Monday, December 4, 2023

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.

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