Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Murder Squad" - a free Raven adventure mystery

As promised, I'm making available the novel "Murder Squad," the first adventure of Raven and Crow, as published in 1936. You can download the entire story as a PDF. Here's the first chapter to whet your appetite.


NIGHT in the city! The side street sullenly reflected the indifferent glow of the street lamps in its rain-streaked surface. No cars were parked on this forgotten byway. Faded brick warehouses stood silently on one side of the street, solid walls broken only occasionally by heavy wooden doors and barred windows.

On the other side abandoned row houses in various stages of decay looked back, their ranks broken by a vacant lot in the middle of the block, its scrap lumber fence decorated by faded posters for events long past. Traffic noise from New York City's busier avenues echoed faintly along the street, but no vehicles ventured down this dark thoroughfare.

Suddenly a new sound intruded. Faintly at first, then increasing in volume the tapping of running feet approached the entrance to the street. A portly figure appeared in the glare of the corner street lamp, gasping for breath as he ran. His heavy great coat flapped about him, seemingly intent on hindering his progress.

As he entered the street, the lamp burst behind him. The runner shrieked and stumbled as he hunched his shoulders. A second streetlight on the opposite curb exploded. The man veered away. The streetlight in front of him shattered into fragments. He stopped. His body heaving with heavy breaths, the man turned towards the street entrance. The surviving streetlights silhouetted his large frame. With wide eyes he peered into the gloom from which he had come. The only sound to signal the destruction of the street lamps had been that of the heavy glass fragments tumbling to the pavement.

Abruptly the man violently spun around and pitched face forward onto the pavement. Something seemed to silently pluck his left shoulder and his body moved forward slightly. An invisible force pulled at his collar and the body moved slightly forward once again.

Footsteps approached the entrance of the street. They stopped, the sound briefly echoing along the buildings. A shiny piece of tin arced out from the darkness and landed near the man.

It caught the light as it bounced on the pavement. The footsteps receeded. The street was silent once again. The portly man did not move. In the now reduced illumination of the street, there was a large dark shape in the middle of the pavement - as silent and lifeless as the uncaring warehouses that looked upon the scene.

Of course, it's not really a reprint from 1936. "Murder Squad" was actually my homage to the pulps, originally written as a way of easing into more serious writing. Except it was too much fun. So while the serious writing hasn't quite gotten off the adventures of Raven and Crow have continued, and there's even some material featuring the supporting characters mentioned in "Murder Squad's" forward.

I may get to great art someday, but in the meantime, enjoy. There isn't much of a market for this kind of story, so I offer it as a free download.

Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think (and if you're one of the folks who suggested turning the "Purple Doom" into a radio serial, and like what you read -- let's talk).

- Ralph

Day 172 of the WJMA Web Watch.

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