MARTIN H. GREENBERG, Editor – Deadly Doings. Ivy, paperback original; 1st printing, 1989.

#5. WILLIAM CAMPBELL GAULT “Never Marry Murder.” Short story. First published in Dime Mystery Magazine, December 1949, as by Roney Scott. Not collected or reprinted elsewhere.

   Most readers of this blog will recognize William Campbell Gault as the author of two long-running series of private eye novels, eight with a fellow named Joe Puma and fourteen with Brock “The Rock” Callahan, both working cases all over the southern California landscape.

   Less known is the fact that Gault also had a long career writing detective and crime stories for the pulp magazines, well over a hundred of them, starting with “Crime Collection” in the January 1940 issue of 10-Story Detective Magazine.

   Some of them featured PI’s or wanna-be PI’s, but “Never Marry Murder” is not one of them. (That the byline on the story is Roney Scott is due to the fact that Gault had another story in the same issue under his own name, “Slay You in My Freams,” a common practice in those days.)

   No, this one’s a straightforward domestic crime tale, one that would not be out of place in, say, Alfred Hitchcock’s Magazine, back when it started after the success of the TV show; that is t= say, a story that depends on a surprise ending, a unexpected twist, if you will.

   A man who’s made his fortune by killing his first two wives has decided to settle down with the woman of his dreams, until, that is, he finds out that she’s been seeing another man. He doesn’t hesitate a minute. She has to go, victim number three.

   Unfortunately I knew exactly what was coming well before the ending, long before the protagonist did, and you may, too, with only the information I’ve given you. The story’s well told — you could say the same thing about everything Gault ever wrote — but when the story’s as predictable as this one is, I think editor Martin H. Greenberg might have found a better one. He certainly had plenty to choose from.


Previously in this Martin Greenberg anthology: SUE GRAFTON “The Parker Shotgun.”