Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, April 13, 2020


Openers:  The man's tie was as orange as a sunset.  He was a large man, tall and meaty, without softness.  The dark hair parted in the middle, flattened to his scalp, his firm, full cheeks, the clothes that fit him with noticeable snugness, even the small, pink ears flt against the sides of his head -- each of these seemed but a differently colored part of one same, smooth surface.  His age could have been thirty-five or forty-five.

He sat besides Samuel Spade's desk, leaning forward a little over his Malacca stick, and said, "No.  I want you find out what happened to him.  I hope you never find him."  His protuberant green eyes stared solemnly at Spade.

-- Dashiell Hammett, "Too Many Have Lived"  (from The American Magazine, October 1932; reprinted in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Volume 1, Fall 1941)

Dashiell Hammett's best-known detective Sam Spade first appeared in The Maltese Falcon in a five-part serial beginning September 1929 in the pulp detective magazine Black Mask.  The story and the character soon became famous upon book publication.  Hammett went on to use his satanic looking detective in only three other stories -- one novelette and two short stories.  "Too Many Have Lived" was the second of those three and was chosen by the editor to be the very first story in the first issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

Ellery Queen was the name of the character aa well as the pseudonymous author of a string of best-selling mysteries.  Behind the pen-name were two cousins:  Manfred B. Lee (1905-1971) and Frederic Dannay (1905-1982), but behind the editorial pen-name for this magazine and a host of  mystery anthologies was Dannay alone.

Both Dannay and Lee jointly tried to establish a quality mystery magazine, Mystery League, in 1933.  Rather than cutting up longer works into monthly serials and filling up the remainder of the magazine with short stories as had been the practice in the field. Mystery League specialized in complete short novels.  This practice led to a higher selling price -- twenty-five cents -- which proved fatal to the magazine during the depression years.  Mystery League folded after four glorious issues.

By 1941, Dannay was willing to try again.  His writing partner, Lee, had very little involvement in the new magazine and soon Dannay was in full control as editor-in-chief, a position he held until his death in 1982.  Fred Dannay was a major promoter of the short fiction of Dashiell Hammett, eventually editing at least eight original collections of Hammett's stories.  It's no wonder that he chose to his new magazine with a Hammett story.  In his introduction to this first issue, Dannay called the story an "exciting, fast, two-fisted, modern and superb" example of the realistic, hard-boiled school of "purely American writing."

The first issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine included one more hard-boiled tale, Cornell Woolrich's "Dime a Dance," reprinted from Black Mask (February 1938).  Also in this issue (to quote Dannay's introduction once more) was a "an excellent story of the modern English school...suave, expert, and completely charming," Margery Allingham's Albert Campion adventure "The Question Mark" from The Strand Magazine, January 1938.  The remaining stories included "The Cablegram," a Henry Pogglioli story Pulitzer prize-winner T. S. Stribling (from Adventure, November 1, 1932), a Thatcher Colt story by "Anthony Abbot" (sometimes given as "Anthony Abbott," but in reality bestselling author Fulton Oursler), "About the Perfect Crime of Mr. Digberry" (from Cosmopolitan, October 1940), Ellery Queen's "The Adventure of the Treasure Hunt" (from The Strand Magazine, September 1935, as "Treasure Hunt"), and "for sheerest contrast, Fredrick Hazlett Brennan's hillbilly yarn, 'Wild Onions,' which fuses elements rarely amalgamated in a mystery story -- humor, native dialect, and murder; the whole making a hilarious tale and a unique item in any enthusiast's collection."

This first issue contained 128 pages and seven stories, all reprints.  Considering the times and the varied sources, most of the tales would not have been available to any one reader.  All in all, a pretty good bargain for the mystery fan.  As for the future, Dannay had this to say:

"We propose to give you stories by big-name writers, by lesser-known writers, and by unknown writers.  But no matter what their source, they will be superior stories...Some will be bought from manuscript.  Others will be reprinted from published books, old and new, selected from the Ellery Queen library of short detective fiction, which is the largest in America.  Still others will be reprinted from magazine, old, recent, and new, 'slicks' and 'pulps,' making our volume in effect a readers' digest in anthological form of detective-crime stories...We are publishing a book rather than a magazine, but since it is to be distributed through a magazine outlet at a magazine price, and since the name rolls easily off the tongue, we have for the present decided to call it Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine."

Dannay went on to note that EQMM would us book paper (rather than pulp or slick paper) for easier readability.  Its cover has a "modern book-jacket illustration" (by George Salter, who would provide a number of early EQMM covers).

Although it continued as a magazine and not a book, its contents over the year has filled many an anthology.  The magazine continues today -- one of the few popular fiction magazines left.  Over the years, it has had several corporate owners but the quality of the magazine remains high.  In 1983, the magazine dropped the possessive '''s" from its title, although the original title remains on the masthead.  With Frederic Dannay's death, executive editorship fell to, first Eleanor Sullivan (from 1982 to 1991), then to Janet Hutchins (from 1991 to the present).  EQMM has published stories by over forty noble and Pulitzer Prize winners.  Stories from the magazine have won over 110 major awards (have been nominated over 370 times), including the Edgar, Agatha, Anthony, Arthur Ellis, Derringer, Macavity, Shamus, Spur, International Thriller, and Robert L. Fish Awards.  A department of "First Stories" was implemented that "discovered" such writers as Stanley Ellin and David Morrell.  EQMM published the first English translation of Jorge Luis Borges.  In addition to a wide variety of excellent stories, the magazine also publishes perceptive reviews of the latest books; past reviewers have included Anthony Boucher, John Dickson Carr, and Jon Breen.

The mystery genre is alive and well in the short form, due in no small part to Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

Ptah!:  Anyone who has read this blog knows my disdain for Donald Trump and his sycophants and enablers.  I feel they are systematically tearing this country apart brick by brick.  For the sake of my sanity, I am going to try to refrain from inflicting you with my anti-Trump rhetoric as much as possible.  Let me just leave with this parting shot:  Those who call our president an anal sphincter are dead wrong.  Anal sphincters have a use.

Easter:  It seems strange to celebrate Easter while social distancing.  While my spiritual beliefs are mine alone and I try not proselytize, I will say that the Easter season is a time of hope and hope is just what we need right now.  My hope is that each of you has had a meaningful holiday season and that the hope will help carry you through the days ahead.

As for me, I plan to celebrate this Easter once we get through to the other side of this pandemic.

You Old Sew and Sew:  Masks are in and we are all advised to wear one when out in public.  True medical masks should be save for front-line medical personnel, but makeshift and do-it-yourself masks will help keep the other folks from spreading the virus.  These non-medical masks are not perfect and we should not expect them to be but they do have an important role in flattening the curve.  Many people who sew are busy making masks for those they know.  If you do sew and have not made any masks, this is a great time to get started and there are many instruction on the internet.  Here is one of them:

And here's a worthy idea for those who are interested:

Evidently the plea for burial blankets started with the Haiti earthquake several years ago.  With a world-wide pandemic, the need to show your care and concern has spiked.  This mitzah is not limited to Haiti or any other country.  I'm sure with a little bit of research, you can find a country or locality which would truly appreciate this small bit of kindness.  Good luck!

A Bit of History:  278 years ago today Handel's Messiah made its world debut in Dublin.  Originally intended for nine instruments (2 trumpets, 2 oboes, 2 violins, a timpani, a vila, and a basso continuo) and a small SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) choir and solo, the Messiah premiered to modest acclaim.  It premiered in London on March 23, nearly a year later.  Sine then it has grown in popularity and scope and is now one of the most frequently produced choral works in the world.  Not too shabby, considering that Handel completed the music for the piece in just 24 days.

Here's Part One, Scene One (Isaiah's Prophecy of Salvation):

What a Year!:  Also in 1742:

  • Despite the premiere of the Messiah, this was not a good year for composers.  Among the dead composers were Johann Georg Reinhardt, 56 (January 6), Giovanni Veneziano, 59 (April 13), Mihael Omerza, 62 (April 23), Johann Joseph Ignatz Brentner, 52 (June 28), Bohuslav Matej Czernohorsky, 58 (July 1), Evaristo EF dall' Abaco, 67 (July 12), Jose Antonio Carlos de Seixas, 38 (August 25), among others.  Also note that two of Antonio Stradivarius' sons, both violin makers themselves, died about a month apart.
  • Comet discover Edmond Halley died, age 80 (January 14)
  • The first indoor swimming pool opened (May 28 at Goodman's Fields, London)
  • Benjamin Franklin invented the Franklin stove (June 11)
  • Edmund Hoyle published his "short treatise" on the card game whist (August 29)
  • Boston's Faneuil Hall opened to the public (September 24)
  • I have no idea what this means, but Willem KH Friso tested his mother's potatoes (December 13)  There's a possibility that this refers to William IV, Prince of Orange (1711-1751).  If so, his mother was Landgravine Marie Louise of Hesse-Kassel (1688-1765).  She served as regent for her son (his father died from drowning six weeks before he was born) until his majority; she later served as regent for her grandson, William V.  She was well-loved by her Dutch subjects and was greatly concerned with their well-being.  Apropo of  nothing, she evidently had a large nose.  What the heck she had to do with potatoes, I have no idea.  Maybe I'm barking up the wrong Willem.  If anyone can shed light on this, I would greatly appreciated it.

Florida Man:
  • Volusia County Florida Man Brent Smith, 46, threatened to kill his mother with a butter knife.  When arrested, he coughed on deputies, saying, "I hope you catch corona."  He is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated battery on a person 65 or older, tampering with a witness, robbery by sudden snatching, grand theft, assault on a law enforcement officer, corruption by threat against a public official, and violation of probation on an original charge of aggravated battery on a pregnant person.  Strangely, he is being held without bond.
  • Abril Cestano, 42, a Flagler County Florida Woman, violated the state's coronavirus travel restrictions by placing pornography-filled Easter eggs in random mailboxes throughout the county.  She had distributed over 400 of the holiday goodies over several days before she got caught.
  • Florida Man Sudeep Khetani, 34, is wanted in New Jersey for fake ordering large amounts of pizza, claiming that the pies were for first responders and hospitals.  More than a dozen restaurants in South Brunswick and nearby areas were bilked out of thousands of dollars.    Khetani also told some of the restaurants when he ordered the pizzas that he hates Italians and wishes they would catch the coronavirus.  This nice guy has been located and charged in Orlando where he is on probation for selling fake Disney World tickets.
  • An unnamed Florida Resident is selling a 2012 Bugatti Veyron Replica on Craigslist for $125.000 -- a bargain since the original is prices at some $2.5 million.  Only problem is that the car is actually a 2002 Mercury Cougar modified to look like the Bugatti.   Whoever is offering the Merc for sale has no qualms and clearly states in the ad that it's a replica.
  • Back in January (yeah, I'm a bit late in reporting this one), Florida Man Douglas John Francisco, 28, was arrested for trying to order a Taco Bell burrito from a Bank of america drive-through window in Hernando County.  Alcohol and/or drugs may have been involved.
  • An unnamed St. Lucie County woman was arrested for using a vacuum cleaner as a weapon when he boyfriend denied her vodka.  She then took the boyfriend's keys and drove off in his Pontiac.  She told authorities that she did not hit her boyfriend with a vacuum cleaner and that she did not take his car.  She did, however, admit to punching him in the eye.  
  • Florida Man John Roe (really?), 51, drank a bottle of wine that he was unable to pay for, ran out of the store and took off in a black Hyundai, ran a red light, t-boned a Spectrum truck, sideswiped a blue Hyundai, and went on his merry way.  Oh.  And he had an eleven-year-old girl in tow.  And the driver of the blue Hyundai suffered a seizure from the crash.  He had taken the young girl and an unnamed woman to the Winn-Dixie for a shoplifting spree, police were told.  When caught in a CVS parking lot, police found a syringe, two glass pipes with crack-cocaine residue inside, 0.01 grams of cocaine folded in a piece of paper, and a bag containing additional syringes in Roe's car.

On the Other Hand:  Some good news...

Today's Poem:
See It Through

When you're up against a trouble
Meet it squarely, face to face;
Lift your chin and set your shoulders,
Plant your feet and take a brace.
When it's vain to try to dodge it,
Do the best that you can do;
You may fail,  but you may conquer,
See it through!

Black may be the clouds about you
And your future may seem grim,
But don't let your nerve desert you;
Keep yourself in fighting trim.
If the worst is bound to happen,
Spite of all that you can do,
Running from it will not save you,
See it through!

Even hope may seem but futile,
When with troubles you're beset,
But remember you are facing
Just what other men have met.
You may fail, but fall still fighting,
Don't give up, whate'er you do;
Eyes front, head high to the finish.
See it through!

-- Edgar Guest


  1. Seconded!

    And in the latest issue, with the new logo, ALFRED HITCHOCK'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE restores the 'S to the front cover, and both EQMM and AHMM retain that on their spines. I go by colophon. That came up as a question, when did the "Dell" magazines drop the possessive, on the Short Mystery discussion list, and I hadn't bothered to find out...thanks for taking that trouble!

    Also, you recall that after the folding of the Popular Publications version of BLACK MASK, Dannay without apparently actually buying the logo included it as Incorporating BLACK MASK on the EQMM tables of contents. Currently, the magazine has revived the long-term practice of having a Black Mask (legacy) story, almost always a new story, in the issues that Dannay had enjoyed presenting (in his case a fairly regular mix of reprints and new work).

    Anthony Boucher made the first English translation of Jorge Luis Borges, "The Garden of the Forking Paths", that I'm aware of, for an early issue of EQMM; sadly, when Boucher and J. F. McComas were editing its stablemate THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, beginning in 1949, Boucher never was moved to present a Borges fantasy...I gather he was not so much a fan of those, but he often thought rather erroneously that subtle fantasy wouldn't fly with the magazine's audience. The duo might at least have offered a vignette from THE UNIVERSAL HISTORY OF INFAMY in their TRUE CRIME DETECTIVE, a short-lived but apparently literate (perhaps because literate) sibling magazine to the fiction titles. Alas, instead, Hans Stefan Santesson was the first to offer up one of those in English in his FANTASTIC UNIVERSE fantasy/sf magazine's last issue, in 1960...rather than in its stablemate THE SAINT MYSTERY MAGAZINE.

  2. Handel's line, "King of kings, and Lord of lords," my Russian Orthodox convert friend noted some years back, harkens to the notion of Jehovah being the greatest god among gods, rather than the only. Some things can be more complex than we usually hear. Probably most things.

  3. Willem KH Friso tested his mother's potatoes (December 13)

    Seems as if this recurs a lot in online date/data registers. I have a strong suspicion this was A Tell in some almanac at one point, a bit of nothing slipped in to prove plagiarism (a la nonsense definitions in dictionaries and erroneous bits in maps), and It's Fun, so it gets repeated in all its enigma.

    I could be wrong, easily, but to continue to paraphrase Randy Newman loosely, but I bet I'm not.