Today is a good occasion as any to observe this blogging tradition (a tradition of this blog, I mean) of uploading a cover from Detective Tales and comment on it. September is a tricky month, because my mind is all on horror stories and I think very little about crime fiction, so I am less inspired watching these covers. Last year I had chosen a cover with some elements you could find in horror stories, even though there was no supernatural element in it. I did something similar in 2008, uploading a cover with strong sadistic elements. So this year I looked thoroughly, pondered a lot about what would look good on Vraie Fiction, then chose the cover from September 1938. It is a crime fiction adventure cover, but it does have the nod to other genres: the simian hunchback and the secret passage, right by a fireplace.
So let's have a good look at the cover. When I saw it, it reminded me of the Clue/Cluedo mansion, which I wrote a post about this year. In a way, the setting belongs more to a whodunit than hardboiled crime fiction. I say whodunit, I should add a lazy one, because as Ronald Fox said in his ten Commandments of Detective Fiction, shouldn't rely on secret passages, not more than one anyway. It is true that it may be the only one. The old mansion, or the luxurious house is a setting of whodunits, in any case. I don't know what Fox thought of hunchbacks. That said, this is not a whodunit story, for obvious reasons: the hero is not an eccentric detective, but an action man, athletic and probably a private eye, even though he is very well dressed and firing away at an adversary out of the frame. The living room is not a place where the detective will reveal the identity of the murderer in front of all the suspects: it is a place of violent confrontation and danger, the fire still burning very near the escape route, blocked by a nasty antagonist. The two ladies in the back are both damsels in distress, one because she is unconscious, the other because she does not see the beastly henchman holding a knife. He could easily belong to a Gothic horror story. But in any case, it is an exciting piece of work.
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