The Winter Murder Case - S. S. Van Dine - ebook
Kategoria: Sensacja, thriller, horror Język: angielski Rok wydania: 1939

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S. S. Van Dine

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About
Chapter 1 - AN APPEAL FOR HELP

About Van Dine:

S. S. Van Dine was the pseudonym of Willard Huntington Wright (October 15, 1888 - April 11, 1939), a U.S. art critic and author. He created the once immensely popular fictional detective Philo Vance, who first appeared in books in the 1920s, then in movies and on the radio. Willard Huntington Wright was born to Archibald Davenport Wright and Annie Van Vranken Wright on October 15, 1888, in Charlottesville, Virginia. He attended St. Vincent College, Pomona College, and Harvard University. He also studied art in Munich and Paris, an apprenticeship that led to a job as literary and art critic for the Los Angeles Times. Wright's early career in literature (1910 - 1919) was taken up by two causes. One was literary Naturalism. He wrote a novel, The Man of Promise, and some short stories in this mode; as editor of the magazine The Smart Set he also published similar fiction by others. In 1917, he published Misinforming a Nation, a scathing critique of the inaccuracies and English biases of the Encyclopedia Britannica Eleventh Edition. In 1907, Wright married Katharine Belle Boynton of Seattle, Washington. He married for a second time in October 1930. His wife was Eleanor Rulapaugh, known professionally as Claire De Lisle, a portrait painter. From 1912 to 1914 he edited The Smart Set, a New York literary magazine. He published What Nietzsche Taught in 1915. In this book, he provided information and comments on all of Nietzsche's books, as well as quotations from each book. Wright continued writing as a critic and journalist until 1923, when he became ill from what was given out as overwork, but was in reality a secret drug addiction, according to John Loughery's biography Alias S.S. Van Dine. His doctor confined him to bed (supposedly because of a heart ailment, but actually because of a cocaine addiction) for more than two years. In frustration and boredom, he began collecting and studying thousands of volumes of crime and detection. In 1926 this paid off with the publication of his first S. S. Van Dine novel, The Benson Murder Case. Wright took his pseudonym from the abbreviation of "steamship" and from Van Dine, which he claimed was an old family name. According to Loughery, however, "there are no Van Dines evident in the family tree" (p. 176). He went on to write 11 more mysteries, and the first few books about his upper-class amateur sleuth, Philo Vance (who shared a love of aesthetics like Wright), were so popular that Wright became wealthy for the first time in his life, "but the pleasure was not unalloyed. His fate is curiously foreshadowed in that of Stanford West, the hero of his only novel, who sells out by abandoning the unpopular work in which he searched for "a sound foundation of culture and aristocracy" and becoming a successful novelist. The title of an article he wrote at the height of his fame, "I used to be a Highbrow and Look at Me Now", reflects both his pleasure, and his regret that he was no longer regarded seriously as a writer." His later books declined in popularity as the reading public’s tastes in mystery fiction changed. "Wright, who was much like Vance … was a poseur and a dilettante, dabbling in art, music and criticism. He lived in an expensive penthouse, was fond of costly clothes and food, and collected art." Wright died April 11, 1939, in New York City, a year after the publication of an unpopular experimental novel that incorporated one of the biggest stars in radio comedy, The Gracie Allen Murder Case, and leaving a complete novelette-length story that was intended as a film vehicle for Sonja Henje, and was published posthumously as The Winter Murder Case. In addition to his success as a fiction writer, Wright's lengthy introduction and notes to the anthology The World's Great Detective Stories (1928) are important in the history of the critical study of detective fiction. Although dated by the passage of time, this essay is still a core around which many others have been constructed. He also wrote an article titled Twenty rules for writing detective stories in 1928 for The American Magazine which was reprinted a number of times. Wright also wrote a series of short stories for Warner Brothers film studio in the early 1930s. These stories were used as the basis for a series of 12 short films, each around 20 minutes long, that were released in 1930 - 1931. Of these, The Skull Murder Mystery (1931) shows Wright's vigorous plot construction. It is also notable for its non-racist treatment of Chinese characters, something quite unusual in its day. As far as it is known, none of Van Dine's screen treatments have been published in book form and it seems as if none of the manuscripts survive today. Short films were extremely popular at one point and Hollywood made hundreds of them during the studio era. Except for a handful of comedy silents, however, most of these films are forgotten today and are not even listed in film reference books. Source: Wikipedia

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Chapter 1 AN APPEAL FOR HELP

"How would you like a brief vacation in ideal surroundings—winter sports, pleasing company, and a veritable mansion in which to relax? I have just such an invitation for you, Vance."

Philo Vance drew on his cigarette and smiled. We had just arrived at District Attorney Markham's office in answer to a facetious yet urgent call. Vance looked at him and sighed.

"I suspect you. Speak freely, my dear Rhadamanthus."

"Old Carrington Rexon's worried."

"Ah!" Vance drawled. "No spontaneous goodness of heart in life. Sad. So, I'm asked to enjoy myself in the Berkshires only because Carrington Rexon's worried. A detective on the premises would soothe his harassed spirits. I'm invited. Not flatterin'. No."

"Don't be cynical, Vance."

"But why should Carrington Rexon's worries concern me? I'm not in the least worried."

"You will be," said Markham with feigned viciousness. "Don't deny you dote on the sufferings of others, you sadist. You live for crime and suffering. And you adore worrying. You'd die of ennui if all were peaceful."

"Tut, tut," returned Vance. "Not sadistic. No. Always strivin' for peace and calm. My charitable, unselfish nature."

"As I thought! Old Rexon's worry does appeal to you. I detect the glint in your eye."

"Charming place, the Rexon estate," Vance observed thoughtfully. "But why, Markham, with his millions, his leisure, his two adored and adoring offspring, his gorgeous estate, his fame, and his vigor— why should he be worrying? Quite unreasonable."

"Still, he wants you up there instanter."

"As you said." Vance settled deeper into his chair. "His emeralds, I opine, are to blame for his qualms."

Markham looked across at the other shrewdly. "Don't be clairvoyant. I detest soothsayers. Especially when their guesses are so obvious. Of course, it's his damned emeralds."

"Tell me all. Leave no precious stone unturned. Could you bear it?"

Markham lighted a cigar. When he had it going he said:

"No need to tell you of Rexon's famous emerald collection. You probably know how it's safeguarded."

"Yes," said Vance. "I inspected it some years ago. Inadequately protected, I thought."

"The same today. Thank Heaven the place isn't in my jurisdiction: I'd be worrying about it constantly. I once tried to persuade Rexon to transfer the collection to some museum."

"Not nice of you, Markham. Rexon loves his gewgaws fanatically. He'd wither away if bereft of his emeralds… Oh, why are collectors?"

"I'm sure I don't know. I didn't make the world."

"Regrettable," sighed Vance. "What is toward?"

"An unpredictable situation at the Rexon estate. The old boy's apprehensive. Hence his desire for your presence."

"More light, please."

"Rexon Manor," continued Markham, "is at present filled with guests as a result of young Richard Rexon's furlough: the chap has just returned from Europe where he has been studying medicine intensively in the last-word European colleges and hospitals. The old man's giving a kind of celebration in the boy's honor—"

"I know. And hoping for an announcement of Richard's betrothal to the blue-blooded Carlotta Naesmith. Still, why his anxiety?"

"Rexon being a widower, with an invalid daughter, asked Miss Naesmith to arrange a house party and celebration. She did—with a vengeance. Mostly café society: weird birds, quite objectionable to old Rexon's staid tastes. He doesn't understand this new set; is inclined to distrust them. He doesn't suspect them, exactly, but their proximity to his precious emeralds gives him the jitters."

"Old-fashioned chap. The new generation is full of incredible possibilities. Not a lovable and comfortable lot. Does Rexon point specifically?"

"Only at a fellow named Bassett. And, strangely enough, he's not of Miss Naesmith's doing. Acquaintance of Richard's, in fact. Friendship started abroad—in Switzerland, I believe. Came over on the boat with him this last trip. But the old gentleman admits he has no grounds for his uneasiness. He's just nervous, in a vague way, about the whole situation. Wants perspicacious companionship. So he phoned me and asked for help, indicating you."

"Yes. Collectors are like that. Where can he turn in his hour of uncertainty? Ah, his old friend Markham! Equipped with all the proper gadgets for just such delicate observation. Gadget Number One: Mr. Philo Vance. Looks presentable in a dinner coat. Won't drink from his finger-bowl. Could mingle and observe, without rousing suspicion. Discretion guaranteed. Excellent way of detecting a lurking shadow—if any." Vance smiled resignedly. "Is that the gist of the worried Rexon's runes by long-distance phone?"

"Substantially, yes," admitted Markham. "But expressed more charitably. You know damned well that old Rexon likes you, and that if he thought you'd care for the house party, you'd have been more than welcome."

"You shame me, Markham," Vance returned with contrition. "I'm fond of Rexon, just as you are. A lovable man… So, he craves my comfortin' presence. Very well, I shall strive to smooth his furrowed brow."