I could have gone on and killed every man in Russia because of that hat and to hell with history.
History was the thing. People know now about the Czar, when and where he was killed and all the rest. So thats why I impressed dates into the first of the story. It helps the reader believe you when his own knowledge tells him youre right. And if you cant lie convincingly, dont ever write fiction.
Now the hero, for the first time (I stressed his anxiety in the front of the story) has a leisurely chance to examine this hat. He finally decides to take the thing apart, but when he starts to rip the threads he notices that its poorly sewn.
This is the message in the hat, done in Morse code around the band:
Czar held at Ekaterinburg, house of Ipatiev. Will die July 18. Hurry.
Very simple, say you. Morse code, old stuff. But old or not, the punch of the story is not a mechanical twist.
The eighteenth of July has long past, but the hero found the hat on the seventeenth. Now had he been able to get it to Gajda, the generals staff could have exhausted every possibility and uncovered that message. They could have sent a threat to Ekaterinburg or they could have even taken the town in time. They didnt know, delayed, and lost the Russian Czar and perhaps the nation.
Twelve men, the Czar and his family, and an entire country dies because of one hat.
Of course the yarn needs a second punch, so the hero finds the jewels of the Czar in burned clothing in the woods and knows that the Czar is dead for sure and the Allied cause for Russia is lost.
The double punch is added by the resuming of the game of throwing cards into this hat.
After a bit we started to pitch the cards again. Stuart sent one sailing across the room. It touched the hat and teetered there. Then, with a flicker of white, it coasted off the side and came to rest some distance away, face up.
We moved uneasily. I put my cards away.
The one Stuart had thrown, the one which had so narrowly missed, was the king of spades.
Well, thats the Price of a Hat. It sold to Leo Margulies Thrilling Adventures magazine of the Standard Magazines, Inc., which, by the way, was the magazine that bought my first pulp story. It will appear in the March issue, on sale, I suppose, in February. Leo is pretty much of an adventurer himself and without boasting on my part, Leo knows a good story when he sees it. In a letter to my agent accepting my story, Leo Margulies wrote: We are glad to buy Ron Hubbards splendid story The Price of a Hat. I read the Digest article and am glad you carried it through.
Art Burks is so doggoned busy these days with the American Fiction Guild and all, that you hardly see anything of him. But someday Im going to sneak into his hotel anyway, snatch up the smallest possible particle of dust and make him make me write a story about that. I wont write it but he will. I bet when he sees this, hell say:
By golly, thats a good horror story. And sit right down and make a complete novel out of one speck of dust.
Anyway, thanks for the check, Art. Ill buy you a drink, at the next luncheon. What? Heck, I didnt do all the work!