Black Gate Fiction: “The Case of the Murdered Silk Trader” (Casablanca Chronicles)

Monday, March 23rd, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Casablanca_RenaultSeriousOkay. I had never seen a Humphrey Bogart movie until my early twenties. Then, I went to the Ohio Theater, an amazing place on the National  Register of Historic Places, to see Casablanca on a HUGE screen. There was even organ music during the intermission. I was hooked for life and I now own almost every movie Bogart appeared in. And from that very day, Casablanca has remained my all time favorite movie, through at least two dozen viewings. I’ve got two stories set around the events of the movie, and I’m running them here in my spot today, and next Monday. This one is my favorite of the pair, and if you picture the great Claude Rains, along with the other actors from the film, I think it works pretty well. Enjoy!

I

It was early and the heat of the desert city had not yet enveloped the occupants like a suffocating blanket. Some sellers were taking their wares to the market, but it was generally quiet in the dusty streets of Casablanca as Rick Blaine sat at a table in front of his café, drinking a cup of strong Moroccan coffee. He wasn’t thinking about much of anything as a dapper little Frenchman joined him. The man sat down with a weary sigh, looking slightly rumpled.

“Good morning, Louie. Coffee?”

Captain Louis Renault, Prefect of Police in Casablanca, declined with a wave of his hand. “No thank you, Rickie. I have already had my share this morning.”

Rick grinned at him. “So, what is the final word on the late Major Strasser, of the Third Reich?” Rick asked with an easy nonchalance, but there were a few new worry lines etched in his forehead. Two nights ago he had shot and killed the German at the airport when the major had tried to stop the Lisbon plane from taking off. But Ilsa Lund had been on the plane with Victor Laslo, and Rick would do anything to see her safely out of Casablanca. So he gunned down the German as the man had tried to radio the control tower. When two cars full of local police showed up, Louie had covered for him by telling them to “Round up the usual suspects.”

Rick hadn’t seen Louie since then. He had expected the authorities to take him away for some very unpleasant questioning at any moment during the past few days, but no one had come. Now, Louie was sitting here, looking not much worse for wear.

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Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone – 3 Good Reasons: Immune to Murder

Monday, February 24th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

ImmuneMurder_IllustrationWelcome to the third installment of 3 Good Reasons. With a goal of eventually tackling every tale of the Corpus, I’ll give three reasons why the particular story at hand is the best Nero Wolfe of them all. Since I’m writing over seventy ‘Best Story’ essays, the point isn’t actually to pick one – just to point out some of what is good in every adventure featuring Wolfe and Archie. And I’ll toss in one reason it’s not the best story. Now – These essays will contain SPOILERS. You have been warned!

The Story

“Immune to Murder” can be found in Three for the Chair. Wolfe and Archie travel to a hunting lodge in the Adirondacks, owned by oil baron O.V. Bragan. Theodore Kelefy, an ambassador to the US from a third-world, oil-rich country, has requested that Wolfe cook some freshly caught trout. Archie goes fishing while a cranky Wolfe begins cooking lunch – and finds the body of Assistant Secretary of State David Leeson; murdered while out fishing. As has happened in other stories involving important persons as potential suspects, the local authorities aim their suspicions at Wolfe and Archie.  Wolfe is forced to solve the case so he can get back home. And also because the killer offends his pride.

3 GOOD REASONS

Classic Curmudgeon

I have read a few criticisms of Maury Chaykin, in the Nero Wolfe Mysteries television show, for yelling far more than Wolfe did. I think that’s a fair assessment. Though, Wolfe certainly could express his anger somewhat loudly, when he wanted. But over the course of the entire Corpus, it didn’t happen as frequently as the tv series would lead you to believe. However: it is still quite believable for Wolfe, and I don’t think it detracts at all from the performance.

Chaykin (who, sadly, passed away in 2010), through his speech, facial movements and body language, absolutely did convey Wolfe’s demeanor as a cranky curmudgeon. Rex Stout, through Archie, gives examples of Wolfe time after time over the forty-ish years of tales. And “Immune to Murder” absolutely opens up with just such an incident.

After a 328 mile drive from the Manhattan brownstone, to River Bend, a sixteen-room mountain lodge in the Adirondacks, Wolfe’s back hurts. Since he always sits totally stiff and erect when traveling in a motor vehicle, “even with me at the wheel,” as Archie says, that’s not a big surprise. But Wolfe, even more cranky than when he’s at home, says he has lumbago and refuses to leave his room and join the dinner group.

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Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: The Careworn Cuff – Part Three (The Greenstreet Chronicles)

Monday, February 17th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

And it’s the final installment in our three-part adaptation of “The Careworn Cuff,” from the old Nero Wolfe radio show staring Sidney Greenstreet. It’s not going to make much sense of you don’t read Part One, and Part Two, first.

The Careworn Cuff – Part Three (of Three)

Chapter Five 

Nero Wolfe TrainI was back at my desk as Wolfe related what I had missed. It seemed that the brownstone had been pretty busy while I was taking Miss Spencer to her temporary lodgings. Wolfe was nearly as good as me at reporting, though, not surprisingly, he tended towards lazy. I had told him to give it all to me.

“So, I awoke to a noise. It was not the front door.”

Wolfe – “Archie?”

Intruder – “No, not Archie.”

“A man moved to the office doorway. I cannot say that I was surprised at who it was.”

Wolfe – “Ah, our impatient and nonmusical friend. I did not hear the bell. You must have come in through a window. I hope you didn’t break anything.”

Wolfe – “How are you Mister…not Porter, of course.”

Intruder – Where’s the girl?”

Wolfe – “That question is beginning to bore me. I don’t know.”

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Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: The Careworn Cuff – Part Two (The Greenstreet Chronicles)

Monday, February 10th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Nero WolfeWe’re back this week with the second installment in our three-part adaptation of The Careworn Cuff, from the old Nero Wolfe radio show staring Sidney Greenstreet. If you missed Part One, you really need to read it first. It might not make Part Two any better, but at least it will make sense!

The Careworn Cuff – Part Two (of Three)

Chapter Three

I found four Dorothy Spencers listed in the phone book; any of which might be our non-client. Wednesday morning, while Wolfe was upstairs for his morning session with the orchids, I eliminated three of them. I couldn’t get a hold of the fourth, so she was still a possibility. I had just made another unsuccessful attempt when I heard the elevator, struggling under Wolfe’s seventh of a ton. If I worked as hard as that elevator, I would definitely demand a raise.

“Good morning Archie. Did you sleep well?”

It’s the same greeting, every day, even if we had already talked that morning. He went to his desk, carrying the day’s orchid. I had already changed the water in the vase on his desk. That’s one of my daily duties. He must have finished the Van Doren book in his room this morning. He had a new one tucked under his arm as he entered.

Sitting at my desk, I had watched him cross the room, returning his greeting as he reached his own oversized one. I was silent until he was settled in his chair, the book placed on the desk. I now saw that it was The Age of Reason, by Thomas Paine. I had a pretty good idea that the discussion at lunch was going to involve Colonial America. History was not one of my favorite subjects as a boy, so I would mostly be listening.

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Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: The Careworn Cuff – Part One (The Greenstreet Chronicles)

Monday, February 3rd, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

WolfeRadio_GreenstreetI’ve previously mentioned the radio show, The Adventures of Nero Wolfe, starring Sidney Greenstreet. And back in 2017, to middling results, I had written up one of those episodes, Stamped for Murder, as a novella. I tried to stay too true to the dialogue, and to Greenstreet’s rather un-Wolfean portrayal. But, you only have to kick me in the head three or four times before I catch on, so I decided to try again. Below is the first installment of a three-part adaptation of another episode, The Case of the Careworn Cuff. This time, I think I did a much better job of emulating Stout, rather than Greenstreet. Read on, and enjoy!

The Careworn Cuff – Part One

Chapter One

Nero Wolfe was the most brilliant, and also the laziest, detective in the world. He rarely left his brownstone on West 35th Street, and never on business. I lived there, eating the amazing grub prepared by Fritz Brenner, a wonderful chef (do NOT call him a ‘cook’) and a gentle soul. But also a good man in a pinch. His war experiences had hardened him more than appearances might indicate, and he had the scars to prove it. The fourth and final occupant was Theodore Horstmann: more on him in a moment.

Wolfe used his brain, which was only slightly smaller than his prodigious waistline, and his even more massive ego, to pay for the upkeep. Which was considerable. I doubt too many other citizens of New York City ate as well as Wolfe did. And he probably could have bought his own brewery with his beer bill. And of course, there were the orchids.

No matter what some detective stories might lead you to believe, crimes can’t be solved solely from an armchair. Another surprise: crimes don’t only take place while you’re a guest at a country estate. Although, there was that affair of the missing rubies while I was staying at Lily Rowan’s Westchester digs. But that’s another story for another session at the typewriter.

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Silas P. Cornu’s Dry Calculator

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019 | Posted by Steve Carper

Henry A. Hering Adventures and Fantasy 1930 cover

Digging through the vast, deep landscape of popular culture is very much like being a working paleontologist. Fragments of bones are everywhere, both on the surface and accessible through spadework. Unbroken samples are rare finds, interesting enough in and of themselves but truly valuable only if put into context.

Also as in paleontology, trying to create a proper history grows exponentially more difficult every time a new site is opened. The older metaphor of an evolutionary tree of life that leads to a single branch labeled Homo is now obsolete; modern practitioners see more of a bush with a tangle of branches whose origins are obscure.

The origin of science fictional ideas matches this entropic march toward disorder. Fans of SF once proudly hailed the writers in the field for coming up with fantastic ideas, notions, gadgets, and futures that could be boasted about to their snobbish mundane friends. Years of historical research into the subject make me wonder sometimes if any sf writer ever had a truly original idea.

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Black Gate Online Fiction: ‘The Jarvis Pendragon Files – The Adventure of the Speckled Band’

Monday, November 18th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

The sitting room of 221b Baker Street London

The sitting room of 221b Baker Street London

My friend Sherlock Holmes, with whom I shared lodgings and adventures, had already breakfasted and was slumped in his favorite chair when I descended to our sitting one room one November morning. From the discarded newspapers strewn about the floor, I knew that he had failed to find one of those interesting crimes which so intrigued him.

Shortly after hearing my footsteps on the stairs, Mrs. Hudson arrived with fresh coffee, some fish left over from the previous night’s meal, devilled kidneys (which Holmes despised), bacon and toast. As Holmes had rather churlishly replied to my greeting, I set to breaking my fast.

After the dishes had been cleared away and I was settled in my own chair, sorting through the post, I held a letter out towards him. “Here’s one for you, Holmes. From a “Jarvis Pendragon, DC.”

I looked at him, puzzled. “What does ‘DC’ stand for?”

He broke through the malaise enough to negligently wave a hand. “Who knows? Pray, read it. Perhaps it will enliven this otherwise intolerably boring morning.”

I have mentioned before in these recountings of Sherlock Holmes’ cases, that humility is not a trait for which he has much admiration. On more than one occasion, he has identified modesty not as a virtue, but as a distortion of the truth. And I have excluded many of his own statements about his powers of observation and deduction that were quite the opposite of ‘humble.’

Of course, his belief in his talents and abilities, which he had honed to razor sharpness, were justified. But, as his roommate, companion, and if I may add, useful assistant, on his adventures, his self-aggrandizement could be more than a trifle wearying.

So, it was with some amusement, as I was to discover, that I read aloud his letter.

But first, he forestalled me with an upraised hand. “Be not so hasty, Watson. What can you tell me from an inspection of the envelope?”

I turned it over in my hands slowly, my eyes scanning the surface for any clues or hints.

“Brighton postmark. Common envelope. Careful handwriting on the address. Clearly legible. I see nothing else of note, Holmes.”

He shook his head in disapproval, but said nothing.

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Old-School Sword and Planet with a Modern Attitude: An Excerpt from The MechMen of Canis-9

Saturday, October 20th, 2018 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

Three Against the Stars-cover-small The MechMen of Canis-9-small

The MechMen of Canis-9 is my seventh novel. I’ve always wanted to write some sort of action-packed Sword and Planet Adventure, with some planet-building involved, and that’s what I hope I’ve accomplished with this “sequel” to my Space Opera, Three Against The Stars. The Foreword below should pretty well set the stage for the excerpt that follows. I hope you enjoy it and it interests you in checking out my novel. Thank you!

This time out, Sergeants Seamus O’Hara, Claudia Akira, Fernando Cortez and a platoon of Marines are deployed to Canis-9 — Devoora, the Ocean Planet. Their mission: find seven indestructible robot warriors hidden there for seventy years. Most of the platoon survives a crash-landing but are left stranded in a hostile environment of deadly sea predators. Rescued by native Tulavi islanders, the Marines get caught up in a war between this mysterious, maritime civilization and another indigenous race, the Malvarians, who hunt and harvest the eggs of the giant kaizsu — the Sea Dragons sacred to the Tulavi. As the Marines set out to complete their mission they discover a secret known only by the Tulavi: the endangered kaizsu are the key to Devoora’s ecosystem and the future of all life on the planet.

The MechMen of Canis-9 is now available in both paperback and Kindle editions. Thank you!

Read an exclusive excerpt from The MechMen of Canis-9 here.


Love Hurts, Especially in Hell, Part 3 — An Excerpt from “Withering Blights,” as featured in Lovers in Hell

Friday, October 12th, 2018 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

Lovers in Hell-smallDoctor Victor Frankenstein, whose brain resides inside the skull of his infamous Monster, is back to his old tricks again.

After he and Quasimodo finish their tour of duty in the Mortuary, where they assisted the Undertaker and Gorgonous, his Deputy Assistant, in resurrecting and reassigning the Damned, and sending them back out into Hell again, they return to the Golem Heights and to their home, Goblin Manor.

At first it appears that it’s going to be just another hellish day in New Hell City, until one of the most celebrated figures of Victorian England makes an appointment to see the mad doctor and his hunchbacked assistant…

As promised in my last article, “Live. Die. Repeat. That’s What Hell’s All About — an Excerpt from Andrew P. Weston’s Hell Gate,” here is the final part of my examination of the Doomed and the Damned, an excerpt from my story in Lovers in Hell… a Gothic little love story I call “Withering Blights.”

Black Gate Online Fiction: An Excerpt from “Withering Blights”

Well, that concludes my 3-part glimpse into the circles and levels of Hell. You can read “Withering Blights” in its entirety, as well as nine other diabolical tales by Janet and Chris Morris, Nancy Asire, S.E. Lindberg, Michael E. Dellert, Michael H. Hanson, A.L. Butcher, and Andrew P. Weston in Lovers in Hell, the latest volume in the infernal eternal saga of Heroes in Hell™.

Thank you!


Live. Die. Repeat. That’s What Hell’s All About — an Excerpt from Andrew P. Weston’s Hell Gate

Sunday, October 7th, 2018 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

HELL-BANNER-medium

As promised in my last article, Romance in the Afterlife, Part 1: A Look at the Latest Volume in the Heroes in Hell™ Shared Universe, Lovers in Hell, here is the excerpt from Andy Weston’s forthcoming novel, Hell Gate. This is the excerpt featured in Lovers in Hell. It is copyright © 2018, Perseid Press, all rights reserved.

Black Gate Online Fiction: An Excerpt from Hell Gate

There you have it, folks — a tantalizing morsel from Andy’s forthcoming Hell Gate. Tune in next time for the final part of my examination of the Doomed and the Damned when I bring you an excerpt from my story in Lovers in Hell… a Gothic little love story I call “Withering Blights.”

Thank you!


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