Thursday, March 22, 2007

They Bite - Anthony Boucher

Anthony Boucher (pronounced to rhyme with "voucher") was quite the Renaissance Man of mystery fiction. He wrote novels, short stories and plays, as well as dabbling successfully in science fiction. They Bite (1943) is one of Boucher's short stories combining mystery and horror.

Hugh Tallant, who we soon discover isn't the best of men, has recently arrived in the Californian desert. After a hard day spying on the nearby US Army glider school, Tallant meets up with a face from the past: Morgan, a man who could easily ruin Tallant's new life. Heading to the local bar to think things over, Tallant lets slip to the locals that he is staying at the old Carker place up in the hills. A curious silence fills the bar... and gradually the locals start talking.

"You see", the young man began. "The desert's so big you can't be alone in it. Ever notice that? It's all empty and there's nothing in sight, but there's always something moving over there where you can't quite see it. It's something very dry and thin and brown, only when you look around it isn't there. Ever see it?"

Tallant has seen it - but he believes it must be some kind of optical fatigue, and he dismisses the increasingly frightening tales of cave dwelling, cannibalistic tribes as mere ghost stories.

The next morning he has arranged for Morgan to meet him at the old Carker place. When Morgan arrives, Tallant does what he was going to do from the start: he kills Morgan. Now the plan is to stash the body in the "haunted" Carker place, a place no one will think of looking in. But someone... something... is sleeping inside. And you do not want to wake a Carker.

Anthony Boucher (1911 - 1968; pictured above) was the pseudonym of William White, Californian born and bred. He was one of the most influential mystery critics and reviewers of the 20th century, with his reviews for The New Yorker and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine helping to gain mainstream interest in the mystery genre. Boucher died of lung cancer at the age of 57.

1 comment:

Lori Orser said...

Can you tell me where I might find a copy of this? I read it probably 40 years ago and it has stuck with me since then, but I can't find it anywhere! Thank you so much if you can find it or know where to look.