Tuesday, July 27, 2021

"You Didn't Have To Look Hard for Motives"

THE SEMIDOC STYLE of crime fiction really enjoyed a vogue in media, usually the movies, from the '30s to the '60s. It was basically reality-based fiction, more fiction than reality, but with just enough authentic background to make it all seem plausible. The important thing in a semidoc is the way it's told. Character examples of this style would be Sergeant Joe Friday in radio, TV, and films, and today's protagonist, a state police officer who's been given the unenviable assignment of being a . . .

By Karl Detzer (1891-1987).
Illustrations by James Ernst (1916-89; HERE).
First appearance: Blue Book, March 1948.
Short short story (8 pages; 4 illos).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).
(Note: Text faded but readable.)
     "There, at five minutes before midnight, he was killed."

It's a classic situation, as our protagonist is trapped in "a snowbound country house peopled with suspects" . . . .

Principal characters:
~ Sylvia Silver:
  "I'm scared to death. Does the poor Senator really need a bodyguard? I hope you've got a gun."
~ Senator Frank Maxton:
  "You know, a man in my position gets involved in things against his will."
~ Sergeant Jennison:
  "You're going to keep him alive and hearty for the trials."
~ Smith:
  "He had eyes like a dead rock bass, and looked as if he used bourbon when he shaved."
~ Joe Flasky:
  "He was crooked as a dog's hind leg."
~ Fred Tobias:
  "Anybody snooping around here?"
~ Terry Carsten:
  ". . . this punk who sold groceries . . ."
~ Ruth Hasty:
  "She didn't sound like a very big-time reporter to me—too scared and upset."
~ Corporal Clinton:
    "Look for all kinds of motives, hook the motive to the facts."

Reference and resources:
- "went into dog racing": As with horse racing, the sport has a seamier side thanks to gambling; see DogRacing.com (HERE), Wikipedia (HERE), National Geographic Online (HERE), and Grey2K USA Worldwide (HERE).
- Karl William Detzer lived an adventurous life; see his story listings in FictionMags (HERE), background in Pulp Flakes (HERE), and his own mini-bio in Blue Book (HERE).
- Merriam-Webster's definition of semidoc: "semidocumentary: a motion picture that uses many details taken from actual events or situations in presenting a fictional story" (HERE); also see Wikipedia (HERE). Michael Grost has a full page of his megasite devoted to semidoc films; go (HERE) for that.
- Other stories featuring bodyguards that we've highlighted: Carter Critz's "Not According to Doyle" (HERE), Wade Wells's "Murder in Silhouette" (HERE), and Hugh Pentecost's "Bottom Deal" (HERE).

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