Saturday, November 25, 2023

"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.

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