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Edward D. Hoch: Dr. Sam Hawthone (Part 1 of 2)


Edward D. HochEdward Dentinger Hoch (1930 – 2008) was an American writer of detective fiction. Although he wrote several novels, he was primarily known for his vast output of over 950 short stories. Hoch is the leading contemporary writer of true puzzle plot mysteries. He was also one of the greatest anthologizers of the locked room and impossible crime sub-genre, as well as the one who initiated the production of the top locked room mysteries list.

Hoch was born in Rochester, New York and began writing in the 1950s; his first story appeared in 1955 in ‘Famous Detective Stories’ and was followed by stories in ‘The Saint Mystery Magazine’. In January 1962 he began appearing in ‘Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine’. In December 1962 he kicked off his most successful collaboration, with the appearance of his first story in ‘Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine’; in the years since, EQMM has published over 450 of Hoch’s stories, roughly half of his total output. In May 1973 EQMM began publishing a new Hoch story in every monthly issue; as of May 2007 the author had gone an astonishing 34 years without missing a single issue.

Other magazines Hoch wrote for included ‘Adventure’, ‘Double-Action Detective’, ‘Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine’, ‘Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine’, ‘The Magazine of Horror’ and ‘Web Detective Stories’.

Hoch was a master of the classic detective story, emphasizing mystery and deduction rather than suspense and fast action; EQMM has called him “The King of the Classical Whodunit.” His stories are very well written and are usually tightly plotted puzzles, with carefully and fairly presented clues, both physical and psychological. He was particularly partial to “impossible crime” tales, where to all appearances the crime (usually a murder) could not have been committed at all; he invented numerous variants on the locked room mystery popularized by John Dickson Carr and others. For instance, in “The Second Problem of the Covered Bridge”, a man is shot at close range while alone on a covered bridge, while crowds of witnesses watch both ends of the bridge. Hoch cited Graham Greene, John Dickson Carr, Ellery Queen and Jorge Luis Borges as influences on his fiction.

Hoch also published magazine stories under the names “Stephen Dentinger”, “R. L. Stevens”, “Pat McMahon”, “Anthony Circus”, “Irwin Booth”, “R. E. Porter”, “Mr. X” and the House Name “Ellery Queen”. In many cases he also had a story under his own name in the same magazine issue. Hoch also wrote a novel published as Ellery Queen, under the supervision and editing of Manfred Lee, half of the writing partnership known as Ellery Queen.

In 2001 Hoch was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, the first time a Grand Master was known primarily for short fiction rather than novels.

Hoch, died at home in Rochester of a heart attack, aged 77.

(edited from Edward D. Hoch Wikipedia Article)

More On Edward D. Hoch WikipediaMike Grost – Gadetection


Dr. Sam Hawthone

Dr. Sam Hawthorne is a retired family practitioner who is also a specialist in impossible murders. His tales are told as reminiscences of his small-town medical practice in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Sam Hawthorne tries to live a quiet life in the fictional New England town of Northmont, but wherever he goes someone always seems to die in a most improbable way.

First appearing in 1974, the Dr. Sam Hawthorne stories are carefully researched historical pieces, rich with period details about Sam’s cars, medical practices of the times, politics, and clothing. The stories of this series are among Hoch’s most humane tales: Sam himself is a cheerful fellow and tells his tales with humor, but his first-person narratives give readers a close look at his distress at the murders he investigates and his sympathy for the survivors. Because most of the tales take place in a single small town, the series has a larger-than-usual cast of recurring minor characters.

More on Dr. San Hawthorne


Edward D. Hoch: Sam Hawthorne Stories (Part 1 of 2)


Diagnosis HochThe Problem of the Covered Bridge (1974)
Collection: Diagnosis Impossible

 

 

Best Review
*****

Available only in paperback and hardcover editions.

Book

Note: Murder undercover?

A man drives a horse and buggy into a covered bridge, never re-emerges, and is found dead miles away and hours later. Instead of “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time….let me direct your attention to the curious incident of the cows in the daytime.” (page 24)  (from Gadetection – see Best Review)


Diagnosis HochThe Problem of the Old Gristmill (1975)
Collection: Diagnosis Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available only in paperback and hardcover editions.

Book

Note: Thirty-four pounds of missing books and journals

How can a man who’s been dead for six months fill up a strongbox with journals, all of which evidently ooze through a one-eighth-inch hole leaving only a small deposit of sawdust behind?  (from Gadetection – see Best Review)


Diagnosis HochThe Problem of the Lobster Shack (1975)
Collection: Diagnosis Impossible

 

 

Best Review
*****

Available only in paperback and hardcover editions.

Book

Note: Magician murdered by magic?

A magician – inside a small building watched by observers – is found murdered, bound hand and foot: “Someone had entered the locked lobster shack, unseen by a hundred witnesses completely surrounding the shack, and cut (his) throat.” (page 51)  (from Gadetection – see Best Review)


Diagnosis HochThe Problem of the Haunted Bandstand (1976)
Collection: Diagnosis Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available only in paperback and hardcover editions.

Book

Note: Smoke and mirrors?

Right in front of the entire town, the mayor is stabbed to death and the killer disappears in a flash of light and a puff of smoke. The assassin, says Dr. Sam, “had to kill him by a method so bizarre that no one would think about doing an autopsy. With several hundred witnesses, who could possibly question the cause of death?” (page 71)  (from Gadetection – see Best Review)


Diagnosis HochThe Problem of The Locked Caboose (1976)
Collection: Diagnosis Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available only in paperback and hardcover editions.

Book

Note: A theft and in a murder inside a locked caboose!

Valuable jewels are stolen from – and the dead body of a guard is found in – a locked caboose, and there’s even a dying clue – written in blood. “Like so many mysteries,” muses Dr. Sam, “this one revolved around WHO rather than HOW. It baffled us because we didn’t see that crucial point. We concentrated on the HOW and ignored the WHO, and that’s why we couldn’t solve it.” (page 88) At this point, by the way, he’s speaking to the murderer.  (from Gadetection – see Best Review)


Diagnosis HochThe Problem of the Little Red Schoolhouse (1976)
Collection: Diagnosis Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available only in paperback and hardcover editions.

Book

Note: Schoolboy swings into an abudction

A schoolboy is kidnaped from a swing at recess – and his teacher has him under observation the whole time. Dr. Sam remembers it as “one of my most bafflin’ cases,” occurring “nearly seven years before the Lindbergh case put kidnapin’ on the front pages and got a law passed makin’ it a federal crime.” (page 91)  (from Gadetection – see Best Review)


Diagnosis HochThe Problem of the Christmas Steeple (1977)
Collection: Diagnosis Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available only in paperback and hardcover editions.

Book

Note: Here’s the church, and here’s the steeple – but no people!

A minister is murdered in the steeple of his own church, a place from which no one could escape unseen – and the only other person, a gypsy, who was there swears he didn’t do it. Dr. Sam wonders about “how could you have a locked room that wasn’t even a room—that was in fact open on all four sides? And how could you have a mystery when the obvious murderer was found right there with the weapon and the body?” (page 112).  (from Gadetection – see Best Review)


Diagnosis HochThe Problem of Cell 16 (1977)
Collection: Diagnosis Impossible

 

 

Best Review
*****

Available only in paperback and hardcover editions.

Book

Note: The Eel is very slippery!

An international criminal lives up to his nickname, “The Eel,” by escaping from the town’s brand-new jail, just the latest of “several daring escapes from police captivity. He boasted that no jail could hold him, and he seemed well on the way to provin’ it.” (page 125) (A gracious nod to Jacques Futrelle)   (from Gadetection – see Best Review)


Diagnosis HochThe Problem of the Country Inn (1977)
Collection: Diagnosis Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available only in paperback and hardcover editions.

Book

Note:  A bold escape – right through a bolted door?

Dr. Sam expresses it best: “Let me tell you a story… It’s the story of how William Stokes could have been killed yesterday mornin’ by a masked bandit who escaped through a bolted door.” (page 149)   (from Gadetection – see Best Review)


Diagnosis HochThe Problem of the Voting Booth (1977)
Collection: Diagnosis Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available only in paperback and hardcover editions.

Book

Note: A politician dies in a voting booth. Ironic justice?

A politician dies in the act of casting a vote: “Our eyes had not deceived us. Henry G. Oatis had been stabbed to death while alone in the voting booth, with no less than eight people watching from outside, and with a knife that seemed to have vanished into thin air.” (page 163)   (from Gadetection – see Best Review)


Diagnosis HochThe Problem of the Country Fair (1978)
Collection: Diagnosis Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available only in paperback and hardcover editions.

Book

Note: The ideal way to dispose of an unwanted body?

How does the body of a ne’er-do-well end up inside a metal time capsule – after Dr. Sam himself has viewed its contents and after it has been buried in front of hundreds of witnesses?  (from Gadetection – see Best Review)


Diagnosis HochThe Problem of The Old Oak Tree (1978)
Collection: Diagnosis Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available only in paperback and hardcover editions.

Book

Note: Just hanging  around the old oak tree?

An actor parachutes from an airplane and lands in a tree – and a few people think the tree strangled him; after all, it’s haunted.  (from Gadetection – see Best Review)


impossible HochThe Problem of the Revival Tent (1978)
Collection: More Things Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: Faith healer fails!

Dr. Sam Hawthorn is sceptical, to say the least, when smooth talking George Yester, and his seven year old son, come to Northmont, claiming to heal the sick. But when Yester is murdered alone in the revival tent, the only suspect is Dr. Sam. 


impossible HochThe Problem of the Whispering House (1979)
Collection: More Things Impossible

 

 

Best Review
*****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: A ghostly murder?

Every town has a haunted house, and for Northmont that house is the Bryer house. When Dr. Sam and ghost hunter, Thad Sloan, investigate, they don’t expect walls that whisper or ghosts that commit bloody murder.


impossible HochThe Problem of the Boston Common (1979)
Collection: More Things Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: A serial killer strikes fear in Boston!

Murder murder every where, and not a way to kill. When Dr. Sam and nurse April go to Boston for a medical convention, the city is held in the grips of a serial killer. The police know who, they just don’t know how.


impossible HochThe Problem of the General Store (1979)
Collection: More Things Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: A liberated murderer?

Maggie Murphy is one of the radical women of 1928. She wants women to be able to work and earn the same amount as men, and is causing a problem in front of Max Harkner’s general store. If Max is the only one who will let her talk, why would she murder him, and then stay with the body untill the police came?


impossible HochThe Problem of the Courthouse Gargoyle (1980)
Collection: More Things Impossible

 

 

Best Review
*****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: The gargoyle did it?

Every one hates jury duty, Dr. Sam included. So when he gets chosen, he grudgingly sits through the case of a farm hand who murdered his employer. Then the day turns really interesting when the judge is murdered, his last word being “Gargoyle”.


impossible HochThe Problem of the Pilgrims Windmill (1980) 
Collection: More Things Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: Lucifer’s balls of fire?

When a new hospital opens, Dr. Sam is invited to attend. The hospital is nice, but what really draws people is the windmill in front of the hospital. Not because of the exhibit inside, but because of the flaming balls caused by Lucifer. 


impossible HochThe Problem of the Gingerbread Houseboat (1981) 
Collection: More Things Impossible

 

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: A disappearing house boat!

Being a doctor, Dr. Sam doesn’t get the chance for love. But when he meets Miranda Grey, he begins to spend alot of time with her, her aunt and uncle, and their friends who own a house boat. When every one on the boat dissapears, Dr. Sam is left with an impossible crime.


impossible HochThe Problem of the Pink Post Office (1981)
Collection: More Things Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: Black Friday gets blacker!

It’s October of 1929 and the stock market is crumbling. Money is the most important thing, especially for a banker who has to mail $10,000 quickly! But when it dissapears, no one is above suspician, including Miranda!

Note: Robert Adey in ‘Locked Room Murders’, mistakenly lists this titles as appearing in EQMM, in June, 1987. Correct issue of EQMM, is June, 1981


impossible HochThe Problem of the Octagon Room (1981)
Collection: More Things Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: Wedding Day blues!

It’s Sheriff Len’s wedding day, and it’s the happiest day of his life. He is going to be married in the beautiful Octagon Room, with postmistress Vera as his lovely wife. But when a murder happens, these plans go astray! Especialy when it’s one of those most basic of Hawthorne stories! The murder literaly takes place in a locked room, with no one inside!


impossible HochThe Problem of the Gypsy Camp (1982)
Collection: More Things Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: A bullet without a shot?

The gypsies are back and murder soon follows. When the gypsies return, the people get worried, especially when a man is cursed. Then, when he dies, a bullet is found in him, and the queston becomes, how? He wasn’t shot! Before they can even ask the gypsies to explain, they all disappear without a trace. 


impossible HochThe Problem of the Bootlegger’s Carr (1982)
Collection: More Things Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: Fat Larry isn’t happy!

Dr. Sam is good at locked rooms, but he’ll have to solve this one to save his life. When the mob comes into town, they need Dr. Sam to treat their head honcho, Fat Larry, who’s receiving a shipment of barrels. But when the bootlegger dissapears, Dr. Sam needs to figure out how, before Larry takes off his head.


impossible HochThe Problem of the Tin Goose (1982)
Collection: More Things Impossible

 

 

Best Review
*****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: A locked cockpit?

This is the story that proves impossible crimes don’t have to be well grounded. Barnstorming has come to Northmont, and every one soon gets caught up in the craze. But when a man is stabbed in a locked cocpit, in mid air, Dr. Sam will have to follow this murderer to ground.


impossible HochThe Problem of the Hunting Lodge (1983)
Collection: More Things Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: Hawthorne senior suspected of murder!

Harry and Doris Hawthorne have come to see their son in Norhtmont. When they get invited on a hunting trip, another impossible murder occurs, and Dr. Sam has to solve it in order to prove that his father is innocent.


impossible HochThe Problem of the Body in The Haystack (1983) 
Collection: More Things Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: Too trusting and too good?

Felix Bennet was always a trusting man, and a good man as well. He hired ex-convicts, when no one else would consider it. When Dr. Sam and Sheriff Lens come to help him with a bear problem, Felix ends up dead! This time Sheriff Lens has to solve the case.


impossible HochThe Problem of Santa’s Lighthouse (1983)
Collection: More Things Impossible

 

 

Best Review
*****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: Why did Santa need a lighthouse?

It’s Christmas time and Dr. Sam is headed out of town, proving that murder follows you everywhere. When Dr. Sam stops to visit Santa’s lighthouse, the last thing he expects to see, is Santa being stabbed by the ghost of the lighthouse.


Nothing ImpossibleThe Problem of the Graveyard Picnic (1984)
Collection: Nothing is Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: Tragic accident or bloody murder?

1932: Dr. Sam Hawthorne witnesses a tragic incident when a young woman drowns in the rushing waters of a creek, but the more he looks into it the more this “accident” looks like a carefully-planned murder. (liberty21.org – see best review)


Nothing ImpossibleThe Problem of the Crying Room (1984)
Collection: Nothing is Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions.

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: Can you confess to an uncommitted murder?

1932: It’s bizarre enough when a dead man confesses to a murder he had yet to commit, but after an attempt on the mayor’s life exactly according to the deceased’s suicide note, Dr. Sam is forced to conclude that dead men do tell tales. (liberty21.org – see best review)


Nothing ImpossibleThe Problem of the Fatal Firework (1985)
Collection: Nothing is Impossible

 

 

Best Review
*****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: Bootleg whiskey and a big bang!

1932: What do a deadly exploding firecracker and bootleg whisky have in common? As Dr. Sam will discover, everything — and nothing. (liberty21.org – see best review)


Nothing ImpossibleThe Problem of the Unfinished Painting (1986)
Collection: Nothing is Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: A still life forever!

1932: A woman is strangled in a locked room before she can put the finishing strokes to her still life; in investigating this particular case, Dr. Sam will come to consider seriously moving away from his adopted hometown. (liberty21.org – see best review)


Nothing ImpossibleThe Problem of the Sealed Bottle (1986)
Collection: Nothing is Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: Booze is back – and so is murder!

1933: For many people, the repeal of Prohibition is a reason to celebrate, but it’s also evidently the cause of two murders — with Dr. Sam marked as the third victim. (liberty21.org – see best review)


Nothing ImpossibleThe Problem of the Invisible Acrobat (1986)
Collection: Nothing is Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: Run away from the circus?

1933: There was a time when kids would dream of running away to join the circus. When the Big Top comes to town, someone who has acted out that dream will come to confront Dr. Sam with a sharp blade in a desperate attempt to keep it a secret. (liberty21.org – see best review)


Nothing ImpossibleThe Problem of the Curing Barn (1987)
Collection: Nothing is Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: A deadly letter?

1934: Poison-pen letters are meant to wound, not kill, but when the wife of a farmer becomes the recipient of some malicious missives it’s enough to provoke someone to kill, not wound. (liberty21.org – see best review)


Nothing ImpossibleThe Problem of the Snowbound Cabin (1987)
Collection: Nothing is Impossible

 

 

Best Review
*****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: Classic locked room cabin surrounded by snow!

1935: The classic locked-room situation: a murder in an isolated cabin with snow everywhere but no incriminating footprints; nevertheless, Dr. Sam figures it all out even as he must reluctantly bid farewell to a long-time colleague. (liberty21.org – see best review)


Nothing ImpossibleThe Problem of the Thunder Room (1988)
Collection: Nothing is Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: An assistant who can be in two places at once? 

1935: Dr. Sam is well-pleased with his new assistant until that fateful day when, according to reliable eyewitnesses, she murders a man who is miles away while, as Dr. Sam is willing to swear, she was in the next room. (liberty21.org – see best review)


Nothing ImpossibleThe Problem of the Black Roadster (1988)
Collection: Nothing is Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: Bank robbers visit town!

1935: Dillinger and Bonnie & Clyde might be dead, but a gang disturbingly similar to them descends on little Northmont’s bank, killing the manager in the process and then vanishing in their getaway car off the face of the earth. It is a knotty problem that even Dr. Sam can’t solve without the assistance of an attractive eyewitness to the crime. (liberty21.org – see best review) This one is not listed by Robert Adey in ‘Locked Room Murders’ – perhaps it is not sufficiently impossible!


Nothing ImpossibleThe Problem of the Two Birthmarks (1989)
Collection: Nothing is Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: A natural coincidence?

1935: Could a peculiar mark behind a woman’s ear and an identical one on an inanimate block of wood somehow be related? Dr. Sam will discover the connection, but unfortunately not soon enough to prevent a murder. (liberty21.org – see best review)


Nothing ImpossibleThe Problem of the Dying Patient (1989)
Collection: Nothing is Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: Someone couldn’t wait for nature!

1935: It’s a hard thing when a doctor loses a patient, in this case a feeble old woman, but for Dr. Sam it’s worse when everything seems to indicate that he murdered her. (liberty21.org – see best review)


Nothing ImpossibleThe Problem of the Protected Farmhouse (1990)
Collection: Nothing is Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: Local Nazi tastes his own medicine

1935: A repulsive hermit known for having Nazi sympathies is found beaten to death in his house — but this is no ordinary domicile: “A locked gate, a seven-foot-high electrified fence, a guard dog, and a house with all its doors and windows locked,” practically forcing Dr. Sam to the obvious conclusion: “It’s impossible.” (liberty21.org – see best review)


Nothing ImpossibleThe Problem of the Haunted Tepee (1990)
Collection: Nothing is Impossible

 

 

Best Review
*****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: A cross series story featuring two of Hoch’s main characters.

1935: Ben Snow, now well into his seventies, presents Dr. Sam with a mystery surrounding the deaths of several people, including a baby, inside a Dakota tepee, apparently at the “hands” of malicious spirits; but Sam and his pretty nurse prove that all-too-human ignorance and hatred are really to blame. (Note: The only story in this collection that is told in the third person, and one of only a handful of examples where Hoch allows cross over between two separate series.) (liberty21.org – see best review)


Nothing ImpossibleThe Problem of the Blue Bicycle (1991)
Collection: Nothing is Impossible

 

 

Best Review
****

Available in paperback and ebook editions. 

Book  eBook   Amazon.ca

Note: A surprising burial!

1936: One of Sam’s neighbors, a teenaged girl, is out bike-riding with her friends when she vanishes just yards away from them; when baying bloodhounds discover a shallow grave, at first everybody thinks the search is over, but what they find in the ground isn’t what anyone, including Dr. Sam, was expecting. (liberty21.org – see best review)


Edward D. Hoch Bibliography


Locked Room 101: The Masters


The Locked Room Mystery home



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