The Mysterious Bookshop

All Things Mysterious Volume Eighty-Sixed

                          So Bad It’s Good?

 

Most aficionados of crime fiction are well familiar with the giants of the genre: the Christies, Gardners, Chandlers, Carrs, Hammetts, then later the Childs, Connellys, Spillanes, and tomorrow’s leading mystery writers such as Mosfegh, May, LeMaitre and Nguyen.  

But today let’s spare a kind thought for the lesser lights--those who sustained a career despite the fact that they were never critical or commercial darlings.  

It’s likely that the poster child for the ‘so bad it’s good’ school was and remains Harry Stephen Keeler (1890-1967), who during his lifetime was thought of as an admittedly eccentric mystery writer who occasionally wrote some science fiction.  He was said to generate plots by taking a handful of unrelated newspaper clippings and tying them together by hook or by crook, and whether that’s true or not, he sure came up with some doozies!  Like f’rinstance:

A killer midget disguised as a baby who stalks victims by helicopter.

A painting is vandalized by a ‘collector’ who takes the face--and only the face--from the painting.

A cemetery specializing in circus freaks.

 

The fact that his own mother had him committed to an asylum when he was a child no doubt profoundly affected Harry’s formative years, and it’s likely no coincidence that sympathetic portrayals of the mentally ill, especially people wrongly committed, abound in his work.

Clearly Keeler wasn’t particularly interested in the accepted conventions of mystery fiction.  On more than one occasion the author did not get around to introducing the character who turned out to be the killer until the very end--in one instance in the very last sentence!

If it’s true that H.S. Keeler did the newspaper story grab bag to generate plot ideas, it’s no surprise that his stories win the prize for most utterly implausible coincidences ever; after all, it can’t be easy to mash some of this stuff together!

Keeler was not above padding his novels, some of which are already ludicrously long.  How does 350,000 words grab you?

Unsurprisingly, his publisher insisted that this tome of tomes be broken up into three separate novels.  (60-70,000 words is the length of an average novel) Even given the length of some of these stories, often a character mentions a tale or a lecture or some such, and the following chapter is the tale or lecture!  In some of his later novels, Mrs. Keeler makes such a contribution. Indeed, her short story Spangles is the basis for no fewer than six of his novels!  But maybe Harry Stephen Keeler needed no help in fashioning some of the most bizarre plots ever.  Like: A coffin is fished out of Lake Michigan. Inside is a nude corpse comprised of the upper half of an Asian woman and the lower half of an African man!  They are attached in the middle by some green gum.  I am not making this up. I don't remember that story in the paper!  What’s more, that’s only chapter one!

When all is said and done, how can you not love the man who created (and bumped off) Screamo the Clown?  Or someone who dedicated one of his novels to one of his own fictional characters?

 

One thing you could say about Michael Avallone (1924-1999)--he sure was prolific!  Not Creasey-level prolific, but he did claim authorship of over 1000 works, although this is likely an exaggeration.  His parents were pretty prolific, too--he had sixteen siblings!

Actually he is credibly credited with about 200 novels, nearly all of them paperback originals, but not all of them mysteries.

After he got out of the army, he worked as a stationery salesman, which must have at least given him access to plenty of paper. Given the plethora of sports and men’s magazines in the early fifties in New York, there were opportunities aplenty for fast writers, of whom Avallone was certainly one.  He moved into editing some magazines once he’d obtained a foothold as a writer.

He is best known for his hero Ed Noon, featured in 36 paperback originals and lots of short stories. Noon started in 1953 as a typical hard boiled private eye, but by the mid-sixties he’d morphed into a Bond-esque spy.  Noon’s adventures could give Harry Keeler a run for his money in terms of implausibility. Speaking of implausibility, Avallone is also well known for his novelizations of the Man From Uncle television series, and he created novels from other series as well, Hawaii Five-O, Mannix, and, heaven help us, The Partridge Family among them.

His novels are also chock-full of baseball trivia and film tidbits, and some of them have some pretty spicy scenes as well. Also sentence fragments.

It’s quite a legacy that most everyone who remembers Avallone recalls him as being ‘an ornery cuss,’ but there’s no question that his books will live on, at the very least as pure entertainment.

 

Literary merit is of course a function of individual taste, but quite a few critics hold Harry Keeler and Michael Avallone in low esteem.  Who will the the twenty-first century’s leading ‘so bad it’s good’ author?  Email your nominations here and perhaps we will mention them in a future post:


Questions/Comments/So Bad They're Good? mike@mysteriousbookshop.com

After you’ve done that, have a read of some Keelers and Avallones:

This one is inscribed by the author:

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http://www.mysteriousbookshop.com/products/keeler-harry-stephen-the-mysterious-mr-i

 

 

 

Perverse plots and kinky kills?  Sign me up!

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Questions/comments/green gum?  mike@mysteriousbookshop.com

Written by Ian Kern — March 23, 2017

All Things Mysterious Volume Eighty-Five

Lieutenant Jones in: The Alternate Universe--The Exciting Conclusion!

 

It was the sleeping couple from the park!  So the cry probably should have been ‘People Overboard!’ or ‘Couple Overboard!’ or maybe just ‘Overboard!’  The two had dozed off again, in a clinch as usual, and apparently just rolled right off the side of the raft into the briny deep. Naturally the other sailors all rushed over to where they’d been last seen and tried to fish them out, but this tipped the raft dangerously, so they all backed off to the other side, which tipped the raft the other way. This cycle continued for some time, the raft rocking back and forth on the ocean as all aboard kept moving to and fro until someone got the bright idea to just stand in the middle. By this time they were several nautical miles from where the sleepies had gone into the drink so rescue was impossible.  A solemn moment of silence was undertaken.  Then Lt. Jones noticed that the couple’s bag was still sitting there untended.  He took it upon himself to open it and what do you think he found?  Lock-picking tools, a spyglass, a compass, a notebook written entirely in code, a camera hidden in a boutonniere, and a shoe with a hollow heel. Now what earthly use did this stuff have?  Unless...that’s it!  The two who fell overboard must have been spies!  Perhaps they were in support of the occupation of the Sandwich Islands, perhaps they were opposed to it.  No matter.  They were on the bottom with Davy Jones’ locker and that was that.  

Day after day they rafted on.  Sometimes they drifted in the wrong direction. How were they ever to get to Hawaii if they couldn’t steer?  Finally, Jonah had everyone take off their shoes and use them to paddle due west.  

At last!  Land Ho!  A breeze lifted the fragrances of the Islands toward them and all the rafters simultaneously took a deep, cleansing breath.  When they all exhaled, that propelled the raft the rest of the way to the shore where they were met by a welcoming committee.  A strange mashup of pretty Polynesians in hula skirts and leis along with odd hunchbacked creatures and one old gentleman dressed in a pirate suit. Cutlass, eyepatch, and what was apparently a stuffed parrot on his shoulder.  He was the first to speak.  ‘Arrh! D’ye be comin’ in on a raft?’  Jonah looked around, unnerved, and took it upon himself to be spokesperson.  ‘Of course we did, you just saw us float up.’

‘Arrh!  That we did, lad, that we did.’

Lennon said, ‘You gonna invite us on shore, then?’

‘Arrh!  Come ahead, come ahead.’  And so the ragged band of rafters slowly trudged to the shore of the island paradise.  And paradise it was!  Warm, fragrant breezes carried the essence of the Sandwich Islands to and fro across the land masses, while the tall trees provided handy shade which was especially welcome to the travellers who hadn’t had any in quite some time.  They sought a shady spot and were brought refreshments by some of the diseased-looking people who looked for all the world like they’d been turned inside-out by a twist of fate.  And so they had.  The Lieutenant could see that they suffered from leprosy which was probably why they had been remanded to these remote parts. One of their number was larger and rather better put together than the others and he spoke up.

‘Stop staring at us!  We’re people just like you!’

‘You’re people, all right, but you’re not just like us, are you?’ replied Lennon.

‘I am Dolan. We are the descendants of the original inhabitants of Molokai, the leper colony. We are not contagious, so there’s no need to stare or shun us.’

‘But then why do you look so funky?’ asked Jonah.

‘We have some of the regressive traits of the disease, which unfortunately includes some abnormalities of the skin.  We simply ask to be left alone to live out our lives on our ancestral lands.’

So this is the hideous occupation, the Lieutenant mused.  No wonder the tourists and the army folks want to get rid of them!  Why are people so easily frightened by anything that’s different?  He spoke to Dolan.

‘Sir, I believe if the people on the mainland knew the truth about you, public opinion will turn in your favor.  As it is, you are being portrayed as lawless thugs taking over a region that should be reserved for the elite and the military!’

‘We have no objection to sharing the Islands; we only want one small one for ourselves upon which to live in peace.’

‘That is very reasonable. When and if we return, I will personally see to it that your message is heard,’ said the Lieutenant.

‘That is very kind of you, sir,’ said Dolan.

‘What d’you mean, IF we return?’ demanded Lennon.

Lt. Jones explained.  ‘I’m sure you noticed that the current that carried us here was going in the opposite direction that we need to get back to the mainland.  I’m afraid paddling with our shoes won’t do.’

This news was not met with stone-faced equanimity from Jonah.  ‘Yaaah!’ he shouted. ‘Owwww! My toe!’  He’d stubbed his toe on a rock on the beach. Hopping on one foot and holding the throbbing big toe that he’d smashed, he was a comical sight, but what happened next wasn’t so comical. He rushed over to one of the hula-skirted women, grabbing her by the lei and shouted, ‘I’m staying!  I’m one of you!  You can’t get me back on that thing!’ indicating the raft.  

Dolan shrugged.  ‘So stay.  No one will force you to do anything.  It’s the Sandwich Islands, live and let live!’

‘Arrh! The Sandwich Islands is home to all!  Arrh!’ put in the pirate.

His drama deflated, Jonah and his inamorata wandered off to learn one another’s names and life stories.

Meanwhile Lennon had struck up a conversation with one of the other inhabitants. A young man with a mop of dark hair and an infectious grin, the two seemed to be getting along famously.

Lt. Jones had salvaged the satchel that the couple that went overboard had left and was rooting around in it.  He came up smiling, holding a small pouch.

‘Look what I’ve got!’ he cried.  Everyone gathered around to see what it was.

‘It seems our drowned friends were agents of some foreign or domestic power and were carrying implements of their trade.  See here?’ And he yanked on a lanyard. In moments a large inflatable lifeboat took shape, plenty big enough to carry them back across the sea.  And look!  Here was an inflatable motor!  Now they wouldn’t have to paddle with their shoes, which was a relief.

‘Arrh!  It’ll be a bon voyage you’ll be havin’!’ yelped the pirate.

‘Where did HE come from?’ asked Lennon.

‘No one knows--he just kind of showed up one day.  Must have drifted here like you did,’ said Dolan. ‘But you have the means to get back.’

But did they even want to go back?  Remember, time itself was damaged.  How could they repair the rend and set everything right again?  But that was a discussion that could wait until tomorrow, for it was getting dark, and the travellers and the Islanders gathered around a fire and had some roasted vegetables and some mushed up roots that the natives called Poy and which tasted like library paste.  John Lennon, restless as always, wandered off with the genial young man, who introduced himself as Paul and said he’d been accidentally stranded here after a holiday.  ‘Look what I’ve got!’ he cried.  ‘It’s not a lifeboat, but it’s still pretty good!’  He came to the bonfire with two small wooden boxes with wires across the front and called them ‘Yoo-ka-lay-leez.’  He handed one to Lennon and started brushing his with his hand.  John picked up the technique quickly and joined in, the two making a most pleasant sound.

All at once the music started to grow until it surrounded everyone, even blotting out the bonfire and the sky. It grew and grew like a living thing, you could even see the notes and the colors made by the music.  Everyone joined in wordless harmonies as the visuals shimmered and shifted.

Next thing, the Lieutenant was right back where he started, face down in bed in a hotel room in Dubai.  He rose and looked out the window.  Pollution, traffic jams, meanness--it was all here!  The past had been repaired!  How lucky they’d been to escape another perilous sea journey!  Now the folks still on the Islands could use the inflatable boat & motor to leave, if they wished.

Hmmm, mused the Lieutenant.  John and Paul were nice chaps.  I wonder whatever happened to them?



Alternate histories are fun!

It's the mid-sixties, twenty years after Germany won WWII. When a high-ranking official of the Nazis turns up dead, it opens up layers of intrigue that threatens to bring down the Third Reich once and for all!




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Questions/Comments/Yoo-ka-lay-leez? mike@mysteriousbookshop.com

 

Written by Ian Kern — March 16, 2017

All Things Mysterious Volume Nineteen Eighty-Four

 

Lt Jones in: The Alternate Universe

 

John Lennon finished tuning his Epiphone Casino and sent a chord through his Vox amplifier.  There!  That sounded pretty good.  After ten years at his civil service job in Birmingham, he’d finally got a chance to play some of his music.  Now that his equipment was sorted out, he was ready to rock and roll!  

In a nearby park, a group calling itself America for an American America was holding a rally around the hot button issues of the day-- an end to the occupation of the Sandwich Islands and for the legalization of beer.

John Winston Lennon was slowly dying.  Not in a physical sense, although he was doing that, just as we all are.  No, he was dying onstage.  No one seemed to be listening and those that were couldn’t even be bothered to applaud at the end of a song. And he’d busted out his ‘A’ material for this gig!  Just what did he have to do to hold an audience--jump up and down and spit wooden nickels?

When Lieutenant Jones materialized from his hotel room in Dubai he was face down in the grass. He must have been sleeping, but he was wide awake now!  He was in a large park in the center of a city, he could tell that much, and as he looked over his surroundings he saw a large gathering of people at one end of the park. Apparently someone was about to make a speech.  This must be the focal point in this time and place that he’d been meant to see.  

Lennon had slunk out of the pub after being stopped in the midst of his set by the proprietor, who said that the remaining patrons wanted to hear a Swedish singing group called Oslo on the jukebox and would he kindly pack up and go?  Darn it! fumed Lennon.  He knew, absolutely knew, that folks would enjoy his music if he only had a chance to present it.  Maybe some more practice wouldn’t hurt.  He went to the park down the street to do a little busking.  Meandering over to his favorite area where the picnic tables were, shrugged his guitar case off his shoulder and opened it up, carefully placing it open on the ground, the better to collect any donations.  He began playing a composition of his very own called ‘Plutocrat Hero’ which was a slow, hypnotic number celebrating the masters of the universe.  Soon the people at the rally began looking in his direction and nodding along with the beat. One, a man with tousled hair and very white teeth, gave a thumbs-up sign.  One called out, ‘You know, kid, that’s a pretty good song.’ What else you got?’  Lennon smiled and launched into another song he called ‘Happiness Is a Warm Sandwich,’ which was a pointed comment on the occupation of the islands.  

‘I personally like classical music, but it has a good beat,’ a man in a three-piece suit sniffed. In a moment he was drowned out by the rally’s first speaker.

‘We believe that the Islands should be open to all, and not be restricted to rich folks and army men.  We believe that beer should be legal to brew, possess, and drink for anyone over the age of ten.  Where we veer off is the methods to achieve these goals.’

‘BOMBS!’ shouted half the people.

‘LOVE!’ shouted the other half.

‘QUIET!’ shouted the other other half.

‘As I was saying,’ continued the principal speaker, ‘what I propose is a fact-finding trip to the Sandwich Islands and find out for ourselves what the effect of the occupation is!’  Naturally this was met with raucous cheers, for who wouldn’t want to go to a warm island paradise?  No one rallying in the park really knew for sure what was going on there; the Islands were thousands of miles away and most people had only a vague idea of the details of the ongoing military occupation but many were strident about it anyway, after a fashion.

‘If we can end this unconscionable occupation, I’d even give up bootleg beer!’  This, of course, was met with a chorus of boos.  

The speaker continued, ‘We will take a delegation of six people; raise your hand if you’d like to volunteer!’

All but a handful of people raised their hands; to narrow the selection process, the speaker, whose name was Jonah, selected those who had not.  Lennon was one, since he was still playing his guitar; the Lieutenant was another, since he was really just an observer; two more were a couple who were sound asleep under a tree and paid no attention to the entire rally; and of course Jonah himself. That made five, and they would need the sixth to actually get them there by hook or by crook.

Once the couple was awakened and told of their good fortune, all agreed to meet at the docks very early the next morning, for it was a long way to the Sandwich Islands. For his part, Lt. Jones had an uneasy feeling that something was amiss in this timeline.  

When they arrived at the pier, the travellers were dismayed to find that they were sailing all the way across the ocean on a raft.  A rickety looking thing that looked to be held together by string, bits of tape, and chewing gum, it sure didn’t look like it could hold all six people and their effects, but, they hadn’t much choice, as  luxury liners are expensive.  Still, mused the Lieutenant, this was pretty spartan for such an undertaking.  But the band of hardy sailors was so convinced that their cause was just that they all dutifully clambered aboard the raft without a look back, and soon they were a-sail.  Jonah, the head of the organizing committee for the rally, navigated since he had provided the raft after the captain of the ship they’d chartered got a better deal to sail to Seward’s Folly up north.  The couple who'd been sleeping at the rally were talking to John Lennon, who had brought his guitar, an extra pair of trousers, and literally nothing else.  Lt. Jones brought up the rear of the raft, if a raft can be said to have a rear, and was alone with his thoughts.  The feeling that something was very amiss with this time frame was even stronger now, and he felt sure that the focal point in time was very near and that something needed to be set right to put the universe back on track.  But his reverie was rudely interrupted when the cry went up--MAN OVERBOARD!



Whew!  Who has fallen overboard?  Can they really get to the Sandwich Islands on a raft?  Who or what is the focal point in time, and can the Lieutenant fix the universe?  Tune in next Thursday for the exciting conclusion to Lieutenant Jones in: The Alternate Universe!



Alternate histories are fun!

 

 

Paul Christopher knows who shot JFK and he sets out to prove it, even after his superiors at the CIA nix his investigation. He quits and goes out on his own to prove (or disprove) his theory.  Not strictly an alternate history, it's a corking good read and a very plausible story in terms of how the martyrdom of the late president might have happened.

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Bet you didn't know that there are really at least two 2016s--read about the both of them here and see which you prefer!

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There's more than one 'Germany won WWII' novel out there; this is one of the best:

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Questions/Comments/Vera Lynn records?  Mike@mysteriousbookshop.com

 

Written by Ian Kern — March 09, 2017

All Things Mysterious Volume Eighty-Three

Float Like a Bee, Sting Like a Butterfly--A Brand Adventure

 

Brand wasn’t a betting man by nature, but he found himself sorely tempted by the upcoming heavyweight prize fight. Atticus Chalk was a brash young upstart battling it out with the incumbent champion, Julius ‘Honey’ Childs.

Even Brand couldn’t escape the hype over this one, it was everywhere!  The backstory was that they’d shared a trainer and a gym when they were both up and comers and sparred often, spurring each other to new heights of pugilistic frenzy. At one point the sparring got heated and soon the fighters were wailing away at each other with blood in their eyes.  Formerly, well, not friends exactly, but a certain respect was lost that day, as each blamed the other for the escalation in hostility. Honey Childs had beaten every challenger so far to retain his title, but hadn’t fought Chalk since the fateful spar.

So it promised to be a battle where the blood really flew. Brand made up his mind--he’d put two dollars down on the champ. But how to do it?  Gambling was illegal in Brand’s state, and he had no idea where to look for a bookie. Hmm. Clearly the thing to do was to get a ticket to the fight first.  Maybe at the arena he could find someone who would back the challenger.  At the four-to-one odds favoring the incumbent, Brand would win fifty cents!

So down he went to the Municipal Sports Arena box office, where, somewhat to his surprise, there were still tickets on sale.  One would certainly expect such a well-publicized heavyweight bout to be a sellout, wouldn’t one?  Well, no point looking a gift boxer in the glove, or something.

As the boring preliminary bouts dragged on, Brand wandered around the smoky, foul-smelling arena.  Feeling hungry, he stopped at a concession and bought a large bag of popcorn for a dime.

Hmpf!, he thought.  It was a nickel last time.  When was that?  Let’s see, he had last been at the fights for the Kid Viola/Battling Kern bout, which was in...he couldn’t remember.  Quite a while ago!  Was that the night the house lights went out, only to come on again to illuminate the crowd brawling among itself?  Brand thought so.  He meandered back to his seat, absently inhaling his hot buttered popcorn. So good!  Why did snack treats always taste so much better at a ball game or around a campfire?  

Suddenly Brand saw someone he knew hanging around the water fountain. Steamboat Durkin was a sharp-dressed guy, resplendent in a zoot suit, watch chain, and wide-brimmed hat. He was an operator from way back, and Brand remembered him from the unfortunate eggplant incident of 1996.  Durkin saw him approaching and turned away.  Brand, still keen to get his two dollars down, sidled up to him and whispered, ‘Hey, Steamboat, can I get a wager down on the champ?’  Steamboat whispered back, ‘Sure, kid, but bet on Chalk, he’s going to win!’

Now this was interesting.  Was the outcome of the fight pre-determined?  Who ever heard of such a thing in boxing?

Still, Brand wanted to stick with Childs and when he indicated this to the other man, Steamboat rolled his eyes and said, ‘Hey, it’s your money.’  When Brand held out two one-dollar bills to the zoot-suited bookie, the latter’s looked at the money in disbelief. ‘What do you think, I got some penny-ante thing going?  Get out of here!’ and walked away quickly.  Standing there still holding two dollars, Brand felt pretty ridiculous but just then another man came up to him and said, ‘Hey, bud, want to bet?’  

‘Sure, here you go.’

‘Not here. Walk with me.’

And so the two ‘gentlemen’ walked along the concourse as the dreary preliminary bouts were still going. Presently the other man spoke.

‘Name’s Cheese. Want to bet on the champ?’

‘Yes, please.’ (What kind of a name is Cheese?)

‘It’s your dough.  You know the fight is rigged, right?’

‘I heard that. What’s the deal, anyway?’

‘See, when these two were supposed to have had their little tiff, that was all for the press. They are still good friends and they’ve cooked up a scheme to put down all the money they can find on Chalk, clean up since the odds are on Childs, and then split the money so Childs can retire.’

‘But won’t he get a lot of money for the fight, even if he loses?  And why does he want to retire?’

‘He’s tired of defending his title and wants to enjoy life now while he’s still in pretty good shape.  Now, Chalk, he wants to be the champ and take his turn in the spotlight. And who ever has enough money?’

‘I sure don’t!  How do you know all this?’

‘Cause they’ve been training together at my cousin’s gym.  That’s how I know they’re still friends and that this feud stuff is the bunk.’

‘Oh.’ Brand pondered this.  If he bet on Chalk, instead of only fifty cents, he could win eight dollars!  No, his gut told him that professional pride wouldn’t allow Childs to take a dive.  Once the adrenalin started flowing, instinct and training would take over and the champeen would do his best. ‘Thanks, but I’ll stick with two rocks on the champ.’

‘Suit yourself, I’ll be at the hot dog stand over there at the end.’ And Circe took the two dollars off of Brand and did stand at the stand.

Ah! Now the main event was starting! Brand settled in his seat, all ready for his evening’s entertainment.  But as the bell rang for the first round, the two patrons on either side of Brand started shouting at the fighters, and then at each other. It seemed that one man was for Childs, and one for Chalk.  Then:

‘You bum!  I know this fight is fixed!’

‘Ha! You couldn’t fix a light bulb!’

‘Oh yeah? I could too!’

This scintillating dialogue was met with hisses and glares from the surrounding crowd, and presently the men calmed down and watched the bout.  Soon Brand and the crowd were absorbed in the fighting.  If the two were boxing according to some script, they were terrific actors; it looked for all the world like they were deadly serious. Brand stared intently at the ring.  Who would win?  Was there anything to Cheese’s story?  What of the people who innocently thought the fight was on the up-and-up?  Well, that was their lookout. As the fifteenth and last round began, Brand could pick no clear winner.  Both fighters looked exhausted, but both dragged themselves out for the conclusion.  Suddenly Brand remembered his bag of popcorn, which lay forgotten at his feet. Still more than half full!  He picked it up, hungry again, and started absently munching while still focused on the ring.

While Brand was staring at Childs and trying to decide if that really was Mickey Mouse on his trunks, he noticed that one of the patrons seated next to him had stopped shouting at the man on the other side and had started dipping into Brand’s bag of popcorn.

‘Hey, go get your own, ya moocher!’ exclaimed Brand.  In response, the other man snatched the bag and upended it into his own mouth.

Brand jumped up and shouted, loud as a sonic boom, ‘GIVE ME BACK MY POPCORN, YOU BUM!’ as he snatched it away and just like that the arena was silent.  Chalk and Childs both looked away from the punches they were delivering and gaped at Brand. They struck each other simultaneously and both fell to the canvas, unconscious. The referee had no choice but to pull down the microphone from its cord dangling from the ceiling and yell, ‘This fight is a draw!’ and then run.

A tie!  No one wins, no one loses, and no one is paid off!

 

The crowd slowly filed out of the arena, utterly silent.  As Brand and his seatmate made their way to the exits, the other man helped himself to another handful of popcorn, winked at Brand, and said,  That’s what I like about the fight racket--it’s so predictable!’

 

Brand shouted after him, ‘You owe me a dime!’

 

One month later, the papers reported that Julius ‘Honey’ Childs and Atticus Chalk had retired from prizefighting and together opened a gourmet popcorn shop. Business was said to be brisk.

 


Step into the ring with this knockout punch:

Anomalous by Samuel Williams


America's first African American heavyweight boxing champion, Jack Johnson, has a chance encounter with Alamont, a mysterious Irishman, in August 1912. When he finds himself in danger, he calls on his Mafia cronies, including a teenaged Al Capone.

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Questions/Comments/Neutral Corners? mike@mysteriousbookshop.com

Written by Ian Kern — March 02, 2017

All Things Mysterious Volume Eighty-Two

Lee Thayer--An Unjustly Overlooked Mystery Writer

 

ATM is back from a one-week hiatus, wherein y_r friendly blogger was in Florida visiting friends and relatives, and a splendid time was had by all!

Emma Redington Thayer (nee Lee, 1874-1973), was a prolific mystery writer who published under the name Lee Thayer. She wrote sixty mysteries over a period of forty-seven years, ending in 1966 with the publication of Dusty Death which appeared when the author was ninety-two!  

All of Lee Thayer’s mysteries, starting with 1919’s The Mystery Of the Thirteenth Floor, involve the red-headed amateur sleuth-turned-policeman-turned-private eye Peter Clancy. In the 1929 title Dead Man’s Shoes Clancy was joined by (James) Wiggar, a kind of valet/companion/butler. Wiggar is veddy veddy British and apparently dedicated chiefly to massaging the ego of his employer.  

While certainly no wallflower, Clancy isn’t a traditional ‘tough guy’ crimebuster in the mode of Sam Spade, but a bit more thoughtful in his musings.  Even so, Thayer’s publisher, usually Dodd Mead, seemed to market the titles as at least noir-ish, with atmospheric dust jacket images that may or may not have been related to the story within.   

For example, the jacket of Accessory After the Fact (1945) offers the blurb ‘Clancy and Wiggar find MURDER in the Fog,’ while Pig In a Poke claims ‘Peter Clancy cuts the knot.’

Accident, Manslaughter or Murder offers up ‘Peter Clancy Decides’ over a grey valley with a red sign blaring Danger!  This cover art is signed ‘LT ‘45,’; the author was an accomplished artist and designed many a book cover, including quite a few of her own titles. And, in an atmospheric blue tinted courtyard, the jacket of Guilt Edged shows ‘Peter Clancy & Wiggar in a bizarre case’ and, innovatively, looking through a keyhole on the cover of Within the Vault, ‘Peter Clancy and Wiggar find the key.’  Clancy is adept at doggedly pursuing his man (or woman) and gathering and sifting evidence and no sedentary sleuth is he; the plethora of locales in which he plies his trade include Hollywood, Canada, Bermuda, New Orleans, Florida...seems like the detective likes the warm weather (except for Canada), and who can blame him? Clancy and Wiggar even tackle a crime on a boat, the good ship Sutherland.

Quite often Clancy relies on what might be called an early form of forensics, tracing bullet paths, examining footprints, and the like.  He’s even been known to dress to the nines in order to stroll into a white-shoe Wall Street office unmolested.  Clearly discretion and catering to the upper crust were his hallmarks. Clancy tended to work outside the purview of traditional authority, although he does team with Capt. O’Malley (ret.) and Lt. Kerrigan of the NYPD in some of the early adventures.  

Author Thayer was also an interior designer of note. This may be why room decor is described in detail in several of her books!

Bottom line:  

How can you not love an author who writes, ‘It was as dark as the inside of a cow?’

 

All titles in bold available here at Mysterious!  Call 212.685.1011 or write mike@mysteriousbookshop.com for details.  Call between 11am and 7pm and an actual person, right in the store, will answer the phone.  How about that?

Written by Ian Kern — February 23, 2017

All Things Mysterious Volume Eighty-One

 

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.



http://www.mysteriousbookshop.com/products/christie-agatha-the-murder-on-the-links

 

Pitchers and catchers next week!  So how about some love for the unfairly maligned umps:

http://www.mysteriousbookshop.com/products/breen-jon-l-kill-the-umpire

 

And for the younger reader:

http://www.mysteriousbookshop.com/products/savage-j-scott-case-file-13-vol-2-making-the-team

 

 

Questions/Comments/Winning a Sports Wager For a Change?  mike@mysteriousbookshop.com

Written by Ian Kern — February 09, 2017

All Things Mysterious Volume Eighty

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!’

‘Why?’

‘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.’

‘Bosh!’

‘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!’

‘Incredible!’

‘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.’

‘Shocking!’

‘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!

http://www.mysteriousbookshop.com/products/loren-d-estleman-dr-jekyll-and-mr-holmes

 

Behind the Canonical Screen by Lyndsay Faye and Ashley Polasek

Emphasizing the full range of the numerous examples of Sherlockian cinema, with color photos.

http://www.mysteriousbookshop.com/products/faye-lindsay-polasek-ashley-editors-sherlock-holmes-behind-the-canonical-screen

 

Ok, this isn't a Holmes book, I just wanted to see if you were paying attention:





http://www.mysteriousbookshop.com/products/peter-swanson-her-every-fear

 

Questions/Comments/Dietary Restrictions?  mike@mysteriousbookshop.com

Written by Ian Kern — February 02, 2017

All Things Mysterious Volume Seventy-Nine

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?’

‘YES!’

‘Will we win this fight, and save generations of animals from the supper table?’

‘YES!’

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.’

‘What!’

 

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.

http://www.mysteriousbookshop.com/products/abdul-jabbar-waterhouse-anna-mycroft-holmes

 

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!

http://www.mysteriousbookshop.com/products/arthur-conan-doyle-the-complete-sherlock-holmes



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?  mike@mysteriousbookshop.com

Written by Ian Kern — January 26, 2017

All Things Mysterious Volume Seventy-Eight

 

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.

‘Good Lord!’

‘Good Lord!’

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.’

‘And you?’

‘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!

http://www.mysteriousbookshop.com/products/pre-order-otto-penzler-ed-the-big-book-of-sherlock-holmes-stories-hardcover

 

Sherlock battles Jack the Ripper?  Yes, please.

http://www.mysteriousbookshop.com/products/faye-lyndsay-dust-and-shadow

 

And, while we're on the subject:

http://www.mysteriousbookshop.com/products/otto-penzler-the-big-book-of-jack-the-ripper

 

Like the esteemed TV series?  Herein are the stories that inspired the creators:

http://www.mysteriousbookshop.com/products/doyle-arthur-conan-sherlock-the-essential-adventures

 

And, because there's nothing like the originals:

A two-volume paperback set, very reasonably priced, containing all 56 short stories and four novels.

http://www.mysteriousbookshop.com/products/arthur-conan-doyle-the-complete-sherlock-holmes

 

Questions/Comments/Clues? mike@mysteriousbookshop.com

 

Written by Ian Kern — January 19, 2017

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