Brand Plays the Game
Young Brand was so excited! He was going to play football for his neighborhood team! When Kenny Krunk got the mumps, the other players reluctantly enlisted Brand, who wanted desperately to play with the ‘big boys’ but was considered too puny. The alpha dog male of the group, Biff Bamn, told Brand that he could play end, ‘just don’t do anything dumb, like score for the other team.’ Brand took this warning very seriously and practiced at the local park, running this way and that until he was quite sure that he knew his left from his right.
Come the morning of the game, Brand was too excited to sleep so he got up with the sun and put his uniform on! First, the football pants with the snappy blue stripe up the sides! Next, the padding--a prized thigh pad that had been Brand senior’s when he played at the University of Guam. Trouble was, young Brand only had the one and so had to decide which leg to put it on. Then he decided to wait until the game and wear the pad on whichever side seemed advisable. Then the shoulder pads, which weren’t his father’s hand-me-downs, but his sister’s who used them as a planter. They were perfectly serviceable after Brand brushed the dirt and the fertilizer and the earthworms and the leaves from them, and he shrugged them on and prepared for his favorite part of Game Day--the Donning of the Jersey. Home white with a bold ‘⅙’ on the back and front. Now, THERE was a jersey a player could wear with pride!
After all the fiddling with the pads, Brand noticed with a start the time--five minutes to two! Nearly game time! As usual he’d saved his helmet for last, slipping it on with some pain over his protruding ears. Thus properly attired, he ran out of the house only to run right back in again, having forgotten his shoes. He didn’t actually have any football cleats, but had made some by hammering some nails through the soles of an old pair of loafers. True, they kept falling off during play since there were no laces, but at least the price was right!
He bounded down the street, full of pep and ready to play end for the team! Bet none of the other guys look as good as me, thought Brand, whose journey to the field took twice as long as it might have, since he stopped to admire his reflection in every shop window and car mirror.
When he arrived at the field, he saw a bunch of the guys running around--but what was this? Why were they all wearing T-shirts and shorts? While he was standing there staring, one of his fellow players noticed Brand and yelled, ‘Hey, Biff! Look who’s here!’ and they stopped running around and came running over, crowding around the future All-American. Biff Bamn looked him up and down and said, ‘What are you, dressed up for Halloween? I told you we were going to play football!’
And the boys ran back to the pitch, laughing, as they chose sides, installed the goalkeepers and prepared for the coin toss and the kickoff.
Football. Who ever heard of two games called the same thing? Brand considered doffing his ‘football’ uniform and joining in the ‘match’ but decided against it and started the long slink home.
Brand’s ankles started to ache as he slunk; the nails sticking out of the soles scraped the sidewalk, not being designed for long walks. He did make one concession, though, taking off his helmet and dragging it along behind him as he moped along. Tiring, he decided to sit in the park awhile and found a nice restful spot under a tree. It was getting chilly, so Brand put his helmet back on and took off his ersatz cleats to ease his aching dogs.
He started to drowse but after some time he woke with a start to a huge clanging bell sound. Boinnng! It was within his own head; an apple had fallen from the tree and conked him right on his helmeted coconut. As he was shaking the cobwebs out, there appeared in a shimmer, another Brand! Looks like he didn’t shake too many cobwebs! It was a mirror image of himself, in full football gear, helmet, pads, and all. The apparition beckoned to the ‘real’ Brand, who followed dumbly, mouth hanging open.
They walked, or floated, back to the pitch where the other boys were still kicking the ball back and forth. The apparition gestured toward the field, and Brand, getting used to his ghostly doppelganger, said, ‘Aw, they don’t want me out there.’ The apparition gestured more forcefully, this time indicating that Brand should doff his uni and get out there on the pitch. Unsure, Brand looked out over the field. One of the players was down, holding a knee and hollering. Perhaps this was a situation Brand could take advantage of! He quickly shed his helmet, pads, and jersey to stand revealed in his football trou and a T-shirt and started slowly toward the circle of players standing around their stricken comrade. He stopped and looked back to see his ectoplasmic double give him a double fist-pump to encourage him. It must have worked, for with a yell Brand charged out onto the pitch, ready to take over for the player who’d been hurt. The others gaped at him in disbelief, since the last time they saw him he was slinking away, tail between his legs. Now, as one they looked to Biff Bamn, who shrugged and said, ‘Ok, come on.’
The game was literally afoot! Here came the ball! Brand went to give it a kick but missed and went sprawling face first in the grass. As everyone laughed, he picked himself up and noticed the apparition looking at him intently, unblinking. Then the ball came near him again. Like a flash, Brand took the ball away from a defender on the other team, went the length of the field and put the ball into the net! GOAL! His own team mobbed him! He’d won the game! As everyone was piling on everyone else and yelling in triumph, Brand looked around for the apparition to share the victory but the other was nowhere to be seen.
Suddenly Brand opened his eyes. He was still sitting under the apple tree. Had it all really happened? Must have been a dream. Best to go home, then. He stood and looked down, and that was when he saw the grass stains down his front.
Take a look at some sports related mysteries:
The inimitable Hercule Poirot investigates...The Murder On the Links! ‘The links’ refers to a golf course, just like ‘the gridiron’ refers to football and ‘the diamond’ refers to the National Pastime.
Pitchers and catchers next week! So how about some love for the unfairly maligned umps:
And for the younger reader:
Questions/Comments/Winning a Sports Wager For a Change? firstname.lastname@example.org
Lt. Jones and the Deadly Vegetable--the Exciting Conclusion!
Co-Starring Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and the Lovely and Inscrutable Filomena!
Filomena was incredulous. ‘Do you mean to say that you paid...men...to have us followed?’
‘In a way, I did.’ replied Holmes. ‘I recruited members of the Vegetarian Society, undercover as it were, and found out some very interesting things!’
‘I say, Holmes, so did I!’ interjected Watson.
‘Just a minute, Doctor. What did you learn, Mr. Holmes?’ asked Filomena.
‘I learned that not only does the Society forswear the consumption of animal flesh, they also abjure the use of any and all kinds of weapons or firearms.’
Filomena stammered, ‘Is--is that so?’
‘Yes it is. Your father was shot! Therefore, no one involved with the Vegetarian Society could have murdered him!’
‘But they must have!’
‘They killed Doctor Goodbright, didn’t they?’
‘They did not.’ Everyone had pretty much forgotten Lieutenant Jones was there.
‘I don’t want to tread on your toes, Mr. Holmes--’
‘Perfectly all right, Lieutenant. In fact, I’m curious as to the substance of your conclusions.’
‘Independently, Doctor Watson and I found out an interesting fact-it seems the Yard was called in upon Doctor Goodbright when a patient of his passed away in an untimely fashion.’
‘Yes, so he informed me. Of course it was an accident--no need for the Yard.’ said Holmes.
‘He was taken into custody much against his wishes, and--’
‘Haw! I daresay anyone would be taken into custody against their wishes!’ blustered Watson.
‘--and was released immediately since there was no evidence that the nut prescription was anything but an honest mistake.’
‘Certainly it was.’ agreed Holmes.
‘Rot and bother!’ yelled Filomena.
‘But the incident seems to have scarred the good doctor. He had been accumulating business interests in the field of meat. Some saw improprieties in advocating a diet from which he may profit, which brought him into conflict with the Vegetarian Society.’
‘Yes, quite so.’
‘This bothered the doctor’s conscience, so he attended some of their meetings and became interested in learning more of vegetarianism. Subsequently he moved away from meat as a panacea and began recommending diets that were high in protein but not reliant on flesh. Hence, the accident with the nuts ingested by the young gentleman.’
‘Accident nothing! It was murder!’ shouted Filomena.
‘Have you any evidence?’
‘You and the Yard need evidence! I don’t! I know what happened!’
Holmes moved closer to the distraught woman. ‘Filomena, you know that I sympathize with your sorrow. But you mustn’t believe that your father deliberately murdered your gentleman.’
‘I know he did!’
Holmes’ voice hardened. ‘How did you know?’
Filomena’s voice quavered as her thoughts drifted back. ‘I had gone to pick up Jack at the doctor’s office. They had just finished the examination and we all decided to lunch at the Bistrot de Cheval.’
‘Yes, I know it. Go on, please.’
‘When we ordered, the doctor suggested aubergine aux noisettes! Jack demurred, and the doctor insisted! I tell you, he knew!’
‘My dear, you may not be aware of it. Nutty eggplant is a misnomer--the dish contains no nuts at all! The doctor hardly could have known about the allergy!’
‘He knew! And now he’s paid! And now you’ll pay!’ Suddenly, she pulled a pistol from her purse and was pointing it straight at the men.
‘Murder! Get hold of yourself, woman!’
‘I shan’t! He deliberately gave Jack those nuts! He knew full well he was allergic and would die!’
Lt. Jones said calmly, ‘You killed Dr. Goodbright. Will you now tell us who killed your father?’
‘One of those cursed vegetarians, I’ll warrant! They didn’t like Father’s endorsement of the meat diet and killed him for it!’
‘The culprit will be brought to justice. Now give me the gun.’
‘I shan’t!’ Just then, a horrifying screech! All turned to the source of the horrible noise, and while her attention was elsewhere, Lt. Jones grabbed the pistol and tripped up Filomena, thus subduing her.
Holmes stood with his violin. ‘I say, twenty years of practice, and at last a solid result!’
Afterward, all were sitting in the parlour enjoying a cup of tea and a slice of cake.
‘I say, Holmes, just how did Dr. Goodbright meet his end?’
‘As the good Lieutenant sussed out, Watson, it was the lovely Filomena. It seems that her fiancee was the victim of the nut allergy and she was driven by revenge, although by every indication it was indeed an accident. En route here to meet us, the good doctor bought some kale. Subsequently I bought samples and, when they proved uncontaminated if unappetizing, I knew the vegetarians were not involved. She had masqueraded as a vendor and gave the doctor a poisoned portion!’
‘Then, a militant vegetarian, not a member of the Society, shot Dr. Finley in another revenge killing over his admittedly wavering support for Goodbright’s meat diet.’
‘Revenge is a dish best eaten cold, my dear Watson. Kale is a dish best not eaten at all!’
And now, more Holmes:
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes by Loren Estleman
Bet you didn't know that Holmes and Watson were involved in the Jekyll and Hyde case, which was so sensational that Robert Louis Stevenson could only tell it as fiction!
Behind the Canonical Screen by Lyndsay Faye and Ashley Polasek
Emphasizing the full range of the numerous examples of Sherlockian cinema, with color photos.
Ok, this isn't a Holmes book, I just wanted to see if you were paying attention:
Questions/Comments/Dietary Restrictions? email@example.com
Lieutenant Jones and the Deadly Vegetable Part Two, co-starring Holmes and Watson!
‘How was it done?’
The bobby replied, ‘I don’t know, sir. Perhaps you should check with DC Bones.’
Lt. Jones stifled a chuckle. DC Bones! These Victorian-era English people were certainly interesting! Holmes seemed to know the man, though, and boldly strode through the foyer into the late doctor’s office where the preliminary investigation was taking place. Very preliminary, in fact, for the body was still lying on the floor, where the physician’s nurse assistant discovered him earlier that morning.
Holmes and Lt. Jones knelt beside the corpse and the cop, presumably Bones himself, didn’t seem to mind. Then he spoke.
‘You just missed the doctor’s doctor, sir. It seems the good physicianer was shot.’
Holmes packed and lit his pipe. ‘Interesting.’
Interesting it was; the problem was that they were no closer to finding the killer or killers of Goodbright and Finley.
Meanwhile Watson was at the doctors union building, showing his credentials as a doctor and was thus admitted to the research library.
Now, how to find the records of the doctors themselves? Ah! The cabinet marked ‘Records’ looked a good place to start!
‘Meat is murder!’ The crowd in the hall chanted the slogan as the speaker made her way to the podium. When the cheering died down, the woman said, ‘Yes! Meat is Murder!’ setting off another round of shouting.
‘My friends, we are all agreed that vegetarianism is the healthiest way to live. The question is, is the time past for aggressive action?’
‘NO!’ the crowd roared.
‘Must we take our fight to the streets?’
‘Will we win this fight, and save generations of animals from the supper table?’
After the usual interminable speechifying and a vegetarian dinner, the anti-meat activists milled about the hall, mingling, sharing war stories, and planning their next meeting. There were a few newcomers unseen at previous events.
‘I say, old chap, haven’t seen you before. ‘Ow long you been a veggie, then?’
The older man replied, ‘Oh, quite some years, I should say. Did you hear about the physician who died of vegetable poisoning?’
‘Ee got what he deserved, din’t ‘e?’
‘Was it murder, then?’
‘Course it was! Someone took care o’him right enough.’
‘That should create a few converts. Do you know who did the actual deed?’
‘Everyone thinks we did it! But I saw it comin’ right enough, after that doctor killed that bird’s fiancee. And--’ere now! What’s with all the questions?’
‘I beg your pardon, I meant no offense.’ And with that the newcomer strolled away to mingle with others in the crowd, which was starting to break up. As he did so, the cockney started after him, intending to learn if he was, or was intending to become, a full-fledged member of the group.
But the old man with the cane had blended into the background.
‘I don’t like it, I tell you!’
‘Are you sure we’re being followed?’
‘No, but we shall find out! Driver! The next right turn! Quickly!’
And the carriage which held Lt. Jones and Filomena zipped down a narrow alley, followed closely by another.
‘Now we’re sure.’
‘But who would want to follow us?’
‘I’ve an idea. Driver! To Baker Street!’
When they alighted in Baker Street, they disembarked and ensconced themselves in the doorway of 221A. The shadowy carriage turned slowly down Baker Street and stopped several doors down, clearly waiting and watching.
‘Now they know where we are. They now have the next move, and when they make it, there will be a reckoning!’
In the center of town the street vendors were hawking their wares. One in particular seemed to be doing quite well. All of the food vendors were in their own area in the center of the square, and there was something for every palate. A tall older man using a cane purchased servings of several foodstuffs and quickly took his leave.
As a bona fide doctor, Watson was granted entry into the records office of the doctors’ union hall. There he sought information about the late Messrs. Goodbright and Finley. And there were no records for either! Now what the dickens? He asked if there was a ‘morgue’ like in newspapers, for older or half-obsolete records for the deceased or disciplined or retired. Down to the basement he went, to pore through the cobwebby files that went all the way back to the fifteenth century, well before the organization of London’s medical men (and at that point it was all men). Aha! Here was something! Goodbright had left what would seem to have been a thriving practice in Brighton some years past. Rather abruptly, too. Now why would he have done so? Digging deeper, Watson found a police report filed at the time. Now this was getting interesting!
‘How did you come to know Doctor Goodbright?’
‘Why, we have a mutual friend up in Brighton and he was calling upon us to bring regards,’ replied Watson.
‘Ah. Had you any notion of his difficulties?’ queried Holmes.
‘I had heard that he lost his licence, but to think that he faced charges of manslaughter! Anyone could see that it was an accident!’
‘Are you quite sure?’ persisted the detective.
‘Of course I am! The good doctor innocently recommended nuts in the diet for extra protein. Who would have ever guessed that the patient had a deadly allergy? A tragic accident, that’s all. And it seems that Mr. Finley was rather older than he seemed, he’d been practising in Gerrard Street since before the war! His records had been shunted off to the ‘dead’ files.’
‘I see. All too bizarrely appropriate, I should think.’ Holmes puffed on his pipe and was maddeningly inscrutable.
‘Come, come, Holmes, what is on your mind?’
‘All in good time, my dear Watson, all in good time. But I believe that we are going to have visitors at any moment.’
Watson buttoned his lip and listened hard. ‘I don’t hear anyone coming up the stairs.’
‘They are already upstairs. It is our friend the Lieutenant and the lovely Filomena.’
‘How do you know that? I can’t wait to hear!’
Elementary, my dear Watson! Do you hear murmurs from number 221A next door, where we first encountered Lt. Jones? No? Well, they lead me to believe that he has returned from driving with the lady, and as for herself, she is adorned by a very distinctive perfume which even now assaults my nostrils.’
‘Really, Holmes, a bright twelve-year-old could have deduced that!’
‘Which says little in your favour, my good man. Come! To the front room where we may commiserate with our friends!’
The Lieutenant and Filomena duly appeared at 221B after having hidden from their pursuers.
‘They know that we are here, Holmes, and we shall be ready when they return!’
‘I don’t think you’ll be seeing them again, Lieutenant,’ said the detective.
‘Oh? Why is that? Do you know who they are?’
‘Yes. I hired them.’
Now what flummery is this? Why would Holmes have the Lieutenant and Filomena followed? Tune in next time for another exciting installment of the noted mystery blog All Things Mysterious!
More cool Holmes:
Noted basketballer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a well-known Sherlockian, and here he tries his hand at an adventure starring Sherlock's brother Mycroft, very successfully by all accounts.
Now you too can own all fifty-six short stories and four novels about the iconic detective written by Conan Doyle in one handy package! Two-volume paperback set VERY reasonably priced!
In a case of life imitating art imitating life, in December 2016, a Russian worker died after she fell into a vat of chocolate at a candy factory. See 'Brand and the All-Seeing Eye' from June 2016.
Questions/Comments/Strange Coincidences/Orange Pips? firstname.lastname@example.org
Lieutenant Jones and the Deadly Vegetable
‘I say, old horse, can you direct me to Baker Street?’
Rarely did Lieutenant Jones have such a disconcerting episode in his vast experience in time and space shifting. Oh, the usual disorientation and queasiness were evident as usual, but the real confusion started when he found himself in the midst of a cacophony of light and sound. Horse-drawn carriages went barreling by, followed closely by a dozen or more street urchins. Lt. Jones and everyone else were ankle deep in mud and various effluvia, there were street vendors hawking everything from roasted potatoes to Dickensian matches to ribbons and pins. And the stench of horse manure was overpowering but didn’t seem to register amongst the masses. Perhaps one got used to it in time, but the Lieutenant searched the pockets of his proper Victorian suit and happily found a handkerchief which he immediately clapped over his nose and mouth. Whew!
He was thus occupied when the gentleman approached him with the question. Now how was he to know what street was where in a time and place that he’d never been? But he seemed to know, somehow, that Baker Street was to the northwest, so he directed the gentleman that way. Indeed, something told him to head that way himself and so he did.
Not following the man, exactly, but in a way practicing his trailing techniques. The gentleman was ahead of him and hurrying to a townhouse in the middle of the block. What was the number? There it was, 221B. Lt. Jones stopped in the doorway of 221A and observed. Presently three men rushed out of the adjacent door; a portly, white-mustachioed man carrying a small black bag, a tall thin man smoking a pipe, and the gentleman from earlier. The latter was being supported by the other two men, looking for all the world like he’d overindulged in drink. The Lieutenant was not convinced--the man had been perfectly vertical and quite rational when he’d spoken to him before. Something must have happened to him in the last few moments, but what? It looked like Lt. Jones would find out, for as he stood next door, the tall pipe-smoker hailed him and said, ‘I say, old bean, can you give us a hand here?’
So the Lieutenant hailed a coach and helped haul the stricken man into it; it was just large enough for the man to lie down so that the portly gent, who introduced himself as Doctor Watson, could examine him. The physician rummaged in his bag, found an instrument, and peered into the man’s mouth!
‘I say, Holmes, look at this!’
Why did all these people say ‘I say’ in preface to their remarks? How strange!
‘Good show, Watson!’
What a strange language!
As the Lieutenant peered over Watson’s shoulder, he observed particles of a strange green matter in the stricken man’s mouth.
‘Clearly he somehow ingested this leafy substance and is now scarcely conscious.’
‘Quickly, let us get to Doctor Finley’s! More speed, driver!’
And so the carriage boiled along the road and shortly came to a screaming halt in front of a fancy whitewashed building in Gerrard St. This was where a lot of professional men had offices, and momentarily the four were speaking to Dr. Finley, a man even taller and thinner than Holmes, if that were possible. But no pipe that Lt. Jones could see.
‘This man is suffering from vegetable poisoning! We don’t see that much today, for most people can’t or won’t consume greens.’
‘I shouldn’t wonder, if this is the result!’ opined Watson.
Don’t misunderstand me,’ replied his colleague. ‘A modicum of greens are essential to good health, but, as in any endeavour, too much is a bad thing!’
‘Yes, quite.’ Holmes hadn’t yet spoken much and his voice resonated through the silence of the office. He had gone through the man’s wallet, looking for identification.
Holmes and Finley exclaimed simultaneously. They looked at each other, startled, and then each politely waited for the other to speak.
‘You first, my good man.’
‘No, you first, old man, you first!’
If nothing else, they were polite. Finally Holmes broke the logjam.
‘This man is Doctor Goodbright, the noted nutritionist!’
Watson said, ‘I’ve heard of the bloke--he’s the one that advocated an all-meat diet!’
‘Right you are, Watson!’
‘And he’s dead!’ said Dr. Finley.
This shocked everyone into silence. Dead! Why, the man was alive and well not half an hour ago!
Everyone somberly pondered the intransigence of life as Doctor Finley summoned the coroner.
The next day the Lieutenant found himself at the library, trying to find out as much as possible about the deceased doctor as he could. It seemed that Goodbright had published a popular pamphlet in defence of carnivorous diets which had catapulted him into the public eye. Had it also generated enmity?
Now this was interesting! A cache of documents under the business registry revealed some salient facts. Holmes should know this! And Lt. Jones rushed out of the library back to his temporary lodgings at 221A Baker Street.
Later, Holmes, Watson, and the Lieutenant convened next door at B when the latter dropped his bombshell.
‘That is indeed most interesting, Lieutenant,’ Holmes said, stroking his chin.
‘Interesting! Pah! Interesting!’ Watson spluttered. ‘I’d call it a sight more than interesting when a man advocating an all-meat diet covertly owns no fewer than seven meat packing and processing facilities!’
‘You may be right, Watson. In any event, we must find the person or persons who poisoned the good doctor, and we can best do so by splitting up. Lieutenant, can you remain at 221A and intercept any callers here? Watson, can you go to the doctors’ union hall and find out whatever else you can on Goodbright? And just in case, you might look up Dr. Finley as well.’
‘I shall be practising my violin, I am frightfully rusty.’
Watson seemed nonplussed by this, as he must be used to the vicissitudes of the detective, but Lt. Jones wondered, what possible good could that do? On the other hand, some folks did their best thinking when engaged in another task, so perhaps Sherlock Holmes was one of those types.
Lt. Jones was keeping an eye on things at 221A when all of a sudden there was a fearsome banging on the adjacent door. He opened up to reveal a sodden young thing, no more than twenty, and no bigger than a minute. He said, ‘Come in, come in,’ and ushered her dripping wet self into the foyer of 221A.
‘What can I do for you?’
‘Oh! I must see Mr. Holmes at once!’
‘I’m afraid that is impossible at present. May I be of assistance?’
‘But I can hear someone sawing away at a fiddle next door! Is not that Mr. Holmes?’
‘Dry yourself off, lass, and tell me what the trouble is, and I shall pass it along to Mr. Holmes.’
‘All-all right.’ The young woman drew herself up to her full height, which was no more than five feet. ‘I am Filomena Finley; Dr. Finley is my father and I believe it was he that was present at Dr. Goodbright’s untimely passing.’
‘Yes, that is so. Pray, continue.’
‘There are militants who were very very angry with the doctor’s dietary notions.’
‘Why would anyone be so angry over advocacy of a meat diet?’
‘Some say animals have souls and shouldn’t be killed, some say that vegetarianism is the only healthy way to live.’
‘Angry enough to kill him?’
‘I believe so.’
‘I see. And where do you and your father fit in?’
‘He and I--’
Just then, another fearsome knocking on the door! No one just taps, or uses the knocker anymore. No, it’s always pounding with a clenched fist.
Lt. Jones opened the door to reveal a disheveled, panting Watson.
‘You must come! And bring the lady!’
‘Come where? What has happened?’
‘Doctor Finley has been murdered!’
And Filomena Finley collapsed in a dead faint.
What deviltry is this? Are doctors being targeted? Or meat-eaters? Why?
Tune in next time for more of The Mystery of the Deadly Vegetable!
While you’re waiting, why not try out some Sherlock stories? Whether the A.C. Doyle originals or one of the many excellent pastiches, enjoy your own journey to Victorian (among other times) London (among other places) and match wits with Holmes, Watson, Irene Adler, Moriarty, and even Mrs. Hudson!
If variety is your bag, try this fantastically diverse collection of some of the best of Sherlock!
Sherlock battles Jack the Ripper? Yes, please.
And, while we're on the subject:
Like the esteemed TV series? Herein are the stories that inspired the creators:
And, because there's nothing like the originals:
A two-volume paperback set, very reasonably priced, containing all 56 short stories and four novels.
All Things Mysterious Volume 77
Welcome back to All Things Mysterious and Happy 2017! Here’s hoping that it will be the best year ever and that all your mysteries will be little ones!
We here at ATM are glad to be back after our holiday hiatus and will continue to bring you interesting, entertaining, and informative posts on a semi-regular basis, as time permits. Just now we are shooting for a new tidbit every Thursday.
Lieutenant Jones in: Never Brought To Mind
The huge crowd surged to and fro in the center of the giant square, as if they were a single, multi-celled organism. Lieutenant Jones, squished in the midst of two million New Year’s Eve revelers, wondered why he had not simply stayed indoors and done something less stressful, like negotiating a peace treaty or piloting a starship. For a while there his feet never touched the ground as he was carried along by the mass of humanity. At last he found himself on the edge of the square and had just a little elbow room. But he hadn’t much time to enjoy his newfound breathing space, because just then he felt the familiar sensation of weightlessness and dissociative tension that heralded a shift in time and space.
When his feet reconnected with the ground he was standing in another crowd of people, only this one was much smaller. They were gathered around a church, surrounded by a copse of trees, and a choir was softly singing.
It was a traditional, old-fashioned holiday celebration and for a time the Lieutenant was caught up in the moment and found himself warbling along, despite the fact that he sang like a hinge. But no one seemed to mind, and ‘Auld Lang Syne’ wafted through the brisk night air as the clock neared twelve.
As the bells began to chime and the crowd swayed in time, a man standing just in front of Lt. Jones suddenly slumped forward, causing the song to abruptly stop. In the loud silence that followed, someone bent down to examine the stricken man, stood bolt upright and shouted, ‘He’s dead!’
Revelers, unaware of the murder, shouted ‘Happy New Year!’ while one stalwart yelled, ‘Is there a doctor? Please, a doctor?’ The Lieutenant stooped to examine the body, but before he could begin, a stout man shouldered his way through the crowd, baying ‘Let me through, I’m a doctor!’ Then, to Lt. Jones, ‘Help me get him into the rectory.’
The two men carried the dead man into the church and gently set him down on the altar. In a moment the pastor rushed in through the great doors, crying, ‘What’s this? What’s this? How dare you--’ then he stopped in his tracks. The doctor introduced himself as Bullock and quickly explained the situation. The clergyman, Pastor Miller, backed up to a discreet distance to allow the man room to examine the victim while Lt. Jones observed in the background. At last the doctor straightened up, brushed off his trousers, and said simply, ‘Gunshot.’ Stating the obvious, thought the Lieutenant, to whom it seemed the examination was quite cursory. On the other hand, it was pretty obvious that the man died of a gunshot wound, wasn’t it?
‘I’ve sent for the police,’ said Pastor Miller. He was staring at the doctor with a strange expression. Bullock noticed this and said, ‘Something I can do for you, preacher?’
‘I could swear I’ve seen you before,’ replied Miller. ‘Now where was it?’
‘I don’t know you.’
‘But I know you, and I--Wait! I remember now!’
Suddenly the man bolted for the door, but he only got a few steps before the doorway was filled with the massive frame of one of the city’s finest.
‘What’s the trouble here?’ asked the officer. No fool, he latched onto Bullock, preventing the ersatz healer from fleeing.
‘A man’s been shot!’ exclaimed the pastor. The cop knelt beside the deceased, still on the altar, and his eyes went wide. ‘Why, this is Benjy Fetlock, the hoss doc! He used to look after our carriage hoss when we was first married!’
Pastor Miller was angry. ‘Just what do you mean, passing yourself off as a regular doctor?’ By this time a small crowd had gathered in the church and there was some shouted agreement with the pastor’s admonition.
‘That’s the man who kilt my dog!’
‘Hey, you, I want my money back!’
‘He drownded my wife’s kittens!’
While Lieutenant Jones reflected on the man’s wife actually having had kittens, another man rushed in from outside and pushed his way to the altar.
Pointing to the veterinarian, the man yelled, ‘He’s the killer! I saw him do it!’
The Lieutenant calmly said, ‘And he timed it so the ringing of the bells would muffle the sound of the shot being fired?’
‘Now that you mention it, he did!’
The policeman had heard enough. Taking the doctor by the collar and giving him a good shaking, he said, ‘We’ve got the goods on you, mac. Better come clean!’
The man who had revealed the murderer spoke up. ‘I can tell you what happened! This mug and the man he shot were partners in a hoss and dog hospital and Mr. Brownstone--that’s him lying there--found out that Bullock had never even been to school for doctorin’! And Bullock killed him for it so he wouldn’t be found out!’
‘And so he could keep all the money the practice brought in,’ added the Lieutenant.
‘All right, mister, you’re coming with me,’ said the policeman.
Suddenly the phony vet broke free again and charged at the door. This time he made it, and bolted into the churchyard. The crowd around the altar ran to the door in hot pursuit, but Lt. Jones, reaching the door first, held up a hand to stop the mob. ‘No need to chase him, folks, he’s caught.’
Amid a great huzzah from the assembled gawkers, those nearest to the doorway could see--the killer had run into the road just as a cabriolet came barreling toward the church. And he ran smack dab into one of the horse’s flanks, knocking himself cold. Well, that was all right, he’d wake up in the pokey.
Since the excitement was over, the crowd dispersed. As he was lingering in the doorway of the church, a man came over to the pastor and the Lieutenant. ‘Craziest thing I ever saw! Them hosses went out of their way to block that man who was running! I never saw the like! Looks like they WANTED to knock him down! What do you make of that?’
Here’s a topnotch thriller that begins on New Year’s Eve:
Lonely, shunned Magnus Tait waits for guests that never come. He rings in the new year as a suspect in the murder of a teenage girl!
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Now that the holidays are over and January is well on its way, we here at the Mysterious Bookshop have finally had time to reflect on the year behind us, and to pull together a list of our favorite books from 2016. Individual lists can be found in the January newsletter; below, check out a master list of our collective favorites, which pulls together, in no order, fifteen particularly noteworthy titles from those individual lists. Happy New Year!
Lauren Belfer, And After the Fire. After the death of her uncle, a young woman in present-day New York tries to solve the mystery of an old music manuscript, stolen from the ruins of Germany after WWII. $26.99.
John Hart, Redemption Road. Hart’s fifth book is a beautiful work of literature that happens to include horrific murders, violence, and detection, as a former cop, fresh out of prison, races to solve a rash of killings. $27.99
MJ Carter, The Infidel Stain. In the wonderful follow-up to The Strangler Vine, Blake and Avery return from colonial India to 1840s London, and immediately find themselves involved in another mystery. $27.00.
Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow. A Russian Count, sentenced to house arrest in Moscow’s grand Metropol Hotel, watches the tumult of 1920’s Russia from his window. $27.00.
Martin Cruz Smith, The Girl from Venice. In the last year of World War II, a simple, peaceful Venetian fisherman reluctantly faces off with Nazis after his fishing net pulls in the still-living body of a young female fugitive. $27.00
Lyndsay Faye, Jane Steele. A compelling, pitch-perfect Victorian novel whose heroine is inspired by Jane Eyre, but with something extra: She is a serial killer. $27.00
Tana French, The Trespasser. The most cynical detective you’ll ever meet battles sexism and racism in the workplace as a run-of-the-mill domestic murder case seems to suggest something more complex. $27.00
Lawrence Block, editor, In Sunlight or in Shadow. A beautiful book of short crime stories based on the work of Edward Hopper, each of which is accompanied by a full-page color reproduction of the painting that inspired it. Includes stories by Michael Connelly, Robert Olen Butler, Joyce Carol Oates, Jeffery Deaver, Lee Child, and others. $25.95
Allen Eskens, Heavens May Fall. Courtroom drama and exciting police procedures are masterfully woven together in this paperback original. $15.95
Patrick Hoffman, Every Man a Menace. Interconnected episodes in the world of global MDMA trafficking stretch from LA to Bangkok in a taut thriller whose quick, clean pace ripples with dark comedy. $25.00
John le Carre, The Pigeon Tunnel. The great espionage author’s memoirs from his work in British intelligence during the Cold War are both entertaining and illuminating, and a must-read for fans of his work. $28.00
Peter Robinson, When the Music’s Over. Newly promoted Detective Superintendent Peter Banks masterfully juggles two baffling cases: a long-ago assault, and a just-now murder. $25.99
Duane Swierczynski, Revolver. A cop’s murder is investigated by two subsequent generations of his family in this perfectly-layered narrative. $26.00
Chan Ho-Kei, The Borrowed. Five novellas follow the careers of two detectives through fifty years of Hong Kong history. Note: While the American edition of this book was technically published in 2017, we carried the British when it was released in 2016, validating its inclusion on this list. $16.00
Ben Winters, Underground Airlines. In an alternate history that eerily resembles our country today, the Civil War never happened, and a modern-day detective hunts fugitive slaves in Free states. $26.00
One Of Every Four?
One day, the telephone rang at Edgar Wallace’s house.
Housekeeper: ‘Mr. Wallace’s residence.’
Caller: ‘May I speak to Mr. Wallace, please?’
Housekeeper: ‘I’m sorry, he’s quite busy. He’s writing a new novel.’
Caller: ‘That’s ok, I’ll wait.’
True story! (Well, maybe.) Edgar Wallace (1875-1932) was a very prolific writer, although perhaps not so much as the above anecdote suggests.
Over the course of his approximately 30 year writing career the numbers vary according to the source but he produced perhaps 150 novels, a couple of dozen plays, hundreds of short stories, non-fiction, as well as poetry, criticism, and whatnot. Prolific indeed, but not Creasey-level output (see our last post).
Edgar Wallace is remembered today for two things: That he wrote the story upon which the film(s) King Kong is/are based, and that at one point it was said that one out of four books purchased in the UK were titles of his! That this cannot be verified, and that this tidbit was put out by his publisher at the time, means that there is room for skepticism.
After a stint in the Army, Richard Horatio Edgar Freeman (so his foster parents named him) tried his hand at crime reporting in London where he used Edgar Wallace as his pen name. ‘Wallace,’ it was said, came from Lew Wallace, who wrote Ben-Hur. In so doing, the aspiring novelist didn’t make much money, but that inconvenient fact didn’t prevent him from living like a magnate anyway. In 1902 he was offered a post as editor of a South African newspaper, where he’d served during his military service, but while there, his infant daughter took ill and sadly died, whereupon he and his wife decamped back to London where he returned to journalism. Interestingly, he was booted from the staff of the Mail newspaper when incorrect facts in his stories generated libel suits. That was the end of his journalism career for the time being. Previously, while covering the conflict between Russia and Japan, he fell in with a group of spies which gave him an idea for a novel. His first mystery, The Four Just Men, was published in 1905 with an unusual gimmick--there’s no solution! He invited readers to solve the mystery and offered a cash prize to anyone who could do so. Unfortunately for Edgar, the crime was more easily solved than he’d realized and he had to pay a lot of winners, reducing him once again to bankruptcy. Thereafter he started prolifically turning out novels to satisfy his many creditors. It is said that he kept the plot outline of numerous stories in his head, never making notes, and allegedly wrote the first page, and only the first page, of each book in longhand, then dictated the remainder to a secretary. He didn’t go in much for series work and even after he introduced his most durable character, J. G. Reeder, the stories stand alone and need not be read in any particular order. Reeder was a former Scotland Yard detective and a shy, retiring fellow who was often called upon to help solve the Yard’s most baffling cases.
Finding a bit of success as a novelist helped him make his way back to journalism and he regularly published articles on horseracing. Even though he finally crawled out of debt and started making scads of cash, Wallace spent fortunes gambling and living a lavish lifestyle that was difficult to sustain. He stood for election to Parliament but lost, after which he decamped to Hollywood to try his hand at polishing screenplays, including The Hound Of the Baskervilles. He is best known for King Kong, of course, but sadly died before the script was completed, leaving other writers to finish it, so he never saw the work with which he would be most associated.
Here at Mysterious, we’ve got some paperback reissues:
Evans, the horseracing tout and devout Cockney, is back:
Who is Four Square Jane? Well, for one thing, she's a daring and audacious crook!
We've got several vintage hardcover titles from Edgar Wallace, very collectible and very reasonably priced, as always!
Also check out the new series of facsimiles from Collins Crime Club! They are bringing back some of their memorable titles from yesteryear, including The Terror from Wallace, which also includes White Face. Two titles from Agatha Christie, among many other notables, make the Collins series a go-to for your reading and gift-giving pleasure!
John Creasey--The Man of a Thousand Pen Names
Well, twenty-eight by y_r friendly blogger’s count. Creasey in his various iterations is credited with 562 novels! Do you know how many people haven’t even written one novel? Most!
John Creasey (1908-1973) was an unbelievably prolific author but he did seem to have a fair spot of bother getting started. He is said to have received over 700 rejections before his first crime novel, Seven Times Seven, was published in 1932. He had published several novels by 1935, and they must have done all right, for that year Creasey was able to leave behind his day jobs and devote himself full time to writing. No doubt this was at least partly due to his incredible output. How incredible? In 1937 alone, he published 31 titles! Think about that for a moment--it’s more than one every other week!
John Creasey wrote standalone novels, Westerns, romances, and at least dabbled in just about every subject under the sun. Not only that, but he created numerous series characters. Among the most popular are the Gideon series, a Scotland Yard detective who starred in 21 novels, written under the name of J.J. Marric. Gideon was noted for his astounding memory and his ability to juggle multiple cases at once. He was also a television star, 26 episodes of Gideon’s Way were produced in the mid-sixties for ITV in the UK. A film entitled Gideon’s Day (Gideon of Scotland Yard in the US) was directed by John Ford and released in 1958, to acclaim.
Writing as Anthony Morton, the Baron was introduced in 1937 (Meet the Baron) and proved popular from the beginning. It must have, for four Baron titles were published each year from 1937-40. Again adapted by ITV, this time as a 30-episode series, it showcased an American working for British intelligence. However, in the books, the Baron is a reformed jewel thief and British to boot. 47 Baron novels extended his career from the thirties to the seventies.
Upper crust crime sleuth The Toff (aka Richard Rollison) made his bow in 1938 with the first of 59 novels, Introducing the Toff. A ‘toff’ is British slang for an aristocrat. ‘Toffee’ is a delicious confection of caramelized sugar with butter, and has nothing to do with this post.
Two Toff films were also produced in 1952.
Noted physician Dr. Palfrey was lured into the spy organization Z-5 to fight the Axis during WWII and underwent a great deal of character changes over the course of the series, starting in Traitor’s Doom (1942). Many times over the course of the 34 novels we see the old ‘madman threatening to destroy the world’ situation, but keep in mind that after the war, things did change. When reissued some years later, the author revised his stories somewhat. Wouldn’t it be interesting to read two editions side by side to see what Mr. Creasey deemed worthy of changing?
Inspector West Takes Charge began a series of procedurals featuring the handsome title character in 1942. Forty-two adventures later, West had been promoted to Superintendent and seen his two boys (named after the author’s own sons) grow up.
The Department Z series first saw print in 1933 with The Death Miser and these espionage tales are fast-paced thrillers. These are among the titles that author Creasey revised upon republication.
How many fans of the tough, no-nonsense Gideon would realize that the selfsame author wrote the posh Toff books as well? Or that Dr. Palfrey, the leader of the worldwide espionage organization Z5 and the gentle, elderly physician Dr. Emmanuel Cellar were created by the same man?
A paragon of versatility, invention, and consistency, John Creasey is criminally overlooked today and you, as a mystery aficionado, should investigate his oeuvre immediately, if not sooner. Here’s a sample:
Here at Mysterious, we have lots of way cool vintage Creasey titles, call and ask about them at 212.587.1011, order off this very website, or better still, drop by!
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Anthony Berkeley Quite Likes Chocolate
As we continue with our examination of vintage mystery writers, here’s one you may have overlooked:
Anthony Berkeley Cox (1893-1971) was one of the stalwarts of the Golden Age of Crime Fiction. Two distinct pen names and two distinct styles means that, as Anthony Berkeley, detective fiction with the character Roger Sheringham rose to new heights in the Golden Age, loosely defined as the period in between the World Wars. And as Francis Iles, psychological suspense stories welcomed a new champion. Active as a crime novelist for only fifteen years, his influence was substantial and significant, as he set the tone in certain ways for generations of crime writers to come.
Cox served in WWI and unfortunately took a dose of poison gas which affected his health for the rest of his life. An intensely private man, he published his first novel anonymously, after having written humorous sketches for Punch magazine, among others. But what a splash that first novel made! The Layton Court Mystery introduced irascible amateur detective Roger Sheringham. Starting with his second novel, The Wychford Poisoning Case, author Berkeley made an effort to steer away from what might be termed materialist-based crimes towards an effort to explore the psychological aspects of crime and criminals. Further stretching the norms of the genre, Berkeley introduced Inspector Moresby, who in many cases proves a better investigator than the nonprofessional Sheringham. Much of the time in crime fiction, the amateur sleuth sleuths rings around the cops, but Berkeley was ahead of the curve in making the cops occasionally competent. And Sheringham is certainly not infallible; sometimes he fails to identity, or misidentifies, the killer.
But without question, the written work for which Anthony Berkeley is best known is The Poisoned Chocolates Case, first published in 1929. A gent loses a bet with his wife and must pay off in the form of a box of chocolates. They both enjoy some, but the missus dies. Someone has poisoned the treats! Who is responsible for this reprehensible deed? Soon, five more amateur detectives join Sheringham and each offers a theory on the crime and the perpetrator. Which is correct? Has anyone got it right after all? No spoilers here! There’s only one way to find out who, if anyone, poisoned Joan Bendix, and I guess you know what it is. The six would-be private eyes who try to solve the case are known in the book as the Crimes Circle, which was patterned after the Detection Club, an invitation-only gathering of mystery writers that Berkeley himself helped to start. [Golden Age of Murder link] It was Berkeley who was one of the pioneers of the notion of the fallible detective; that is, someone who occasionally makes a mistake or whose big theory reveal at the close of the tale turns out to be completely wrong. Which is kind of refreshing. And quite unlike the polite, urbane, wealthy playboy type of sleuth, Sheringham, especially in his earlier adventures, is an obnoxious loudmouth, which also leaves the reader strangely impressed with this significant departure from the fictive norm. Although like many a fictional character, he did change over the course of the series, to the point where he was considerably mellowed from his early characterizations. Although, right to the end, Sheringham wasn’t shy about breaking the law if he deemed it necessary!
Many crime fiction aficionados regard the three books that Berkeley wrote under the name Francis Iles as his greatest works; the first, Malice Aforethought, fascinates as the reader tries to reason whether the murderer, who is known from the beginning, will get away with the crime and if so, how? Before the Fact, the second written as Iles, concerns a woman jarred by the notion that the man she married is a murderer, and was filmed by Alfred Hitchcock as Suspicion. Meanwhile As For the Woman, from 1939, is the last novel and but for a few short pieces, the last fiction that Anthony Berkeley (Cox) wrote. According to some of his fellow Detection Club members, Berkeley did a sort of reverse Sheringham, being known for his urbanity and suave behavior, but eventually morphed into a mean, unpleasant man, which may be partially explained by his late-in-life health problems.
Eccentricities aside, crime fiction aficionados should not neglect Berkeley (or Iles), for some of the best characterization and plotting of the entire Golden Age is contained in these stories; indeed, if your curiosity is piqued, then look no further!
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- Auguste Dupin, esq.--The Leader Of the Pack
Edgar Allan Poe is considered by many to be the originator of the modern detective story with Commissaire Auguste Dupin, who first appeared in Murders In the Rue Morgue in Graham’s magazine in 1841, at which publication Poe worked as an editor. He received $56 for the story, high for the time, especially compared to the $9 that he was paid for The Raven.
Now, Poe did not invent crime fiction, prior works such as Zadig by Voltaire contain plot and stylistic similarities although the recognition of Poe as the first exponent of detective fiction is contained in the naming of the Mystery Writers of America award the ‘Edgars.’
Many of the characteristics of Poe’s detective Dupin have become standards in detective fiction, such as the brilliantly deductive sleuth, the friend who serves as narrator, and the revelation of the perpetrator preceding the explanation of the crime itself. Dupin was born into a well-off family, but he lost his wealth and led a hand-to-mouth existence, living a relatively simple life. Unlike Watson, his narrator/roommate is unnamed. The pair live in Paris and met at the library while looking for the same book. Dupin is an honoree of the legion d’honneur and is acquainted with a police prefect, referred to in the stories as G-.
In a letter to a friend, Poe wrote that the point of ‘Rue Morgue' was to spotlight the exercise of ingenuity in depicting a murderer. And ingenuity it is, as the perpetrator of the crime is a most unlikely suspect.
(Spoilers!) ‘Rue Morgue’ is the first locked room mystery in fiction, another milestone for author Poe. If written today, the sailor would be set up as a suspect for the detective to prove or disprove, and today’s readers, who expect to investigate along with the police, might be put off at Poe’s ‘cheating,’ as few would include an orangutan on a list of suspects.
Dupin returned in two more stories in the 1840s. The Case of Marie Roget was based on a sensational murder in New York, when the body of cigar saleswoman Mary Rogers was found floating in the Hudson River. This was the first fiction based upon a true crime and indeed remains one of New York City’s most baffling unsolved murder cases ever. This second story in the Dupin canon was originally published in Snowden’s Ladies Companion in late 1842.
The third and final Dupin story by Poe appeared in The Gift in 1844, which was an annual publication devoted to presenting literary works to its readers. Poe received twelve dollars for this piece. A letter has been stolen from a government minister. Through logic, Dupin deduces that the politician, Minister D.-, has the letter. But then, Dupin produces the letter to collect the reward! This money-motivated Dupin is in contrast to the detective of Murders In the Rue Morgue, where he declines a reward. His desire to solve crimes for his own edification has thus evolved!
A huge influence in the creation of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, among many others, was C. Auguste Dupin.
Read all three Dupin stories, and lots more Poe here: