Sunday, June 7, 2015

"The Specialty of the House" by Stanley Ellin


Deal Me In Short Story #11

This week I drew the Five of Spades, and I read another story with a food theme from Murder on the Menu. The story was written by Stanley Ellin, known both for his short stories and his mystery novels. Per Wikipedia, "He was awarded three Edgar Allan Poe Awards (Edgar Award). His first Edgar was for the short story "The House Party" in 1954, then for the short story "The Blessington Method" in 1956, and his third for the novel The Eighth Circle in 1959."

"The Specialty of the House" was first published in 1948 in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, then published again several times in various anthologies. It is about two men who become addicted to an exclusive restaurant and spend every evening dining there. It is a story with a twist, but most readers will guess what it is early on in the story. That is intentional, I am sure, and heightens the tension. The story was adapted as a TV episode for Alfred Hitchcock Presents in 1959 and then again in 1987. I can see that it would be perfect for that show.

This isn't a standard mystery story (if there is such a thing). This one is really a horror story. That is what I was thinking as I read it, and my opinion was confirmed by the title of one of the books it is compiled in: The 3rd Fontana Book of Great Horror Stories. It is not going to be my favorite short story ever. I am not fond of horror and the subject was icky. But... it is very clever and very readable, and it was the first short story that Stanley Ellin published. That is pretty impressive.

Moira at Clothes in Books wrote a very entertaining post recently about another Stanley Ellin short story, "The Corruption of Officer Avakadian". Just based on the title, that one sounds good.

I was so impressed with this story that I rushed to order a copy of The Specialty of the House and Other Stories: The Complete Mystery Tales, 1948-1978, published by Mysterious Press in 1979.

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. The challenge is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

14 comments:

  1. I'm really glad you enjoyed this one, Tracy. And you've reminded me that I need to dive more into Ellis' work than I have. He really did have a lot of talent.

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    1. Margot, I have a few of his novels to try and the short story book is on the way.

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  2. Great posting! I have added Murder on the Menu to my shopping list!
    BTW, Crimes in the Library has been reactivated. I hope you will visit and comment every now and then.
    http://crimesinthelibrary.blogspot.com/

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    1. R.T., I have been very happy with the stories in Murder on the Menu. Glad to see your blog has reactivated.

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  3. Well, surely the ultimate food and mystery story (well, maybe along with Lord Dunsany's "The Two Bottles of Relish" and Dahl's "Lamb to the Slaughter")) - great choice Tracy, love Ellin, an amazingly varied writer, far too little lauded these days.

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    1. Sergio, I will get to "The Two Bottles of Relish" in Murder on the Menu, soon, I hope. And to more of Ellin's writings also.

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  4. I have this book of Ellin shorts logged, so ought to get stuck in at some point. Glad to see your short story challenge is proving to be mostly enjoyable for you.

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    1. Col, I have been very pleasantly surprised at how much I am enjoying the challenge and the stories. The perfect way to reintroduce myself to this format.

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  5. Glad you enjoyed this story Tracy, and thanks for the shoutout. I like the idea of your short story challenge, and the way you never know what's coming next...

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    1. The challenge has worked perfectly for me, Moira. I just finished a book of short stories (although I thought it was a novel when I picked it). Will be posting that review that review next. And I have read a couple of short stories from other books. And purchased way too many short story anthologies.

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  6. Tracy, I have read a few reviews of stories from this book though I'm not sure I read about this particular story by Stanley Ellin. Anyway, I'd promptly pick up this anthology if I see it.

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    1. So far I have enjoyed every story I have read from this book, Prashant. And it has been a good introduction to the authors I am not familiar with.

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  7. Not only is this a great story, it's a great intorudction to Ellin's versatility and the way he keeps the unspoken screaming so loudly in the back of your mind. The 'Speciality of the House' colection is one of my all-time favourite compendiums, crammed full of so many brilliant stories in a staggering range of voices and styles. His novels never quite lived up to his stories for me, but either way you have some fabulous reading ahead of you; enjoy!

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    1. JJ, You have just reminded me why I have to continue this challenge next year. I have to keep reading more stories by this author.

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