Wednesday, March 30, 2022

"I Submit That Mr. Zangwill Has Provided Us with a Problem in Criminology Worthy of the Sagacity of Mr. Sherlock Holmes"

"A Novel of the Week."
A review of Israel Zangwill's The Grey Wig; Stories and Novelettes.
By Anonymous.
First appearance: T. P.'s Weekly, March 20, 1903.
Article (1 page).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE) and below.

     "Are people ever tired of stories of mystery?"

In his review of Israel Zangwill's collection, the reviewer really emphasizes "The Big Bow Mystery" while giving short shrift to the other, more or less conventional, stories, not because they're bad but because . . .

  ". . . I think it is significant of Mr. Zangwill to find in a detective story from his pen the qualities of reflective power, of humorous observation, and a complete absence of sentimentality, which seem utterly alien from this class of fiction."

Contents of the book:
  "The Grey Wig"
  "The Woman Beater"
  "The Eternal Feminine"
  "The Silent Sisters"
  "The Big Bow Mystery"
  "Merely Mary Ann"
  "The Serio-comic Governess"

References and resources:
- The reviewer makes oblique references to several well-known (at the time) fiction authors and one politician:
  ~ Eugène Sue (Wikipedia HERE)
  ~ Émile Gaboriau (Wikipedia HERE)
  ~ Fortuné du Boisgobey (Mike Grost HERE)
  ~ Edgar Allan Poe (Mike Grost HERE)
  ~ William Ewart Gladstone (Wikipedia HERE).
- The Grey Wig; Stories and Novelettes is online at Project Gutenberg (HERE) and (HERE); "The Big Bow Mystery" flies solo at Project Gutenberg (HERE).
- Other ONTOS articles touching on Zangwill's mystery novel:
  ~ "The First Genuine Locked-Room Mystery" (HERE)
  ~ "I Have Always Had a Suppressed Desire to See a Grave Opened" (HERE)
  ~ A Tongue-in-Cheek Assessment of THE BIG BOW MYSTERY by the Author Himself (HERE)
  ~ The Locked Room Mystery in the Mid-Twentieth Century (with One from the Twenty-first) (HERE).

Friday, March 25, 2022

"I'm the One Who Has to Live and I've Got Nine Years to Go"

"Death in Transit."
By Jerry Sohl (1913-2002).
Illustration by Emsh (1925-90; HERE).
First appearance: Infinity Science Fiction, June 1956.
Reprints page (HERE).
Short story.
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; original text: 17 pages; PDF; scroll down to text page 60) and at Project Gutenberg (HERE; 14 pages as a PDF).

     "There was one, and only one, thing Clifton could do. Even so, he made the worst of 100 possible choices!"

Robinson Crusoe had Friday to alleviate his loneliness and Sleeping Beauty had a handsome prince to bring her love, but Cliff doesn't have Karen, and that makes all the difference . . . .

Principal characters:
~ George Hedstrom:
  ". . . a dark, handsome fellow who wore a quizzical look."
~ Karen West:
  "For one thing there was the stereo room where Karen loved to spend leisure hours. He never saw much in stereo, but she seemed to enjoy it. And there was the music taperoom, the massage parlor, the baths. She seemed to have a need of them . . ."
~ Clifton West:
  ". . . I intended no harm. If only you knew the loneliness—"
~ Portia Lavester:
  "You're always saying things so seriously, Cliff. So—so pontifically. Is that the word?"

References and resources:
- "the hundred people who lay as if dead in neat rows in the sleep locker":
  "Short of a warp or em drive, there is no viable option for keeping humans alive during long-distance space travel, making cryogenic sleep’s possibilities the most tempting, promising way to snooze our way to another planet" (Inverse HERE).
  "Hibernation and suspension are often encountered in SF novels where large numbers of people have to be shipped, e.g., troop carriers, slave ships, and undesirable persons shipped off as involuntary colonists to some miserable planetary colony. Some passenger liners will have accommodations of First-class, Second-class, and Freeze-class (instead of Steerage). There is often a chance of mortality associated with hibernation and suspension. In some of the crasser passenger ships there will sometimes be a betting pool, placing bets on the number of freeze-class passengers who don't make it. Poul Anderson noted that there is probably a limit to how long a human will remain viable in cryogenic suspension (in other words they have a shelf-life). Naturally occurring radioactive atoms in the body will cause damage. In a non-suspended person such damage is repaired, but in a suspended person it just accumulates. He's talking about this damage happening over suspensions lasting several hundred years, during interstellar trips. This may require one to periodically thaw out crew members and keep them awake for long enough to heal the damage before re-freezing them" (Atomic Rockets HERE).
- "the medocenter did most of the work":
  "Sickbay, also known as the dispensary or the medbay, was the main medical center
 . . ." (Memory Alpha HERE).
- "she walked in her sleep":
  "Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism or noctambulism, is a phenomenon of combined sleep and wakefulness. It is classified as a sleep disorder belonging to the parasomnia family. It occurs during slow wave stage of sleep, in a state of low consciousness, with performance of activities that are usually performed during a state of full consciousness" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "He could have utilized the synthesizer for anything really bad, like a shattered bone. The needles of the organic analyzer would have told him what else he had to do":
  Regarding medicine in science fiction, SFFnal authors have been there for a long time; see Technovelgy (HERE) for a list.
- When it came to incorporating scientific concepts into his fiction, it could be hit or miss 
with Gerald Allan Sohl, Sr.; see Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the IMDb (HERE
16 credits).

Monday, March 21, 2022

"The Strange Mystery of the Mayfair Suicides"

UNLIKE SHAKESPEARE'S CLEOPATRA barging up and down the Nile, age can wither and custom stale what was at one time fresh and engaging. Here we have an example of how humorous parodies are often destined to have early expiration dates; while time has been exceedingly kind to Sherlock Holmes, the same can't be said of either The Rover Boys, Michael Arlen, or The Green Hat, the proximate triggers for Corey Ford's piece and all-but-forgotten artifacts from a century ago. With that admonition in mind, you just might want to skip . . .

"The Rollo Boys with Sherlock in Mayfair; or, Keep It Under Your Green Hat."
By Corey Ford (1902-69).
Illustrations by Gluyas Williams (1888-1982; HERE).
First appearance: Three Rousing Cheers for the Rollo Boys (1925).
Reprinted in The Bookman, January 1926.
Book chapter.
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE; 15 pages) and (HERE; 5 pages).

     "You are not a bad woman, Iris March. You are just bad grammar."

From what you often read in your average Jazz Age novel, you might conclude that people with plush bank accounts spent a great deal of their time either lounging in the sun on the Riviera or contemplating suicide—or lounging in the sun on the Riviera and contemplating suicide. Anyhow, the prospect of one of the bright young things that populated those stories who's thinking about doing herself in is what prompts Holmes and the Boys to action . . . .

References and resources:
- "or Mencken":
  "Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956) was an American journalist, essayist, satirist, cultural critic, and scholar of American English. He commented widely on the social scene, literature, music, prominent politicians, and contemporary movements" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "one for Burbank":
  "Luther Burbank (1849–1926) was an American botanist, horticulturist and pioneer in agricultural science. He developed more than 800 strains and varieties of plants over his 55-year career. Burbank's varied creations included fruits, flowers, grains, grasses, and vegetables" (Wikipedia HERE).
- The Rover Boys: At the time just about everybody knew who they were, making a parody altogether possible:
  "The Rover Boys, or The Rover Boys Series for Young Americans, was a popular juvenile series written by Arthur M. Winfield, a pseudonym for Edward Stratemeyer. Thirty titles were published between 1899 and 1926 and the books remained in print for years afterward" (Wikipedia HERE).
- A perfect parody of the Rover Boys was filmed:
  "The Dover Boys at Pimento University or The Rivals of Roquefort Hall (also known as The Dover Boys) is a 1942 Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies cartoon directed by Chuck Jones. The short was released on September 19, 1942. The cartoon is a parody of the Rover Boys, a popular juvenile fiction book series of the early 20th century" (Wikipedia HERE; also see HERE).
- As Bill Peschel (HERE) notes: "The Green Hat and [its author] Arlen is forgotten today except as a curiosity, but little more than a year after its publication The Green Hat was still worthy of parody."
- Despite its grammatical deficiencies, Michael Arlen's (HERE) novel, The Green Hat (play version HERE), was a smash hit upon publication:
  "The Green Hat perfectly reflects the atmosphere of the 1920s—the post-war fashion for verbal smartness, youthful cynicism, and the spirit of rebellion of the 'bright young things' of Mayfair. Iris Storm, femme fatale, races around London and Europe in her yellow Hispano-Suiza surrounded by romantic intrigue, but beneath the glamour she is destined to be a tragic heroine. A perfect synecdoche, in fact: as the hat is to the woman, so the words of the title are to an entire literary style. The success of the novel when it was first published in 1924 led to its adaptation for the screen, with Greta Garbo starring as Iris Storm" ( summary HERE).
  The book is online at (HERE). The ISFDb has a list of Arlen's supernatural fiction output (HERE).
- In making his annotations for Dorothy L. Sayers's (DLS) and Robert Eustace's The Docu-ments in the Case, Dan Drake notes references to Arlen, his novel, and the Rollo Boys in that book:
  "the latest Michael Arlen" . . . "Lady Susan and Ann Hilgeman have filled us in on Mr. Arlen, a popular novelist, author of 'The Green Hat, a "spicy" novel about a lady who is more sinned against than sinning, Iris March (?)', as well as These Charming People, and the screenplays for both." . . . "In The Green Hat some fashionable Mayfair types meet untimely ends seeking Purity. This matter was later investigated by Sherlock Holmes in a bizarre triple-barreled parody, 'The Rollo Boys with Sherlock in Mayfair; or, Keep It Under Your Green Hat,' which appears in Three Rousing Cheers for the Rollo Boys by Corey Ford. While this doesn't count as a Sherlock Holmes reference in DLS, it does take us to a Sherlockian parody so obscure that it didn't make it into The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes" (Dan Drake HERE).
- Corey Ford occasionally dined at the Algonquin Hotel with people whose names are still known (Wikipedia HERE); also see Wikipedia (HERE), the IMDb (HERE; 11 credits), and Wikipedia again (HERE).

Thursday, March 17, 2022

"Siliconeus Asteroidea"

"The Talking Stone."
By Isaac Asimov (1920-92).
First appearance: Fantasy and Science Fiction, October 1955.
Reprints page (HERE).
Short story (17 pages).
Online at (HERE) and The Luminist Archives (HERE; go down to text page 107).
     "It may have been the unfinished repair job that kept him alive at that moment. Even more so, perhaps, it was his look of cheerful and almost moronic innocence that stood him in good stead."

It's hard enough to find a lost remote in the couch, so imagine the difficulties in trying to locate a not very large object floating freely in all of those hundreds of billions of cubic miles of emptiness beyond Mars. Never fear, dear friends, because Wendell Urth is on the case . . . .

Main characters:
~ Larry Vernadsky:
  "Three guys, each one bigger than I am, each one armed, and each one ready to kill, I'll bet."
~ The captain of the Robert Q.:
  "Yet he guessed that a man like this captain was not an asteroid miner for the love of solitude alone."
~ Patrolman Milt Hawkins:
  "It makes no sense. Why should he write the coordinates on the asteroid. That's like locking a key inside the cabinet it's meant to open."
~ Inspector H. Seton Davenport:
  "We looked in every place."
~ Dr. Wendell Urth:
  "Don't you see, Inspector, that there is one place on board a spaceship where secret numbers are perfectly safe? Where, although in plain view, they would be perfectly safe from detection? Where, though they were being stared at by a hundred eyes, they would be secure?"
~ The silicony:
  "What after death?"

References and resources:
- "The asteroid belt is large":
  "The asteroid belt is a torus-shaped region in the Solar System, located roughly between the orbits of the planets Jupiter and Mars. It contains a great many solid, irregularly shaped bodies, of many sizes, but much smaller than planets, called asteroids or minor planets" (Wikipedia HERE).
- Before his noisy divorce from science fiction, Donald Westlake produced a story about asteroid miners called "The Risk Profession," which we highlighted (HERE).
- "stuttering hyperatomic drive":
  "Hyperatomic motivators were developed in parallel with the hyperatomic drive in Imperial pre-history, during the time that the Earth and Spacer worlds were in conflict. The theory of hyperatomics states that, in a hyperatomic field, an object basically leaves this Universe, entering Universe H1 in the field G1, where all atoms are now tachyonic in character. Naturally, the field starts to ebb in this wild otherspace and, as it does so, the object reenters realspace. As the object had infinite field in H1, it has moved x light years in relation to our own Universe, all in relation to the time spent in H1" (Asimov Universe HERE).
- "pseudo-grav generators cut off":
  "Artificial gravity is the creation of an inertial force that mimics the effects of a gravitational force, usually by rotation. Artificial gravity, or rotational gravity, is thus the appearance of a centrifugal force in a rotating frame of reference (the transmis-sion of centripetal acceleration via normal force in the non-rotating frame of reference), as opposed to the force experienced in linear acceleration, which by the equivalence principle is indistinguishable from gravity. In a more general sense, 'artificial gravity' may also refer to the effect of linear acceleration, e.g. by means of a rocket engine" (Wikipedia HERE).
  "Anti-gravity (also known as non-gravitational field) is a hypothetical phenomenon of creating a place or object that is free from the force of gravity. It does not refer to the lack of weight under gravity experienced in free fall or orbit, or to balancing the force of gravity with some other force, such as electromagnetism or aerodynamic lift. Anti-gravity is a recurring concept in science fiction, particularly in the context of spacecraft propulsion" (Wikipedia HERE).
  "In many science fiction stories, there are artificial gravity generators that create a gravitational field based on a mass that does not exist" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "The silicony was flowing slowly":
  "The silicon atom has been much discussed as the basis for an alternative biochemical system, because silicon has many chemical properties similar to those of carbon and is in the same group of the periodic table, the carbon group. Like carbon, silicon can create molecules that are sufficiently large to carry biological information" (Wikipedia HERE).
  "A security officer is killed by the creature, bringing Kirk and Spock to the scene. They see the creature, and fire on it, damaging it, but it gets away, tunneling through the rock with its acid. They examine a piece of the creature, which seems to prove Spock's theory of silicon-based life" (Warning! Spoilers! Memory Alpha HERE; also see Atomic Rockets HERE).
- "lousy with uranium":
  "The main use of uranium in the civilian sector is to fuel nuclear power plants. One kilogram of uranium-235 can theoretically produce about 20 terajoules of energy (2×10^13 joules), assuming complete fission; as much energy as 1.5 million kilograms (1,500 tonnes) of coal" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "Hawkins lifted the counter":
  "The first historical uses of the Geiger principle were for the detection of alpha and beta particles, and the instrument is still used for this purpose today. For alpha particles and low energy beta particles, the 'end-window' type of a Geiger–Müller tube has to be used as these particles have a limited range and are easily stopped by a solid material. Therefore, the tube requires a window which is thin enough to allow as many as possible of these particles through to the fill gas. The window is usually made of mica with a density of about 1.5 - 2.0 mg/cm2" (Wikipedia HERE).
- We featured the first Wendell Urth story, "The Singing Bell" (HERE); most recently, we also highlighted one of his positronic robots stories, "Robot AL 76 Goes Astray" (HERE).
By Gary Larson

Saturday, March 12, 2022

"I Came in Here and Found a Dead Man and You, with a Gun Practically in Your Mitt"

THERE WAS A TIME when people looking for entertainment would travel sometimes for miles to a theater to watch live performers on a stage sing, dance, tell jokes, perform acro-batics and magic tricks, and do dozens of other amazing things that these ordinary folks would usually consider to be worth the trip. Vaudeville, it was called, and if vaudevillians wanted to survive in that milieu, they would need specialized skills, a couple of which will come in very handy in today's story, as an ex-vaudevillian solves not just one but two murders with the timely aid of . . .

"The Accusing Corpse."
By Paul Ernst (1899-1985).
First appearance: Detective Fiction Weekly, December 12, 1936.
Novelette (18 pages).
Online at (HERE) and The Luminist Archives (HERE; PDF; go down to text page 64).
(Note: Text is in bad shape, especially page 73, but still comprehen-sible.)

  Chapter I: "Out of the Storm"
  Chapter II: "Frame"
  Chapter III: "The Test"
  Chapter IV: "From Dead Lips"

     "He thought it was funny: a stage magician retiring and going into the detecting business. But I was impressed."

Bill Cunningham, a newly minted private eye, is very anxious to divert a beautiful young heiress from what appears to be her inexorable path to the electric chair, the only way being to prove somehow that she didn't murder her uncle for his fortune. Unfortunately for Bill, there's a relentless police detective who's convinced otherwise, a clever cop who actively resents him and wouldn't mind in the least seeing him share the girl's fate . . .

Principal characters:
~ Alvin Curtiss:
  ". . . was in the library, lying near the door. There was a—a bullet hole in his head."
~ Bill Cunningham:
  "So I shot him—with a detective as practically an eyewitness! Be your age, Montgomery."
~ Montgomery:
  ". . . was a blood-hound, devoid of all personal feeling; a law-enforcing machine."
~ Corlene Curtiss:
  "She wasn't there. The room was empty. On the leather davenport was a note, written in eyebrow pencil . . ."
~ Spencer Morgan:
  "Out to marry money, obviously."
~ John Geeza:
  "This is mad—a ghastly joke!"

Typo: "Dosen't".

References and resources:
- "the second-rate vaudeville tours":
  "Vaudeville developed from many sources, also including the concert saloon, minstrelsy, freak shows, dime museums, and literary American burlesque. Called 'the heart of American show business,' vaudeville was one of the most popular types of entertainment in North America for several decades. References to vaudeville and the use of its distinctive argot continue throughout Western popular culture. Words such as 'flop' and 'gag' were terms created from the vaudeville era and have entered the American idiom. Though not credited often, vaudevillian techniques can commonly be witnessed on television and in movies" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "the charges for harboring":
  "Harboring a fugitive refers to the crime of knowingly hiding a wanted criminal from the authorities. Federal and state laws, which vary by state, govern the crime of harboring a fugitive" (USLegal HERE).
- "his safety deposit box":
  "A safe deposit box, also known as a safety deposit box, is an individually secured container, usually held within a larger safe or bank vault. Safe deposit boxes are generally located in banks, post offices or other institutions. Safe deposit boxes are used to store valuable possessions, such as gemstones, precious metals, currency, marketable securities, luxury goods, important documents (e.g. wills, property deeds, or birth certificates), or computer data, which need protection from theft, fire, flood, tampering, or other perils" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "gilt-edged securities":
  "A security is a tradable financial asset. The term commonly refers to any form of financial instrument, but its legal definition varies by jurisdiction. In some countries and languages people commonly use the term 'security' to refer to any form of financial instrument, even though the underlying legal and regulatory regime may not have such a broad definition. They include shares of corporate stock or mutual funds, bonds issued by corporations or governmental agencies, stock options or other options, limited partnership units, and various other formal investment instruments that are negotiable and fungible" (Wikipedia (HERE).
- "a dictaphone in there":
  "Although the name 'Dictaphone' is a trademark, it has become genericized as a means to refer to any dictation machine" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "sold his securities at par":
  "Par value, in finance and accounting, means stated value or face value. From this come the expressions at par (at the par value), over par (over par value) and under par (under par value)" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "settle a dowry on her":
  "A dowry is a payment, such as property or money, paid by the bride's family to the groom or his family at the time of marriage. Dowry is an ancient custom that is already mentioned in some of the earliest writings, and its existence may well predate records of it. Dowries continue to be expected and demanded as a condition to accept a marriage proposal in some parts of the world . . ." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "produce artificial respiration":
  "Pulmonary ventilation (and hence external parts of respiration) is achieved through manual insufflation of the lungs either by the rescuer blowing into the patient's lungs (mouth-to-mouth resuscitation), or by using a mechanical device to do so. This method of insufflation has been proved more effective than methods which involve mechanical manipulation of the patient's chest or arms, such as the Silvester method" (Wikipedia HERE).
- The ISFDb tells us (HERE) that Paul Frederick Ernst was responsible for 24 adventures of The Avenger (1939-42) under the house name Kenneth Robeson and 8 stories in Weird Tales (1935-36) featuring Dr. Satan; also see Wikipedia (HERE) and the SFE (HERE).

Monday, March 7, 2022

"No One Escapes from Hades"

"Faithfully Yours."
By Lou Tabakow (1915-81).
Illustrations by Emsh (1925-90; HERE).
First appearance: Astounding Science Fiction, December 1955.
Reprints page (HERE).
Short story (15 pages).
Online at (HERE).
     "On and on past the thinning stars raced the patient electronic bloodhound; invisible, irreversible, indestructible; slowly, but inexorably accelerating."

Just like Dante in his Divine Comedy, Tee Ormond must travel through Hell and Purgatory, to reach, at long last, Heaven; it's too bad he can't stay there . . . .

Main characters:
~ The biophysicist:
  "He got clean away."
~ The Director:
  "You have the pattern, I presume. Feed it to Fido!"
~ Jo:
  "How about another rainbow? If you get enough of them in you, you won’t notice the heat — you won’t notice anything."
~ Tee Ormond:
  "Tee whipped a stun-gun from inside his jacket and waved it at the clerk’s back. It caught him in midstride, and unbalanced, he crashed heavily to the floor. Tee glanced briefly down as he stepped over the paralyzed form, avoiding the accusing eyes, and snatched the magnetic key off the hook."
~ Yule Larson:
  "I'm offering you a full partnership on a two million credit salvage deal and you want to back out because it’ll take six months. On top of that you’re broke and stranded and your hanger bill gets bigger every day. If you don’t take me up on this deal, you’ll still be sitting here six months from now wondering how to get your ship out of hock — if you don’t get caught first."
~ Jenner:
  "You can’t wait a month? We’ve got four million tied up in that ship and you tell me you can’t wait a month."
~ The prison administrator:
  "Hades has six billion prisoners at any given time. If one did manage to escape, they couldn't very well alert a million planets. Each planet has its own police force and handles its internal crime in its own way. What’s legal on Aurora might very well be illegal on ten thousand other planets and vice versa."
~ Dr. Chensi:
  "Yes, the old settlers named our planet well."
~ Lara:
  "I think we should start the patient walking tomorrow. Now you’d better get some sleep. You’re still very weak, you know."
~ Ary Mefford:
  "It’s already too late. I’m sorry."

Typo: "hanger bill".

References and resources:
- "the Okefenokee Swamp": "Way down upon the Swanee River":
  "The Okefenokee Swamp is a shallow, 438,000-acre (177,000 ha), peat-filled wetland straddling the Georgia–Florida line in the United States" (Wikipedia HERE; also see HERE).
- "a type G sun": Like everything in nature, stars come in all sizes and colors:
  "A G-type main-sequence star (Spectral type: G-V), often called a yellow dwarf, or G star, is a main-sequence star (luminosity class V) of spectral type G. Such a star has about 0.9 to 1.1 solar masses and an effective temperature between about 5,300 and 6,000 K. Like other main-sequence stars, a G-type main-sequence star is converting the element hydrogen to helium in its core by means of nuclear fusion. The Sun, the star to which the Earth is gravitationally bound in the Solar System, is an example of a G-type main-sequence star (G2V type)" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "Elysia. I seem to remember an old old myth brought from the original Earth":
  "Elysium, otherwise known as the Elysian Fields (Ancient Greek: Ἠλύσιον πεδίον, Ēlýsion pedíon) or Elysian Plains, is a conception of the afterlife that developed over time and was maintained by some Greek religious and philosophical sects and cults. It was initially separated from the Greek underworld—the realm of Hades. Only mortals related to the gods and other heroes could be admitted past the river Styx. Later, the conception of who could enter was expanded to include those chosen by the gods, the righteous, and the heroic. They would remain at the Elysian Fields after death, to live a blessed and happy life, and indulge in whatever employment they had enjoyed in life" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "A line from an old poem sprang to his mind: 'We are the dead, row on row we lie — '": Over a hundred years old but still not completely forgotten:
  "'In Flanders Fields' is a war poem in the form of a rondeau, written during the First World War by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "The close-packed suns of the central hub lay far behind. Here at the rim of the galaxy the stars lay scattered, separated by vast distances": The Milky Way galaxy is, to put it mildly, rather large—and yet, compared to the universe, it's like a grain of sand on a beach:
  "The Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy with an estimated visible diameter of 100,000–200,000 light-years. Recent simulations suggest that a dark matter area, also containing some visible stars, may extend up to a diameter of almost 2 million light-years. The Milky Way has several satellite galaxies and is part of the Local Group of galaxies, which form part of the Virgo Supercluster, which is itself a component of the Laniakea Supercluster. It is estimated to contain 100–400 billion stars and at least that number of planets. The Solar System is located at a radius of about 27,000 light-years from the Galactic Center, on the inner edge of the Orion Arm, one of the spiral-shaped concentrations of gas and dust" (Wikipedia HERE).

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

"Ojay Dart"

AT FIRST everything about the dead woman's estate seemed copacetic, until . . .

"The Furniture Talked."
By Everett Rhodes Castle (1894-1968).
Illustration by Walter Skor.
First appearance: This Week Magazine, October 19, 1952.
Short short story (6 pages).
Online at starting (HERE), continuing (HERE), and finishing (HERE).

     "The thing didn't hit me until almost an hour later."

You can learn a lot from a lamp . . . .

Principal characters:
~ Doc Breene:
  "I had no idea when my telephone rang at two minutes of ten, that Fate had selected me to put the finger on one of the most audacious criminal conspiracies to hit our town in decades."
~ Lieutenant Arthur Mayo:
~ Max Scoville:
  ". . . played it smart, too. He knew Martha wouldn't live forever."
~ Meggat:
  "With a tired little gurgle the butler pitched forward."

References and resources:
- "the Hepplewhite bookcase in front of me": If you happen to have one, you're set for life:
  "Hepplewhite produced designs that were slender, more curvilinear in shape and well balanced. There are some characteristics that hint at a Hepplewhite design, such as shorter more curved chair arms, straight legs, shield-shape chair backs, all without carving" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "a Chippendale card table": It'll cost you a pretty penny to play solitaire on it:
  "Chippendale furniture is much valued; a padouk cabinet that was offered for auction during 2008 sold for £2,729,250" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "genuine K'ang Hsi worth a king's ransom": Over 400 years old and still in one piece:
  "Delicate K'ang Hsi porcelain was loaded onto the 1715 Fleet galleons after a voyage halfway around the world from China aboard the Manilla Galleons in the Pacific Ocean. Mule trains from Acapulco to Vera Cruz would connect the trade routes and transport goods from the Pacific Fleet into the Atlantic Fleet" (Wikipedia HERE; info about the Chinese emperor who unwittingly lent his name to this style is HERE).
- From all appearances, Everett Rhodes Castle's publishing career was a long and lucrative one for him, stretching from 1917 to 1956 (FictionMags data), almost entirely in the high-paying slicks of the era. Castle had several series characters: Wet Smacks for the Saturday Evening Post (1931-32); Mr. Bullfinch in the Post (1933); Margaret Reddy, also in the Post (1934); Col. Humphrey Flack in the Post (1936-38, 1943, 1945, and 1946); Jefferson Davis Pope (in This Week, 1936-37); and Mrs. Tupper (This Week, 1938-39). One of them went on to star in the early days of TV.
- Our author was also coincidentally involved with the pioneering efforts of post-World War II television programs through one of his series characters:
  "Colonel Humphrey Flack — Alan Mowbray, one of the founding members of the Screen Actors Guild, starred as the titular Flack, a con man who partnered with Uthas P. Garvey (played by Frank Jenks) to con other con men, and gave part of the money they 'borrowed' to those in need. The show, based on the short stories of Everett Rhodes Castle in the Saturday Evening Post, first aired on Wednesdays on 9 p.m. (then Saturday, then Friday) and ran from October 1953-July 1954, when it was cancelled (not before two guest appearances by Jack Klugman, however). But four years later, in a move that makes re-making The Incredible Hulk less than 40 months after Hulk seem sensible, the cast and crew of Humphrey Flack got back together, and re-shot every episode, scene-by-scene, for CBS Films, presumably for the added quality. It was re-named Colonel Flack, and later, The Fabulous Fraud, a much better and accurate title" (Vulture HERE; also see Wikipedia HERE and the IMDb HERE).