She Shall Have Murder
Click on image to enlarge.
by Delano Ames
Description: A murder mystery story, plotted around the characters and situations found in a lawyer's office, is being planned by a lively young couple. Then a murder is committed and fiction becomes grim fact. Jane and Dagobert, who proves to be engagingly uninhibited in his methods of detection, soon find a real baffler on their hands. And the deeper they probe into the affairs of the office staff, the more complex, sordid, and exciting the case becomes.
About Vintage Paperback Pulp Fiction:
A new revolution was underway at the start of the 1940s in America--a paperback revolution that would change the way publishers would produce and distribute books and the reading public would consume them. In 1939 a new publishing company--Pocket Books--stormed onto the scene with the publication of its first paperbound book. Unlike hardback books, these pulp paperbacks were available in drugstores, newsstands, bus and train stations, and cigar shops. The American public could not get enough of them. The popular pulp genres reflected the tastes of Americans during the 1930s and 1940s--mysteries, thrillers, and "hardboiled detective" stories were all the rage.
In the early 1950s new pulp fiction sub-genres emerged--science fiction, lesbian fiction, juvenile delinquent and sleaze, for instance--that would tantalize readers with gritty, realistic and lurid stories never seen before. Publishers had come to realize that sex sells. In a competitive frenzy for readers, they turned to alluring covers that often featured a sexy woman in some form of undress, along with a suggestive tag line that promised sex and violence within. To this day, the pulp cover art of these vintage paperback books are just as sought after as the books themselves were sixty years ago.
We are excited to make these wonderful pulp fiction stories available in ebook format to new generations of readers, as a new revolution--the ebook revolution--is in full swing. We hope you will enjoy this nostalgic look back at a period in American history when dames were dangerous, tough-guys were deadly and dolls were downright delicious.
eBook Publisher: SRS Internet Publishing/Digital Vintage Pulps, 2011 2011
eBookwise Release Date: June 2011
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [324 KB]
Reading time: 196-274 min.
The idea--not so much for the actual murder as for a book about it--struck me when Major Stewart said, "Somebody ought to bump off that woman." All he meant was that Mrs. Robjohn had kept him in the office with her old complaint--which has been driving us all crazy for months--for nearly ten minutes past the time when he inevitably announces, "We normally have one about now," and pushes off around the corner to the Carfax Arms.
But it started me brooding. Give the irritable phrase an undertone of suppressed hatred, let his gray eyes narrow-slightly (two venomous slits would be overdoing it), and you've got the beginning of a book.
Of course it's bound to be a thriller, and originally I had had in mind something more psychological--about a girl called Scandal who painted, and her impact upon a shell-shocked Oxford Don whom she met in Aix-en-Provence. It was going to be called Waking--No Such Matter.
For years people have been saying to me, "It must be so interesting to work in a lawyer's office, you meet so many interesting people; you ought to write a book." Slowly I have been worn down by this sort of thing, and now every time Sarah's typewriter is free, I think, Now I'll do it. Sarah's typewriter is free now.
Actually Dagobert is responsible for the murder angle. Murder at the moment--late November--absorbs him. In between "seeing people" about jobs, he has been reading thrillers--about three a day.
I have nursed Dagobert through several such crises before: Gregorian Chant last year, followed by wild flowers and sixteenth-century French Poetry. My mind is a jumble of Mixolydian Modes, nipplewort, and Joachim duBellay--to which fingerprints and strangulation are now being added.
It has not occurred to Dagobert to write this himself--his style is to conceive great works rather than to execute them. He will inspire me, and correct my spelling. In any case his latest hobby is my writing a thriller.
I tapped out on Sarah's typewriter:
For a long moment Major Stewart stared thoughtfully at the mahogany door through which Mrs. Robjohn had disappeared. Then, with a curiously furtive gesture, he removed the telephone receiver and swiftly dialed a Soho number.
I reread this without conviction. The number, actually, will have been a suburban number, a Purley number, and the conversation will have gone something like this:
"Oh, Jimmy, you shouldn't! Babs will have to get cross with her Jimmy!"
Babs is the one on the other end of the wire, the Fair Maid of Purley, the future Mrs. Stewart. Barbara Jennings is a nice girl (if somebody would only tell her about giggling) who can--I must in all fairness admit--wear her hair in a flat bun on top. Her father is Sir Ben Jennings, who owns the larger part of Glasgow. She is an only child, and she has this quaint--and apparently endearing--habit of referring to herself in the third person.
"I love you," says her Jimmy, who in these frequent conversations goes right to the crux of the matter. "I have loved you continually ever since an hour ago, when I last telephoned."
"No, you haven't! You've been flirting with Jane and Sarah and Rosemary." (The girl is not so dumb as she sounds.) "You are very naughty, Jimmy, and Babs is very cross with you." The italics are her own.
The conversation continues along these lines for some time, not getting very far one way or the other. About eight times a day they bill and coo over the phone, quarrel, make it up again, go through the entire if limited emotional gamut of young love. I get the details from Rosemary, in whose room there is a telephone extension. Rosemary is our Chief Clerk.
Meanwhile I can hear Mrs. Robjohn padding along the corridor making unconvincingly toward the front door. She has been with Major Stewart for less than half an hour, and not one of us really thinks he or she will get off as lightly as this. A watchful silence reigns over the precincts of Daniel Playfair & Son, Solicitors. We shall all breathe again when we hear those padding footsteps descend the echoing wooden stairs which lead down into Mandel Street.
She has reached our front door, the hinges creak. There is an ominous pause. I type furiously, thinking in this way to create an atmosphere of great busyness.
But no. Here it comes. A pause. She's changed her mind, thought of something, perhaps a new codicil to her will.
"Miss--er, Miss Swinburne," I hear her say to Sarah, "I wonder if you'd tell Mr. Playfair I'd like a word or two with him. It's rather important."
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Robjohn. Mr. Playfair is still engaged."
Sarah has certain remarkable streaks of stubbornness in her. One of them is the way she protects the sanctity of the hour in which Mr. Playfair does his crossword puzzle from Mrs. Robjohn.
The two face each other. I don't dare open my door and peek out; but I can see the scene quite vividly enough to describe it: Sarah, her golden-red hair tumbling around her shoulders, a pencil stuck jauntily in one ear, her hands on her hips, literally barring the passage to Mr. Playfair's room at the end of the dark corridor. Mrs. Robjohn, peering at her with watery but surprisingly shrewd eyes, as though she was trying to place where she had met the girl before.
It was a contest of wills really, and the outcome was always uncertain. Sarah was more vital, energetic, blunt; but Mrs. Robjohn was more persistent. By Fabian tactics she not infrequently outwitted Sarah.
"How tiring!'' Mrs. Robjohn spoke as though to herself rather than to Sara. "It's most important--and I may have no further opportunity."
"Could I take a message in to him?"
"No, thank you so much. The matter is private."
"Couldn't you telephone and make an appointment in the usual way?"
"I have no telephone." She spoke sadly, as though other luckier people in this world have telephones, but not Mrs. Robjohn. "And"--she lowered her voice so that I had to strain my ears to hear her words--"and you know what public call boxes are."
Between Sarah and Mrs. Robjohn a curious antagonism exists. Antagonism is too strong--a lack of sympathy would describe it better. Mrs. Robjohn is a bore--every legal firm has such clients. But when we are not cursing her we feel a little sorry for her. Sarah doesn't. Sarah thinks she's a self-centered old harridan, who blatantly plays for our sympathy. And yet Sarah can always be depended upon to give sixpence to an obviously bogus beggar.
Mrs. Robjohn for her part does not help to smooth the situation. She treats Sarah as though Sarah were beneath her notice. With Rosemary it is always "that nice Miss Proctor" or even "that dear Rosemary Proctor." Rosemary's father was an Indian-Army officer, and "these things, whether you like it or not, do make a difference." She is equally gracious to me, though luckily she knows less about my private life and antecedents.
She delights in referring to Sarah as "your little typist in front of Rosemary and me, which embarrasses us much more than it does Sarah.
There was a long pause in the corridor. Mrs. Robjohn and Sarah were still facing each other, neither willing to give ground.
"It's about my will," Mrs. Robjohn said finally. "If anything... well, if anything happened... I'm sure Mr. Playfair would be very annoyed if he thought I was being kept from him."
"I'll tell him that you called."
"Perhaps I could see Miss Hamish?"
I typed furiously. I am Miss Hamish.
"Miss Hamish is busy with the Hartley Estate.""
"Then I'll just have a word with Miss Proctor. You see, I don't want to go out into the street--just yet."
I heard a door open--not the front door--and I knew that Mrs. Robjohn had not been utterly defeated. Sarah a second later poked her head into my room.
"Poor old Rosemary's for it!" she said. "The Robjohn nabbed her before I could fling myself into the breach. Where are those sardines?"
"Under the pile of Templeton's deeds."
"I thought we could toast up these rolls on Jimmy's fire. He's 'having one' about now."
Neither Jimmy nor Rosemary awfully like Sarah's calling them by their first names, but I've long since given up trying tactfully to tell her so.
"Hello," she said, peering over my shoulder. "Started the book at last? Am I in it?"
"I'm just making some rough notes. You'll probably turn out to be the murderess."
"I could be--easily. I'll give you a shout when the kettle's boiling." And she was gone, whistling, as though one whistler of "the latest" (Oates, the office boy) were not enough.