Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Great Short Stories Part 8: #71-80

71. "Little Miss Marker" (1932) by Damon Runyon. One of Runyon's best-known stories, although the original is more bleak than its many adaptations. A bookie accepts a young girl as a marker for a bet; when the gambler doesn't pay, abandoning the child, the bookie finds himself responsible for the child. To everyone's amazement, he becomes a better man as he determines to care for her.

"Little Miss Marker" can be found in Guys and Dolls and Other Writings.

72. "Tobias the Terrible" (1932) by Damon Runyon. In my opinion, this was Runyon's funniest story. Small-towner Tobias comes to New York in the hopes of meeting underworld characters so that he can impress his girl; through circumstances, he winds up being mistaken for a gunsel ("Twelve-Gun Tobias") and decides that being mistaken for a crook is even better than meeting one!

"Tobias the Terrible" can be found in Guys and Dolls and Other Writings. You can read the text online here.

73. "Three Skeleton Key" (1937) by George Toudouze. This story is probably best known for the radio adaptation produced on Escape as Toudouze was seldom translated into English. Three men tending a lighthouse near French Guinea spot a derelict coming toward the rocky reefs; aboard the derelict is a vast army of rats! Toudouze captures the constant tension and gradually descent into madness of his characters beautifully.

"Three Skeleton Key" can be read online here.

74. "Leiningen Versus the Ants" (1938) by Carl Stephenson. This is another story I know from Escape, although some may know it for inspiring the 50s film the Naked Jungle. A plantation owner learns that a swarm of army ants is headed toward his property and is advised to pull out. Leiningen refuses and instead prepares his men to wage war with the ants!

"Leiningen Versus the Ants" can be found in Twenty-One Great Stories. You can read the text online here.

75. "Pigeons From Hell" (1938) by Robert E. Howard. You won't find any Lovecraft on my list of 100 favorite short stories, although here I've selected one of his contemporaries. As far as I'm concerned, Lovecraft was simply not a very good writer. Howard, on the other hand, although best known for Conan, turned out an incredible horror story here, one with a following of its own. Two men spend the night in an abandoned plantation manor; by morning, one is dead and the survivor must clear his name by combatting the forces of voodoo!

"Pigeons From Hell" can be found in The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard. You can read the text online here.

76. "Ah, the University!" (1939) by John Collier. A quick and delightful tale; a father brings up his son with glowing tales of life at a university, but he does not intend to send his son there; rather, he wants his son to become a cardsharp and support him by winning poker games. The son complies and after years of studying cards heads out to win a fortune. It comes down to a beautifully funny double cross.

77. "Bottle Party" (1939) by John Collier. One of Collier's best known stories, this concerns a man who picks up a bottle containing a genie. Given the power to have whatever he desires, the man begins conjuring up palaces and beautiful women, but is rather disconcerted when he learns the genie's previous master wished for the same things he did.

"Bottle Party" can be found in Fancies and Goodnights. You can read the text online here.

78. "Evening Primrose" (1940) by John Collier. And this is single best known Collier story, one which has often been imitated. A poet goes to live inside a department store to escape the world outside; within the store, he finds a much more horrible world, a community of people who live in stores and pose as mannequins!

"Evening Primrose" can be found in Fancies and Goodnights.

79. "The Crowd" (1943) by Ray Bradbury. Bradbury later became known for science fiction tales and stories of forward looking optimism, but early in his career he wrote stories such as "The Crowd" which were nearer to the pulp horror stories of the day. A journalist narrowly survives a car crash; examining other car crash photos he sees faces in the crowd who were present at his crash. Who are they and what draws them to crash sites?

"The Crowd" can be found in The Stories of Ray Bradbury.

80. "The Scythe" (1943) by Ray Bradbury. An impoverished family chance upon a deserted farm where the previous tenant willed all his property to whoever finds his remains. The property includes a scythe used to cut the wheat. But there's something strange about the wheat, the way it decays immediately after being cut; gradually, the man with the scythe realizes that for every blade he cuts down, someone dies!

"The Scythe" can be found in The Stories of Ray Bradbury.


Matthew said...

Glad to see the course of things has brought us to Bradbury!

Michael Hoskin said...

Oh, you knew that Bradbury was inevitable! There's a lot his work yet to come!