Friday, April 8, 2022

"His Business, It Might Be Stated, Was Decidedly Unusual"

Precious stones, as beautiful as they are, can cause sorrow, as Sherlock Holmes once observed about one: "It's a bonny thing. Just see how it glints and sparkles. Of course, it is a nucleus and focus of crime. Every good stone is. They are the devil's pet baits. In the larger and older jewels every facet may stand for a bloody deed." Indeed, "a nucleus and focus of crime," as when a smart insurance investigator gets embroiled in . . .

"The Star Sapphire Murders."
By Gordon Keyne (H. Bedford-Jones, 1887-1949).
Illustrations by Austin Briggs (1908-73; HERE).
First appearance: Blue Book, April 1935.
Novelette (16 pages; 6 illos).
Online at (HERE).
     "Like a flash, the explanation struck him."

If Napoleon had known a century ahead of time what was going to happen to those expensive pearls, he could have given Corsica to Josephine instead . . . .

Main characters:
~ Larry True:
  ". . . my wife's been murdered. I came home half an hour ago, slipped into the house, and found her dead in her room."
~ Dan Murphy:
  "Hello! Get lost?"
~ Anne Masterson:
  "You're the one who has no business here. How dare you walk in like this?"
~ James Calloway:
  "I'm the chauffeur for a lady—she's outside in the car."
~ Sondag:
  "Suddenly his face changed. A hoarse gasp escaped him; his eyes protruded, a mottled white crept into his cheeks."
~ Gloria Charteris:
  "Six months ago Gloria Charteris lost the Bonaparte pearls—the beautiful, historic, valuable pearls that Napoleon gave Josephine."
~ Sanford:
  "Same old story. Cat and dog. Did you ever know police and D.A. men who were anything else?"

References and resources:
- "I can't be vamped": The derivation of this word should be obvious:
  "to practice seductive wiles on" (Merriam-Webster HERE).
- "tore loose the slung-shot": Not to be confused with what the British call a "catapult":
  "The slungshot was often used as a civilian or improvised weapon; however, the rope length became much shorter when used as a weapon. The cord is tied around the wrist, and the weight is carried in the hand or the pocket of the user. A slungshot may be swung in a manner similar to that of a flail. Slungshots were widely used by criminals and street gang members in the 19th Century. They had the advantage of being easy to make, silent, and very effective, particularly against an unsuspecting opponent. This gave them a dubious reputation, similar to that carried by switchblade knives in the 1950s, and they were outlawed in many jurisdictions. The use as a criminal weapon continued at least up until the early 1920s" (Military History Wiki HERE).
- "drove out Sunset": Immortalized in a movie title:
  "Sunset Boulevard is a boulevard in the central and western part of Los Angeles, California, that stretches from the Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Palisades east to Figueroa Street in Downtown Los Angeles. It is a major thoroughfare in the cities of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood (including a portion known as the Sunset Strip), as well as several districts in Los Angeles" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "this is one of the few cities where the D.A. does investigate":
  "In the United States, a district attorney (D.A.), state's attorney, prosecuting attorney, commonwealth's attorney, or state attorney is the chief prosecutor and/or chief law enforcement officer representing a U.S. state in a local government area, typically a county or a group of counties. The exact name and scope of the office varies by state" (Wikipedia HERE).
- Insurance investigators have been a regular fixture of crime fiction almost from the beginning; if you go to Donald Barr Chidsey's "The Murderer's Left Hand" (HERE), you can check out other similar tales. (Note: Although most of the stories are still accessible, a couple of links have died.)
- H(enry James O’Brien) Bedford-Jones's short fiction career began in 1910 and continued uninterrupted for the next thirty-nine years until his death; not surprisingly, his output was massive, earning him our accolade as an uber-pulpster. To see how massive, consult the FictionMags 5-page bibliography. More info about our author is at Wikipedia (HERE) and the SFE (HERE).
- "The Star Sapphire Murders" is the only appearance of Dan Murphy, insurance investigator, that we've encountered so far. Another Bedford-Jones character, this one of the series variety, was Peter J. Clancy, whom we formerly featured (HERE); the link to his story, alas, has also disappeared.
- You can sample a few examples of Bedford-Jones's voluminous short fiction at (HERE).

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