Born for Murder can be found in






KEYHOLE MYSTERY Magazine JUNE, 1960 VOL I, NO. 2

Some people are more lively than others to become involved
in accidents. Medical science calls them accident-prone. Now John Collier—one of the world's great mystery writers—comes up with an interesting new thesis: that some people are more lively to be murdered than others: in a word, they're murder-prone
...

BORN FOR MURDER

by JOHN COLLIER

ALEC WEAVER'S FEATURES WERE not unpleasing and his expression was that of one who is anxious to please. In some people this may be a fortunate combination; in others it makes for a certain redundancy.

"I should like," said Alec, "to write a story about a murderee."

His friend was Jay Wisden, who had a face like his first name, a face with a pipe in it. He now removed this accessory and his mouth opened in surprise. At once he looked as blank and naked as the short-sighted do when they strip off their glasses. "Alec," said he, "are you telling me you want to be a writer?"

"I said nothing of the sort. I said I want to write this particular story. I want to get it out of me. I want to put it down. I want it to be there."

"But already you're walking up and down. You're talking like Gertrude Stein or somebody. You want it to be there! And I'd have sworn you had a one-track mind, and thought of nothing but the office and shipping." Here Jay reinstated his pipe, and recovered his look of sagacity. "Or at most a two-track mind, because of course you have your peculiar friends."

In Marseille one sometimes sees a raw yellow funnel towering up unexpectedly among the backstreet buildings. All the big shipping lines have offices there. One's heart is continually troubled by the harsh songs the sirens sing. And the streets in some quarters seem positively to be cobbled with the hard faces of a people who may be peculiar but who are not easy to imagine as friends.

"I suppose you mean people like the Camattes," Alec replied. "To me Louis Camatte is a very ordinary businessman—black-market and bodyguards instead of stock market and lawyers, but that doesn't make him any different. All he really wants is that horrible wedding cake of a villa with its ridiculous little garden. He wants good schools and nice friends for his children. He wants to cover Marie with jewels and fur coats and things."

"Well, she probably helped a great deal in getting him started."

These words hung in the air as if they had nowhere to go. Unwilling to take them in, Alec turned and looked out of the window. In this large, bad, modernistic apartment house, the living room windows were set at an angle across the corner. There was a useless little balcony of coloured concrete, and beyond it one saw all the way down the Canabiere, down to where the water of the port was still as blue as a flag though it was already six o'clock in the evening.

Jay communed with his pipe, feeling he might have said the wrong thing. The right thing to say seemed sufficiently obvious. "And what's going to happen in this story of yours about the murderee?"

"I don't know what happens. That's why I can't write it. I feel I know everything about the character but I haven't the faintest idea of the plot."

"Well, it's the character that counts, they say."

"Yes, they all say that. Once before in my life I had the same sort of urge. I read just about all the books there are on how to write a short story. They all say character is more important than plot."

"All the same, something has to happen." As the smoke of opium is transmuted into dreams, the smoke of pipe tobacco changes very easily into good advice. "The guy gets himself bumped off, presumably. Otherwise he'd hardly be a murderee."

"But is there a murderee? Is there such a person? Does he exist in real life?"

"I think the answer to that one is, 'Yes, but not for long'".

"Very good, Jay! Very funny! But is it a scientific term? Or is it just a word we use? Is it a word cooked up by the people who write books about famous murders? Have you ever seen it in a book by a psychologist? Or is there no such person at all as a murderee?"

Under this thick drizzle of questions Jay oozed smoke from every orifice, for all the world like a railway engine on a siding; stationary, uncoupled, fulfilling no apparent function. "People get knocked off all the time," said he at last.

"Which proves there are murderers. It doesn't prove there are murderees."

"There are people who are accident-prone. That's more than proved; it's recognised by the insurance companies. They fall downstairs; they get their arms and legs broken; they get smashed up in their cars. They do it to punish themselves."

"Take that to its logical extreme," said Alec, "and you get suicide. You see the difference? The murderee wants someone else to do it to him."

"And no doubt he finds plenty willing to oblige!"

"He attracts the killer," continued Alec. "Perhaps he c...

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