Tuesday, August 3, 2021

"A Good Detective Ought To Be Part Actor and Not Look Like a Shamus"

SHOW BUSINESS has proven to be a fertile ground for authors in every fictional genre to plant their storylines in; today's tale involves an actor on the precipice of insolvency hoping to obviate his problem quadrupedally . . .

"To Slay a Man About a Dog!"
By Fredric Brown (1906-72).
First appearance: Detective Tales, September 1944.
Reprinted in Dime Detective, June 1952.
Novelette (13 pages; 2 illos).
Online at Archive.org (HERE; original text, 13 pages) and The Luminist Archives (HERE; original text, 13 pages; it will be necessary to download the entire issue; go down to text page 48).
Peter Kidd's first day as a private detective is proving to be pretty hairy—no, make that shaggy . . . .

Chapter 1: Doggerel of Death
  "The shaggy dog murders had hardly started . . . ."
Chapter 2: "The Dog of a Murdered Man"
  "The man pulled the trigger . . . ."
Chapter 3: "Escape His Fate, Sir, If You Can"
  "If the shaggy dog hadn't been the dog of a murdered man before, it was one now."
Chapter 4: "Two Damn Shaggy"
  "The killer's been trying to get that money back."

Principal characters:
~ Peter Kidd:
  ". . . should have suspected the shaggy dog of something, right away."
~ Rover:
  "Are you sure it has antecedents?"
~ Asbury:
  "I want you to find the owner of this dog."
~ Harrison:
  "Quite all right, Mr. Asbury. Your cards will be ready for you."
~ Miss Latham:
  "You mean you've solved it?"
~ Wheeler:
  ". . . forgot to come back to the phone. Maybe it's just as well."
~ Powell:
  "Musta burned him down, lammed quickly."
~ Mrs. Drake:
  "It was Hatchet-Face herself, but she wasn't frowning."
~ Miss Ames:
  "The police just left. They told me not to g-give out the story . . ."
~ Lieutenant West:
  "You mean you think it's counterfeit?"

The "moment" again, when the sleuth is illumined:
  "He broke off abruptly and his eyes got wider. 'Lord,' he said, 'it's obvious!'"

References and resources:
- "Alexander Pope wrote about two hundred years ago": Sarcasm and wit were right up his alley:
  "Alexander Pope (1688–1744) was a poet and satirist of the Augustan period and one of its greatest artistic exponents. Considered the foremost English poet of the early 18th century and a master of the heroic couplet, he is best known for satirical and discursive poetry . . ." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "The shaggy dog story": Perhaps you've been victimized by one:
  "In its original sense, a shaggy dog story or yarn is an extremely long-winded anecdote characterized by extensive narration of typically irrelevant incidents and terminated by an anticlimax. Shaggy dog stories play upon the audience's preconceptions of joke-telling. The audience listens to the story with certain expectations, which are either simply not met or met in some entirely unexpected manner" (Wikipedia HERE).
- Another story with bogus money as a plot mover is Lawrence Treat's "Counterfeit Killer," which we highlighted (HERE).
- Our latest meeting with Fredric Brown was his SFFnal one-pager, "(The) First Time Machine" (HERE).
- Over the years we've featured a couple of short fictions with showbiz backgrounds: William E. Fark's SFFnal "Murvyn the Magnificent" (HERE) and John D. MacDonald's "Death Is the Answer" (HERE).


  1. Love those pulp covers. And the titles of some of the stories! "Dentures, Diamonds and Death." "The Deadest Bride in Town." Great stuff.

    1. Grabbing a potential reader's attention amid all of the other cover art overflowing the newsstand displays: that's what they were aiming for. As for the titles: those were almost always the prerogative of the editor, occasionally to the dismay of the authors, but sometimes the titles fit the stories nicely. My all time favorite pulp cover is the June 1950 THRILLING WONDER STORIES:


    2. That's definitely a cool cover.

      The 50s was definitely a golden age for pulp covers, and for paperback covers. It's amazing to me just how dull most modern book covers are.