by Arnold Goldman


Except for a quick excursion to New York and Boston, I’ll 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 Paul’s 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 didn’t 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 Streamliner’s conductor, "That clotheaded porter let down the upper berth [in Momblo’s 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, It’s Murder, He Said fits the story, where I’ll Hate Myself in the Morning remains elusive.1

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 coroner’s 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 Evans’s 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 don’t solve this, I’m 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 Primway’s 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 Ferdinanda’s 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 Homer’s 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 Evans’s 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 Ferdinanda’s pleasure. "‘We’re 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:

"I’d 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 Momblo’s wound that he was held down while the berth was dropped on him, not vice versa.6

Despite Paul’s effort (through Homer) to claim that "everyone... will be quite satisfied," I’ll 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


Paul may have abandoned a sequel to "Brett Rutledge’s" 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 company’s bungalows. Rutledge’s 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 latter’s 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 Haw’s radio transmitter (Paul’s whodunits always cross-refer). Norman falls for Coralito - but so, unconsciously, does Emmet. Norman explains the likliest form of sabotage: cutting off the plant’s water-supply. It confirms Brett’s 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 story’s 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 Manolito’s 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 narrator’s 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 latter’s 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 won’t 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 Kluck’s 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 corpse’s teeth. And since the janitor’s wife does not know the use of oil of cloves, the peasant’s sore tooth remedy, the janitor did have perfect teeth. Ergo, despite Frau Von Kluck’s 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, I’ll 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). I’ll Hate Myself ends on page 150.
2 I’ll Hate Myself, 20, 27.
3 Ibid., 67.
4 Ibid., 57, 58; [10,] 63-4 - ellipses Paul’s, 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 detective’s revelations. There never is any evidence to connect Frank Dante to the plot.
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.

This analysis of I'll Hate Myself in the Morning and Summer in December is taken from Arnold Goldman's biography-in-progress of Elliot Paul. ©Arnold Goldman 2001.

go to the Elliot Paul bibliography

go to the Elliot Paul homepage

go back to the top of the page