Monday, April 29, 2024

"I'm Afraid That I Don't Believe You"

"Paradox Lost."
By George H. Smith (1922-96; Wikipedia HEREISFDb HERE).
First appearance: The Original Science Fiction Stories, February 1959.
Reprints page (HERE).
Short short short story (4 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE).

   ". . . you're from the past and you're alive—and that makes you a paradox."

IN his song of lament, Kermit the Frog tells us it's not easy bein' green. In our story, a brilliant scientist (who, as far as we know, isn't green) will find out that it's not easy bein' what he never imagined he has become—a threat . . .

Typo: "juts" (for "just").

Principal characters:
~ Steven Polson:
  "I might say I had expected something more advanced but I suppose bureaucrats are always the same."
~ Donald Jackson:
  "Well, you see, sir . . . I'm the head of the B.F.P.P. and the policy of the B.F.P.P. is to . . ."

References and resources:
- "Our scientists reasoned that if time travel were possible, we would have heard from the future":
  A famous scientist once threw a party to test that very idea (Wikipedia HERE); more about this scientist's ideas about time travel is (HERE) and (HERE).
- Speaking of time paradoxes (which we were), ONTOS's latest foray into time travel is Edward D. Hoch's "The Last Paradox" (HERE); nor should we forget David Mason's "Pangborn's Paradox" (HERE).
- About six years ago we examined George H. Smith's proleptic look at one possible cybernetic future, "Witness" (HERE). 

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

Friday, April 26, 2024

Inspector Stanley Catches 'em All

IF you are a fan of Minute Mysteries then you might appreciate the exploits of a very obscure detective, Inspector Stanley of Scotland Yard. The texts he appeared in are a bit fuzzy but not impossible to read. Comic Book Plus has nearly forty of them, and, no, they're not comics. Use the links provided in the ONTOS posting (HERE).

"He Knew There Were No Gopher Holes on Mars"

By Ron Smith (1936-87; ISFDb HERE; FictionMags HERE).
First appearance: The Original Science Fiction Stories, 
November 1957.
Reprinted in The Original Science Fiction Stories (U.K.) #2, 1958.
Short short short story (2 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE).
(Note: Some text smudged but legible.)

   "What will it do to me? he wondered, sickening at the thought."

A LOT of people think that an American president was the first to say something about how "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself," but that particular formulation was already centuries old when he did that. Regardless of whether it was FDR or Montaigne or someone else is totally irrelevant to the spaceman in today's story. That's because he's about to find out on a very personal level what those words truly mean . . .

Main characters:
~ Shil Wallach:
  "He didn't care; he ignored it, his mind rushing as fast as his feet."
~ The Frejul:
  "Behind him the Frejul was moving closer; not more than a hundred yards separated 
them now."
Reference and resource:
- The Mars depicted in our story is typical of '50s science fiction, but sixty years of space probes have shown that the notion of running around on Mars without life support as our characters apparently do is simply out of the question. See (HERE) for all of the grim facts:
  "According to ESA, Mars' atmosphere is composed of 95.32% carbon dioxide, 2.7% nitrogen, 1.6% argon and 0.13% oxygen. The atmospheric pressure at the surface is 6.35 mbar which is over 100 times less
Earth's. Humans therefore cannot breathe Martian air."
- Ron Smith teamed with John Baxter on a very limited series in Analog featuring a character named Stephen Quist. Those stories were featured on ONTOS a few years ago (HERE).

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Hoch Goes Off-trail

"The Seventh Assassin" and "The Seventieth Number."
By Edward D. Hoch (1930-2008; A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection HERE).
First appearance: EQMM, March 1970.
  - "The Seventh Assassin": Argosy (U.K.), August 1973
  - "The Seventieth Number": 100 Dastardly Little Detective Stories (1993) (as by Stephen Dentinger).
Short short short stories ("The Seventh Assassin," 5 pages; "The Seventieth Number," 9 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; "The Seventh Assassin": go to text pages 86-90; "The Seventieth Number": go to text pages 91-99).

   "Mr. Hoch also writes off-the-trail stories—clever, provocative, baffling tales . . . here are two more off-the-trailers . . ."

ELLERY QUEEN (the editor) tells us that Edward D. Hoch didn't always stick to his series characters (at that time being Rand, Velvet, and Leopold). The following departures from 
the norm are fine examples of what he means:
  "The Seventh Assassin" demonstrates how, without meaning to, we can become our own worst enemy.
  . . . and in "The Seventieth Number" a patent dispute culminates in what looks to be a perfect murder case but unravels because of something that can be found on an office 
desk just about anywhere on the planet.

Principal characters:
(1) "The Seventh Assassin":
~ Prince Alla-Khad:
  "'War!' he shouted, thumping the table with a shiny scimitar. 'War!'"
~ Prince Jamarra:
  "I need no war to defeat you. I will send against you seven assassins, and one year from this day all that my eyes can behold—all will be mine."

Typo: "assasin".

(2) "The Seventieth Number":
~ Gordon Khan:
  "When his hand reappeared it held a .22 caliber automatic."
~ Dennis Marret:
  ". . . slumped in death across the table, a thin trickle of blood widening into a stain on the white cloth."
~ Sergeant Frost:
  "The inventors were left out in the cold, with maybe a few grand if they were lucky."
~ Lieutenant Burns of Homicide East:
  "The feeling had grown in him that the number was the key to the entire case—if they could only decipher it."
~ Burbank:
  "Can I borrow your stapler, Lieutenant?"

References and resources:
- "the Patent Office in Washington":
  "The patent rights for a new invention belong to the inventor by default unless the inventor concedes the rights to another individual. However, this rule changes when an invention is created within the employment context. Depending on the employee’s employment agreement, the employer may be granted the rights to the patent of an invention, and there would be an assignment agreement. When a company employs an individual to create something or solve a problem, the resulting inventions are considered to be made 'within the course of employment.' They are, therefore, properties of the employer. However, while the default rule leans towards employer ownership, there are notable exceptions that can alter this scenario." (Goldstein Patent Law HERE.) Also: Wikipedia (HERE).
- "the old exchange letters":
  "Telephone exchange names were used in many countries, but were phased out in favor of numeric systems in the 1960s." (Wikipedia HERE.) Also: Wikipedia (HERE).
- Our last encounter with Ed Hoch was his SFF-nal story, "Co-incidence" (HERE).

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

Monday, April 22, 2024

"They Did Not Merely Fall Over the Parapet—They Were Thrown!"

"Religious Controversy Grips University Campus." While that headline would very likely appear all over today's media, the university campus in our story reposes in 16th century Pisa. Two murders have occurred, and it looks like the only one who can solve them is . . .

"Galileo, Detective."
By Theodore Mathieson (1913-95; The Hitchcock Zone HERE; the ISFDb HERE; Buckingham Books HERE; Goodreads HERE; and FictionMags HERE).
First appearance: EQMM, October 1961.
  - Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (Australia), December 1961
  - Once Upon a Crime II (1996).
Long short story (16 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 68).

   "I knew you murdered my two students when I left your house earlier this evening."

"Cherchez la femme" ("Look for the woman"): While Alexandre Dumas is credited with coming up with the phrase, its universal applicability is beyond dispute. In today's case 
of a double murder, even though she isn't even aware of what's been done in her name 
(and therefore not guilty of any crime), the "femme" at the bottom of this situation is nevertheless an essential component . . .

Main characters:
~ Galileo Galilei:
  "I need your counsel, Signor Tarrega."
~ Jofre Tarrega:
  "You apparently have a way of making dangerous enemies, Leo."
~ Giovanni de Medici:
  "You can thank me for your predicament. I wrote those notes!"
~ Livia Tarrega:
  "The signorina is not at home, maestro. She is visiting her aunt in Lucca, but we expect her to return to-morrow."
~ Paolo Salviati:
  "It was one of the other professors. But do not ask me his name—"
~ Vincenzio Barbierini:
  ". . . the larger one . . ."
~ Pettirosso:
  ". . . little Pettirosso. . ."
~ The rector of the university:
  ". . . take care you do not see your hopes buried in the holy ground of the cemetery . . ."
~ Guiseppe [sic] Aproino:
  "It was the Devil who pushed them—the Devil!"
Typos: "lanthron"; "smugged it out".

References and resources:
- "the young professor Galileo Galilei":
  He would be 26 years of age in our story:
  "Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de' Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642), commonly referred to as Galileo Galilei or simply Galileo, was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath. He was born in the city of Pisa, then part of the Duchy of Florence. Galileo has been called the father of observational astronomy, modern-era classical physics, the scientific method, and modern science." (Wikipedia HERE.)
  "Between 1589 and 1592, the Italian scientist Galileo Galilei (then professor of mathematics at the University of Pisa) is said to have dropped 'unequal weights of the same material' from the Leaning Tower of Pisa to demonstrate that their time of descent was independent of their mass, according to a biography by Galileo's pupil Vincenzo Viviani, composed in 1654 and published in 1717. The basic premise had already been demonstrated by Italian experimenters a few decades earlier. According to the story, Galileo discovered through this experiment that the objects fell with the same acceleration, proving his prediction true, while at the same time disproving Aristotle's theory of gravity (which states that objects fall at speed proportional to their mass)." (Wikipedia HERE.)
He was a lot older when this portrait was made.
- Galileo's name has shown up in SFF products: WARNING! SPOILERS! Wikipedia (HERE); Wikipedia (HERE); and WARNING! SPOILERS! Wikipedia (HERE). NASA's Galileo space probe did a nosedive into Jupiter's cloud tops around twenty years ago. (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "the city of Pisa":
  "The most believed hypothesis is that the origin of the name Pisa comes from Etruscan and means 'mouth', as Pisa is at the mouth of the Arno River." 
(Wikipedia HERE.)
- "they resent my questioning their sacred Aristotle":
  It seems a major religious institution hitched its theoretical wagon to the musings of an ancient Greek philosopher; see Wikipedia (HERE) for how it reacted to Galileo's discoveries.
- "the Medici family":
  "Although none of the Medici themselves were scientists, the family is well known to have been the patrons of the famous Galileo Galilei, who tutored multiple generations of Medici children and was an important figurehead for his patron's quest for power. Galileo's patronage was eventually abandoned by Ferdinando II, when the Inquisition accused Galileo of heresy. However, the Medici family did afford the scientist a safe haven for many years. Galileo named the four largest moons of Jupiter after four Medici children he tutored, although the names Galileo used are not the names currently used." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "passed the Leaning Tower":
  "The height of the tower is 55.86 metres (183 feet 3 inches) from the ground on the low side and 56.67 m (185 ft 11 in) on the high side. The width of the walls at the base is 2.44 m (8 ft 0 in). Its weight is estimated at 14,500 tonnes (16,000 short tons). The tower has 296 or 294 steps; the seventh floor has two fewer steps on the north-facing staircase. The tower began to lean during construction in the 12th century, due to soft ground which could not properly support the structure's weight. It worsened through the completion of construction in the 14th century." (Wikipedia HERE.)
The scene of the crime
- "in the presence of her duenna":
  "By an extended usage the word duenna has come to mean a young woman's female companion from any culture, particularly one who is exceedingly strict." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "watching the Guioco [sic] del Ponte":
  "In Pisa there was a festival and game Gioco del Ponte (Game of the Bridge) which was celebrated (in some form) in Pisa from perhaps the 1200s down to 1807. From the end of the 1400s the game took the form of a mock battle fought upon Pisa's central bridge (Ponte di Mezzo)." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "whom Galileo hoped were Jesuits":
  "The Jesuits in particular have made numerous significant contributions to the development of science. For example, the Jesuits have dedicated significant study to earthquakes, and seismology has been described as 'the Jesuit science.' The Jesuits have been described as 'the single most important contributor to experimental physics in the seventeenth century'." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "To the Campo Santo":
  "The Campo Santo, also known as Camposanto Monumentale ('monumental cemetery') or Camposanto Vecchio ('old cemetery'), is a historical edifice at the northern edge of the Cathedral Square in Pisa, Italy." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "from the Holy Land":
  "The Holy Land is an area roughly located between the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern bank of the Jordan River, traditionally synonymous both with the biblical Land of Israel and with the region of Palestine. Today, the term 'Holy Land' usually refers to a territory roughly corresponding to the modern states of Israel and Palestine. Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Bahá'ís regard it as holy." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- Theodore Mathieson was early out of the gate in the trend of having famous historical figures solve crimes, a still-popular subgenre of detective fiction called the historical mystery (Wikipedia HERE). The first ten of these stories appeared in his book collection The Great "Detectives" (1960); the others don't seem to have been collected. As you can see below, the adventures featuring Daniel Defoe, Alexander the Great, and Thomas Wolfe are available online (for now, at least):
  (1) "Captain Cook: Detective," (ss = short story) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, October 1958
  (2) "Leonardo Da Vinci, Detective," (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, January 1959
  (3) "Daniel Defoe: Detective," (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, March 1959 (online HERE)
  (4) "Hernando Cortez, Detective," (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, July 1959
  (5) "Alexander the Great, Detective," (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, September 1959 (online HERE)
  (6) "Don Miguel de Cervantes, Detective," (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, November 1959
  (7) "Omar Khayyam, Detective," (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, February 1960
  (8) "Stanley and Livingstone, Detectives," (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, April 1960
  (9) "Florence Nightingale, Detective," (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, July 1960
  (10) "Dan’l Boone, Detective," (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, September 1960
  (11) "Alexandre Dumas, Detective," (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, May 1961 (not in collection)
  (12) "Galileo, Detective," (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, October 1961 (above; not in collection)
  (13) "The F. Scott Fitzgerald Murder Case," (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, November 1972 (not in collection)
  (14) "John Barrymore and the Poisoned Chocolates," (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, January 1973 (not in collection)
  (15) "Thomas Wolfe and the Tombstone Mystery," (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, March 1973 (not in collection) (online HERE)
  (16) "W. Somerset Maugham and the Riviera Robbers," (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, June 1973 (not in collection).
- Melville Davisson Post's Uncle Abner (1911-28) and Lillian de la Torre's Johnson-Boswell pairing (1943-1990) could be regarded as the grandfathers of historical detective fiction; see Wikipedia (HERE) for more about Post and Wikisource (HERE) for the first Uncle Abner stories; go (HERE) about de la Torre and (HERE) for one of her Dr. Sam: Johnson books (still under copyright; borrow only). If you're not familiar with Dr. Sam, his fifth adventure is online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 36.)

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

Thursday, April 18, 2024

"He Could No Longer Stop the Mystic Juggernaut"

"The Candidate."
By Henry Slesar (1927-2002; Wikipedia HERE; IMDb HERE; The Hitchcock Zone HERE; ISFDb HERE).
First appearance: Rogue, August 1961.
Reprints page (HERE).
Among the reprints:
 - The Fiend in You (1962)
 - 13 Ways to Kill a Man (1965)
 - Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories That Scared Even Me (1967)
 - Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Scream Along with Me (1970)
 - Voodoo! (1980)
 - Spells (1985)
 - 101 Mystery Stories (1986)
 - Tales of the Dead (1986)
 - 100 Hair-Raising Little Horror Stories (1993).
Short short story (7 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE).

   "His wishes were always secret things, hidden where no man could know them. But this method was different, more practical, more terrifying."

IF you're planning to join the Society for United Action—but especially if they've already chosen you as a candidate for membership—then you might want to give it some thought
—in fact, make that LOTS of thought. . . . Come to think of it, you might want to forget the whole thing . . .

Principal characters:
~ Burton Grunzer:
  "Suddenly, he was depressed. His enjoyment of remembered victories seemed tasteless."
~ Jean Grunzer:
  "After eight years of a marriage, in which, childless, she knew her husband almost too well, she wisely offered nothing more than a quiet greeting, a hot meal, and the day's mail."
~ Whitman Hayes:
  "Suddenly, ghostlike, he saw the ruddy face of Whitman Hayes before him." 
~ Eckhardt:
  ". . . had only been with the company a year, but he had evidently chosen sides already."
~ Carl Tucker:
  "I assure you, Mr. Grunzer, we will get them all."

References and resources:
- "Murder, Incorporated"; "Black Hand":
  "Murder, Inc. (Murder, Incorporated) was an organized crime group active from 1929 to 1941 that acted as the enforcement arm of the National Crime Syndicate – a closely connected criminal organization that included the Italian-American Mafia, the Jewish Mob, and other criminal organizations in New York City and elsewhere." (Wikipedia HERE.) "Black Hand was a method of extortion practiced by Italian immigrant gangsters of the Camorra and the Mafia, especially in the United States in Italian-American ghettos or neighborhoods." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "in the war":
  In the 1940s and '50s, when people spoke of "the war" it was always "World War II or the Second World War [which] was a global conflict that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries, including all the great powers, fought as part of two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. Many participating countries invested all available economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities into this total war, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- It has proven to be impossible to overlook the prolific Henry Slesar, as if we would think of doing that: "The Only Thing To Do" (HERE), "The Invisible Man Murder Case" (HERE), "Mission: Murder!" (HERE), and "Policeman's Lot" (HERE).

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

Monday, April 15, 2024

"The Dog Did Nothing To Attract Attention"

"The Adventure of the Cat and the Fiddle - A Sherlockian Sonnet."
By Vincent Starrett (1886-1984; Studies in Starrett HERE).
First appearance: The Baker Street Journal, January 1948.
Reprinted in EQMM, October 1961 (today's text).
Poem (1 page).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 113).

   "And strange events went forward, as we know."

You don't have to be an expert Sherlockian (or "Holmesian") like Vincent Starrett to catch the allusion in the last line, but for those of you who miss it go (HERE).

~ ~ ~

NOT all of Vincent Starrett's mystery fiction centered on his most famous series character Jimmie Lavender, such as this one: the authorities conduct ("whenever the police had nothing more urgent to occupy them") a search for a . . .

"Man in Hiding."
By Vincent Starrett (1886-1984; Wikipedia HERE).
First appearance: EQMM, December 1964.
Reprinted in:
  - Masterpieces of Mystery: The Grand Masters Up to Date
  - Ellery Queen’s Anthology #56, Summer 1987
Short short story (7 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 105).

   "It was the dog that recognized him."

THAT brilliant detective M. Dupin taught us that, to conceal something, hiding it in plain sight might be the best approach.

Main characters:
~ Dr. B. Edward Loxley:
  ". . . sat quietly at his desk in the great Merchandise Exchange reading his morning mail."
~ Lora Loxley:
  ". . . murdered by suffocation, had been buried for nearly three weeks . . ."
~ Gloria:
  "The rest of his wealth, in cash, was waiting in Paris—as was Gloria."
~ Miss Marivole Boggs:
  "The newspaper stories about that doctor are getting shorter every day. I'm beginning to believe he really was murdered."
~ Lawrence (Larry) Bridewell:
  "There was no doubt about it—Larry was looking back."
~ Mrs. Montgomery Hyde:
  "He loves everybody."
~ Jackson:
  "The lawyer laughed heartily at his own witticism."
~ Sergeants Coughlin and Ripkin:
  ". . . from Headquarters."

Typo: "visitiors".

References and resources:
- "The Merchandise Exchange":
  "Chicago Mercantile Exchange was known as the Chicago Butter and Egg Board when it was founded in 1898, and futures available through the exchange were initially limited to agricultural products. In 1919 the Board was restructured and the name changed to Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which reflected a new focus on commodities beyond butter and eggs, including potatoes, onions, and cheese. In 1972, CME introduced the first financial futures market, offering contracts on seven foreign currencies." (Wikipedia HERE.)
The hideout
- "in the river or floating on its way to the Gulf of Mexico":
  "The Chicago River is a system of rivers and canals with a combined length of 156 miles (251 km) that runs through the city of Chicago, including its center (the Chicago Loop). Though not especially long, the river is notable because it is one of the reasons for Chicago's geographic importance: the related Chicago Portage is a link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Basin, and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- Hollywood loves to incorporate dogs into their productions, from Rin Tin Tin and Lassie to crime-busting canines like the one that fingers (paws?) the murderer in the adaptation of an S. S. Van Dine story (WARNING! SPOILERS! Wikipedia HERE).
- We're of the opinion that our author has taken one of the most sensational real-life murder cases of the early 20th century and reversed the geography—and he all but admits it was his inspiration: e.g., "as forgotten as Dr. Crippen"; "as he had looked, with the neat little beard and mustache." Just before that notorious wife killer was captured, an alert ship's captain noted in a wireless message: "Mustache taken off growing beard." (Wikipedia HERE.) It would be quite a while before Britain's Hollywood committed the story to film and inserted a kink into the usual narrative. (WARNING! SPOILERS! Wikipedia HERE.)
- We have made contact with Vincent Starrett, Sherlockian par excellence and fine mystery writer, several times in the past: (HERE), (HERE), (HERE), (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE).

The bottom line:

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