A short story a day review

Month: January, 2012

The Bell by Ray Russell

by sandraseamans

One of my all time favorite short stories is “The Cage” by Ray Russell so when I came across this story I just dived in.  Like “The Cage”, “The Bell” also deals with adultery.  When our narrator’s father falls ill he makes a deal with God to stop sleeping with the woman he’s seeing if he’ll make his father better.  And for three years everything is fine until his father becomes ill again and asks his son, “Why can’t I die?”  Remembering his deal with God, he calls up his lady friend and invites her over for a romp in hay.  When they’re finished the hospital calls to tell him his father is dead.  Things go downhill from there.

From the anthology “Cutting Edge” edited by Dennis Etchison

The Lost Child, Jean Thompson from WHO DO YOU LOVE

by Patti Abbott

This is a frightening story because of its ambiguity. A six-year old child is on an endless car trip with a woman called Fay. At first you think a mother and child are fleeing a bad situation. But eventually it becomes clear, “Fay” has kidnapped him. You never find out why or how but it ends with the lines-
When they got tired of one place, they picked up and sailed to another. When they got tired of their names, they made new ones. Nobody bothered them. Nobody needed the name except them.
Thompson is an amazing writer.
A day ahead, I know. #32 Patti Abbott

What’s It All About by Edward D. Hoch

by Barb Goffman

31/366 reprinted in the December 2011 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, originally copyrighted 1967.

Back before computers, before our past indiscretions were so easy to find, a good criminal could keep under the radar, moving from city to city, never getting caught. That was helpful for the guy in this story, whose only real pleasure in life is driving fast and … well, I won’t say and ruin it for you … but getting caught would keep him off the road and ruin all the fun.

Maybe I don’t read enough hard-boiled material — maybe other readers would have seen the key to this story coming — but I was surprised that in this day and age, a story could still leave my jaw hanging open for a moment.

Missing Sarah by Jim Winter

by Barb Goffman

30/366 from Powder Burn Flash, available here: http://www.powderburnflash.com/?q=node/505 (Sorry I can’t get the link to work.)

Sorry for not posting yesterday, but I did read this yesterday.

Grieving parents search for answers after their daughter kills themselves. When it appears justice will be denied, the father takes matters into his own hands. Nice ending.

The Funeral by Richard Matheson

by sandraseamans

This is a wonderfully done tongue-in-cheek story about a vampire who wants a funeral because he “never had a proper going off”.  Matheson has great fun taking jabs at both funeral directors and funerals.  His description of funeral director, Morton Silkline, is priceless.

“Blinking meditation from his liver-colored eyes, Silkline knit his fingers to a placid clasp, then settled back against the sable leather of his chair, a smile of funeral welcome on his lips.”

The funeral itself is a hysterical mess that ends with Silkline passing out on the floor.

“Just before the bulbous-eyed Morton Silkline toppled forward, the waxen-faced man leaned over, smiling toothfully, squeezed the Director’s numbed and murmured, ‘Tasty.’  Then Silkline was at one with the rug.”

I’ve read stories about people arranging their own funerals but Matheson’s genius has taken the story to a whole new level.

From the “I Am Legend” collection.

The Unlocked Room by John F. Suter

by Arun

Source:  Crimes Across the Seas – 19th MWA anthology edited by John Creasey

Story Number: 31

This story has two interesting features – it is a parody of Henry Merrivale and has a neat little impossible crime as its puzzle plot. Jon Dickens Carbon is a famous detective-story writer who specializes in writing locked-room stories. He is found strangled at one corner of the room, a corner completely surrounded by still-wet varnish on the floor unmarred by a single footprint. Patrolman Witmer who was on an errand to deliver a ticket to the Policeman’s Ball is on the scene of the crime within a few minutes of the tragedy. He has three suspects to deal with – Jon’s brother & niece (the 2 who would inherit the fortune equally) and the Old Man – Colonel Goliath Perrivale (his motive being that the author outright used his ides without paying him a cent) who helps the police occasionally to solve locked-room murders!

The brush used to paint the varnish is still wet in the hands of the victim, the dead man was spoken to by 2 of the witnesses just five minutes before his death, the experiment to show that the murderer could’ve painted the floor after the murder turns out to be a dead end as it takes Witmer a complete 8 minutes to achieve the task. Perrivale says that the case could be solved between Witmer and himself and he propounds a few theories to explain the impossible murder in a fashion and tone very similar to that of Merrivale. Witmer, not fooled by any of those theories, calls on his experience as an odd-jobs painter in his free time to provide the actual solution which trumps all those provided by Perrivale!

“Zone of Quiet” by Ring Lardner

by bloodandtacos

From HAIRCUT & OTHER STORIES by Ring Lardner, published in 1991.  Short story originally published in the 1920s.

To me, Ring Lardner is one of the best short stories writers of the 20th Century. If you haven’t read the short story “Haircut”, do yourself a favor. Like the best of Flannery O’Connor or Sherwood Anderson, he has an incredible amount of control over the form, without being complicating.  But as compared to O’Connor or Anderson, he does it with so much humor that it is appears to be deceptively easy.

Hell, Lardner had the balls to name one of his short story collections “How To Write Short Stories (with Samples).” No advice, just stories.

In “Zone of Quiet”, he uses a common technique in his stories: the character telling their story over a period of time. In this case, it’s a nurse telling her invalid patient about her love life and nights on the town. Funny and revealing, it’s just a treat of a read.

And at almost one hundred years old, the fact that the humor still works is a credit to the writing.  Like Pete Seeger said, any fool can make something complex; it takes a real genius to make something simple.


“LChaim” by Harvey Jacobs

by kattomic

Photograph by Estelle Jacobs

“L’Chaim” by Harvey Jacobs


Story 31/366

Jacobs is a widely anthologized short story writer and novelist, whose best-known work is probably The Juror (inspiration for the movie of the same name) but whose best-loved book is probably Summer on a Mountain of Spices, which is filled with autobiographical elements.  This story recounts a special birthday toasted with a rare vintage in a very exclusive men’s club. “L’Chaim” appears in Blood is Not Enough (17 Stories of Vampirism), one of Ellen Datlow’s excellent themed anthologies.

See you tomorrow!

Home, Gil Brewer from HARDBOILED-An Anthology of American Crime Stories

by Patti Abbott

A black student comes home for a vacation and has to learn again what black people can and cannot do in the South of the mid-twentieth century. This was a terrific, if chilling, story. Ending January on a high note. #31 Patti Abbott

Someone, Alice McDermott, THE NEW YORKER

by Patti Abbott

Later she would tell her daughters, “If he looks over your head while talking, get rid of him.” And this is jest of the story. Walter Harnett convinces a young girl that he is going to marry her and she falls in with this idea eventually. Just as casually, he announces another girl has all Marie’s assets and is good-looking , he will marry her instead. Marie’s brother, a former priest, takes a walk with her.
This is a typical NEW YORKER story, good characters, excellent writing but no real ending and the point of the story is hard to decipher. I guess it would be that both Marie and her brother have been jilted: he by mistaking his calling and Marie by losing her beau. Patti Abbott #30