ILL HATE MYSELF IN THE MORNING
Except for a quick excursion to New York and Boston, Ill Hate Myself in the
Morning shares the Western background of Fracas in the Foothills. On
the Union Pacific Streamliner from Los Angeles to New York, Homer Evans, accompanied as
usual by Miriam Leonard, meets Isaac Momblo, revived from Pauls transition 14
story, "The Life and Death of Isaac Momblo," and endowed with the same intuitive
capabilities, now exercised in war work:
"He told me," Homer said, "that he didnt know exactly what he did.
When a machine, huge or tiny, broke down, Momblo was assigned to it after all the experts
and engineers had failed to get it going again. he would tap it, stroke it, tickle it with
a feather, anoint it, unhurriedly, and almost always it responded. Pure instinct. I
know nothing, theoretically, about machinery or electricity, Momblo said."
Evans is taken with "that rare little man," but Momblo is quickly despatched,
not as before self-electrocuted. According to the Streamliners conductor, "That
clotheaded porter let down the upper berth [in Momblos sleeper compartment], went
out and forgot it, and this guy Momblo, bumped his bald head." It looks like an
accident, but Homer Evans alone - as so often - suspects foul play; as a title, Its
Murder, He Said fits the story, where Ill Hate Myself in the Morning
When the body is discovered, the Streamliner is immediately stopped in Wyoming, in what
"the early Mormons so aptly described as desperate scenery," and it
takes some time before the coroner can arrive from the nearest town, Blanc Mange, and
perform his duty. "I remember, although hazily," says Evans, "that when a
passenger dies on an interstate train, the conductor is obliged to cause the said train to
be stopped wherever it may be and call in the local coroner." Though the Pullman
porter who let down the upper berth is not charged - as the conductor wants - he is fired;
Evans takes him on as a manservant out of sympathy.2
One of the passengers steals the coroners horse and bolts; it is the proper
Bostonian Lancaster Primway, who then intercepts the Santa Fe Railroad Superchief at
Voodoo, hoping to make a connection to Boston in time to get to the wedding of his former
fiancée, Ferdinanda Cushing, to the Hollywood "screen wolf" Frank Dante, né
François de la Cirage Dantan - Frank of the Shoe-blacking of Yesteryear has evidently
come up in the world.3
It is soon "Not Who, But Why" Isaac Momblo was killed that engrosses
Evanss attention: the former will follow from the latter. His self-respect demands a
solution, and Miriam realises that he is "frankly depressed":
"Supposing, Miriam, I never did find out," he said.
"Nonsense," Miriam said.
"What if orders came from Washington right now [from "the secret army
unit... G-19"]. This minute. And I were sent to Albania or Kolombangara or Velikie
Luki, left stranded in some out-of-the-way hole until every clue had disappeared.... What
a ghastly thing to live with... a failure like that... a wistful, gentle man struck down
and unavenged... a nagging problem making feeble futile gestures in the depths of my mind,
day after day, like the ragged claws of a blind crustacean wavering eternally on the floor
of silent seas. God, Miriam! If I dont solve this, Im lost."
But Evans takes hold of himself and Miriam sees him "snap into action." They
set off immediately for "Boston, of All Places." On the military plane on which
Evans has organised their transport, the pair read, in a recent copy of Thyme Magazine,
how Primway had released Ferdinanda from their engagement when his family fortunes were
lost "in the Commonwealth Camphor coup on State Street." Primway had gone to
Hollywood, where, however, he could only become an "extra."4
In Boston, Evans learns that Primway had arrived too late for the nuptials. Though
convinced of Primways innocence of the murder, Evans gets him to agree to return to
Wyoming with him to face an alleged charge of horse-stealing, and tells a frankly worried
Miriam that he has arranged with the chief of G-19 to have time off to solve the mystery.
He is, he says, merely attempting to divert Primway from his chagrin over
Ferdinandas marriage. But finding that Ferdinanda only offered to marry Frank so
that Primway would declare his true feelings and prevent the wedding, Evans invites her
too to Buckskin County, Wyoming.
While Miriam is decidedly concerned about Homers depression and his apparent
trifling with Primway, Homer is becoming "introspective." He begins deeply to
ponder why he has been reacting as he has, and why he has come to Boston, with
which the dead Momblo has had no connection. It is as if in order to solve the murder the
master detective no longer needs clues or evidence but only to analyze his own responses.
While we do not see the result (if any) of Evanss introspection, it may be that he
either solves the murder at this point or sets up a sequence of apparently arbitrary and
even farce-like actions which will result in the solution being made manifest.5
Back in Wyoming, someone takes a shot at Primway. This succeeds in performing a perfect
pre-frontal lobotomy, which releases him from his Brahmin inhibitions, to
Ferdinandas pleasure. "Were saved, said Homer, exultantly.
At last our adversary, clever as he is, has linked our problems." Homer
has Frank Dante, who has followed Ferdinanda to Wyoming, arrested on a technical charge of
violating the Mann Act. The action of the story seems to be getting absurd, but Homer
reassures the others that "In just a little while, the whole pattern will be clear as
day, and everyone on the side of the angels will be quite satisfied." All being
gathered together, Homer gives a "masterful elucidation" of the crime:
"I wish to make a rather complete record of this investigation," Homer began,
"because for so long the case resisted all my efforts toward solution. It is the
first instance, I think, in the annals of criminology when the corpse itself has proved to
be what is technically known as the red herring."
Momblo was killed precisely to stop the train. Frank Dante, "whose real name, by
the way, is Frank the Fumbler, a member of the formerly notorious Spellman gang," had
hired the conductor of the Streamliner, "a member of the same old mob," to
eliminate his rival Primway. The conductor had killed the inoffensive Momblo instead,
knowing it would effectively prevent Primway from stopping the marriage:
"Id spotted you the first day," Homer said. "You stuck out as the
culprit from the start, and all along the way. Who else knew about the law concerning
deaths on trains? Who, having vacationed outside of Blanc Mange, knew the lay of the land,
and how difficult it would be to get a coroner to the tracks?"
Homer has realised from Momblos wound that he was held down while the berth was
dropped on him, not vice versa.6
Despite Pauls effort (through Homer) to claim that "everyone... will be
quite satisfied," Ill Hate Myself in the Morning seems to fly apart and
to be wound up overhastily. No wonder Random House asked for 10,000 additional words.
Miriam has less to do than in any previous Evans story, becoming exiguous before this one
is over, and she never appears in any of the four Evans stories which would succeed it.7
SUMMER IN DECEMBER (1945)
Paul may have abandoned a sequel to "Brett Rutledges" The Death of Lord Haw Haw, but
a short prequel now saw the light of published day. Summer in December, while a
Brett Rutledge adventure, appears as a work by Elliot Paul, and "Senor Paul, Don
Helio" is its narrator, meeting the counterspy while himself on a voyage "aboard
the liner Estrella del Sud, just out of New York en route for Valparaiso via the
Panama Canal" to collect "Indian folk tunes." It is late October 1938, and
Paul is trying to forget the recent horrors of the Spanish Civil War. He fills in more of
a background for Rutledge than had Rutledge "himself" in the earlier story,
Southern, with a "humorous and indolent approach to life." If wishing not
"to be coy like Philo Vance," Rutledge is perhaps too like Homer Evans to have
become the hero of an alternative series of whodunits, though the transition might have
been being floated in the double-headed volume.8
With Brett is a Chileno (Chilean) who has recruited him to a yet-unknown assignment,
and an American businessman, Emmet Dobson, "a clean-cut correct young chap" from
Dubuque sent to purchase kaolin for his companys bungalows. Rutledges cover
for his journey is sword-fishing, the real purpose to discover what visiting Germans are
up to in Chile. When a dozen Germans board ship as alleged tourists - but with the gait of
"sailors... who have recently served in submarines" - Brett mixes easily, and
the narrator suppresses his seething hatred to do the same. Comparing the well-drilled
"Nazi blond boys" with the unsuspecting Emmet, fretting about the girl he left
behind, makes Paul gloomy for the future, and determined to take a hand: "Running
away from the scene of one disastrous war, I seemed to be feeling the feverish breath of
another. Of course, it was the same old war...". He tells Rutledge what he has
surmised behind the latters front and asks to "take a hand."9
Disembarking at the port of Antofagasta for the swordfishing village of Tocopilla,
Rutledge introduces Paul to the importance of the Chilean nitrate ore fields one hundred
miles inland, "from which comes fertilizer.... Also, unluckily, its use can be
perverted to the manufacture of the most powerful modern explosives." Since the
Germans will not be able to import the nitrate, he suspects their intention must be to see
that the Americans lose the use of it.10
The plot-development is lightened by the appearance of an exiled Spanish dancing
troupe. The advertised "Maja of Cadiz" turns out to be the exquisite and
youthful Coralito, partnered by the equivocal Manolito, called "El Guapo
(The Pretty Boy)." When Manolito spends time with "the Boches" - the
"Nazis run[ing] true to form" in their sexual proclivity - the counterespionage
group put him under surveillance. To cover their presence off the swordfishing grounds,
Rutledge takes the dancers to perform at the Maria Elena plant inland, where they meet
"Norman R," the "unprepossessing" and "grotesque" but
"irresistible" civil engineer who, we are reminded, will later discover Lord Haw
Haws radio transmitter (Pauls whodunits always cross-refer). Norman falls for
Coralito - but so, unconsciously, does Emmet. Norman explains the likliest form of
sabotage: cutting off the plants water-supply. It confirms Bretts suspicions
about traces of TNT he has found. Moreover, four Germans have preceded them to the plant.11
Rutledge is brought a letter in German pilfered from Manolito. It is
"photostated" and replaced, to see to whom Manolito delivers it. Rutledge
explains: "when applied to a certain corner of the official Guggenheim map of the
nitrate fields, [the letter] showed marked peculiarities." Each correction
"touched the pipe line or some reservoir of the water supply... where the system was
most vulnerable." The charges have probably been laid; the question is, when will the
agents of the Reich feel is the moment to set them off. Besides protecting the plant, the
problem is how to insure that the blame is pinned to the Nazis.12
The plot continues in the capital city, Santiago, where the German diplomats come under
scrutiny. The German Consulate burns to the ground, its safe burgled, the Consul, Von
Kluck, first being murdered, as it seems. German diplomacy bears down hard on the Chilean
government. Rutledge and Paul regard it as a typical Nazi trick, under cover of which they
will demand concessions and likely perform some outrage - "the main blow was
invariably dealt while diplomatic relations were strained and the smaller nation was eager
to appease the Reich.... [T]he procedure had been laid down in a secret German
document..., Auslandssabotage und Zwischengegnersuneinigkeitplan No. 6". Like
Evans, Rutledge always has credentials which allow him access anywhere; in this case he is
abetted by the narrator, Paul, who ingratiates himself with the chief of Chilean security
by their shared interest the comparative merits of Lorca, Whitman and the Chilean poet
Gabriela Mistral as poets of the people. So the comedy bubbles on around the storys
edges. They being in sympathy, Paul is detailed to tell the Chief what Rutledge thinks the
Germans intend for the nitrate plants.13
In a surprising turn, suspicion falls on Emmet, who has Manolitos coded letter.
In a plot that holds no real danger for the good side - except the possibility of not
frustrating villainy - it is a doubt of the infallibility of the narrators
instinctive judgement which serves. When Emmet notices the letter, saying he found it
somewhere, Rutledge suggests it be given to a German diplomat, and he gauges by the
latters expression that he knows what it is. Rutledge immediately sets out again for
the nitrate fields, and his judgement that he has sprung the trap with the letter is
confirmed when he discovers that two "Bavarians in leather breeches" have set
out fifteen minutes before him.14
Pausing only to sabotage the Nazis getaway craft, Rutledge heads for the nearest
vulnerable point and defuses the explosives. The "Storm Tourists" have gone to
the additional lengths of hiring Bolivian workers, whom they intend to murder and throw
suspicion on. Moving in to initiate the chain of explosions, the villains realise Rutledge
has preceded them. The ringleaders are arrested, the lesser fry left to the vengeful
Bolivians. Chile wont become "Goeringland," at least for the time being.
The German Consul, believed dead by all but Rutledge, is discovered in bed with
Manolito el Guapo. Von Kluck had been the master spirit in the plot. Suspicion of theft
and arson had fallen on the missing Consulate janitor, but Rutledge had been alerted by
the inquest and at Von Klucks funeral by details only he (in descent from Sherlock
Holmes) would notice. At the funeral, a right-handed man who smokes with his left hand
must be a dentist, who would not wish to offend his patients by deploying a stained hand.
But a dentist would not have been a close friend of a man with the corpses teeth.
And since the janitors wife does not know the use of oil of cloves, the
peasants sore tooth remedy, the janitor did have perfect teeth. Ergo,
despite Frau Von Klucks identification of her husband, the dead man must be the
missing janitor and not Von Kluck, who must have arranged the whole business.
To round off the story, Rutledge offers Coralito a white marriage to get her American
citizenship, which she rejects, as she does Norman R, in favor of Emmet, whose fiancée in
Dubuque has thrown him over.
1 Elliot Paul, Ill Hate Myself in the Morning and
Summer in December (New York: Random House, 1945), 34-35, 29, 29. In his review of the
1943 Oscars, Paul wrote, "When the Victorian novelists furnished frustrated
love-seekers their thrills and, after three or four hundred pages, the man could declare
that he would "hate himself in the morning," or the novelist himself could step
in and warn the reader that there were moments too intimate and sacred for an author to
share... in those long-lost days, writers and readers alike could take their time"
(Paul, "Looking Over the Oscars," Atlantic Monthly, 174 [August
1944],103). Ill Hate Myself ends on page 150.
2 Ill Hate Myself, 20, 27.
3 Ibid., 67.
4 Ibid., 57, 58; [10,] 63-4 - ellipses Pauls, except
after "disappeared"; 66.
5 Ibid., 96.
6 Ibid., 116, 138, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147.
7 Strangely, the novel appears to lack a penultimate
chapter, in which the villains are foiled, after which it could proceed to the
detectives revelations. There never is any evidence to connect Frank Dante to the
8 Ibid., 176, 160, 163, 196.
9 Ibid., 161, 186, 171, 174, 171.
10 Ibid., 177.
11 Ibid., 182, 213.
12 Ibid., 223.
13 Ibid., 266.
14 Ibid., 288.