Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: Stories by Parnell Hall

My husband is a fan of the Stanley Hastings series by Parnell Hall, and is also reading the Steve Winslow series, which Hall wrote under the pseudonym of J.P. Hailey. I have also read a couple of Stanley Hastings books, so I decided to try some of his short stories. As far as I can tell, they are all only available in print in various anthologies, but some are available as Kindle short stories. These are mystery short stories where the emphasis is on humor and I enjoyed reading them. 

I started out with "Lethal Luncheon," a Puzzle Lady story. I read this story to see if I might want to read some of the Puzzle Lady mysteries by Hall. I have always liked crossword puzzles; my father did them also and he sent me a crossword puzzle from the newspaper every week when I was a freshman in college. 

Cora Felton, the main character, has a syndicated crossword puzzle column, but only she and her niece know that she really has nothing to do with creating the puzzles. 

In "Lethal Luncheon," Cora is going to a charity luncheon where she will give a talk on crossword puzzles. She is not happy about this since she is a fraud and knows nothing about crossword puzzles. Fortunately for Cora, a guest at the luncheon dies before she has to give her speech, and she is able to help the police with the crime.

The story was fun. At the beginning, I thought she was too crotchety and a pain in the ass. She smokes, which also bothered me a bit at first and I don't know why. But soon I saw that she was funny and quirky and I will give the first Puzzle Lady novel a try sometime soon.

I then tried stories from Hall's other two series.

"Deal Me In" is a Stanley Hastings story. Stanley is an investigator working for a negligence attorney, Richard Rosenberg. Rosenberg is part of a group who play poker together once a month. On this particular night, one of the players dies during a poker hand. Stanley is called in to the scene of the crime by his boss so that he can be included when all the members are interviewed by the police. The players in the game are a "cross section of Manhattan's elite who had been gambling together over twenty years." The police investigator is Sergeant McAullif, who has worked on cases with Stanley before. After much discussion, Stanley is allowed to sit in on the interviews, and later helps to solve the case.

In "The Witness Cat," Steve Winslow is a court-appointed lawyer for an older man accused of murdering his rich employer. The defendant was the caretaker of the dead man's estate, and the primary witness against him is the dead man's nephew. Fortunately the dead man's cat helps him clear his defendant of the charge.

This story reminded me a lot of the cases on the original Perry Mason TV series. And that reminded me that I had read that Parnell wanted to continue the Perry Mason series. 

From the Parnell Hall website:

My Steve Winslow series came from a lifetime of reading Perry Mason. Indeed, The Anonymous Client, begun shortly after Erle Stanley Gardner died, was begun as a Perry Mason novel and completed as a Steve Winslow novel after Gardner’s widow refused to give up the rights.


Cath said...

Well, this is a completely new author to me but your description of that first 'Puzzle Lady' story made me laugh in itself so I'll look up that series. I'm just reading a book about two women cycling round the UK investigating The Full English Breakfast and their adventures are so funny it's making me giggle. Anything that brings cheer these days is a bonus.

Jerry House said...

Traci, I have loved Parnell Hall's writing ever since I read the hapless Stanley Hastings' travails of having to purchase sanitary napkins for his wife, especially because I, like many other Y-chromosone-possessed individuals, have had to go through the same confusing experience at one time or another. Then I discovered his Steve Winslow books and realized that here was a person who loved Parry Mason as much as I did. The icing on the cake was when I discoivered that Hall was the man nwho wrote the classic and super-cheesy film C.H.U.D. (an acronym for Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers). Later I would enjoy the great songs he would write and sing at various mystey conventions and such. I was saddened when he died and I urge everyone to read his work. There have been few writers like him.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Well, you have certainly gotten me interested in Parnell Hall. Will look for him too at the library.

TracyK said...

Cath, I will be checking out the first Puzzle Lady series soon. One reviewer who has read multiple books in the series mentions that Cora starts out drinking to excess, which did not appeal to me, but says that changes in later books.

On Goodreads, I saw that you were reading The Full English Breakfast and it looked like it would be fun. I have definitely leaned more toward humor in my reading in the last couple of years.

TracyK said...

Jerry, I am delighted to discover another fan of Parnell Hall. You have encouraged me to get to the Steve Winslow series soon also. Glen has read the first book and has two more in his stacks of TBR books.

I did not know he had written the screenplay for C.H.U.D. He was a very interesting person.

TracyK said...

Patti, I hope you find something by Hall that appeals. So far, except for these short stories, I have only read two of the Stanley Hastings books.

Todd Mason said...

Glad to be made aware of his work...beyond the all but ineluctable C.H.U.D., which I've seen a few minutes of, but didn't know who scripted it.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Todd. Parnell Hall also wrote a few books with Stuart Wilson between 2016 and 2020 but since I never cared for Stuart Wilson's writing I have not looked into those. Who knows, maybe the combination of the two authors would be interesting.

Margot Kinberg said...

I'm so glad you reminded me of Parnell Hall, Tracy. I've always intended to get back to his work, but I just...haven't. I need to do that.

TracyK said...

Margot, I have a lot of authors like that.

After checking out these short stories, I want to try Hall's other two series and get back to Stanley Hastings too. I hope to find the time for that..