"Data! Data! Data! I can't make bricks without clay!"- Sherlock Holmes.
The morose and sulky visage of the clock has not been too liberally, as of late, with providing me with the amount of minutes needed to arrive at the final chapter of Darwin Teilhet's The Ticking Terror Murders (1935) and write about it with a feigned air of intelligence. So I decided to exorcise a ghost that has been haunting my thoughts for the better part of a month now and hastily scribble these lines to prevent this place from reaching a standstill, however, the enquiry below isn't just an accumulation of throwaway lines to get things moving again – since I think it's an genuinely interesting question that we can have some fun with.
Detective stories have always been one of the most popular and engaging personalities in the class room of genre fiction, alongside its buddies science-fiction and horror, which almost naturally attracted an array of individuals from outside the field – who wanted to participate in what we affectionately refer to as the Grandest Game in the World. The Queen of Burlesque, Gypsy Rose Lee, indited two comical mystery novels, The G-String Murders (1941) and Mother Finds a Body (1942), and novelist Isreal Zangwill penned the novella "The Big Bow Mystery" (1891), which was aptly dubbed as the flagship of the modern locked room story, but the most successful visitor was perhaps science-fiction legend, Isaac Asimov. The Caves of Steel (1953) is the exempli gratia of the hybrid mystery novel done right. And let us not forget that the detective story was created by someone who qualifies as a visitor, Edgar Allan Poe, who's still primarily known for his tales of terror and hauntingly beautiful poems.
But as I ramble on here, you are probably starting to wonder where I want to go with this. It's really simple and I could've limited this to a simple, one-paragraph post: if you could send in an invite to someone outside of the field to write a detective story, who would it be and why?
If you'd ask me to whom I would dispatch a note of invitation, I would not have to think for even a second and promptly blurt out the names of the Las Vegas magicians, Penn & Teller.
|Penn & Teller|
This idea began to take shape when I was listening to a very funny interview with Penn, in which he told how Teller has one of the best minds in magic today and can look at a complex stage illusion and tell how it was pulled off – which sort of became the premise of their television show, Fool Us.
|Look, no strings!|
I don't think it will come as a surprise to most of you when I say that I saw opportunities for at least one stunning impossible crime novel, but preferably a series, in which Teller provides a clever, multi-layered plot while Penn comes up with the lines to dress up the story – exactly like in their on-stage act and television shows. Plot-wise, these two stage magicians possess the knowledge and experience needed to possibly outdo a masterpiece such as John Sladek's Black Aura (1974), in which a member of a spiritualist circle is murdered while apparently levitating in mid-air, or even teach the master himself, John Dickson Carr, a trick or two on how to create a locked room or new ways to make stuff disappear. The only thing I am iffy about is whether they would understand the concept and necessity of fair-play clueing.
For these same reasons, I would also love to see James Randi try his hands at a locked room mystery. James Randi is a magician who dedicated his life to explaining miracles and seems therefore almost a shoo-in to pick up the plot threads that were left behind by John Dickson Carr, Hake Talbot, Joseph Commings, Edward Hoch and Clayton Rawson. After all, this is the man who was confronted with someone who could apparently leaf through the pages of a phone book with the power of his mind and was not in the least impressed. Naturally, this warlock was exposed as the fraud he really was by this real-life counterpart of Sir Henry Merrivale and Dr. Sam Hawthorne.
So... let me know whom you would like to see firing up his or her computer and write a detective story. Oh, and they don't have to be necessarily alive. You could, for example, say how great it would've been if Michael Ende had written a mystery. Drop a comment here or compose a blog post of your own. I'm looking forward to hear from you!