Friday, November 5, 2021

"Perhaps the Most Perfect Crime Ever Committed"

IN HIS COMMENTS about the following story (HERE; reproduced just below), editor Ray Palmer (HERE) begs leave from his readers as "an experiment" to introduce to them a "new type story":
"Carbon-Copy Killer."
By Alexander Blade (Howard Browne, 1908-99).
Illustration by Virgil Finlay (1914-71; HERE).
First appearance: Amazing Stories, July 1943.
Novelette (25 pages; one duplicate page).
Online at starting (HERE) and finishing (HERE), and The Luminist Archives (HERE; go down to text page 12).
     "What followed was the last thing to be expected from one who had committed murder."

The perfect crime, committed in plain sight for everyone to see . . . .

Principal characters:
~ Drew Massey:
  ". . . the inoffensive, scholarly recluse whose only activity outside the world of his books and his writing, was that of trustee on the board of Northeastern University."
~ Alice Bailey:
  "Then I . . . killed him."
~ Marion Trent:
  "In a way, I suppose, it's my fault."
~ Anthony Ellis:
  "I've always understood that police commissioners were like doctors: subject to being called at all hours of the night."
~ Lieutenant Lacey:
  "Now, look here, Miss Trent. You're tampering with evidence."
~ Monahan:
  "'That,' the fingerprint expert said slowly, 'is just it. I didn't dust that print!'"
~ Henry Lumpkin:
  "Well, why would anybody want three loaves of bread and only ten cents worth of meat?"
~ Munro Miller:
  "But the evidence is conclusive."
~ Paula Lane:
  "Yet Paula Lane, wearing a blue gown, lay unconscious on a table across the room!"

Comments: Congratulations to whoever thought up the title. Unfortunately, the story suffers from the editor's heavy hand.

References and resources:
- "Carbon is the basic element of all life": Is that an assertion of carbon chauvinism?
  "Carbon chauvinism is a neologism meant to disparage the assumption that the chemical processes of hypothetical extraterrestrial life must be constructed primarily from carbon (organic compounds) because as far as we know, carbon's chemical and thermodynamic properties render it far superior to all other elements" (Wikipedia HERE; also see HERE and HERE).
- "If you were to see me at the plant": It was World War II and women were often working in war plants, acquiring the generic nickname of "Rosie the Riveter":
  "Rosie the Riveter was an allegorical cultural icon of World War II, representing the women who worked in factories and shipyards during World War II, many of whom produced munitions and war supplies. These women sometimes took entirely new jobs replacing the male workers who joined the military" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "post-graduate work in organic chemistry": You can't live without it:
  "Organic compounds form the basis of all earthly life and constitute the majority of known chemicals. The bonding patterns of carbon, with its valence of four—formal single, double, and triple bonds, plus structures with delocalized electrons—make the array of organic compounds structurally diverse, and their range of applications enormous" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "The in-a-door bed was down": Better known as a Murphy bed:
  "The bed is named after William Lawrence Murphy (1876–1957), an Irish immigrant in New York who wanted to find a creative method of making space in his small apartment. He applied for his first patents around 1900" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "a retort suspended over a Bunsen burner": What would a chemlab be without them?
  "In a chemistry laboratory, a retort is a device used for distillation or dry distillation of substances. It consists of a spherical vessel with a long downward-pointing neck. The liquid to be distilled is placed in the vessel and heated" (Wikipedia HERE). "A Bunsen burner, named after Robert Bunsen, is a kind of gas burner used as laboratory equipment; it produces a single open gas flame, and is used for heating, sterilization, and combustion" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "placed in the tonneau": Mind your head:
  "A tonneau is an area of a car or truck open at the top. It can be for passengers or cargo. The older, original tonneau covers were used to protect unoccupied passenger seats in convertibles and roadsters, and the cargo bed of a pickup truck or ute (vehicle). Hard tonneau covers open by a hinging or folding mechanism while segmented or soft covers open by rolling up or folding" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "the roadster shot north": Somewhere between a go-cart and a sedan:
  "The term 'roadster' originates in the United States, where it was used in the nineteenth century to describe a horse suitable for travelling. By the end of the century the definition had expanded to include bicycles and tricycles" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "no cruising prowl car": They're everywhere:
  "A police car, also called a police cruiser, police interceptor, patrol car, cop car, prowl car, squad car, radio car, or radio motor patrol (RMP), is a ground vehicle used by police for transportation during patrols and to enable them to respond to incidents and chases" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "Plainclothesmen swarmed from the two police cars": Usually they're detectives:
  "Undercover agents should not be confused with law enforcement officers who wear plainclothes. This method is used by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. To wear plainclothes is to wear civilian clothes, instead of wearing a uniform, to avoid detection or identification as a law enforcement officer. However, plainclothes police officers typically carry normal police equipment and normal identification. Police detectives are assigned to wear plainclothes by wearing suits or formal clothes instead of the uniform typically worn by their peers. Police officers in plainclothes must identify themselves when using their police powers; however, they are not required to identify themselves on demand and may lie about their status as a police officer in some situations (see sting operation)" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "giant cathode-ray tubes": Science fiction writers love them, they're so techie-looking:
  "In the 1930s, Allen B. DuMont made the first CRTs to last 1,000 hours of use, which was one of the factors that led to the widespread adoption of television. Despite being a mainstay of display technology for decades, CRT-based computer monitors and televisions are now virtually a dead technology" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "Alexander Blade" was a Ziff-Davis house name shared by quite a few writers: Howard Browne, Millen Cooke, Randall Garrett, Edmond Hamilton, William L. Hamling, Heinrich Hauser, John Jakes, Henry S. Lewis, H. B. Hickey, Rog Phillips, Richard S. Shaver, Robert Silverberg, unknown, Don Wilcox, and Leroy Yerxa.
- There's more about Howard Carleton Browne at Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE). Browne successfully transitioned to television writing, producing stories and teleplays for many well-known shows; see the IMDb (HERE; 36 credits).


  1. One item about that cover I'm surprised you didn't mention, the gent staring down the barrel of the gun is no other than Ray Palmer himself, as part of the 'experiment' he offered to model for the front cover...

    1. I thought that face was familiar. Palmer wasn't above a little self-promotion, was he? There's nothing wrong with that, but it still doesn't excuse his editorial meddling in today's story.