Brian Skupin

Something Old: "Gone" by Peter Godfrey

Something New: "The Man Who Wasn't There," by Michael Allan Mallory

Peter Godfrey was a prolific short story writer who emigrated from South Africa to England in the 1960s because of his distaste for apartheid. By his reckoning (in a private letter) he published hundreds of stories in newspapers and magazines last century.
His story "Gone," which he wrote for a Crime Writer's Association anthology (John Creasey's Crime Collection 1982, edited by Herbert Harris), is the story of a shocking occurrence by the seaside. The plot pivots on a landscape painting of a beach.
The tone is somber, the ending... creepy. Godfrey takes us inside the mind of Tom Burt, deaf since birth, who at 12 years old had a mysterious encounter with a girl he met at the shore. She's not deaf herself, but her mother is, so she knows how to "handspeak," and she and Tom have a single magical afternoon together. It ends abruptly, and Tom doesn't know why.
Years later Tom realizes the incident has had a profound effect on his life and his painting career, and and he sets out to discover what really happened that day, and why it has haunted his subconscious ever since. What he finds out will haunt you too.


Michael Allan Mallory's story "The Man Who Wasn't There" was published in 2019 in the 50th Anniversary Bouchercon collection Denim, Diamonds, and Death. It's the story of a shocking occurrence by the seaside, and the plot pivots on a landscape painting of a beach.
Claudette and Peter are looking for Marco, wealthy owner of the oceanfront estate they've arrived at. They think they see him sunbathing, but on approaching closer, Peter discovers Marco's throat has been slit. Apart from Peter and Marco's, there are no footprints in the sand. They investigate to save Peter from prosecution.
This is, I believe, a new solution to the footprints-in-the-sand mystery, a variation on the impossible crime. The clueing is first-rate, and it's the kind of straightforward detective story that Edward D. Hoch might have written.
The two stories share another very specific link, but I'll leave you to discover what it is. Read both, starting with "Gone," and you'll receive an object lesson in how two virtuosos--one old, one new--can start with the same concept and produce completely different works of art.

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