Friday, December 9, 2016

"She Has Been Stealing from Me Little by Little for the Last Six Months"

"My Detective Instinct."
By Emma M. Wise (?-?).
First appearance: The Black Cat, February 1898.
Short story (10 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE) (PDF).
"It was as though I had severed all relation with the established system of gravitation, and was whirling through space with the bronze figures of Washington and Napoleon on the mantelpiece attending me as satellites."
Pretty much dissatisfied with how things are going in her life and craving some adventure, on a whim Constance Stewart decides to represent herself as a private detective, and is delighted when a woman who runs a boarding house engages her to track down a thief—not the usual sort of thief, mind you, for this robber has stolen something that could never fit in a swag bag. To really complicate matters, Constance soon discovers that she sees this thief every time she looks in the mirror . . .

Comment: A good-natured, humorous story that spoofs what were even by that time detective fiction clichés, with a delightfully apt last line.

- According to FictionMags, "My Detective Instinct" appears to be one of only a few short stories Emma M. Wise had published; another story, this one more serious and not at all clever, which we think this same individual wrote for a church publication, is "Because of the Kidnapping" (1899), online (HERE), if you want to bother with it. The story mentions the sensational Charley Ross kidnapping case:
"Charles Brewster 'Charley' Ross (May 4, 1870 – disappeared July 1, 1874) was the primary victim of the first kidnapping for ransom in United States history to receive widespread attention from the media." — Wikipedia (HERE)

The bottom line: "Most detective story readers are an educated audience and know there are only a certain number of plots. The interest lies in what the writer does with them."
Kerry Greenwood

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

"There May Be Something Even More Sinister Than Murder Behind It"

IN A PREVIOUS posting we featured a conventional private eye story by an author who specialized in impossible crime fiction. In the tale that follows, we have just the opposite: an impossible crime story by a writer not known for them. Our author, the legendary Fredric Brown, manages to do what few writers ever could, deftly juggle two genres, SF and detec-tive fiction (impossible crime subdivision) to make a coherent whole; this blurb from the ISFDb should give you an idea:
 A police investigator on Callisto is confronted with the impossible murder of a man assassinated in five different and contradictory ways, according to eye-witnesses. And this is only the beginning . . .
By Fredric Brown (1906-72).
First appearance: Thrilling Wonder Stories, Fall 1943.
Reprinted numerous times (HERE), including The Saint's Choice of Impossible Crime (1945).
Novelette (26 pages).
Online at (HERE).
"Police Lieutenant Rod Caquer Tackles a Case of Murder on Callisto and Pits Himself Against a Sinister Fiend Who Plots to Degrade Mankind to the Plane of Robot Slaves!"
Chapter I: "Five Way Corpse"
Chapter II: "Terror by Night"
Chapter III: "Blackdex"
Chapter IV: "Rule of Thumb"
Chapter V: "Nine-Man Morris"
Chapter VI: "Too Familiar Face"
Chapter VII: "Wheels Within the Wheel"

Some days you find yourself wishing you'd stayed in bed. A police lieutenant who has never had to deal with a murder case finds himself in the middle of one:
"He was shot with an explosive-type gun and a blaster. Someone split his skull with a sword, chopped off his head with an axe and a disintegrator beam. Then after he was on the utility stretcher, someone stuck his head back on because it wasn't off when I saw him. And plugged up the bullet-hole . . ."
That was the set-up that confronted Rod Caquer, and one can not blame him for beginning to wish it had been a simple case of murder.
Principal characters:
~ Willem Deem, the book-and-reel shop proprieter:
   "He was interesting to listen to, but he was a sarcastic little beast. I think he had a perverted sense of humor."
~ Barr Maxon, Regent of Sector Three:
   "The case must be cracked. A murder, in this day and age, is bad enough. But an unsolved one is unthinkable. It would encourage further crime."
~ Lt. Rod Caquer, Sector Three of Callisto:
   "He had hoped against hope that it would turn out to have been an accidental death after all. But the skull had been cleaved down to the eyebrows—a blow struck by a strong man with a heavy sword."
~ Brager, a policeman:
   "I was walking by on my beat when I heard the shot."
~ Dr. Skidder, the Medico-in-Chief:
   "What's the matter? Never see a blaster death before? Guess you wouldn't have at that, Rod, you're too young. But fifty years ago when I was a student, we got them once in a while."
~ The utility man:
   "Opinion? When a man has his head cut off, what two opinions can there be, Lieutenant?"
~ Jane Gordon, the "Icicle":
   "Rod, stop driveling."
~ Perry Peters, Deem's co-worker:
   "I do know one thing about Willem that might possibly have something to do with his death, although I don't see how, myself."
~ Professor Jan Gordon, Jane's father:
   "You've never heard of the Kaprelian Order or the Vargas Wheel?"
~ Lt. Borgesen:
   "The world's gone nuts."

Typos: "he had cracy notions"; "it take us five minutes"; "Jane asked Caquer" (should be the other way around); "offered one hundreds credits"; "would, bit it doesn't"; "Thue, there were cases"; "brought a big chance."
- We last touched base with Fredric Brown, at that time in his role as a crime fiction writer, nearly a year ago (HERE).
- In his survey of SF detectives, "The Super-Sleuths of Science Fiction" (1966), Sam Moskowitz notes about "Daymare":
"This story represented the entrance into the scientific detective field of the crack professional capable of homogenizing both the detective story and the science fiction story into an acceptable blend." — See (HERE) and (HERE).
- Not surprisingly, TV Tropes (HERE) cheerfully attacks this story's theme, which has become a time-frayed cliché.
- Thanks to space probe fly-bys, Callisto, the second largest moon of Jupiter, does seem to be one of the better candidates for future colonization; see (HERE) for what's known now (73 years later) about this moon, and (HERE) for how some fictioneers have dealt with it.

The bottom line: "His brain has not only been washed, as they say, it's been dry-cleaned."
Dr. Yen Lo

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

"You Won't Be Able to Talk—Not When You're a Corpse!"

JOSEPH COMMINGS is best known as one of the few pulpsters who specialized in impossible crimes, but in the following story there's not even a glimmer of that ingenuity. Instead we have a tough guy yarn that in its short span could serve as a perfect model of hardboiled noir: the compromised lone wolf private eye who draws the line at murder, a prize everybody wants but nobody deserves, brutal cops, and a lethal femme fatale . . .

"Gems Glow with Blood."
By Joseph Commings (1913-92).
First appearance: Crime Fiction Stories, December 1950 (only issue).
Short story (14 pages).
Online at Comic Book Plus (HERE; select page 22).
"Twelve states know about you. Why be shy with me?"
Being a shamus can have its perks:
She was a come-hither blonde. She was carrying a quarter-million dollars' worth of stolen rubies. She was the type who needed very little urging to make herself at home.
However . . .
I leaned in the doorway. She'd have to go through me to get out. There was nothing aimless in the way her automatic was pointing. I started to reach out. She pulled the trigger. . . .
That's not an automatic.
~ Gertie Sale:
   "Her eyes were sea-blue. Like watery graves."
~ Hod Danto:
   "I wasn't what the police would call an absolutely scrupulous private operator."
~ Renny Jordahl:
   "Jordahl, with the big Fifth Avenue jeweler's front to cover up his crooked business."
~ Jan Bardijov:
   "He came on to the United States, smuggling in a quarter of a million in the best pigeon's blood."
~ Cougar and O'Neil:
   "Cougar hit me. I tried to ride the punch and topple over backwards toward the emergency stairway. I rolled over into the dark at the foot of the stairs. Both of them came in after me. Cougar's partner, O'Neil, was wearing copper-toed bulldog shoes. And he was a kicker."

- As this obituary (HERE) for Joseph Commings perceptively indicates, he excelled at the impossible crime problem; there's more at a relatively small entry at Wikipedia (HERE), a more substantial GAD Wiki article (HERE), and the admirably thorough The Locked Room Mystery website (HERE). The latest collection of Commings's fiction, Banner Deadlines (2004) from Crippen & Landru, is reviewed (HERE) on Mystery*File and still barely available for sale (HERE).

The bottom line: "It's a bonny thing. Just see how it glints and sparkles. Of course it is a nucleus and focus of crime. Every good stone is. They are the devil's pet baits. In the larger and older jewels every facet may stand for a bloody deed."
Sherlock Holmes

Monday, December 5, 2016

"He Didn't Bother to Check His Work"

"X-Ray Murder."
By Milton Kaletzky (1911-88).
First appearance: Amazing Stories, September 1940.
Reprinted in Amazing Stories Quarterly, Spring 1941.
Short short story (5 pages).
Online at (HERE).
"The test of an efficient scientist and his success doesn't lie in genius, but in attention to exact detail and careful checking—even in plotting murder"
As this story confirms, no murderer can escape . . . himself.
Main characters:
~ Banks:
   "It was these rays that were the great discovery. For Banks had found that with these rays, he could disrupt and rebuild atoms and molecules at will! Transmutation on a large scale was at last possible, and the secret of creation was within man's grasp!"
~ The director:
   "If he doesn't improve very soon, out he goes. That's final!"
~ Leonard Horton:
   "Tomorrow morning he must put his plan into action."

- All we could find about our author was his bibliographical data (HERE).
- The murder weapon in this story is more technically complex than the one in Asimov's rather similar "The Billiard Ball" (HERE), so it lacks the beautiful simplicity of the Good Doctor's conception.

The bottom line: "They who search after the Philosopher's Stone [are] by their own rules obliged to a strict and religious life."
Isaac Newton

Sunday, December 4, 2016

"He Seemed Gifted with the Instincts of a Born Criminal"

ANIMAL SLEUTHS, especially cats, have been popular for years (TV Tropes). Here, possibly ahead of its time, is a story about a detective of the avian persuasion.

"Jim Crow—Detective."
By Stanley Edwards Johnson (?-?).
First appearance: The Black Cat, October 1898.
Short short story (6 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE) (PDF).
"It's just for form's sake. I can't serve a process of law on a bird."
Our narrator learns just how true that old saying is about it taking a thief to catch a thief, even if in this case one of those thieves isn't human . . .
- Apart from having authored seven short stories in ten years (FictionMags), Stanley Edwards Johnson must remain an enigma.
- Our "detective" in the story is most likely a paid up member in good standing of the species Corvus brachyrhynchos brachyrhynchos (Wikipedia).

The bottom line: "The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it."
The Bible

Friday, December 2, 2016

"Sometimes I Think He's Really Alien to This World at Heart"

"Murder from the Moon."
By Robert Bloch (1917-94).
First appearance: Amazing Stories, November 1942.
Reprinted in Amazing Stories Quarterly, Summer 1943; Science Fiction Adventures, January 1973; and The Fear Planet and Other Unusual Destinations (2005).
Short story (14 pages).
Online at (HERE).
(Note: Text is faded but legible.)
"Murder can be committed with two hands very well, but with four, it gives the killer quite a decided advantage indeed"
Chapter I: "Warm Welcome"
Chapter II: "The Strangler from the Sky"
Chapter III: "The Lunatic"
Interplanetary relations take a hit when Earth's first visitor from the Moon dies unexpectedly at a reception. Was it murder? And if it was, could the killer be one of these people . . .

~ Changara Dass:
   "Only Changara Dass, here, believed. He was my father's friend. He fought to keep Solar Foundation legally in my father's name."
~ Stephen Bennet:
   "Yes, I was born there in space—when my father locked my mother into the compartments and set the controls to chart the voyage back to earth."
~ Lila Valery:
   "Stephen, dear, you're talking too much. Let's get on with the reception."
~ Bill Stone:
   "It's my business to go after news. Something tells me there's plenty of it right in this room."
~ Professor Champion:
   ". . . I'll see to it that you get your story. I'm interested in going to the bottom of this affair myself. You'll get your story, I promise you, and shortly."
~ The lunar visitor:
   "I must see you at once. I have an urgent message for you. I cannot delay any longer. I had thought to humor you by attending this—reception, you call it?—and then leave."

. . . or could the cause of death be someone—or something—else entirely?

Typo: "Dou you think"
- A review of The Fear Planet and Other Unusual Destinations (2005) is (HERE).
- Last August (HERE) we encountered Robert Bloch hiding behind another name.

The bottom line: "We all know interspecies romance is weird."
Tim Burton

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"Your Mimi Has a Heart Like an Artichoke with a Leaf for Every Man"

"Riviera Renegade."
By Lawrence G. Blochman (1900-75).
First appearance: Collier's Weekly, November 20, 1948.
Reprinted in The Saint Detective Magazine, February 1956; The Saint Detective Magazine (U.K.), October 1956; and Creasey Mystery Magazine, May 1957.
Short short short story (3 pages).
Online at UNZ (start HERE) and (finish HERE; scroll down to page 72).
"It is not often that such a desirable woman so richly deserves to be murdered"
Sometimes war produces casualties years after the fighting has ended—and the guilty, too often, seem to escape their just punishment:
ACCORDING to the newspapers, Monsieur le Juge, you are the examining magistrate in the case of James Patterson, the American soldier who was arrested last night while carrying the body of a woman named Mimi Lacourt from a bench on the Promenade des Anglais. The papers say the soldier was about to dispose of the body in the sea, but—
A story told in the first person, it's a plea to spare the life of an American soldier accused of murder, offered by an expatriate artist who sat out the German occupation of France. As you'll see, he has good reason to defend his young friend . . .
Principal characters:
~ James Patterson:
   "Deliberately, Monsieur le Juge, as though I were doing penance, I forced myself to make friends with the G.I.s. I was in turn adopted by one of them from Iowa, my own state, a lad named Jim Patterson, who called me 'Pop.'"
~ Mimi Lacourt:
   "You knew Mimi Lacourt, of course. Everyone knew her—many quite intimately. She was a glittering ornament to our casinos before the war. She was extremely beautiful, as you know, with dark eyes that turned men's blood to strong wine. She wore clothes with an art that displayed her superb body as a jeweler exhibits a fabulous gem in his showcase."
~ Paul Murdock:
   "I hesitated about coming to you, Monsieur le Juge, because people in Nice call me a renegade, a bad American, and a collaborationist. It is true that I did not return to America when Marshal Pétain surrendered—perhaps because I was too comfortable in my Riviera villa, perhaps because I have lived in France for forty years, perhaps because, although I am no longer young, I still love to paint the red sea cliffs and the olive-covered hills and the houses drowsing in the sun beside the blue Mediterranean."
~ Major (now Mr.) Giacomo:
   "In Cannes I again ran into my friend Major Giacomo, only now he was Mr. Giacomo and wore civilian clothes. After the Americans came to Italy, he had thrown away his Fascist uniform, produced his U.S. citizenship papers, and gone to work for the military government to help locate stolen art treasures."
- Our latest contact with Lawrence G. Blochman was (HERE).
- Blochman mentions the Negresco hotel, which almost had delayed casualties just last year; see (HERE).

The bottom line: "To be a femme fatale you don't have to be slinky and sensuous and disastrously beautiful, you just have to have the will to disturb."
Alice Munro