You can always count on Talmage Powell for an absorbing story. He knew the ins and outs of the short story form, and reliably delivered fast, strong hooks and crafty, well-written twists. “Jury of One,” published in the October 1959 issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, is no exception.
Max Taylor, a gunman for The Syndicate, tells the story. He’s sitting in the courtroom, on trial for a freelance job he botched, while the lawyers question potential jurors. And one would-be juror, in particular, has Max worried: a little old lady named Mrs. Clevenger.
“There was a dryness in my throat, a fluttering in my stomach–I was on trial for my life. Murder was a capital crime in this state, and they didn’t use anything merciful and clean like a gas chamber. They made you take that last long walk and sit down in a chair wired for death.”
Talmage Powell avoids the predictable, unnecessary exposition that can often drag down courtroom stories. Instead, he takes an original slant on the genre and throws in a satisfying twist at the end. At five pages, it is a short and excellent story. I’d love to see a collection of Powell’s shorter work, he is certainly deserving of it.
Thanks to Galactic Central for the cover scan.