Impossible Crime Fiction

Discussions of new films, books, television shows, and media indirectly related to magic and magicians. For example, there may be a book on mnemonics or theatrical technique we should know or at least know about.
Richard Stokes
Posts: 186
Joined: September 11th, 2008, 8:18 pm

Impossible Crime Fiction

Postby Richard Stokes » July 2nd, 2019, 8:37 pm

At the Bodies from the Library conference at the British Library (June 29th 2019), Jim Noy & Daniel Curtis gave a wonderful presentation on the 10 Types of Impossible crime:

Sealed Room Murder; Room That Kills; Physical Acts; Psychological; Invisible Murderer; No Footprints; Vanishing; Materialising; Prophecy; Ghosts & Witches.

In the Vanishing section, they referred to Off the Face of the Earth’ (1949) by Clayton Rawson and You’ll Die Laughing (1945) by Bruce Elliott.
I had no idea that Elliott had written a crime novel.

Here are some useful links:

https://theinvisibleevent.com/2019/06/30/546/

https://theinvisibleevent.com/2017/06/2 ... more-25703

There's also a podcast: The Men Who Explain Miracles
https://theinvisibleevent.com/themenwhoexplainmiracles/

I wish this had been around when I was younger. When I lived in Sydney, Australia, I developed a mania for John Dickson Carr and had no-one to talk to about this obsession. I also devoured all of Cornell Woolrich's pulp novels. Night has a Thousand Eyes would fall under the Prophecy classification.

Presently, I'm reading the exceptional stories of Paul Halter (translated from the French). He is the modern John Dickson Carr.

The Reader is Warned – like with magic, you can spend the rest of your life fascinated by these puzzles.

Jonathan Townsend
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Location: Westchester, NY
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Re: Impossible Crime Fiction

Postby Jonathan Townsend » July 2nd, 2019, 10:11 pm

There was a time from before the turn of last century to about 1950 when mysteries invited the reader to more closely observe the world. Chesterton invited the reader to notice how nobody notices the postman coming and going, or how the staff and the guests at a fine party are similarly dressed - and Conan Doyle wrote about how details can say more than words. It's still a genre. The Magpie Murders was well reviewed recently. Just last year a mystery, "The Gnomon" was a fun read. Though beware "Nihil sapientiae odiosius acumine nimio" ;)

About mid-century mystery stories forked around Agatha Christie's Moustrap. Somehow it became a game of astute reader against clever writer. A tough game for the writer. Literature responded with "An Inspector Calls". In the larger genre Stanislaw Lem, Georges Luis Borges, and Alain Robbe-Grillet produced works asking more of the reader. The other turn in that maze brought us comedies such as the Pink Panther, Sherlock Holmes's Smarter Brother - and oddities such as Murder She Wrote .
So far from the tales of a man with a large ape for a pet or the scheming minister who cleverly hides a letter in plain sight.
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

Brad Henderson
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Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: austin, tx

Re: Impossible Crime Fiction

Postby Brad Henderson » July 2nd, 2019, 10:51 pm

I was always a fan of ‘Murder by Death’

Jonathan Townsend
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Location: Westchester, NY
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Re: Impossible Crime Fiction

Postby Jonathan Townsend » July 3rd, 2019, 12:27 am

Brad Henderson wrote:I was always a fan of ‘Murder by Death’
Nancy Walker and Truman Capote :D
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

Joe Lyons
Posts: 248
Joined: November 13th, 2017, 8:27 am
Favorite Magician: Wonder
Location: Texas

Re: Impossible Crime Fiction

Postby Joe Lyons » July 3rd, 2019, 8:03 am

Richard Stokes wrote:Presently, I'm reading the exceptional stories of Paul Halter (translated from the French). He is the modern John Dickson Carr.


I devoured the works of Carr, Pronzini, Hoch and others in EQMM when I was younger, though I haven't visited them for some time. I'll have to check out Halter.

Bob Farmer
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Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Short card above selection.

Re: Impossible Crime Fiction

Postby Bob Farmer » July 3rd, 2019, 10:42 am

I have a large collection of impossible crime books. The first detective story, "Murders in the Rue Morgue," by Edgar Allan Poe was an impossible crime (death inside a locked room). An invaluable reference for all fans, but sadly very expenisve to find is Robert Adey's book--but good news it's now available in paperback:
https://www.amazon.com/Locked-Room-Murd ... 1720746508

The book is divided into three sections. In the first section over a thousand impossible crimes are listed by author then by title and a short description of the impossible crime is included with each entry.

In the second section, the same listing is used with the solution.

In the third section, all of the methods are collected and reduced to the main methods.

Pete McCabe
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Joined: January 18th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Simi Valley, CA

Re: Impossible Crime Fiction

Postby Pete McCabe » July 3rd, 2019, 2:23 pm

For anyone on this board who is interested in exploring this genre, I suggest you check out The Great Merlini, the collected stories of Clayton Rawson. "Off the Face of the Earth" is one of my very favorite mystery short stories, mostly because the solution is so perfectly suited to a story involving magicians.

If you are in the mood for a novel, The Tokyo Zodiac Murders is a wonderful mystery, and the solution will make any magician smile.

I didn't know Elliot wrote a novel either. I'll have to check that one out.

Bob Farmer
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Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Short card above selection.

Re: Impossible Crime Fiction

Postby Bob Farmer » July 3rd, 2019, 4:26 pm

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders is a masterpiece--or rather master pieces.

Bill Mullins
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Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Huntsville, AL

Re: Impossible Crime Fiction

Postby Bill Mullins » July 3rd, 2019, 4:28 pm

Charles T. Jordan wrote some really bad mysteries.

Jonathan Townsend
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Re: Impossible Crime Fiction

Postby Jonathan Townsend » July 3rd, 2019, 8:11 pm

Richard Stokes wrote:...you can spend the rest of your life fascinated by these puzzles.
That's pretty much my goal in magic - to leave folks who like such things a story they can tell about what they saw happen.
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

Joe Mckay
Posts: 1629
Joined: April 13th, 2008, 6:56 am
Favorite Magician: Lubor Fiedler
Location: Durham, England

Re: Impossible Crime Fiction

Postby Joe Mckay » July 3rd, 2019, 8:16 pm

I love the idea of impossible crime fiction. It is the closest you can get to learning the secret behind a cool magic trick without picking up a magic book.

Sadly though - I hate fiction. I am a bit autistic and just hate fiction. I love non-fiction. I read all the time. But as soon as a story is made up I lose all interest.

Joe Mckay
Posts: 1629
Joined: April 13th, 2008, 6:56 am
Favorite Magician: Lubor Fiedler
Location: Durham, England

Re: Impossible Crime Fiction

Postby Joe Mckay » July 3rd, 2019, 8:20 pm

I have just ordered the Robert Adey book though.

Cheers Bob!

I was going to pick it up years ago but it was super expensive back then. Hopefully this book will allow me to appreciate the ingenious solutions without getting bogged down in extraneous plot.

Joe Mckay
Posts: 1629
Joined: April 13th, 2008, 6:56 am
Favorite Magician: Lubor Fiedler
Location: Durham, England

Re: Impossible Crime Fiction

Postby Joe Mckay » July 3rd, 2019, 8:41 pm

I sometimes use crime as an analogy when discussing magic with friends.

You have certain magic creators who each have a distinctive style they bring to their solutions to magic problems. And I imagine them all tackling the best way to carry out a bank robbery.

Lubor Fiedler would create create a hologram of a closed door that would be projected over a door that was open. And then walk in during the night and rob the place.

Paul Harris would set off the fire alarm and then walk in dressed as a fireman 2 minutes later. And get everyone to leave as he stuffs cash in his pockets.

Barrie Richardson would trick the bank manager into signing over the company by replacing the legal texts in the bank manager's accountants files with faulty legal advice. Or maybe that would be Bob Farmer? Except Bob would probably get the bank manager drunk and then win ownership of the bank through a con involving a double sided coin and a pair of dice.

Criss Angel would take out money from one bank and then film himself running out of another bank pretending he had just robbed the place.

Penn & Teller would play more and more elaborate pranks on the bank manager in order to convince him he was going insane. And then Penn would walk in one day pretending to be a psychiatrist there to take him away for his own safety. Whilst Teller goes round the back and steals all the dough.

David Copperfield would pay a supermodel to fall in love with the bank manager and then use her to distract the manager whilst Homer Liwag and Chris Kenner went round the back and stole all the cash. And once they were sure that method worked they would do the same whilst robbing all the gold out of Fort Knox.

Ed Marlo would rob the guy who robbed the bank. And then write 12 letters to 12 different newspapers claiming credit for robbing the bank.

And so on...

Leo Garet
Posts: 324
Joined: March 14th, 2015, 9:14 am
Favorite Magician: Nobody In Particular

Re: Impossible Crime Fiction

Postby Leo Garet » July 17th, 2019, 11:55 am

Let's not forget "Lady Don't Fall Backwards" by Darcy Sarto. Featuring Johnny Oxford.

Dave Le Fevre
Posts: 79
Joined: December 24th, 2015, 10:29 am
Favorite Magician: Paul Megram

Re: Impossible Crime Fiction

Postby Dave Le Fevre » July 18th, 2019, 3:49 am

I love a Hancock reference. Kudos.


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