Classic Crime: Little Louise Roque

Today’s Classic Crime is a striking, disturbing story by Guy de Maupassant, one of the great masters of the short story form.

Guy de Maupassant (1850 - 1893)
Guy de Maupassant (1850 – 1893)
Source: Wikimedia

In “Little Louise Roque,” the body of a young village girl is found in the woods, violated and murdered. With a cool and disinterested eye, Maupassant describes the reactions, actions, and thought processes of the people affected: the girl’s mother, the postman who discovered the body, the mayor, the magistrate — and the murderer. It’s a dark and unsettling story, but also quite powerful. And memorable, too.

I first encountered this novelette in the Boris Karloff-edited collection, And the Darkness Falls, and it’s stayed with me since that reading. I’m sharing the same translation, from a collection of Maupassant translations credited to “Albert M.C. McMaster, A.E. Henderson, Mme. Quesada, and Others.” The story was first published in December 1885, and later became the title story of Maupassant’s eleventh collection, La petite Roque (1886).

You can read “Little Louise Roque” here.

I hope you find it as memorable as I did.


Part of the Classic Crime series.

Featured image: The Brook in the Woods by Worthington Whittredge (ca. 1885-86). Source: metmuseum.org

Classic Crime: The Man with Nine Lives

Today I’m presenting another series detective debut: the first Madelyn Mack story, by author, journalist, and screenwriter Hugh C. Weir. This is Ms. Mack’s second appearance on this blog; I first mentioned her in a post about the 1976 anthology The American Rivals of Sherlock Holmes.

Madelyn mack color
Source: UNCG Special Collections & University Archives, via the Internet Archive

Though the character herself makes fun of Sherlock Holmes, Weir clearly modeled Ms. Mack on The Great Detective. She has a sidekick and chronicler, the newspaperwoman Nora Noraker. She is eccentric: only dressing in solid white or solid black, brusque, and somewhat imperious. She loves music. She has an annoying tendency to hide her thought processes and the details of her investigation from Nora; and she when she’s stressed, she falls back to her addiction — the stimulant kola nuts.

The first time I encountered Madelyn Mack, I was rather surprised by how polite, even deferential, the police were to a young woman detective in 1914. But now it makes more sense: Ms. Mack is already famous for any number of high-profile cases by the time we readers meet her. It helps when your Watson is a journalist.

In “The Man with Nine Lives,” millionaire scholar Wendell Marsh writes to Ms. Mack for help after a series of attempts on his life. Unfortunately, by the time Madelyn and Nora arrive at Marsh’s estate, it’s too late. His servants have already found him, quite dead but apparently unwounded, in his wrecked and ransacked library, which of course was locked from the inside. Who did it? How did it? And why? Ms. Mack is on the case.

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Classic Crime: The Archduke’s Tea

Today’s classic crime story comes from journalist, Golden Age mystery author, and historical novelist Henry Christopher Bailey. Bailey is probably best remembered today for his long-running series of Reggie Fortune stories, featuring a surgeon with a talent for solving crime. In this post, I’m sharing Reggie Fortune’s debut case!

CallMrFortune

The Archduke’s Tea” opens with Reggie’s parents going on holiday, leaving Reggie to mind his father’s thriving medical practice. Almost immediately, Reggie is summoned to attend the Archduke Maurice, heir to the throne of Bohemia, who currently lives in the wealthy suburb where Dr. Fortune practices. The Archduke was stuck by a hit-and-run driver while on one of his habitual countryside rambles. While hurrying to his patient, Reggie comes across another hit-and-run victim lying by the side of the road–very dead. And this victim bears a striking bodily resemblance to the Archduke.

Suspicious. Also suspicious: Maurice’s brother Leopold–next in line for the throne–is visiting his brother. And it seems the Archduchess, who hates life in the royal Court, is a speed-demon who loves to race up and down the roads in her own “ferocious vehicle”…

Who struck the Archduke? Can Reggie catch the attacker before they strike again?

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Classic Crime: Hungarian Robbers

If you enjoyed my previous classic crime tale “The Murder Hole,” then here’s another sinister inn story for you! This one comes from the ultra prolific Scottish historical novelist and travel writer Charles Macfarlane.

Among the many, many tomes that Macfarlane produced, one of the more fun ones is The Lives and Exploits of Banditti and Robbers in All Parts of the World, which first appeared in two volumes in 1833. This particular tale tells the adventure of a Hungarian horse dealer, returning home from a successful and profitable business trip to Vienna. Just past the Hungarian border, he stops off for the night at a respectable-looking inn.

The host then inquired what business had carried him to Vienna. He told them he had been there to sell some of the best horses that were ever taken to that market. When he heard this, the host cast a glance at one of the men of the family who seemed to be his son, which the dealer scarcely observed then, but which he had reason to recall afterwards.

Not so respectable an inn, after all.

You can read “Hungarian Robbers” here, at the Internet Archive.

As in “The Murder Hole,” our protagonist gets away — but just barely, thanks to a rather cruel twist of fate.

Hungarian Robbers

And if you want more, here’s both volumes of The Lives and Exploits of Banditti and Robbers in one. I don’t like the illustrations in this 1837 edition as much as the ones in the 1833 volumes, but it’s readable, and certainly more convenient.

Enjoy!


Part of the Classic Crime series.

Illustration: Hungarian Robbers, from The Lives and Exploits of Banditti and Robbers in All Parts of the World, Volume II (1833). Source: Internet Archive

Classic Crime: The Murder Hole

A lonely road runs through a desolate stretch of Scottish moor. This part of the country has a bad reputation for murder and highway robbery; almost everyone who used to live here has fled. There’s only one family left, an old lady and her two sons. When night falls, travelers caught on the moor take shelter at their cottage, because it’s much safer there than to sleep out in the open, all things considered. Right?

Your Money or Your Life

The Murder Hole is a gruesome little tale of the “scary stories around the campfire” variety: somewhat predictable, but fun to read or to hear. You can find it various places around the web, usually unattributed and subtitled something like “A Scottish Legend.”

The tale itself may well be a local legend, but this specific version has an author, and she should be credited: Catherine Sinclair (1800-1864), a philanthropist and author of children’s literature. She also wrote a few volumes of legends and folktales, and apparently was the first to identify Sir Walter Scott as the author of the previously anonymous Waverly novels.

“The Murder Hole” first appeared in the February 1829 issue of Blackwood’s Magazine. Sinclair later republished it as part of her 1853 collection London Homes.

You can read “The Murder Hole” here.

I thought it was a delightful piece of mildly gory folklore when I found it; I hope you like it, too.

Enjoy!


Part of the Classic Crime series.

Illustrations

Featured image: The Murder by Paul Cezanne (c. 1868). Source: WikiArt

Your Money or Your Life! by Charles-Joseph Traviès de Villers, for Les mystères de Paris, vol. 1 by Eugène Süe, 1843. Source: Old Book Illustrations

Two More Fantasies by Pardo Bazán

I’ve just posted two more translated fantasy short stories to Ephemera, both by Emilia Pardo Bazán.

It had been a little while since I’d done any translations; it was fun to pick it up again. I hope you enjoy the results!

Classic Crime: The Avenging Phonograph

Over the past year and half, I’ve found my reading habits changing a bit. I still read the ghost stories and weird tales that I love, but lately, I’ve been turning more to short stories of the mystery and macabre — my genre of choice before discovering classic supernatural fiction.

So many times I’ve come across a story that I would love to share, either as a Winter Tale or otherwise, but didn’t, because it had no supernatural component. Now I’ve decided, “why not?” — and so I’m starting a new series, Classic Crime, to share public domain, non-supernatural, crime and mystery short stories that I really like. But don’t worry, I’ll still be reading and sharing ghost stories, too!

My introductory classic crime story: The Avenging Phonograph, by E.R. Punshon.

Phonograph

Sounds like a ghost story, doesn’t it? That’s why it’s been on my Winter Tales candidate list for several years. I always decide against it, and this is a better way to share it, so….

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Spukenswald

I found this surprisingly–but delightfully–blood-thirsty tale at the Internet Archive, in the Christmas 1909 issue of a magazine called The Scrap Book. Of course, I dug in, hoping for some good winter tales. And “Spukenswald” is fun! It’s a Grand Guignol romp that’s got all the fixings: a haunted castle, a magic talisman, a mysterious lady, a young man on a quest, wizards, revenants, robbers, even cannibals! But it’s also not terribly wintry, so I decided to share it it now, rather than waiting until December.

Spukenswald pageborder

Although The Scrap Book presents the story as an anonymous “Ghost Story Translated from the German,” it’s actually an American-authored pastiche/spoof of the German gothic literature so popular in the early 19th century. Plus, it has some interesting connections to that great author of American gothic, Edgar Allan Poe.

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Ghost Stories from the Classics

Work has been quite busy lately, and likely to stay that way. I haven’t had much chance to blog. So a quick note to introduce a little set of stories that I collected a few months back, to share with you, my readers: ghost stories from classical literature.

None of these supernatural tales are at all spooky to the modern reader. What’s fun about them is that you can see in these usually brief anecdotes the germination of some well-known folktales and urban legends. Often, these excerpts from early writers of the classical Greek or Roman eras are the earliest examples of well-known tales. I’ve posted some examples to Ephemera, and I’ll post a few more as time permits.

Athenodorus The Greek Stoic Philosopher Athenodorus Rents a Haunted House

Some Ghost Stories by Pliny The Younger

The first of Pliny’s tales is a well-known haunted house story, and probably the origin of that stereotype of spectres in chains. Come to think of it, this is probably the only ghost story I’ve read where the ghost was actually in chains. The story is also an early example of the Aarne-Thompson-Uther (ATU) folktale motif 326A (“Soul released from Torment”). One could argue that it’s an early example of the occult detective genre, as well, since Athenodorus rented the house in question specifically to investigate the rumors about the spectre.

The second anecdote could be considered a poltergeist tale, where again the poltergeist seemed to have a message to send.

Lucian’s “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”

This is probably the original Sorcerer’s Apprentice story (ATU 325), with all the tale’s recognizable elements (except Mickey Mouse).

Tales of Mysterious Dreams

The first dream story, from Cicero, is an example of the Grateful Dead motif. In a Grateful Dead tale, the protagonist buries the remains of dead person at the protagonist’s own expense. The grateful ghost of the dead person then does a favor for the protagonist in gratitude. Cicero’s tale is quite basic, but the Grateful Dead motif eventually evolved into something a bit more elaborate. You can read my retelling of a Slavic Grateful Dead variant here.

The next two tales, one from Cicero and one from Aelian, seem to be two variations of the same story, about a murdered man who appears in another’s dream to expose the murderer. As Cicero points out, this story was already well known when he wrote it down, so I think we can call this one an urban legend.

Hope you enjoy these little excursions into the classics. I have at least two more, that I will post as time permits.


Featured image: Illustration by George Scharf for A History of Greece, by Leonhard Schmitz (based on the work of Connop Thirlwall) (1863). Source: Picryl.

“Athenodorus confronts the Spectre”: illustration by Henry Justice Ford for The Strange Story Book by Leonora Blanche Land and Andrew Lang (1913). Source: Wikimedia.

The Saga of Peter Rugg

I’ve posted a note over on Dark Tales Sleuth about “Peter Rugg, the Missing Man” (1824), a landlocked New England version of the Flying Dutchman story.

PeterRugg1

This “cursed traveller” tale, about a man doomed to ride forever in search of his home in Boston, evidently caused quite an impression on readers. Like the Angels of Mons or the so-called Legend of the Three Crowns of East Anglia, Peter Rugg crossed over from fiction into the status of “authentic” regional legend.

“Peter Rugg” (and its author, William Austin) are said to have made an impression on a young Nathaniel Hawthorne, who shared Austin’s taste in New England supernatural tales. Hawthorne eventually included Peter Rugg as a character in his allegory “A Virtuoso’s Collection” (which is how I ended up reading and annotating the story not too long ago).

The Peter Rugg saga actually has two parts: “Peter Rugg, the Missing Man,” and “Further Account of Peter Rugg.” You can find a link to both stories together in the above post, as well as links to a few other interesting supernatural short stories by William Austin.

Check it out!


Illustrations from the John W. Luce & Co. edition of Peter Rugg The Missing Man (1910). This is a really pretty edition of the entire Peter Rugg saga as one volume, found at The Internet Archive.