Saturday, February 26, 2022

"I Don't Believe They Are Entitled To Be Called Literature, Not Even When They Are Written by Conan Doyle"

BY THE TIME this article appeared, Sherlock Holmes had been "dead" for about a year (see "The Final Problem"), with his Adventures and Memoirs readily available in hardcover and the prospect of his reemergence exceedingly dim. It was at this point that today's author decided to consult . . .

"A Detective on Detective Stories."
By W. E. Grey (?-?).
First appearance: Cassell's Family Magazine, December 1894.
Article (6 pages).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE; preferable) and below.
     ". . . still, I feel pleased he has stopped writing them."

In a previous article (HERE), we weren't surprised that at least one high-level Scotland Yard official didn't hold the Sherlock Holmes stories in as high regard as the general reading public of the time did; this interview with an anonymous lower-ranking police detective echoes that sentiment and broadens it to all detective stories:
References and resources:
- Wikipedia has a page listing the Sherlock Holmes canon (HERE).
- "Seven Dials": Referenced in an Agatha Christie story:
  "Seven Dials is a road junction in the St Giles district of the London Borough of Camden, close to Covent Garden in the West End of London. Seven streets converge at the roughly circular junction, at the centre of which is a column bearing six sundials – the column had been commissioned before a late-stage alteration of the plans from an original six roads to seven" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "Austin succeeded in forging a Bank of England note": Does the detective mean Austin Bidwell?
  "From 21 January to 28 February 1873, four American con-artists defrauded the Bank of England of £102,217, equivalent to nearly £10 million in 2015. The four men responsible for the Bank of England forgeries, brothers George and Austin Bidwell, George MacDonnell and Edwin Noyes were convicted at the Old Bailey and sentenced to life imprisonment" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "another detective story in which the forger leaves his trade and takes to stealing the plans of a new torpedo": That would be Arthur Morrison's "The Case of the Dixon Torpedo" (HERE).
- "Mr. Springfield was the author": One writer who would fit the time and description would be Lincoln Springfield (1865-1950); FictionMags's thumbnail: "Born in West Ham, England; journalist in London; died in Salisbury, then Southern Rhodesia." FictionMags lists three possible stories:
  (1) "The Hyde Park Gardens Tragedy," The Idler, May 1894 (which is probably the one discussed)
  (2) "Mohican’s Derby," The Idler, June 1894
  (3) "The Matrimonial Agency," The Idler, September 1894.

Monday, February 21, 2022

"Sherlock Holmes Interests Us, but No One Either Admires or Hates Him"

WITH THE RECENT restoration to life of Sherlock Holmes as chronicled in the serialization of The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901) and the publication of "The Adventure of the Empty House" (1903), popular attention again returned to the exploits of the Sage of Baker Street. Almost on cue (to capitalize on the sleuth's return, perhaps?), Holmes came under official scrutiny with . . .

"Sherlock Holmes, Detective: As Seen by Scotland Yard."
By Sir Robert Anderson, K.C.B. (1841-1918).
First appearance: T. P.'s Weekly, October 2, 1903.
Article (2 pages).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE) and below.

Sir Robert takes umbrage at how the police are treated in the Holmes tales, which is perfectly understandable when you learn that Anderson was "the second Assistant Commissioner (Crime) of the London Metropolitan Police, from 1888 to 1901" (Wikipedia HERE). Further augmenting his offenses, Holmes engages in "feats of felony-compounding," displaying "his magnificent contempt for law" in such stories as "The Blue Carbuncle" and "The Beryl Coronet." In the end, though, Sir Robert sees social value in Doyle's stories because they do not "give us pattern cases of crime detection in order to instruct police officers in their duties—some of his best stories, indeed, have no relation whatever to crime—but to promote in all of us the habit of thinking; and to teach us, as he himself expresses it, 'to think analytically'."

Holmes stories that are mentioned: "The Resident Patient," "The Final Problem," "The [sic] Study in Scarlet," "The Man with the Twisted Lip," "The Sign of Four," "The Blue Carbuncle," "The Beryl Coronet," and "The Boscombe Valley Mystery."

Anderson's article prompted this message:
Which provoked this response:
References and resources:
- "Charles Reade, no mean authority": His popularity, like so many authors, waxed and then waned:
  "Reade fell out of fashion by the turn of the century—'it is unusual to meet anyone who has voluntarily read him,' wrote George Orwell in an essay on Reade—but during the 19th century Reade was one of England's most popular novelists. He was not highly regarded by critics" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "Mr. Watts, R.A.": Well known in his time:
  "George Frederic Watts, OM RA (1817–1904) was a British painter and sculptor associated with the Symbolist movement. He said, 'I paint ideas, not things.' Watts became famous in his lifetime for his allegorical works, such as Hope and Love and Life. These paintings were intended to form part of an epic symbolic cycle called the 'House of Life', in which the emotions and aspirations of life would all be represented in a universal symbolic language" (Wikipedia HERE; also see The Royal Academy page HERE).
- The Holmes stories are (HERE; PDF).
- The number of times that Sherlock Holmes has appeared on this weblog would amount to dozens, at the very least; here are just a few:
  - "The Cybernetic Sherlock" (HERE)
  - "The Ted Nickerson-Tom Corbett-Sherlock Holmes Connection" (HERE)
  - "Plum Throws Pies at the Great Detective" (HERE)
  - "Whenever You've Eliminated the Impossible, You're Still Left with the . . . Improbable" (HERE)
  - "Sherlock, Hercule, and Jane — Mental Cases All" (HERE)
  - "They're Brilliant, but They Can Drive You Up the Wall" (HERE). (Note: The Thrilling Detective Website Banacek page is now HERE).
  - "A TV Sherlock You Might Never Have Heard Of" (HERE)
  - "Half a Book of Sherlock Holmes" (HERE)
  - "Resurrecting Holmes" (HERE)
  - "Sherlock's First Theatrical Outing" (HERE)
  - "The Reappearance of Sherlock Holmes" (HERE).

We could go on, but life's too short.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

"All the Members and Their Guests Are Pledged to Secrecy about the Happenings at the Dinners"

"Inner Secrets of the Crimes Club."
First appearance: Cassell's Weekly, August 8, 1923.
Article (1 page).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).
(Note: Text somewhat distorted but legible.)

     "Do you mean that Smith hypnotized his wives into committing suicide?"

Crime, we must never forget, is a human endeavor, and, as Hamlet observes, is therefore subject to "the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to"—the countless vagaries stemming from the human condition that can lead people as directly to criminality as to virtuous conduct. A book that came out almost a hundred years ago shows how capricious and human crime can be; it's a book which we have been unable to find anywhere and about which we know only what's said concerning it in the article:
Comment: It's not certain that this Crimes Club was the inspiration for Isaac Asimov's Black Widowers (HERE) through another group known as the Trap Door Spiders (HERE) beyond the obvious parallels given in the article, so we'll let you decide.

- Is it simply a coincidence that at around this time William Le Queux, who is mentioned in the article, produced a story collection entitled The Crimes Club? The book can be found at Roy Glashan's Library (HERE), Fadedpage (HERE), and (HERE):
  "The Crimes Club was a secret organization to which no outsider was ever admitted under any pretext, while its proceedings were never mentioned in the newspapers. Besides studying crime, its unique purpose was to assist the police of France, or of any other country, to unravel the mysteries that baffled them. In certain bewildering cases the club had met with marked success, but . . . ."

Friday, February 11, 2022

"You Figgered on a Perfect Alibi"

By John Russell Fearn (1908-60).
First appearance: Vengeance Shorts #2 (1946).
Reprinted in Four in One Weird and Occult Shorts [1948?].
Short short story (6 pages as a PDF).
Online at Fadedpage (HERE).

     "No, not the executioner. This job is foolproof. See?"

The pen is supposed to be mightier than the sword; in this instance, it's far more eloquent . . .

Main characters:
~ Judge Rufus Langton:
  "If you kill me, they’ll find my body before you have a chance to—"
~ Joseph Gell:
  ". . . was transformed into a man of action. Tearing off his wet hat and mackintosh, he hung them on the fireplace so they dripped to the warm hearth. Then he removed his solitary glove and substituted rubber gloves on both hands, flexed his fingers for a moment."
~ Sheriff Ingleby:
  ". . . thin and angular, with a bald head fringed with white fluff, was sitting reading beside the glowing iron stove, pipe in mouth, glasses on nose. He looked up in surprise over his lenses . . ."

- You've got to give John Russell Fearn credit for trying to combine crime and science fiction, even if the results were, shall we say, highly variable; a case in point is his story "The Mental Gangster" (HERE).

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

"Was He in Some Squirrel Cage of Fate?"

"Doubled and Redoubled."
By Malcolm Jameson (1891-1945).
Illustration by Kramer (1905-93; HERE).
First appearance: Unknown Fantasy Fiction, February 1941.
Reprints page (HERE).
Short story.
Online at Fadedpage (HERE; 12 pages) and (HERE; original text: 13 pages).

     "I perceive you are the victim of a blessing that misfired."

At this point in his life, if you were to ask him, Jimmy honestly couldn't tell you the difference between a blessing and a curse . . . .

Principal characters:
~ Jimmy Childers:
  "That night he threw the alarm clock out the window."
~ Genevieve:
  "Why, Jimmy, you seem to be perfectly at home here."
~ The cigar store clerk:
  "I gotta hot one for you today—Swiss Rhapsody in the first at Aqueduct. She’s sure fire, even if she’s a long shot."
~ Minnie the Malicious:
  "The young men of this generation have no manners whatever!"
~ The Old Man:
  "Childers, we’ve watched you for some time and we like your style."
~ The bank robber:
  "Shell out—everything in the cage but the silver!"
~ Kelly:
  "Optimistic, ain’t you?"
~ The doctor:
  "Take this before you go to bed. It is simply something to make you sleep better. Then come back tomorrow at this same hour."
~ The necromancer:
  "Sorry, but I only deal with the dead. That is my specialty. Now if you want a corpse raised, or anything like that—"
~ Master Charlatan:
  "That, my friend, is a mystery I’d advise you not to look into."

References and resources:
- "at Aqueduct": And they're off!:
  "Aqueduct Racetrack is a thoroughbred horse racing facility and casino in the South Ozone Park and Jamaica neighborhoods of Queens, New York City, United States. Aqueduct is the only racetrack located within New York City limits" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "He had read it all before—June 14th, PARIS FALLS": A reference to the war in Europe before the United States entered the fray; note how this dates the time of the story precisely:
  "June 14, 1940, in the early hours of the morning: One lone German soldier entered Paris from the east and crossed Place Voltaire. Not a single shot was fired. Paris fell into enemy hands during WWII without a single bit of resistance" (Judy HERE; for the bigger historical picture see Wikipedia HERE).
- Jimmy's situation at times reminds us of what happened to Tantalus in Greek mythology:
  "The Greeks of classical times claimed to be horrified by Tantalus's doings; cannibal-ism and filicide were atrocities and taboo. Tantalus's punishment for his act, now a proverbial term for temptation without satisfaction (the source of the English word tantalize), was to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree with low branches. Whenever he reached for the fruit, the branches raised his intended meal from his grasp. Whenever he bent down to get a drink, the water receded before he could get any" (Wikipedia HERE).
- The notion of repeating the same day over and over seems to have had a strong allure for Hollywood; see Wikipedia (WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE), TV Tropes (WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE), and (WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE).
- Our latest contact with Malcolm Jameson was his SFFnal thriller "Out of the Iron Womb!" (HERE).

Thursday, February 3, 2022

"That Dog! That Dog!"

LOCKED ROOM MURDERS are, as a rule, the bête noire of regular policemen, who much prefer the straightforwardness of a spontaneous rit of fealous jage that usually results in an easily cleared case—"the simple answer," as Poirot would say; however, Joe Müller, Secret Service detective of the Imperial Austrian police, might prove to be an exception to the rule as he avidly launches into . . .

"The Case of the Golden Bullet."
By Auguste Groner (1850-1929).
Translated by Grace Isabel Colbron (1869-1948).
First appearance: Unknown.
Novelette (21 pages as a PDF).
Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE).

     "It’s stranger still how Fellner could have been shot, for the window-shutters were fastened and quite uninjured, and both doors were locked on the inside."

That's baffling enough, but how about that fatal bullet? It's glaringly obvious that whoever fired it didn't merely want to kill but was also very determined to make a statement . . . .

Main characters:
~ Professor Paul Fellner:
  "My enemy is very bitter. But I am not ready to die yet."
~ Commissioner Horn:
  "It’s strange that he should have found time to lay down the revolver before he died."
~ Johann Dummel:
  ". . . shivered at the thought that he might have seen his master sitting at his desk, already a corpse."
~ Joseph Müller:
  "We have to do with a murder here. There was not a shot fired from this revolver, for every chamber is still loaded. And there is no other weapon in sight."
~ The doctor:
  ". . . take care that you don’t make a mistake again, my dear Muller. It would be likely to cost you your position, don’t forget that."
~ Chief of Police Bauer:
  "Don’t let them disturb you, my dear Müller; we will allow your keenness all possible leeway here."
~ George:
  "There are no secrets about it. Everybody knows that they were a very happy
couple . . . "
~ Nanette:
  ". . . looked at him in horror."
~ Councillor Leo Kniepp:
  ". . . did keep his promise."

Comment: While this is an honest attempt at a classic locked room mystery, you'll see for yourself why it isn't a fondly remembered classic locked room mystery.

Here's the "moment":
   "The commissioner saw nothing but the usual humble business-like manner to which he was accustomed—then suddenly something happened that came to him like a distinct shock. Muller stopped in his walk so suddenly that one foot was poised in the air. His bowed head was thrown back, his face flushed to his forehead, and the papers trembled in his hands. He ran the fingers of his unoccupied hand through his hair and murmured audibly, 'That dog! that dog!'"

Typo: "Mr. Joseph Mullet".

References and resources:
- "built in the fashionable Nuremberg style, with heavy wooden doors and lozenged-paned windows"; see The Architect (HERE).
- "on my name day": A big deal in many countries:
  "In Christianity, a name day is a tradition in some countries of Europe and the Americas, and Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox countries in general. It consists of celebrating a day of the year that is associated with one's given name. The celebra-tion is similar to a birthday" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "enormous grey Ulmer hound": Most of us know the breed as the Great Dane:
  "When the breed first came to the United States and was exhibited at dog shows, it was listed as the 'Siberian,' 'Ulm Dog,' or 'Ulmer Mastiff,' possibly because Ulm is a city in the federal German state of Baden-Württemberg" (National Purebred Dog Day HERE; also see Wikipedia HERE).
- Wikipedia tells us that "Auguste Groner (née Kopallik; 1850−1929) was an Austrian writer internationally notable for detective fiction. She also published under the pseudonyms Olaf Björnson, A. of the Paura, Renorga, and Metis. . . . Around 1890, she turned to crime fiction, creating the first serial police detective in German crime literature, Joseph Müller, who appears for the first time in the novella 'The Case of the Pocket Diary Found in the Snow', which was published in 1890. Outside of Austria, she is most known for her crime stories" (Wikipedia HERE).
- For Goodreads readers' reactions to our tale go (WARNING! POSSIBLE SPOILERS! HERE).
- It looks as if this story was filmed in 1917 in German as Die Goldene Kugel; the scanty facts about it are on the IMDb (HERE).