Saturday, March 27, 2010

Delayed Verdict by R. C. Tuttle

Delayed Verdict by R. C. Tuttle
Short Story in Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine,
May 1981

Mysteries that take place in the World War II era have always been a favorite of mine. This one actually takes place in the middle of WWII at Guadalcanal. It's a flashback story, told by an ex-Marine Corporal named Lennie Bullard who arrives on the island in a tour boat. It's 1981 and 39 years ago Bullard was assisting in a murder investigation. He relives the questioning of five Marines by Lieutenant Milo Cannon. The victim was a Captain John Vinson, who was shot in the back with a .45 while leaving the Officer's Club. It seems that Capt. Vinson was a major SOB and all five Marines has a reason to kill him, making them prime suspects.

What is a bit strange is that the investigation takes place on the beach front lines. The five suspects, Lieutenant Cannon, and our story teller Bullard are "holding the line" while receiving a series of attacks by Jap Zeros and beach assaults. As we learn of each suspect's gripe with the dead Capt. Vinson, one of them is killed by the enemy. Little by little, the group gets smaller until only Bullard is left alive. We as readers have plenty of information, but the mystery remains unsolved. That is until Bullard returns 39 years later.

"Delayed Verdict" is a well written little thriller that mixes a good whodunit with wartime infantry action. The flashback adds drama to the story and the author R.C. Tuttle created an engaging and believable group of characters. The five Marine suspects come from a wide range of social backgrounds, one is even a Hollywood actor. This is another fine example of the quality stories that were published in the early 80s, found in the Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine publications. You'll always find good ones in them.

But the best entry in this issue is the Mike Shayne novelette titled, "The Stalker of Biscayne Bay." Having read many of these Shayne stories, I found a good percentage of them being very generic. That is definitely not the case here. This is a bang, bang noir-ish tale that takes our Miami based P.I. from dark alleyways to churches, with pimps and hookers to babes in lounge chairs around swimming pools. And Mike gets a good dose of slugs to the head in this one. Three parts I found outstanding in this mystery story. First is the opening pages where the victim is stalked and murdered. It's eerie and frightening, highlighted by lines like when the murderer tells his victim, "You should have thought about what might happen to you when you took up this life." The author creates a compelling start to the story that ropes in the reader. Second is the addition of the New Orleans undercover cop, Terry (Theresa) Denton. Shayne and her develop a wonderful working relationship that charges up the entire story. The third and best is the ending. It's how I like them, adrenalin filled with plenty of trigger action. (and it takes place in a chapel) This is one of the best Mike Shayne short stories that I have read in a long time.

Here is what is in this issue from May 1981:

"The Stalker of Biscayne Bay" by Brett Halliday (Ghostwritten by?)
"Assassination-Middle East" by Joseph Cummings
"In The Key of Murder" by Hal Charles
"Whistle" by Mignon Glass
"Don't Dare Reject the Manuscript" by William Schoell
"Animal Sounds" by Don Wall
"Delayed Verdict" by R. C. Tuttle
"Saturday Night Special" by Terry Black
Plus: Plenty of extra features


James Reasoner said...

"The Stalker of Biscayne Bay" is one of mine. I appreciate the kind words concerning it. (Although those Shayne stories were done so long ago that when I look at them now, they almost seem like somebody else wrote them.)

August West said...

I like going back to these digests, because reading then now, many remain as fresh as ever. Plus, those were special times for me when I would grab these mystery publications off the racks in drug stores. In reality, I guess I'm a nostalgic nut.

An excellent Shayne story Mr. Reasoner.

James Reasoner said...

One thing I remember liking about that story is that Terry Denton was related to the police detective who was Shayne's antagonist while he had an office in New Orleans for a while after Phyllis's death. I always liked to hearken back to Dresser's version of Shayne whenever I could.