The Simple Art of Murder

Classic Murder Mysteries by Raymond Chandler  (1940s and 1950s)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    June 30, 2015

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Murder mysteries. Don’t you just love ‘em? What is the appeal of Raymond Chandler crime stories? They’ve endured for decades and still snag readers and admirers today. You can pick up any one of Chandler’s stories and they don’t seem to show their age. Who doesn’t love a detective like Philip Marlowe who’s a drinker, a lonely guy, witty, and so stylishly sexy.

Maybe it’s Chandler’s snazzy descriptions like in Farewell My Lovely:

He wore a shaggy borsalino hat, a rough gray sports coat with white golf balls on it for buttons, a brown shirt, a yellow tie, pleated gray flannel slacks and alligator shoes with white explosions on the toes. From his outer breast pocket cascaded a show handkerchief of the same brilliant yellow as his tie. There were a couple of colored feathers tucked into the band of his hat, but he didn’t really need them. Even on Central Avenue, not the quietest dressed street in the world, he looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food.    

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Or maybe it’s Chandler’s sassy dialogue that appeals like in The Big Sleep. Here’s a scene between Marlowe and Vivian:

She looked down.

I sipped some more coffee and lit another cigarette for us.

“So you shoot people,” she said quietly. “You’re a killer.”

“Me? How?”

“The papers and the police fixed it up nicely. But I don’t believe everything I read.”

“Oh, you think I accounted for Geiger—or Brody—or both of them.”

She didn’t say anything.

“I didn’t have to,” I said. “I might have, I suppose, and got away with it. Neither of them would have hesitated to throw lead at me.”

“That makes you just a killer at heart, like all cops.”

“Oh, nuts.”

“One of those dark deadly quiet men who have no more feelings than a butcher has for slaughtered meat. I knew it the first time I saw you.”

“You’ve got enough shady friends to know different.”

“They’re all soft compared to you.”

“Thanks, lady. You’re no English muffin yourself.”

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To be really straight about it, you won’t find a more convoluted plot than The Big Sleep, but it’s still endures as a suspenseful and fascinating read. A pornographer and drug addict named Geiger is blackmailing young and beautiful Carmen Sternwood who likes to chew her thumb. Carmen’s father hires Marlowe to get rid of Geiger. Vivian, Carmen’s sister, is suspiciously overprotective. There’s a murder and screaming and a body that disappears. The Sternwood chauffeur is in love with Carmen and he’s killed. Another blackmailer and he’s killed. Revenge and more revenge. Eddie Mars, a gambler and Shawn Regan, a gun runner are also blackmailers. More murder, which builds to a huge shootout where Marlowe and Vivian fall in love. Ah-ha, finally some tenderness. Overplotted? Probably, but who cares with so many fun twists and turns. Bogart and Bacall did the film and wow is it ever steamy.

You can read The Big Sleep on Gutenberg.ca/ebooks.

 

One of Chandler’s most anthologized short stories is Red Wind. His opening paragraph is quintessential.

There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

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Marlowe is in a bar with two men—a drunk and the bartender. A man walks in and asks about a woman, describing her beyond what most men would say. The drunk stands up and shoots the man dead. Blackmail, an illicit affair, love and pearls, blood and violence– just like the red Santa Ana winds.

You can read Red Wind short story at Design.caltech.edu.

 

Who is your favorite murder mystery writer? Is it a classic like Chandler or contemporary author?

Read The Simple Art of Murder by Raymond Chandler at En.UTexas.Edu

Mystery novelist and screenwriter Raymond Chandler, shown in a 1946 portrait, created private eye Philip Marlowe in the novels "The Big Sleep," "Farewell My Lovely," and "The Long Goodbye."  His screenplays included "Double Indemnity," "The Blue Dahlia," and  "Strangers on a Train."  (AP Photo)

Mystery novelist and screenwriter Raymond Chandler, shown in a 1946 portrait, created private eye Philip Marlowe in the novels “The Big Sleep,” “Farewell My Lovely,” and “The Long Goodbye.” His screenplays included “Double Indemnity,” “The Blue Dahlia,” and “Strangers on a Train.” (AP Photo)

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

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HorrorSociety.com        Sirens Call Publications

 Monster Librarian   Tales to Terrify       Spooky Reads

HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com

 Rob Around Books     The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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Blood and Thunder Tales

A Long and Fatal Love Chase by A.M. Barnard (published in 1995)

The Mysterious Key  by L.M. Alcott (1866)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    June 23, 2015

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If you are not familiar with the term “blood and thunder tales,” it famously refers to Louisa May Alcott’s thriller short stories, which she wrote under the pseudonym A.M. Barnard. Most Concord literary fans are acquainted with Alcott’s darker side of fiction, sensational adventures that were published in magazines to support her family’s income. The historical value, of course, is one of the attractions, but these stories are quite entertaining (with vintage melodrama) and crisply written.

Louisa May Alcott bedroom and study, Concord, MA Orchard House

Louisa May Alcott bedroom and study, Concord, MA Orchard House

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It’s well known that Alcott wrote with both left and right hands—perhaps an insight to the two sides of her creativity. Not only was this American literary icon skilled in writing about domestic  adventures in Little Women, but she wasn’t shy about psychological suspense and Gothic mystery.

The Mysterious Key is family intrigue. A locked room that is thought to be haunted, a sudden death, romance, a blind girl, and secrets.

Read The Mysterious Key here at Gutenberg.org.

 

You can read more of Alcott’s blood and thunder tales and other short stories at Gutenberg.org.  Pauline’s Passion and Punishment; The Abbot’s Ghost; Behind A Mask or A Woman’s Power.

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A Long and Fatal Love Chase begins with this line “I often feel as if I’d gladly sell my soul to Satan for a year of freedom.”  Murder, a deal with the devil, an obsessive lover, and a Catholic priest.  Published in 1996.  Available on Amazon.

 

 

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A Whisper in the Dark. Published in 2015. Available on Amazon.

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Here is what Boston publisher James T. Fields said to Louisa May Alcott in 1853. “Stick to your teaching, Miss Alcott. You can’t write.”

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In 1855 her first published book was Flower Fables. Little Women was published in 1868 and became an instant best seller followed by Little Men in 1871. She wrote over fifty works of short stories, novels, and plays.

Alcott died at the age of 55, just two days after her father died in 1888.

 

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Here’s What’s Newsy in Paula Cappa’s Fiction

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I’ve got a bit of buzz going on with my  supernatural mystery writing these days, so here’s a quick update.

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After Winning an Eric Hoffer Book Award, Night Sea Journey, A Tale of the Supernatural just got a review from U.S. Review of Books.

“Stunning and absorbing plot on par with—if not better than—a Dan Brown novel. Truly an outstanding read, Night Sea Journey is one book that is hard to put down!” You can read more at U.S. Review of Books here.

 

 

 

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 The Dazzling Darkness is holding its Amazon Kindle Best Seller status, in  ghost  genre, for 14 weeks now. This story has really connected to a healthy number  of ghost  story  lovers.

Midwest Book Review ★★★★★ “Paula Cappa is a master of the metaphysical  mystery genre…an extraordinary and original storyteller of the first rank. Very  highly recommended.”

 

 

 

I have three short stories available on Amazon Kindle (99 cents), Hildie at the Ghost Shore; The Haunting of Jezebeth; Between the Darkness and the Dawn.  See links and book covers to the right.

What’s coming up?

The Magic of the Loons, a short story of magical realism, a little bit sexy and a little bit fantasy. Will release on Amazon in September for 99 cents. This story was previously published at Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine.

And my third novel, Greylock, is in it final stages of editorial revisions (5 years’ work). Music, the supernatural, and the power of desire.  Murder, lies, betrayal, romance—and the phantasm.

Mt. Greylock, Massachusetts

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Photo by Elisabeth Zguta

 

“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin,

another’s voice, another’s soul.” — Joyce Carol Oates

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Enoch says, “Get the Hatchet!”

Enoch by Robert Bloch  (1946)

Tuesday Tale of Terror  June 16, 2015

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 Illustration by Dan Foley at Spizwackle blogspot.

 

This is a nightmare tale, little bit of black humor, and a lot of creepy business. Seth is a young man with a serious problem. A creature lives on top of his head. No one can see this creature. No one can hear him. No one can catch him. His name is Enoch. And while Enoch spends a lot of time sleeping on Seth’s head, during Enoch’s wake time he orders Seth to kill people. “Get the hatchet!”  Hmmmm, yes, this story is not only weird, but demonstrates a macabre justice with a hefty slice of gluttony.

 

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Read the short story  Enoch with illustrations in Weird Magazine at UNZ.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Roberts Bloch was part of the Lovecraft circle and was heavily influence by him. Today most of us know Robert Bloch from  his novel Psycho, which inspired Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous horror film of the same name.

 

Read Psycho online at English-e-books.net  (Download on the yellow box “Read Online Now.”)

 

 

Listen to another of Robert Bloch’s short stories, audio (30 minutes) of The Hell-bound Train, published in 1958 and won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in Fantasy:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GybC7BBrg2s

Other novels by Robert Bloch:

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Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

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Horror Novel Reviews    Hell Horror    HorrorPalace

HorrorSociety.com        Sirens Call Publications

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HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com

 Rob Around Books     The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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Double-Damned Thirteenth Floor

A Tale of the Thirteenth Floor  by Ogden Nash  (1955)

Reading Fiction, Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    June 9, 2013

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I’ve been looking for a good horror story about the supernatural and legendary thirteenth floor. In my search, I didn’t come up with much. The best one I found (and it’s an amazing verse) was by Ogden Nash, a writer best known for his droll and humorous poems.  A Tale of the Thirteenth Floor reads like a short story but with rhythmic beat and rhyme.

Triskaidekaphobia means fear of the number 13. From Babylonian times to Norse Mythology to Judas being Christ’s thirteenth disciple, the number thirteen holds lots of superstitions of evil powers, bad luck, death, and madness. If you remember Superman Action comics, you might recall that the story was about alien tourists from another planet who resided on the thirteenth floor. Batman stories had a thirteenth floor in Gotham that held a secret society of assassins. But architects and elevator manufacturers are famous for triskaidekaphobia: over 80 percent of buildings do not have a 13th floor or the number 13 on elevator floor stops.

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So, let the poet Ogden Nash export you to Times Square, to the gilded snare of a grimy hotel. A lowly bum, carrying a knife, enters the hotel. He is in search of “the rat” Pinball Pete. Old Maxie is the elevator guy and takes him to the thirteenth floor. But is there a thirteenth floor? Or is it hidden from human sight? We quickly learn that the 13th floor appears once a year on Walpurgis Night (Satanic Night). Old Maxie, he knows more than the old bum does about who resides on the thirteenth floor.

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If anyone here has a favorite supernatural tale about the thirteenth floor, please post in the comment boxes. I’m still on the hunt!

 

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Read the tale here at OgdenNash.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can listen to the audio version, read by Tom O’Bedlam on YouTube

At Evening Thoughts, William Adams has an interesting analysis of this poem.  Read it at HickoryTreeblogspot 

I did find a film “Nightmare on the Thirteenth Floor,” 1990. Quite dated, but still fun. James Brolin, Michele Greene, Louise Fletcher, John Karlen.

 

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A Fit Laughing Stock for Devils (Chinese Supernatural Tales)

Strange Stories   by Pu Songling (1740)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   June 2, 2015

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When thinking of the supernatural, ghost, or horror stories, Chinese literature  is not the first thought that comes to mind.  Their fictional history is a long one with supernatural tales being recorded as early as The T’ang Dynasty, then Chuanqi tales became popular,  then Sung, Confucian, and Ming Dynasties brought supernatural mysteries into printed story collections.

During the Quig Dynasty, Pu Songling (1640-1750) wrote with a narrative strength and completed nearly 500 tales published in 1740 by his grandson. The Liaozhai Zhiyi or Strange Stories is considered to be the bible of Chinese supernatural folktales.  Most of Songling’s  stories hinge on that mysterious place between life and death, waking and dreaming, and have themes of foxes, tigers, and snakes. I’ve chosen four of his tales that are flash fictions and  are ‘charming with a chill’ in their supernatural moralities.

 

Pu Songling (pintura)

 

Songling says of his writings: “I am but the dust in the sunbeam, a fit laughing stock for devils. For my talents are not those of Kan Pao, elegant explorer of the records of the Gods; I am rather animated by the spirit of Su Tung-p’o, who loved to hear men speak of the supernatural. I get people to commit what they tell me in writing and subsequently I dress it up in the form of a story; and thus in the lapse of time my friends from all quarters have supplied me with quantities of material, which, from my habit of collecting, has grown into a vast pile.”

 

 

 

Read these flash fictions at Gutenberg.org. (Click the titles below or scroll the Table of Contents  at Gutenberg.org and click on other titles)

 

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Metempsychosis   Mr. Lin dies at age 62. Will he meet a devil or a god in the Kingdom?

 

 

 

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Killing a Serpent  A young  man, Chang, is fond of hunting, but not hunting snakes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Great Rat  A rat that eats cats? Until the rat meets up with …

 

 

 

 

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The Tiger Guest  In Chinese culture, tigers kill evil men and protect good ones.  In this story of poets  and scholars, we have a twisty little tale.

 

 

 

 

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Available on Amazon.com

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Dead Howls of the Vourdalak

The Family of Vourdalak   by Aleksei Tolstoy ( published 1884)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   May 19, 2015

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Let’s go to the castle of the Dowager Princess of Schwarzenberg in Hitzing, in the dark and silent woods of Vienna. We’ve dined on a rich meal with tasty wine; the kindly Princess has seated us around a hot fire; we are all in the mood for thrilling story telling.

The Marquis de Urfe, a womanizing French diplomat speaks:

“As for me, gentlemen, I have had but a single adventure … so strange, so horrible, and yes, true, that it will strike terror in even the most incredulous among you.” He takes a pinch of sniff and begins to recount his adventure.

“I should explain to you, mesdames, that vourdalaks, as the Slavic people call vampires, are believed in those countries to be dead bodies that come out of their graves to suck the blood of the living. Their habits are similar to those of all vampires, from any country, but they have one characteristic that makes them even more dreadful. The vourdalaks, mesdames, prefer to suck the blood of their closest relatives and dearest friends who, once dead, become vampires in turn. … The commissioners tell of exhuming bodies engorged with blood, which they stake in the heart and then burn in the village squares. The magistrates who were present at these executions attest — with oaths and signed statements — that they heard the dead howl at the moment that the stake was plunged into their heart.”

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The Marquis recounts his travel to a Serbian village where he finds lodging at the home of a man named Dorde and his wife and children. The Marquis learns that Dorde is awaiting the return of his father Gorcha who has gone off hunting. Gorcha left a warning to his son Dorde that if he does not return in ten days, do not let him into the house as he will have turned into a vourdalak. Meantime the Marquis falls in love with Sdenka, the lovely young  sister of Dorde. When Gorcha does return, the story takes a wicked turn into delicious encounters with the vourdalaks.

This short story was adapted for a film in 1963 titled The Black Sabbath that included three short stories: The Telephone (sexy ghost story about a prostitute, Rosie), The Drop of Water (by Chekhov, classic dark and shadowy ghost story), and Wurdalak (vampires) starring Boris Karloff as Gorcha. I watched the film. Vintage horror at its best. Loved it.

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80px-A.K.Tolstoy_by_Repin Alexei Tolstoy (1817-1875)  was a poet, playwright and novelist, second cousin to Leo Tolstoy. His historical drama trilogy The Death of Ivan the Terrible , Tsar Fiodor Iannovich, Tsar Boris are considered to be a part of the classic Russian literature of the 19th century. His first work of fiction was in 1841, The Vampire.

 

 

Read the Family of Vourdalak at AmericanLiterature.com

 

Listen to the audio at Weirdtales: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOcjg6iPRRM

 

Watch the film The Black Sabbath (Wurdalak with Boris Karloff on YouTube at DailyMotion.com).

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Photo Credit: First image above is by Edvard Munch, The Vampire, 1893.

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Bibliophilica       Lovecraft Ezine     HorrorAddicts.net  

Horror Novel Reviews    Hell Horror    HorrorPalace

HorrorSociety.com        Sirens Call Publications

 Monster Librarian   Tales to Terrify       Spooky Reads

HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com

 Rob Around Books     The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror classic authors.

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