Monday, January 16, 2012

The Parenticide Club, by Ambrose Bierce

The Parenticide Club
by Ambrose Bierce

Altogether, I cannot help thinking that in point of artistic atrocity my murder of Uncle William has seldom been excelled.

Given that this is a site that claims to focus primarily on traditional mysteries I'm going just a bit off-topic with this post. But even though they don't contain much in the way of traditional whodunit type action, there's plenty of crime to spare in the four stories that make up The Parenticide Club, not to mention liberal doses of dark humor of the blackest variety.

Perhaps the greatest mystery about Ambrose Bierce is what the hell happened to him. To most of those who know anything about him these days Bierce is remembered for three things - his acerbic The Devil's Dictionary; a short story called An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, which was made into a short film that aired on The Twilight Zone; and for the mystery surrounding his disappearance in Mexico, in 1913.

As nearly as I can tell The Parenticide Club is one of Bierce's lesser-known works and dates from 1911, not long before he dropped off the face of the Earth. It first appeared in a volume of his collected works, along with a selection of "Neglible Tales" and more. Because it's in the public domain you can read it nowadays at Project Gutenberg and half a thousand other places around the Web.

My Favorite Murder
A man who's been on trial for seven years for killing his mother fondly recounts to the court the circumstances of an earlier crime, the one referenced in the title of the story.

An Imperfect Conflagration
A father/son team of burglars disagree over how to divide the spoils of one of their latest jobs, specifically a music box capable of breaking the Ten Commandments, among other things. The situation escalates wildly from this point, winding up with the situation described in the title.

The Hypnotist
In which the author's experiments with hypnotism ultimately lead him to an act of...well, take a guess.

Oil of Dog
I'd like to be able to tell you that no dogs were harmed in the making of this short story (my favorite of the bunch), but it's not true. There's quite a lot of harm going down here - against canines and otherwise. This is also the story out of this gang of four that's most likely to offend. But if you're a fan of really, really, black humor it's also the most likely to amuse.

For more on Bierce, here's a site that's worth taking a look at.

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