Magazines


REVIEWED BY MIKE TOONEY:

(Give Me That) OLD-TIME DETECTION. Spring 2020. Issue #53. Editor: Arthur Vidro. Old-Time Detection Special Interest Group of American Mensa, Ltd. 34 pages (including covers). Cover image: Ellery Queen and Nikki Porter.

   By retrieving and curating interesting facts and arcana about the detective story, Arthur Vidro renders an invaluable service to today’s readers, with the latest issue of Old-Time Detection (OTD) nicely continuing that tradition.

   The primary focus this time is on the writer(s)-cum-fictional character, multimedia star Ellery Queen (“the American detective story,” in Anthony Boucher’s estimable estimation). While EQ’s popularity has diminished over time, “his” relevance to the development of the genre worldwide never will, placing “him” in that rarified pantheon of mystery writers that includes Edgar Allan Poe, who originated modern detective fiction; Conan Doyle, who expanded and popularized it; and that bevy of authors, many of them female, who profited most from it.

   Among the varied attractions of this issue: Charles Shibuk’s article on the current trend in trade-paperback republications of classic detective fiction … commentaries by the world’s foremost Agatha Christie expert Dr. John Curran on the recent death of Christie specialist artist Tom Adams; the deplorable film adaptations of her works (“the only murder that was committed during the two hours was that of the legacy of Agatha Christie; and that the perpetrator was the BBC”); a card game (“an entertaining way to pass the time”); a coin celebrating the centenary of The Mysterious Affair at Styles accompanied by a reissue of the novel; and a prospective Agatha Christie film festival … Vidro’s reprint of Edward D. Hoch’s own introduction to his collection of Simon Ark stories (who, says Hoch, “owes a far greater debt to Father Brown than to Carnacki and the other occult sleuths”) … and Jon L. Breen’s contemporary review of Douglas Greene’s The Dead Sleep Lightly, a collection of radio plays by John Dickson Carr (“probably the greatest of all radio suspense scripters”).

   Still more attractions in OTD: Marvin Lachman’s compact biography of Ed Hoch (who “did not achieve the quantity of his writing by sacrificing quality”), with Hoch returning the favor to Lachman (“arguably our greatest mystery short story fan and proponent”) … Jon L. Breen’s review of Murder on Cue (“a case that is resolved most fairly and satisfactorily in an old-fashioned gathering of the suspects”), its chief attraction in his view being its theatrical background … Dale Andrews’s discovery of Ellery Queen’s “Easter Eggs,” by which he means the Christian holiday … and J. Randolph Cox’s account of how he first became aware of EQ and his life and subsequent encounters, personal and professional, with Ellery over the years.

   Further into this issue: Ted Hertel’s article about the two-and-only appearances that EQ made in Better Little Books … Arthur Vidro’s sidebar about that indefatigable Ellery Queen researcher, Mike Nevins (“nearly all roads [to EQ scholarship] lead to or through Nevins”) … Marv Lachman’s first and life-long encounters with EQ (“I loved Queen’s appeal to the brain”) … a memorable anecdote by book collector Andrew J. Fusco, a Sherlockian, about his meeting with Fred Dannay … J. Randolph Cox’s in-depth exploration of the religious underpinnings of the fiction by the two cousins known as Ellery Queen … Les Blatt’s review of The Chinese Orange Mystery (“The crime that was backwards”) … Ted Hertel’s take on The Misadventures of Ellery Queen (“I was not disappointed”) … this issue’s fiction piece, EQ’s radio play “Adventure of the Cellini Cup,” which, as Arthur notes, leaves somewhat to be desired as a fair play mystery … Michael Dirda’s pithy reviews of new fiction and nonfiction (“there’s plenty of excellent entertainment to be found in the Golden Age rivals of Dame Agatha”) … and finishing up with readers’ responses and a puzzle, this one with an alimentary theme.

   As usual, Old-Time Detection is always able to provide what classic detective fiction fans crave.

   A review of the previous issue of OTD is available on Mystery*File here.

   —

If you’re interested in subscribing: – Published three times a year: spring, summer, and autumn. – Sample copy: $6.00 in U.S.; $10.00 anywhere else. – One-year U.S.: $18.00 ($15.00 for Mensans). – One-year overseas: $40.00 (or 25 pounds sterling or 30 euros).

Payment: Checks payable to Arthur Vidro, or cash from any nation, or U.S. postage stamps or PayPal.

Mailing address: Arthur Vidro, editor, Old-Time Detection, 2 Ellery Street, Claremont, New Hampshire 03743.

Web address: vidro@myfairpoint.net.

WILLIAM SCHOELL “Trouble in Tinseltown.” Short story. Paul Burroughs #1. First published in Espionage Magazine, December 1986. Probably never reprinted.

   Espionage Magazine was a very professional looking magazine published in the late 1980, but also a short-lived one. It lasted for less than three years, from December 1984 to September 1987, and only 14 issues. It was more or less bi-monthly until this issue (December 1986) but the next one didn’t come out until May of the next year, and was 8″ by 10″ instead of digest-sized, with only 100 pages instead of 164. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen any of those.

   I’ll add a listing of the contents below. I’m familiar with only one of the authors, that being Bill Knox, who wrote many mysteries taking place in and around the sea for Doubleday’s Crime Club here in the US. William Schoell, who wrote three other short stories for the mystery digests, may be the author of many horror novels and is an expert on old movies whose Wikipedia page is here.

   But when I picked his story from this issue to read. I have to admit it was the word Tinseltown in the title that caught my eye, not his name. And even better, as I quickly discovered, it’s a PI story. And even more than that, it’s an impossible crime tale too.

   The PI is Paul Burroughs, a fellow whose field of expertise is industrial espionage, which first of all stretches the content of the magazine more than I expected, and the industry in particular was even more surprising: the production set of a TV soap opera. Being stolen are the advance plans for the upcoming season. Once leaked to the fan press, the twists of the on-air drama mean no more cliffhangers endings.

   Access to copy machines are limited, and everyone is thoroughly searched as they leave the building. The advance story boards are so complicated that no one could memorize them in a very short amount of time. Where is the leak coming from, and who’s responsible?

   I’m not sure if I’m convinced that the solution would hold up in the real world, and I apologize that this one story is probably the least representative of the magazine throughout its entire existence, but the light, if not hilarious take on the world of soap opera writing was fun to read.

   

    — From The Adventure, War, and Espionage Fiction Magazine Index, edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne:

Espionage Magazine [v2 #5, December 1986] ed. Jackie Lewis (Leo 11 Publications, Ltd.; Teaneck, NJ, $2.50, 164pp, digest, cover by Gail Garcia)3 · Publisher’s Page · Jackie Lewis · ed
6 · About People · Anon. · bg
8 · About Books · Brian L. Burley · br
12 · About Video · Carl Martin · mr
15 · About Other Things… · Ernest Volkman · cl
18 · Letters to the Editor · [The Readers] · lc
22 · The FBI · Rose M. Poole · ar
28 · The Red Boxes · Leo Whitaker · ss
35 · Churchkill · Chuck Meyer · ss
44 · Betrayal · K. L. Jones · vi
48 · Trouble in Tinseltown · William Schoell · ss
62 · Interview: Bruce Boxleitner · Stanley Wiater · iv
70 · Last Time Out · Rolle R. Rand · ss
82 · A Spy Is Born · Gene KoKayKo · ss
88 · Black Light · Bill Knox · ss
108 · Puff the Magic Dragon · Michael W. Masters · nv
130 · Hello Again · David P. Grady · ss
136 · Holy War · Frank Laffitte · ss
143 · Who Dares Tell the President? · Charles Naccarato · ss
155 · On File…: Luckless Lydia · Richard Walton · cl
159 · Game Pages · Anon. · pz

REVIEWED BY MIKE TOONEY:

(Give Me That) OLD-TIME DETECTION. Autumn 2019/Winter 2020. Issue #52. Editor: Arthur Vidro. Old-Time Detection Special Interest Group of American Mensa, Ltd. 36 pages (including covers). Cover image: The 12.30 from Croydon.

   With many Golden Age (GAD) writers nowadays seeing reprints for the first time after years of neglect, Arthur Vidro’s Old-Time Detection (OTD) is more timely than ever, an invaluable resource for neophyte and experienced readers alike. The insights and information contained in any given issue of OTD make it a worthwhile reservoir from which Golden Age enthusiasts may drink with pleasure.

         

~ “From the Editor” by Arthur Vidro:

   Vidro echoes the sentiments of many devotees of classic detective fiction: “. . . every time a publisher [such as Penzler Publishers] reprints a novel of an old-time author, or (as Crippen & Landru does) collects into a book for the first time the short stories of an old-time author, it is cause to rejoice.”

~ “Looking Backward” by Charles Shibuk and “A Sidebar by Arthur Vidro” (2 pages):

   Shibuk discusses the comments supplied by Jacques Barzun and Wendell Hertig Taylor for A Book of Prefaces to Fifty Classics of Crime Fiction, 1900-1950: “The collaborators have endowed these highly literate prefaces with all the wisdom of their many years of reading experience. Their pithy remarks are always interesting, enlightening, and a good example of their critical expertise and mandarin tastes.” Arthur Vidro helpfully appends a complete list of those “Fifty Classics.”

~ “Christie Corner” by Dr. John Curran (2 pages):

   The world’s foremost expert on Dame Agatha summarizes recent developments in Old Blighty, with comments of the newest collection of Christie stories, The Last Séance: Tales of the Supernatural, many of them coming from The Hound of Death (1933); TV adaptations of Christie’s works, some more successful (i.e., being true to the originals) than others; and two festivals honoring She Who Had a Talent to Deceive.

~ “Give Me That Old-Time Detection Film Music” by Marvin Lachman (3 pages):

   Lachman highlights the musical scores of classic detective/mystery/crime movies from the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s, and a little beyond, many of which are very memorable, even haunting, such as the ones in The Letter and Double Indemnity (both by Max Steiner); Laura (David Raksin); The Big Sleep (Steiner again); Spellbound, The Naked City, and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (Miklos Rozsa in all three cases); Sunset Boulevard (Franz Waxman); and Murder on the Orient Express from 1974 (Richard Rodney Bennett).

~ Mega-Review: Mycroft and Sherlock (2018) by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & Anna Waterhouse; reviewed by Michael Dirda (2 pages):

   A former basketball superstar (with an acknowledged writing partner) has another go at modifying the Sherlockian mythos in this sequel to Mycroft Holmes (2015). The story introduces a character many readers may have heard of, an “intense young man” who is “arrogant, stubborn, argumentative, and almost bloodthirsty in his taste for newspaper accounts of the latest crimes and atrocities.” Dirda concedes that “it moves along briskly, and the reader’s interest never flags,” but it does have its flaws.

~ “Spotlight on Freeman Wills Crofts” by Charles Shibuk (4 pages):

   For mystery fans Crofts needs no introduction, being a pioneer of the police procedural subgenre starting with The Cask (1920, published the same year as Agatha Christie’s first book), a novel which received high praise from Anthony Boucher: “Possibly the most completely competent first novel in the history of crime, it is the definitive novel of alibis, timetables — and all the absorbing hairsplitting of detection . . .” With some exceptions, Crofts’s later works adhered pretty much to the same pattern, especially after he introduced his most famous detective, Inspector French.

~ “35 Years Ago: Mystery Reviews” by Jon L. Breen (3 pages):

Deadly Reunion (1975; 1982 in the U.S.) by Jan Ekström:

   Unlike other Scandinavian writers who have achieved fame in the Anglophonic world, Ekström takes a less common approach to crime fiction, being “solidly in the tradition of the Golden Age of the 1920s and 1930s, with an enthusiasm for locked room and impossible crime situations that has marked him as the Swedish John Dickson Carr”—high praise indeed.

Ice by Ed McBain:

   Starting in the mid-fifties, Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novels chronicled the ups and downs of a “family” of police officers, focusing on the group’s various adventures and misadventures in crime solving, and Ice is no different: “Police procedurals come in two types: the single-case type and the modular type. In the latter, truer to life but harder for a writer to bring off successfully, several unconnected cases are involved. McBain has experimented with both types but usually concentrates on one investigation, as he does in Ice.”

~ Fiction: “Murder in the Hills” by T. S. Stribling (The Saint Detective Magazine, February 1956), a Henry Poggioli short story (12 pages):

   Poggioli and his “Watson” walk straight into an old-fashioned Southern feud when they’re persuaded to investigate a possible murder; mercurial Mercutio could bitterly wish Romeo “A plague a’ both your houses,” but Poggioli takes a different approach.

~ Book Reviews:

That Day the Rabbi Left Town (1996) by Harry Kemelman; reviewed by Ruth Ordivar:

   Kemelman’s last book about Rabbi Small seems more noteworthy for its depiction of the inner world of education than its central mystery.

Murder Fantastical (1967) by Patricia Moyes; reviewed by Kathleen Riley:

   It’s hard to go wrong with a writer who “gives you warm and fuzzy British in a skillfully written package — and an engaging series character to boot,” namely Chief Inspector Henry Tibbett.

Mr. Parker Pyne, Detective (1934) by Agatha Christie; reviewed by Rita Hurvord:

   Unlike Christie’s better-known professional heavesdropper Hercule Poirot, Parker Pyne, whose specialty is being a professional helper-outer, “does not proclaim himself a sleuth, because he isn’t one. But he does some sleuthing nonetheless.”

~ The Non-Fiction World of Ed Hoch — Biography: John D. MacDonald by Edward D. Hoch:

   Hoch didn’t just write detective fiction, he wrote about it and the authors who produce it, in this case John D. MacDonald, most remembered for his Travis McGee series.

~ Royal Archives: “Dannay-Stribling, Part Five” by Arthur Vidro:

   Examining the correspondence between Fred Dannay, editor of EQMM, and other authors, in this case, T. S. Stribling, best known as the creator of the Poggioli series.

~ “Random Thoughts on Writing the Paperback Revolution” by Charles Shibuk:

   “In conclusion I think that about one-fourth of the review copies I receive are absolute junk, half of them are—shall we say—uninteresting, and the remainder are of some interest even if they don’t qualify for review.”

~ The Readers Write:

   “Issue #51 was top-notch, with illuminating contributions by the veteran mavens of detective literature . . .”

~ Puzzle Page:

   If you know your Poirot backwards and forwards, then this issue’s puzzle will be a snap.

       Subscription information:

– Published three times a year: spring, summer, and autumn.

– Sample copy: $6.00 in U.S.; $10.00 anywhere else.

– One-year U.S.: $18.00 ($15.00 for Mensans).

– One-year overseas: $40.00 (or 25 pounds sterling or 30 euros).

– Payment: Checks payable to Arthur Vidro, or cash from any nation, or U.S. postage stamps or PayPal.

       Mailing address:

Arthur Vidro, editor
Old-Time Detection
2 Ellery Street
Claremont, New Hampshire 03743

       Web address:

vidro@myfairpoint.net.

REVIEWED BY MIKE TOONEY:

(Give Me That) OLD-TIME DETECTION. Summer 2019. Issue #51. Editor: Arthur Vidro. Old-Time Detection Special Interest Group of American Mensa, Ltd. 36 pages (including covers). Cover image: Whodunit? Houdini?

   ONCE AGAIN Arthur Vidro has brought forth a publication worth your attention, with a satisfying variety of articles about Golden Age of Detection (GAD) authors and their works, some from yesteryear and some contemporary. In case you haven’t noticed it, the GAD “renaissance” continues apace, and every issue of Old-Time Detection (OTD) serves as a fine compendium of information for both the experienced GADer (yes, it’s now a word) and the newcomer to this era of the “mystery” genre.

   If you’re a Edward D. Hoch fan like us, you’ll appreciate a new series in OTD, “The Non-Fiction World of Ed Hoch,” featuring “a run of reprint pieces penned by” the latter-day master of the impossible crime short story, compiled by Dan Magnuson, Charles Shibuk, and Marvin Lachman. Hoch’s knowledge of the “mystery” field was practically unbounded, and what he had to say about it is always worth your notice.

   Between the two World Wars the “mystery” story underwent a sea change from genteel drawing room bafflers to the hardboiled outlook, signaling the “death” of the formal whodunit as it was then known—or so people have been told. Jon L. Breen begs to differ; in “Whodunit? We’ll Never Tell but the Mystery Novel Is Alive and Well” he gives us just the facts, ma’am.

   J. Randolph Cox focuses the Author Spotlight on Craig Rice (Georgiana Ann Randolph), known to most readers for her wild and woolly mysteries featuring lawyer John J. Malone, saloon owner Jake Justus, and Justus’s wealthy and beautiful wife Helene. Rice took the relatively understated screwball social dynamics of Hammett’s The Thin Man and pushed them to the limit: “In a genre in which death can be a game of men walking down mean streets unafraid to meet their doom,” writes Cox, “she wrote of men whose fearlessness came from a bottle—from several bottles, in fact—and made it seem comical.” However, “The drinking which she made amusing in print was not amusing in her own life.”

   Thanks to a veritable explosion of paperback reprints of classic detective and mystery stories in the 1960s and ’70s, as well as the works of newer authors, the world of GAD-style fiction was kept from total extinction in the face of the hardboiled onslaught, as Charles Shibuk told us in his Armchair Detective reviews of the period.

   Among the writers who enjoyed this attention from the publishers: Margery Allingham (“I’m convinced that Allingham’s best shorts are of greater value than her novels”), Eric Ambler (“The decline of this writer’s skills during the 1960s has been sad to contemplate . . .”), Nicholas Blake (“Here is another writer whose recent efforts are best left unmentioned, with one notable exception . . .”), John Dickson Carr (“This author’s best work was published between 1935 and 1938 . . .”), Agatha Christie (“If you have not read it, do not on any account miss Cards on the Table“), S. H. Courtier (“. . . obviously the logical successor to the late Arthur W. Upfield”), Amanda Cross (“. . . has only produced three novels in seven years . . .”), Andrew Garve (“. . . prolific and usually reliable . . .”), Frank Gruber, Ngaio Marsh (“Like fine wine, this author improves with age”), Stuart Palmer (“. . . his work was highly competent and always entertaining”), Ellery Queen (“. . . The Spanish Cape Mystery, which represents the last chapter in Queen’s first and best period”), Julian Symons (“Recent work has shown an attempt to return to form . . .”), Josephine Tey (“. . . I don’t think this is ultimately the stuff of which detective stories are really made”), and Raoul Whitfield (“. . . here is a rare opportunity to examine the work of an unjustly forgotten contemporary of Dashiell Hammett”).

   Next, Marvin Lachman offers an affectionate memento of Lianne Carlin who, as a fanzine editor-publisher, was one of the major forces responsible for nurturing mystery fandom and keeping interest in the genre alive and well.

   Dr. John Curran covers the world of Agatha Christie as no one else can: a seldom-seen and different play version of Towards Zero from 1945 (“The plot of both stage versions is, essentially, the same as the novel, as twisty a plot as any that Christie every devised”); Tony Medawar’s impending Murder She Said; The Agatha Christie Festival (“. . . in keeping with the last few years, is disappointing”); and Christie Mystery Day (“. . . no one knows what to expect until it begins”).

   In “Zero Nero . . . Well, Almost”, George H. Madison offers a good summary of the finer points of Rex Stout’s popular series (46 books!) but ruefully explains why “our Nero will not be revived on screen this generation.”

   As we mentioned earlier, a new feature of OTD reprises “feature articles and introductions written by Edward D. Hoch,” the first one being his preamble to the Index to Crime and Mystery Anthologies from 1990. “Here is a book,” says Hoch, “to make an addict out of any reader of short fiction.”

   Amnon Kabatchnik’s summary article about Maurice Leblanc’s Arsene Lupin promises to tell us about “Lupin on Stage, the Screen, and Television,” and delivers nicely. It’s ironic that Leblanc, however, fell into the same trap that the creator of Sherlock Holmes did: “After the unexpected blockbuster popularity of Lupin, he found, as Conan Doyle had before him, that the public wanted him to produce stories and novels only about his most famous character and nothing else.”

   The fiction offering in this issue is William Brittain’s “The Last Word” (EQMM, June 1968), with the author using the “James Knox” alias to signal that it won’t be one of his popular Mr. Strang adventures.

   One of the best anthologies from the ’70s is Whodunit? Houdini? Thirteen Tales of Magic, Murder, Mystery (1976), which, despite its title, is not a collection of fantasy stories but mystery and detective adventures by Clayton Rawson, Rudyard Kipling, John Collier, Carter Dickson, Manuel Peyrou, Frederick Irving Anderson, Rafael Sabatini, William Irish, Walter B. Gibson, Ben Hecht, Stanley Ellin, and Erle Stanley Gardner, seasoned authors who knew how to write engrossing fiction.

   Perceptive as always, in “Allure of Classic Whodunits” Michael Dirda tells us about the “distinct sense of well-being and contentment” he feels at what modern critics would regard as a defect, the artificiality that has become a “welcome attraction in many vintage who-and-howdunits,” stories which “deliberately leave out the messiness of real life, of real emotions, thus allowing the reader to mentally just amble along, mildly intrigued, feeling comfortable and even, yes, cozy,” putting the reader “a long way from deranged fantatics armed with semiautomatic weapons,” and, thus, engaging the mind rather the emotions, which is where the detective story had its beginnings (thanks, Edgar).

   To wrap up this issue there are letters to the editor and a puzzle page that isn’t as easy as some. If you don’t already have a subscription to Old-Time Detection, here’s how to get one: It’s published three times a year: spring, summer, and autumn. A sample copy is $6.00 in the U.S. and $10.00 anywhere else. A one-year subscription in the U.S. is $18.00 ($15.00 for Mensans) and overseas is $40.00 (or 25 pounds sterling or 30 euros). You can pay by check; make it payable to Arthur Vidro; or you can use cash from any nation, or U.S. postage stamps, or PayPal. The mailing address: Arthur Vidro, editor, Old-Time Detection, 2 Ellery Street, Claremont, New Hampshire 03743. Arthur’s Web address is vidro@myfairpoint.net.

Reviewed by MIKE TOONEY:


(Give Me That) OLD-TIME DETECTION. Spring 2019. Issue #50. Editor: Arthur Vidro. Old-Time Detection Special Interest Group of American Mensa, Ltd. 41 pages (including covers). Cover image: Christianna Brand.

THE LATEST ISSUE of Old-Time Detection focuses primarily on an icon of Golden Age detective fiction, Christianna Brand (1907-88), whose work, with its emphasis on plot, seems emblematic of the era. As many mystery fans know, Brand was responsible for one of the best mystery novels of all time, Green for Danger (1944), which was made into one of the most highly regarded detective movies; not many mystery fans know, however, the extent of her involvement in the film’s production, but they’ll find it in this edition of OTD. Fans will also find out more about the origin of Brand’s series character, Inspector Cockrill, and why he appeared in only a limited number of her mysteries.

   A bonus is the first publication of one of her short stories in its unabridged form, “Cyanide in the Sun” (1958), an ingenious whodunit solved by the most amateurish amateur detective we’ve yet encountered.

   Knowledgeable introductions to Christianna Brand by Francis M. Nevins and to her story by Tony Medawar are nicely supplemented by both the transcript of a 1978 taped interview she gave to Allen J. Hubin, and Arthur Vidro’s reproductions of letters Brand wrote to an American fan.

   Toss in Dr. John Curran’s “Christie Corner” (“I am not going to waste words discussing this abomination . . .”); Michael Dirda’s incisive review of Conan Doyle for the Defense; Charles Shibuk’s evaluation of Golden Age of Detection (GAD) paperback reprints; Trudi Harrov’s concise reviews of several GAD classics; and you’ve got another winner by our estimable publisher/editor Arthur Vidro.

    Subscription information:

– Published three times a year: spring, summer, and autumn.
– Sample copy: $6.00 in U.S.; $10.00 anywhere else.
– One-year U.S.: $18.00 ($15.00 for Mensans).
– One-year overseas: $40.00 (or 25 pounds sterling or 30 euros).
– Payment: Checks payable to Arthur Vidro, or cash from any nation, or U.S. postage stamps or PayPal.

    Mailing address:

Arthur Vidro, editor
Old-Time Detection
2 Ellery Street
Claremont, New Hampshire 03743

Web address: vidro@myfairpoint.net

THE TORTURED HISTORY OF MANHUNT
by Jeff Vorzimmer


   The first issue of Manhunt appeared on newsstands in late 1952 and within two years became the widely acknowledged successor to Black Mask, which had ceased publication the year before. The stories in Manhunt captured the noir of Cold War angst like no other fiction magazine of its time and paved the way for television anthology shows such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone.

   Manhunt can best be described as a joint venture between publisher Archer St. John and literary agent Scott Meredith, both based in New York. In 1952, St. John published comic books and had recently ventured into and, in fact, developed 3D comics and graphic novels. His company, St. John Publishing, produced what is considered the first graphic novel, It Rhymes with Lust, in 1950, which was part crime, part romance, and followed that up later the same year with The Case of the Winking Buddha. Neither book sold very well and the line, dubbed “Pictures Novels,” was discontinued after the second title.

   Archer St. John, always an admirer of Black Mask magazine, the premier pulp magazine from the 1920s through the 40s, felt that since that magazine’s demise there was a void in the world of crime-fiction magazines and an opportunity. Of course, comic book publishers don’t usually have big editorial staffs nor do they solicit manuscript submissions. For that, St. John approached Scott Meredith, a literary agent who was beginning to turn the publishing world on its ear with practices such as charging would-be writers reading fees and submitting manuscripts to publishers simultaneously, creating an auction system of competing bids.

   For Scott Meredith it was an opportunity to get his stable of writers in print and create another stream of income. St. John served as the front man to avoid any ethical questions or conflict of interest charges that Meredith might otherwise face. St. John would manage the production of the magazine from layout and illustration to the printing and distribution of the magazine while Meredith’s office would supply a steady supply of fiction and editing.

   Of course, it was not a very well-kept secret within the publishing business. Those in the business, with even a passing familiarity with the roster of the Scott Meredith Literary Agency, would notice a preponderance of his clients on the pages of Manhunt. In fact, all ten of the most prolific contributors to the magazine were Meredith authors who, between them, contributed over one-fifth of all stories that appeared in Manhunt over the course of its fourteen-year run.

   Manhunt has often been referred to, then and now, as a closed shop, only available to the Meredith stable of authors, but that’s not entirely true. As often as not, writers not represented by an agent would submit stories directly to Manhunt. These were forwarded to the Meredith office and occasionally published in the magazine, though the authors were not usually signed to a publishing contract on the strength of a single story.

   This would sometimes create awkward moments when a producer from a television studio such as Revue, producers of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and M Squad, would call up the agency looking to secure the rights to a story they read in Manhunt. The Meredith agent would stall the producer, scramble to locate and sign the author, then make the deal.

   Archer St. John originally wanted to call the magazine Mickey Spillane’s Mystery Magazine to compete with Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, albeit with grittier, more hard-boiled stories. Having Spillane’s name on the masthead would have been appealing to both St. John and Meredith in that, by 1952, Spillane’s first six books had combined sales of 20 million copies. His first book, I, The Jury had sold 3.5 million copies by 1953, when it was adapted for the screen.

   When Scott Meredith checked Spillane’s contract with his publisher, Dutton, he found a clause that gave the publisher total control of Mickey Spillane’s name in conjunction with any books or periodicals. If they were to use Spillane’s name on the magazine they had to get Dutton’s permission. However, Dutton balked at the idea.

   Dutton felt that short stories were a distraction for Spillane, and they wanted him to get back to the business of writing novels. At that point, it had been over a year since Spillane had delivered his last novel to them (and it would be ten years before he delivered his next one). The name of the magazine was changed to Manhunt, a named borrowed from a then-defunct crime comic book.

   St. John intended to kick off the magazine with a Mickey Spillane story. He had heard that Collier’s Magazine had turned down a novella Spillane had written, “Everybody’s Watching Me,” and offered to serialize the novella in the first four issues of the new magazine and pay Spillane $25,000 (equivalent to $237,000 today). If Spillane’s name could not be on the masthead, it would at least be on the cover of the first four issues.

   The print run of the first issue, dated January 1953, was 600,000 copies and sold out in five days. It was digest size (5½”x7½”), 144 pages and priced at 35¢ and $4 for a year’s subscription. In addition to the lead story by Spillane, the issue also included stories by Cornell Woolrich under the name of William Irish; Ross Macdonald, under his real name, Kenneth Millar; and Evan Hunter, later known by the pen name Ed McBain.

   It also included a story featuring Richard Prather’s detective Shell Scott, featured in six novels of his own over the previous three years, and, who rivaled Spillane’s Mike Hammer in popularity, and another featuring Frank Kane’s Johnny Liddell. Stories by Floyd Mahannah, Charles Beckman, Jr. and Sam Cobb (Stanley L. Colbert) rounded out the issue.

   St. John had his favorite artist, Matt Baker, a black man in the predominantly white world of comic book illustration, do the artwork for Manhunt. Baker was the artist who had done the panels for the first of the two graphic novels St. John had published, but brought an entirely new look to the Manhunt illustrations, heavy ink and each highlighted with a different spot color. Each story had one illustration on the first page in a style not unlike Manhunt.




Pages from the February 1953 issue of Manhunt with illustrations by Matt Baker


   Baker himself would do most of the illustrations for the first nine issues, thereby setting the style used for the entire 15-year run. Up-and-coming young artists such as Robert McGinnis, Walter Popp and Robert Maguire, as well as older, more established artists, such as Frank Uppwall and Willard Downes, painted the covers.

   The editorial note on the contents page of the second issue stated that the press run of the first issue probably should have been closer to a million copies. St. John apparently split the difference and ran 800,000 copies of the second issue. In addition to the second installment of “Everybody’s Watching Me,” the lead story was another by Kenneth Millar, a Lew Archer story titled “The Imaginary Blonde” under his new pseudonym John Ross Macdonald.

   There were also two more stories by Evan Hunter under the pseudonyms Richard Marsten and Hunt Collins, a Paul Pine story by John Evans, as well as stories by Jonathan Craig (Frank E. Smith), Fletcher Flora, Richard Deming, Eleazar Lipsky and Michael Fessier.

   In addition to the contributors of the first two issues, the third issue was notable in that it included stories by older, more established writers such as Leslie Charteris with a Saint story, Craig Rice (Georgiana Craig) with a John J. Malone story, as well as stories by William Lindsay Gresham and Bruno Fischer.

   The third issue also contained another two stories by Evan Hunter, one under the pseudonym Richard Marsten. In fact, Evan Hunter contributed 16 stories to the first 9 issues of Manhunt under his own name and various pseudonyms and 48 stories over the entire life of the magazine, making him the most prolific contributor by far. For a magazine that was supposed to be all about Mickey Spillane, it was turning out to be about Evan Hunter.

   By mid-1953, St. John, with Meredith’s help, started a campaign to lure big name authors to Manhunt. They approached James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, Rex Stout, Erle Stanley Gardner, Nelson Algren and Erskine Caldwell. They offered as much as $5,000 (about $47,000 today) for a 5,000-word story. This was the kind of money writers could expect from the slick magazines, but not from the pulps.

   Many writers like Erle Stanley Gardner initially balked at the idea of publishing in Manhunt, but eventually succumbed. Gardner’s first response to his agent was, “I hate to turn down an offer of $5000 for a story, but, confidentially, I don’t like this magazine concept with which Manhunt started out. I think it is a definite menace to legitimate mystery fiction.”

   By the end of the decade all the big-name writers, including Gardner, had agreed to publish stories in Manhunt, though many appeared only once, the last being the only appearance by Raymond Chandler. His story, “Wrong Pigeon,” previously published only in England, appeared in the February 1960 issue.

   The year 1953 would be the peak year for St. John Publications. Manhunt was turning out to be one of its biggest-selling titles, spawning spin-off titles Verdict and Menace, and its 3D comics were selling millions of copies. The company had 35 different comic book titles with several lines of romance comics, Mighty Mouse and Three Stooges comic book lines, for a total of 169 issues published that year.

   Another of Archer St. John’s projects was a man’s magazine that would include articles of interest to men, photos of women in various stages of undress and quality fiction. However, he was concerned about the post office not allowing the mailing of what they would certainly deem pornographic material to subscribers. After Playboy appeared in December 1953, he was emboldened to move ahead with the project.

   In 1954, Archer brought in his 24-year-old son Michael to help run the business, while he focused on the new men’s magazine, Nugget. Again, he turned to his favorite artist, Matt Baker, to do the illustrations in the magazine. Although that year would turn out to be another good year for St. John Publications, there was trouble on the horizon.

   In the spring of 1954, there was a backlash against violence in comic books that were clearly aimed at children. The crusade was led by New York psychiatrist Fredric Wertham who published the now-infamous Seduction of the Innocent, a book-length study of the adverse effects of violent comic books on young minds, and led to a Senate investigation, which issued its own Comic Books and Juvenile Delinquency Interim Report that included a list of comic book titles it deemed inappropriate for children. There were, of course, some St. John titles on the list.

   It was also apparent in early 1954 that 3D comics were just a passing fad. Sales of 3D comics plummeted to the point that, by March of 1954, 3D titles had all but disappeared. The sales of comic books in general were in a slump, brought on in large part by the scare created by politicians and PTA groups after the Wertham study.

   Other forces were coming to bear that would have a personal effect on Archer St. John and the fate of St. John Publications. In August of 1954, President Eisenhower signed The Communist Control Act, which outlawed the Communist Party in the United States. Anyone who had ever been a member of the Communist Party could face imprisonment or even the revocation of citizenship.

   Archer’s brother, the famous journalist Robert St. John, living a self-imposed exile in Switzerland and doing research for books on South Africa and Israel, was determined by the FBI to have been a member of the Communist Party. On September 24, 1954, Robert St. John was summoned to the American Consulate in Geneva and stripped of his passport. When Robert asked why his passport was being taken from him, the reply from the Consul-General was that it was because of his Communist Party activity.

   Robert turned to his brother Archer back in the States for help to get his passport reinstated and the necessary affidavits for the appeal. Over the following months Archer, who was very close to his brother Robert, became increasingly frustrated by the stonewalling he got from the U.S. government on his brother’s case.

   Adding to his personal turmoil was the fact Archer was separated from his wife and living at the New York Athletic Club. His employees at St. John Publications also suspected he was addicted to amphetamines in addition to being an alcoholic. By mid-1955 Robert’s case had still not been decided, though he had submitted numerous affidavits from noted citizens that affirmed that he was never a member of the Communist Party.

   In August, Archer told family members that he was being blackmailed, but didn’t give anyone any details. His son Michael told him not to give in to the blackmailers. Archer told his son that he was staying at the apartment of a friend but wouldn’t tell Michael where.

   On Friday night August 12, 1955, Robert St. John got a call in Switzerland from Archer in New York who told him, “Never in my life have I felt so frustrated. I feel like I’m banging my head against a stone wall. I see no possibility of my getting your passport back. I’ve done everything in my power to help you, but I’ve failed. I’m sick over this.” The next morning Robert got a call telling him that his brother had overdosed on sleeping pills, an apparent suicide. He was 54 years old.

   At times, Archer St. John’s life resembled a story from the pages of Manhunt — Al Capone’s gang once kidnapped him when he was young newspaper publisher — and his death was no different. The apartment where Archer had been staying was a duplex penthouse owned by an attractive, redheaded former model and divorcee named Frances Stratford. She had been sleeping in an upstairs bedroom and had found Archer downstairs lying next to the couch, unresponsive, at 11:30 a.m. that Saturday morning.

   A couple had been seen leaving the apartment the night before, and the police were investigating. On Monday, the New York Daily News reported, “A couple of shadowy West Side characters, a man and a woman, suspected of feeding dope pills to magazine publisher Archer St. John, were being hunted … by detectives investigating St. John’s mysterious death in the penthouse apartment of a former Powers model.”

   After St. John’s death, his wife, Gertrude-Faye, known as “G-F” or “Geff,” showed up at the offices of St. John Publications and promptly fired the entire staff, including Matt Baker. Apparently, she hadn’t wanted anyone around who knew about her husband’s affairs. The irony was that none of the staff knew anything about St. John’s private love life, not even Baker who was probably as close to him as anybody.

   Despite the failure of the previous Manhunt clones, Verdict, which lasted only four issues in late 1953 and Menace, which lasted two issues, the following year, Michael St. John decided to expand his own editorial staff and to introduce yet two more titles, Mantrap and Murder! in 1956. Unfortunately, the new titles suffered from the same lackluster sales of the first two spin-off titles and were discontinued just as quickly.

   Undaunted by the failure of four new titles in as many years, Michael kept searching for a formula that would repeat the success of Manhunt. What Michael and his business manager, Richard Decker, came up with was an opposite, more genteel, direction. They approached Alfred Hitchcock with an offer to license his name and image for a mystery digest.

   Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine was an immediate success and, in fact, sales would steadily increase throughout the rest of the decade while those of Manhunt were in steady decline, down to 169,000 by 1957. Its digest size, with two-column layout and heavily inked spot color illustrations, were identical to Manhunt’s.

   In an effort to boost sales of both Manhunt and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, St. John and Decker decided to increase the size of both magazines from their current digest size to regular magazine size to get, what they hoped would be, more attention on newsstands. What it got Manhunt was the unwanted attention of the Federal District Attorney.

   After only the second issue at the bigger magazine size, Michael St. John, Richard E. Decker, Charles W. Adams (the Art Director) and Flying Eagle Publications (a subsidiary of St. John’s Publications and holding company of Manhunt) were indicted on March 14, 1957, for “mailing or delivery copies of the April, 1957, issue of a publication entitled Manhunt containing obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy or indecent matter” in violation of United States Penal Code 18 U.S.C. §1461.

   In District Court in Concord, New Hampshire, St. John’s lawyers moved to have the charges dismissed on the grounds that the complaint didn’t identify what article was specifically being charged in the issue as “obscene, lewd, filthy or indecent.” They argued that “the indictment is so loosely drawn that it would not afford them protection from further prosecution.” District Court Judge Aloysius J. Connor agreed and threw out the indictments on August 7, 1957.

   Federal prosecutors promptly refiled charges with specific complaints: “All six of the stories have definitely weird overtones and can certainly be characterized as crude, course, vulgar, and on the whole disgusting. But tested by the reaction of the community as a whole — the average member of society — it seems to us that only the feature novelette, ‘Body on a White Carpet,’ and the illustration appearing on page 25 accompanying the story entitled ‘Object of Desire,’ could be found to fall within the ban of the statute as limited in its application by the important public interest in a free press protected in the First Amendment.” The defendants faced a fine of $5,000 ($43,000 in today’s dollars) and up to five years in prison.



The offending illustration by Jack Coughlin accompanying the story
“Object of Desire” on page 25 of the April 1957 issue.


   On December 1, 1958, the final verdict of the District Court jury was that Flying Eagle Publications and Michael St. John were guilty and fined $3,000 ($26,000 today). Judge Connor gave St. John a separate fine of $1000, a suspended sentence of six months in jail and two-year probation. Richard E. Decker and Charles W. Adams were acquitted. Michael St. John immediately appealed the verdict and the case went to Federal Appeals Court.

   On January 21, 1960, the Federal Appeals Court in Boston set aside the verdict of the District Court and ordered a new trial. Chief Judge Peter Woodbury found that the prosecutors had erred in their instructions to the jury by telling them that two defendants, Decker and Adams, originally listed on the indictment had “been separated from this action” rather than that they were acquitted.

   A year later the Court of Appeals upheld the decision of the Circuit Court on January 10, 1961, and Judge Bailey Aldrich upheld the original fine of $5,000. After three years and nine months of litigation, St. John Publishing was financially drained. The circulation of Manhunt had dropped to 100,000, and Richard Decker had split with St. John in the summer of 1960, taking Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine with him to Palm Beach, Florida.

   Scott Meredith had always been annoyed with what seemed to be chronic cash-flow problems at St. John, and it only got worse. The magazine limped along for the next six years, and fewer of Meredith’s writers appeared in the magazine. Only 33 stories by the top ten Meredith contributors appeared in the 1960s.

   Only three Evan Hunter stories appeared in Manhunt in the 60s, the last story, fittingly, in the last issue of April/May 1967. By then the circulation had dropped to a little over 74,000 copies. Michael St. John decided to get out of the publishing business entirely and sold off all the assets of St John Publishing, including Nugget.

— From the forthcoming book The Best of Manhunt, Stark House Press, July 2019

      Sources:

Aldrich, Baily, Circuit Judge, United States Court of Appeals, Flying Eagle Publications v. United States, 285 F.2d 307, January 10, 1961

Ashley, Michael, author, Kemp, Earl and Ortiz, Luiz editors, Cult Magazines A-Z: A Curious Compendium of Culturally Obsessive & Curiously Expressive Publications, 2009, Nonstop Press

Benson, John, Confessions, Romances, Secrets, and Temptations: Archer St. John and the St. John Romance Comics, 2007, Fantagraphics Books

Benson, John, Romance Without Tears, 2003, Fantagraphics Books

Fugate, Francis L. and Roberta B., Secrets of the World’s Best-Selling Writer, 1980, William Morrow and Company, Inc.

Carlson, Michael, “Interview with Mickey Spillane,” Crime Time website, June 29, 2002

Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, July 8, 1925, pg. 16

Collins, Max Allan and Traylor, James L, Spillane (to be published in 2020)

Cook, Michael L., Monthly Murders: A Checklist and Chronological Listing of Fiction in the Digest-Size Mystery Magazines in the United States and England, 1982

Horowitz, Terry Fred, Merchant of Words: The Life of Robert St. John, 2014, Rowman & Littlefield

Meredith, Scott and Meredith, Sidney, The Best From Manhunt, 1958, Perma-Books

Morgan, Hal and Symmes, Dan, Amazing 3-D, 1982, Little, Brown and Company

Morrison, Henry, Literary Agent and former Scott Meredith Literary Agency employee (1957-1964), Interview, January 29, 2019

Nashua Telegraph, Nashua, NH, January 22, 1960, pg. 2

Nashua Telegraph, Nashua, NH, January 11, 1961, pg. 2

New York Daily News, New York, NY, August 15, 1955, pg. C5

N. W. Ayers & Sons Directory of Newspapers and Periodicals, 1954-1967

The Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa, Canada, March 2, 1957, pg. 2

The Portsmouth Herald, Portsmouth, NH, March 15, 1957, pg. 7

The Portsmouth Herald, Portsmouth, NH, December 2, 1958, pg. 8

Quattro, Ken, Archer St. John & The Little Company That Could, 2006, www.comicartville.com

Waller, Drake, It Rhymes with Lust, 1950, 2007, Dark Horse Books

Woodbury, Peter, Chief Judge, United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit, Flying Eagle Publications v. United States, 273 F.2d 799, January 21, 1960

Reviewed by MIKE TOONEY:


(Give Me That) OLD-TIME DETECTION. Issue #49. Autumn 2018. Editor: Arthur Vidro. 36 pages. On the cover: Jack Ritchie.

   As always, the latest edition of OLD-TIME DETECTION brings to mind fond memories of works of mystery and detection of yesteryear, stories and authors that don’t deserve to be forgotten. Case in point: the few hardboiled private eye novels by Howard Browne that have just seen republication in an omnibus after seventy years, HALO FOR HIRE: THE COMPLETE PAUL PINE MYSTERIES. In his review, Michael Dirda applauds Browne’s style, “quite consciously written in the wise-cracking, tough-guy mode of Chandler’s fiction and 1940s Humphrey Bogart films. Yet even with their faint tongue-in-cheek air (and an astonishing amount of cigarette smoking), they make for heavenly reading.”

   When it comes to obscure detective fiction, Charles Shibuk has turned up titles that you’ve probably never encountered: H. C. Branson’s LAST YEAR’S BLOOD, Moray Dalton’s THE LONGBRIDGE MURDERS, and J. F. Hutton’s TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, books published more or less at the same time as Howard Browne’s.

   Francis M. Nevins biobibliographically spotlights Jack Ritchie, creator of the unforgettable Detective Sergeant Henry Turnbuckle; Ritchie, says Nevins, “figured out how to have endless fun tweaking the noses of the hoary old whodunit cliches while staying squarely within the great tradition’s confines.” For that reason, Arthur Vidro nominates Ritchie as one of his all-time favorites.

   Then Edgar Wallace gets spotlighted by J. Randolph Cox, as he chronicles in detail the ups and downs in the British author’s life and literary career. “He was not a great writer,” writes Cox, “for all of his flashes of genius and inspiration. He never claimed to be, and he did not need to be.”

   The fiction piece in this issue is Charles Shibuk’s teleplay version of Cornell Woolrich’s 1941 short story, “The Fingernail.” Memorable line: “Robert, are you sure that was all rabbit?”

   Nevins returns with notes on three motion pictures derived from Woolrich’s stories: DEADLINE AT DAWN (1946), which wasn’t received with any great enthusiasm at the time; BLACK ANGEL (1946), which, even though “every frame of this magnificent film noir is permeated with the Woolrich spirit,” the author himself regarded as “a disaster”; and THE CHASE (1946), which, writes Nevins, “is the one most likely to provoke an argument among noir aficionados” of Cornell Woolrich’s movies.

   Dr. John Curran, foremost expert on all things Christie, reports on the good and bad things that have been going on in Christiedom, particularly stage, film, and TV plays as well as upcoming books. Regarding the recent John Malkovich-BBC production of THE A.B.C. MURDERS, he writes, “Once again, I fear, the signs are not good.”

   Then we have in-depth reviews of three books: Jack Ritchie’s collection, THE ADVENTURES OF HENRY TURNBUCKLE, about which Arthur Vidro says, “If you want to laugh aloud while enjoying true detection, read this book”; Ellery Queen, Jr.’s THE BROWN FOX MYSTERY, “far,” writes Trudi Harrov, “from his best entry”; and S. John Preskett’s satirical MURDERS AT TURBOT TOWERS, which, says Amnon Kabatchnik, “pokes outrageous fun at the holy cows of our beloved genre.”

   In “My First Great Detectives,” Jon L. Breen waxes nostalgic about his initial encounters with the world of mystery, crime, and detective fiction; the characters whose exploits he followed from an early age were, not surprisingly, on the radio, but it wasn’t long before he delved into the written word, including Paul French’s Lucky Starr science fiction mysteries. (A trip to Patagonia if you can supply the real name of “Paul French” without looking it up. Of course, you pay for the ticket.)

   Charles Shibuk’s 1970 list of crime and mystery authors whose classic books were enjoying paperback reprintings at the time reads like a WHO’s WHO of detective fiction: Marjorie Allingham, John Dickson Carr, Agatha Christie, Michael Collins, Dick Francis, Andrew Garve, Adam Hall, Ross Macdonald, Ngaio Marsh, Judson Philips (Hugh Pentecost), Maurice Procter, Ellery Queen, Joel Townsley Rogers, C. P. Snow, Rex Stout, Robert van Gulik, and Cornell Woolrich.

   Finally, in addition to a puzzle are the comments from the readers, one of which deals with a much-discussed topic: “What’s wrong with modern mysteries? How about the obvious fact that they contain every aberration known to man . . . and some of the writing is by devout enemies of the English language?”


*** OLD-TIME DETECTION is published three times a year: Spring, Summer, and Autumn. Sample copy: $6.00 in the U.S.; $10.00 anywhere else. For a subscription to Old-Time Detection, contact the editor at: Arthur Vidro, Old-Time Detection, 2 Ellery Street, Claremont, New Hampshire 03743 or oldtimedetection@netzero.net.

Reviewed by MIKE TOONEY:


(Give Me That) OLD-TIME DETECTION. Issue #48. Summer 2018. Editor: Arthur Vidro. 36 pages. Published three times a year: Spring, Summer, and Autumn. Sample copy: $6.00 in the U.S.; $10.00 anywhere else.

   The first item in this issue of OLD-TIME DETECTION is J. Randolph Cox’s thorough account of the life and literary times of Arthur B. Reeve, the creator of a sleuth whose renown easily rivaled that of Sherlock Holmes. “The twenty-six books about scientific detective Craig Kennedy,” Cox tells us, “were once among the most popular detective stories by an American writer, with sales of two million copies in the United States alone.” Unlike the Sage of Baker Street, however, Kennedy’s fame proved ephemeral: “The very reason for Reeve’s popularity in the years before World War I, his topicality, dates the stories and makes him a largely forgotten author.”

   When Michael Dirda, in “Going Rogue,” waxes nostalgic about master-thief John Robie, the cat burglar in Hitchcock’s movie TO CATCH A THIEF, it leads him into a discussion of those other successful gentleman thieves who could be regarded as Robie’s “ancestors”: Grant Allen’s Colonel Clay (named Clay “because he appears to possess an india-rubber face, and he can mould it like clay in the hands of the potter”), Guy Boothby’s Simon Carne (whom “no one ever suspects”), E. W. Hornung’s A. J. Raffles (“less a social leveler than a disappointingly unimaginative opportunist”), and Maurice Leblanc’s Arsene Lupin (executor of “carefully planned capers”). In Dirda’s view, these rogues represent “a better time when great criminals could be rapscallions rather than mass murderers.”

   Charles Shibuk’s 1970 piece lauds “the continuing and meritorious situation of paperback reprinting of material that is worthy of your attention” (remember, this was long before the Internet appeared) and narrows in on such major and minor masterpieces as TRENT’S LAST CASE (“an epochal novel”), THE RASP (“a good example of [Philip] MacDonald’s variable talent”), THE GREEK COFFIN MYSTERY (“I’ve always thought that 1932 was a momentous year”), A TASTE FOR HONEY (“completely off-trail and unpredictable”), LAURA (“a dazzling masterpiece”), A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED (“one of her [Miss Jane Marple’s] better investigations”), DEATH AND THE JOYFUL WOMAN (“a completely individual piece of work”), DEAD WATER (“a splendid example of [Ngaio] Marsh’s skills in writing”), NERVE (“up to his [Dick Francis’s] usual rigorous standard”), and finally NERO WOLFE OF WEST THIRTY-FIFTH STREET (“a real treat for Nero Wolfe—Archie Goodwin fans”).

   This issue’s fiction selection should be practically unknown to most readers, “The Faulty Stroke” (1953) by Freeman Wills Crofts, a short short story first published in a newspaper and recently “unearthed by Tony Medawar.”

   Following that is an article version of a speech by that selfsame Tony Medawar, “The ABC of A.B.C.,” a scholarly (but not boring) treatment of the careers of not only Anthony Berkeley but also Berkeley’s series sleuth Roger Sheringham (“there is much of Philip Trent about him”), as well as his later “psychological detective stories” published under the “Francis Iles” byline. Medawar’s reading of Berkeley shows how he was determined to “challenge some of the generally accepted tropes of the detective story”: “While other luminaries wrought their magic consistently — Agatha Christie in making the most likely suspect the least likely suspect, and John Dickson Carr in making the impossible possible — Tony Cox delighted in finding different ways to structure the crime story.”

   Jon L. Breen’s farewell “Murder in Print” review column from 1983 is reproduced, emphasizing how much the mystery scene had (and had not) changed over the past decade (“The classical school, allegedly on its last legs for years, has weathered the storm and continues to be strong”).

   In the “Christie Corner,” the world’s foremost living expert on Agatha Christie’s works, Dr. John Curran, reacts to a recent BBC-TV “adaptation” of ORDEAL BY INNOCENCE, blowing it out of the water (“This appalling and illogical travesty would not have been found in Agatha Christie’s wastepaper basket”); the threat of yet another version of THE ABC MURDERS (“already the signs are ominous”); a stage version of THE MIRROR CRACK’D FROM SIDE TO SIDE (more “ominous talk of ‘Miss Marple for a new generation'”); the recent resurfacing of one of Agatha’s earliest stories, “The Wife of Kenite” (“the closing scene will stay with you for a long time”); and Christie Mystery Day, organized by Dr. Curran to make up for the abbreviated Agatha Christie birthday festivities.

   Finally, the Mini-Reviews section includes overviews of Woolrich’s FRIGHT by Trudi Harrov, Hoch’s ALL BUT IMPOSSIBLE by Arthur Vidro, Stern’s BEHIND A MASK—THE UNKNOWN THRILLERS OF LOUISA MAY ALCOTT by Amnon Kabatchnik, Kemelman’s ONE FINE DAY THE RABBI BOUGHT A CROSS by Arthur Vidro, and Boucher’s THE CASE OF THE SOLID KEY by Ruth Ordivar.

   Toss in Charles Shibuk’s “101 of the Best Mystery Novels of All Time: A Preliminary List” and the readers’ perceptive comments and you have another fine issue of OLD-TIME DETECTION.

   *** For a subscription to OLD-TIME DETECTION, contact the editor at: Arthur Vidro, Old-Time Detection, 2 Ellery Street, Claremont, New Hampshire 03743 or vidro@myfairpoint.net.

Reviewed by MIKE TOONEY:


(Give Me That) OLD-TIME DETECTION. Issue #46. Autumn 2017. Editor: Arthur Vidro. 36 pages. Published three times a year: Spring, Summer, and Autumn. Sample copy: $6.00 in the U.S.; $10.00 anywhere else.

   The latest issue of Old-Time Detection is here, and it’s definitely worth a look, as it’s full to the brim with information and insights about detective fiction’s Golden Age (and beyond).

   J. Randolph Cox has a biographical sketch of A.E.W. Mason, remembered today more for his general fiction than his mysteries (“[In the character of Hanaud] Mason seems to have wanted to create a professional detective who was unlike Sherlock Holmes, a man who was genial and friendly and willing to trust his intuition. Hanaud is all of these but is never described explicity. He is revealed by his actions, as an actor in a play is revealed”).

   Dr. John Curran keeps us up to date with the latest doings in the ever-expanding Agatha Christie universe (“This year’s [Agatha Christie] Festival was, sadly, a disappointment”).

   Jon L. Breen offers expert opinions about authors who were hot in the early ’80s (“This is a worthy sequel because of its freshly-minted bamboozlement”).

   Francis M. Nevins gives us a fine overview of the life and times of uber-reviewer Anthony Boucher, a genius in any field he chose to explore (“At two the next morning she [Lee Wright] woke up her husband with the excited cry that she had just found the first unsolicited manuscript she ever wanted to publish”).

   Michael Dirda has recommendations for those chilly evenings when TV isn’t spooky enough (“Even if you’re snowed in for the holidays — or all of January, for that matter — these collections will keep you cozy”).

   Charles Shibuk reveals the pleasures to be found in paperback reprints (“… the best reprint period I have seen in many years”), but notes the sad decline of a detective fiction legend (“Gone is the mastery of plot and puzzle, the spinning of deceptive clues, the sharp and incisive descriptions and dialogue”).

   Dennis Drabelle highlights the late P. D. James’s short mystery fiction, something she seldom produced (“The four tales in this slim volume, then, are old-fashioned, at least up to a point: no noir, yet plenty of shadows; no explicit sex, but ample erotic tension. And James spins them with the economy demanded by the short form”).

   … and, to top it all off, editor Arthur Vidro offers up a typically fine puzzler by William Brittain originally from EQMM (“The man in the comic strip. He walked right up the alley there just when the men came out of the bank, and touched them with his electric hands. And then he took them back down the alley”).

   You can subscribe to Old-Time Detection, by contacting the editor at: Arthur Vidro, Old-Time Detection, 2 Ellery Street, Claremont, New Hampshire 03743 or oldtimedetection@netzero.net.

Reviewed by MIKE TOONEY:


(Give Me That) OLD-TIME DETECTION. Issue #45. Summer 2017. Editor: Arthur Vidro. 34 pages. Published three times a year: Spring, Summer, and Autumn. Sample copy: $6.00 in the US; $10.00 anywhere else.

   We always look forward to the next issue of Old-Time Detection because not only is there always something about detective fiction in it that’s new to us, but also older items that allow us to indulge our weakness for nostalgia, and this issue is no exception.

   Between the covers of this most recent issue you can find: Michael Grost’s best picks of the forties and fifties; Dr. John Curran’s latest about what’s going on in the world of Agatha Christie, including a discussion of an execrable film adaptation (1928) of a Harley Quin story (“an unrecognizable hodgepodge of nonsense”); Martin Edwards’s take on his new book, The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books (“I’ve not confined myself simply to rounding up the usual suspects”).

   More: an Inspector Mallett short short short story by Cyril Hare that hasn’t seen publication for seventy-seven years, with Tony Medawar’s comments on same; Francis M. Nevins’s take on The Leopard Man (1943), a significantly altered filmed version of a Cornell Woolrich novel; J. Randolph Cox’s substantial article (roughly a third of this issue) about Robert Barnard (1936-2013), “a more sophisticated Agatha Christie.”

   And still more: Michael Dirda’s review of a book about Fergus Hume’s famous The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (1886), the one that, profit-wise, got away from him; Charles Shibuk’s list of classic mysteries that deserve reprinting; and thoughtful reviews and commentary from Shibuk, Jon L. Breen, Trudi Harrov, Amnon Kabatchnik, and Arthur Vidro.

   If you’re interested in subscribing to Old-Time Detection, you can contact the editor at Arthur Vidro, Old-Time Detection, 2 Ellery Street, Claremont, New Hampshire 03743 or oldtimedetection@netzero.net.

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