E. R. PUNSHON “The Avenging Phonograph.” First published in Black and White, UK, 12 January 1907. Collected in The Ash-Tree Press Annual Macabre 2000, edited by Jack Adrian, and Bobby Owen, Black Magic, Bloodshed and Burglary: Selected Short Stories of E. R Punshon (Ramble House, US, 2015).

   Before hitting upon the idea of writing detective novels to make a living, with some 35 cases of police constable Bobby Owen produced between 1933 and 1956, E. R. Punshon was a prolific author of dozens of tales for the British weeklies of the teens and 20s of the last century.

   Only a handful of these had even a hint of the supernatural or the macabre, and a trace of the latter is all that’s in “The Avenging Photograph.” It is the mayor of a small identified town who has committed murder and who is greatly relieved when the coroner’s jury brings in a verdict of suicide.

   Perhaps it is only conscience working its way through his mind, but suddenly the mayor has this almost undeniable compulsion (not really a conscience!) to tell someone — anyone! — that he did it. That he was the killer.

   Not being a king able to talk to the reeds, he finds himself buying a recording phonograph, one of those new machines which you can speak into and have your voice preserved on a wax cylinder inside.

   I won’t tell you more, except to say that the ten pages of this rather understated story should make a solid impression on anyone happening to read it, an opportunity, I imagine, not very likely to occur in its original publication, a magazine so rare that I doubt more than five copies may even exist.