Monday, January 16, 2017

Deal Me In Week #3: "Death Draws a Triangle"

This is my first year participating in Jay's Deal Me In Challenge . In a nutshell--we line up 52 short stories for the year, we match those stories up to a card in a regular deck of card, and each week we shuffle our deck (of real cards) and draw a card from whatever remains in the deck. My third shuffle and draw gives me the Jack of Hearts which matches up to "Death Draws a Triangle" by Edward Hale Bierstadt.

image credit

"Death Draws a Triangle" appears in Murder by Experts edited by Ellery Queen and is, rather than a fictional short story, an account of a true crime from Victorian-era New York. The triangle in question is that between Daniel McFarland, his wife Abby, and her friend Albert D. Richardson. But the case is rather more than a simple love triangle--Tammany Hall politics and its dislike for the Tribune and editor Horace Greeley play a part as well. The facts of the case were never in question. McFarland, an abusive and drunken husband who saw slights where there weren't any and built up the friendship between his wife and Richardson into a sordid affair, walked into the Tribune offices, sat calmly down to wait, and, when Richardson made an appearance in the outer rooms, just as calmly shot his perceived rival. 

When Tammany Hall discovered that Richardson was a Tribune man, they promptly put all their machinery behind the "poor, betrayed husband." The trial which followed presented McFarland as a saint of a man who was driven insane by his wife's behavior and Richardson's perversion of her affections. Of course adultery (or assumed adultery, as in this case) was often considered the more heinous of the crimes because "it is so much more enjoyable. The point of view of the public on adultery is, generally, 'I want to commit adultery, but I don't dare; and, by heaven, if I can't I'm not going to let you!'" The trial was a travesty of justice--the killer was declared "Not Guilty" and Abby's reputation was permanently blackened. Bierstadt's account attempts to right the historical record.


Jay said...

I've never read Ellery Queen, but whenever I hear the name I am reminded of when, when I was a schoolkid with an early morning paper route, there was a local radio station that would play little 15-minute or so mini-dramas of his sometime before 7am. Usually, after completing my paper route I would hop back in bed for at least a little bit, and I remember that if that little show was still going on - or just starting - I still had a few minutes left before I had to start getting ready for school. :-) Thanks for prompting me to excavate that memory.

My week three story was a sci-fi story, I've half-written the post already but it may a few days before I get back to it. I'm still hoping to do at least a periodic wrap up post with some links, but there are "so many people playing" this year I don't know if I can keep up with that.

P.S. I really like that playing card too. :-)

Bev Hankins said...

Thanks, Jay! I was hunting for a card that would work with the mystery/danger motif.

My first encounter with Ellery Queen was through the television show in the 70s--starring Jim Hutton as Ellery. I loved that show.