Friday, April 12, 2024

"The Cops Up There're Scared Witless"

"Problem in Murder."
By H. L. Gold (1914-96).
Illustrated by [Charles] Schneeman (1912-72; ISFDb HERE).
First appearance: Astounding, March 1939.
Reprints page (ISFDb HERE).
Novelette (20 pages).
Online at (HERE).

   "But all was silent, deserted; frightened faces peered through drawn curtains."

CATCHING a killer on the loose is hard enough without the impediments of politics and bureaucracy tripping you up at just about every turn, but a clever reporter goes the police and the national guard, themselves barely adequate to deal with this situation, one better when he devises a plan to save not only the reputation of a high public official, his boss's expense account, and his own job but also (get this) to save the wanted man from the 
electric chair, a fate that he really doesn't deserve . . .

Principal characters:
~ The night editor of the Morning Post:
  "It's a foot!"
~ The city editor:
  "A woman's foot! Cut off at the ankle. Ugh!"
~ Gilroy:
  "It's not as simple as that. Take a look . . . for some reason or other, this foot never walked."
~ Police Commissioner Green:
  "Martial law—that's the only answer to a maniac! I should have had it declared long ago. Now we'll see how soon the murders'll stop!"
~ Professor Leeds:
  "They must think I'm just a common Jack the Ripper."
~ Abner:
  "I know them durned coppers. Don't care who they send to the chair . . ."

References and resources:
- "the bulldog edition's just hitting the stands":
  "The term bulldog edition has been in print since the early 20th century and is used by newspaper editors to denote an early edition of a morning paper printed (and even sold)
 the day before its publication date." ("14 Words Inspired by Dogs" HERE.)
- "along the Concourse"; "Jerome Avenue":
  "The Grand Concourse (also known as the Grand Boulevard and Concourse) is a 5.2-mile-long (8.4 km) thoroughfare in the borough of the Bronx in New York City. . . .The Grand Concourse was designed by Louis Aloys Risse, an immigrant from Saint-Avold, Lorraine, France. Risse first conceived of the road in 1890, and the Concourse was built between 1894 and 1909, with an additional extension in 1927. The development of the Concourse led to the construction of apartment buildings (a plurality of six-story high-class semi-fireproof elevator apartment houses was perceptibly interspersed with buildings that ranged from a more affordable tier of five-story New Law walk-up apartment houses to a handful of taller fireproof apartment houses comparable to those on Manhattan's luxury thoroughfares) surrounding the boulevard. By 1939, it was called 'the Park Avenue of middle-class Bronx residents'." (Wikipedia HERE.) "Jerome Avenue is one of the longest thoroughfares in the New York City borough of the Bronx, New York, United States. The road is 5.6 miles (9.0 km) long and stretches from Concourse to Woodlawn." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "under the elevated"; "toward the Third Avenue el":
  "An elevated railway or elevated train (also known as an el train or el for short) is a railway with the tracks above street level on a viaduct or other elevated structure (usually constructed from steel, cast iron, concrete, or bricks)." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "the torso story"; "only a limb or part of a limb":
  "The Torso Murderer [Cleveland in the 1930s] always beheaded and often dismembered their victims, occasionally severing the victim's torso in half or severing their appendages. In many cases the cause of death was the decapitation or dismemberment itself." (Wikipedia HERE.) "The Thames Torso Murders, often called the Thames Mysteries or the Embankment Murders, were a sequence of unsolved murders of women occurring in London, England from 1887 to 1889. The series included four incidents which were filed as belonging to the same series. None of the cases were solved, and only one of the four victims was identified." (Wikipedia HERE.) "The Torso Murderer was never caught. His are among the goriest, most remarkable serial murder cases in history, but he’s not exactly a household name. I only learned of the case when I was researching Victorian-era crime for my Sarah Bain mystery series. Why isn’t it the notorious subject of a zillion novels, non-fiction books, TV shows, and movies?" (CrimeReads HERE.)
- "Not a trace of lactic acid!":
  "Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele was the first person to isolate lactic acid in 1780 from sour milk. The name reflects the lact- combining form derived from the Latin word lac, meaning 'milk.' In 1808, Jöns Jacob Berzelius discovered that lactic acid (actually l-lactate) also is produced in muscles during exertion." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "The man at the pneumatic tube":
- "block spies, like they have in Europe":
  Remember, this is 1939: "Contrary to popular belief, the Gestapo was not the all-pervasive, omnipotent agency in German society. . . . The majority of Gestapo informers were not full-term employees working undercover but were rather ordinary citizens who chose to denounce other people to the Gestapo. According to Canadian historian Robert Gellately's analysis of the local offices established, the Gestapo was—for the most part—made up of bureaucrats and clerical workers who depended upon denunciations by citizens for their information. Gellately argued that it was because of the widespread willingness of Germans to inform on each other to the Gestapo that Germany between 1933 and 1945 was a prime example of panopticism. The Gestapo—at times—was overwhelmed with denunciations and most of its time was spent sorting out the credible from the less credible denunciations." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- Ten years later Ellery Queen (the detective) came up against a serial killer in steamy Manhattan; see Wikipedia (HERE; no real spoilers).
- One year later (and for a different publication), H. L. Gold spun a rather different yarn about a different kind of crime, to which we gave some attention (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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