One of the two crime novels of Earle Baskinsky, an author encouraged to go into writing by his wartime buddy Mickey Spillane, is included in the checklist of Dutton’s line of hardcover Guilt Edged mysteries. The other was a paperback original from Signet. Checking into his career a little more diligently, it was quickly discovered that Basinsky also wrote three short stories. Who better to tell us about them than Mystery*File’s own expert on the crime digest magazines?
A MURDER MYSTERY MONTHLIES SPECIAL: The Short Fiction of Earle Baskinsky
by Peter Enfantino
Earle Basinsky, Jr.’s three stories for the crime pulps were all short and unremarkable, flawed by outlandish premises and silly expositories. In “The Broken Window” (Manhunt, February 1957; approx. 1500 wds.), our nameless narrator is accused by the police of knocking off his rival for the affection of Susan.
Our man, however, convinces the police to let him have a go at the crime scene. Once there, he points out to the police a broken window pane which leads to a hidden gun in a trap door in the ceiling (!!). This, of course, as our narrator points out, is exactly how a man would commit suicide and pin it on an innocent man.
Basinsky can’t leave us stranded in this wild scenario, so he does what any good mystery writer would do: he has his protagonist explain what really happened in the last paragraph.
The longest of the three stories, “The Prison Break” (Mike Shayne, October 1957; approx. 3600 wds.) isn’t much better but, as far as goofy payoffs go, is even more ridiculous than “The Broken Window.” Slim has been in prison for five years for the murder of his adulterous wife and bides his time by digging a way out, inch by inch. Enter Slim’s new cellmate Kirke, who quickly finds the underground passageway and blackmails Slim into letting him escape as well.
Slim gets his revenge in the end, though, when he suddenly realizes why Kirke looks so familiar ... stop me if you’ve heard this one before: (“I know it’s been five years, but aren’t you the guy who ...?”)
Henry, a bank president has his retarded brother Joe to take care of in the best of the three stories, “Decision” (The Saint, March 1958; approx. 1000 wds.). This pretty much ruins Henry’s love life until oppurtunity knocks in the guise of a crook looking to launder his money. The bad guy’s got Joe and threatens to have him killed if his demands are not met. Henry does what he has to do and contacts the police. Note: The Saint shows the author as “Earle Basinski” sans the Jr. and the Y.
There is a bio on Basinsky in The Saint that reads: “Earle Basinski, author of Death Is a Cold, Keen Edge (Signet) and The Big Steal (Dutton) is one of the more interesting representatives of what has been called the Spillane school. He makes a first appearance here with this portrait of an average man suddenly facing ruthlessness.”
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