Bibliographies, Lists & Checklists

by Monte Herridge

        #17. OLD CALAMITY, by Joseph Fulling Fishman.

   Joseph Fulling Fishman created the prison series (ran 1928-1939) for Detective Fiction Weekly about the jailer Old Calamity, making use of his knowledge of crime and prisons. In fact, Fishman wrote more nonfiction articles on these subjects from 1925-1942 for Detective Fiction Weekly than stories in the fiction series.

   He also wrote articles for other magazines such as Reader’s Digest and The Saturday Evening Post, and books about crime and prisons. Fishman was a 1931 choice for a Guggenheim Fellowship. He was awarded a grant for being chosen. According to Wikipedia, the Fellowships “have been awarded annually since 1925 by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to those ‘who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.’ ”

   The name Old Calamity is what the three thousand inmates of the state prison at Cosmopolis call him. The guards and other personnel call him Ole Dep Fletch out of his hearing. His real name is Deputy Warden Fletcher, and even though there is a warden who is a political appointee, Fletcher is really the one running the prison.

   The wardens of the prison were all political appointees, but Fletcher was a professional jailer. The wardens were appointed by the state governor, but the governor on one occasion said: “You know, Fletcher. You’re really the one I should appoint warden, but of course there’s politics . . .” (Old Calamity’s Stick-up)

   “Thirty years of combating the plots and counterplots and the intrigues and chicanery of thousands of inmates of every degree of criminality and cunning and viciousness . . . had sharpened the perceptions of the Deputy Warden.” (Old Calamity Starts a Fight)

   This long experience gave Old Calamity an advantage when dealing with the many problems that he came across in his job. He knew just about every trick the convicts tried, and how to deal with them. He enjoys his work, and at one point turns down a job offer from a rich businessman with the comment “I’m afraid not, thank you,” Old Calamity replied. “I’m doing the kind of work I like and that’s worth more than money.” (Old Calamity Sniffs a Clue)


   He usually went to work in the prison at seven in the morning, and had a regular routine except when emergencies or problems interrupted. His usual morning routine was “supervising the count, reading his mail, making assignments of new prisoners, and so on, . . .” (By a Nose)

   He doesn’t let the routine of everyday work get himself in a rut where he overlooks things; he notices the smallest detail of what may turn out to be very important to him and the prison. Probably why he has lasted so long in his job.

   The stories are basically all about Old Calamity, with very few appearances by a regular cast of characters. One regular is Croaker Engle, the “brusque old prison doctor.” His appearances in the stories are usually very short. Before him, a Doctor Cosgrove made a single appearance in the story “Fine Feathers.”

   The prison warden is mentioned in the stories, but plays very little part in the stories. An exception to this are the stories “Old Calamity Starts a Fight,” and “Between the Lines,” where part of the story takes place around the warden. The warden of the prison is replaced at one point in the series. The warden and Old Calamity both have homes right next to the prison grounds.

   The stories usually involve murder in the prison by inmates murdering other inmates, for various motives. Prison breaks and conspiracies aimed at escaping prison are also elements in the stories. Fletcher has to break up the escapes, which sometimes are very cleverly planned.

   In the story “Old Calamity Scores Twice,” he not only has to foil a planned escape, but solve a clever locked cell murder made to look like suicide. In “Between the Lines,” he literally has to read between the lines of a prisoner’s book reading material to discover a plot to escape using explosives.


   The earliest story in the series, “By a Nose,” involves uncovering a murder by bomb and finding the culprit. His investigations of various kinds involve him acting more as a detail-oriented detective than as a deputy warden.

   Another concern of prison authorities is the use of illegal drugs by the inmates. The story “Fine Feathers” relates the attempt of Old Calamity to stop the flow of drugs into the prison, and in a later story, “Old Calamity Starts a Fight,” the problem of drug usage is also the main theme. This is certainly based on situations in real prisons at the time. Morphine is the drug mentioned in these stories.

   “Fine Feathers” relates some of the problems that drug usage by inmates causes – aggressiveness and fighting by prisoners, and other irrational behavior. One prisoner high on drugs even set his cell on fire.

   One story showed Old Calamity on vacation, enjoying relaxing fishing. However, the local law enforcement find out he is there and enlist his aid in solving a series of inexplicable burglaries. (Old Calamity Sniffs a Clue)

   This use of Old Calamity’s talents outside his own prison was not the only time this occurred. It appears that he was available for aid at other prisons having problems. In the story “The Suicides in Cell 32,” he travels to Milford State Prison to help investigate a series of murders made to look like suicides.


   Warden Olmstead of the prison knew of his reputation and had requested his help. In less than twelve hours Old Calamity has solved the mystery and was on his way back to his own prison. He noted: “I guess that some of the birds up at my place will be sorry it didn’t take me several weeks. I’m afraid they won’t be any too glad to see me back in the morning.”

   In “Old Calamity Lays the Ghost,” he travels to another prison in Springdale in response to another request for help. Warden Armitage of the prison has a mystery for him to solve: twice men in their cells have been stabbed and nearly killed. In both instances knives were found in the cells, but no evidence was found as to how the men could have been stabbed inside of locked cells.

   Old Calamity finds an ingenious method has been employed in the stabbings. It took him a few days to resolve this one, but he had developed the patience to wait for the right time. “He had often waited weeks and sometimes months for the development of a prison plot. He knew it was something that could not be hurried, . . .”

   The series is very good in its story telling and relation of the various mysteries Old Calamity is involved in. Altogether, Fishman’s descriptions of prison life and the psychological aspects of the stories seem to be very convincing, and made the stories more than mere sensationalistic prison stories such as other pulp writers wrote.

       The “Old Calamity” series by Joseph Fulling Fishman:

By a Nose October 27, 1928
Fine Feathers February 2, 1929
The Yawn March 2, 1929
Old Calamity Stages an Act April 6, 1929
Old Calamity Lays the Ghost April 9, 1932
Old Calamity Holds the Wire July 23, 1932
Old Calamity Starts a Fight September 17, 1932
Old Calamity Scores Twice February 11, 1933
The Suicides in Cell Thirty-Two June 17, 1933
Between the Lines September 9, 1933
Old Calamity Sniffs a Clue April 7, 1934
Old Calamity Cleans Up May 19, 1934
Old Calamity’s Stick-up June 23, 1934
Old Calamity Stops a Leak June 5, 1937
Honor of Thieves March 18, 1939

    Previously in this series:

1. SHAMUS MAGUIRE, by Stanley Day.
2. HAPPY McGONIGLE, by Paul Allenby.
3. ARTY BEELE, by Ruth & Alexander Wilson.
4. COLIN HAIG, by H. Bedford-Jones.
6. BATTLE McKIM, by Edward Parrish Ware.
7. TUG NORTON by Edward Parrish Ware.
8. CANDID JONES by Richard Sale.
9. THE PATENT LEATHER KID, by Erle Stanley Gardner.
11. INSPECTOR FRAYNE, by Harold de Polo.
12. INDIAN JOHN SEATTLE, by Charles Alexander.
13. HUGO OAKES, LAWYER-DETECTIVE, by J. Lane Linklater.
14. HANIGAN & IRVING, by Roger Torrey.
15. SENOR ARNAZ DE LOBO, by Erle Stanley Gardner.
16. DETECTIVE X. CROOK, by J. Jefferson Farjeon.

DAVID HILTBRAND – Killer Solo. Avon, paperback original. First printing, January 2004.


   I was going to start this review by stating that this is the best rock music detective novel I have ever read. It then occurred to me that this may be the only rock music detective novel I have ever read. I know there are others. Unless there are some that aren’t coming to mind right now, though, I just haven’t read them.

   Forgive me if you’re not a rock music fan. I’m going to quote the entire first page. You can skip this and go on the rest of review, if you want to. In fact, you can even go on to the next review, if you want to. I can’t stop you.

   The house lights dimmed and the crowd erupted, a scalding howl of bloodlust and anticipation. The PA system began pumping out strange Sufi snake-charming music that became more insistent and penetrating as it gradually grew louder and faster. The audience, already stoked, got swept up by this swirling, modal sound – hypnotic music that seemed to climb and coil around your brain stem.

   Roadies were leading band members out onto the dark stage, focusing hooded flashlights down at their feet. The people at the front of the arena were the first to notice the eerie processional and their cries of delight swept like a paper fire past where I stood behind the mixing board to the back of the floor and up into the tiers of balconies.

   All the time, the crowd and the music continued to feed off one another. At the precise moment that the tension inside the arena crested, flash bombs exploded, clusters of spotlights began raking the hall and the wild dervish music segued ingeniously into the thunderous opening chords of “Blood Money.” And Shirley Slaughterhouse was there. In fact, he was everywhere.

   Wow. David Hiltbrand nails it, as far as I’m concerned. And it’s no wonder. The brief bio on the inside back cover points out that among other things, he’s been a rock journalist for a number of well known magazines and newspapers. (He’s currently a consulting editor for TV Guide.)

   Working out of Winsted CT as an insurance investigator is Jim McNamara, á la old time radio’s Johnny Dollar, who in his many years on the air may have checked out a mysterious death on a rock band’s tour, but if he did, I haven’t listened to it yet.

   Dead is Shirley’s good buddy, Jake Karn, and one of the crew. He fell off a catwalk after a show late at night, and Jim is asked to see if foul play could have been involved.

   Back to Shirley, who is male, and who is described on page 7 as “the one who looks like Johnny Depp with dysentery.” It takes some time, but Jim, at one time also heavily involved in the world of rock music, eventually gets on his good side, following along with the tour from city to city, a brutally honest behind-the-scenes inside look. Quoting again, this time from page 136:

   … I marveled that Shirley could be miserable when most people under the age of thirty would give anything in the world to trade places with him. … If someone like Shirley can’t be happy, what chance do us sad-sack civilians have?

   Musicians, groupies, roadies, managers, PR people and more, they’re all represented, and they’re all among the suspects. Jim works alone, but since he needs someone to bounce ideas off, he has his AA sponsor to talk to by telephone, not to mention the girl friend he picks up along the way.

   So how’s the mystery, someone asks. More than tolerable, is my reply, with enough suspects and opportunity and motive to accommodate two books, and by the way, if there’s a second one coming in the series, it would be OK by me.

   The ending of this one is rather over the top, I hasten to caution you, including the killer (yes, it was murder) giving a long ten-page explanation of everything that went on prior to then, when the realistic course of action is to simply do away with one nosy insurance investigator.

   My first sentence still holds, though.

— April 2004

        The Jim McNamara series —

1. Killer Solo (2003)
2. Deader Than Disco (2005)
3. Dying to Be Famous (2006)


A Bibliographical Account
Presented by Victor A. Berch

   There seems to have been a few compilations of mystery stories under this title, but presented below is the earliest I could find. The stories appeared in the Sunday Constitution Magazine of the Atlanta Constitution and what makes them unusual is that they were condensations of the original tales by Arthur B(enjamin) Reeve of Craig Kennedy fame.

   Some of the readers of Mystery*File may have online access to the Atlanta Constitution, but for those who do not, your local library should be able to borrow the microfilms of the issues involved.

   The list is arranged by story number, story title and date of publication. So here goes:

1. The Murders in the Rue Morgue, by Edgar Allan Poe [not noted as a
Masterpiece of Mystery]-June 10, 1928
2. File No. One-Thirteen, by Emile Gaboriau [also not noted as a Masterpiece
of Mystery] June 17, 1928
3. The Sign of the Four, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. June 24, 1928
4. The Outcasts of Paris, by Eugene Francois Vidocq. July 1, 1928
5. Zadig, by Voltaire. July 8, 1928
6. The Adventure of the Hansom Cab, by Robert Louis Stevenson. July 15, 1928
7. Inspector Bucket, by Charles Dickens. July 22, 1928
8. Sergeant Cuff, by Wilkie Collins. July 29, 1928
9. The Story of the Three Burglars, by Frank R. Stockton. Aug. 5, 1928
10. The Horla, by Guy de Maupassant. Aug. 12, 1928
11. The Biter Bit, by Wilkie Collins. Aug. 19, 1928
12. The Doomdorf Mystery, by Melville Davison Post.. Aug. 26, 1928
13. A Scandal in Bohemia, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sep. 2, 1928
14. The Purloined Letter, by Edgar Allen Poe. Sep. 9, 1928
15. The Safety Match, by Anton Chekhov. Sep. 16, 1928
16. Some Scotland Yard Cases, by Sir Robert Anderson,. Sep. 23, 1928
17. Gentlemen and Players, by E. W. Horning. Sep. 30, 1928
18. The Riddle of the Rope of Fear, by Mary E. and Thomas W. Hanshew,
Oct. 7, 1928.
19. The Sign of the Shadow, by Maurice Le Blanc. Oct. 14, 1928
20. The Murder at the Jex Farm, by Oswald Crawford. Oct. 21, 1928
21. The Border, by Henry C. Rowland. Oct. 28, 1928
22. The Man Who Was Lost, by Jacques Futrelle. Nov. 4, 1928
23. The Mystery of the Steel Door, by Broughton Brandenberg. Nov. 11, 1928
24. The Mystery of the Seven Minutes, by Louis Joseph Vance. Nov. 18, 1928
25. The Lost Room, by Fitz-James O’Brien. Nov. 25,1928
26. The Woman in the Case, by Arthur Train. Dec. 2, 1928
27. The Yellow Cat, by Wilbur Daniel Steele. Dec. 9, 1928
28. The Oblong Box, by Edgar Allan Poe. Dec. 16, 1928
29. A Suspicious Character, by William Hamilton Osborne. Dec. 23, 1928
30 The Mystery of the Steel Room, by Thomas W. Hanshew. Dec. 30, 1928
31. The Great K & A Train Robbery, by Paul Leicester Ford. Jan. 6, 1929
32. The Mystery at 89—-St., New York, by George S. McWatters. Jan. 13, 1929
33. The Adventure of the Toadstools, by Sax Rohmer. Jan. 20, 1929
34. The Fenchurch Street Mystery, by Baroness Orczy. Jan. 27, 1929
35. The Case of Mrs. Magnus, by Burton. F. Stevenson. Feb. 3, 1929
36. Cowardice Court, by George B. McCutcheon. Feb. 10, 1929
37. Cheap, by Marjorie. L. C. Pickthall. Feb. 17, 1929
38. The Great Valdez Sapphire, by Anonymous. Feb. 24, 1929
39. The Episode of the Black Casquette, by Joseph Ernest. Mar. 3, 1929
40. The Listener, by Algernon Blackwood. Mar. 10, 1929
41. The Mysterious card, by Cleveland Moffett. Mar. 17, 1929
42. A Study in Scarlet, by A. Conan Doyle. Mar. 24, 1929
43 [not used]
44. The Lost Duchess, by Anonymous. Mar. 31, 1929
45. The Pipe, by Anonymous. Apr. 7, 1929
46. The Hand on the Latch, by Mary Cholmondely. Apr. 14, 1929
47. [not used}
48. The Beast with Five Fingers, by William F. Harvey. Apr. 21, 1929
49. The Mystery of Marie Roget, by Edgar Allan Poe. Apr. 28, 1929
50. The Risen Dead, by Max Pemberton. May 5, 1929

SIMON BRETT Situation Tragedy

SIMON BRETT – Situation Tragedy. Scribner’s, hardcover, 1982. First published in the UK by Victor Gollancz, hardcover, 1981. Dell/Murder Ink #57, paperback, 1986. Warner, paperback, 1990.

   In case you’ve never come across one of these mystery adventures of actor-sleuth Charles Paris before, be forewarned: there will be times when you will be convinced that if there is any detection going on it is definitely taking second place to Simon Brett’s witty, caustic commentary on the world of show business, British style.

   In this, his seventh case, Paris tackles the world of commercial television. Somewhat to his own surprise, he has a bit part in a new sitcom. It’s a continuing part, at least — but so’s the series of fatal “accidents” that begin to plague the show, and even before the first episode is ever aired.

   Also be forewarned that Charles Paris is something of a tosspot and a womanizer, but he is certainly also one not to be overly impressed with the glamour of show-biz. There are also a couple of digs at the peculiarities of some mystery collectors. (Nobody who doesn’t deserve it!)

   The ending is tragic, scarcely believable, and yet, mostly a fitting one.

Rating: B

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 6, No. 3, May-June 1982 (very slightly revised).This review first appeared in the Hartford Courant.

The Charles Paris series —

1. Cast in Order of Disappearance (1975)
2. So Much Blood (1976)
3. Star Trap (1977)
4. An Amateur Corpse (1978)
5. A Comedian Dies (1979)
6. The Dead Side of the Mike (1980)
7. Situation Tragedy (1981)

SIMON BRETT Situation Tragedy

8. Murder Unprompted (1982)
9. Murder in the Title (1983)
10. Not Dead, Only Resting (1984)
11. Dead Giveaway (1985)
12. What Bloody Man is That (1987)
13. A Series of Murders (1989)
14. Corporate Bodies (1991)
15. A Reconstructed Corpse (1993)
16. Sicken and So Die (1995)
17. Dead Room Farce (1997)
18. A Decent Interval (2013)

William F. Deeck


  GEORGETTE HEYER – A Blunt Instrument. E. P. Dutton, hardcover reprint, 1970. First UK edition: Hodder & Stoughton, hardcover, 1938. First US edition: Doubleday, hardcover, 1938. Also: Bantam, paperback, 1973; Berkley, paperback, 1987.

   Police Constable Glass, following his appointed rounds, discovers the bludgeoned body of Ernest Fletcher in his study. Fletcher was not a well-loved man, but his only major fault appears to have been womanizing.

   Superintendent Hannasyde and Sergeant Hemingway begin an investigation. No weapon is found on the scene, a woman’s footprints are in the garden, and apparently Fletcher had had a busy evening with people both known and unknown visiting him. After comparing the stories of the various participants, Hannasyde and Hemingway nearly conclude that Fletcher, despite the reality of his corpse, could not have been killed. There just wasn’t time for it.


   To add to their problems, P.C. G!ass, who aids in the investigation, is an inveterate quoter of the Bible, usually from the Old Testament and mostly of the unhappier sort.

   Who, how, and why do manage to get sorted out. The who and how I had, most uncommon for me, figured out; the why is not explained until the end. If Heyer didn’t fool me, she probably won’t fool anyone else, either.

   But don’t let that stop you from reading this one. It’s a good investigation, and there are some quite amusing characters in the monocled young lady mystery writer and Fletcher’s nephew, Neville, who would like to be thought of as a ne’er-do-well. Plus, Hannasyde and Hemingway are engaging investigators.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 10, No. 1, Winter 1988.

       The Supt. Hannasyde & Sgt. Hemingway series —

Death in the Stocks, Hodder, 1935
Behold, Here’s Poison!, Hodder, 1936
They Found Him Dead, Hodder, 1937
A Blunt Instrument, Hodder, 1938


       The Inspector Hemingway series

No Wind of Blame. Hodder 1939
Envious Casca. Hodder 1941
Duplicate Death. Heinemann 1951

   For more on Georgette Heyer and her detective fiction, the best place to start would be her page on the Golden Age of Detection Wiki here.

Allen J. Hubin

DONALD E. WESTLAKE – Drowned Hopes. Mysterious Press, hardcover, 1990; paperback, 1991.


   While it seems to me that Donald E. Westlake’s Dortmunder series began at its highest point with The Hot Rock in 1970, succeeding volumes have certainly been amusing. And now, with the seventh, Drowned Hopes, you can also add long. Four hundred and twenty-two pages long, in fact.

   Tom Jimson turns up one day in John Dortmunder’s apartment. Rather surprisingly, since Jimson, one of nature’s nastiest creatures, was sentenced to seven consecutive life terms. But prison budgets in New York being what they are, here’s Tom, looking for help in retrieving $700,000 in armored car loot buried twenty years before.

   On land which the state, in its wisdom, has turned into a reservoir, so the money is under three feet of earth and fifty feet of water. If John won’t help, Tom will simply dynamite the dam, killing a few thousand people, and retrieve the money from the reappearing turf.

   It’s a matter of some indifference to Tom how the money is recovered, but John is of finer mettle and begins to plan furiously. There are several noteworthy things about Dortmunder’s plans: they are carefully, thoughtfully conceived, the details are painstakingly worked out, and they usually fail in spectacular ways.

   Pleasant Drowned Hopes is, with chuckles and some poignancy, though it’s a little attenuated and gifted with the season’s least imaginative title.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier,
       Vol. 12, No. 4, Fall 1990.

      The John Dortmunder series —

1. The Hot Rock (1970)
2. Bank Shot (1972)
3. Jimmy the Kid (1974)
4. Nobody’s Perfect (1977)
5. Why Me? (1983)
6. Good Behaviour (1987)
7. Drowned Hopes (1990)
8. Don’t Ask (1993)
9. What’s the Worst That Could Happen? (1996)
10. Bad News (2001)
11. The Road to Ruin (2004)
12. Watch Your Back! (2005)
13. What’s So Funny? (2007)
14. Get Real (2009)

Thieves’ Dozen (ss collection; 2004)

CHRIS WILTZ Killing Circle

CHRIS WILTZ – The Killing Circle. Macmillan, hardcover, 1981. Pinnacle, paperback, 1985.

   I like private detective stories. Ordinarily, the first in what promises to be a new private eye series is a matter for rejoicing. Add a plot that begins with a set of missing books, rare editions of William Blake, and the vividly moody back-ground of New Orleans, and what we get this time is, well, a book that just doesn’t live up to its potential.

   The detective is named Neal Rafferty, and his biggest problem in life is that his father doesn’t understand him, and his love life is in trouble too. He’s quit the police force under fire, and they don’t like him too well either.

   The plot is nicely twisted, although heavily tangled at times in massive coincidence. Rafferty meets a girl he can respond to, of course. The problem here is that the converse does not seem to be wholly true.

   What lets us down is the writing. The art of subtlety seems beyond Wiltz’s capabilities. Most of the story she tells is stiff, formal, perfunctory and placid.

Rating: C minus.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 6, No. 3, May-June 1982 (truncated and slightly revised).

[UPDATE] 12-17-13.   I ended this review in its first appearance rather smugly with a PostScript commenting on the fact that all the while reading this book I was under the impression (false) that Chris Wiltz was male. Further comment in this regard unnecessary. A re-do on this one might be in order.

       The Neal Rafferty series —

1. The Killing Circle (1981)
2. A Diamond Before You Die (1987)
3. The Emerald Lizard (1991)
4. Glass House (1994)

   Chris Wiltz has written one other work of crime fiction, that being Shoot The Money (2012), described by one source as a “racy gumbo of suspense, comedy, and ‘sisters-in-crime.'”

Allen J. Hubin

LES ROBERTS – Full Cleveland. St. Martin’s, hardcover, 1989; paperback, 1990.


   Full Cleveland, the second of Les Roberts’ novels about private investigator Milan Jacovich, doesn’t have the high appeal for me that the first (Pepper Pike) did, but it’s agreeable enough.

   Jacovich, a former cop like most PI’s, operates in Cleveland and mourns his lost family (his wife divorced him, and his sons, particularly the older, are drifting away). He consoles himself with no-commitment sex and here accepts what seems a simple and tranquil assignment: track down a downscale swindler who ripped off a bunch of would-be advertisers in his won’t-be magazine.

   But complications soon arise. Milan’s client, a lakeside hotel, invested an incredible amount for an ad, and said hotel proves to have mob connections whom Milan has unhappily met before. Said connections provide Jacovich with a most unwelcome assistant. And why should businesses so little in need of publicity have invested in advertising space?

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier,
       Vol. 12, No. 4, Fall 1990.

     The Milan Jacovich series —

1. Pepper Pike (1988)


2. Full Cleveland (1989)
3. Deep Shaker (1991)
4. The Cleveland Connection (1993)
5. The Lake Effect (1994)


6. The Duke Of Cleveland (1995)
7. Collision Bend (1996)
8. The Cleveland Local (1997)
9. A Shoot In Cleveland (1998)
10. The Best Kept Secret (1999)
11. The Indian Sign (2000)


12. The Dutch (2001)
13. The Irish Sports Pages (2002)
14. King of the Holly Hop (2008)
15. The Cleveland Creep (2011)
16. Whiskey Island (2012)
17. Win, Place, or Die (2013) (with Dan S Kennedy)

Note: Between 1987 and 1994, Les Roberts also wrote six mysteries featuring an LA-based PI named Saxon. More recently he has has published two standalone crime novels and one collection of short fiction, The Scent of Spiced Oranges (2002).

William F. Deeck

ELIZABETH GRESHAM – Puzzle in Porcelain. Duell Sloan & Pearce, 1945. Bart House #29, paperback, June 1946. Curtis, paperback, no date [1973]. See also below.


   Tom Pottle comes to Hunter Lewis, a tinkerer or handyman, to get a statue of Psyche repaired. Pottle had bent over in his garden and something hissed by him and struck the porcelain statue doing a fair amount of damage. A young man, something of a natural, who lives in the woods and cares for animals of all kinds is blamed for the shattering of the statue.

   Pott!e is a cad, a scoundrel, a bounder, a parvenu, a philanderer, and, much worse, a Northerner who has settled near Richmond, Virginia, and has social and power ambitions. When Lewis goes to see the remains of the statue the next day, he discovers that Pott!e has been found dead at his doorstep, the victim of a rattlesnake bite, Lewis notes some oddities in the death and gets the local police interested.

   When the young man who lives in the woods dies shortly thereafter — suicide maybe — the police are convinced that Pott!e was really bitten by a snake, probably handled by the young man. Lewis is unconvinced, and he and Jenny Gilette, a young lady hopelessly, or so it would seem, in love with him, continue to seek out the real story.

   Gilette is the first person narrator of the proceedings and makes for a good Watson. She and Lewis are an interesting and enjoyable pair. The novel is mostly fair play, with the clues, though not the motive, necessary to figure it out along with Lewis.

   There is something of a mystery about Elizabeth Gresham. Puzzle in Porcelain was published in 1945 as by Robin Grey. Another novel under that name was published in 1947, and then came a long silence, broken finally in 1972, 25 years later, with the publication of Puzzle in Paisley and the republication in paperback of her first two novels, this time under her real name.

   Paisley is a gothic-type novel, which nonetheless features Jenny Gilette and, to a small extent, Hunter Lewis. Like Porcelain, it has no specific period setting; both could have taken place at any point, except for the Second World War years, from the ’20s to the ’50s and maybe even ’60s.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 10, No. 1, Winter 1988.

The Jenny Gilette & Hunter Lewis series

    As by Robin Grey:

Puzzle in Porcelain (n.) Duell 1945
Puzzle in Pewter (n.) Duell 1947

    As by Elizabeth Gresham:

Puzzle in Paisley (n.) Curtis 1972
Puzzle in Parchment (n.) Curtis 1973


Puzzle in Parquet (n.) Curtis 1973


Puzzle in Patchwork (n.) Curtis 1973

   The author has five other entries in Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV, one indicated as marginally criminous, all from the late 1970s when she was in her seventies, and from the titles, probably romantic suspense novels (Gothics), at their height of popularity at the time.

William F. Deeck


ROBERT GEORGE DEAN – On Ice. Charles Scribner’s Sons, hardcover, 1942. Superior Reprint M654, paperback, 1945.

   Bill Griffith, private eye, had been tailing a man who had some diamonds to sell for a refugee. Now he is tailing the same man, who is picking up the money for the diamonds. Unfortunately, the man with the money is found sitting at his desk with no money and no life, his throat having been slit.

   Fearing that he might be suspected of involvement in the murder, since he is broke and is working for an almost bankrupt agency, Griffith asks his friend and former co-worker at the Imperator Schmidt Agency, Tony Hunter — one of Robert George Dean’s continuing characters — to he!p him out of this jam.

   A great deal happens in a short time. Hunter’s dog thinks she is going to have puppies; the dead man’s fiancee, for whom everyone is searching for various reasons, turns out to have predeceased her betrothed, and by the same murder method; the refugee who owns the diamonds acts strangely, and Hunter finds various females attractive.

   The detection here is good, the clues fair, the characters fairly interesting. I thought I knew who did it, but I was wrong. Not a great or a memorable mystery, but one that ought not be passed up if you fortuitously come across it at a reasonable price.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 10, No. 1, Winter 1988.

    The Tony Hunter series —

Murder Makes a Merry Widow (n.) Doubleday 1938.
A Murder of Convenience (n.) Doubleday 1938.
A Murder by Marriage (n.) Scribner 1940.
Murder Through the Looking Glass (n.) Doubleday 1940.
Murder in Mink (n.) Scribner 1941.
Layoff (n.) Scribner 1942.
On Ice (n.) Scribner 1942.
The Body Was Quite Cold (n.) Dutton 1951.
The Case of Joshua Locke (n.) Dutton 1951.
Affair at Lover’s Leap (n.) Doubleday 1953.

   Author Robert George Dean also wrote four mysteries under his own name featuring series character Pat Thompson, about whom I know nothing, and one stand-alone. As “George Griswold” he wrote four early 1950s espionage novels (I believe) with a mysterious Mr. Groode appearing or mentioned in all four, but the leading characters (with two appearances each) in reality being Jim Furlong and William Pepper.

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