ARTHUR LEO ZAGAT “Man of Granite.” Novella. Published in Dime Mystery Magazine, August 1948. Probably never reprinted.

   Back in August, 1948, Dime Mystery Magazine cost fifteen cents. (I don’t know how they got around that, but they did.) It had been around since December, 1932, as Dime Mystery Book, and lasted until October 1950, by which time it was known as 15 Mystery Stories. The stories throughout its run were often a blend of mystery and supernatural fiction, with the latter usually explained away in the final two paragraphs.

   The cover of this issue shows a man being subdued by a cloaked and hooded figure in black, with chalk-white hands holding a knife to the victim’s throat, but to me, it’s not as horrifying a sight as it might seem. It’s effective but just little too static for me, especially for a pulp cover. You opinion may vary.

   The lead story, “Man of Granite,” by Arthur Leo Zagat, takes place during a single night that a young babysitter named Arlene Morgan is not likely to forget. Ever.

   Why don’t I quote to you the first paragraph? It’ll do two things. It’ll set the stage more than I could in simply telling you about it, and it’ll also show you exactly how a pulp story almost always began: right at the begin, daring you, if you will, to put the magazine down before it’s over. (And these were also the day when authors who lost their readers were also authors who were soon out looking for another line of work.)

   It wasn’t being alone in the house, except for the baby, that made Arlene Morgan uneasy. She’d done a lot of baby-sitting since her sixteenth birthday, last May, and she’d gotten used to the silence of an empty home and the noises within the silence: old wood whisperings to itself, scurrying inside ancient walls, ivy rustling against windows dark at night.

   This is the story, as it turns out, of a Golem, the stone monster of Frankfort, but what he is doing in this story, and what relationship he has with the parents of the child Alene is watching, it’s still not clear by story’s end.

   Several twists in the story have taken place by then. Even so, a final twist in the last few paragraphs shatters the reconstruction of the night’s events that Arlene’s father has carefully put together, shattering it to bits, leaving the reader to put everything back in order, if it’s something that can be done.

   It’s an unsettling end to an unsettling sort of story, full of dankness and noises in the night. It’s clumsily told at times, so at first thought it’s not quite clear if Zagat (a prolific but rather obscure SF and mystery writer in his day) fully intended the ending to be as perfectly matched to the story as it is – at least in the way I’m looking at it – of if it’s purely coincidental.

   It’s probably a little of both, but on reconsideration, I’m going to give Zagat the full benefit of the doubt, and say this is nicely inspired ending after all – in spite of (or maybe because of) all the loose ends.

– Slightly revised from Mystery*File #30, April 1991.