Obituaries / Deaths Noted

by Francis M. Nevins

   Having eaten up much of the past few weeks paginating the index for JUDGES & JUSTICE & LAWYERS & LAW, I must again rely on my dusty old files to provide raw material for this month’s column.

   Lucky for me that my files are full of the stuff. In my salad days, beginning more than half a century ago, I got into the habit of writing for-my-eyes-only reviews not only of the full-length whodunits I read but also of the shorter works variously called short novels, novelettes, novellas and novellos, the last term coined by my beloved Harry Stephen Keeler, who probably pronounced the word with the accent on the first syllable.

   From the hundred-odd paragraphs of comment on tales of this length that are moldering in my files I’ll exhume a few that strike me as not too uninteresting today.



   Of all the characters who appeared frequently in novellos during the Golden Age, the two who stand tallest are Nero Wolfe and Simon Templar. Among the pile of tales of this length which the young Leslie Charteris (1907-1993) wrote about his Saintly hero, one of my favorites is “The Inland Revenue” (The Thriller, 25 April 1931, as “The Masked Menace”; collected under its better-known title in THE HOLY TERROR, Hodder & Stoughton 1932, and THE SAINT VS. SCOTLAND YARD, Doubleday Crime Club 1932), in which we follow Simon as he tries to raise enough money to pay his income tax by extorting it from a sinister mastermind calling himself the Scorpion.

   It’s a preposterously tongue-in-cheek saga with an astoundingly unfair surprise ending, but Charteris carries it off with the help of the satiric wit and brashness that were his trademarks.



   When Charteris launched his career, by far the most popular English mystery writer was Edgar Wallace (1875-1932), who produced novels, novellos and short stories faster than a rabbit can produce baby rabbits. One of the most rousing and richly plotted of his tales at the length we’re investigating today was “The Man from Sing Sing” (The Thriller, 7 February 1931; collected in THE GUV’NOR AND OTHER STORIES, Collins 1932, U.S. title MR. REEDER RETURNS, Doubleday Crime Club 1932).

   The parlormaid of Mr. J.G. Reeder, perhaps Wallace’s best known series detective, leads her boss into a bizarre case involving a lost false mustache, a spectacular embezzlement, a murdered Eton lecturer and a fortune found in a haystack. Our sleuth connects these and other items with reasoning that runs the gamut from sketchy to non-existent, but Wallace scores with his dry wit, tantalizing plot, swift economy of movement, and loving depiction of English working-class mores.



   Baynard Kendrick (1894-1977) created more than one series sleuth but his signature character was the blind detective Captain Duncan Maclain. The captain debuted in 1937 and usually appeared in novels, but during the WWII years he also turned up in three novellos, collected after the war as MAKE MINE MACLAIN (Morrow, 1947).

I don’t have a copy of that book but I do own each of its component parts, and reread one of them recently to see if my opinion of it had changed since 1968. It hadn’t.

In “The Murderer Who Wanted More” (American Magazine, January 1944) one of the potential legatees of a Staten Island matriarch’s estate is shot to death during a fierce snowstorm while traveling on the post-midnight local train from the St. George ferry terminal to the end of the line at Tottenville to visit his dying mother. Both before and after that murder come several attempts on the life of another potential legatee, a lovely young artist who had recently painted Maclain’s dogs.

   The captain’s key deduction is unconvincing and the motive Kendrick attributes to the killer shows that he didn’t know the first thing about the law of wills, but the Staten Island setting is unusual and vivid enough.



   The earliest collections of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novellos appeared in 1942 and 1944 but contained only two tales apiece. Most of Wolfe’s cases at that length appeared three to a book, but only after threesomes had been published featuring other sleuths including Duncan Maclain, as we’ve just seen, and Michael Shayne, the Miami-based PI created by Brett Halliday (1904-1977).

   Fast, complex and professional are the words for “Dinner at Dupre’s” (Mystery Book Magazine, September 1946; collected in MICHAEL SHAYNE’S TRIPLE MYSTERY, Ziff-Davis 1948), in which Mike’s search for the murderer of a prospective client leads him to the hamlet of Cheepwee, Louisiana and a temptingly described Southern dinner with a nymphomaniac who has a new angle on the bigamy racket.

   Brisk pace, shrewd plotting, an honest if not startling solution, and minimal self-conscious toughness prompted me a few generations ago to give this one very high marks.



   Now we tackle a work actually written not too long before I began to set down some of these scribbles. Richard S. Prather (1921-2007) didn’t turn out a slew of novellos about his quintessentially cool PI Shell Scott, but the few he did were among the joys of my late teens.

   Take for instance “Babes, Bodies and Bullets” (Cavalier, April 1958; collected in SHELL SCOTT’S SEVEN SLAUGHTERS, Fawcett Gold Medal pb #S1072, 1961). Hired to solve a Beverly Hills attorney’s murder, which he witnessed, Scott runs into a gaggle of gruesome gangsters, an assortment of luscious wenches and a mounting heap of corpses.

   The plot is sorta thin, but Prather’s feel for action and tempo and his wild-and-woolly prose, plus a sequence of gruesome horseplay in an underworld hospital, lift this novello to the top of the heap.



   May I stray from the month’s topic for a moment? The last living actor to portray Ellery Queen in any national medium died on March 12, a few weeks short of his 100th birthday. Richard Coogan was best known for TV work — starring in the early live sci-fi series CAPTAIN VIDEO, having a long-running role in the daytime soap LOVE OF LIFE, playing Marshal Matt Wayne on the Western series THE CALIFORNIANS — but he began his career in radio and portrayed Ellery during late 1946 and early ‘47.

   Anthony Boucher, who at that time was collaborating on the weekly scripts with EQ co-creator Manfred B. Lee, described Coogan’s performance in a letter to Lee (25 October 1946) as “not quite so smug” as his predecessor’s. Coogan’s main interest in his twilight years was golf. He was in his mid-nineties when I talked with him over the phone in connection with my book ELLERY QUEEN: THE ART OF DETECTION, but he struck me as in amazingly good health, and anyone who checks out his reminiscences of CAPTAIN VIDEO on YouTube, which date from roughly the same time, will surely get the same impression. May we all live so long and well.

DEATH NOTED: Gérard de Villiers.

       From The Telegraph (UK):

Gerard de Villiers

    “Intelligence chiefs called him the best-informed spy novelist on the planet for predicting real-life James Bond-style hits before they happened.

    “He sold up to 150 million copies of his 200-tome SAS pulp-fiction series, in which hero Malko Linge, an Austrian aristocrat, carries out freelance spy operations around the world for the CIA to pay for the upkeep of his castle.

    “But Gérard de Villiers died on Thursday [October 31] aged 83 still nursing two regrets: his lack of recognition in his home country and failure to have his books turned into Hollywood blockbusters to rival the Bond films.

    “France’s literary establishment were appalled at the author’s hard-Right views and turned their noses up at his lurid tomes, with their trademark gun-toting femmes fatales, cardboard characters and obligatory sex scenes.

    “But his geopolitical insights, based on information gleaned from his vast network of intelligence officials, diplomats and journalists, were often eerily prescient….”

   It has proven difficult to find a complete list of de Villiers’ work online, but on the Spy Guys and Gals website I have found the following, which if the article above is correct, is almost complete:

       List Of French Titles

Nr French Title (Translation) – Year Published In France
1 Sas à Istanbul (Sas In Istanbul) – 1965
2 Sas Contre Cia (Sas Against Cia) – 1965
3 Operation Apocalypse (Operation Apocalypse) – 1965
4 Samba Pour Sas (Samba For Sas) – 1966
5 Rendez-Vous à San Francisco (Go To San Francisco) – 1966
6 Le Dossier Kennedy (The Kennedy File) – 1967
7 Broie Du Noir (Broods) – 1967
8 Sas Aux CaraïBes (Sas In The Caribbean) – 1967
9 Sas à L’Ouest De Jeruzalem (Sas West Of Jeruzalem) – 1968
10 L’Or De La RivièRe Kwaï (Gold On The River Kwai) – 1968
11 Magie Noire à New York (Black Magic In New York) – 1968
12 Les Trois Veuves De Hong Kong (The Three Widows Of Hong Kong) – 1968
13 L’Abominable Sirene (The Ugly Mermaid) – 1969
14 Les Pendus De Bagdad (The Hanged In Baghdad) – 1969
15 La PanthèRe D’ Hollywood (The Panther Of Hollywood) – 1969
16 Escale à Pago-Pago (Stopover In Pago Pago) – 1969
17 Amok à Bali (Amok In Bali) – 1970
18 Que Viva Guevara (Que Viva Guevara) – 1970
19 Cyclone à Onu (Cyclone To Un) – 1970
20 Mission à Saigon (Mission In Saigon) – 1970
21 Le Bal De La Comtesse Adler (The Ball Of The Countess Adler) – 1971
22 Les Parias De Ceylon (The Pariahs Of Ceylon) – 1971
23 Massacre à Amman (Massacre In Amman) – 1971
24 Requiem Pour Tontons Macoutes (Requiem For Tonton Macoutes) – 1971
25 L’Homme De Kabul (The Man From Kabul) – 1972
26 Mort à Beyrouth (Death In Beirut) – 1972
27 Safari à La Paz (Safari In La Paz) – 1972
28 L’HéRoïNe De Vientiane (The Heroine Of Vientiane) – 1972
29 Berlin, Check-Point Charlie (Berlin, Check-Point Charlie) – 1973
30 Mourir Pour Zanzibar (Dying For Zanzibar) – 1973
31 L’Ange De Montevideo (The Angel Of Montevideo) – 1973
32 Murder Inc., Las Vegas (Murder Inc., Las Vegas) – 1973
33 Rendez-Vous à Boris Gleb (Visit Boris Gleb) – 1974
34 Kill Henry Kissinger (Kill Henry Kissinger) – 1974
35 Roulette Cambodgienne (Roulette Cambodian) – 1974
36 Furie à Belfast (Fury In Belfast) – 1974
37 GuêPier En Angola (Bee In Angola) – 1975
38 Les Otages De Tokio (The Hostages Of Tokio) – 1975
39 L’Orde Regne A Santiago (The Orde Reign In Santiago) – 1975
40 Les Sorciers Du Tage (Wizards Of The Tagus) – 1975
41 Embargo (Embargo) – 1976
42 Le Disparu De Singapore (The Disappeared From Singapore) – 1976
43 Compte à Rebours En Rhodesie (Countdown In Rhodesia) – 1976
44 Meurtre à AthèNes (Murder In Athens) – 1976
45 Le TréSor Du NéGus (The Treasure Of The Negus) – 1977
46 Protection Pour Teddy Bear (Protection For Teddy Bear) – 1977
47 Mission Impossible En Somalie (Impossible Mission In Somalia) – 1977
48 Marathon à Spanish Harlem (Marathon Adverse Harlem) – 1977
49 Nauffrage Aux Seychelles (Nauffrage In Seychelles) – 1978
50 La Printemps De Varsovie (The Spring Of Warsaw) – 1978
51 Le Gardien D’IsraëL (The Guardian Of Israel) – 1978
52 Panique Au ZaïRe (Panic In Zaire) – 1978
53 Croisade à Managua (Crusade In Managua) – 1979
54 Voir Malte Et Mourir (See Malta And Die) – 1979
55 Shanghai Express (Shanghai Express) – 1979
56 OpéRation Matador (Operation Matador) – 1979
57 Duel à Barranquilla (Duel In Barranquilla) – 1980
58 PièGe à Budapest (Trap Budapest) – 1980
59 Carnage à Abu Dhabi (Carnage In Abu Dhabi) – 1980
60 Terreur à San Salvador (Terror In San Salvador) – 1980
61 Le Complot Du Caire (The Plot Of Cairo) – 1981
62 Vengeance Romaine (Roman Revenge) – 1981
63 Des Armes Pour Khartoum (Weapons To Khartoum) – 1981
64 Tornade Sur Manille (Tornado In Manila) – 1981
65 Le Fugitif De Hambourg (The Fugitive From Hamburg) – 1982
66 Objectif Reagan (Objective Reagan) – 1982
67 Rouge Grenade (Red Grenade) – 1982
68 Commando Sur Tunis (Commando In Tunis) – 1982
69 Le Tueur De Miami (The Killer In Miami) – 1983
70 La FilièRe Bulgare (The Bulgarian Industry) – 1983
71 Aventure Au Surinam (Adventure In Suriname) – 1983
72 Embuscade à La Khyber Pass (Ambush At The Khyber Pass) – 1983
73 Le Vol 007 Ne RéPond Plus (Flight 007 No Longer Meets) – 1984
74 Les Fous De Baalbek (Fools Of Baalbek) – 1984
75 Les EnragéS D’Amsterdam (The Rabid Amsterdam) – 1984
76 Putsch à Ouagadougou (Coup In Ouagadougou) – 1984
77 La Blonde De Pretoria (The Blonde Pretoria) – 1985
78 La Veuve De L’Ayatollah (The Widow Of Ayatollah) – 1985
79 Chasse à L’Homme Au PéRou (Manhunt In Peru) – 1985
80 L’Affaire Kirsanov (The Case Kirsanov) – 1985
81 Mort à Gandhi (Death To Gandhi) – 1986
82 Danse Macabre à Belgrade (Dance Of Death In Belgrade) – 1986
83 Coup D’Etat Au Yemen (Coup In Yemen) – 1986
84 Le Plan Nasser (The Plan Nasser) – 1986
85 Embrouilles à Panama (Entanglements In Panama) – 1987
86 La Madone De Stockholm (The Madonna Of Stockholm) – 1987
87 L’Otage D’Oman (The Hostage Of Oman) – 1987
88 Escale à Gibraltar (Stop In Gibraltar) – 1987
89 Aventure En Sierra Leone (Adventure In Sierra Leone) – 1988
90 La Taupe De Langley (Langley’S Mole) – 1988
91 Les Amazones De Pyongyang (The Amazons Of Pyongyang) – 1988
92 Les Tueurs De Bruxelles (The Killers Of Brussels) – 1988
93 Visa Pour Cuba (Visa For Cuba) – 1989
94 Arnaque à Brunei (Brunei Scam) – 1989
95 Loi Martiale à Kaboul (Martial Law In Kabul) – 1989
96 L’ Inconnu De Leningrad (The Unknown Leningrad) – 1989
97 Cauchemar En Colombie (Nightmare In Colombia) – 1989
98 Croisade En Birmanie (Crusade In Burma) – 1990
99 Mission à Mouscou (Mission Mouscou) – 1990
100 Les Canons De Bagdad (The Guns Of Baghdad) – 1990
101 La Piste De Brazzaville (The Track Of Brazzaville) – 1991
102 La Solution Rouge (The Red Solution) – 1991
103 La Vengeance De Saddam Hussein (The Vengeance Of Saddam Hussein) – 1991
104 Manip à Zagreb (Manip In Zagreb) – 1992
105 Kgb Contre Kgb (Kgb Kgb Against) – 1992
106 Le Disparus De Canaries (The Missing Canary) – 1992
107 Alerte Plutonium (Alert Plutonium) – 1992
108 Coup D’éTat à Tripoli (Coup In Tripoli) – 1992
109 Mission Sarajevo (Mission Sarajevo) – 1993
110 Tuez Rigoberta Menchu (Kill Rigoberta Menchu) – 1993
111 Au Nom D’Allah (The Name Of Allah) – 1993
112 Vengeance à Beyrouth (Vengeance In Beirut) – 1993
113 Les Trompettes De JéRicho (The Trumpets Of Jericho) – 1994
114 L’Or De Moscou (Gold In Moscow) – 1994
115 Les CroiséS De L’Apartheid (The Crusaders Of Apartheid) – 1994
116 La Traque De Carlos (The Hunt For Carlos) – 1994
117 Tuerie à Marrakech (Killing In Marrakech) – 1994
118 L’Otage Du Triangle D’Or (The Hostage Of The Golden Triangle) – 1995
119 Le Cartel De SéBastopol (The Cartel Of Sevastopol) – 1995
120 Ramenez-Moi La TêTe D’El Coyote (Bring Me The Head Of El Coyote) – 1995
121 La RéSolution 687 (Resolution 687) – 1996
122 OpéRation Lucifer (Operation Lucifer) – 1996
123 Vengeance TchéTchèNe (Chechen Revenge) – 1996
124 Tu Tueras Ton Prochain (You Kill Your Neighbor) – 1996
125 Vengez Le Vol 800 (Avenge The Flight 800) – 1997
126 Une Lettre Pour La Maison-Blanche (A Letter To The White House) – 1997
127 Hong Kong Express (Hong Kong Express) – 1997
128 ZaïRe Adieu (Zaire Farewell) – 1997
129 La Manipulation Yggdrasil (Handling Yggdrasil) – 1998
130 Mortelle JamaïQue (Lethal Jamaica) – 1998
131 La Peste Noire De Bagdad (The Black Death In Baghdad) – 1998
132 L’Espion Du Vatican (The Spy In The Vatican) – 1998
133 Albanie Mission Impossible (Albania Mission Impossible) – 1999
134 La Source Yahalom (The Source Yahalom) – 1999
135 Sas Contre P.K.K. (Against Sas P.K.K.) – 1999
136 Bombes Sur Belgrade (Bombs On Belgrade) – 1999
137 La Piste Du Kremlin (The Track Of The Kremlin) – 2000
138 L’Amour Fou Du Colonel Chang (L’Amour Fou Colonel Chang) – 2000
139 Djihad (Jihad) – 2001
140 EnquêTe Sur Un GéNocide (Investigation Of Genocide) – 2001
141 L’Otage De Jolo (The Jolo Hostage) – 2001
142 Tuez Le Pape (Kill The Pope) – 2001
143 Armageddon (Armageddon) – 2002
144 Li Sha-Tin Doit Mourir (Li-Sha Tin To Die) – 2002
145 Le Roi Fou Du NéPal (The Mad King Of Nepal) – 2002
146 Le Sabre De Bin Laden (Sword Of Bin Laden) – 2002
147 La Manip Du Karin A (The Manipulation Of The Karin A) – 2002
148 Bin Laden: La Traque (Bin Laden: The Hunt) – 2002
149 Le Parrain Du “17 Novembre” (The Sponsor Of The ‘November 17′) – 2003
150 Bagdad-Express (Baghdad Express) – 2003
151 L’Or D’Al-Qaida (L’Or Al-Qaeda) – 2003
152 Pacte Avec Le Diable (Pact With The Devil) – 2003
153 Ramenez-Les Vivants (Bring Them Back Alive) – 2004
154 Le RéSeau Istanbul (Network Istanbul) – 2004
155 Le Jour De La Tcheka (The Day Of The Cheka) – 2004
156 La Connexion Saoudienne (The Saudi Connection) – 2004
157 Otages En Irak (Hostages In Iraq) – 2005
158 Tuez Iouchtchenko! (Yushchenko Kill!) – 2005
159 Mission: Cuba (Mission: Cuba) – 2005
160 Aurore Noire (Dawn Black) – 2005
161 Le Programme 111 (The Program 111) – 2006
162 Que La BêTe Meure (The Animal Dies) – 2006
163 Le TréSor De Saddam : 1 (Saddam’S Treasure: A) – 2006
164 Le TréSor De Saddam : 2 (The Treasure Of Saddam: 2) – 2006
165 Le Dossier K. (The Dossier K.) – 2006
166 Rouge Liban (Red Lebanon) – 2006
167 Polonium 210 (Polonium 210) – 2007
168 Le Defecteur De Pyongyang (The Defectors From North Korea) – 2007
169 Le DéFecteur De Pyongyang, Tome 2 (The Defector From Pyongyang, Volume 2) – 2007
170 Otage Des Taliban (Taliban Hostage) – 2007
171 L’Agenda Kosovo (Agenda Kosovo) – 2008
172 Retour A Shangri-La (Back In Shangri-La) – 2008
173 Al-Qaida Attaque T.1 (Al-Qaida Attack, part 1) – 2008
174 Al-Qaida Attaque T.2 (Al-Qaida Attack, part 2) – 2008
175 Tuez Le Dalai Lama (Kill The Dalai Lama) – 2008
176 Le Printemps De Tbilissi (Spring In Tbilisi) – 2009
177 Pirates (Pirates) – 2009
178 La Bataille Des S-300 T.01 (The Battle Of The S-300, part 1) – 2009
179 La Bataille Des S-300 T.02 (The Battle Of The S-300, part 2) – 2009
180 Le piège de Bangkok (The Siege Of Bangkok) – 2009
181 La liste Hariri (Hariri’s List) – 2010
182 La filiere Suisse (The Swiss Chains) – 2010
183 Renegade, T.1 (Renegade, part 1) – 2010
184 Renegade, T.2 (Renegade, part 2) – 2010
185 Féroce Guinée (Wild Guinea) – 2010
186 Le maître des Hirondelles (The Master Of The Swallows) – 2011
187 Bienvenue à Nouakchott (Welcome To Nouakchott) – 2011
188 Rouge Dragon, T.1 (Red Dragon, part 1) – 2011
189 Rouge Dragon, T.2 (Red Dragon, part 2) – 2011
190 Ciudad Juarez (Juarez City) – 2011

   Only a few of these have been translated into English. From Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin (which is inclusive only through the year 2000):

      DE VILLIERS, GERARD (1929-2013).

*The Angel of Vengeance (Pinnacle, 1974, pb) [Malko Linge; Uruguay] Translation of “L’Ange de Montevideo.” Paris, 1973.
*The Belfast Connection (Pinnacle, 1976, pb) [Malko Linge; Belfast, Northern Ireland] Translation of (?): “Furie a Belfast.” Paris, 1974.
*Black Magic in New York (NEL, 1970, pb) [Malko Linge; New York City, NY] U.S. title: Operation New York. Pinnacle, 1973. Translation of “Magie Noire a New York.” Paris, 1967.
*Checkpoint Charlie (Pinnacle, 1975, pb) [Malko Linge; Berlin] Translation of “Berlin: Check-Point Charlie.” Paris, 1973.
*The Countess and the Spy (Pinnacle, 1974, pb) [Malko Linge; Austria; Hungary] Translation of “Le Bol de la Comtesse Adler.” Paris, 1971.
*Death in Santiago (Pinnacle, 1976, pb) [Malko Linge; Chile] Translation of “L’Ordre Regne a Santiago.” Paris, 1975.
*Death on the River Kwai (Pinnacle, 1975, pb) [Malko Linge; Thailand] Translation of “L’Or de la Riviere Kwai.” Paris, 1968.
*A Game of Eyes Only (Medallion, 1986, hc) [Malko Linge; El Salvador] Translation of “Terreur au San Salvador.” Paris, 1981. Film: UGC, 1982, as S.A.S. San Salvator (scw: Gerard De Villiers; dir: Raoul Coutard).
*Hostage in Tokyo (Pinnacle, 1976, pb) [Malko Linge; Tokyo] Translation of “Les Ostages de Tokyo.” Paris, 1975.
*Kill Kissinger (Pinnacle, 1974, pb) [Malko Linge; Kuwait] Translation of “Kill Kissinger.” Paris, 1974.
*The Man from Kabul (Pinnacle, 1973, pb) [Malko Linge; Afghanistan] Translation of “L’Homme de Kabul.” Paris, 1971.
*Operation Apocalypse (NEL, 1970, pb) [Malko Linge] Translation of “Operation Apocalypse.” Paris, 1970.
_Operation New York (Pinnacle, 1973, pb) See: Black Magic in New York (NEL 1970).
*The Portuguese Defection (Pinnacle, 1976, pb) [Malko Linge; Portugal] Translation of “Les Sorcies du Trage.” Paris, 1975.
*Que Viva Guevara (Pinnacle, 1975, pb) [Malko Linge; Venezuela] Translation of “Que Viva Guevara.” Paris, 1970.
*Versus the C.I.A. (NEL, 1969, pb) [Malko Linge; Iran] Pinnacle, 1974. Translation of “Contra C.I.A.” Paris, 1965.
*West of Jerusalem (NEL, 1969, pb) [Malko Linge; Italy] Pinnacle, 1973. Translation of “A L’Ouest de Jerusalem.” Paris, 1967.

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Bill Pronzini

JOHN HOLBROOK VANCE – The Fox Valley Murders. Bobbs-Merrill, hardcover, 1966. Ace, paperback, no date [1972].


   John Holbrook Vance is one of a handful of writers who have won major awards in two different genres. In the science-fiction field, where he writes as Jack Vance, received a Hugo for his 1963 novel The Dragon Masters — and in the mystery field, he received a Best First Novel Edgar for his 1960 tale of intrigue in Tangier, The Man in the Cage.

   Vance has published a dozen mysteries, most of the formal variety. The two best feature Sheriff Joe Bain of the fictional central California county of San Rodrigo; The Fox Valley Murders is the first of these.

   A smallish agricultural county south of San Jose, San Rodrigo is loosely modeled on the one in which Vance spent his childhood. He portrays it with a great deal of feeling and clarity, utilizing a variety of towns and rural settings much as Dennis Lynds, writing as John Crowe, would do a few years later in his “Buena Costa County” series.

   People and places are so strikingly depicted, and county history, social problems, and politics so well integrated into the narrative, that San Rodrigo inhabitants seem utterly real.

   In The Fox Valley Murders, Bain — a wild youth who has settled down to become a very good lawman — has been appointed acting sheriff after the recent death of old Ernest Cucchinello, the incumbent for many years and a man not above a little corruption. The county elections are not far off.


   Bain wants the sheriff’s job permanently, campaigns hard for it, but is facing stiff competition from a well-backed progress-and-reform group. He is also facing a volatile situation centered around Ansley Wyett, a native of the town of Marblestone, who was convicted sixteen years before — despite his protestations of innocence — of the brutal rape/murder of a thirteen-year-old girl. Now out of San Quentin on parole and back home, Wyett has written the same letter to eachof the five men whose testimony sent him to prison, asking: “How do you plan to make this up to me?”

   It isn’t long before the five recipients begin to die one by one in apparent accidents. Is Ausley responsible? And if not, then who is? And why? And, just as important, how? How do you make a man die of a heart attack in front of a witness (Bain himself)? How do you cause a man who has been picking mushrooms all his life to eat a poisonous toadstool? How do yon make someone fall off a ladder and break his neck in full view of his wife, with no one else around?

   Bain is hard-pressed to find the answers before local citizens decide to take the law into their own hands and/or the election sweeps him right out of office.

   Brimming with suspense, evocatively written, ingeniously constructed (with a number of dovetailing subplots and plenty of clues for the armchair detective), this is a first-rate novel that “fills the bill for real entertainment in the true sense of the word” (King Features Syndicate).


   Almost as good is Joe Bain’s second case, The Pleasant Grove Murders (1967), in which the likable and very human sheriff once again faces political problems and a baffling multiple homicide (three brutal hammer murders).

   Notable among Vance’s other mysteries are a pair under pseudonyms, both published in 1957 — Isle of Peril, as by Alan Wade, and Take My Face, as by Peter Held; The Deadly Isles (1969), a tale of murder in Tahiti and the Marquesas; and Bad Ronald (1973), a psychological thriller.

   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.

R.I.P. JOHN HOLBROOK VANCE (1916-2013). Jack Vance died last May at the grand old age of 96. He was far better known for his works of fantasy and science fiction. Personally I have been reading his novels and short stories since I was in my teens, and I hope to for many more years. It is his wonderful, often playful use of words and the English language that I will remember the most.

Hi Steve:

I just received some information about the Memorial Service for Bob Briney that will be held at Salem State University. Please share this with anyone on your Mystery blog in case anyone lives in the area and would like to attend. Please note that I was told that Bob had no living family members to inform the press and that may be why there was no local announcement about his passing in the papers. Below is the information that I received today about the services:

“A memorial service for Dr. Briney will be held in the MLK room 12:30-2:30 Tuesday Feb 7. Anyone who wishes to speak at the memorial should get in touch with the Computer Department Chairperson, Joe Kasprzk. I still don’t have a date for interment – on 1/9 the lawyer handling Dr. Briney’s estate indicated late last week or this week, but there has been no follow-up.”

Chairperson, Joe Kasprzk can be reached at Salem State University at 978-542-6000.

Best wishes,
Bob Campbell

Dr. Robert W. Campbell
Computer Science Department
Salem State University

[UPDATE] 01-19-12. Here is the official announcement of the memorial service for Bob Briney, as forwarded to me by Patricia V. Markunas, Chairperson of the Department of Psychology:

Members of the Salem State Community:

In the announcement sent by President Meservey and Provost Esterberg on 1/6/12 regarding the passing of longtime Salem State faculty member Dr. Robert E. Briney, mention was made of a memorial service being planned by the members of the Computer Science Department, of which Dr. Briney was the founding chair. The commemorative event is now scheduled to be held Tuesday, February 7th beginning at 12:30 p.m. in the Martin Luther King Conference Room of the Ellison Campus Center on North Campus. All members of the university community are welcome.

For more information, please contact Pat Kantorosinski of the Computer Science Department at x6256.


Jean E. Fleischman
Executive Assistant to the President/
Secretary to the Board of Trustees
Salem State University
352 Lafayette Street, 316-MH
Salem, MA 01970


[UPDATE] 01-21-12. Thanks to Bob Campbell for providing this link to the online obituary for Bob in the Salem News:

It’s very nicely done, combining as it does aspects of both halves of Bob’s life, that of teaching Math and Computer Science at Salem State for so many years, plus a lengthy list of his many accomplishments as a life-long science fiction and mystery fan.

by Francis M. Nevins

   As a novice widower I find myself thinking of three other mystery writers who lost wives to Mister Death. The first name that springs to mind in this connection is Raymond Chandler (1888-1959), who was so devastated by the death of his wife Cissie that he tried to shoot himself in his bathroom.

   Being blind drunk at the time, he missed his target. “She was the music heard faintly at the edge of sound…” he said of Cissie. “She was the light of my life, my whole ambition. Anything else I did was just the fire for her to warm her hands at.”

HARRY STEPHEN KEELER & first wife Hazel

   Next comes Harry Stephen Keeler (1890-1967), whom I never met but have been associated with for most of my life. He married the former Hazel Goodwin in 1919 and they were together until she died of cancer in May 1960.

   During the months of her final illness and after her death he was unable to write fiction, but he continued sending out his off-the-wall “Walter Keyhole” newsletters to just about everyone whose address he had.

   He called them polychromatic or multitinctorial cartularies since each page was printed on paper of a different color. We who have lived into the computer age recognize them as the functional equivalent of a blog. It cost him as much as $50 to have each installment prepared by a professional typing service and mailed out en masse.

   I have originals or photocopies of 188 of these, which a few years ago I organized and offered to a panting public as The Keeler Keyhole Companion (2005). Among the hundreds of topics he touched on was his life as a lonely widower in his early seventies, “a guy who lives on canned Campbell’s soups and canned Sultana pork and beans.”

   Here’s his account of the “long lonely Thanksgiving holiday” in 1962. “We [he often uses the royal we in these cartularies] had our choice of having 3 soft-boiled eggs (only thing we can cook) as a dinner, then seeing the Three Stooges conk each other over the heads [at the local movie house], or of having 3 soft-boiled eggs as a dinner and re-reading Keyser’s Mathematical Philosophy. You guess!”

   I now feel closer to that genuine mad genius than ever before. He was only a year or two older at his wife’s death than I at Patty’s. He sold the old house they had lived in for decades and moved into an apartment hotel, while I’ve recently bought a condo and put my own Toad Hall on the market. I’m no better at cheffery than Harry was but have the advantage of living in the age of that fantastic contraption known as the microwave.

   The third author in whose moccasins I now walk became a widower not once but twice. Fred Dannay (1905-1982), better known as Ellery Queen, married the former Mary Beck in 1926. She died of cancer on July 4, 1945, leaving Fred with two small children to raise.

   In 1947 he married the former Hilda Wiesenthal, who was ten or eleven years younger than he and was the daughter of a cousin of Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. She died in 1972, also of cancer.

   By that time I had come to know Fred well and he had become the closest thing to a grandfather I had ever known. I went through this awful period of his life with him. There’s a photograph of him taken at this time which shows the empty devastated face of a man waiting for the dark to claim him.

   Just as Keeler had married again a few years after Hazel’s death, so did Fred a few years after Hilda’s. I got to know Thelma Keeler well and am convinced that she saved her husband’s life. I also have no doubt that Fred’s third marriage, to the former Rose Koppel, saved his. Will I luck out in my final years as they did?


   I apologize for devoting so much of this column to death but I really don’t have much choice at the moment. Less than a week before Christmas I learned that I’d lost one of my closest mystery-loving friends.


   Bob Briney was something of a universal genius. Physically he evoked Orson Welles or Nero Wolfe but was soft-spoken and totally without their irascibility and moved with a certain gingerliness as if he were afraid he’d crush something if his movements were more forceful.

   He was born near Benton Harbor, Michigan in December 1933 and spent most of his academic career in Massachusetts, at Salem State University. He earned a Ph.D. in mathematics and recovered from the ordeals of his dissertation and orals, so he told me, by reading most of the novels of John Dickson Carr in less than a month.

   Like the clever men of Oxford in The Wind in the Willows, he “knew all that was to be knowed”—about mystery fiction, fantasy, s-f, horror, Westerns, just about every form of popular fiction you can name, plus ballet and opera and movies and classical music and so much more.

   His ability to keep prodigious masses of data in perfectly organized form would have shamed many a computer. He wrote prolifically and with dry wit about books and authors, assiduously collected works in the genres he loved — every room in his large house including the bathroom was a library first and foremost — and corresponded with Sax Rohmer, P.G. Wodehouse, John Creasey and countless other authors.

   It was pure pleasure to read his commentary or listen to his conversation. We started corresponding in the late Sixties, thanks mainly to Al Hubin and The Armchair Detective, and met for the first time in 1970 when I took a bus from New Jersey to a science fiction convention in Manhattan that he was attending.

   Beginning in 1980 he followed in Keeler’s footsteps by putting out the pre-computer equivalent of a blog, which he called Contact Is Not a Verb (a famous line from one of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels) and kept going until September 2006, a grand total of 149 issues, of a copy of every one of which I am a proud possessor.

   Bob developed diabetes and in the fall of 1990, when I was a visiting professor in New Jersey, had to have some of his toes amputated. Unable to climb the stairs of his own house, he was sleeping in a hospital bed installed on the ground floor. I traveled to Salem by Amtrak and spent a long weekend playing housekeeper: schlepping cartons around so he could access the classical music he loved, taking his clothes to the laundry, even cooking us a few meals (for whose quality I will not vouch).

   Until a few years ago we would rendezvous every summer at the Pulpcon in Dayton, Ohio. Then unaccountably this shy but gregarious man dropped out of sight. Almost no one heard a word from him or knew anything about his health.

   Finally, just a few days before Christmas, I learned he’d been found dead in his house late in November. He had no immediate family. As of this writing I don’t know the cause, or what will happen to the vast library he had accumulated over the decades. All I know is that he was one of the most brilliant and memorable people in my life.


Bouchercon, Philadelphia, 1989. Me (Steve Lewis), Art Scott, Bob Briney, George Kelley, and Mike Nevins. Photo taken by Ellen Nehr.


Bouchercon, New York, 1983. Ellen Nehr and Bob Briney.


Bouchercon, Chicago, 1984. Marv Lachman, Bob Briney, Ellen Nehr and Steve Stilwell.

   Many thanks to Art Scott for providing the photos above.

by Francis M. Nevins

   Does the name T.S. Stribling ring any bells? He lived from 1881 until 1965, and in the early FDR years he was considered one of the foremost authors of the American South. Before that he’d written extensively for pulp magazines like Adventure, which in the mid-1920s ran five stories of his about Professor Henry Poggioli, an American academic solving (well, trying to solve) various exotic crimes while traveling in the Caribbean area on sabbatical.

   In “A Passage to Benares,” the last and best-known of the quintet, Poggioli was hanged as a murderer. But that wasn’t the end of the saga. About three years after his demise, and without a hint as to how he came back from the dead, he returned in a new series of tales, published in Adventure and other magazines from 1929 through the years of Stribling’s literary reputation.

   A few years after winning the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Store (1933), he was eclipsed forever as America’s Southern novelist by William Faulkner and the publishing world dropped him like a hot rock.

   I was a teen when I first discovered Poggioli in the supersized Ellery Queen anthologies like 101 Years’ Entertainment and To the Queen’s Taste and in a number of the annual Queen’s Awards anthology volumes of the late Forties.

   Later, when I began collecting back issues of EQMM, I found that Fred Dannay had reprinted a Poggioli story in Volume 1 Number 1 (Fall 1941) and had bought fifteen new stories about the character that appeared in the magazine between 1945 and 1955.

   Then I discovered that in his last years Stribling had corresponded regularly with that certified mad genius of 20th-century literature, Harry Stephen Keeler (1890-1967).

   Recently I’ve been reading Kenneth W. Vickers’ T. S. Stribling: A Life of the Tennessee Novelist (University of Tennessee Press, 2004), which amply covers Stribling’s correspondence with Fred Dannay (whom Vickers insists on calling a “young” editor even though Fred was about 40 when he began running Poggioli originals in EQMM) but says little about the correspondence between Stribling and Keeler.

   The biography nudged me to re-read the first five Poggioli tales, collected as Clues of the Caribbees (1929), and to sample the later tales from EQMM, many of them collected in Best Dr. Poggioli Detective Stories (1978).

   My reaction was similar to what it had been more than half a century ago when I was first exposed to the saga. In my teens I couldn’t make up my mind whether I liked these stories, and as I slipslide into senescence I still can’t. There seems to be something off-the-wall about every Poggioli story I tackle. Could his affinity for Keeler be a case of kindred spirits?

   Stribling often called himself a satirist, and it seems clear that his intent was to poke fun at mystery fiction’s virtuosos of deduction like Holmes and Poirot. Since the first several Poggioli stories predate the debut of Ellery Queen as author and detective in The Roman Hat Mystery (1929), it’s clear that the polysyllabic literatus created by Fred and his cousin Manny Lee was not Stribling’s target.

   But his is such a deadpan satire, so far removed from, say, Robert L. Fish’s send-up of Holmes and Watson in his Schlock Homes parodies, that many readers don’t get the point and remain in a state of head-scratching puzzlement.

   As chance would have it, the closest to Stribling’s brand of satire that I’ve ever comes across is a brief passage from his buddy Harry Stephen Keeler. In The Steeltown Strangler (1950), an industrial plant beset by posters defaming its CEO is visited by author deKoven Blystone, creator of that brilliant Oriental sleuth Sharley Shang.

   Blystone claims that he can provide a thumbnail description of each of the twenty linemen suspects if given their nicknames. In Chapter VII of the novel he proceeds to do just that. Offered the monicker of Strumberries, Blystone describes him as “A Greek with an unpronounceable name, but blue-eyed instead of brown.”

   “How — how do you know that Smyro Smyroyannis has got blue eyes?” “If he had brown ones,” Blystone replies, “He’d have gotten called Zupp.”

   Chapter VII of The Steeltown Strangler is chock-a-block with off-the-wall reasoning like this — which strikes me as close cousin to the off-the-wall stuff in the Poggioli stories.

   The affinity between Stribling and Keeler — each man highly regarded for a short while and then so completely forgotten neither could find a U.S. publisher for anything they wrote — runs deep.


   This column wasn’t intended to end here. I had planned to say more about some of the oddball events one finds in Stribling — for example, a man being put on trial for murder the same day he’s arrested.

   I also wanted to discuss “The Mystery of the Paper Wad” (EQMM, July 1946), where Poggioli reveals at the denouement that two men, languishing in adjoining jail cells because they couldn’t afford to pay their estranged wives’ alimony judgments, had made a deal whereby each would kill the other’s spouse.

   This may well have been Patricia Highsmith’s inspiration for the murder-swapping scheme in Strangers on a Train (1950).

   What kept me from finishing this column as I had planned was that late in the evening of Sunday, March 6, my own Patricia died, very suddenly and unexpectedly. The death certificate gives the cause as sepsis, with pneumonia and stress-induced cardiomyopathy as contributing causes.


   She never even knew she had pneumonia. A few weeks earlier she’d been suffering from what she took to be flu but she was, or at least seemed to be, completely over it, so much so that on Thursday the 3rd she’d put in nine hours of hard labor at the cat shelter where she volunteered one day a week.

   She was fine on Friday the 4th also but started to feel ill that evening. From then on it was horrible: all night Friday, all day Saturday, all Saturday night. She refused to let me take her to the emergency room, saying hospitals never do anything on weekends but charge people.

   Patty had been terrified of hospitals ever since her mother died in one after going in for something minor. At dawn on Sunday morning, the 6th, I made her go with me. She must have felt as if I were driving her in a tumbril to the guillotine.

   A few hours later her internist told me that I had done the right thing and probably saved her life. In the emergency room I was told that she was having a heart attack right then and there but the medical people later changed their minds. She was taken to the cardiac catheterization lab where all sorts of tubes were stuck into her and all sorts of shots given to her but her blood pressure was so low that they were afraid to give her anything to relieve her pain.

   Late that afternoon they told me to go home and come back in the morning, saying that she’d need to stay in the hospital for a week to ten days. That night, around 11:00 P.M., they called and told me to get out there at once: she had taken a turn for the worse. I had her health directive and showed it to them and there the story ends. She died about half an hour before midnight.

   Our coming together, late in the 1970s, was almost a mathematical progression. First she had read my stories in EQMM, then she’d discovered from an article about me in the Post-Dispatch that I was a St. Louisan too, then we were introduced.

   At that time she was living in suburban Webster Groves with three cats, a dog and a black spider monkey named Tar Baby. I had never heard of a domesticated monkey before and began reading literature from the Simian Society of America, of which Patty was an officer.

   The result was “Black Spider,” which first appeared in EQMM (August 1979) and was later translated into several languages.

   I named my fictional monkey after the real one, and whenever I received a copy of the story in another language the first thing I looked for was what the translator had done with the monk’s name, which is meaningless outside the U.S.

   In Spanish she became Azabache, which means black as coal. The Japanese simply transliterated the syllables, turning the name into gibberish. That story would never have been written if I hadn’t met Patty and Tar Baby. It may be the foremost monkey mystery in the genre — mainly because there are no others.

   I’ve often said that TB wasn’t a monkey but Patty’s daughter by an earlier marriage. They were as close as a mother and daughter, and she was devastated when her child died.

   Afterward all her pets were cats, and I’ve dedicated several books to her and whatever animals were our housemates at a given time. The last cats in her life and the last four-legged dedicatees of a book of mine were Rico and Squeako. If cats had saints, she would be St. Patty.

   Anyone reading this column has probably heard the story of Mr. Flitcraft and the falling beam as Hammett told it in The Maltese Falcon. A beam fell on Patty that Sunday night, and on me, and on everyone who knew and loved her.

I don’t know what caused it but I had a massive muscle spasm in my right hip Sunday morning, bad enough for us to call an ambulance to take me to the emergency room around 3 pm. They assumed it was a fracture but all of the tests, Xray, MRI and Catscan, were negative.

They finally found a medication that killed the pain, and I came home around 5 pm Monday. The pain is still mostly gone and for the most part I can get around, but I’m still too light-headed to do more than post this message to the blog. I’m using my wife’s downstairs computer. I can’t maneuver my way to my upstairs study where mine is. (We live in a split level house.)

I see that a lot of discussion is still going on following last week’s posts, especially the one about the Mannix TV show that Michael Shonk wrote up, but I don’t imagine I’ll be able to post anything new for the next few days. The visiting nurse made her first visit about 30 minutes ago, and I’ll be making a trip to our chiropractor this afternoon, I hope.

I’ll have to see if there’s as easy way from me to read my email from here. My wife uses gmail or hotmail, and I don’t. I’ll probably have to add updates to this post to stay in touch.

[UPDATE] 03-30-11. Here’s the culprit, clinically speaking:

Located in men right where your billfold sits in your back packet. I don’t know if a possible cause is having too many bills in your wallet, but since that’s hardly ever true in my case, chances are slim that’s what happened to me. I have pills to take, and they seem to work, but the basic cure seems to be rest. And if something I do causes pain, then stop doing it.

Moving laterally is my biggest problem, which makes getting to my computer upstairs still too tough to do. Right now there’s only a narrow passageway up the stairs and into the room. I’ll be careful and not try to overdo anything I shouldn’t.

Thanks for all the good wishes. This was my first overnight stay in a hospital, though it was only in the Emergency Room. My problem seems awfully minor after seeing the incoming patients and listening to them talk to the the doctors and nurses in the cubicle next door. Everything seemed crowded and chaotic at first, but after a while it was still crowded and chaotic — but under control. The staff seemed to know exactly what they were doing.

David, I think it was you who asked about the MRI exam. It was full body one in a narrow closed tube, though open at both ends. They handed me a bulb to press if I experienced any kind of problem. It took me less than five seconds to press the bulb. It took a small sedative to get me through that. If that hadn’t worked, I think they were ready to use one of the conks on the head that knocked Mannix out every so often.

The blog will be back in business by this weekend, I’m sure, if not before. Thanks again for all the cheer and goodwill!

[UPDATE #2] 03-31-11. R.I.P. H.R.F.KEATING (1926-2011). See Comment #20 and David Vineyard’s tribute to one of the Giants of the world of mystery and crime fiction, followed briefly by one of my own.

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