Saturday, October 30, 2021

"Now All We Have To Do Is Go Around Smelling People"

"Mystery of the Crushed Peppermints."
By Leonard Raphael (?-?).

Illustration uncredited.
First appearance: Mammoth Detective, March 1943.

Short story (11 pages).
Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE).
(Note: Faded text.)

     "It was darker than a coal mine during a blackout."

Even before he can come to grips with a very public murder, a wise-cracking Hollywood publicist must deal with the kidnaping of one of his favorite movie stars—who also just happens to be his fiancée . . .

Main characters:
~ Van Edwards:

  ". . . stood there, a surprised expression on his face, his lips twitching . . ."
~ Sergeant Hansen:
  ". . . roared into the microphone with his usual lack of brains . . ."
~ Diana Bruce:
  ". . . the young actress who had made the men of America thank God for the invention of the sweater."
~ Brenda Hayworth:
  ". . . whose blood was so blue that some people claimed that ink came out when she cut herself."
~ J. J. Hayworth:
  ". . . had more green stuff than a Texas ranch . . ."

~ Max Goldklein:
  "Stevie, it's over, yes?"
~ Tommy Vale:
  "I'll make a bargain with you."
~ Steve Sanders:
  "Will I be another suicide?"

Typo: "whinning over my head".

References and resources:
- "a blonde Hedy Lamarr": A very popular film star in the '40s and'50s, but also quite intelligent:
  "During World War II, Lamarr learned that radio-controlled torpedoes, an emerging technology in naval war, could easily be jammed and set off course. 
She thought of creating a frequency-hopping signal that could not be tracked or jammed" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "it's Gene Autry": Before and during World War II he was in constant competition with Roy Rogers:
  "Orvon Grover 'Gene' Autry (1907–98), nicknamed the Singing Cowboy, was an American singer, songwriter, actor, musician, and rodeo performer who gained fame largely by singing in a crooning style on radio, in films, and on television for more than three decades beginning in the early 1930s" (Wikipedia HERE).

- "Louella Parsons jotted this item down": A professional eavesdropper:
  "Louella Parsons (1881–1972) was an American movie columnist and a screenwriter. She was retained by William Randolph Hearst because she had championed Hearst's mistress Marion Davies and subsequently became an influential figure in Hollywood. At her peak, her columns were read by 20 million people in 700 newspapers worldwide. She remained the unchallenged 'Queen of Hollywood gossip' until the arrival of the flamboyant Hedda Hopper, with whom she feuded for years" (Wikipedia HERE).

- "the Gettysburg Address": No, it's not "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue":
  "The Gettysburg Address is a speech that U.S. President Abraham Lincoln delivered during the American Civil War at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on the afternoon of November 19, 1863, four and a half months after the Union armies defeated those of the Confederacy at the Battle of Gettysburg. It is one of the best-known speeches in American history" (Wikipedia HERE).

- "like William Powell": A household name in 1943:
  "His most memorable role in silent movies was as a vengeful film director opposite Emil Jannings' Academy Award-winning performance as a fallen general in The Last Command (1928). This success, along with Powell's commandingly pleasant speak-ing voice, led to his first starring role as amateur detective Philo Vance in the 'talkie' The Canary Murder Case (1929). He played Philo Vance at Paramount Pictures three more times, and once at Warner's in his final appearance in the role in The Kennel Murder Case" (Wikipedia HERE).

- "pointing a tommy-gun at me": Soldiers and criminals loved it:
  "The Thompson submachine gun (also known as the 'Tommy Gun', 'Chicago Typewriter', 'Chicago Piano', or 'Trench Broom') is a blowback-operated, air-cooled, magazine-fed selective-fire submachine gun, invented by the United States Army Brigadier general John T. Thompson in 1918" (Wikipedia HERE).

- "blackout": A common practice in World War II America:
  "A blackout during war, or in preparation for an expected war, is the practice of collectively minimizing outdoor light, including upwardly directed (or reflected) light. This was done in the 20th century to prevent crews of enemy aircraft from being able to identify their targets by sight . . ." (Wikipedia HERE).

- "a bag of crushed peppermints": Derived from a plant:
  "Fresh or dried peppermint leaves are often used alone in peppermint tea or with other herbs in herbal teas (tisanes, infusions). Peppermint is used for flavoring ice cream, candy, fruit preserves, alcoholic beverages, chewing gum, toothpaste, and some shampoos, soaps and skin care products" (Wikipedia HERE).

- "almost as famous a gangster as Edward G. Robinson": Another household name in the '40s:
  "Edward G. Robinson (born Emanuel Goldenberg; Yiddish: עמנואל גאָלדנבערג‎; 1893–1973) was a Romanian-born American actor of stage and screen during Hollywood's Golden Age. He appeared in 30 Broadway plays and more than 100 films during a 50-year career and is best remembered for his tough-guy roles as gangsters in such films as Little Caesar and Key Largo" (Wikipedia HERE).

- "third degree his corpse": No longer a common practice—we hope:
  "The phrase comes from the practice of interrogation under torture, where three degrees of torture were recognized, of increasing intensity. In other contexts, three degrees of interrogation were recognized, with torture being the third degree" (Wiktionary HERE).

- "a Beverly Hills society dame": In America social class distinctions still persist:
  "In 1919, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford bought land on Summit Drive and built a mansion, finished in 1921 and nicknamed 'Pickfair' by the press. The glamour associated with Fairbanks and Pickford as well as other movie stars who built mansions in the city contributed to its growing appeal" (Wikipedia HERE).

- Steve Sanders appeared in just two adventures. According to FictionMags, Leonard Raphael produced only four stories; at the moment we can't find out anything else about this author:
  (1) "The Man Who Saw Through Time," Fantastic Adventures, September 1941 (HERE)
  (2) "The Corpse That Talked" [Steve Sanders], Mammoth Detective, January 1943
  (3) "Mystery of the Crushed Peppermints" [Steve Sanders], Mammoth Detective, March 1943
  (4) "Bad Man’s Picnic," The Saturday Evening Post, February 10, 1951.


  1. Anyone who would write a crime story and call it The Mystery of the Crushed Peppermints has my immediate respect.

    1. It was that title which attracted it to me. Titles can (and should) often reflect tone, and you can find confirmation of it in this story's breezy style.