Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, June 29, 2020


Openers:  I saw her hand first.  It settled close to my shoulder on the window frame of the car.  It was slender, rather beautiful, unexpectedly white in this country of dark skin and tropical sun.  It was a determined hand too.  It clung tenaciously as if the car and I fulfilled some need and were jot to be allowed to slip away.

She said, "Excuse me."

I ducked so that I could see her.  she was standing in the full glare of the sidewalk.  Behind her, the open entrance of the Hotel Yucatan showed blue and white tiles stretching to the patio and a few loitering waiters.  She was the sort of blonde that rolls off the assembly lines in Hollywood or Broadway but could start a riot here in Mexico.  At least, that was my first impression.  She was dressed in the depersonalized perfection of a model in a silver-gray suit.  She ehld a large red pocketbook."

--"Patrick Quentin," Run to Death (1948)

The pen name "Patrick Quentin" was used, for the most part, by Hugh Callingham Wheeler (1912-1987) and Richard Webb (1901-1966) and later by Wheeler alone. 

The pair also wrote as "Q. Patrick" and as "Jonathan Stagge."  Two other authors also contributed to the Patrick and Quentin names. The first was Martha "Patsy" Mott Kelley, who was the first to collaborate with Webb, starting with 1931's Cottage Sinister.  Their second book, Murder at the
Women's City Club
 (1932) was also their last -- the partnership ended when Kelley got married.  Both the Webb-Kelley books were published under the name "Q. Patrick," Patrick being a combination of their names. Patsy and Rick; the "Q." was added "because it sounded unusual."

Webb then wrote a third mystery by himself, followed by two mysteries written with Mary Louise Aswell (1902-1984), an editor at Harper's Bazaar.  It was until 1936 that Webb found his permanent partner, Hugh Wheeler, a fellow Englishman transplanted to America.  That year, the pair published Death Goes to School as "Q. Patrick," as well as the first Peter Duluth mystery (A Puzzle for Fools) as "Patrick Quentin," and the first Dr. Hugh Westlake mystery (Murder Gone to Earth) as "Jonathan Stagge."  The following year came Death for Dear Clara, featuring Inspector Timothy Trant, under the Q. Patrick pseudonym.  These three -- Duluth, Westlake, and Trant -- would become the pair's regular series detectives, each under the umbrella of their respective pen names.

Peter Duluth is a Broadway producer and a recovering alcoholic.  A Puzzle for Fools has him drying out at an exclusive sanitarium when murder strikes one of the guests.  It is here also where Duluth meets his future wife, Iris.  Over the series, the two meet, marry, break up, and reconcile.  Run to Death, whose first paragraphs were quoted above, was the seventh book in the series and takes place during the time Peter Duluth and Iris had broken up.  Duluth is vacationing in Mexico, sight-seeing the ancient cities of the Mayans, when he meets up with young, blonde Deborah Bland.  Bland is running for her life from some unknown terror.  From Chichen-Itza in the Yucatan to Mexico City, the danger follows them.  "peter duluth found that it is hard to fight when you don't know who your enemies are.  He found it easier to run.  But danger was never left behind; it was always ahead of him.  It raced him to New Orleans and trapped him in the Old French Quarter.  And it was here that peter had to run to death in order to escape it."

Dr. Hugh Westlake is a small town doctor in rural Pennsylvania, where he and his daughter Dawn often become involved with skullduggery.  Timothy Trant is Princeton educated, superbly dressed, and combines an impulsivity with remarkable shrewdness.  Inventive plotting, cleverly planted clues, and surprise endings tend to be hallmarks of all three series.  The early Q. Patrick stories were of the classic "Golden Age of Detection" mode; later stories employed a darker psychological approach and explored other themes in the mystery genre, such as thrillers and espionage.

In the late 1940s Webb's health began to take its toll and his contributions stopped in the early 1950s, after which Wheeler continued on his own, mainly under the Patrick Quentin name.  The Jonathan Stage pseudonym was retired in 1949 and the Q. Patrick name, with the exception of one true crime study (The Girl on the Gallows, 1954) and a handful of short stories, in 1952.  Wheeler also published a solo novel under his own name in 1951.  Wheeler wrote seven Patrick Quentin novels on his own, ending in 1965.  Peter Duluth was retired in 1954, but Timothy Trant appeared several times, ending with the final Paticik Quentin novel, Family Skeletons.

Wheeler was not done writing, however.  Since 1961 he had been writing plays..Among other plays, he adapted Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle in 1967 and the books for A Little Night Music (1973) and Sweeney Todd (1979).  His screenplays included Cabaret, Travels with My Aunt, and A Little Night Music.  For television, he created The Snoop Sisters with Leonard B. Stern.  He won the Tony Award twice, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award three times, as well as the Vernon Rice award and the Hull-Warriner Award.

Two collections of short stories were published under the Patrick Quentin name, the Edgar-winning The Ordeal of Mrs. Snow in 1961 and The Puzzles of Peter Duluth in 2016.  The Timothy Trant stories are still crying out to be collected.

Three Patrick Quentin stories are acknowledged classic in the field, "Love Comes to Miss Lucy," "A Boy's Will," and "Mother, May I Go Out to Swim?"  Another story, "The Ordeal of Mrs. Snow," was successfully adapted for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1964.  Five Patrick Quentin novels have been filmed, two in the United States and one each in Japan, France, and Germany.

Sadly, Patrick Quentin and other alter egos have all but faded into obscurity nowadays.  The author whom Francis Iles once called "number one among American crime writers" deserves to be rediscovered.

Celebrate:  There are a number of "holidays" to celebrate today.  I myself am torn between celebrating today's Hug Holiday and National Almond Buttercrunch Day; I'll probably do homage to both.  Today is also Camera Day, but I don't have one.  Ir's also Waffle Iron Day; again, I don''t have one.  And it's Please Take My Children to Work Day, which is of no use to someone who is retired.

Today also falls into National Prevention of Eye Injuries Awareness Week, something I don't think was around some seventy years ago when I injured my right eye.  I really could have used that Week back then.  **sigh**

The month of June has a number of monthly observances, some -- such as Celibacy Awareness Month and National Accordion Awareness Month -- are of no use to me, and some -- I'm looking st you Potty Training Awareness Month -- we haven't needed in decades.  Others -- such as Zoo and Aquarium month, Rebuild Your Life Month, National Bathroom Reading Month, National Oceans Month, and National Rivers Month -- I can get firmly behind.  June also appears to be a month to appreciate food, and I do -- we can observe Corn, Country Cooking, Cucumber, Dairy, Georgia Blueberry, Turkey Lovers, Mango, National Candy, National Fresh Fruit & Vegetable, National Iced Tea, National Papaya, National Seafood, National Soul Food, National Steakhouse, and (unless you are Kitty, who hates the slimy stuff) National Okra Months.

In a time of pandemics, murder hornets, African dust storms coming at us, protests against racial inequality, high unemployment, economic uncertainty, earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, droughts, voter disenfranchisement, and the Trump Administration, it feels good to celebrate some of the above months.

Riverkeepers:  Since it's National Rivers Month, let's give a shoutout to riverkeepers, part of a coalition of concerned citizen conservationists who have stepped in when the government has failed to protect our rivers and waterways.  If you don't know about them, it's time you should.

The Globe Theater:  Four hundred thirteen years ago today London's original Globe Theater was destroyed when a cannon used in a performance of Shakespeare's Henry V misfired and set some timbers and thatching ablaze.  According to local records no one was harmed in the fire except for one man whose "breeches" were ignited; the flaming pants were put out by pouring ale on them, which makes me wonder if his wife believed him when he got home that day.

The Globe Theater -- probably not it's original name; the name is a reference to the saying "all the world's a stage," -- was built in 1599 by the "Lord Chamberlain's Men" (Shakespeare's acting company) to replace a theater called (appropriately "The Theater") and used timbers from that theater in its construction.  It was owned by a group of six people:  Richard and Cuthbert Burbage each owned 25% of the shares, while Shakespeare, John Heminges, Augustine Phillips, and Thomas Pope owned 12.5% each.  As new shareholders were added, these original proportions changed; Shakespeare's shares eventually added up to about 7% of the total.

The first performance on record at the new theater was Ben Jonson's Every Man Out of his Humour, although it is likely that Shakespeare's Henry V and Julius Caesar were staged earlier.

As for the theater itself, its original dimensions are unknown but research over the past two decades suggest that it was a three-story open amphitheater some hundred feet in dimension, with an apron stage situated in the southeast corner to provide some shade during hot afternoons.  The cheap "seats" were on the dirt floor where spectators paid a penny apiece and stood eating nuts while watching the performances.  (Excavations of the site revealed a layer of packed nut shells ground into the dirt floor.)  For those who wished to spend more than a penny, the three levels of the amphitheater provided stadium seating.  There was a roof over the rear portion of the stage, its ceiling painted with clouds and the sky; the ceiling was known as "the heavens" and a trap door was used there to lower actors onto the stage when needs be.

After being destroyed by fire in 1613, the theater was rebuilt the following year.  This Globe remained open until 1642 when it (and all theaters in London) was closed by the Puritans via an order from Parliament.  The second Globe was pulled down two years later to make room  for tenements.  A modern reconstruction of the Globe (called "shakespeare's Globe") was opened in 1997.  Other replicas of the Globe (the second Globe, mostly) have been built in Argentina, Germany (three of them in one form or another), Italy, Japan (two), New Zealand (a temporary pop-up theater and a more permanent one), and in eight U.S. cities in six states.

You just can't keep a good theater down.

Dead Heads and Pits:  The Grateful Dead have just released a new line of vegan deodorants.  Yes, you read that right.  The product comes in five scents:  Skull & Roses (lavender and rose), Sunshine (blood orange and bergamot), Workingmen's (cedar and juniper), Timber (Douglas Fir and sage), and Unscented.

Musical Connoisseur Toppled:  "I know only two tunes:  one of them is 'Yankee Doodle,' and the other isn't."  -- Ulysses S Grant

Poor Ulysses had a statue of him torn down by over-zealous protesters, evidently because he was a slave owner.  Except that he wasn't.  Grant was a principles abolitionist who firmly believed in emancipation.  He never owned a slave, although his wife's family were slave owners.  She also never owned a slave.  In the excitement of the moment, protesters forgot to get their facts straight.  **sigh**

Florida Man:  Florid Man does not like face masks.  Last Thursday, Florida Man Paul-Elie Daniel Duval, 37, of Miami was asked to wear a face mask at an Islamorada gift shop and did what every true-blooded Florida Man would do -- he exposed himself.  If you fail to see the correlation between the cause and the effect, the you're just not meant to be a Florida Man.  Also this week, an unnamed Florida Man appeared before the St. Lucie County commissioners meeting as they were discussing mandating face masks during this Covid-19 upsurge.  His loud rant included the statement, "I will not be muzzled like a mad dog!"  He went on, "It's time for us to stand up for our freedoms because if we stand back and let these pieces of crap handle our freedoms we'll have nothing left -- in fact, we'll end up being dead."  A bit confused there -- the purpose of wearing masks is so we don't end up being dead.  And an untold number of Florida Men and Women have been ignoring masks and social distancing, forcing the state to close down bars once again.  **sigh**  Florida may also be again closing down its beaches because of these yahoos.  (Full disclosure:  I beach for an hour or so most mornings, but we socially distance and act responsibly.  We so up between eight and nine o'clock before most people arrive, enjoy the beauty of the Gulf Coast, the glorious sounds of the waves, the white sand, and the sun, then leave.  I will miss that moment of zen if the state is forced to close the beaches,)

  • Florida Man also likes to pour things.  37-year-old Peter Wegman was arrested in Pinellas County for pouring ketchup on his sleeping girlfriend.  He denied the charges but his ketchup-stained pants said otherwise.  Florida Woman Syntheria Denise Perry, 20, of Reddick, was nabbed for pouring beer on a man and yelling at him to hit her.  She also broke the beer bottle and evidently threatened him with it.  Not a Florida Woman, but a North Carolina Woman in Florida, Roseanna Marie Kiser, 23, was arrested after pouring vodka in the eye of a boy who had splashed water on her at a pool at the Sheraton Sand Key hotel.  Decision making was not her forte -- she also kneed the arresting officer in the groin
  • And in not your typical Florida Man or Florida Woman story -- but definitely a Florida Story -- comes this news about the latest in home video.  A doorbell camera caught a woman giving birth in a parking lot.  Susan Anderson and her husband Joseph were headed to the Margate Birthing Center when her baby decided to come early.  Present at the birth were Susan and her husband, Susan's midwife, two police officers who happened to be nearby, and the doorbell camera.  No word on the homeowner's reaction when he first viewed the video.

Happy, Happy:
Kindness costs nothing, yet it is priceless.  Rudeness, hypocrisy, bigotry, and hate also cost nothing, yet it is worthless.

Today's Poem:
The Soul's Defiance

I said to Sorrow's awful storm
That beat against my breast,
"Rage on -- thou mayst destroy this form,
And lay it low at rest;
But still the spirit that now brooks
Thy tempest, raging high,
Undaunted on its fury looks
With steadfast eye."

I said to Penury's meager chain,
"Come on -- your threats I brave:
My last poor life-drop you may drain,
And crush me to the grave;
Yet still the spirit that endures
Shall mock your force the while,
And meet each cold, cold grasp of yours
With bitter smile."

I said to cold Neglect and Scorn,
"Pass on -- I need you not:
You may pursue me till my form
And being are forgot;
Yet still the spirit, which you see
Undaunted  by your wiles,
Draws from its own nobility
Its high-born smiles."

I said to Friendship's menaced blow,
"Strike deep -- my heart shall bear:
Thou canst but add one bitter woe
To those already there;
Yet still the spirit that sustains
This last severe distress
Shall smile upon its keenest pains
And scorn redress."

I said to Death's uplifted dart,
"Aim sure, -- oh, why delay?
Thou wilt not find a fearful. heart,
A weak, reluctant prey,
For still the spirit, firm and free,
Unruffled by dismay,
Wrapt in its own eternity, 
Shall pass away."

-- Lavinia Stoddard (1787-1820)

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