Sunday, December 31, 2023

UPDATE: Stories by Thomas Burke

Online links added (HERE) for EQMM reprints of:
 - "Roses Round the Door" (EQMM, 1946)
 - "The Hands of Mr. Ottermole" (EQMM, 1950)
 - "The New Hat" (EQMM, 1951)
 - "The Pariah" (EQMM, 1954).

UPDATE: "I Love to Follow a Detective When He Uses His Brains"

We've added 8 new links to the short bibliography of Rodrigues Ottolengui's Robert Leroy Mitchel/John Barnes short stories (HERE).

Gone but Not Forgotten

WE recently stumbled across a couple of obits for two of the writers that we've featured on ONTOS in the past, Arthur Porges and Frankie Thomas. This is from "David Langford's Ansible Link" in the August 2006 Interzone:
Here's a close-up (apologies for the fuzziness):
Among the Arthur Porges stories that we noted:
 - "A Small Favor" (HERE)
 - "Revenge" and "One Bad Habit" (HERE)
 - "Chain Smoker" (HERE)
- "The Cunning Cashier" (HERE)
- "No Killer Has Wings" (HERE) and "The Scientist and the Bagful of Water" (HERE).

Actor Frankie (Frank) Thomas became quite the Sherlock Holmes pasticheur in his latter days, producing a substantial number of titles (HERE).

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

"A MacDonald Duo" (Repost)

BACK in 2016 we posted about John D. MacDonald, who was much better writing about crime than spinning whodunits, but somehow the thing got lost in cyberspace. But never fear, we've been able to reconstruct most of it:

   John D. MacDonald (JDM) was, in his lifetime, a publishing institution who consistently turned out thriller fiction (especially that featuring Travis McGee) of the kind the reading public seemed to crave, selling nearly 500 short stories (in all genres) and dozens of novels, some of which were filmed. Below are two of his crime fiction shorts in their initial periodical manifestations.

"Who's the Blonde?"
By John D. MacDonald (1916-86).
First appearance: Collier's Weekly, August 9, 1952.
Reprinted in EQMM, May 1957 and Ellery Queen's Anthology #56, Summer 1987.
Filmed for TV in 1955 (HERE).
Short short story (5 pages).
Online at UNZ (HERE) and The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 18).
(Note: Some text smudged at UNZ.)

   "He was four thousand dollars short, and the cops had it figured out. They said he wrapped the bills and shoved them across the counter to the girl."

Bank teller Tom Weldon doesn't know it, but he's about to experience the worst day of his life.

Principal characters:
~ Tom Weldon, window three:
  "He had the crazy feeling that maybe he had been hypnotized somehow into thinking four thousand dollars were fifty ones."
~ Helen Weldon:
  "They say women aren't logical. That's the only other place it could go!"
~ Durand, senior police detective:
  "A stocky, nervous, bright-eyed man with thick white hands that were in constant motion, plucking at his suit, ruffling his hair, pulling at his ear lobes."
~ Harkness and Lutz, detectives:
  "They clumped heavily down the stairs. Tom heard one of them chuckle at something the other one said as they went out the front door."
~ Vic Reisher, the chief teller:
  "Vic ran his tapes, then straightened up slowly. His eyes were cool."
~ Judson Fergol, window two:
  "A thin-faced, quiet man about Tom's age, who handled money with an almost dazzling manual dexterity."
~ Arthur Maldrick, window four:
  "He was one of those big, plodding, ponderous young men who seem to have been born middle-aged."
~ Elvinard, the bank examiner:
  "There was no—ah—diversionary attempt."

In this one JDM crosses over into Woolrich's nightmare noir territory:

   It gave him a feeling of acute helplessness. You went along thinking that if somebody ever tried to persecute you, mess up your life, kick you around, you were a citizen and you could call the cops. Get a lawyer. Get an injunction or something. But who did you yell to when it was the forces of law and order sitting on your chest, making your wife cry, ruining your hopes and your chances and your future?

Of this tale Steve Scott writes:

   "Who's the Blonde?" was originally published in the August 9, 1952 issue of Collier's. Running 5,000 words, it's a typical John D MacDonald "howdunit," although this time we also have a rare MacDonald whodunit. And like every good whodunit, there are clues scattered in the early text that reveal the bad guy for anyone with a careful eye. It's a fun, interesting story, one where the "how" is more of a surprise than the "who," and one where MacDonald's typically-impeccable research shows up in lots of nice little details.
Steve Scott, "Who's the Blonde?", The Trap of Solid Gold (WARNING! SPOILERS on that page—be sure to read the story first).

Speaking from his own personal experience, however, Scott also tells why, despite all of those brilliant details, the narrative isn't as realistic as JDM might have hoped.
~ ~ ~
"Dead on Christmas Street."
By John D. MacDonald (1916-86).
First appearance: Collier's Weekly, December 20, 1952.
Reprinted in EQMM, January 1971.
Anthologized in Mystery for Christmas and Other Stories: From Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (1990), Murder Most Merry (2002), and The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries (2013).
Short short story (7 pages).
Online at UNZ HERE and The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 6).

   "The big, brassy brunette was the cops' only witness. She hadn't jumped or fallen—and of course no suspect had given her a shove."

With a willing eyewitness to bolster his case, A.D.A. Daniel Fowler believes he has—or did have—enough to get a conviction; he summarizes what happened for his boss:

   "October. Five o'clock one afternoon, just as the loan office was closing. Three punks tried to knock it over. Two of them, Castrella and Kelly, are eighteen. The leader, Johnny Servius, is nineteen. Johnny is Vince Servius' kid brother.
   "They went into the loan company wearing masks and waving guns. The manager had more guts than sense. He was loading the safe. He saw them and slammed the door and spun the knob. They beat on him, but he convinced them it was a time lock, which it wasn't. They took fifteen dollars out of his pants, and four dollars off the girl behind the counter and took off.
   "Right across the hall is the office of an accountant named Thomas Kistner. He'd already left. His secretary, Loreen Garrity, was closing up the office. She had the door open a crack. She saw the three kids come out of the loan company, taking their masks off. Fortunately, they didn't see her. She went into headquarters and looked at the gallery and picked out Servius and Castrella. They were picked up. Kelly was with them, so they took him in, too. In the line-up, the Garrity girl made a positive identification of Servius and Castrella again. The manager thought he could recognize Kelly's voice.
   "Bail was set high, because we expected Vince Servius would get them out. Much to everybody's surprise, he's left them in there. The only thing he did was line up George Terrafierro to defend them, which makes it tough from our point of view, but not too tough—if we could put the Garrity girl on the stand. She was the type to make a good witness. Very positive sort of girl."
   "Was? Past tense?"

Principal characters:
~ Daniel Fowler:
   ". . . one of the young assistant district attorneys, was at his desk when the call came through from Lieutenant Shinn . . ."
~ Loreen Garrity:
   "She took a high dive out of her office window—about an hour ago. Seventeen stories, and right into the Christmas rush. How come she didn't land on somebody, we'll never know. Connie Wyant is handling it. He remembered she figured in the loan-company deal, and he told me. Look, Dan. She was a big girl, and she tried hard not to go out that window. She was shoved. That's how come Connie has it. Nice Christmas present for him."
~ Lieutenant Gil Shinn, of the Detective Squad:
   "Nice Christmas present for the lads who pushed over the loan company, too. Without her, there's no case."
~ Lieutenant Connie Wyant, someone you do not want to underestimate:
   "Me, I wish it was just somebody thought it would be nice to jump out a window. But she grabbed the casing so hard, she broke her fingernails down to the quick.
   "Marks you can see, in oak as hard as iron. Banged her head on the sill and left black hair on the rough edge of the casing. Lab matched it up. And one shoe up there, under the radiator."
~ Thomas Kistner:
   "As they opened the door, he glanced up quickly. He was a big, bloated man with an unhealthy grayish complexion and an important manner. He said, 'I was just telling the sergeant the tribulations of an accountant'."
~ Jane Raymer, the D.A.'s secretary and, to Dan, something more:
   "She was a small girl with wide, gray eyes, a mass of dark hair, a soft mouth. She raised one eyebrow and looked at him speculatively. 'I could be bribed, you know'."
~ Jim Heglon:
   ". . . the district attorney, was a narrow-faced man with glasses with heavy, dark frames. He had a professional look, a dry wit and a driving energy."
~ Vince Servius:
   ". . . a compact man with cropped, prematurely white hair, a sunlamp tan, and beautifully cut clothes. He had not been directly concerned with violence in many years. In that time he had eliminated most of the traces of the hoodlum. The over-all impression he gave was that of the up-and-coming clubman."
~ Paul Hilbert:
   "A burly, diffident young man came in. He wore khaki pants and a leather jacket. 'I'm a plumber, Officer. Central Plumbing, Incorporated'."

On his site dedicated to JDM (again, beware of SPOILERS) Steve Scott tells us:

   JDM was a self-declared agnostic, and I can only guess that Christmas wasn't a big deal in the MacDonald house. "Dead on Christmas Street" . . . really has little to do with the holiday. It's a straightforward tale of crime solving that happens to take place during the Christmas season, and I'm tempted to surmise that the setting was dictated by an editor, who may have wanted a Christmas theme for his December 20th issue . . .
   It's a well-crafted, enjoyable mystery story, but not necessarily one that's going to put you in the Christmas spirit.

- By now you should know the drill: Wikipedia (HERE), the GAD Wiki (HERE), the SFE (HERE), the ISFDb (HERE), and the IMDb (HERE); in addition, there's much more about John D. MacDonald at The Thrilling Detective (HERE) and The Trap of Solid Gold tribute site (HERE).
The bottom line: "At this season of the year, more than ever, we must not deprive those we love. Or even those to whom we are married."

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

"No Chance for Anything To Go Wrong"

IF you've been with us even for just a little while, then you know that today's author aggregated a lot of pulp verbiage working and reworking a common theme: the futile attempts by people (who should know better) striving for that acme of criminality,
that apex of villainy, the perfect crime:

"The Clue Outside."
Ray Cummings (1887-1957).
First appearance: The Phantom Detective, March 1948.
Reprinted in The Phantom Detective (Canada), March 1948.
Short short story (5 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 82).

   "A leaden pellet can sometimes point the finger at a killer if a crafty policeman knows how to make it tell the tale!"

"Everything was so carefully planned," we're told, which means that the first shot, the one that misses its mark, shouldn't be a cause for concern, nothing to worry about, take it easy, no sweat—right?

Main characters:
~ Tom Benz:
  "The big suitcase was heavy. Benz was salesman for the Harrington woolen mill. Besides the clothes needed for his week's trip from which he was just returning, the case was packed with his samples of woolen goods."
~ John Harrington:
  "The revolver cracked again and through the smoke of the shots came a glimpse of Harrington wilting, falling, to become a dead thing, lying there on the rug."
~ Lieutenant Saunders:
  "As it happens, I've always been especially interested in ballistics."

- The latest Ray Cummings accounts of (im)perfect crimes were a two-fer: "Time for Murder" and "Time Out for Murder" (HERE).

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

First and Last

HERE we have what appear to be the first, last, and only short stories by an author who evidently never had anything else published. As Ellery Queen (the publisher/editor) notes in his introduction to the first one, it's ". . . a straightforward, hard-hitting, contemporary detective story, reminiscent of the Black Mask tradition, told with the same sharp eye for reportorial detail, but with more restraint, and as a result, with more feeling of verisimilitude 
. . ."

"Never Overlook an Angle."
By Stephen R. Novak (?-?).
First appearance: EQMM, May 1966.
No known reprints.
Short short story (7 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 72).

   "Suddenly he reached for his gun and pulled his partner to the ground with him."

Years of experience will usually pay off in the end. When a body is found next to a tollway, a veteran policeman begins to suspect there's more going on than meets the eye . . .

Main characters:
~ Sam Turkewitz:
  "Paroled last week after serving eight years of a ten-year sentence at Trenton. Out on good behavior."
~ The ambulance driver:
  "An ignominious demise even for our callous generation."
~ Sandusky:
  "'When your number's up,' said the toll collector, 'it's up'."
~ Officer Pat Bennett:
  "Just the same, it doesn't figure that a guy like Turkey should get his eternal reward from the front end of a speeding car."
~ Officer Stan Major:
  "'It's fate,' said Stan, 'and you can't beat fate'."

- A tollbooth also becomes a crime scene in an episode of a TV series featuring a severely emotionally disturbed detective (WARNING! ALL SPOILERS! HERE).

The next story is of an extremely rare (but not unknown) variety. Except for the very last line, it's entirely in dialogue:

"No More Questions."
By Stephen R. Novak (?-?).
First appearance: Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, November 1975.
Reprinted in Tricks and Treats (1976).
Short story (13 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 72).

   ". . . the prosecution is going to try to make a big deal about that television set you gave to Maryann."

Launcelot would assure us that "at the length truth will out," but that's cold comfort indeed for a man on trial for murder whose best hope of escaping execution is embodied in a
TV set . . .

Named characters:
~ William Dempsey:
  "I heard myself sobbing. I must have shut off the TV set. Yes, I cried. And I got murderous angry that he could have done this to her, beaten her to death."
~ Maryann Ravelle:
  "She said the guy was no good. He was such a big shot, she said, but with her, he was a big nothing. He always took her to the most out-of-the-way places around here, where nobody would see them together."
~ Mr. Buchanan:
  "Your Honor, my client's guilt or innocence may very well depend on that television set."
~ Mr. Whitaker:
  "You were at the scene of the crime when the police arrived; you expect us to believe that you did not run because it was your duty to stay."
~ The Honorable James R. Flanigan:
  "Mr. Whitaker, you will kindly save your emotional outbursts for the summation to the jury."
~ Sergeant Capilan:
  "Now, Sergeant, I ask you to recall the scene of the crime. When you arrived, was this television playing or not?"

References and resource:
- "that's a fighting name you have":
  An oblique reference to two famous pugilists, Gene Tunney: "James Joseph Tunney (1897–1978) was an American professional boxer who competed from 1915 to 1928. He held the world heavyweight title from 1926 to 1928, and the American light heavyweight title twice between 1922 and 1923" (Wikipedia HERE); as well as a reference to Jack Dempsey: "William Harrison 'Jack' Dempsey (1895–1983), nicknamed Kid Blackie and The Manassa Mauler, was an American professional boxer who competed from 1914 to 1927 and reigned as the world heavyweight champion from 1919 to 1926. A cultural icon of the 1920s, Dempsey's aggressive fighting style and exceptional punching power made him one of the most popular boxers in history" (Wikipedia HERE).
- Here's Stephen R. Novak's FictionMags listing:
  (1) "Never Overlook an Angle," (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, May 1966 (above)
  (2) "No More Questions," (ss) Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, November 1975 (above).

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

"He Had Murdered His Best Friend with a Needle and Thread . . . His Problem Was To Find Out How"

"By Needle and Thread."
By Richard P. Ennis (?-?; ISFDb HERE).
Illustrated by Harry Turner (1920-2009; ISFDb HERE).
First appearance: Nebula Science Fiction No. 10 (1954).
Short story (11 pages; 2 illos).
Online at (HERE) and The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 66).

   "A small tailor’s needle and a piece of thread were things I used every day; it baffled me how I had used them to commit a murder."

When is a murder not a murder? You're about to find out . . .

Principal characters:
~ The unnamed narrator:
  "A case of mistaken identity, I am inclined to call it. But the guards will never learn about it from me."
~ Gerald Frazer:
  "We were all born on Earth and our conversation nearly always deals with affairs of that planet. A ship-born man like Frazer has nothing in common with us."
~ John Sebastian Howard:
  "I tried to imagine his shocked surprise if I told him that I had killed a man on board this ship while he was still an infant in arms."
~ Mr. Humber:
  "I'll need all my wits about me to defeat Humber. The cunning devil! He played his cards with supreme finesse today."
~ The stout officer:
  "You killed who?"
~ The young guard:
  "It’s—It’s like a museum. There’s an air of decay about the whole place that gets you down. And the staff — old men. Earth-born every one of them. They seem more like exhibits than people. It gave me the creeps."

Typo: "The the picture changed".

- Regarding this story, you might benefit from considering the concept of the "unreliable narrator" (Wikipedia HERE). Indeed, it's hard not to find parallels not only between "By Needle and Thread" and a couple of Edgar Poe's tales (Wikipedia HERE and HERE), but also with Nikolai Gogol's only first-person narrative in particular (Wikipedia HERE).
- For the full lowdown about the kind of space travel depicted in our story see "Sublight Starships" in Winchell Chung's Atomic Rockets megasite (HERE). For a briefer overview of the same, see Wikipedia (HERE).
- Our practically anonymous author has only two story credits in FictionMags:
  (1) "By Needle and Thread," Nebula Science Fiction No. 10 (1954) (above)
  (2) "The Lonely Ones," Authentic Science Fiction Monthly No. 61, September 1955.

Bottom line:
  Truth will come to light, 
  murder cannot be hid long.

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.

Monday, December 18, 2023

UPDATE: Sydney J. Bounds's "Time for Murder"

Added several links, another illo, and a little more text (HERE).

"The Entire District Seemed To Have a Fit of the Jitters"

WE have yet one more Christmas story for you by Johnston McCulley. This time crime rears its ugly head in the . . .

"Santa Claus Precinct."
By Johnston McCulley (1883-1958; ISFDb HERE; IMDb HERE).
First appearance: Mystery Book Magazine, Winter 1950.
No known reprints.
Short story (12 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 132).

   ". . . the 23rd, nicknamed Santa Claus Precinct because coppers got so many presents at Christmas . . ."

Just an ordinary beat cop on ordinary patrol—ordinary until the people in his neighborhood start acting out of the ordinary. He has no way of knowing when he starts his patrol that this Christmas one of his presents will be a bullet . . .

Main characters:
~ Patrolman Matte O'Doole:
  ". . . had been the regular patrolman on his present beat for the last six years, first on a night shift and finally on the daytime detail. He had become a fixture. He was the sort of cop who seldom attracts attention."
~ Captain Jim Shane:
  "And here's a special for some of you—Muggsy Darle is reported as having been seen in this part of the city again. You know him. He killed a cop and he's still at large!"
~ Lefty Newton:
  "Watch out, Muggsy!"
~ Muggsy Darle:
  "Crouched near the window, Muggsy Darle had a weapon out. He fired quickly . . ."
~ . . . and the other residents of the precinct, all of them acting very uncharacteristically:
  Mrs. Mulvaney, Sol Burns, Eddie Link, Hans Brenner, Joe Alden, and Tony Doniletti and his wife and their daughter, Lina.
Typo: "the flesh would on his arm".

References and resources:
- "the Little League of Nations":
  "The concept of a peaceful community of nations had been proposed as early as 1795, when Immanuel Kant's Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch outlined the idea of a league of nations to control conflict and promote peace between states. Kant argued for the establishment of a peaceful world community, not in a sense of a global government, but in the hope that each state would declare itself a free state that respects its citizens and welcomes foreign visitors as fellow rational beings, thus promoting peaceful society worldwide." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "the old gang shakedown, the old 'protection' racket":
  "A protection racket is a type of racket and a scheme of organized crime perpetrated by a potentially hazardous organized crime group that generally guarantees protection outside the sanction of the law to another entity or individual from violence, robbery, ransacking, arson, vandalism, and other such threats, in exchange for payments at regular intervals. Each payment is called 'protection money' or a 'protection fee'. An organized crime group determines an affordable or reasonable fee by negotiating with each of its payers, to ensure that each payer can pay the fee on a regular basis and on time. Protections rackets can vary in terms of their levels of sophistication or organization; it is not uncommon for their operations to emulate the structures or methods used by tax authorities within legitimate governments to collect taxes from taxpayers." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "a touch loan":
  We're not sure, but we think a "touch loan" is an unsecured, short-term loan.

Bottom line:

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Pro and Con

BECAUSE the war in Vietnam kept going on and on in one of those "forever wars" that never seem to end ("Year after bloody year," according to Dr. McCoy), eventually the country became divided over the issue. The following paid advertisement appeared in the June 1968 Galaxy magazine. If you are a science fiction fan then you'll recognize a lot of the names, but detective fiction aficionados might also spot a familiar author or two as well:

Saturday, December 16, 2023

"The Body Was Sprawled on the Floor Like a Grotesque, Inanimate Doll Discarded by a Fickle Child"

   "Ned Randolph thought he had committed the perfect crime, but he never stopped to realize that . . ."

"Dead Men Talk."
By Ernest C. Amaral (?-?).
First appearance: New Detective Magazine, November 1949.
No known reprints.
Short short short story (4 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; starting on page 110 and ending on page 127).

   "Knots? I don't understand."

"A message from the grave," says the sheriff; but we really think that Ned can be forgiven for not making a connection between the blind man's uniform and the fishing rod . . .
Comment: An unusual amount of time is spent on the killer's emotional states but without harming the story.

Main characters:
~ Ned Randolph:
  "For days, he had been torn by the fear that his blind employer might have guessed his intentions."
~ Bill, the old man:
  "The blind had an uncanny ability for sense impressions. It was as if they sent out invisible antennae to perceive waves of emotion."
~ Sheriff Tom Taggart:
  "There was a curious edge to the sheriff's voice."

- Our author could hardly be characterized as prolific, earning only two citations on FictionMags:
  (1) "Dead Men Talk," (ss) New Detective Magazine, November 1949 (above)
  (2) "Death Sentence," (ss) 15 Story Detective, June 1950.
As for other info about Ernest C. Amaral, there doesn't seem to be any.

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.

Friday, December 15, 2023

"Time Travel As Portrayed in Fiction Will Never Come To Pass"

HERE we have the early Ed Hoch trying on various genres for size (see the Autumn 2023 issue of Old-Time Detection for more). In this instance the genre is science fiction-fantasy (SFF), as two experimenters are confronted by . . .

"The Last Paradox."
By Edward D. Hoch (1930-2008; GAD Wiki HERE; ISFDb HERE).
First appearance: Future Science Fiction, October 1958.
Collected in The Future Is Ours (2015).
Reprints page (HERE).
Short short short story (3 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 110).

   "A Vignette of Possibility"

A reticent research scientist confesses to his "guinea pig" that his planned trip through time won't be exactly as advertised—and, brother, is he right!

Principal characters:
~ Professor Fordley:
  "'It's too bad that G. K. Chesterton never wrote a time-travel story,' Professor Fordley lamented as he made the final careful adjustments on his great glass-domed machine."
~ John Comptoss:
  "Can you bring me back all right?"
Reference and resources:
- "G. K. Chesterton never wrote":
  The reference to Chesterton (GKC) seems appropriate, inasmuch as he was a master of paradox: "Chesterton's writings consistently displayed wit and a sense of humour. He deployed paradox, while making serious comments on the world, government, politics, economics, philosophy, theology and many other topics. In this he was a follower of Oscar Wilde, and George Bernard Shaw whom he knew well; but Chesterton's style and thinking were all his own." (GAD Wiki HERE.) Also see GKC discussing detective fiction (HERE).
- When we last established contact with Edward D. Hoch, he was luxuriating in his (and our) favorite genre, detective fiction (HERE).
Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Ho - Ho - Bang!

TO GET YOU in the Christmas mood, here are a few holiday-themed stories that have proven popular with ONTOS readers:

(1) "Santa Thumbs a Ride" by Johnston McCulley (HERE). This one drifts into "impossible crime" territory.
(2) "Death Plays Santa Claus" also by Johnston McCulley (HERE). Interesting how Nero Wolfe's creator had the same idea.
(3) "The Scorpion's Thumb" by Ellery Queen (HERE). A story that started life as a radio play.

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

UPDATE: Daniel F. Galouye's "Kangaroo Court"

Added six more links to the list of stories collected as The Last Leap and Other Stories of the Super-Mind in Resources (HERE).

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

"It Was His Heart, All Right. There's a Knife Stuck in It!"

"Murder and Matilda."
By Fredric Brown (1906-72; FictionMags HERE; GAD Wiki HERE).
First appearance: Mystery Book Magazine, Summer 1949.
Collected in Three-Corpse Parlay (1988).
Short short story (7 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 137).
   "If you got to have a murder, go find one."

From time immemorial men have been underestimating women, and always to their regret. It will take a huge dose of feminine logic to sort out how and why a body found lying on a kitchen floor isn't the open-and-shut case it appears to be . . .

Main characters:
~ Hank Wheeler:
  "You wouldn't catch Olin slipping up on something that costs him fifteen cents a day. He'd have left me a note."
~ Olin Pearce:
  ". . . there was a knife sticking up out of his chest, or rather the handle of one. The blade was all the way in."
~ Joe Pearce:
  "Nobody in town liked Olin, and nobody but his brother had any reason to kill him."
~ Matilda Jones:
  "I opened my mouth to say sixteen, but Matilda jumped in. I mean in the conversation, not in my mouth, but she couldn't have surprised me any more if she had."
~ Andy (no last name):
  "What worries me is those detective stories she always reads."
~ Harry Wilks:
  "Trouble is, Andy, you're afraid of her."
~ Billie and Bessie Lang:
  ". . . I remembered what they'd said about seeing somebody carrying a body out of the woods and toward Olin's house, three days ago."
~ Doc Breneman:
  ". . . took a look and a sniff and agreed that three days were likely enough."

- Our last contact with Fredric Brown was his story about "The Wicked Flea" (HERE).

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.

Monday, December 4, 2023

UPDATE: Edward W. Ludwig's "Slay Bells for Santa"

Traded out Pulpgen link for The Luminist Archives (HERE).

UPDATE: Rex Stout's "The Christmas-Party Murder"

Swapped out the old Thrilling Detective link for the new one (HERE).

Murder in a Timely Fashion

Both of today's stories are by the same writer and both revolve around one of his favorite themes, the perfect crime: how to scheme and scheme and yet, somehow, fail to get away with it. Time and tide wait for no man, as the saying goes, but it's especially true if that man is someone who goes out of his way to make . . .

"Time for Murder."
By Ray Cummings (1887-1957).
First appearance: Black Book Detective, March 1949.
Short short short story (6 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 99).

   "A murder here in Hammondsville! Holy cats!"

As usual, pride goeth before a busted play: "There would be no danger attached because his alibi would be uniquely clever—so clever that no one could ever suspect him. He had planned too carefully for that." Of course he had . . .

Principal characters:
~ Tom Maul:
  He finally sees the light—and wishes he didn't.
~ Clara Joyce:
  Even gripped by hysteria, she helps to solve it.
~ Robert Rance:
  All he did was stand in the way.
~ Sergeant Drake:
  He notices what everyone else overlooks.

- Erle Stanley Gardner first used the title "Time for Murder" for one of his non-Perry Mason novelettes back in 1934. It's online but incomplete.
- "The central electrolier":
  For what an electrolier might be, see how it's used in another Ray Cummings story (HERE).

~ ~ ~

"Time Out for Murder."
By Ray Cummings (1887-1957; FictionMags HERE).
First appearance: The Phantom Detective Magazine, November 1947.
Short short short story (5 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 80).
(Note: Faded but readable text.)

   "That's a big, handsome pre-war clock. I heard about one of them bein' peculiar like this, but I never seen it before."

The lesson from this story and the one above should be clear to anyone contemplating murder with a gun: be sure to make the first shot count . . .

Principal characters:
~ Larry Drake:
  "And then Larry flung a furtive glance into the drawer. The pearl-handled automatic was there, his mother's revolver!"
~ John Hutchinson:
  "He figured he was clever [Larry thought], toying with his stepson the way a cat toys with a mouse . . ."
~ Jack Hanning:
  ". . . would remember that he had been here before midnight."
~ Jimmy, the bellhop:
  "This boy was just grand."
~ Sergeant Durkin:
  "Take a look at the electric clock on top of the radio, Drake."

- The "perfect crime" (which does have a distant kinship with the locked-room mystery) gets a light once-over on Wikipedia (HERE).
- If you're still thinking about committing the perfect crime, you might want to read (THIS ARTICLE) first.
- Our last session with Ray Cummings was another perfect crime tale, "That Well-Groomed Look" (HERE).

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.