Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Teapot Mounties Ball

“The Teapot Mountie Ball,” by James Powell. Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. March/April 2011. I am a fan and friend of Jim Powell so I say this with respect and affection: The man is as loony as a Canadian dollar coin. The average Powell story contains a fully realized plot stuffed with wild free associations wrapped around a bizarre central idea that, if it had occurred to most writers, would cause them to swear off late-night enchiladas.

This particular specimen is part of a series about Acting Sergeant Maynard Bullock of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. But the central concept is this: in order to avoid infiltrators Canadian organized crime has banned members who meet the height and weight qualifications for Mounties. To foil this strategy the RCMP hires a special squad of undercover agents known as the Teapot Mounties (because they are short and stout, naturally). The one time these diminutive lawmen can wear their red uniforms is the night of their annual ball. This year, the regularly-sized Sergeant Bullock is present, running the soda stand. Naturally he stumbles into a fiendish plot…

So that is the main story line. Here are some random examples of the free associations that grow up around it:
* There was a Mountie named “Gimpy” Flanagan who had “sworn never to pull his revolver without drawing blood, an oath that cost him several toes.”
* Scandanavians tend to underestimate Canadians, seeing them as “a frivolous southern people much like the Italians…”
* The Canadians have sworn to defend the U.S. from an overland attack by Russia, because they know “that if Mexico ever tried to invade Canada by land, the United States would do the same.”

Mad as a March Hare and twice as fun.

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