieving responsible government in 1923." (Wikipedia HERE and HERE). As for the "radium mines there": "Radium is the heaviest known alkaline earth metal and is the only radioactive member of its group." Moreover, "Radium is highly radioactive and its immediate daughter, radon gas, is also radioactive. When ingested, 80% of the ingested radium leaves the body through the feces, while the other 20% goes into the bloodstream, mostly accumulating in 
the bones. Exposure to radium, internal or external, can cause cancer and other disorders, because radium and radon emit alpha and gamma rays upon their decay, which kill and mutate cells." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "You certainly gave the sergeant a Roland for his Oliver": A reference to an epic poem. 
"The Song of Roland (French: La Chanson de Roland) is an epic poem (chanson de geste) based on the Battle of Roncevaux Pass in 778, during the reign of Charlemagne. It is the oldest surviving major work of French literature and exists in various manuscript versions, which testify to its enormous and enduring popularity in the 12th to 14th centuries." Roland is "the hero of the Song; nephew of Charlemagne; leads the rear guard of the French forces; bursts his temples by blowing his olifant-horn, wounds from which he eventually dies facing the enemy's land," while Oliver is "Roland's friend; mortally wounded by Margarice. He represents wisdom." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "Surely you have heard that the Marconi interests have at last perfected Beam Power Trans-mission. In three months’ time passenger planes will draw their power from the ether. In fact the first Beam plane will cross the Atlantic from here to-morrow.": We don't know how much Marconi was into the idea, but it certainly captured Nikola Tesla's interest. (Wikipedia HERE and HERE).
- "It is possible to confine the waves to a narrow path by utilizing the principle of interference or heterodyning, as it is called.": Whether you knew it or not, you make use of it all the time. "A major application of the heterodyne process is in the superheterodyne radio receiver circuit, which is used in virtually all modern radio receivers." The process sounds simple:  "Heterodyning is a signal processing technique invented by Canadian inventor-engineer Reginald Fessenden [in 1901] that creates new frequencies by combining or mixing two frequencies. Heterodyning is used to shift one frequency range into another, new one, 
and is also involved in the processes of modulation and demodulation." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "It was simply a Kelvin Balance.": It goes by other names, as well. "The ampere balance (also current balance or Kelvin balance) is an electromechanical apparatus used for the precise measurement of the SI unit of electric current, the ampere. It was invented by 
William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "The Fourth Dimension is all very well as a subject for imaginative fiction, but you can hardly expect to convince me or anyone else that such a thing really exists.": For a while, 
it was even the subject of casual dinner conversation. "A four-dimensional space or 4D 
space is a mathematical extension of the concept of three-dimensional or 3D space. 
Three-dimensional space is the simplest possible abstraction of the observation that 
one only needs three numbers, called dimensions, to describe the sizes or locations of objects in the everyday world." (Wikipedia HERE and HERE). A few years later Robert Heinlein, who very probably read today's story at some point, had some fun with the 
fourth dimension (SPOILERS: Wikipedia HERE; HERE).
- "magnetic lines of force are actually the result of a strain in the ether": Another victim of Professor Einstein. "In physics, aether theories (also known as ether theories) propose 
the existence of a medium, a space-filling substance or field, thought to be necessary as 
a transmission medium for the propagation of electromagnetic or gravitational forces. 
Since the development of special relativity, theories using a substantial aether fell out of 
use in modern physics, and are now joined by more abstract models." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "they start the Power Beam gradually by means of rheostats": Another device that has changed names over time. "The most common way to vary the resistance in a circuit is 
to use a rheostat. The word rheostat was coined about 1845 by Sir Charles Wheatstone, 
from the Greek ῥέος rheos meaning 'stream', and -στάτης -states (from ἱστάναι histanai, 
'to set, to cause to stand') meaning 'setter, regulating device', which is a two-terminal 
variable resistor. The term 'rheostat' is becoming obsolete, with the general term 
'potentiometer' replacing it." (Wikipedia HERE).
- As Wikipedia tells us (HERE), Cyril Geoffrey Wates was "an author, mountain climber, and amateur astronomer who lived in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada"; his relatively short SFF-nal bibliography is on the ISFDb (HERE). Wates's novelette, "The Visitation" (Amazing Stories, 1927), is online (HERE

Monday, January 27, 2020

"He's Up There in Front of His Typewriter with a Gun in His Hand and a Bullet in His Head"

PRODUCING AN EFFECTIVE locked room murder narrative normally requires plotting skills that most authors simply do not possess, John Dickson Carr and Ed Hoch being 
notable exceptions. In today's story, George F. Worts, otherwise a very capable detective fiction writer, wisely shows that he knows better than to try to top Carr, stopping just 
short of giving us a classic locked room problem by leaving an obvious escape route 
for the killer . . .

"The Varnable Mystery."
By George F. Worts (1892-1967).

First appearance: Redbook, July 1935.
Reprinted in Fiction Parade, August 1935.
Short short story (7 pages).
Online at starting (HERE) and concluding (HERE).

     "They all seemed hostile. People generally did, not knowing what skeletons you would find in their closets."

Crime abandons the big city for a visit to the country, pretty much spoiling the nice, quiet retirement in a peaceful New England village for Lincoln Corey, described by a newspaper as "a clever detective still on the sunny side of thirty-five, well-known in American police circles for the brilliant deductions he has made in celebrated murder cases from the most trifling of clues." The apparent suicide of a local pillar of the community will be replete with trifling clues, enough of them to convince Corey that this is a case of murder . . .

~ Abner Varnable:
  ". . . just bumped himself off."
~ Alice Varnable:
  "Varnable and his daughter were the last twigs on a brilliant branch of this family tree, with its roots deep in the rocky New England soil. They had once been the wealthiest branch, but Abner Varnable had frittered it all away."
~ Frank Waldron:
  "They say Frank is sweet on Alice."
~ Noah Enderby:
  "We don't need a detective. My father committed suicide."
~ The third Mrs. Varnable:
  ". . . disappeared about five years ago."
~ Bill Judson:
  "It's a clean-cut case, ain't it?"
~ Lincoln Corey:
  "Jud! Keep these two here! Don't ask questions—just keep 'em here!"

A Corey-ism:
   When asked, "What system do you use when you work on a case like this?", Link replies, "Well—I call it Matthew's system: Seventh chapter, seventh verse of Matthew. 'Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you'."

- FictionMags's thumbnail for George Frank Worts: "Born in Toledo; radio operator turned freelance writer in Hawaii; screenwriter." (Also see Black Dog Books's author page HERE and the one for Murania Press HERE.) Worts had a long career (1918-63) generating short fiction, articles, and vignettes, normally for the slicks but with occasional sidetrips into the pulps; along the way he made use of several series characters, starting with Dr. Dill (9 adventures, 1921-23), lawyer Gillian Hazeltine (32 stories, 1926-45; see The Battered Silicon Box HERE), Singapore Sammy (10 adventures, 1928-43; Wikipedia HERE), and Horseface Maud (5 stories, 1935). (All data from The FictionMags Index.)
- Worts's novel, The Phantom President (1932), was the tenuous basis for a 1932 film with George M. Cohan, Claudette Colbert, and Jimmy Durante (Wikipedia HERE and IMDb HERE); another seven of his stories were adapted by Hollywood (IMDb HERE).

Friday, January 24, 2020

"She Turned with a Startle of Breath To See a Weapon Poised, and To Glimpse the Face of Murder"

OUR NEXT STORY prompts Ellery Queen (the editor) to wonder out loud: "Is it possible that Mr. Byrne [the author] is satirizing the whole 'golden age' of the pure detective story? (With particular emphasis on E.Q.?) Even so and nevertheless, a brilliant story." You might agree when you read . . .

"The Mystery of the Third Mustache."
By John F. Byrne (?-?).
First appearance: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, September 1959.
Reprinted in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (Australia), November 1959 and EQMM (U.K.), November 1959.
Short story (16 pages).
Online at (HERE).
(Parental caution: Mild profanity.)
     "There would not be one honest tear if I were dead tomorrow."

Can too much ever be made of a dying clue? The vicious murder and robbery of a faded theater star who leaves one behind would seem at first to be of the "passing tramp" variety, but Exendine isn't buying it: "She was killed by someone who knew her well. She was killed for reasons in her house—by someone here in her house."

Major characters:
~ Jessie:

  "You scorched the hides of one and all, I hear. What come over you? You never got 
too loud before."
~ Doronda Rice:
  "She was scrawling a mustache, signing the killer's name, as the second blow, the 
death stroke, was slashing . . ."
~ Exendine:
  ". . . the D.A.'s workhorse . . ."
~ Sergeant Dowson:
  "It's a gasser for the tabloids."
~ Colonel George French:
  "I don't like to see good citizens, decent, innocent people herded and bullied for 
hours by capering apes who should be chasing some red-handed moron."
~ Leo Strawn:
  ". . . a frustrate monk . . ."
~ Rosemary Orr:
  ". . . a fawn in hiding . . ."
~ Harlan Lundquist:
  ". . . sharp as a whip."
~ Carl and Pearl Kinvarra:
  "He's a sweaty roustabout and she's a codfish cake."

- "she didn't exactly rival the Barrymores": It's a mild understatement for Wikipedia (HERE) to tell us, "The Barrymore family is an American acting family." They have been the definitive acting family for almost two centuries.
- "The Mystery of the Third Mustache" is the only entry on The FictionMags Index for John F. Byrne, and nothing else about him is currently available.


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

"Well, You Hit It on the Nose"

IN ADDITION TO Dan Redman (see the previous posting below), Christopher Anvil also had a spy-SFF mashup series starring "the problem solver," Richard Verner, heuristician, a prime example of those "sleuths" who use their brains as much, if not more, than their fists; but until now we've been able to track down only two of his adventures lurking on the Inter-net.


   "The essence of getting a satisfactory confession from an espionage agent is to produce in him an acute desire to win your approval. There are ways to do it . . ."

"The Missile Smasher."
By Christopher Anvil (Harry Christopher Crosby, 1925-2009).
Illustration by [Frank] Kelly Freas (1922-2005; HERE).
First appearance: Analog, July 1966.

Reprints page (HERE).
Short short story (6 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; scroll down to magazine page 140).

     "I suppose you must have seen many strange problems. But I doubt that you've ever seen one as strange as mine."

Saboteurs are at work, and unless Richard Verner can come up with a solution they just might get away with it . . .

Major characters:
~ The general:

  "Mr. Verner, I understand you're a heuristician—that it's your business to help solve problems other experts alone can't handle."
~ Richard Verner:
  "That should solve the problem."

- The maguffin at the center of this story is one of the most useful and yet at the same time potentially destructive technologies contrived in the 20th century (Wikipedia HERE).


   "Sometimes a panhandler is hard to get rid of. Particularly when the panhandler is extraterrestrial—and you don't know why he wants what to take where."

"The Uninvited Guest."
By Christopher Anvil (Harry Christopher Crosby, 1925-2009).
Illustration by [Frank] Kelly Freas (1922-2005; HERE).
First appearance: Analog, March 1967.

Reprints page (HERE).
Short short story (6 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; scroll down to magazine page 133).

     "Yesterday, it sidled up to one of our technicians, and took off a slice of his clothes and about four square inches of skin surface underneath."

This time our heuristician can smell the solution to the problem presented by an unexpected visitor . . .

Major characters:
~ The general:

  "I don't care who you call in, or what you do. Just get rid of this thing before it wrecks our whole space program!"
~ Richard Verner:
  ". . . opened a pocketknife, cut one of the sacks, reached in to feel a small, hard, curving surface with a roughness underneath, drew back his arm, and threw."

- "a miniature, short-lived nova": Not as scary as a supernova, but that would all depend on where you're standing at the moment (Wikipedia HERE).

- "It could come from Jupiter": That's a good guess. "Jupiter is perpetually covered with clouds composed of ammonia crystals and possibly ammonium hydrosulfide." (Wikipedia HERE).


- The idea behind heuristics necessarily makes it more imprecise than a strictly logical approach (pace, Mr. Spock):

   "A heuristic technique (Ancient Greek: εὑρίσκω, 'find' or 'discover'), or a heuristic for short, is any approach to problem solving or self-discovery that employs a practical method that is not guaranteed to be optimal, perfect or rational, but which is nevertheless sufficient for reaching an immediate, short-term goal. Where finding an optimal solution is impossible or impractical, heuristic methods can be used to speed up the process of finding a satisfactory solution. Heuristics can be mental shortcuts that ease the cognitive load of making a decision. Examples that employ heuristics include using trial and error, a rule of thumb, an educated guess, an intuitive judgment, a guesstimate, profiling, or common sense." (Wikipedia HERE).

- As you can see from this list, the majority of Richard Verner's adventures appeared in crime fiction digests (data from FictionMags).

  (1) "The Problem Solver and the Spy," Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, December 1965
  (2) "The Problem Solver and the Hostage," Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, February 1966
  (3) "The Missile Smasher," Analog, July 1966 (above)
  (4) "The Problem Solver and the Killer," Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, August 1966
  (5) "Key to the Crime," Shell Scott Mystery Magazine, September 1966
  (6) "The Problem Solver and the Defector," Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, December 1966
  (7) "The Murder Trap," The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine, January 1967
  (8) "The Uninvited Guest," Analog, March 1967 (above)
  (9) "The Problem Solver and the Burned Letter," Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, April 1967
  (10) "The Hand from the Past," Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, May 1972.

- We've also featured the two known adventures of another trouble shooter, Galactic's Dan Redman (HERE).

"Something Tells Me That There Must Be a Lot More to This Planet Than Meets the Eye"

CHRISTOPHER ANVIL (not his real name, of course) could be relied upon to produce entertaining SFF, beginning way back in the early '50s. As you can see from the biblio-
graphical data at The Internet Speculative Database (below), Anvil had several long-
running story series: The Federation of Humanity; the Pandora's Planet sequence (a.k.a. 
The Centrans); The War with the Outs; several brief excursions with James Cardan, Ber-
enger Lyell, and Hommel; and finally the Dan Redman series, whose only adventures 
(that we know about) you will find just below . . . .


   "Raveling Porcy's systematized enigma, Dan found himself with a spy's worst break—he was saddled with the guise of a famed man!"

"Advance Agent."
By Christopher Anvil (Harry Christopher Crosby, 1925-2009).

Illustrations by [Virgil] Finlay (1914-71; HERE).
First appearance: Galaxy, February 1957.
Reprints page (HERE).
Novelette (32 pages; 3 illos).
Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE).
     "Galactic wants us to find the answers to three problems. One, how do the Porcyns keep the size of their population down? Two, what is the connection between rejuvenation and 'Vacation Planet'? And three, do the Porcyns have a proper mercantile attitude? Are they likely to make an agreement? Will they keep one they do make?"

Piece of cake, right? The Director of A Section has complete confidence in protean galactic troubleshooter Dan Redman, but Redman can't help but wonder out loud, "And suppose I don't come back?" Well, says the Director, "Galactic probably loses the jump it's got on Trans-Space and you miss out on a big bonus." How encouraging . . .

Major characters:
~ Kielgaard:

  "Dan, what do you know about subspace and null-points?"
~ Dan Redman:
  "Practically nothing."

~ Mr. and Mrs. Milbun and Mavis, their daughter:
  ". . . smiled cheerfully and went back to what they were doing. This consisted of dodging, tricking or outrunning the various contraptions that lunged at them, chased them, tripped them, trailed, stalked and sprang out at them from nearly every place in the room."

Comment: When you have a story where the aliens look and act mostly like us, language isn't a problem, interstellar travel is no big thing, subspace communication across light-years is instantaneous, short-range teleportation is standard, and a culture has somehow gone off the rails and needs straightening out, then you have the Star Trek formula, years before that show premiered—all of which also applies to the next narrative.


   "There was something rotten in the planet named Truth ... rotten enough to call for the intervention of ..."

"A Tourist Named Death."
By Christopher Anvil (Harry Christopher Crosby, 1925-2009).

Illustrations by [Wallace] Wood (1927-81; HERE).
First appearance: Worlds of IF, May 1960.

Reprints page (HERE).
Novelette (32 pages; 2 illos).
Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE).

     "We've got a mess to straighten out."

As far as Galactic is concerned, Dan Redman is the go-to guy when things get snarled, 
and a well-placed agent, given a chance, can create the mother of all snarls—or, like 
Redman, straighten it out . . .

Major characters:
~ Dan Redman:

  "Who's the first agent we set down on this planet?"
~ Kielgaard:
  "You. And you're going to be up against a deadly proposition. Our opponent is established on the planet, and we're going in cold."

Comment: It looks as if, in terms of the over-the-top gadgets made available to our spy, 
the author is foreshadowing some of James Bond's later cinematic adventures; he also anticipates things that MI6 never seems to consider, such as how Bond's mugshot would have been committed to memory by every single one of "the opposition"; however, his solution to the problem is as much of a cheat in its own way as, say, Mission: Impossi-
ble's (those ridiculous masks), and could only exist in the science fictional realm (e.g., 
"The neuro-conditioning lab has recreated in your nervous system the reflexes of one 
of the deadliest agents ever known")—but after all this is science fiction, so let's be kind 
and cut him some slack.


- The capabilities for disguising oneself as showcased in our stories ("The inhabitants look much like us") would seem to conform to the "We Will Not Use Stage Make-Up in the Future" trope (TV Tropes HERE). As for those "subspace jumps" ("subspace being what it is, a mild variation of the starting point can produce an abrupt shift in the place where they come out"), SFF authors have relied upon them for years; see Sten Odenwald's Astronomy Cafe article (HERE). At one point, Redman suggests that they "brain-spy some of the inhabitants," suggesting mind-probing technology exists in his time (TV Tropes HERE). That "remarkably small organo-transceiver" faintly reminds us of Search, an early-'70s TV series (Wikipedia HERE; IMDb HERE); and "a new type of unusually small mataform transceiver" is yet one more example of authorial handwaving (Wikipedia HERE). As far as we know, all of these gizmos were and still remain pure "Unobtainium" (TV Tropes HERE).
- The usual reliable sources have plenty of data about Christopher Anvil: Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).
- Anvil also had a continuing series character named Richard Verner; see the next posting above for him.
- Out of dozens of other galactic troubleshooters who spring to mind, over time we've really enjoyed Jack Vance's Magnus Ridolph and Miro Hetzel (The Thrilling Detective Web Site HERE and HERE; the ISFDb HERE) and Keith Laumer's Jame Retief (Wikipedia HERE and the ISFDb HERE), some of whose adventures are now available online. Someday we'll visit them.

- Our latest excursion with spies was Murray Leinster's "The Psionic Mousetrap" (HERE).

Monday, January 20, 2020

"You Think I'd Go Out for Business with a Pearl-Handled Thirty-Two, a Lady's Gun?"

SOMETIMES AUTHORS decide to tell their stories using a character as a narrative mouth-piece, which Damon Runyon did very successfully for years; so here we have a regular guy giving us . . .

"The Low-Down."
By Edward L. McKenna (1893-1953).

Illustrations by Raymond Sisley (1892-1963; HERE).
First appearance: Blue Book, March 1950.

Short short story (5 pages; 3 illos).
Online at (HERE).
     "A dramatic scene on that road to Hell that is paved with good intentions."

A tale of irony and woe . . .

Major characters:
~ Spike:

  "That's why I am in this jam."
~ Whitey:

  "He don't think anybody can run a lawnmower in Central Park without he gets some 
advice from Whitey and gives him a cut."
~ Daisy Varden:
  "Still and all, she's always Daisy Varden, and Daisy Varden was tops in the night-club business for my money."
~ Clara Purcelle:
  "This dizzy tramp gets an awful crying jag."

Cultural References:
~ "since Prohibition" (Wikipedia HERE); "long past repeal". (Wikipedia HERE).

~ "Sweet [actually Miss] Annabelle Lee". (Wikipedia HERE).

~ "the Big Apple". (Wikipedia HERE).
~ "out in Joliet". (Wikipedia HERE).

~ "a gat" (Wikipedia HERE); "I don't pack no rod" (Wikipedia HERE).

~ "she tops for night-clubs". (Wikipedia HERE).

~ "on Pullmans". (Wikipedia HERE).
~ "a hot rhumba". (Wikipedia HERE).
~ "they're yeggs". (Wikipedia HERE).

~ "a booster": a shoplifter (Merriam-Webster HERE) , "or a dip": a pickpocket (Merriam-Webster HERE), "or a pineapple" (from the context it could be a criminal of some sort).

~ "two yards and a half": One yard = $100. (Merriam-Webster HERE).

~ "the ice": diamonds, jewelry. (Merriam-Webster HERE).
~ "Equity". (Wikipedia HERE).

~ "A Sullivan Act violation!" (Wikipedia HERE).
~ Well-known chanteuses and one songwriter: "Sophie Tucker" (Wikipedia HERE), "Fay Templeton" (Wikipedia HERE), "Nora Bayes" (Wikipedia HERE), "Marie Lloyd" (Wikipedia HERE), and "Walter Donaldson" (Wikipedia HERE).
- The FictionMags Index thumbnail about Edward Lawrence McKenna: "Author, columnist, assistant professor of insurance at the University of Pennsylvania. Born in Brooklyn, New York; died in Baltimore, Pennsylvania."