Wednesday, April 14, 2021

"His Eyes, After Glazing for an Instant in an Astonished Stare, Flamed with Hatred"

By Robert H. Rohde (1889-?).
First appearance: The Popular Magazine, January 1, 1930.
Short story (11 pages).
Online at (HERE).
     "I thought it the proper thing that you should burn them yourself."

It's blackmail, pure and simple, laid on by a man who London Monty knows only too well; consequently, Monty's solution will come as a  surprise to his harried client: "Finesse and not force is our watchword." Indeed, timing is everything . . . .

Principal characters:
~ Hubbard:
  "I've been bled white."
~ Shayde:
  "No one's been able to lay a finger on him since. He knows how to cover himself."
~ Simmons:
  ". . . saw certain possibilities in that imminent suit for divorce, I fancy."
~ Montague:
  "But I'll confess that, though I'm operating as a sort of detective, there's many a law I still don't respect."

References and resources:
- The title, "Clocked," probably refers to the stop watch that Monty uses so advantageously in the story.
- "How would that sound in a newspaper? Don't you suppose somebody'd pay a nice price 
. . .": "Blackmail may also be considered a form of extortion. Although the two are generally synonymous, extortion is the taking of personal property by threat of future harm. Blackmail is the use of threat to prevent another from engaging in a lawful occupation and writing libelous letters or letters that provoke a breach of the peace, as well as use of intimidation for purposes of collecting an unpaid debt." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "a thousand-dollar note": "The Federal Reserve began taking high-denomination currency out of circulation and destroying large bills received by banks in 1969. As of January 14, 2020, only 336 $10,000 bills were known to exist, along with 342 remaining $5,000 bills and 165,372 remaining $1,000 bills." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "A dial phone, what?": In 1930 they were still relatively new: "While used in telephone systems of the independent telephone companies, rotary dial service in the Bell System in the United States was not common until the introduction of the Western Electric model 50AL in 1919. From the 1970s onward, the rotary dial was gradually supplanted by DTMF (dual-tone multi-frequency) push-button dialing, first introduced to the public at the 1962 World's Fair under the trade name 'Touch-Tone'." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "The Times Square station": Before the bug, it had been billed as "the Crossroads of the World": "Times Square is a major commercial intersection, tourist destination, entertainment center, and neighborhood in the Midtown Manhattan section of New York City, at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue. Brightly lit by numerous billboards and advertisements, it stretches from West 42nd to West 47th Streets . . ." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "in the name of the exchange": Time was there were living, breathing operators to help you make a call: "Early manual switchboards required the operator to operate listening keys and ringing keys, but by the late 1910s and 1920s, advances in switchboard technology led to features which allowed the call to be automatically answered immediately as the operator inserted the answering cord, and ringing would automatically begin as soon as the operator inserted the ringing cord into the called party's jack. The operator would be disconnected from the circuit, allowing her to handle another call, while the caller heard an audible ringback signal, so that that operator would not have to periodically report that she was continuing to ring the line." (Wikipedia HERE and HERE).
- According to the FictionMags Index (HERE), Robert H. Rohde was a reporter for the New York Tribune; his short fiction publishing career began in 1912 and ran to the late '30s; he had several series characters: Great Macumber (6 stories in The Popular Magazine, 1925), Saxophone Smithers (4 stories in Detective Fiction Weekly, 1928), Mr. Purley (2 stories, DFW, 1929), Reggie (Red Duke) Chivers (21 stories, DFW, 1929-33 and 1937), and Trooper Bradley (4 stories, DFW, 1930-33). Today's narrative, however, doesn't feature any of them.


  1. Mobile phones have made thrillers and crime stories a lot less interesting. Maybe improvements in technology always have that effect? I don't think mysteries or thrillers set on jetliners are as much fun as stories set on board piston-engined airliners.

    Although there is at least one example of a great thriller movie set on a jetliner - JET STORM. But what makes it fun is that it's a 1950s Russian jetliner.

    Old-fashioned steamships were also better settings than modern cruise ships.

    Or maybe it's just that I'm old-fashioned!

    1. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, too, Allan, but if I ever get around to writing a mystery set on some means of transportation it will probably be a steam locomotive; I've already featured nearly a dozen stories with that particular background. However, I also think a locked spaceship would make a splendid setting.

    2. I love the idea of a locked-room murder on a spaceship. I can't believe no-one has ever written one.

    3. Hey, I just remembered that there may have been a story with a locked-room murder on a spaceship—but I haven't read it yet, so I can't be sure: Randall Garrett's UNWISE CHILD (1962), reissued, with variations, as STARSHIP DEATH (1982). UNWISE CHILD is available on Project Gutenberg here:

      Reprints page here: