Showing posts with label Lopresti. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lopresti. Show all posts

21 September 2022

Outer Space and Eastern Illinois


A week before the mystery community headed to Minneapolis for Bouchercon, I, contrarian that I am, went to Chicago for Chicon 8.  That was the 80th World Science Fiction Conference.  As I have written before, science fiction fandom is our field's bigger and older sibling. Chicon went for five days, had about 3,400 attendees, and had 1,404 events listed.  Impressive as all heck. 

First thing to say is, they took covid VERY seriously.  Everyone had to have proof of vaccination and had to stay masked.  The photo above shows me wearing my volunteer vest, walking around looking for trouble (literally), which included reminding people to wear their masks.  (I encountered three people who needed the hint, and all complied without argument.)  In spite of this, the Con management informed us that 60 attendees reported to them testing positive within five days of the convention. That's about 1.8%.  Does anyone know the number for Bouchercon?  

Let me tell you about some highlights of a few panels I attended.

Best Science Fiction / Fantasy Murder Mysteries. I added a few titles to my Must Read list. (See the covers of some of these titles on this page.)  

Roberta Rogow made an interesting argument: It is easier to write genre-crossover novels these days because, unlike brick-and-mortar bookstores, online stores are happy to place a volume in as many places as it belongs.

Someone on the panel quoted Walter Mosley as saying mystery is simile and science fiction is metaphor.  That requires some contemplation, I think.

At the end of the panel Mark Painter said he had been trying to remember the earliest example of an SF mystery he had seen in a visual media.  He decided it was "The Conscience of the King" from the first season of Star Trek.

Someone replied: "What about the one where Scotty was accused of murder?"

"'Wolf in the Fold," said Painter.  "And the one with Elijah Cook, Jr."

"'Court-Martial,'" I called from the audience.  And added: "How do we remember this crap?"

Fortunately everyone laughed.  And speaking of Star Trek...

Remembering Nichelle Nichols. 
The actress who played Lieutenant Uhura in the original series died last month and fans met up to say how much she meant to so many people.  (Whoopi Goldberg at age five: "Mommy, there's a Black woman on TV and she's not a maid!")

David Gerrold, who started his career at age nineteen by sending an unagented script to Star Trek ("The Trouble With Tribbles") was friends with Nichols for half a century and said she "moved in a bubble of charisma."

I highly recommend the documentary, Woman In Motion, which tells how NASA recruited Nichols to encourage women and people of color to apply for the space program.  Amazing story.

The Origin and Evolution of Conspiracy Theories.
  Kenneth Hite says the oldest example of conspiracy theory in the West was the Roman hunt for followers of Bacchus, 2d century BC.  This same pattern was later used for persecuting the Christians, who copied it for attacking the Jews.  He also says forget about QAnon; the highwater mark of conspiracy theories in the United States was the Anti-Masonic Party, which ran candidates for president.

Time Travel.  The legendary Joe Haldeman, born in 1943, explained "I am from the past."

Connie Willis, one of my favorite SF writers, said that on a panel she once explained how she uses time travel in her books and a physicist complained "'That's wrong.  Time Travel doesn't work that way.'  I said: Has there been a breakthrough since this panel started?"

What happened After My Story Got Optioned.  John Scalzi reports that a producer once tried to option one of his books to prevent other companies from making it and competing with the producer's film based on another book. Another of his books has been optioned continually for fourteen years.  "It paid for my daughter's college education."

Meg Elison had her book optioned by a screenwriter who only heard of it because one word in the title matched the title of a TV the writer had been streaming, so Amazon suggested it.

The Middle Ages Weren't Bad.
  Several historians argued that the so-called dark ages get a bum rap.  Ada Palmer, who studies the Renaissance said:  "My period  was mean to your period and I'm sorry."  She said there is a lot more Renaissance art than Medieval art because we destroyed so much of the latter.  During World War II the allied pilots were forbidden to bomb Florence, to protect all that pretty stuff, but cities with older art were fair game.

When did the Early Modern period begin?  Palmer says there is a disagreement of 400 years depending on which field you ask, because they all want to claim their favorite work as modern, not part of that tacky ol' medieval stuff.

David M. Perry said medieval people loved democracy.  They formed groups, created complicated by-laws, and voted on stuff.  They just weren't allowed to run their governments that way.

Palmer recommends historical fiction about Europe written by Asian authors, who look at things quite differently than us.  

Morally Ambiguous Characters. James Patrick Kelly invoked our field for this one, saying his favorite morally ambiguous hero is Sam Spade.

David Gerrold said the morally ambiguous character does the right thing for the situation, although in another situation he would be horrified by it.    

And just for giggles, here are the names of some panels I did not attend:

* More than Sexbots and Slaves

* If It's Not Love, Then It's The Bomb That Will Bring Us Together

* I'm Trapped Here For An Hour!  Ask Wes Anything!

* Why is the U.S. Banning and Challenging So Many Books?

* Werewolf Torts and Undead Tax Liabilities

* Abolition and Our Future: Imagining a World Without Police

* Let's Talk About Consent, Baby

Next time I will offer some of my favorite quotes from the Con.  Until then: Keep watching the skies!

07 September 2022

From the BBC to you.


For the second week in a row I am going to discuss British audio.  Pip pip and all that.

I have written here before about enjoying audiobooks through the Libby service my library makes available.  I also listen to podcasts.

Recently I discovered BBC Sounds, a free source of tons of radio from Old Blighty.  Let me tell you about some relevant favorites.  (Keep in mind that some of these have expiration dates.)

My Sister the Serial Killer. 
A novel by Oyinkan Braithwaite, read in condensed form.  Korede tries to protect her sister but it is awkward because Ayoola is indeed a serial killer, although a million miles from the stereotype.  A bizarre novel from a writer  with a truly original mind.

A Charles Paris Mystery.  Bill Nighy stars as the cynical actor in an excellent dramatization of Simon Brett's A Doubtful Death. Charles goes to Oxford for an "experimental" production of Hamlet and finds a possible case of murder.

.  Dramatization of short stories by E.W. Hornung about A.J. Raffles, the original gentleman thief, created as a sort of anthesis of Hornung's brother-in-law's famous creation, Sherlock Holmes.

McLevy.  Radio dramas about a Victorian Scottish policeman.  The current series finds him in the United States. 

Miss Marple. June Whitfield plays Agatha Christie's legendary sleuth in Nemesis.

And here are some more that I haven't listened to yet:

Dead Cert.  A dramatization of Val McDermid's novel.

How to Kill Your Family.
  An abridged reading of a novel by Bella Mackie.

The Reckoning.  A dramatization of Charles Nicholl's book about the murder of Christopher Marlowe.

Annika Stranded.  You may have seen the show Annika on PBS, about a Norwegian policewoman.  These are readings of stories about the same character, written by her creator Nick Walker.

And moving away from crime...  I discovered this website because BBC's Friday Night Comedy is no longer available on other apps. That program usually consists of a rotating series of news-related comedy shows, but over the summer they switch to a serial.  At the moment they are running a second season of the hilarious Party's Over, starring Milo Jupp as Henry Tobin, trying to adjust to normal life after a brief and disastrous term as Prime Minister:

Reporter: "Prime Minister, which of the many catastrophes over the eight months you were in power do you think was the biggest? The petrol crisis? Losing Gibraltar?  The school dinner dog meat scandal?"

Henry Tobin: "Many of these events could be viewed as successes. You call it a petrol crisis.  I call it more Britons using bicycles than ever before."

Happy listening.   


31 August 2022

Take a Flying Leap

 Two years ago here I wrote about listening to the audiobook of Pride and Prejudice, my first encounter with Jane Austen.    I have been working my way through her other novels, in no order, and have had an interesting experience with her book Persuasion (1818).

I should put in a spoiler alert here, I suppose.  

There is a famous scene in which the characters are visiting Lyme (really Lyme Regis) and and walk along the Cobb, a stone wall at the harbor.  Louisa demands that Captain Wentworth "jump her down" from the steps. Although Austen doesn't say so explicitly it seems obvious to me that the teenager is   1) flirting, and  2) using the opportunity for some physical contact with the handsome sea captain.

There is another point involved, and Austen nails that one down with a sledgehammer: Wentworth had previously criticized the novel's heroine, Anne Elliot for being too persuadable, easily having her opinion changed by others.  Now, in a classic case of be-careful-what-you-wish-for, he is unable to convince Louisa not to jump.  She does so with unfortunate results.

Austen does like falls.  Being so concerned with social rank she seems to enjoy the up-and-down metaphor. (My first piece about Austen  focused  on her use of the word "condescension" which literally means "stepping down together.") Earlier in the same novel Wentworth refers to a happily married couple going out for a drive: "I wonder whereabouts they will upset to-day. Oh! it does happen very often, I assure you, but my sister makes nothing of it; she would as lieve be tossed out as not."  Louisa, tellingly, approves of that sentiment.

And Louisa brings me to the real topic of this piece: a bit of word-nerdery.

When I read the phrase "jump her down" I was intrigued.  I had never heard it before.  So I decided to consult that source of all linguistic knowledge, the Oxford English Dictionary. I don't have a copy of the twenty-volume set but as a professor emeritus at the university where I used to work I have online access.  

Not surprisingly, "jump" turns out to be an interesting word.  The verb has been traced back to 1511.  The noun makes an appearance half a century later.  But what about the meaning that caught my attention?

Sure enough, the oldest example the OED offers is from our book: 

 J. Austen Persuasion (1818) III. xii. 259
   She..ran up the steps to be jumped down again. 

Fair enough, but my problem is with the definition they offer: 

a. To cause to jump; to give a jumping motion to; to drive forward with a bound; to startle. 

But that isn't what Austen is describing in Persuasion.  Wentworth isn't causing Louisa to jump.  A more accurate definition would be something like "to catch or otherwise assist someone who is jumping."

 Here is the Cobb scene as imagined in two film productions of Persuasion.  They disagree on details  but are both on my side versus the dictionary, I think.

By the way, when the poet Alfred Tennyson visited Lyme Regis his friends offered to show him some important historic site and he responded: "Don’t talk to me of the Duke of Monmouth; show me the exact spot where Louisa Musgrove fell."

 One more language question for all the Austeneers out there.  Why in the name of heaven are four of the characters in the book named Charles? Didn't she know any other names?

Anyway, that's a summary of my never-to-be-written PhD. dissertation on English literature.  If you don't like it, well, the Cobb is still there, and you know what you can do.  (Or just tell me in the comments.)

17 August 2022

Getting Motivated

In detective stories - that section of the mystery world where someone is actually trying to solve a crime - the sleuths often spend some pages pondering the motives of the suspects.  Why would the nanny want to shoot the chiropodist?

This means, of course, that the author has to think about these topics as well.  But not just for the bad guys.  As playwright David Mamet said: In every scene every character has to want something.

So let's talk about the motives of the protagonist, which in our example is the character trying to solve the crime.  Why is she doing that?  Several possibilities come to mind:

* Money.  Private eyes are generally in it for the Benjamins.  So are cops, right?

* Justice.  Our hero is determined to bring the bad guy to court.

* Vengeance. The bad guy killed our hero's partner/mother/cat.  (Not cat!  Readers will scream if you harm an animal!)

* Curiosity/Nosiness/Boredom.  The amateur sleuth is on the case.

* Love/Friendship.  Your sweetie is accused of the crime or is danger from the baddie. 

* Ego.  See how smart I am?

* Self-preservation.  The theme that launched a dozen Hitchcock movies:  Our hero is accused of the crime so she has to figure out whodunit to save her own skin.

Those are the main ones I can think of.  Feel free to add more.   

You may be thinking: Hey, a character might be motivated by more than one of these.  Very observant of you.  As I have written here before, it is naive to think that any person, real or fictional, has only one motive.

This subject has been on my mind because of a story I have in the current issue of Mystery Magazine.  The protagonist of "Kill and Cure" is trying to find out who killed a college student.  He is doing so on behalf of the young man's mother.

Ah, so he's doing it for Money.  Well, not exactly.  He isn't getting paid.  We'll get back to that.

Is his client seeking Justice?  Nope.  She actually wants our hero to kill the man who killed her son.  So her motive is Vengeance. 

But what's in it for the protagonist?  Well, it turns out he's dying and his only chance of survival is getting into a medical trial that the victim's mother is running.  And she will only let him in if he discovers the murderer and kills him.  Oh, did I mention that he is a professional assassin?

So his motive is Self-preservation.  But, of course, things get more complicated...

 It may seem like I am giving away the whole story line.  Trust me, I'm not.  This is just the premise of "Kill and Cure."  I hope it gives you a, uh, motive to read it.


03 August 2022

To Protect the Innocent, and Other Reasons

About a decade ago at a mystery conference a friend told me about an anthology he had been invited to write a story for.  Hmm, thought I.  I could create something for that one.

Instantly I had an appropriate story idea (and that's the way it always works, kids, ha ha).  I pulled out my notebook and wrote down the title and a one-sentence summary.  I believe I even wrote down the last paragraph.

Now as it happens, the editor never invited me to submit for that book.  And that's fine.  You can't ask everyone to the dance.

But I wrote the story and since then it has been looking for a happy home.  No luck, until Maxim Jakubowski announced he was going to edit a book called The Book of Extraordinary Femme Fatale Stories.  

Jakubowski is a well-known author and anthologist in Britain. Back in the nineties I had stories in two of his books (and am very fond of them, since one earned me my only Anthony Award nomination, and the other got me my first recognition from Publishers Weekly).  So I figured I might have a chance.

"The Dance of Love and Hunger" is narrated by a young man who is not the brightest and a bit too malleable.  His friends already talked him into a jail sentence.  Now he has fallen in love with a beautiful musician and when both of their families have financial troubles... well, stuff happens.

I originally set the story in Bellingham,WA, where I live, but the story is just so  bleak I couldn't bear to impose it on my lovely city, so I changed the names to protect the innocent.  Bellingham was named for one of the people involved in George Vancouver's expedition to the Northwest, so I magically changed it to Broughton, an officer on the ship.

Cornwall Avenue drifted east on the English coast and became Devon Avenue.  Indian Street turned into Treaty Street.  Which brings me to an interesting anecdote, because Indian Street also changed its name in real life.

Back when I worked at the university library I spent some time on the search committee.  One day it was my duty to drive a candidate to campus.  He was actually an alum of the school but had been out of town for several years.

The streets in this neighborhood were: Forest, Garden, High, Indian, and Jersey.  But when we reached the appropriate corner he said "They changed the street name." 

"That's right," I said.  "Indian Street is now named for Billy Frank, Jr.  He was an important Native American leader in the state."  

We drove for another block and then he blurted out: "But now the streets aren't in alphabetical order!"

"I know!" I said.  "Why couldn't they find a Native American who's name began with I?"

Something only a librarian (or someone with OCD) would even notice.

"The Dance of Love and Hunger" made it into The Book of Extraordinary Femme Fatale Stories, which was released on July 26.


20 July 2022

Doing the Math


For months I have had a fragment of a story idea kicking around my head.  Just something I knew I wanted to write about someday.

Then on May 23rd it blossomed into a complete plot.  I started writing and finished the first draft on the 29th.  So it took me a week.  That's pretty fast for me.

And that led me to do the math.  Brace yourself.  All that follows is based on my most recent five stories in each category mentioned below

From the time I start writing a story to the day I am ready to submit it to a publisher turns out to average 635 days.  (I hasten to point out that I am working on many stories at the same time.) So I will be ready to send the story in or around September 2025.

The first market I send it to will probably be Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.  Based on past experience they will hold it for 49 days and then reject it (zero out of the most recent five).  So now we're in November.

I will then ship it to Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.  It will sit there for 385 days, and they will then accept it, in December 2026. (Four  out of the most recent five).

Eventually I will get a contract for the story.  I will sign it and send it back and then I will get a check. The contract/check process for my last five stories averaged out to 73 days after the story was accepted.  Based on the length of this current tale, it will probably be for about $300.

Roughly a year later my story will be published.  So the story I conceived in May 2022 will, if everything goes well,  finally see the light of day in the spring of 2027.

As somebody said, it's a slow way to get rich.

Believe it or not, the working title of the  story is "Was That So Hard?"


06 July 2022

Choose Somebody's Own Adventure

A few months ago I woke up in the middle of the night and asked myself: "Whatever happened to adventure stories?"

Yeah, I know.  Other people dream of snakes eating their own tails, thereby revealing the structure of benzene.  But this is what I get.  Blame a faulty imagination. 

But let's talk about adventure as a genre, and then maybe I can get some sleep. Wikipedia quotes Don D'Ammassa in the Encyclopedia of Adventure Fiction:

An adventure is an event or series of events that happens outside the course of the protagonist's ordinary life, usually accompanied by danger, often by physical action. Adventure stories almost always move quickly, and the pace of the plot is at least as important as characterization, setting and other elements of a creative work.

Of course adventure stories flourished for a long time - think of Dumas, Stevenson, Scott - and were a staple of the pulp era.  But while other genres from that period are still flourishing (mysteries, science fiction, horror, romance) or at least hanging on (westerns), the adventure story per se seems to be a vanishing species.

In books, that is.  It survives in movies. (How old is Indiana Jones in his next adventure?)

There has always been overlap between the adventure story and other genres.  Elizabeth Peters's brilliant Amelia Peabody novels are considered mysteries but many of them have little to do with crime-solving. See The Last Camel Died at Noon for a pure adventure tale.

One recent (starting 2007) stalwart example of the genre is the Ethan Gage series, created by William Dietrich, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist who was a professor at the same university where I worked for many years.  Gage is a classic rogue character, a yankee gambler and world traveler in the Federalist era, trained in the science of electricity by none other than Benjamin Franklin himself.  Based in France, he is constantly involved with Napoleon who can scarcely decide whether to send him on another dangerous mission or shoot him as a possible American spy.

Gage's journeys take him to Egypt, the Holy Land, the Great Lakes, and even Haiti.  And they are a lot of fun.

But taken together the works of Peters and Dietrich may give us one hint why the adventure story is less popular today than it once was.  These books are set in the past and mostly in lands that, to American/European eyes, seemed wild, unexplored, and (as a person of that time might say) primitive.  There are not so many of those lands left in the present day, and even writing about the past authors run the risk of being accused of colonialism or even racism.  If your villain is Asian are you re-creating Fu Manchu?  

You can finesse that problem, perhaps, by having your hero battle a civilization on another planet, instead of another continent, but now you have changed genres.

All of which brings up a related topic, which may earn me some complaints, but here goes.

There is a popular BBC mystery series called Death in Paradise which has been running for more than a decade.  It is set on the fictional Caribbean island of Saint Marie.  It is a commonwealth country and a Scotland Yard detective is assigned there.  And remarkably enough, this White, English-trained cop with no knowledge of the island's people, customs, or geography  is always able to solve murders that baffle the mostly Black locals.  Not problematic at all!

The show tried to dodge that bullet by making the hero a classic English eccentric - the only man on the island who wears a suit and carries a briefcase, for example.  This makes sense: you can't expect the local constabulary to outsmart a Sherlock Holmes-type genius.

But that actor left and they brought in another Englishman with a different set of eccentricities.  I quit watching the show after that but I hear they have had four different stars, all White Englishmen.  Maybe next time they make a switch they should bring in a Black copper.  

That would be a new adventure, so to speak.

29 June 2022

The Powers That Be

At the risk of sounding unAmerican, I have never been a big fan of comic books or graphic novels (with one notable exception). 

Superhero movies don't do much for me either.  In spite of that I think I have seen a dozen of them, and half of those were about Batman.  (Yes, I know he isn't a superhero.  But he is, of course, the World's Greatest Detective.)

I believe I have only seen one superhero movie in a theatre, and that was by accident.  The film I came to see broke so I agreed to see Superman II instead.  Didn't much care for it.

But a few years ago I was thinking about the public's love for such characters and an odd thought popped into my head: What if someone thought they had a super power?  Well, that might be interesting.

Of course, it would have to a pretty minor super power.  If you thought you could fly or become invisible you would soon be disillusioned.  After some thought I wrote this opening:

When Randolph was six years old, he discovered he could control gravity.   

Not completely, of course.  He couldn’t make things fall up, or even hover in the air.  But once something started to drop, he could influence its direction.

He figured this out one rainy day when his mother told him that, no, he couldn’t go outside, so he should find something to do and stop complaining or she’d give him something to complain about.

Randolph had sat by the window, looking into the street, and noticed a drop of rain poised on the glass.  It began to slip and he thought: Go to the left.

And it did, shimmying down to the far end of the pane.  So he could do that.

The rest of the story follows our hero (?) through his life.

Is Randolph delusional or does he really have a form of psychokinesis?  That is one question that lies at the heart of "The Lord of Falling Objects" in the July/August issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, on sale now.

The other question is of course: Why does this story belong in a magazine for crime fiction?  Read it and the pieces will, ahem, fall into place.

15 June 2022

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sophocles, and I

 I have a rather unusual book beside me as I write this, courtesy of Flame Tree Publishing.  They are a British firm that publishes beautiful volumes, including their Gothic and Fantasy line.  The latest example of that series is Chilling Crime Short Stories which features nine original stories plus tales by Poe, de Maupassant, Dickens, Sophocles (an excerpt from Oedipus Rex), Sir Thomas More (about the princes in the tower), F. Scott Fitzgerald, and... me.

Rather daunting company, that.

Before I move on some of you may be wondering what Fitzgerald wrote that qualified for this volume.  Well, the new book includes the entirety of The Great Gatsby.  This might shock "mainstream" readers who think of it as one of the great American novels, but the fact is you can't reduce the plot of that book to a single sentence without outlining a classic noir novel.  

But forget about Fitzgerald; let's talk about me.  They reprinted my story "The Present" which appeared originally in The Strand Magazine.  I had read that Flame Tree was looking for stories that would fit the theme of Chilling Crime so I submitted the story and they bought it.  

This was not the first time I have been reprinted.  I also successfully submitted two stories to a now-dead story-publishing site called Great Jones Street. I point this out because submitting  is not the way things always work in the world of reprints.

For example, last year, Barb Goffman reached out to me, wanting to republish my story "Shanks Gets Mugged" in Black Cat Weekly.  I was happy to agree.  As I have said before, being paid for a reprint feels like getting away with something.

The first time a publisher approached me about reprinting my material it was an Italian firm.  I had just won an award and they thought they might be interested in publishing my winning book in Italy.  (I assume my Sicilian surname was a factor.)  I told them that my winning work was a short story but I did have a novel available.  I sent them Such A Killing Crime, about murder in Greenwich Village during the Great Folk Music Scare of the early 1960s,  and they wound up publishing it under a wonderful title that translates Folk Crimes. 

A few years later I received an email from an author who had been contacted by the same publisher.  Suspicious, she did her research and saw my name among their works.  She asked: Is this a scam?  I replied that if it was it was one of those rare scams where they pay you.

More recently my book Shanks on Crime was translated into Japanese with a title that Google tells me translates roughly as Sunday Afternoon Tea With Mystery Writer.  O-kay.  That one sold so well that the publisher decided to produce an otherwise uncollected set of my stories with the English title The Red Envelope and Other Stories and the Japanese title (according to Google) Solve Mysteries on the Holidays at the Coffeehouse.

Since then several writers have asked me how to get their books published in Japan. I told them the process is simple: Open your email and find a note from Tokyo Sogen asking if you would like to sell them the Japanese rights.

Simple, yes.  I never said it was easy.

But the most delightful experience I have ever had with a reprint had to be the two books below, both of which contain "The Street of the Dead House," originally published in nEvermore!

The only downside is that in order to have a story reprinted you first have to write it, so I better get to work.  Can't let Dickens and Poe get ahead of me.

12 June 2022

From the Memoirs of a Private Detective

This piece appeared in Smart Set Magazine in 1923. -Robert Lopresti


by Dashiell Hammett

 1. Wishing to get some information from members of the WCTU in an Oregon city, I introduced myself as the secretary of the Butte City Purity League. One of them read me a long discourse on the erotic effects of cigarettes upon young girls. Subsequent experiments proved this tip worthless.

2. A man whom I was shadowing went out into the country for a walk one Sunday afternoon and lost his bearings completely. I had to direct him back to the city.

3. House burglary is probably the poorest paid trade in the world. I have never known anyone to make a living at it. But for that matter few criminals of any class are self-supporting unless they toil at something legitimate between times. Most of them, however, live on their women.

4. I know an operative who, while looking for pickpockets at the Havre de Grace race track, had his wallet stolen. He later became an official in an Eastern detective agency.

5. Three times I have been mistaken for a prohibition agent, but never had any trouble clearing myself.

6. Taking a prisoner from a ranch near Gilt Edge, Mont., to Lewistown one night, my machine broke down and we had to sit there until daylight. The prisoner, who stoutly affirmed his innocence, was clothed only in overalls and shirt. After shivering all night on the front seat his morale was low, and I had no difficulty in getting a complete confession from him while walking to the nearest ranch early the following morning.

7. Of all the men embezzling from their employers with whom I have had contact, I can't remember a dozen who smoked, drank, or had any of the vices in which bonding companies are so interested.

8. I was once falsely accused of perjury and had to perjure myself to escape arrest.

9. A detective official in San Francisco once substituted "truthful" for "voracious" in one of my reports on the grounds that the client might not understand the latter. A few days later in another report "simulate" became "quicken" for the same reason.

10. Of all the nationalities in hauled into the criminal courts, the Greek is the most difficult to convict. He simply denies everything, no matter how conclusive the proof may be; and nothing impresses a jury as a bare statement of fact, regardless of the fact's inherent improbability or obvious absurdity in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence.

11. I know a man who will forge the impressions of any set of fingers in the world in the world for $50.

12. I have never known a man capable of turning out first-rate work in a trade, a profession or an art, who was a professional criminal.

13. I know a detective who once attempted to disguise himself thoroughly. The first policeman he met took him into custody.

14. I know a deputy sheriff in Montana who, approaching the cabin of a homesteader for whose arrest he had a warrant, was confronted by the homesteader with a rifle in his hands. The deputy sheriff drew his revolver and tried to shoot over the homesteader's head to frighten him. The range was long and a strong wind was blowing. The bullet knocked the rifle from the homesteader's hands. As time went by the deputy sheriff came to accept as the truth the reputation for expertness that this incident gave him, and he not only let his friends enter him in a shooting contest, but wagered everything he owned upon his skill. When the contest was held he missed the target completely with all six shots.

15. Once in Seattle the wife of a fugitive swindler offered to sell me a photograph of her husband for $15. I knew where I could get one free so I didn't buy it.

16. I was once engaged to discharge a woman's housekeeper.

17. The slang in use among criminals is for the most part a conscious, artificial growth, designed more to confuse outsiders than for any other purpose, but sometimes it is singularly expressive; for instance, two-time loser--one who has been convicted twice; and the older gone to read and write--found it advisable to go away for a while.

18. Pocket-picking is the easiest to master of all the criminal trades. Anyone who is not crippled can become adept in a day.

19. In 1917, in Washington DC, I met a young lady who did not remark that my work must be very interesting.

20. Even where the criminal makes no attempt to efface the prints of his fingers, but leaves them all over the scene of the crime, the chances are about one in ten of finding a print that is sufficiently clear to be of any value.

21. The chief of police of a Southern city once gave me a description of a man, complete even to the mole on his neck, but neglected to mention that he had only one arm.

22. I know a forger who left his wife because she learned to smoke cigarettes while he was serving a term in prison.

23. Second only to “Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is “Raffles” in the affections of the daily press. The phrase "gentleman crook" is used on the slightest provocation. A composite portrait of the gentry upon whom the newspapers have bestowed this title would show a laudanum-drinker, with a large rhinestone-horseshow aglow in the soiled bosom of his shirt below a bow-tie, leering at his victim, and saying: "Now don't get scared, lady, I ain't gonna crack you on the bean. I ain't a rough-neck!"

24. The cleverest and most uniformly successful detective I have ever known is extremely myopic.

25. Going from the larger cities out into the remote, rural communities one finds a steadily decreasing percentage of crimes that have to do with money and a proportionate increase in the frequency of sex as a criminal motive.

26. While trying to peer into the upper story of a roadhouse in northern California one night--and the man I was looking for was in Seattle at the time--part of the porch crumbled under me and I fell, spraining an ankle. The proprietor of the roadhouse gave me water to bathe it in.

27. The chief difference between the exceptionally knotty problem facing the detective of fiction and that facing the real detective is that in the former there is usually a paucity of clues, and in the latter altogether too many.

28. I know a man who once stole a Ferris wheel.

29. That the law breaker is invariably sooner or later apprehended is probably the least challenged of extant myths. And yet the files of every detective bureau bulge with the records of unsolved mysteries and uncaught criminals.

01 June 2022

Today in Mystery History: June 1

Today we have the 11th episode in our continuing celebration of the history of our field.  Enjoy.

June 1, 1879. Freeman Wills Crofts was born this day in Dublin, Ireland. He was a railroad engineer and an interest (or obsession) with railroad timetables showed up in many of his novels.  (Monty Python did a sketch I can't find on Youtube which is clearly a parody of  Crofts.)

June 1, 1923.  An important day indeed!  The issue of Black Mask with this date featured Carroll John Daly's story "Knights of the Open Palm." It is the first appearance by Race Williams, who is recognized as the first hardboiled private eye character.

June 1, 1929.  Thriller Magazine featured "The Judgement of the Joker," apparently the first short story to feature Lesley Charteris' immortal character Simon Templar, alias The Saint.

June 1, 1934.
Dime Detective featured "The Corpse Control" by John Lawrence.  It stars New York private eye Cass Blue.  Kevin Burton Smith said the Blue stories were "all rendered in pulpster Lawrence's trademark first person, over-boiled prose style, full of gunflights and plot holes."

June 1, 1950. Michael McDowell was born in Enterprise, Alabama.  He co-wrote several mystery novels with Dennis Schuetz under the name Nathan Aldyne.  He also wrote a very weird series of detective books about Jack and Susan, who never age.  He is probably best known for a non-mystery screenplay: Beetlejuice.

June 1, 1959. Sax Rohmer died in London.  Born Arthur Henry Ward, he became famous for inventing the ultimate sinister Oriental, Dr. Fu Manchu.  For obvious reasons, his works are not held in high regard today.  Ironically (?) he died of the Asian Flu.

June 1, 1968.  Not really mystery, but maybe mystery adjacent?  On this date Patrick McGoohan's  fascinating, infuriating, spy-science-fiction-sui-generis-none-of-the-above TV series, The Prisoner, made its American debut on CBS.  It looks dated today, but it was a stunning piece of storytelling for its time.

June 1, 1969.
The front page of the New York Times Book Review  was a rhapsodic review of Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer novel The Underground Man, crafted by famous screenwriter William Goldman.  It was supposedly a deliberate attempt by editor John Leonard to promote his favorite mystery writer to bestseller-dom and recognition as a major mainstream writer.  The review achieved at least the first goal. 

June 1, 1991.  The publication date for The Summer of the Danes, Ellis Peters' eighteenth medieval mystery featuring Brother Cadfael.

June 1, 2021.  The Bombay Prince, Sujata Massey's third novel of 1920s India, was published.  It was nominated for the Agatha Award for Best Historical Mystery.