Thursday, November 30, 2023

"There Are Three Major Divisions of Technique in the Detective-Crime Story"

"The W-H-W of the Mystery Story."
By Edward D. Hoch (1930-2008) and Ellery Queen (1905-71 and 1905-82).
Three short short short stories (13 pages total).
First appearance: EQMM, January 1969.
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 6).

ELLERY QUEEN (the editor) was around detective fiction long enough for him/they to assert with considerable authority that, as per the title above, this particular literary genre could be divided into three great areas that have evolved over time: The "W"hodunit (starting with Poe in 1841), the "H"owdunit (with Meade and Halifax in 1894), culminating in the "W"hydunit (circa 1910 with MacHarg and Balmer)—in other words, "The W-H-W of the Mystery Story."
  EQ tells us that after receiving "three short-shorts in quick succession" from Edward D. Hoch, "we could not help noticing that one was primarily a Whodunit, the second a variation of the Howdunit, and the third a perfect example of the Whydunit." Publishing them together, says our editor, "would extend a well-known mathematical dictum," and since all mathemat-ical dictums must be extended, here they are . . .

WHODUNIT: "Murder Offstage."
By Edward D. Hoch (1930-2008).
Short short short story (5 pages).
No known reprints.

   "You got him right between the eyes."

A blackmailer gets a little too pushy with four people who don't like being pushed, and you can easily anticipate the results. But what three of those people don't know, and the fourth one does, is just who did get him "right between the eyes" . . .

Major characters:
~ Leonardo Flood:
  "An aging matinee idol, darling of the gossip columnists, king of yesterday's jet set—and clever blackmailer."
~ Garrison Smith:
  "Always the director, even when it came to directing a murder."
~ Paul Drayer:
  "Paul showed him the gun."
~ Cliff Contrell:
  "He was always the leading man in every production, and he wasn't about to yield his position now."
~ Aster Martin:
  "Personally, I don't think any one of you has the guts to kill him, but it's got to be done."

HOWDUNIT: "Every Fifth Man."
By Edward D. Hoch (1930-2008).
Short short short story (4 pages).
Reprinted in Quickie Thrillers (1975) and Miniature Mysteries: 100 Malicious Little Mystery Stories (1981).
  "Kill every fifth man and release the others."

How can someone condemned to die before a firing squad possibly entertain any hope whatsoever of surviving it? The human world is full of loopholes, and the condemned has found the biggest one of them of all . . .

Major characters:
~ Narrator:
  "I'd always been good at mathematics . . ."
~ Tomas:
  ". . . had fallen from the line and the blood was gushing from his side."
~ The officer in charge:
  "Who wants to die under the noonday sun?"

Typo: "taken form"

WHYDUNIT: "The Nile Cat."
By Edward D. Hoch (1930-2008).
Short short short story (5 pages).
Reprinted in Feline Felonies (2001).

   "Perhaps all murderers are insane. I am no more so than the rest."

There are times when the usual motives for murder don't apply. In this instance, you can think of the killer's motivation as sheer insanity in one way but perfectly logical in another; 
it would probably seem logical, for instance, if you were to hold strong feelings about, let's say, Etruscan pottery . . .

Major characters:
~ Professor Patrick J. Bouton:
  "I do not have a criminal mind."
~ Henry Yardley:
  ". . . was a graduate student at the University, working for his master's degree in archeology."
~ Lieutenant Fritz:
  "You've admitted the crime—you might as well tell us the motive."
~ Constance Clark:
  "Oh, yes, it's about the statue—the Nile Cat."

- "Bastet, Goddess of Joy":
  "Bastet was originally a fierce lioness warrior goddess of the sun, worshipped throughout most of ancient Egyptian history. Later she became the cat goddess that is familiar today. She then was depicted as the daughter of Ra and Isis, and the consort of Ptah, with whom she had a son, Maahes." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "a head of Nefertiti":
  "Nefertiti (c. 1370 – c. 1330 BC) was a queen of the 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, the great royal wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten. Nefertiti and her husband were known for their radical overhaul of state religious policy, in which they promoted the earliest known form of monotheism, Atenism, centered on the sun disc and its direct connection to the royal household. With her husband, she reigned at what was arguably the wealthiest period of ancient Egyptian history." (Wikipedia HERE.)
Other resources:
- Curtis T. Gardner's novelette "Museum of the Dead" also has an Egyptian museum theme (HERE).
- It wasn't long ago that we shared one of Ed Hoch's stories (HERE).

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

"He Was Killed Because He Knew the Robber"

Here's one of Ed Hoch's relatively rare non-series mysteries, in which a non-professional "detective" must figure out why a friendly gathering terminates with a . . .

"Midsummer Night's Scream."
By Edward D. Hoch (1930-2008).
First appearance: Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, April 1980.
No known reprints.
Short short story (9 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 103).

   "The victim was shot once in the back of the head by someone he knew—someone at the party."

Don't you just love it when the killer, unrepentant, sums it all up? "I did it for you—don't you see that? Now we're both free and I've got his money. And the store!" But that's not the way it is, not at all . . .

Principal characters:
~ Mark (no last name narrator):
  "'I want to find out why you killed Andy,' I said quietly."
~ Helen Riggs:
  ". . . laid a hand on my tanned forearm. 'You're always so cool about everything, Mark. Maybe that was part of the trouble'."
~ Charles Riggs:
  "He avoided my eyes and said, 'Yeah. Sally Tern. Cute kid'."
~ Sally Tern:
  "She wasn't a bad girl, really, and in other days I might have found her a pleasant companion."
~ Nelse Walker:
  ". . . was in real estate, which was a profitable field in a fast-growing suburban community like Elmbrook."
~ Mrs. Walker:
  "People tended to talk around her, or through her, and to forget her first name."
~ Gert Obern:
  "She turned, startled, then smiled when she saw what I held. 'Didn't you see it? I brought it along to show you'."
~ Fritz Obern:
  "I should have seen the writing on the wall, but I didn't. So I'm forty years old and out of work."
~ Barbara Barron:
  "Barbara — tight-jeaned, smiling and sure of herself — shot me a special look reserved for divorced men."
~ Chief of Police Lambert:
  "Can you all account for your time during the last couple of hours?"
~ Andy Barron:
  "'He's dead, Mrs. Barron. Somebody shot him.' That was when she screamed."

References and resources:
- "July 31 is the eve of Lammas, one of the four witches' Sabbaths, like Halloween":
  "In the Inspector Morse episode 'Day of the Devil', Lammas Day is presented as a Satanic (un)holy day, 'the Devil's day'." (Wikipedia HERE and HERE.)
- Hoch apparently liked the title of today's story so much that he modified it to "Midsummer Night's Scheme" for one of his Walt Stanton/Juliet Ives stories in the May 2004 issue of EQMM.
- Our previous meeting with Ed Hoch, this one with a series 'tec, was (HERE).

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

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Saturday, November 25, 2023

UPDATE: Stewart Sterling's "Fit to Kill" and "Shot with Luck"

Story links changed to The Luminist Archives (HERE) and one cover image swapped out.

"It Was a .38 Colt Revolver, Recently Fired, Wrapped in a Shaggy Black Wig"

Here's a story featuring one of Ed Hoch's series characters that, as far as we can tell, hasn't been reprinted anywhere. Hoch's 'tec went by two names: "Al Darlan" and "Al Diamond." In this one he's working as "Darlan," who's been hired to do some campus sleuthing as he tries to find out who put the . . .

"Money on the Skull."
By Edward D. Hoch (1930-2008; ISFDb HERE; Wikipedia HERE).
First and only appearance: Antaeus, Spring/Summer 1977.
Short story (16 pages).
Online at (HERE).

   "Call off your goons or they'll end up in the river along with those boats."

About thirty years ago there was a sensational case involving an attempt to cripple a figure skater. In today's story our gumshoe is called in to investigate what might be an attempt to do something similar in competitive rowing at a small college, but this time the result isn't limited to just personal injury but murder . . .

Main characters:
~ Arnold Bantor:
  "You don’t talk much like a private detective." 
~ P.I. Darlan:
  "That’s because you watch too much television."
~ Frank Evans:
  "He relaxed into a grin. 'Hell, all women are witches, aren’t they?'"
~ Gretel Mackenzie:
  "She smiled, eyes boring holes through us, and held up the white thing in her hand. I saw now that it was a bone—a polished white bone about eight inches long. 'I’ve been fine, Frank,' she answered, pointing the bone at his chest."
~ Gilda Harcourt:
  ". . . was a striking girl with short brown hair and a ready smile. She stuck close to the side of a leering gray-haired man who must have had twenty years on her. This, I learned, was her husband—Professor Devon Harcourt of the English Department."
~ Devon Harcourt:
  "If she [Gilda] was playing around with the handsome rowing coach, I could well understand it. Harcourt was just a dirty old man."
~ Sam Turk:
  "A smile now—slight, but playing about his lips. 'Bantor worries about the obvious'."
~ Roscoe Spice:
  "'I don’t know a thing about it,' he said, but he averted his eyes."

Resources and references:
- There's plenty of information about the competitive sport of rowing and, in particular, sculling in Wikipedia (HERE) and (HERE).
- "Ever since New York State legalized off-track betting, all the big money goes to the betting parlors. They’re all over Manhattan, and there are a few upstate too. It’s killing guys like me":
  An instance of making legal what was once a felony:
  "Off-track betting (or OTB; in British English, off-course betting) is sanctioned gambling on greyhound racing or horse racing outside a race track. Before the 1970s, only the state of Nevada allowed off-track betting. Off-track betting in New York was legalized in 1970, after years of unsuccessful attempts. By the 1970s there were 100 betting parlors in New York City, and twice that number by the late 1980s. In New York City, the thought was that legal off-track betting would increase revenue while at the same time decrease illegal gambling activity, but one effect of the legalization was a decrease of revenue at racetracks. The 1978 Interstate Horseracing Act struck a compromise between the interests of horse tracks and owners, the state, and OTB parlors, and stipulated that OTB revenues were to be distributed among the tracks, the horse owners, and the state. Another stipulation was that no OTB parlor was allowed to operate within 60 miles of a track." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- The New Thrilling Detective Website has a concise article about Al Darlan/Diamond (HERE).
- The FictionMags listing for today's detective (note: "ss" = short story; "nv" = novelette):

   ~ ~ ~ Al Darlan (a.k.a. Al Diamond) ~ ~ ~
  (1) "Jealous Lover," (ss) Crime and Justice Detective Story Magazine #4, March 1957 [Captain Leopold is also here]
  (2) "The Naked Corpse," (nv) Killers Mystery Story Magazine #4, March 1957
  (3) "Darkness for Dawn Stevens," (ss) Fast Action Detective and Mystery Stories, February 1958
  (4) "Layout for Murder!", (ss) Off Beat Detective Stories, July 1962
  (5) "Where There’s Smoke," (ss) Manhunt, March 1964 (online HERE)
  (6) "Verdict of One," (ss) Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, October 1970
  (7) "Twist of the Knife," (ss) Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, December 1970
  (8) "Climax Alley," (ss) Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, May 1971 (online HERE)
  (9) "Lady with a Cat," (ss) Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, November 1971
  (10) "Money on the Skull," (ss) Antæus #25/26, Spring/Summer 1977 (above)
  (11) "The Other Eye," (nv) Crime Wave (Swedish Academy of Detection, 1981)
  (12) "Sunken Car," (ss) Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, June 1982
  (13) "Saratoga Steal," (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, July 2001
  (14) "The Pulp Artist’s Wife," (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, August 2006
  (15) "The Girl Next-Door," (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, March/April 2007
  (16) "A Wandering-Daughter Job," (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, June 2008.

- Our last dealings with Ed Hoch's short short short fiction covered two stories: "Getaway!" and "Execution on Clover Street" (HERE).
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, November 19, 2023

UPDATE: Miscellaneous Monday—Number Nineteen

Changed online link to the GAD site (HERE), not the Thrilling Detective as stated earlier.

"Your Rabbit's a Genius!"

The perfect crime doesn't have to be murder, as we'll see when a smart armchair detective matches wits with . . .

"The Cunning Cashier."
By Arthur Porges (1915-2006; ISFDb HERE; Wikipedia HERE).
First appearance: The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine, April 1967.
Short story (9 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 125).
(Note: Text very faded but legible.)

   "He didn't miss a thing . . ."

The recruiting poster urges us to "Aim High." Our thief groks that, but will today's sleuth also get the message?

Principal characters:
~ Lionel Wickwire:
  ". . . was so much traditional cashier—meek, competent, faithful, and underpaid—that the most gullible bank manager should have been able to predict criminal activity as inevitable. Yet, when the theft came, 'Old L.W.' broke from the norm to display a kind of brassiness not 
in character at all."
~ Captain Gregg:
  ". . . explained all this, quite ruefully, to Julian Morse Trowbridge, who slumped behind a huge, littered desk, almost lost in a sagging armchair that seemed upholstered with dirty leather over quicksand."
~ Julian Morse Trowbridge:
  "Once a child prodigy in mathematical physics—among other things—at Harvard, Trowbridge had developed too much intellectual horsepower for his youthful chassis. 
After a complete breakdown, he had vanished . . ."

Typos: "Julian Morse Townbridge"; "gatepots".

References and resources:
- "Like that man-sized rabbit in the play a few years back. Except that he's not invisible":
  You might have seen the movie:
  "Harvey is a 1944 play by the American playwright Mary Chase. She received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the work in 1945. It has been adapted for film and television several times, most notably in a 1950 film starring James Stewart and Josephine Hull." (Wikipedia HERE.)
  "Harvey is a 1950 American comedy-drama film based on Mary Chase's 1944 play of the same name, directed by Henry Koster, and starring James Stewart and Josephine Hull. The story centers on a man whose best friend is a puca (pooka) named Harvey, a 6 ft 3 1⁄2 in (1.92 m) tall white invisible rabbit, and the ensuing debacle when the man's sister tries to have him committed to a sanatorium." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "I've built a kind of blinker device, well-known in astronomy":
  That's how Clyde Tombaugh discovered the planet Pluto (yes, it's still a planet) 93 years ago:
  "A blink comparator is a viewing apparatus formerly used by astronomers to find differences between two photographs of the night sky. It permits rapid switching from viewing one photograph to viewing the other, 'blinking' back and forth between the two images taken of the same area of the sky at different times. This allows the user to more easily spot objects in the night sky that have changed position or brightness. It was also sometimes known as a blink microscope. It was invented in 1904 by physicist Carl Pulfrich at Carl Zeiss AG, then constituted as Carl-Zeiss-Stiftung." (Wikipedia HERE.)
  "Clyde William Tombaugh (1906–97) was an American astronomer. He discovered Pluto in 1930, the first object to be discovered in what would later be identified as the Kuiper belt. At the time of discovery, Pluto was considered a planet, but was reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006." (Wikipedia HERE.)
  "Tombaugh's task was to systematically image the night sky in pairs of photographs, then examine each pair and determine whether any objects had shifted position. Using a blink comparator, he rapidly shifted back and forth between views of each of the plates to create the illusion of movement of any objects that had changed position or appearance between photographs. On February 18, 1930, after nearly a year of searching, Tombaugh discovered a possible moving object on photographic plates taken on January 23 and 29. A lesser-quality photograph taken on January 21 helped confirm the movement." (Wikipedia HERE.)
It's a planet. Get over it.
- "Thoreau was right in stressing the problems of ownership":
  "And when the farmer has got his house, he may not be the richer but the poorer for it, and it be the house that has got him. As I understand it, that was a valid objection urged by Momus against the house which Minerva made, that she 'had not made it movable, by which means a bad neighborhood might be avoided;' and it may still be urged, for our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed in them; and the bad neighborhood to be avoided is our own scurvy selves. I know one or two families, at least, in this town, who, for nearly a generation, have been wishing to sell their houses in the outskirts and move into the village, but have not been able to accomplish it, and only death will set them free." (Walden, 1854: "Economy" HERE.)
- We last communed with Arthur Porges in re his story featuring the first appearance of his series sleuth Cyriack Skinner Grey, "The Scientist and the Bagful of Water" (HERE). Follow the links from there to other Porges writings.

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

Friday, November 17, 2023

"The Set-up Was Perfect!"

Continuing with our detour into perfect crimes, we return to one of our favorite uberpulpsters as he explores how things can go wrong with a killer affecting . . .

"That Well-Groomed Look."
By Ray Cummings (1887-1957; FictionMags HERE).
First appearance: 'G-Men Detective,' May 1947.
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 78).
(Note: Text faded but readable.)
(Parental caution: Violence.)

   "It looked as though nobody could ever discover the slip-up in George Dufois' perfectly-planned act of murder, and yet—"

"It is a sad thing to think of," said Dorian Gray, "but there is no doubt that Genius lasts longer than Beauty." George, however, is here among us to show how that isn't necessarily true . . .

Typos: "Suprisingly"; "the captial"; "It's safety".

Main characters:
~ George Dufois:
  "A conceited ass, without the nerve to do anything but admire himself in the mirror! And you think I'll risk ten thousand on you?"
~ Alton Kane:
  "Stingy old buzzard! Okay, he was asking for it!"
~ Sergeant McFee:
  "Them's nice shoes you got on, Dufois!"
~ Peter Jackson:
  "It was Kane's only close neighbor who had arrived."

References and resources:
- "pearl-gray spats":
  "Spats were worn by men and, less commonly, by women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They fell out of frequent use during the 1920s. Made of white cloth, grey or brown felt material, spats buttoned around the ankle. Their intended practical purpose was to protect shoes and socks from mud or rain, but also served as a feature of stylish dress in accordance with the fashions of the period." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "at the haberdasher shop":
  "The word haberdasher appears in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. It is derived from the Anglo-French word hapertas. It is debatable what hapertas meant, but most likely it was some type of fabric or assorted small ware. A haberdasher would retail small wares, the goods of the pedlar, while a mercer would specialize in 'linens, silks, fustian, worsted piece-goods and bedding'." (Wikipedia HERE.)
That's future U.S. president Harry Truman in his haberdashery in the 1920s.
- If you're interested in real-life perfect crimes then find a few (HERE).
- Our last visit with Ray Cummings also had a perfect crime theme; go (HERE) for that.

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

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

"Far from the Perfect Crime"

"Eye Witness."
By Grant Lane (house pseudonym used by William G. Bogart, 1903-77).
First appearance: Underworld Detective, July 1935.
Short short short story (3 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 66).
(Parental caution: Violence and language.)

   "In former years, Slip had done a lot of thinking of the perfect crime. He congratulated himself now on having pulled one. It was such a cinch."

The perfect crime. Yeah, sure . . .

Principal characters:
~ Slip Leighton:
  "Too bad everybody didn't have brains like Slip. But then everyone couldn't be smart."
~ Stan Fraser:
  "Looked as though Stan Fraser was doing pretty well with himself these days. Well—why not? Hadn't he and Lea given Slip the run-around and let him take the rap?"
~ Lea Turner:
  "A slight moan broke from her lips. But that was all."
~ Manx:
  "Slip knew immediately that the cat was a Manx. It was the cat Stan had had ever since Slip knew him."
~ The old lady:
  "She eyed him critically, expecting an apology. But Slip never apologized to anyone."
~ Detective Smythe:
  ". . . huge and with a beety red face, steamed in."

Typo: Is it Stan "Fraser" or Stan "Frazer"?

Reference and resources:
- "a Manx":
  "The Manx cat (in earlier times often spelled Manks) is a breed of domestic cat (Felis catus) originating on the Isle of Man, with a mutation that shortens the tail. Many Manx have a small stub of a tail, but Manx cats are best known as being entirely tailless; this is the most distinguishing characteristic of the breed, along with elongated hind legs and a rounded head." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- Writing as "Kenneth Robeson," our author (William G. Bogart) produced 3 Doc Savage novels on his own and with Lester Dent wrote 11 more (FictionMags HERE), plus dozens of stories in several pulp genres.
- You could also be interested in Edmund Pearson's take on the perfect crime (HERE).
- You might find it alarming how many university students have plotted perfect crimes (fictionally, of course), at least six of them, but the pros do get a representation with David Morrison's "Slight Detail" (HERE).
- Finally, we discussed Bogart's wartime crime story "Murder on Santa Claus Lane" (HERE) a few years ago while the story link was still available.

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

Sunday, November 12, 2023

"My Own Theory, If Reduced to Practice, Would Prove Not To Be Paradoxical At All"

"Pangborn's Paradox."
By David Mason (Samuel Mason, 1924-74) (ISFDb HERE; SFE HERE).
Illustrated by Richard Kluga (HERE).
First appearance: Infinity, June 1958.
Reprints page (HERE).
Short short story (5 pages).
Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE).

   "So you know all the punchlines to the old kill-your-own-grandfather gag, eh? Wanna bet?"

. . . and it's on a bet that Pangborn will seek to demonstrate just how paradoxical his paradox really is—or isn't . . .

Main characters:
~ Randall:
  "'Can't kill grandpa,' Doctor Randall said, from far down in his comfortable chair. 'No such thing as time travel'."
~ Pangborn:
  "'You underestimate the Physics department,' Pangborn told us coldly. 'In spite of heavy losses to our staff—last year's treason trials cost us three of our most brilliant young men—we've made some very remarkable strides. We have what is crudely termed a time machine—although the correct term is temporal transducer. In fact we are currently conducting some very interesting researches with it'."
~ Von Juntz:
  "'But,' Von Juntz reminded him, 'by your own statement you said it, that there is no paradox, and no risk. Grandpa would be dead, you would be alive, and there is no paradox, yes?'"
~ Grandpa Pangborn:
  ". . . at the bar was only one solitary customer, a tall lean man in a frock coat and plug hat with a cigar from which smoke curled richly, and a schooner of beer before him. He looked up at the bar mirror, and we saw a lean, evilly humorous face with the Pangborn features clearly marked on it. 'Grandpa,' Von Juntz whispered."

Reference and resources:
- "Von Juntz liked to look like a nineteenth century Heidelberger":
  For centuries the university in Heidelberg has enjoyed a universal respect due to its intellectual firepower:
  "In 1810 the French revolution refugee Count Charles Graimberg began to preserve the palace ruins and establish a historical collection. In 1815, the Emperor of Austria, the Emperor of Russia and the King of Prussia formed the 'Holy Alliance' in Heidelberg. In 1848, the German National Assembly was held there. In 1849, during the Palatinate-Baden rebellion of the 1848 Revolutions, Heidelberg was the headquarters of a revolutionary army. It was defeated by a Prussian army near Waghaeusel. The city was occupied by Prussian troops until 1850. Between 1920 and 1933, Heidelberg University became a center of notable physicians Czerny, Erb, and Krehl; and humanists Rohde, Weber, and Gandolf." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- If you found today's story interesting, then you might find Sgt. Mort Weisinger's "Thompson's Time-Traveling Theory" (HERE) worth a look.
- However, you'll probably never regard time travel quite the same after you've followed Ben Hardy on his adventures (HERE).
Bottom line:
  "Edith Keeler must die."
   — Spock

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

Friday, November 10, 2023

"It Concerned a Murder Committed Behind a Locked Door!"

"Locked Door."
By Henry A. Milton (?-?).
First appearance: Bluebook for Men, October 1960.
Illustrated with a photograph.
Short short story (5 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE).

   "The door was securely bolted from the inside, and only the dead woman could have locked it. Yet it turned out to be . . . MURDER!"

Can it be that a middle-aged mediocrity unhappy in his marriage has developed such an overwhelming sweet tooth for a curvaceous cupcake that he's willing to kill his wife and 
make it look like a suicide? Two cops launch a "quiet investigation" to find out . . .

Principal characters:
~ Edwin F. Mueller:
  ". . . announced to the desk sergeant on duty that he'd been locked out."
~ Sergeant Garrity:
  ". . . wheezed again, and indicated a patrolman who lounged against the back wall and who also contemplated an early relief."
~ Patrolman Boyle:
  "Looks as if the door's bolted from the inside."
~ Jensen:
  "'Mr. Jensen says he hasn't seen my wife all day,' Mueller said worriedly, jerking his thumb toward the janitor."
~ Henrietta Mueller:
  ". . . or a plump facsimile, hung suspended from the overhead, a pair of neckties around her bulging neck, her tongue jutting out, her face a ghastly blue, and her eyeballs protruding like marbles in a mosaic."
~ Birgit Axelsen:
  ". . . a plump Norwegian widow who lived down the hall from the Muellers, had liked the drab bookkeeper's mousey wife, and had felt sorry for the woman in her marriage to such an obviously stingy and unloving man."
~ Millie Benton:
  "Mrs. Benton's husband, George, was a detective on the San Francisco police force."
~ George Benton:
  ". . . began a quiet investigation."
~ Emily Curran:
  ". . . had devoted most of her time during the past six months to a gentleman named Edwin F. Mueller."
~ Inspector O'Brien:
  "You can't argue with that locked door."

References and resources:
- "all the wisdom of the Sanhedrin":
  "In the Hebrew Bible, Moses and the Israelites were commanded by God to establish courts of judges. They were also commanded to establish a 'supreme court' located at the central sanctuary (after arriving in the Land of Israel), to handle cases too difficult for local courts." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "a creaky Morris chair":
  "A Morris chair is an early type of reclining chair. The design was adapted by William Morris's firm, Morris & Company, from a prototype owned by Ephraim Colman in rural Sussex, England. It was first marketed around 1866." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "a mohair sofa that must have been the pilot model for the species":
  "Mohair is used in scarves, winter hats, suits, sweaters, coats, socks and home furnishing. Mohair fiber is also found in carpets, wall fabrics, craft yarns, and many other fabrics, and may be used as a substitute for fur." (Wikipedia (HERE.)
- "like marbles in a mosaic":
  "A mosaic is a pattern or image made of small regular or irregular pieces of colored stone, glass or ceramic, held in place by plaster/mortar, and covering a surface." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "the sweat-stained bowler had given way to a new fedora":
  In America the bowler hat has a checkered past:
  "The bowler, not the cowboy hat or sombrero, was the most popular hat in the American West, prompting Lucius Beebe to call it 'the hat that won the West'. Both cowboys and railroad workers preferred the hat because it would not blow off easily in strong wind while riding a horse, or when sticking one's head out the window of a speeding train. It was worn by both lawmen and outlaws, including Bat Masterson, Butch Cassidy, Black Bart, and Billy the Kid. In the United States the hat came to be known commonly as the derby, and American outlaw Marion Hedgepeth was commonly referred to as 'the Derby Kid'." (Wikipedia HERE.)
The Wright Brothers wearing bowlers in 1910.
  And what would a private eye be without a fedora?
  "The fedora was worn by film actors such as Edward G. Robinson, George Raft and Humphrey Bogart. The fedora was a characteristic of film noir and has been the chosen accessory of movie detectives and criminals alike. It was worn by Bogart as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep (1946). Peter Eliopoulos wrote in The 1930s: The Reality and the Promise: 'The popular Bogart-styled fedora was worn slightly cocked, it was pulled down just above the eye line, so that the wearer peaked beneath the brim and through the cigarette smoke that gathered momentarily before curling itself around the top of the hat'." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "an International Settlement bierstube":
  "American beer halls became popular in the mid-19th century, following a wave of immigration from Germany to the United States. They became an alternative to the 
American-style tavern." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "Nick Carter thrillers":
  Not much in the way of Holmesian detection:
  "Nick Carter is a fictional character who began as a dime novel private detective in 1886 and has appeared in a variety of formats over more than a century. The character was first conceived by Ormond G. Smith and created by John R. Coryell. Carter headlined his own magazine for years and was then part of a long-running series of novels from 1964 to 1990." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "Ben Hur":
  "Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ is a novel by Lew Wallace, published by Harper and Brothers on November 12, 1880, and considered 'the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century'. It became a best-selling American novel, surpassing Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) in sales. The book also inspired other novels with biblical settings and was adapted for the stage and motion picture productions." (Wikipedia HERE.)
  The movie version of Ben-Hur had been released just about a year before our story:
  "Ben-Hur is a 1959 American epic religious film directed by William Wyler, produced by Sam Zimbalist, and starring Charlton Heston as the title character. A remake of the 1925 silent film with a similar title, it was adapted from Lew Wallace's 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "The Klansmen":
   No idea.
- "a ferry poking its way into its slip after a run from Oakland":
  "San Francisco Bay in California has been served by ferries of all types for over 150 years. John Reed established a sailboat ferry service in 1826. Although the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge led to the decline in the importance of most ferries, some are still in use today for both commuters and tourists." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "a draymen's picnic":
  "The word 'drayman' is used in U.S. ports as the over the road highway truck drivers who deliver containers to and from the port." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "several miles away at San Quentin":
  "The methods for execution at San Quentin have changed over time. Prior to 1893, the counties executed convicts. Between 1893 and 1937, 215 people were executed at San Quentin by hanging, after which 196 prisoners died in the gas chamber. In 1995, the use of gas for execution was ruled 'cruel and unusual punishment', which led to executions inside the gas chamber by lethal injection. Between 1996 and 2006, eleven people were executed at San Quentin by lethal injection." (Wikipedia HERE; also HERE.)
- Our author has only two credits on FictionMags:
   (1) "For the Man Who Has Everything" (article), Bluebook, December 1953
   (2) "Locked Door" (short story), Bluebook for Men, October 1960 (above).

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

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

The Thinking Machine Makes a Comeback

WE found this in the July 1912 Ainslee's Magazine (HERE):
Some context:
Many of you already know that the author of The Thinking Machine series, Jacques Futrelle (1873-1912), went down on a passenger liner in April 1912 at the age of 37, possibly taking with him even more stories featuring his series character, Professor S.F.X. Van Dusen:

  "Returning from Europe aboard the R.M.S. Titanic, Futrelle, a first-class passenger, refused to board a lifeboat, insisting Lily [his wife] do so instead, to the point of forcing her in. She remembered the last she saw of him: he was smoking a cigarette on deck with John Jacob Astor IV. He perished in the Atlantic and his body was never found." (Wikipedia HERE and HERE.)
Futrelle on the Titanic's boat deck the day after she set sail from Southhampton.
The ad above doesn't seem to be referring to the Thinking Machine story ("The Mystery of Prince Otto") published in Cassell's Magazine of Fiction in July 1912. Not long after, three others ("The Tragedy of the Life Raft," "The Case of the Scientific Murderer," and "The Jackdaw") did appear in The Popular Magazine in August and September 1912.

The Thinking Machine did have a literary afterlife of sorts:

  "Futrelle is used as the protagonist in Max Allan Collins' disaster series novel The Titanic Murders (1999), about two murders aboard the Titanic." (Wikipedia, op.cit.)

- We first dealt with Futrelle's brainy sleuth at length (HERE), then (HERE), and finally (HERE).
- J. J. Connington confronted us with a different kind of thinking machine (HERE).
- Roy Glashan's Library has an impressive collection of Jacques Futrelle's works (HERE).

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

Sunday, November 5, 2023

"It'll Take All Three of You To Convince a Jury That a Robot Is Guilty of Murder"

"Sentimental Monster."
By Lee Francis (Leroy Yerxa, 1915-46; ISFDb HERE).

Artist unknown.
First appearance: Amazing Stories, December 1946.

Short story (12 pages).
Online at Roy Glashan's Library (HERE).
Most of them would never admit it, but too many people get their exercise jumping to conclusions. Case in point: today's story. Someone dies violently, and everybody immediately thinks it's murder. Not only that, who the prime suspect is seems beyond a shadow of a doubt. It just goes to show you: conclusion-jumping isn't a healthy form of exercise after all . . .

Main characters:
~ Ben James:

  ". . . was sprawled forward, head on the desk, arms spread out on the desk top as though they were separate parts of a body that did not belong to the man. At the far end of the room, Knowit, the librarian-robot, stared down like a huge, somehow barbaric God, crouching in the semi-darkness."

~ Tod Williams:
  ". . . knew every inch of that metallic monstrosity. It has always given him the creeps to watch those long tentacles snap out to the farthest corners of the room, grasp a book with suction-cup fingers and deposit it on Ben James' desk. If those tentacles turned to murder? If they shot to a man's throat, instead of toward a book?"

~ Lela James:
  "He looked down at Lela, who had all the appearance of an expensive French doll, encased in fine silk. She was as lifeless as a doll at this moment."
~ Harry Fromm:
  ". . . knew no one but Ben James gave a damn if he was dead or alive. Ben hadn't needed a librarian. Knowit took care of all that work. Harry Fromm had stayed because of his long years of service before Knowit was completed."

~ Sheriff Joe Spence:
  ". . . reached out and touched the steel index finger. There were six fingers. There should have been six suction cups, one for each finger. One was missing. The seven-inch length of steel was pointed and rounded. It was covered with blood. 'The murderer, I guess,' Spence said in a tired voice."
~ Knowit:
  ". . . knew all about humans. Inside Knowit's brain, a great amount of knowledge was stored. Alone, he stared down with puzzled, blinking eyes at the deserted library."

References and resources:
- Stories like this one could result in "robophobia"; see (HERE) for one such example.
- Can someone commit "robicide"? The idea gets treated not entirely seriously (HERE).
- Because he was characteristically optimistic about technological advancements, Isaac Asimov saw the development of robots as a largely benign development and that his "laws," if wisely implemented, would basically curtail most of the unpredictable and potentially dangerous behaviors that self-guided agents might get up to. Nevertheless, Asimov, as many of you already know, spent years through his fiction demonstrating how things can go wrong with metal "men"—sometimes fatally wrong. Meanwhile the military-industrial-university complexes of several nations seem bent on producing such machines as soon as they can, "laws" or no "laws." It just so happens that our latest encounter with robots was Asimov's "Mirror Image" (HERE).
- You might also be interested in Leroy Yerxa's story about a beat cop and his canine involvement, "O'Sheen Goes to the Dogs" (HERE).

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