Friday, March 27, 2015

"The Duke" by Eric Wright


Deal Me In Short Story #6

This week I drew the King of Spades, which corresponded to "The Duke" by Eric Wright, a Canadian mystery writer. He was born in London, England and immigrated to Canada in 1951. His best-known series features Inspector Charlie Salter of the Metropolitan Toronto Police. Two of his novels have won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel and he has also won awards for his short stories. I have only read one novel by Wright, The Night the Gods Smiled (reviewed here).



A description of the hero of his story:
After half a lifetime of not being very much at home in the world, Duke Luscombe had finally found exactly the right job. He was a cook, trained in Montréal by a catering company to run the kitchen of a construction camp. The training could not have been very extensive: the Duke could cook about twenty different menus, though the same vegetables appeared on most of them, but because some of the items, like steaks and chops, were offered at least once a week, and because there was a roast or a boiled ham every Sunday, some of the menus, like pork tenderloin, appeared only once a month, giving the Duke's repertoire an appearance of being much bigger than it really was. But his skills matched the needs of the men.
Duke is an obsessive man, guarding his domain and its contents at all times. He is a man satisfied with his simple life, and the men accept him for what he is. Until a troublemaker comes along and sees that he can take advantage of Duke's nature.

This is a very short story and I won't go into the plot further than that. What makes this story different is that the narrator addresses the reader briefly at the beginning and the end with a fairly straightforward story in between. I liked this approach and I liked the twist at the end very much. The author set it up very well and certainly had me fooled.


The story was first published in 1993 in 2nd Culprit: A Crime Writers' Annual edited by Liza Cody and Michael Z. Lewin. I bought this book of short stories because of the gorgeous cover, and now I am finally reading some of the stories.

"The Duke" has since been published in A Killing Climate, an anthology of the author's stories and in two collections of short stories by Canadian authors (Iced: A New Noir Anthology of Cold, Hard Fiction and Mystery Ink).

Every other week I draw a random card to determine what short story I will read for the Deal Me In Short Story challenge. My list of short stories is here. Jay at Bibliophilopolis hosts the challenge.


10 comments:

  1. Thanks TracyK - sounds like fun though I don't have any of those collections - ah well, ... eventually ...

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    1. They are lovely books with stories by lots of interesting authors, Sergio.

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  2. I'm glad you enjoyed this, Tracy. I've read stories like that, where the narrator directly addresses the reader, and it can work beautifully. Thanks for sharing this.

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    1. It was a first for me, Margot, but then I have not read a lot of short stories.

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  3. Not heard of this author, but his books look good.......alas too many already!

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    1. I will be trying more of his books and stories, Col, when I get copies.

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  4. You make this sound very good - short, good twist, the narrative trick. If it is easy to get hold of I might try it.

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    1. Moira, I hope to find a copy of one of the other collections I mentioned, either the anthology of his stories or one of the Canadian short story anthologies. But I am finding too many of those I want and there are limits.

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  5. Tracy, you know, I have read very little Canadian fiction, that too related to westerns, and a short story like this one may be a good idea to come back to it.

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    1. Prashant, if I find any Canadian stories online I will let you know.

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