The Short and Shorter Of It Part 3

You may be under the illusion that 3 of these articles are  revealing every word, pause, comma, dash to the reader. Not so. Remember, there are 100 Malicious Little Mysteries within, and I’m highlighting only a handful.  It’s unusual for me to enjoy that many short stories within one large volume and because of that–I am forced to share. Don’t blame me, it’s the demand of the universe.

Maxine O’Callaghan provided the biggest surprise in An Insignificant Crime. The story is thin, on the surface. A store owner in the late 1900s is ready to call the authorities finally, and have the well known customer arrested for her habitual shoplifting. His employee  son-in-law keeps at him to drop the idea. Narrated by the employee, he points out that the customer isn’t stealing for money, or in malice, it’s something she apparently has no control of. The son-in-law lays on the line that the customer’s father has a lot of influence in the community, and that the father would not tolerate the humiliation his daughter’s arrest would bring. His argument concludes asking the storekeeper why he doesn’t simply charge the customer’s father’s account, like all the other times?. But his father-in-law is obstinate. The clerk thinks:

“The old fool can’t see beyond the end of his thin quivering nose. He would sacrifice the business and our future, his daughter’s and mine, and feel smugly sanctimonious. And for what? An insignificant little crime that would hurt nobody.”

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The Short and Shorter of It–Part 2

Continuing my exploration of this thick volume full of lovely murders, Bill Pronzini, a superb writer, with a book on my Best 100 Mysteries list, wrote a lyrical love note to the railroad. Pronzini has edited short stories himself, and is the author of the two wonderful Gun In Cheek books about the worst in crime fiction–or best, depending on how you define it. He and his wife, Marcia Muller, are responsible for a huge catalog of  quality work. So I wasn’t surprised to find him within the pages, not once, but several times, alone, or with a writing partner. Sweet Fever  is narrated by an old man who describes he and his grandson’s love of watching the train come through the tunnel at Chigger Mountain.

“The moon was so bright you could see the melons lying in Feride Johnson’s patch over on the left, and the rail tracks had a sleek oiled look coming out of the tunnel mouth and leading off towards the Sabreville yards a mile up the line. On the far side of the tracks, the woods and the run-down shacks that used to be a hobo jungle before the country sheriff closed it off thirty years back had them a silvery cast, like they was all coated in winter frost.”

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The Short and Shorter Of It–Part 1

I was never a lover of short stories. Until I finally read some. Now I find them appealing due to an ever decreasing attention span. I have read a variety of pieces, mostly crime fiction, and a couple of Carson McCullers, Wilkie Collins, and various themes and authors. Long ago I was in love with Dorothy Parker. I need to revisit her. I found myself returning to one thick volume, 100 Malicious Little Mysteries edited by the late Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg and Joseph G. Olander. Published in 1981, I have a hardcopy in its 15th printing. Which says a lot about everyone’s attention spans. The stories are written by many different people, most of whom I wasn’t aware of. I’m not a subscriber to Ellery Queen Magazine, or other short story publications. I suppose if I had been, I would be familiar with most of the authors. Naturally, Asimov, Bill Pronzini, and the godfather of crime short stories, Edward D. Hoch are well known. But such names as Henry Slesar, Elsin Ann Graffan, Judith Garner, were strangers to me, and I would guess, they haven’t published full length novels. I should google to research them, but I’d rather move on and relish in the retelling of some of the most malicious tales.

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