Nick Noble

Created by Anthony Boucher
Pseudonym of William A. P. White
Other pseudonyms Theo Durrant & H. H. Holmes
(1911-1968);

Noted (and prolific) mystery critic Anthony Boucher (that’s who the Bouchercon is named after) somehow also managed to find the time to squeeze out several novels and some sixty short stories during his lifetime, about equally split between mystery and science fiction/fantasy, but arguably his best-regarded fiction were the clever, twisty stories he wrote, mostly for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, featuring alcoholic former police lieutenant NICK NOBLE.

Nick’s sometimes compared to Nero Wolfe, but Nero, despite his grumbling and chronic disappointment with the world at large, was something of a bon vivant. A fine meal, a good beer, his beloved orchids–he could still enjoy things.

Not so Noble, a bitter and broken ex-cop, who always seems about one step from blowing his own brains out. Noble was tossed off the Los Angeles Police Department for corruption–quite a feat, considering it was Los Angeles in the 1940s. Okay, yeah, he did take the money, but–get this–it was to pay for an desperately needed operation for his wife. Not that it ended up helping any.

The operation was an epic fail, and Nick was suddenly found himself not just disgraced and out of a job, but also a widower. So now he spends most of his time in the Chula Negra, a Skid Row bar in Los Angeles, trying to drown himself on the installment plan, one glassful of dirt-cheap rotgut sherry at a time, fending off a possibly imaginary fly that keeps pestering him, and wallowing in oceans of self-pity and suicidal thoughts.

Woe is he.

Still, his mind isn’t completely pickled. When the mood strikes him, he can be a kind of detective genius, able to crack even the most convoluted and confounding of mysteries. Which is the only reason his former buddy, Lieutenant Donald MacDonald, keeps showing up, interfering with his drinking. Because when the LAPD are bamboozled by some case, they send MacDonald to ask for Nick help.

Impossible crimes? Dying messages? Secret Codes? Those of some of Nick’s favourite things.

All eight of the previously published Noble stories were finally rounded up in Exeunt Murderers (1983), a collection of Boucher’s short stories, plus a previously unpublished one, “Death of a Patriarch.”

RECOMMENDED IF YOU LIKE:

UNDER OATH

  • “Boucher’s best series and most inspired work.”
    — Bill Pronzini, 1001 Midnights
  • “Boucher does amazing work in making a man a burned-out alcoholic dissolving in self-hatred while also retaining a streak of decency and an ability to function brilliantly when required; these stories are worth reading purely for Noble alone, and I’m starting to get the impression that this is how I will classify Boucher’s writing myself: pinpoint-accurate, human characters full of foibles and grace and fears and doubts,”
    The Invisible Event (October 2016)

SHORT STORIES

  • “Screwball Division” (September 1942, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)
  • “QL 696.C9” (May 1943, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)
  • “Black Murder” (September 1943, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)
  • “Rumor, Inc.” (January 1946, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)
  • “The Punt and the Pas” (November 26, 1945, Short Stories)
  • “Like Count Palmieri” (February 1946, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)
  • “Crime Must Have a Stop” (February 1951, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)
  • “The Girl Who Married a Monster” (February 1954,  Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)
  • “Death of a Patriarch” (1983, Exeunt Murderers)

COLLECTIONS

  • Exeunt Murder: The Best Mystery Stories of Anthony Boucher (1983) Buy this book | Kindle it!
    Contains all eight Nick Noble stories, as well as fourteen other stories by Boucher. Includes an intro byFrancis M Nevins, Jr. 
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

Leave a Reply