The Case of the Green Monkey

"... A quilt-like mist rolled across the historic harbor where fishing boats - tied up to the old wharf - rocked lazily with the gentle waves. The mist lingered like an unwanted summer guest who had overstayed his welcome. Or better yet, lingered like the pasty aftertaste of a glass of merlot poured from a bottle that was accidentally left out uncorked all night long on the living room table ... left uncorked by that unwanted houseguest, no doubt!

"Within this vague universe of quilt-like mist and unwanted houseguest and bottle of merlot gone bad, a forlorn foghorn sent forth its long, lonesome, wistful wail.

"Walking along the curving road overlooking the harbor below, he turned to the woman in the green dress, which shimmered like a fluid cloth of emeralds in the filtered radiance of a nearby streetlight, and oh so casually gazing into her equally green eyes (also resembling fluid emeralds -- only without the cloth), he said..."

Such were the last typewritten words of 20th century author G. Thomas Butterworth (who lived from 1929-1970 ... and possibly from 1973-1977 according to federal tax records and the inspired visions of one particular psychic), acknowledged by many literary critics as one of the most misunderstood and misread mystery writers of his generation.

His final book, entitled Detective Dave Davis and the Case of the Green Monkey, published posthumously, as well as after his death, was widely panned by critics, readers, and reference librarians alike for it contained no ending, its last page merely trailing off with the author's final typewritten words of "he said..."

Whatever it was that Detective Dave Davis had said to the woman in the shimmering green dress we'll never know, for the story's author was found dead with both hands still positioned upon the typewriter keys, a victim of a sudden literary heart attack - apparently quite common among pulp mystery writers. As such, the Case of the Green Monkey would remain forever unsolved. Butterworth took the secret surrounding the verdant primate to his grave.

The author of the unfinished Case of the Green Monkey penned half a dozen other "Detective Dave Davis" mysteries, the most popular of which was Detective Dave Davis and the Case of the Unhappy Clown, which earned him an honorable mention in the New England Mystery Writer's annual book awards for the year 1962. One reviewer, so disgusted with the foulness of the bloody murders committed by Butterworth's criminal clown, wrote: "I wouldn't say this clown is 'unhappy,' I'd say this clown is mightily pissed off!"

In fact, circus owners across the country reported that in the wake of Butterworth's Unhappy Clown book attendance at circuses nationwide was off 20% that year, to the great dismay of transient cotton candy vendors. In a somewhat related story, a clown by the name of "Mr. Joe-Joe" showed up for a child's birthday party in a suburb outside Newark, New Jersey wearing the usual clown get up and was swiftly beaten to within a whisker of death by frightened parents. Those involved in the beating were found "not guilty by reason of being creeped out by a clown," which unfortunately set a precedent and made 1962 open season on clowns, resulting in a number of similar incidents. The Union of Circus Performers appealed the New Jersey ruling, but the decision was upheld at the Supreme Court level ... although one intrigued judge asked the Circus Performers Union to explain the trick where all the clowns appear to emerge onstage from that tiny little automobile.

But clowns and green monkeys aside, it was Butterworth's interest in becoming a classic 19th century writer in the style of Jane Austen which shook the most heads among critics and readers alike. He had a number of hurdles to overcome. First, he was not a woman. Second, he was not living during the 19th century. Third, he simply wasn't that good a writer. And fourth, he wasn't a woman!

Despite the obstacles, and the pundits, which included all the active members of the New England Chapter of the Jane Austen Society, which drew up a resolution demanding that Mr. Butterworth  "cease and desist and stop being such a silly, silly man," the author pressed onward. His first step was to take the usual "boy meets girl - boy loses girl - boy gets girl" formula and examine it from Austen's point of view, prompting him to write the following in his personal journal:

3/17/67

"Over pints at the pub with the usual crowd discussed Keats and Joyce, but I kept trying to get the discussion turned around to Austen. The men folk became angered by this and tempers flared, eventually resulting in a good ol' fashioned donnybrook - with the Keats readers on one side, Joyce readers on the other, and me representing Austen somewhere in the middle. Meanwhile, an older gentleman who had been reading Lord Byron at a corner table while nursing a glass of whiskey struck me upside the head with his cane.

"When I came to it all suddenly made sense. The format to any Jane Austen novel is as follows: 1) girl loses boy; 2) girl loses boy even further without any hope of ever getting boy, mainly due to their unbalanced social standing and some confusion over some bit of gossip concerning the boy's plans to marry the girl's cousin, yet it turns out there is some mistake over the true identity of the groom-to-be; and 3) girl gets boy ... after boy confesses his true, hidden, romantic feelings which he's been agonizing over for years and years and years! "

So, Butterworth arrived at his own formula for his novel:

1) boy doesn't understand girl

2) boy becomes further clueless concerning girl

3) boy becomes hopelessly and utterly at a loss over his complete sense of cluelessness {sic} regarding girl and eventually becomes disillusioned with life and the universe in general and ultimately turns his back on God."

 His book, he decided, would be an allegory in which his disillusioned main character would fall throughout the various circles of Dante's Hell, recanting this and that throughout his plummeting descent. "Disillusionment with life and the universe" would become Butterworth's mantra throughout the writing of his novel ... and, in fact, his friends had those very words inscribed in frosting on his cake at his 38th birthday party.

Butterworth worked feverishly throughout the spring of 1967 in the uppermost apartment of a South Boston triple-decker owned by a Mrs. Tessie O'Callahan, penning what would become his ode to Jane Austen, entitled Tense and Tensibility {sic}. That work, which was largely ignored (prompting Butterworth to return to writing Detective Dave Davis mysteries), will be reprinted here over the coming weeks, so be sure to tune in.

But until then, let us bring the Case of the Green Monkey to an appropriate conclusion. Recently discovered notes found amongst Butterworth's papers housed at Arkham University suggest that the guilty party was Detective Dave Davis himself. Butterworth's hero and the solver of a half dozen crimes throughout the mystery series, Detective Dave apparently took his cue from his author and became disillusioned with life and the universe in general - fed up with his meager existence - and so he stole the priceless Green Monkey jewel. After covering his tracks, he met up with his accomplice at the harbor - the woman in the shimmering emerald dress - and together they commandeered a boat to make their escape toward a life full of riches and romance.

Yet it was not to be. Unfortunately for Detective Dave and the woman in the emerald dress, a Coast Guard cutter was waiting just offshore - tipped off, it would seem, by some rather uptight members of the New England Chapter of the Jane Austen Society.

Jack Sheedy

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