Wednesday, October 18, 2023

"At the Last Moment, With the Grim Hand of the Law Upon His Shoulder, He Had Always, Somehow, Squirmed Free"

"Disappearing Dalrymple."
By (Henry) Hamilton Craigie (1880-1956; FictionMags HERE and ISFDb HERE).
First appearance: Short Stories, July 10, 1924.
Reprinted in Short Stories (U.K.), December 1924.
Short short short story (4 pages).
Online at PulpMags (HERE; slow load).
(Note: Text faded but legible.)

   "Detectives of big cities, including New York, found Dapper Dan much like an eel. It never occurred to them to try ashes for slipperiness."

"They shall cry bitterly, and shall cast up dust upon their heads," says the Good Book, "they shall wallow themselves in the ashes." Happily oblivious of that admonition, Dapper Dan goes about his business as usual, which is to criminally interfere with other people's business as usual—until one dark (but not stormy) night . . .

Principal characters:
~ Dapper Dan:
  "A con man who was so smooth that, in the parlance of certain newspaper reporters, he would have needed skid-chains to keep his feet down long enough to stay in one place a split second by the watch . . ."
~ Detective Gunson:
  ". . . of the New York Bureau, had heard of Dapper Dan, as was natural. In fact, he had seen him, at one time or another, in the line-up at headquarters."
~ The ashman:
  "No, mister, ay bane see nobuddy. Wat you tank?"

References and resources:
- "the City of Brotherly Love":
  The first capital of the United States. As for its nickname: "He [William Penn, its founder] named the city Philadelphia (philos, 'love' or 'friendship', and adelphos, 'brother'); it was to have a commercial center for a market, state house, and other key buildings." (See Wikipedia HERE and HERE.)
- "as the devil is said to hate holy water":
  Part of several religions: "In Catholicism, Lutheranism, Anglicanism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy and some other churches, holy water is water that has been sanctified by a priest for the purpose of baptism, for the blessing of persons, places, and objects, or as a means of repelling evil." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "anything approaching an entente cordiale":
  Our author is adapting language first used in diplomatic circles in the 19th century: "The French term Entente Cordiale (usually translated as 'cordial agreement' or 'cordial understanding') comes from a letter written in 1843 by the British Foreign Secretary Lord Aberdeen to his brother, in which he mentioned 'a cordial, good understanding' between the two nations. This was translated into French as Entente Cordiale and used by Louis Philippe I in the French Chamber of Peers that year." (See Wikipedia HERE.)
- "a quiet residential neighborhood in the West Seventies":
  "Like the Upper East Side opposite Central Park, the Upper West Side is an affluent, primarily residential area with many of its residents working in commercial areas of Midtown and Lower Manhattan." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "and on the Avenue":
  "The first commercial building on Fifth Avenue was erected by Benjamin Altman who bought the corner lot on the northeast corner of 34th Street in 1896. . . . By the 1920s, Fifth Avenue was the most active area for development in Midtown, and developers were starting to build north of 45th Street, which had previously been considered the boundary for profitable developments. The most active year for construction in that decade was 1926, when thirty office buildings were constructed on Fifth Avenue." (See Wikipedia HERE.)
- "a pretty kettle of fish":
  An idiomatic expression that still turns up from time to time with variations: "A difficult or awkward situation; a mess. Primarily heard in U.S." (See The Free Dictionary HERE.)
- "ash-hoist":
  "Ash or ashes are the solid remnants of fires. Specifically, ash refers to all non-aqueous, non-gaseous residues that remain after something burns." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "the radium dial of his watch":
  "Radium dials are watch, clock and other instrument dials painted with luminous paint containing radium-226 to produce radioluminescence. Radium dials were produced throughout most of the 20th century before being replaced by safer tritium-based luminous material in the 1970s and finally by non-toxic, non-radioactive strontium aluminate–based photoluminescent material from the middle 1990s." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "that would be duck soup":
  "Slang U.S.: something that is easy to do." (The Free Dictionary HERE.) Such a common expression at the time that the Marx Brothers named a movie after it. (See Wikipedia HERE.)
- "Spartan simplicity":
  Evidently the Spartans liked to keep it simple, even when they talked: "In modern times, the adjective 'Spartan' means simple, frugal, avoiding luxury and comfort. The term 'laconic phrase' describes the very terse and direct speech characteristic of the Spartans." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "with sybaritic ease":
  Derived from an ancient Greek city: "This association of Sybaris with excessive luxury transferred to the English language, in which the words 'sybarite' and 'sybaritic' have become bywords for opulent luxury and outrageous pleasure seeking. One story, mentioned in Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language, alludes to Aelianus' anecdote about Smindyrides. It mentions a Sybarite sleeping on a bed of rose petals, but unable to get to sleep because one of the petals was folded over." (See Wikipedia HERE.)
- "a rug that was Daghestan":
  "Daghestan is famous for the production of ivory-ground prayer rugs. The field design standard for this area [includes] a serrated lattice containing polychrome stylized plants beneath the mihrab. Minor design variations . . . can greatly enhance the value of a rug and ensure that such pieces will be keenly sought after by collectors." (See The Claremont Rug Company HERE.)
- For a lot more about our author Hamilton Craigie, go to Terence E. Hanley's Tellers of Weird Tales (HERE).
- Another slippery character shows up in Miriam Allen de Ford's "The Eel," featured (HERE).

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

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