The New Hand By Richard Deming
Short Story in Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, Nov. 1968
I've always admired the work of Richard Deming. You'll get a solid crime mystery by picking up any of his novels, a couple like "Hit and Run" and "Vice Cop" are outstanding. In the 60s he was a ghostwriter for some Ellery Queen novels. (the ones that didn't feature the Ellery Queen character) Numerous authors were ghostwriting these, and I found Deming's were some of the most suspenseful. But its in Deming's short stories, where you will find some of his best work. Compact plots, usually with non-hero characters that are believably human, but must take that fatal step to reach an easier lifestyle. He wrote many and he didn't cheat any publisher or reader. One of these is "The New Hand."
Gladys had a neat little scheme planned. Marry 70 year old ailing farmer Amos Bull and when he kicks off, inherit all his land, clean out his bank account, and collect on the tidy life-insurance policy. One problem, a new doctor hits town and finds out old Amos was misdiagnosed and is expected to be around for quite awhile. A new plan needs to be cooked up and Gladys gets her opportunity when Amos' farm hand quits and he is looking for a replacement. Over the radio she hears that a mad killer has escaped from the nearby asylum and when a man fitting the description comes knocking on the door, she ensures Amos doesn't get hold of the news alerts. Amos unknowingly hires the man and Gladys sets the trap. Using an axe that has the fingerprints of the new farm hand on it, she slaughters Amos in the barn. She lures in the new man and shoots him dead. A perfect crime, call the police and say the new hand killed Amos and was ready the kill her before she shot the crazed man in self-defense. And just as she is ready to make the phone call, the screen door is opened and Gladys faces her fate.
This reads like an episode from one of those Alfred Hitchcock Hour TV shows. It moves fast, is highly suspenseful with a touch of horror, and contains an unexpected ending. I hunt down Richard Deming short stories, he sure knew how to deliver them.
A wonderful shorter work in this issue, is Ed Lacy's "Night Games." Two adventurous Americans travel to a remote sleepy island in the Caribbean to execute a heist. Unknown to them is the island's shrewd police chief, who has the learned instincts of an old city cop. John Lutz provides a violent ending to the haunting murderous story called "King of the Kennel." And thrown in, is a damn good Mike Shayne story, about a vengeance-filled fugitive ready to settle some scores.
The high-caliber mystery stories in this issue:
"Deadly Conscience" by Brett Halliday (Mike Shayne story)
"The New Hand" by Richard Deming
"Wearing the Green" by Jack Ritchie
"The Dismal Flats Murder" by Joseph Payne Brennan
"King of the Kennel" by John Lutz
"Night Games" by Ed Lacy
"The Richest Girl in Town" by Deane and David Heller
"Rent Money" by Hal Ellson
"An Affair of the Heart" by Henry Slesar
Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine ended its run in 1985, and I miss it. For publications we are left with Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. But I've always preferred MSMM over these two, it was more hardboiled, no light crime yarns with humor, and each issue contain many quality stories. (not only just one or two) I always felt it was left to carry the torch after Manhunt stopped in the 60s. Plus you can't beat getting that Mike Shayne novelette every month.
Monday, December 15, 2008
The New Hand By Richard Deming