Short Review – You Can’t Plant Murder, by Donald Bayne Hobart + Beware! and The Black Chamber

Friday , 3, February 2017 Leave a comment

You Can’t Plant Murder by Donald Bayne Hobart appeared in the June 1943 issue of G-Men Detective. Beware! is an unattributed wartime warning. M. K. Dirigo’s The Black Chamber was a regularly appearing feature of G-Men Detective.

You Can’t Plant Murder was very short and simple, so I thought I’d squeeze in a couple other interesting features of this issue of G-Men Detective.

You Can’t Plant Murder was a wasted opportunity to use the title on some Poison Ivy type dame. Death is afoot on the golf course; a G-Man out on the links working undercover as a greens keeper finds himself possibly a suspect. A little bit of suspense is added when the real murderer attempts to frame the agent by shooting the police chief who knows the G-Man’s undercover secret; right as the chief clears the agent as a suspect and promises his secret’s safe, the real killer puts a bullet in the chief and tosses the gun through the window of the shed the chief had called the agent into.

The detective quickly proves his innocence and fingers the actual murderer; a German agent knew the detective was a G-Man and was trying to get him out of the way so he could sabotage the submarine base near the course that the G-Man was keeping tabs on. The dick solves the mystery just in time to notice that the dead chief’s daughter looks quite lovely over there and could probably use some comforting.

There really wasn’t a lot I can say about this that was special or particularly good. While the writing was less cringe-worthy than Pa Howdy, it didn’t deliver any real exciting action or thrills. Though you could say that both this story and Thieves’ Blueprint are ‘about what you’d expect from a detective pulp’, there’d certainly be different connotation. Where Thieves’ Blueprint hit the beats, You Can’t Plant Murder goes through the motions, and while one stands tall, the other falls a bit flat. It wasn’t a terrible story, just a terribly unremarkable one.

Beware! and The Black Chamber don’t really warrant their own posts, but I did want to touch on them.

Beware! is a one page fictionalized account of one man buying black market meat for his family and the possible consequences. During the war, rationing was in effect, though choice cuts of meat could still be obtained from disreputable sources. Of course, when one purchased black market foods, one risked getting bad or tainted meat; the very reason it might be available on the black market might be that it was unsellable because it was determined to be unsafe.

So, in this flash piece, the guy goes into a pool with some of his buddies to buy black market meat for his family; naturally, they all get violently ill from it and count themselves lucky that they live through the experience.

Like Dan Foster novels, The Black Chamber is a column on cryptography one of the regular features of G-Men Detective. G-Men positioned itself as not just a detective pub but a magazine for budding would-be detectives and future FBI agents. As such, The Black Chamber was something of a ‘training exercise’, a spy-codes 101 for budding Jr. G-Men.

I imagine that each issue features one of a variety of cyphers; this issue’s focus is cryptoquotes. In addition to the various quotes for readers to try to work out, this column includes indexes of various pattern-words, tips and tricks, and suggestions from other readers on how to formulate your own cyphers and ways to make writing in code easier (like the old type-writer key-switch).

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