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.

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