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One of my favorite genre of literature is Short Story. I have been brought up on the staple diet of short stories authored by O’ Henry, Rabindranath Tagore, Daphne Du Maurier, W.somerset Maugham, Wilkie Collins, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. In the delving into the world of pop fiction Jeffrey Archer’s short stories are closest to my heart. Although he may have less chance of being studied at the University in some point in future, my love for him is yet to be diminished.

I have been re visiting his collection of short stories recently. This book comprised of the three earlier collections named as To Cut a Long Story ShortCat o’ Nine Tales and And Thereby Hangs a Tale.

I am sure many of the readers of the blog have already read some parts of his vast collection but for my own satisfaction I share with you the first story that begins the collection named, To Cut a Long Story Short. In the Preface to the book, the author himself says that he came across this story named Death Speaks, in his travels.

It was originally translated from Arabic, and despite extensive research, the author remains ‘Anon’, though the tale appeared in Somerset Maugham’s play Sheppey, and later as a preface to John O’ Hara’s Appointment in Samarra.

I have rarely come across a better example of the simple art of storytelling.


There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to the market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was int he market place I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from the city, and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the market place and he saw me standing in the crowd and h came to me and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning? That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him in Samarra.

Hope you enjoyed reading this one.


Reference Sources: Jeffrey Archer’s To Cut a Long Story Short.

Disclaimer: In reproducing the story published in the book mentioned above, I do not seek to violate the copyright of the author and this is only used as a quote with full credit to the author as mentioned in the post.


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