Authors


EILEEN DEWHURST – There Was a Little Girl. Doubleday Crime Club, US, hardcover, 1986. First published in the UK by Collins, hardcover, 1984.

   Eileen Dewhurst is an author new to me, so I started looking up what I could find out about her and her mystery fiction. First of all, she was born in 1929 and is apparently still living. One source says: “Eileen Dewhurst was born in Liverpool, read English at Oxford, and has earned her living in a variety of ways, including journalism. When she is not writing she enjoys solving cryptic crossword puzzles and drawing and painting cats.”

   I have found 25 mysteries that she has written. A few never appeared in this country, and there is a curious footnote to her book The Innocence of Guilt (Piatkus, 1991). Apparently Doubleday printed up copies in this country, but then they changed their minds and never sent them out for sale. Curious, but considering the whims of publishers, this is not particularly surprising.

   Some but not all of her book belong to various series. The case in hand is solved by Detective Inspector Neil Carter; he appeared in four others, three before this one, and one afterward. Inspector Tim Le Page appears in three books, all coming after this one. Phyllida Moon, an actress who moonlights as a private eye, appears in nine books. Helen Johnson, described in one source as the wife of a high member of British Intelligence, appears in two earlier mysteries, while someone named Humphrey Barnes crosses over into one Neil Carter book plus one of those that Phyllida Moon is in. The Neil Carter books may also overlap some of the Phyllida Moon books. Sorting all this out is beginning to sound lke a chore for another day.

   Enough background, perhaps. There are a couple of interesting aspects to There Was a Little Girl, and the first is the little girl herself, a 15-year-old schoolgirl whom we first see being sent off by train to London by her aunt for the weekend, and next as a murder victim – a prostitute Inspector Carter had previously chatted up in a bar for a short time and whom she telephoned for help just before her death, he arriving too late.

   Somehow, or is it my imagination, do the British do the messy sex-related mysteries better and/or more often than American authors do? Not the US hard-boiled version, but the “malice domestic” variety. If so, here’s another one.

   Another aspect is the marital status of Inspector Carter himself, which changes in Chapter 3 from single to married, and Dewhurst portrays the day, the ceremony, and the reception to perfection. A dreamlike panic.

   More. The wedding night. This has to be a first. Neil is hesitant to ask, but his new wife Cathy eagerly accepts. Instead of their regularly scheduled honeymoon location, off they go instead to Bellfield, the small town in the New Forest where the girl was from, where they do some incognito and continuing investigating on their own (department sanctioned), Neil not convinced that the man they have arrested for the murder is actually guilty.

   Query: Is this the first murder investigation conducted by a newly married couple on their honeymoon? And mind you, Cathy takes an active role in the case, an unofficial colleague as it were, allowing certain doors to open more easily than if Neil were on his own. In the process they find themselves embarrassed in how easily they are accepted by those who are (truthfully) suspects in the case.

   The author is very observant when it comes to human nature, and although this is not at all like one of Miss Marple’s detective puzzles, at least in terms of situation, I was reminded of Christie’s works more than once. Christie often made complex plotting look easy, however, and Dewhurst is just a little awkward at it, about which more I cannot say, but if you were to read this book and then go back and read one of the earlier chapters again, you will know what I mean

— July 2004

FIRST YOU READ, THEN YOU WRITE
by Francis M. Nevins


   Thanks to being on the road – -among other places, in New York where I’ll attend the MWA annual dinner and find out if I’m going to be the proud recipient of a third Edgar — I need to hold this down to a mini-column. It’s an ancient tradition that when a professor has to miss a class or two, one leaves a homework assignment for the students. You’ll find mine in the next item.

***

   What an amazing age we live in! I never thought anything could be added to the checklist of adaptations of Cornell Woolrich stories from the golden age of live TV drama that appeared almost thirty years ago in my FIRST YOU DREAM, THEN YOU DIE. Now I’ve just stumbled upon a Woolrich-based teledrama that I had never heard of before.

   Not just a reference to it but the episode itself, and one whose origin was a Woolrich tale I had never known was adapted for TV. It’s available on DVD (SUSPENSE: THE LOST EPISODES, COLLECTION 3) and on YouTube to boot.

   “Goodbye, New York” was based on the first-rate Woolrich story of the same name (Story Magazine, October 1937). A Web write-up of the DVD describes it as evoking a mood of “grim…noir-esque despair,” which certainly makes it sound faithful to its source. Meg Mundy starred in the 30-minute drama, which featured Gage Clarke, Philip Coolidge and an unbilled Ray Walston.

   Like 90-odd other SUSPENSE episodes, it was directed by Robert Stevens (1920-1989), who later helmed dozens of filmed episodes of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS. (Stevens died in his late sixties after being robbed and beaten by unknown assailants.) As shown on YouTube the episode doesn’t include an air date, but according to other Web sources it was the pilot for the series, broadcast on January 6, 1949, which apparently means that it’s the earliest TV version of any Woolrich tale.

   YouTube claims that Woolrich’s story was also the basis for the 1952 Hollywood feature BEWARE, MY LOVELY, starring Robert Ryan and Ida Lupino, but this is flat-out wrong; the literary source for that picture was Mel Dinelli’s “The Man” which, funnily enough, also first appeared in Story Magazine (May-June 1945).

   Here’s your homework assignment: When you’ve finished reading this column, watch the YouTube video and see if you agree that perhaps the earliest contribution to TV noir has been unearthed.

   If you have it handy you might want to read the Woolrich story too. It closes with lines that come as close as anything to capturing his world in a few words. “Two doomed things, running away. From nothingness, into nothingness….Turn back we dare not, stand still they wouldn’t let us, and to go forward was our destruction at our own hands.”

***

   There’s just space for a couple of bits of information that I promised to include this month, dealing with adaptations of John Dickson Carr for 60-minute broadcasts during the golden age of live teledrama. The first of these was seen on the CBS anthology series STUDIO ONE the night of January 7, 1952. “The Devil in Velvet” was directed by Paul Nickell from a teleplay by Sumner Locke Elliott based on Carr’s 1951 historical thriller of the same name. The stars were Whit Bissell, Phyllis Kirk and Joan Wetmore.

   Apparently there were no more hour-long Carr adaptations until more than six years later when another CBS anthology series presented a version of by far the best known and most popular Carr radio play, “Cabin B-13″ (CLIMAX!, June 26, 1958). Shortly after a newlywed couple board a luxury liner for their honeymoon cruise, the man vanishes along with the fortune his wife gave him as a wedding present.

   She reports his disappearance to the captain and is told that there’s no record of either herself or her husband as passengers and that what she claims to have been their cabin doesn’t exist. Heading the cast were Barry Sullivan (Dr. Edwards), Kim Hunter (Ann Brewster), Alex Nicol (Robert Brewster), Hurd Hatfield (Morini) and Sebastian Cabot (Capt. Wilkins). The original Carr radio play is easily available both in audio and script form.

***

   Apparently the last hour-long live Carr adaptation on American TV was aired on NBC’s DOW HOUR OF GREAT MYSTERIES, a short-lived series that aired once a month for seven months during the last year of the Eisenhower administration, by which time live TV drama was pretty much dead.

   Second of the seven episodes was “The Burning Court” (April 24, 1960). The adaptation of Carr’s classic 1937 novel of the same name was by Audrey and William Roos, who were well known for collaborating on whodunits as Kelley Roos. Paul Nickell once again directed. The cast boasted four top names: Barbara Bel Geddes (Marie Stevens), Robert Lansing (Edward Stevens), George C. Scott (Gordon Cross), and Anne Seymour (Mrs. Henderson).

   I can’t remember a thing about this show, probably because I was watching MAVERICK or something that night.

THE BACKWARD REVIEWER
William F. Deeck


JOHN MERSEREAU – Murder Loves Company. Lippincott, hardcover, 1940. Rue Morgue Press, softcover, 2004.

   James Yeats Biddle, professor of horticulture, University of California at Berkeley, accompanied by Kay Ritchie, not a girl reporter but a newspaper woman, is on his way to give a rather dull speech, although he doesn’t think it will be so, on “The Flora of the Golden Gate International Exposition.”

   They encounter death on the San Francisco Bay Bridge as a careering car narrowly misses them and then crashes into the bridge, causing the bodies of two Japanese men to be thrown from the car. One of the Japanese had already been dead before the accident, but the other dies as a result of the inhalation of cyanide gas rather than the crash.

   If this information had not come to light, a naive reader might think it was all Biddle’s fault. After all, he made an illegal U-turn on the bridge and his attention to his driving was such that he could see Miss Ritchie’s eyes shining up at him, her lips slightly parted. Either she was in his lap facing him or he had his head turned at a rather uncomfortable angle. Whichever, it was certainly failure to pay full time and attention to driving.

   The police are convinced that there was only one murder victim and that his murderer died in the crash. Professor Biddle himself is not very curious about the murder, or murders, even though he discovers — and, of course, keeps to himself — a rubber band in the crashed car that probably was attached to the choke to keep the car moving. It is not until he discovers that someone had been messing about with the olive trees he had had transplanted on Treasure Island for the San Francisco Exposition that he becomes involved in the case.

   The novel is not well clued and the murder motive seems far-fetched. Biddle, however, is an engaging character and would have been a great deal more engaging if half the novel did not dwell on the joys and sorrows brought about by his having fallen in love at first sight with Kay Ritchie.

   Among his other quirks are a distaste for mystery novels, even though he had read some because of his great admiration for Woodrow Wilson, whose favorite relaxation was reading mysteries, and an abhorrence of split infinitives, that hobgoblin of small minds. Kay splits infinitives invariably in her writings, but for Biddle these have a peculiar charm. Indeed, at one point this habit saves his life.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 9, No. 4, July-August 1987.


Bio-Bibliographic Notes:   John Mersereau (1898-1989) was the author of one other bone fida detective novel, that being The Corpse Comes Ashore (Lippincott, 1941), but according to Hubin, Professor Biddle is not in it. Mersereau wrote one other novel that is included in Hubin, but that only marginally: The Whispering Canyon (Clode, 1926), which was made into a silent film of the same title.

   Says the AFI page for the latter: “Returning from the war to his father’s California sawmill, Bob Cameron takes up with Hinky Dink, a cocky Englishman and man of the road. Ignoring a ‘no trespassing’ sign on Cameron’s property, Hinky is caught in a steel trap; Cameron, seeking aid, is threatened by Eben Beauregard, an old southerner, but the appearance of Antonia (Tony) Lee, Bob’s childhood friend, quells his temper. Bob learns that Lew Selby, an unscrupulous timber baron, is trying to buy Tony’s land and that his father has been murdered. At the suggestion of Hinky (who has innocently fallen asleep on the riverbank), Bob and Tony pool their interests against Selby; he attempts to prevent their passage through land belonging to Medbrook, an eccentric; and Gonzales, Selby’s henchman, kidnaps Tony. Medbrook blows up the dam, and Selby tries to buy out the couple; but the plot is thwarted by the timely intervention of Hinky Dink.”

   Much more on the author himself, also the writer of a large number of pulp stories, can be found on the Rue Morgue Press website. Briefly, from the online FictionMags Index: “Born in Manistique, Michigan; family moved to California in 1907; lived variously in California until enlisting in the Navy in 1941; edited a navy recruitment magazine in Washington D.C. after the war; moved to Santa Barbara, then to Mexico, and finally to Forsythe, Missouri, where he died; pulp writer, novelist and screenwriter.”

THE BACKWARD REVIEWER
William F. Deeck


WIRT VAN ARSDALE – The Professor Knits a Shroud. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1951.

   Pedro Jose Maria Guadaloupe O’Reilly y Apodaca, B.S., M.A., Ph.D., more familiarly and shortly known as Peter or Uncle Pete, is a professor of anthropology, not, as Doubleoday’s dust jacket would have it, archaeology. The young lady to whom he is a former guardian invites him, somewhat to the displeasure of her husband even though he usually enjoys Uncle Pete’s company, to their farm, presently occupied by Henri Von Fliegel, a best-selling author.

   Apodaca describes Von Fliegel’s books this way: …Oh, he had good story ideas. That I will grant you. But then he’d take those good ideas and embellish them with all sorts of impossible characters and impossible situations and throw in a lot of cheap sentimentality and as much fornication as he thought he could get by with and call the whole nauseating mess a novel…

   Ah, how the literary world has progressed since the 1950s.

   But I digress.

   As is usual with successful authors — though only in fiction, one hopes — Von Fliegel is loathed by almost everyone, and apparently with good reason. As is to be expected, he comes to no good end, shot in the head while working on his current novel.

   Luckily, Professor Apodaca’s experience in anthropological fie!d work leads him to make some sterling deductions, and these convince the police that he should be part of the investigation. He solves the case, to the appreciation of almost all concerned. As an aid to his cerebration, the professor knits socks. At last count, he had completed 2,736 individual ones, I believe, not pairs.

   The only unbelievable item in the novel, if one accepts the sock count, is Apodaca’s inability to recall for a lengthy period where he had read about the word rache written in blood. There are well-read people who wouldn’t immediate|y know that, but what are they doing detecting in mystery novels?

   Wirt Van Arsdale, a pseudonym of Martha Wirt Davis, wrote only one mystery. A pity, for Van Arsdale showed lots of promise in this book. Of course, you have to accept the usual caveat that people act unreasonably for purposes of the plot in this bib!io mystery.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 9, No. 6, November-December 1987.


Bio-Bibliographic Notes: As Bill points out, this was Martha Wirt Davis’s only work of detective fiction. She may have written others if not for her untimely death in 1952, at the age of 46. She was married to author and occasional pulp fiction writer Clyde Brion Davis, who died in 1962. According to Wikipedia, their son, David Brion Davis, is an “American intellectual and cultural historian, and a leading authority on slavery and abolition in the Western world.”

From researcher John Herrington:

    “I have some questions to ask about an author who is proving hard to reliably track down. Alice Hosken who wrote as Coralie Stanton, author of many “sensational novels,”, several of which are in Al Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV. [See below.]

    “The trouble is I can only find two records for her. In 1901 she married Ernest Hosken as Mary Alice Cecil Seymour Keay — I have a copy of her marriage certificate which says she was 24 and the daughter of John Seymour Keay, banker (and MP in the early 1890s). But no such birth found c1877 (which is given in her entry on the 1911 census which says born London).

    “I have looked at John Seymour Keay and found a few facts. He was Scottish born in 1839 and spent many years working in India, returning permanently here in 1880. He married, in October 1878 in London, Christina (known as Nina) Jameson Vivian, daughter of an Englishman who was then living in Australia where he died in 1880.

    “Nina died in in 1885 and is known to have been the mother of his two daughters – Nina born India in 1880 and Gladys born England in 1881. – with no mention of Alice. In fact when he died in 1909, a newspaper article on his will says he left everything to his two daughters, Nina and Gladys.

    “So no mention of a third daughter (a son was born and died in 1885). So if the Keay connection is correct, was she born out of wedlock? Keay is on the 1881 census with his wife and daughter Nina, and I have found no mention of a Mary or Alice Keay on that census who fits. As I said, the only two definite records for her are the 1901 marriage and the 1911 census.

    “I have no idea how long Keay was in England before his marriage, though he returns to England afterwards. I suppose it’s possible there was another marriage in India, that when that marriage ended his wife kept the child and either remarried or retained her maiden name?

    “So her origins are at present a complete mystery. As too is her death, though she could be the Alice S Hosken who died in 1951.

    “Sorry to go into so much detail, but Keay’s story is necessary to illustrate the mystery surrounding Alice.”

BIBLIOGRAPHY:        [taken from Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV]

CORALIE STANTON. Pseudonym of Alice Cecil Seymour Hosken, (1877?-1951?)

The Adventuress (McBride, 1907, hc) See: Miriam Lemaire, Money Lender (Cassell 1906) as by Coralie Stanton & Heath Hosken.
The Amateur Adventuress (Thomson, 1930, hc) [England]
Called to Judgment (with Heath Hosken) (Paul, 1913, hc) [England]
-Chance the Juggler (with Heath Hosken) (Hutchinson, 1904, hc) [England]
The Dog Star (with Heath Hosken) (Cassell, 1913, hc)
-Her Fugitive (Thomson, 1929, pb) [England]
Ironmouth (Paul, 1916, hc) [England]
The Love That Kills (with Heath Hosken) (Milne, 1909, hc) [England]
The Man Made Law (with Heath Hosken) (Everett, 1908, hc) [England]
Miriam Lemaire, Money Lender (with Heath Hosken) (Cassell, 1906, hc) [Miriam Lemaire; England] U.S. title: The Adventuress. McBride, 1907, as by Coralie Stanton.
The Muzzled Ox (with Heath Hosken) (Paul, 1911, hc)
-The Revelations of a Rich Wife (with Heath Hosken) (Nash, 1921, hc) [England]
The Second Best (with Heath Hosken) (Long, 1907, hc) [England]
The Sinners’ Syndicate (with Heath Hosken) (Hurst, 1907, hc) [England]
-The Way of Escape (Leng, 1932, hc)
The White Horsemen (with Heath Hosken) (Nash, 1924, hc)
-Zoe: A Woman’s Last Card (with Heath Hosken) (Everett, 1913, hc) [England]

FIRST YOU READ, THEN YOU WRITE
by Francis M. Nevins


   I own very few European crime novels in both their original language and in English, but one of those is Der Richter und Sein Henker or, as it’s known over here, The Judge and His Hangman (1952; U.S. edition 1955), the first novel of Swiss playwright Friedrich Duerrenmatt (1921-1990).

   I read it in both languages many years ago and again last month. It’s about Hans Bärlach (whose last name in English is missing the umlaut), Kommissär of the Swiss police, a man clearly near death, and his 40-year-long struggle against a sort of existential criminal who committed a motiveless murder in front of the Kommissär’s eyes and dared Bärlach to pin it on him.

   More than sixty years after its first publication the book is still a compelling read, and the German edition (designed for students who are learning the language) adds several dimensions to what readers of the translation are offered, including two maps that make clear the relationship to each other of the various small towns near Bern where much of the story takes place.

   Reading the German side by side with Therese Pol’s English version also reveals where Pol now and then goes her own way. At the end of Chapter 11 (Chapter 8 in the translation), the diabolical Gastmann breaks into Bärlach’s house beside the Aare River and steals the Kommissär’s file on him. “I’m sure you have no copies or photostats. I know you too well, you don’t operate that way.”

   A procedural this novel ain’t. He throws a knife at Bärlach, just missing him, and goes his way. “The old man crept about the room like a wounded animal, floundering across the rug on his hands and knees…, his body covered with a cold sweat.” He moans softly in German: “Was ist der Mensch? Was ist der Mensch?” This simply means “What is man? What is man?” but Therese Pol expands it to: “What sort of animal is man? What sort of animal?”

   That’s not too much of a stretch compared with the last chapter where Bärlach learns that his young assistant Tschanz “sei zwischen Ligerz und Twann unter seinem von Zug erfassten Wagen tot aufgefunden worden,” meaning that between two of the villages shown on the first map he was found dead under his car, which had been struck by a train.

   In English the report is simply “that Tschanz had been found dead under his wrecked car….” The train has vanished, but at least Ms. Pol doesn’t make up Duerrenmatt’s mind for him on whether Tschanz’s death was an accident or suicide. Such are the joys of reading a book in two languages at once. If only my French were good enough to allow me to read Simenon in his own tongue!

***

   You don’t need to be a linguist to catch some amazing blunders in the versions of Simenon that we get to see. In L’Affaire Saint-Fiacre, first published in French in 1931 and first translated by Margaret Ludwig as The Saint-Fiacre Affair in the double volume Maigret Keeps a Rendezvous (1941), a threat on the life of a countess brings Maigret back to the village where he was born and raised.

   Very early in the morning he wakes up in the village inn and, purely for professional reasons, gets ready to attend Mass in the church where he’d been an altar boy. He goes downstairs and, in one of the later translations, the innkeeper asks him: “Are you going to communicate?” Even one who knows no French and nothing of Catholicism should be able to render the question in English better than that.

***

   I don’t remember the title of the novel or who translated it but I vividly recall another Simenon where Maigret wakes up in yet another country inn and phones down for, as he puts it in English, “my little lunch.” Again, you don’t need to know more than a soupçon of French to figure out what the translation of petit déjeuner should be.

***

   As this column is being cobbled together I’m in the middle of going over The John Dickson Carr Companion. And learning some odd trivia about Carr’s novels and stories that had never struck me before. How many of you remember that in the Carter Dickson novel She Died a Lady a gardener claims that on the previous night he went to see the movie Quo Vadis? The book was published in 1943 but, according to the Companion, its events take place in 1940.

   Either way, Carr certainly couldn’t have been referring to the Quo Vadis? that we remember today if we remember the title at all, the 1951 Biblical spectacular that starred Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr. There was a German silent version of the same story, released in 1924 and starring Emil Jannings, but what would a German silent be doing playing in England long after silents had been displaced by talkies and at a time when England and Germany were at war? More important question: What was Carr thinking?

***

   The adaptations of Carr’s work dating back to the golden age of live TV drama back in the Fifties are not covered in the Companion, at least not in any detail. I happen to have some information on that subject, and chance has now given me an excuse to share it. Anyone remember Danger?

   It was a 30-minute anthology of live teledramas, broadcast on CBS for five seasons (1950-55). My parents hadn’t yet bought their first set when the series began, and when it went off the air I was a child of 12 who hadn’t yet even discovered Sherlock Holmes and Charlie Chan at my local library.

   I don’t think I ever watched the program, certainly not with any regularity, but I vaguely remember that one of its shticks was a background score of solo guitar music played by a guy named Tony Mottola (1918-2004). Obviously the producers of the show were hoping to duplicate the success of the CBS radio and TV classic Suspense, and the two Carr tales that were broadcast on Danger happened to be radio plays that he had written for Suspense back in the Forties. “Charles Markham, Antique Dealer” (January 2, 1951), was based on the radio play “Mr. Markham, Antique Dealer” (Suspense, May 1, 1943) and starred Jerome Thor, Marianne Stewart and Richard Fraser.

   The director was Ted Post (1918-2013), who later moved into filmed TV series like Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel and Rawhide and, thanks to impressing Clint Eastwood with his Rawhide work, got hired to direct big-budget Eastwood features like Hang ’em High (1968) and Magnum Force (1973).

   We don’t know who directed “Will You Walk Into My Parlor?” (February 27, 1951) but it came from Carr’s radio drama of the same name (Suspense, February 23, 1943). The script was first published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, September 1945, and collected in Dr. Fell, Detective and Other Stories (1947) and, after Carr’s death, in The Dead Sleep Lightly (1983).

   The cast was headed by Geraldine Brooks, Joseph Anthony and Laurence Hugo. Among the other top-rank mystery writers whose stories were adapted for Danger were Philip MacDonald, Wilbur Daniel Steele, A.H.Z. Carr, Anthony Boucher, MacKinlay Kantor, Steve Fisher, Q. Patrick, James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler and Roald Dahl.

   The roster of authors who scripted original teleplays for the series included Paddy Chayefsky, Reginald Rose and Rod Serling, and among the directors who rose from this and other live teledramas to Hollywood household-name status were John Frankenheimer and Sidney Lumet.

   The final episode of Danger was a live version of Daphne DuMaurier’s 1952 short story “The Birds,” which Alfred Hitchcock later adapted into one of his best-known films. I can’t imagine anything like Hitchcock’s bird effects being possible on live TV, but either I was watching something else on the night of May 31, 1955 or I went to bed early. If anything from this series is available on DVD, I haven’t heard of it.

***

   Considering the dozens of scripts Carr wrote for Suspense as a radio series, one might have expected a pile of his radio scripts and short stories to have been used when the program became a staple item on prime-time TV.

   In fact only one of his radio dramas and one of his short tales were adapted for the small screen. Among the earliest of the TV show’s episodes was “Cabin B-13″ (March 16, 1949), which starred Charles Korvin and Eleanor Lynn and was based on perhaps the best known and most successful Carr radio drama, first heard on Suspense on May 25, 1943 and collected in The Door to Doom and Other Detections (1980).

   The second and final Carr contribution to Suspense was “The Adventure of the Black Baronet” (May 26, 1953), an adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes story written by Carr in collaboration with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s son Adrian (who according to Douglas G. Greene’s Carr biography did most of the writing) and first published in Collier’s for May 23, 1953, just a few days before the televersion.

   As might have been expected, Basil Rathbone reprised his movie and radio role as Holmes. It might also have been expected that Nigel Bruce would have played Dr. Watson as he had so many times in the movies and on radio. I don’t know why he didn’t, but since he died only a few months later (October 8, 1953), the reason might have had to do with his health. In any event the Watson of this Suspense episode was played by Martyn Green of Gilbert & Sullivan fame.

***

   As far as I’ve been able to find, Carr’s contributions to 30-minute live TV drama are limited to these four episodes. If any of his short stories or radio plays became the bases of filmed 30-minute dramas, I haven’t found them. There are two fairly well-known teledramas at greater than 30-minute length that owe their origins to Carr, but this column is long enough already so I’ll save them for next time.

FIRST YOU READ, THEN YOU WRITE
by Francis M. Nevins


   Usually I try to have my column finished by the end of each month so it can be posted around the beginning of the next, but having a February column ready by late January proved impossible. Reason One: To my surprise and delight, a book of mine that came out last year, a little trifle called Judges & Justice & Lawyers & Law, was nominated for an Edgar by Mystery Writers of America, which meant that first I had to decide whether at my advanced age I wanted to come to New York late in April for the Edgars dinner, and second that I had to find a decent place to stay that wouldn’t cost me a pair of limbs that I still need.

   Reason Two: I was recently asked to write something for the 75th anniversary issue of EQMM, which comes out next year, and have been spending time trying to cobble something together that would be worthy of the occasion. I’m happy to report that the piece is coming along nicely.

   Reason Three: I’m also trying to put the final touches on another book — one that has nothing to do with our genre and wouldn’t be nominated for an Edgar even if pigs started to fly — and last-minute glitches have been gathering on the horizon like Hitchcock’s birds.

   Reason Four: Keep reading.

   Reason Five: I simply couldn’t think of anything relevant to the genre that I wanted to say, so finally I decided to give up the idea of a February column and shoot for March. Bang.

***

   A number of years ago I devoted part of a column to a Stuart Palmer story, now more than 80 years old, which begins at a St. Patrick’s Day parade on which the APRIL sun is shining down. I couldn’t imagine how that howler got past any editor but at least took comfort from the fact that the story never appeared in EQMM and therefore that the gaffe didn’t get by the eagle eye of Fred Dannay, probably the most meticulous editor the genre has ever seen.

   A week or two ago I stumbled upon another Palmer story for which I can’t say the same. “The Riddle of the Green Ice” first appeared in the Chicago Tribune (April 13, 1941) but was reprinted in Volume 1 Number 2 of EQMM (Winter 1941-42) and included in The Riddles of Hildegarde Withers (Jonathan pb #J26, 1947), a paperback collection Fred edited.

   In the first scene the display window of a jewelry store on Manhattan’s 57th Street is smashed and the thief gets away. Palmer specifically tells us that the robbery took place on a “rainy Saturday afternoon”. A few pages later he gives us a scene that occurs on the following Monday, which he solemnly assures us is “four days after the shattering of the jewelers’ window….”

   Yikes! How in the world could an eagle-eyed editor like Fred Dannay have missed that? Palmer’s story also appears in Fred’s collection The Female of the Species (1943), and sure enough the same gaffe pops up in that printing. Double yikes!!

***

   In another column dating back a few years I wrote that of all the authors Anthony Boucher reviewed in the San Francisco Chronicle back in the 1940s, Ray Bradbury, who had just died, was probably the last person standing. Recently I learned I was wrong. Surviving Bradbury by several years was Helen Eustis, author of the Edgar-winning novel The Horizontal Man (1946), who died on January 11 of this year at age 98.

   Well, technically perhaps I wasn’t wrong. The book was published during Boucher’s tenure at the Chronicle and he mentioned it a few times, for example when MWA awarded it the best-novel Edgar, but he never actually reviewed it for the paper. I wonder who did. Except for her later novel The Fool Killer (1954), Eustis never wrote anything else in our genre. Our loss.

***

   For anyone like me who began seriously reading mysteries in the Eisenhower era, the name of John Dickson Carr was then and still is one to conjure with. He’s been dead since 1977, but no one has yet come close to taking over his position as the premier practitioner of the locked-room and impossible-crime type of detective novel.

   We never met but I remain eternally grateful to him not only for giving me countless hours of reading pleasure, but also for telling his readers that in a small way I reciprocated. In the last full year of his life he reviewed my first novel for his EQMM column (March 1976) and called it the most attractive mystery he’d read in months.

   Since his death he’s been the subject of at least two major books: Douglas G. Greene’s biography The Man Who Explained Miracles (1995) and S.T. Joshi’s John Dickson Carr: A Critical Study (1990). Now those volumes are about to be joined by a third. James E. Keirans’ The John Dickson Carr Companion will run around 400 pages and include an entry for every novel, short story and published radio play in the canon and just about every important character in any of the above, not to mention sections on such subjects as Carr-related alcoholic beverages, automobiles, weapons, London landmarks and Latin quotations.

   How do I know so much about this as yet unpublished book? Because I’ve been asked by the publisher (Ramble House) to run my aging eyes over the book in pdf form and make any corrections I think it needs. That, amigos, is Reason Four behind the absence of a February column. I don’t know precisely when the Companion will be ready for prime time, but my best guess is a few months from now.

***

   I haven’t finished going over the entire book yet but there’s one Carr-related literary incident that I’m willing to bet Keirans doesn’t mention. To know about it you have to have read the published volume of the correspondence between the Russian emigre novelist Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977) and the distinguished literary critic Edmund Wilson (1895-1972). Nabokov — or, as Wilson called him, Volodya — was fond of mystery fiction; Wilson — or, as Nabokov called him, Bunny — hated it.

   In a letter dated December 10, 1943 and addressed to Wilson and his then wife, novelist Mary McCarthy, Nabokov indicates that he’d recently read a whodunit entitled The Judas Window. The title of course is that of the novel published in 1938 under Carr’s pseudonym of Carter Dickson, but Nabokov’s letter seems to indicate that he thought the book had been written by McCarthy.

   “I did not think much of [it], Mary. It is not your best effort…. [T]hat lucky shot through the keyhole is not quite convincing and you ought to have found something better.” How could such a mistake have happened? Wouldn’t the Dickson byline have been on any copy Nabokov might have read? However it happened, you’d expect that either Wilson or McCarthy would quickly have corrected Nabokov’s misapprehension.

   But in fact there’s not another word about the book anywhere in the correspondence, and the editor of the collection of letters, Prof. Simon Karlinsky, was unfamiliar with detective fiction and printed Nabokov’s words without comment. Somehow I wound up with a copy of the first edition of the correspondence (Harper, 1979) and wrote to Prof. Karlinsky with a correction. In the revised and expanded edition (University of California Press, 2001), both Carr and I are acknowledged in footnotes to the Nabokov letter.

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