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A Stroke of Genius

Short Story (3,060 words)

Lancelot Pike manages a boxer called Horace Head who has fallen for an art teacher. Lancelot and Horace carry out a payroll robbery, but Lancelot gets sprayed with purple dye and has to hide. Horace attends art classes, but he has no talent and Lancelot helps him and paints a self-portrait for the assignment, "Portrait of a Friend". The art teacher admires it so much that Horace, in his jealousy, disfigures it with purple paint, saying "That's what he looks like now." This has unintended consequences.

This is one of a series of comic stories about the Minerva Club, an association of fairly warm-hearted criminals. The others are The Trojan Crate, The Ransom of Angelo, Three Heads are better than one, and Flint's Diamonds.

Horace Head also features in the story Three Heads are better than one, and is a central character in Canning's unperformed stage play Hole in the Wall.

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine #255, February, 1965.
Reprinted in Ellery Queen's Secrets of Mystery, Robert Hale, 1981
Spanish translation, "Un golpe de viento", included in Antologia de las mejores novelas policiacas, Ediciones Acervo, Barcelona, 1981.
Included in the collection The Minerva Club and other stories, USA, Crippen and Landru, 2009.
Included in The Minerva Club, Farrago Books, 2020.