“The Mirror” by Catulle Mendes

My first recommendation of the year contains pain, suffering, jealousy, murder, and mayhem. In short, it’s a fairy tale.

I enjoy a good fairy tale, especially the old-fashioned sort that takes no prisoners. With a matter-of-fact attitude and a dry sense of humor, French author Catulle Mendes (1841 to 1909) takes the perception of ugliness to new heights. This version was published by Project Gutenberg.

Here’s an audio version by Libravox: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d65uh36BBN4

A bit about Catulle Mendes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catulle_Mend%C3%A8s

Click continue to read the story!

Continue reading “The Mirror” by Catulle Mendes

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“Car Trouble” by Jas R. Petrin

I’m a big fan of hard-boiled mysteries and have read them for years. It’s getting harder to find new stories written in that style, so that makes me doubly glad to have found Jas R. Peterin’s “Car Trouble.” The story was published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine in 2007, so it’s still under copyright. I can’t provide you with a link so you can read the story, but I can give you a taste of Petrin’s writing and direct you to a good place to find it.

The story grabbed me from the start, the way a short story must do if it is to retain its audience. The protagonist’s name is Leo “Skig” Skorzeny, and if that’s not a hard-boiled name, I don’t know what is. He and his old friend Eva are sitting in her kitchen while she cuts his hair. She’s been doing it for years, but he still tells her how he wants it done. She pretty much ignores him.

Eva tells Skig she’s going to trade in her car and get a new one. She tells him about the deal she made, and he knows instantly that she’s been cheated. Skig decides to get her a better deal, and that’s the beginning of the mystery. I do want to point out that Skig is quite ill at the time, and that gives the story needed depth. Too many short stories don’t offer layers, but that’s because it’s hard to do. Time and space is limited; a point has to be made. Petrin does just fine on both counts.

In this sample, Skig is telling the used-car salesman what’s what:

Skig said, “There’s not a car salesman alive wouldn’t hose a woman like that, unless he’s a saint, and you got no halo floatin’ over your head.” He watched Happy Dan turn purple. “Here’s what you do. You come down fifteen hundred on the MSRP — cash-back covers that — an’ you give her three, not two, for the trade, which is more what it’s worth. That’s forty-five hunnerd, good for ninety bucks off the monthly payment, an’ you still do okay. An’ don’t suck it all up with some BS prepping fees, like you polished the mirrors or something, or I’ll be back here for more negotiating. You getting all this?”

Me again. 🙂

Is your interest piqued? If so, you can find “Car Trouble” and many more good stories in the 2008 edition of “The Best American Mystery Stories.” If your library doesn’t have it, see if you can get it through interlibrary loan. The compilation is well worth the effort.

Here’s a list of the stories Petrin has written for Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine: http://the.hitchcock.zone/wiki/Jas._R._Petrin

The magazine cover featuring the story: http://the.hitchcock.zone/wiki/Alfred_Hitchcock%27s_Mystery_Magazine_%28December_2007%29

Petrin tells us how he met Skig Skorzeny: http://trace-evidence.net/tag/jas-r-petrin/

“Expelled!” by Fred Whishaw

I found this wonderful little story on http://vsfp.byu.edu/, a treasure trove of Victorian short stories. The stories are transcribed from the original source magazines, so a few misspellings can be found here and there. Fortunately, “Expelled!” appears to essentially be free of typos and grammatical errors.

I love the story because it reminds me of the wonderful “Mike and Psmith” stories by P.G. Wodehouse. The boys at a traditional boarding school must deal with a thief and get the surprise of their lives when they discover the culprit. As a storyteller, Whishaw’s aim was to instill gentlemanly values in young men. Wodehouse didn’t aspire to such lofty ambitions, but no matter — stories of boys (and girls) at school are as much fun to read now as they were back in 1895.

Here’s the transcribed story: http://vsfp.byu.edu/index.php/Expelled!

Here’s a scan of the original story: http://vsfp.byu.edu/images/5/5f/Expelled_fl.pdf

And here’s a hardcover collection of the stories that appeared in “Young England: An Illustrated Magazine for Recreation and Instruction,” where “Expelled!” was first published: http://www.biblio.com/book/young-england-illustrated-magazine-recreation-instruction/d/486637283

“The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula K LeGuin

“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” reminds me of “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, but I think LeGuin’s story is even darker, primarily because she asks the reader to imagine his own perfect world and put that in the place of her Omelas. The reader can’t help but do as she asks, even to a small degree, but that request makes the reader more invested in the story and in the fate of a people who know they are living on the borrowed life of another person.

Would you have the courage to walk away from perfect happiness? Would you do more than that to save a life? Would you risk the happiness of your friends and your family? That’s the exchange the people of Omelas are quietly asked to make by no one other than themselves.

The story received the Hugo Award for best short story of 1974.

The story can be found here: http://harelbarzilai.org/words/omelas.txt

Here’s a short film based on the story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwhJHleFhMU Personally, I wish the director hadn’t included the last five or so minutes of outtakes. For me, it wrecked the mood of the story he was trying to tell.

Ursula K. Le Guin
Ursula K. LeGuin

“Millicent’s Double” by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Lucy Maud Montgomery is best known as the author of the “Anne of Green Gables” books, but she also was a prolific writer of short stories. I’ve read a couple of her offerings, and a primary theme seems to be a common one of the era — the learning of an important life lesson.

“Millicent’s Double” was written in 1905.

Read it here: http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/5890/

Or, listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39FQC_y3JgM

A bit about the author: http://www.lmmontgomery.ca/aboutlmm/herlife

Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of the
Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of the “Anne of Green Gables” novels as well as hundreds of short stories.

“The Pensioner” by William Caine

“The Pensioner” is the story of an inherited debt. Two generations of one family try to do right by Miss Crewe, a governess who served the family to the best of her ability. While the family has every intention of looking after the woman, their parsimony forbids them for offering her an annuity, instead paying her 150 pounds per year in the hope of her dying before she can cost them too much money.

“The best laid plans…”

The story was first published in 1922 (dates vary) in The Graphic, an illustrated British magazine.

Here it is in text form where you can download it as a PDF: http://www.unz.org/Pub/OBrienEdward-1921-00073?View=Search

Here it is in audio format: https://archive.org/details/SusannahBondReadsThePensionerByWilliamCaine

A bit about “The Graphic”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Graphic

Welcome to Fictional Treasures

I’m using this blog to resurrect forgotten short stories — all kinds of stories from all over the world. The idea came to me when I saw The Strand will premiere a short story by John Steinbeck in its holiday issue. The story was first read over the radio years ago, but it went unpublished until now.

Check out the link: http://www.strandmag.com/Holiday-issue-of-the-Strand-with-the-unpublished-John-Steinbeck-story_p_8569.html

Also, check out this link from The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/nov/06/forgotten-john-steinbeck-story-with-your-wings-published-after-70-years

This event got me to thinking about all the short stories out there, locked up in forgotten books or lying dormant in back issues of musty old magazines. I want to release a few of those stories and perhaps find new appreciation for them. I hope you’ll join me in my literary quest.

The 2014 holiday issue of The Strand, featuring a previously unpublished story by John Steinbeck.
The 2014 holiday issue of The Strand, featuring a previously unpublished story by John Steinbeck.