J. Thorne Smith (1892-1934) was the author of “Topper / The Jovial Ghosts,” “Topper Takes a Trip,” “The Night Life of the Gods,” “The Stray Lamb,” “Turnabout,” “The Glorious Pool,” etc.
“Skin and Bones” was published in 1933.
Public Domain in countries where copyright is Life+70.
A photographer's freak accident in the dark room produces a chemical concoction causing him (and his dog) to randomly switch back and forth between normal and X-ray (skeleton) versions of themselves. Predictably, much drinking and cavorting ensues, as he finds people able to see beyond his appearance and appreciate him for who he is, while inadvertently terrifying those who can not. Unusually, his wife Lorna is an attractive personality.
The book begins:
When Quintus Bland set out to enjoy the evening he had not the vaguest idea he was destined to become a skeleton. Yet that is exactly what he did become—an impressive structure composed entirely of bone as far as the eye could reach.
Had fate vouchsafed the man some small warning of the radical departure from his customary appearance, there is no doubt he would have stopped where he was and become a skeleton comfortably in the privacy of his own home, assuming for the moment one can comfortably become a skeleton while still alive and active.
There were many persons who wished he had pursued this course and remained at home. Life for them would have still retained a little of its zest.
Indubitably this would have been the more agreeable course not only for Mr. Bland and his friends, but also for a number of unfortunate individuals who through no fault of their own were forced to undergo the ordeal of gazing on Quintus Bland in far less than the nude—in, perhaps, the most disturbing form a man can present to his fellow men.
Although to become a skeleton is a noteworthy achievement it is not an admirable one. If a man must so disport himself he would show far more consideration by enjoying his horror in solitude instead of in the heart of a populous city. The metamorphosis from flesh to bone is not one especially designed to be regarded affectionately by the average observer.
In extenuation of Mr. Bland’s slight lapse it must be recorded that he had neither the intention nor the inclination to become a skeleton. Such an ambitious undertaking never entered his mind. Bones, in appalling number, were thrust upon him, so to speak. Or, inversely, flesh was removed. In the long run it made little difference how the change occurred. Bland suddenly and confoundingly discovered he had turned to a skeleton. He discovered also that it is the rare individual indeed who regards a skeleton either as a social equal or a desirable companion.
By way of explanation it should be known that Quintus Bland literally sniffed himself into his skeletonhood. For long hours at a time he had been inhaling the potent fumes of a secret chemical fluid with which he had been experimenting for some months past. It was his somewhat revolting hope that some day by means of this fluid he would be able to produce a fluoroscopic camera film. Why any normal man should wish to create such an intimately revealing commodity is difficult to conceive. Possibly Quintus Bland was not quite normal.
Americanized spelling. Formatted punctuation (curly quotes, emdashes). Chapter headings cross-linked to/from inline ToC. Drop-caps and Large-caps versions.
No scan of the original available for comparison, I hope you'll let me know about any errors.
Enjoy the read.
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