Showing posts with label Coward. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Coward. Show all posts

Monday, March 4, 2019

What Invisible Means, by Mat Coward

"What Invisible Means," by Mat Coward, in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, March/April 2019.

I believe this is the second time this has happened, but please don't expect me to find the other example. 

I refer to the fact that the same author is appearing in this space two weeks in a row.  That would make sense if I was reading a collection of the author's stories, but instead he just happened to have tales in two magazines I have been reading. 

This is Mat Coward's fifth appearance on my little list.  As I said, his fourth was last week.  Here is his winning opening:

Tuesday was a great day.  Wednesday less so, of course, because that was when he got the letter saying that someone was planning to murder him, but Tuesday went better than Des could have hoped.

Apparently in England if the police have reason to believe someone is planning to kill you they are required to send you what is called an Osman letter.  As D.C. Vicki explains "the Osman letter is basically to cover ourselves if your widow decides to sue us."

But in the case of Des, it is a fake letter.  Someone is trying to intimidate him.  Or warn him?

I'm not going into the plot here, a convoluted tale of a terrible cribbage team, a cigarette smuggler, and a perilous taxi ride.  What makes Coward's work so delightful is the language.

For example, here is Vicki dealing with her very serious partner.

"How can they charge for this coffee?" [Abi] added.  "I mean legally?  We should be charging them for getting rid of it.

Vicki laughed.  Whenever Abi said something which Vicki thought might be intended to be humorous she made a point of laughing.  Which on one occasion had led to Abi not talking to her for seventy-two hours.  Vicki hadn't blamed herself for that one, thought, because to be fair, "I knew she had a drink problem, I just didn't know she had a machete," doe SOUND like a joke.

Indeed it does.  Very funny story.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Shall I Be Murder?, by Mat Coward

"Shall I Be Murder?", by Mat Coward, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, January/February 2019.

A lot of good stories in this issue, by the way. 

This is the fourth appearance on this site for Mr. Coward. Sometimes it is difficult to define what subgenre a story belongs to. Not in this case.  Here is the first sentence:

"As for myself, I belong to that delicious subgenre, the self-confessed unreliable narrator."

This remarkable tale-teller then tells us his tale but how much of it are we to believe?  Certainly some of it is a lie, but how much of it? 

He explains that a doctor told him he needed to take walks for his health and, since he is allergic to dogs, he wound up walking to a self-storage facility.  There he rented two units, giving up one after setting up a hidden camera in it.  Then he waits for the right type of people to rent that facility.

That much of his story is probably (?) true.  Well, part of it, at least.  But what follows is a riddle stuffed into an enigma.  Is he a blackmailer?  A killer?  Something else entirely, as a police officer suggests?

It is not just that he is lying but that doing so, publicly and deliberately, is part of his plan.  Which he cheerfully admits.  One imagines the prosecutor tearing out his hair, but the reader will have fun.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

On Borrowed Time, by Mat Coward

"On Borrowed Time," by Mat Coward, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, May 2015.

I'm a big fan of Mat Coward's funny stories about muddled and desperate  criminals.  The hero, if that's the word I'm looking for, in this story is Nash, a British public servant, of sorts.  He is paid by the government but he is frank that he works for big business.  The job of the Section is to spy on labor leaders, and non-profits, anyone who might upset the corporate status quo.  His personal tasks include secretly opening the mail of a major union boss.

And one day he finds a very expensive watch in the man's mail. Being desperate for money - we don't find out why until much later - he swipes it.  Then he gets worried that - well...

There were several people he might need to kill, and the way he saw it, if all of them were still alive a week from now, that'd be the nearest thing to a proper result he'd have achieved in years.  

It's always good to have goals.
 
Indeed it is.  You might not think a civil servant would be well-equipped to kill people, but you wouldn't know about the special training sessions the Section provides for it's worker bees. 

Nash had once attended an upskilling weekend on The Rudiments of Self-Defence, which included rudiments such as how to sneak up behind someone in the dark and self-defend yourself against them with a garrotte.

 A very funny tale with a lot of pointed comments on the world we find ourselves living in

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Reason to Believe, by Mat Coward

"Reason to Believe" by Mat Coward, in Death By Horoscope, edited by Anne Perry, Carroll and Graf, 2001.

Ran across this 2001 collection at the library and it had a lot of good authors (Block, Rusch, Lovesey, etc.) so I thought I'd give it a try. Some of the stories assume astrology is real, some assume it is bogus. I, a definite bogus-er, enjoyed some of each, but this was the stand-out.

In a funny story, what exactly is funny? It could be the language. It could be the narration (not quite the same as the language.) It could be situation. It could be character.

I think one of the reason so many of Donald E. Westlake's books were made into bad movies was that a lot of his humor is in the narration, and that doesn't carry over onto the screen at all. And speaking of language, I remember Stephen Fry complaining when he portrayed P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves that the first time Jeeves appears in the books, he "shimmered" in. How exactly was Fry supposed to "shimmer in?"

The humor in this story is mostly character-based. Specifically it revolves around our hero, DS Harry Peacock of the Metropolitan Police. Harry has a somewhat eccentric view of the world and conducts an ongoing conversation with himself that cheerfully overflows in ways that baffle his companions and delight the reader.

Peacock is no fool so when he is talking to his boss his rebellious thoughts stay inside.

"OK. You all right to run with this for a little longer?"

Harry wondered what would happen if he said that, in fact, non, he wasn't OK to run with this, that, in fact, he rather thought he'd spend the rest of the day swmming in the lido. It WAS a hot day. He wouldn't mind a swim.

"Yes sir," said Harry.


Later someone threatens to report him to his superiors and Harry replies: "I have no superiors... They're small men with mustaches."

The story has a plot. Did I mention that? A man who doesn't believe in astrology has been regularly meeting with an astrologer and now he has disappeared. Harry has a strong suspicion as to what has happened and eventually he proves it. But along the way we get conversation like this one with the horoscope scribbler.

"Astrology is not as hot as it was when I started up. The public is fickle."

Harry gave a sympathetic nod. "Those feng shui bastards, eh? Coming over here and stealing our jobs."