A Memory of Murder

This book is something of an oddity, being a collection of early Bradbury stories from the mystery genre. It has been issued only once, in 1984, and never reprinted since. There is one true classic story here (the much reprinted "The Small Assassin"), but most of the material is for the diehard Bradbury collector only.

Bradbury provides an interesting introduction, where he explains his debt to Leigh Brackett (friend and sometimes collaborator; herself a past master of the mystery genre). He also declares himself to have been no threat the masters of the mystery genre, and claims to have had little confidence in his performance within this genre until his 1984 novel Death is a Lonely Business.

"The Small Assassin" needs little introduction. The story of a homicidal baby, Bradbury has claimed this to be inspired by his alleged memory of the moment of his own birth.

"A Careful Man Dies" is the story of a haemaphiliac who receives a booby-trapped package in the mail, rigged with a razor blade: someone is out to get him.

"It Burns Me Up" is told in in the first person - by a dead man, a murder victim who watches the police, coroner and neighbours attempt to solve the crime that killed him.

"Half-Pint Homicide" introduces Douser Mulligan, an ex-cop who dedicates his time to setting up and catching villains who are otherwise beyond the reach of the law. This story is interesting for its Venice (California) merry-go-round finale.

"Four Way Funeral" sees the return of Douser. In a tale of bluff and double-bluff, he gets himself taken hostage by four villains and then manages to convince each one in turn that his compadres are traitorous.

"The Long Night" is rather more atmospheric than many of the stories here. Although set in an unnamed location, it appears to be a tenement area of (somewhere like) Los Angeles. A murder is disguised as a house fire. Our hero, a Mexican, tries to find out who was responsible. The character of Fannie resembles a character in Death is a Lonely Business; the ethnic angle is reminiscent of "The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit"; the resolution clearly identifies this as a tale of war-time - this, in itself, is unusual for Bradbury. Many of his classic stories were written during the Second World War, but few of them bear any obvious clues to that effect. In his introduction, Bradbury identifies this as one of his favourites of the stories collected here.

"Corpse Carnival" is set among carnival folk, and is therefore more Bradbury-like than many of the stories in this collection. It is a murder mystery with the unlikely plot device that the victim is a Siamese twin (the other twin survives the murder!) Bradbury lays the clues on rather heavily, so it comes as no surprise to discover who the killer is. However, his powers of exposition are well honed in this tale - his revelation of the Siamese twins is beautifully crafted. The story has lots of colour, and in various ways is an interesting companion piece to better known stories such as "The Dwarf" and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

 

 

This table lists the contents of A Memory of Murder, and links to adaptations of the stories in various media.

A Memory of Murder

First published by Dell in 1984.

Picture shows Dell paperback edition (1984).

Story
Film/TV
Audio
Details of First publication
(and other notes)
The Small Assassin Ray Bradbury Theater
The Small Assassin
  Dime Mystery Magazine, November 1946.
A Careful Man Dies     New Detective Magazine, November 1946.
It Burns Me Up     Dime Mystery Magazine, November 1944
Half-Pint Homicide     Detective Tales, 1944
Four-Way Funeral     Detective Tales, 1944
The Long Night     New Detective Magazine, 1944.
Corpse Carnival     Dime Mystery Magazine, July 1945 under pseudonym D.R.Banat.
Hell's Half-Hour     New Detective Magazine, March 1945.
The Long Way Home     Dime Mystery Magazine, 1945
Wake for the Living     Dime Mystery Magazine, September 1947. Story later re-published as "The Coffin".
I'm Not So Dumb     Detective Tales, 1945
The Trunk Lady     Detective Tales, September 1944
Yesterday I Lived     Flynn's Detective Fiction, 1944
Dead Men Rise Up Never     Dime Mystery Magazine, July 1945.
The Candy Skull     Dime Mystery Magazine, January 1948.

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Page updated 14 August, 2008