Unthology is certainly different. Unlike most periodicals or anthologies, this volume contains a wide r For my full review, please visit Casual Debris.
Unthology is certainly different. Unlike most periodicals or anthologies, this volume contains a wide range of styles among its seventeen selections. On one hand this offers a great reading challenge, as our minds must get accustomed to each individual story. Many periodicals don't offer this challenge, each story so similar that the brain is set to monotone mode and the reader might as well have picked up a novel. On the other hand this variety offers a risk, since human tastes vary and each reader will likely encounter two or three stories they are not particularly fond of. Personally I didn't dislike any of the stories here, but there were a few that just didn't grip me, though each is well written. My two favourite entries are those by Viccy Adams and Ashley Stokes, but others that stand out for me are those by Mischa Hiller, Laura Stimson, Sherilyn Connelly, Sarah Dobbs and Tessa West. ...more
The Vanishing Corpse is highly entertaining. It's short, straightforwardly written and manages to sFor my detailed review, please visit Casual Debris.
The Vanishing Corpse is highly entertaining. It's short, straightforwardly written and manages to sustain a good mystery. In brief, the case involves the death of John Braun, the founder of a health centre who is found dead in a locked room. His throat was cut yet there is no weapon around and no way to access the room other than through the locked door. It is a genuine locked-room mystery. Before becoming a corpse, John Braun discovered that he was dying of cancer, and cut everyone but his wife from his will. Moreover, he gave instructions to close down his lucrative health resort, upsetting his various business partners. Before the actual murder, when Inspector Queen is considering taking up the case of the estranged and missing Braun daughter, Ellery Queen wanders in looking for a good plot for his next novel. Pursuing a lead in locating Barbara Braun, he encounters love interest Nikki Porter, friend of Barbara's. Nikki doesn't remain just a friend, since soon after Braun;s death she is upgraded to primary murder suspect.
The screenplay for the film was written by Eric Taylor, so he should receive much of the credit, even if just for the dialogue. The story was evidently conceived by Dannay and Lee, the prose transposed by a ghostwriter, yet the dialogue belongs to Taylor, who had a busy two decades as a screenwriter until his unfortunately early death. While the comedy does slow the pacing of the mystery, particularly in the early portion of the novella, the bantering is quite good, particularly between Ellery Queen and Nikki Porter. There are comedic gags as well, such as the burnt steak, but though familiar nonetheless well rendered on paper. With Nikki we have another 1940s gal who is less than an ideal housewife, not necessarily marriage material for that reason alone, but is nonetheless good looking despite being also a bad fiction writer. Yet while she can't cook she is neat and organized, so I guess we can't sway too far from 1941 social norms, and when we do it's supposed to be funny, which it often is. Kudos to Taylor for keeping it funny for seventy years later.
The mystery itself is quite good, and though I figured out the murderer's identity early on, most elements of the crime evaded me, such as how the weapon went missing, which really I should have figured out. For a locked room mystery it's clever enough as well as believable....more
Still strong after three issues. No single stand-outs as in previous issues but not one disappoiFor my full-length review, please visit Casual Debris.
Still strong after three issues. No single stand-outs as in previous issues but not one disappointing story. My favourites are "Blind" by Harvey Marcus, "The Rocket Man" by Benjamin Johncock, "The Maginot Line" by Matt Plass... you know, they're all good....more
There are a number of ideas running through this little suspense novel. Far more than you'd expect fromFor my full review, please visit Casual Debris.
There are a number of ideas running through this little suspense novel. Far more than you'd expect from what was intended to be a 1950s pulp paperback. Much has been discussed about March's treatment of the serial killer, from his accurate portrayal of a sociopath to the less than likely notion that such pathologies are hereditary. Yet, as Elaine Showalter rightfully states in her introduction to the 1997 Ecco edition, "Contemporary readers may sense that the tale of Rhoda Penmark is more complex than it first appeared." Amid the important sociopathological elements in the novel and its unusual little killer, there exists an acute rendering of the state of contemporary (1954) society.
The notion of a "bad seed" is not just the seed that carried the killer instinct across generations, but a seed that lies dormant within the confines of western society, and that sprouts more and more frequently as the society maintains its unhealthy repressive lifestyle. Societal repression exists throughout the novel, from "larval" homosexuality to the almost disturbing sexual aggression portrayed in Leroy Jessup's internal monologues. However, the prominent form of repression is displayed through Christine Penmark, the beautiful and loyal housewife mother to Rhoda. Christine is portrayed as a woman average in intelligence, not particularly talented, and though loyal to the ideology of the family unit, highly frail and insecure so that the unit is lacking a stable foundation. Her hard-working and apparently loving husband is out of the country conducting business that will further both his career and the family's status, while Christine remains at home discovering the awful truth about her daughter while writing letters to her husband begging him to hurry home. Letters that shew will never send. There is an irony that exists in the notion of family unity since while Christine strives to maintain the impression of family, her husband Kenneth is entirely absent while daughter Rhoda has no concept of anything beyond self. Of course Kenneth is away not out of choice as it is made clear the trio had to leave their previous community due to Rhoda, and father had then to re-establish himself in a new line of work.
Yet the notion of family doesn't quite exist anywhere in The Bad Seed. Characters include a trio of spinster sisters, a divorced and childless feminist ball-buster living with her latent homosexual brother, a crime-obsessed possibly gay single middle-aged male, and loads of widows. We see family in the Daigles and in the Jessups. The Daigle family is represented as frail and becomes victim to Rhoda's intentions early on. The Jessup clan is internally destructive and self-defacing, with the children playing in dirt, Mrs. Jessup constantly (and understandably) undermining her husband, while Leroy is obsessed with aggressive sexual longings for Christine, and a sinister relationship with the little girl Rhoda that is described as a kind of courtship. The Jessup family too will fall victim to Rhoda.
Moreover, characters are seduced by the trendy forms of Freudian psychoanalysis in order to better understand and master (or restrict) themselves. Repression is not only of the self but of one's surrounding influences. As seen through the concerned and loyal friend, yet nonetheless selfish Monica Breedlove, people do their best to control their environment. With her influence Mrs. Breedlove can command those around (or beneath) her. Crime writers organize and catalog crime, schools control their enrollment, families do their best to control their children, as Mrs. Daigle does with the weak-willed Claude. Finally, according to March, we are also controlled by ancestry as Rhoda's evil nature isn't to be helped, but is rather inherited from her grandmother. This last point is the novel's most contentious and most difficult for the contemporary reader to swallow.
Otherwise, the portrayals are quite astute. March handles his material well, with excellent consistent characterization, great internal monologues and a strong plot that unites its little elements throughout the novel. In addition, written with the intention of being a "potboiler" (Showalter's word), the writing is clear and straightforward, generating an intense level of suspense....more