THE ADVENTURERS. Gravity Pictures, China, 2017. Original title Xia dao lian meng. Andy Lao, Jean Reno, Zhang Jingchu, Qui Shu, Tony Yo-ning Yang, Eric Trang, Yi Sha. Co-Written and directed by Stephen Fung.

   The setup for this exciting heist film is the oldest of cops and robbers cliches, the tough obsessed cop vs the clever thief. A thousand variations of the story have been told from Les Miserables to Arsene Lupin, but this one wisely relies on action, high tech, gorgeous locales (Paris, Cannes, Prague, Kiev — the latter not so gorgeous), and a bit of character development rather than try to ring any changes on the standard tropes.

   Dan Zhang (Andy Lao) is just out of prison. He was captured while stealing a rare jewel, one part of a fabulous set known as Gaea, when he stopped to rescue Inspector Pierre Bissette (Jean Reno) from a burning police car, and a mysterious motorcyclist ambushed him, knocked him unconscious, and stole the jewel.

   In short order Dan eludes Bissette and is off to Cannes where the second part of the Gaea set is up for auction. Reunited with his friend and computer geek partner Po (Tony Yo-ning Yang) for the heist they are also joined by a third new team member, Red (Qui Shu) a kick ass young woman of invaluable skills.

   The heist goes off without a hitch despite Bissette’s presence, and Dan and Po are off to see the fence who befriended and taught Dan all he knows, Kong (Eric Trang), who presents Dan with the tongue of the thief who hijacked the jewel five years earlier, and informs Dan that his fiance, art appraiser Amber, was the one who turned him into the cops. Dan still loves her though, and can’t really blame her.

   The cost of retirement is high, and with the money Kong spent on revenge taken out of his payment, Dan agrees to one last heist, the third and final part of the Gaea set the Rope of Life, owned by wealthy Charlie Lo (Yi Sha) who keeps it in his castle outside Prague.

   Meanwhile Bissette, under pressure to capture Dan, and with his own demonsdriving his pursuit (his father was a thief) is joined by Dan’s fiance Amber (Zhang Jingchu) to try and track Dan’s next heist down.

   “He’s the worst kind of thief,” Bissette tells Amber, “one with ethics and integrity. If I don’t get him now I never will.”

   It will be a surprise to no one that there is more going on than this, crosses and double crosses, betrayal, and subtle reminders that Dan and Bissette are more alike than different spice up the heist and its aftermath. Finally, with Amber taken hostage Dan must team with Bissette, and he and Po travel to Kiev in Russia where Gaea is to be sold, and all the scores settled in a clever finale.

   A clever metaphor for the plot and action are the Russian style dolls Kong makes for a hobby, revealed layer beneath layer until the truth is uncovered. No new ground is broken here, but it is great fun, better acted than usual, and with enough car chases, narrow escapes, neat gadgets, and reversals of fortune for two or three Bond movies enhanced by a solid script (co-credited with Lao as Andy Lo and others) and direction.

   Reno doesn’t have a lot to do in the mostly Chinese cast, but he adds weight to the story, and wears the cliches of his character like a bespoken suit. His Inspector Bissette is a lonely man who talks to the bugs in his apartment and has been passed over for promotion because of his failure to capture Zhang, but he is human and capable rather than the usual cartoon policeman of the cliché.

   Of course as usual there are some things you just have to take on faith they are so outside the realm of possibility, but if you are willing to give an inch, The Adventurers will brighten any evening.

by Francis M. Nevins

   A few columns ago I spent some space on the earliest Maigret short stories, written by Georges Simenon in a single month and published in the French weekly magazine Paris-Soir-Dimanche between October 1936 and January 1937. This time we take a look at some of the slightly later and somewhat longer tales about the titan of the Quai des Orfèvres, including two that have never been published in English. Not in print anyway.

   After a hiatus of a bit more than a year, the second series of Maigret stories began to appear on a monthly basis in the interconnected weeklies Police-Film, Police-Roman, and Police-Film/Police-Roman. All were collected during the Nazi occupation period in LES NOUVELLES ENQUÊTES DE MAIGRET (Gallimard, 1944) except what I shall call the two outliers, which were included in later printings of the collection. The last three stories in the series first appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine between 1949 and 1952 and most of the others much later, in the early and middle 1970s. All but the two outliers were included in the collection MAIGRET’S PIPE (1977).

   Of the ten stories in the series the earliest to be published in French was “Mademoiselle Berthe et son Amant” (Police-Film, 29 April 1938), which appeared in EQMM for April 1973 as “Maigret and the Frightened Dressmaker” and in MAIGRET’S PIPE under its proper title, which I assume any reader of this column can figure out. Maigret has retired and is happily cultivating his garden at his villa in Meung-sur-Loire when he receives an anonymous letter from a woman claiming to be the niece of a Police Judiciaire colleague of his who was killed by his side. (Later this colleague is identified as Sergeant Lucas, but as far as I can tell, no fellow cop has ever been killed by Maigret’s side, least of all Lucas, who appears several times after this story, including in one of the ten tales in this series.)

   Maigret travels to Paris, meets Mlle. Berthe on the terrace of Montmartre’s Café de Madrid, and discovers that she’s the lover of one of four young men who robbed a radio store in the boulevard Beaumarchais and killed a cop during their getaway. That young man, now a fugitive, has sent Berthe some letters threatening to kill her if she doesn’t abandon her work as a free-lance dressmaker and join him on the run.

   Maigret takes a room in a hotel facing Berthe’s apartment and starts to keep watch. In a neighborhood bistro known as the Zanzi-Bar he meets Berthe’s brother, a young hoodlum called P’tit Louis, who’s been following her. (There are countless Simenon underworld characters known by that name, which some translators leave as is and others, like Jean Stewart in this story, render as Louis the Kid.) Later Berthe is attacked in her apartment, but Maigret sees through what has been going on—though the reader who can do likewise is as rare as a toad with wings—and magnanimously allows the dressmaker and her Albert to escape.

   “Tempête sur la Manche” (Police-Film, 20 May 1938; published both in EQMM for December 1978 and in MAIGRET’S PIPE as “Storm in the Channel”) seems almost like a full-length Maigret in miniature, complete with the vivid atmospheric touches one always encounters in Simenon novels. The Commissaire has been retired for three months and he and Mme. Maigret are in the harbor city of Dieppe, awaiting the Channel boat that will take them to a vacation in England.

   But the harbor is shut down by the titular storm and the Maigrets take shelter in a quayside boardinghouse. When one of the maids in that establishment is shot down on the deserted rue de la Digue on the way back from carrying a boarder’s luggage to a Channel boat about to brave the storm and make for Newhaven, Maigret tries to keep his identity a secret but soon finds himself helping the local police identify the murderer, who seems clearly to have been one of the boarders.

   The central clue is a series of numbers written on a back of a boardinghouse menu card, but not one reader in a million will be able to decipher the figures although Mme. Maigret grasps their meaning in an instant. The story implausibly ends with the police beating a confession out of the murderer—not at Headquarters, which would be credible enough, but in the boardinghouse front room.

   Next came “Le Notaire de Châteauneuf” (Police-Film/Police- Roman, 17 June 1938), which was translated in EQMM for March 1972 as “Maigret and the Missing Miniatures,” the same translation appearing in MAIGRET’S PIPE as “The Three Daughters of the Lawyer.”

   Maigret, still retired, is puttering around his garden, “in a patch of tomatoes so ripe that they dropped to the ground and spilled their scarlet juice,” when he receives an unexpected visitor named Motte, a notaire from Châteauneuf, some 40 kilometers from Meung-sur-Loire. One of Motte’s three daughters, 19-year-old Armande, is engaged to a poor but handsome young man who aspires to be an artist. Motte is also a collector of “carved and engraved ivories,” several of which have disappeared from his study.

   The prime suspect is his soon to be son-in-law, whose father is a notorious international thief, but Motte’s chief clerk, who wants Armande for himself, might have taken the ivories in order to discredit his rival the aspiring artist. Then of course there are Motte’s three daughters, and his all-but-invisible wife, and Motte himself.

   This turns out to be one of those Maigrets in which there’s no crime but only what we might call a domestic entanglement. It’s a bright and springlike tale, but it must have convinced Simenon that as long as he kept Maigret retired and without authority, he’d be pretty much confined to unexciting cases like this one.

   He overcame this challenge, in part at least, with the next month’s tale, “L’improbable Monsieur Owen” (Police-Roman, 15 July 1938), which has never been officially published in English but can be read and downloaded on the Web simply by googling the title.

   When Mme. Maigret is summoned to Quimper to care for a dying aunt, the former Commissaire heads south to Cannes at the invitation of an old friend, nominally the porter at the palatial Hôtel Excelsior, who seems to have the clout to treat Maigret to a luxury suite indefinitely at no charge. His enjoyment of the high life is interrupted when his benefactor knocks on his door and reports some strange goings-on in the hotel.

   A young man no one has ever seen before has been found naked and drowned in the tub of a suite in which resides a well-to-do Swede with the most un-Swedish name of Owen who meanwhile has vanished, leaving all his clothes and possessions behind. An empty whiskey bottle is found which didn’t come from the hotel but Owen’s lovely French nurse has also vanished.

   It almost sounds like an Ellery Queen puzzle but Maigret refuses to become involved, although he gets sucked in before he knows it. The highlight of the story is the exceptionally strong interrogation scene in the final pages, but Simenon never bothers to explain what the grand scheme underlying the events was all about, let alone how it could have been profitable enough to justify the carload of francs it must have cost. How that whiskey bottle figured in the plot likewise gets dropped down the memory hole. Quel dommage. This story had potential that Simenon let go to waste.

   In “Ceux du Grand Café” (Police-Film/Police-Roman, 12 August 1938) the Maigrets are back in Meung-sur-Loire and the bored former Commissaire has taken to spending his afternoons drinking at the local bistro and playing cards with the other town characters, who are never referred to by their names but only as the butcher, the mechanic (a.k.a. Citroën), the blacksmith and the veterinarian, who also happens to be the mayor.

   The only parties besides Maigret who have names are Urbain, the proprietor of the Grand Café, and the barmaid Angèle, whose “blouse is particularly well filled.” One afternoon the butcher is found shot to death at the edge of town shortly after displaying to his fellow Grand Café habitués a wallet apparently filled with 1000-franc notes which are now missing.

   Maigret is begged to step in by the mayor and every other dignitary in town but adamantly refuses until events force his hand. This tale, which has a much thinner plot than “Monsieur Owen,” can also be accessed on the Web by googling the title.

         (To be continued.)


ROBERT A. CARTER – Final Edit. Nicholas Barlow #2. Mysterious Press, hardcover, 1994. No paperback edition.

   I read the first in the series, Casual Slaughters, and thought it was decent if ot quite as good as the notices it got. Carver is a publishing veteran and a Contributing Editor to Publisher’s Weekly, and this got a starred review from them. No connection, I’m sure.

   Publisher Nicholas Barlow has an Imprint Editor (an editor with his own line of authors who gets credit on the book) who is giving him a lot of problems. Everyone in the firm has feelings toward him that range from dislike to detestation, and one threatens to quit over his actions. Nick is working his way up to firing him and buying out his contract, but before he gets there, the man is murdered in the firm’s offices.

   There’s no shortage of suspects, including to his displeasure, Nicholas himself. So he sets to work with the aid of his brilliant crippled brother to unmask the killer.

   Nicholas Barlow is an amiable character, a throwback in some ways to the bygone era of gentleman sleuths. I liked the publishing background, and though the characters generally well done. It’s a smooth if not exactly gripping read, and though the villain is no real surprise when finally unmasked, the book ends on a bittersweet note.

   Carver breaks no new ground at all in Final Edit, but he does what he’s chosen to do quite well. There are worse things to say about an author and his book.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #15, September 1994.

Editorial Note: This was the second and final case of murder solved by Nicholas Barlow.


21 HOURS AT MUNICH. Made-for-TV movie. ABC, 7 November 1976. William Holden, Shirley Knight, Franco Nero, Anthony Quayle, Richard Basehart. Director: William A. Graham.

   Surprisingly bloody and violent for a made-for-TV movie (released theatrically overseas), 21 Hours at Munich is a minimalist docudrama recreation of the Palestinian terror attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Franco Nero stars as Issa, the leader of the Palestinian Black September organization. He’s portrayed as a killer, albeit a reluctant one who is more interested in freeing his brothers from Israeli jails.

   Over the course of a day, he faces off against Munich Chief of Police Manfred Schreiber (William Holden) who is determined to save as many lives of the Israeli captives as possible. Rounding out the cast are Richard Basehart as German prime minister Willi Brandt, Shirley Knight as a Olympics security officer tasked with acting as a liaison between the authorities and the terrorists, and Anthony Quayle as an Israeli general who is deeply skeptical of the German authorities’ ability to pull off a successful counter-terrorist operation.

   A lot of the proceedings are unfortunately devoted to repetitive conversations between Issa and Schrieber in which the latter asks for more time to reply to the terrorists’ demands and the formerer fumes with anger. The more effective moments, however, are in the portrayals of the bursts of tragic violence that marred an event nominally devoted to the brotherhood of man. The downbeat ending is followed by voice-over narration that resounds on a decidedly pessimistic note. Teleplay by Edward Hume and Howard Fast.

Reviews by L. J. Roberts

ALAN BRADLEY – The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place. Flavis de Luce #9. Delacorte, hardcover, January 2018. Setting: England, 1952.

First Sentence:   I am on my deathbed.

   Flavia de Luce, her two sisters and Dogger, their loyal family servant, go on holiday to the hamlet of Volesthorpe. Drifting in a boat on the river, hand in the water, Flavia becomes snagged on what she imagines is Hemingway’s great marlin from “The Old Man and the Sea.” Even more to Flavia’s style, is the discovery that her hand caught in the mouth of a corpse. The dead man was the son of the local church’s Canon, who was hanged for poisoning three of his parishioners; the church ladies. But was the Canon really guilty? And who killed his son? What better than a murder investigation to take Flavia’s mind off her troubles?

   The first thing one should remember about Flavia is that she is 14 years old, brilliant and highly dramatic. She is also wonderfully written by Bradley who has created the perfect voice for her, and the perfect opening. As with most series, one does best to read the books in order. However, Bradley ensured first-time readers are fully introduced to the characters, their roles, and are brought quickly up to date.

   Some may find Flavia’s viewpoint a bit uncomfortable— “Most people probably never stop to think about why our burial places are so green. But if they ever did, their faces might turn the very shade of that graveyard grass… For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,” the Bible tells us. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” says The Book of Common Prayer. But both of these books, having been written mostly in good taste, fail to mention either the stinking jelly or the oozing liquids and the gaseous phases through which each of us must pass on our way to the Great Beyond.”

   Yet for others of us, it is that perspective which makes her unique and delightful, and the way in which Flavia comes across the first body is very bit Flavia.

   Bradley’s use of humor shows through in most situation, including his metaphors— “But, believe it or not, at that very instant, an idea came flying out of nowhere and landed on my head, like a pigeon on a statue of Lord Nelson.” The inclusion of rare and unusual bits of information, such as how one can cause oneself to blush, add to that which makes Bradley’s writing so delightful.

   We do see changes and growth in the characters. It is nice that we see a new side of Flavia’s sister, Feeley, at the same time as does she. We realize that Dogger is, in some ways, an older and more experienced version of Flavia. Although set in the 1950s, we are made aware of how recent was WWII, and of its impact through Dogger’s incidence with PTSD. It’s nice to see him develop as a character who is coming into his own. He is observant, rather wise; a father-figure, friend and advisor to Flavia— “I love it when Dogger talked like this. It made me feel that we were partners.” Flavia is gaining some self-awareness and is maturing, yet Flavia is a character one either loves, or finds rather terrifying, or both.

   In spite of the title and the humor, this is no cozy. The mystery, and the investigation, is well-plotted and executed, with red herrings and well-done suspense. Bradley always plays fair with the readers, laying out the clues as we read.

   The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place is a captivating and delightful read, with a maturing Flavia, and a wonderful ending that leaves one very anxious for the next book.

WILLIAM WOODY – Mistress of Horror House. Ace Double D-379. Paperback original; 1st printing, 1959. Published back-to-back with Drink with the Dead, by J. M. Flynn.

   In spite of the lurid title — attempting to attracy who know what kind of person — this is a PI novel, and if you’ve never heard of Houston McIver, this is the only appearance he ever made in print. It’s also Woody’s only mystery. at least under that name.

   The locale is El Paso, and there would be no story if McIver’s beautiful client and her aristocratic grandfather bothered to tell him exactly why they hired him. Counterfeit plates? Pancho Villa’s treasure? A blackmailing ex-husband? International espionage?

   In spite of the cover and the title, this is not a very good book. Just to give you a better idea how generally inept it is, when McIver is hunting for either the plates or a stash of gold and silver (he doesn’t know which), he calls the chief of police and requisitions both a Geiger counter and a mine detector.

— Reprinted from Mystery*File #22, June 1990.

MAKE A MILLION. Monogram, 1935. Charles Starrett (Professor Reginald Q. Jones), Pauline Brooks, George E. Stone, James Burke, Guy Usher, Norman Houston. Director: Lewis D. Collins.

   As far as I have been able to discern from Charles Starrett’s credits on IMDb, this was the next to the last film he had the romantic lead in before he became a full-time cowboy star. A movie entitled Along Came Love, made in 1936, was perhaps the last. It was probably a good thing that he could ride a horse, because on the basis of this one, his career in movies would have disappeared under his feet, with no one today knowing he ever existed.

   While made as a comedy, Make a Million also attempts to address the economic issues that were plaguing the nation in 1935. Not very deeply, mind you, but just enough to draw audiences in and maybe have them laughing a little about the problems they were having paying their bills and keeping their families fed.

   As Professor Reginald Q. Jones, Starrett plays one of those naive and out of touch left wing radical professors who think the little men in the country are paying all too much toward the wealth of the upper class, and when he fails one of his students, the daughter of a banker, for disagreeing with his theories of economics, he is summarily fired.

   But with one proviso: If he can use his theories to earn a million dollars within a fixed amount of time, he will be reinstated. Which, without wanted to reveal too much detail in how he goes about it, with the assistance of a band of hoboes, he does. Along the way, the daughter of the banker gets to see how shady a businessmen her father is — and am I telling you too much? — decides to switch sides, but almost too late.

   Nobody today, I grant you, would watch this movie other than a relic of the past. It is fun, though, to see Charles Starrett in a suit and tie and at six foot two, towering over everyone else in the movie, especially during a meeting between a band of avaricious bankers and the band of the brotherhood as they are busily discussing financial matters of the day. “What do you think of copper [as an investment]?” “Coppers? I can do without them.”


WILLIAM L. HEATH – Temptation in a Southern Town. Hillman #114, paperback, 1959. Reprinted as Blood on the River by The Mystery Book Guild, hardcover, 1959.

   W. L. Heath wrote several books about life and crime set in small-town rural south, the best known of which (because it was filmed) is Violent Saturday, but all of his work is worth reading for the sharply observed characters, well-knit plots and subtle atmosphere.

   Temptation in a Southern Town follows two characters to their inevitable meeting: aging Sheriff Deparis, who learns late in the book that he has stomach cancer (a sentence of painful death in 1959) and Billy South, a strong, hard-working black man who got in with a crowd of rum-runners a ways back and messed up his life.

   Heath does a compelling job of charting a collision course without making it look contrived. He picks out little bits of detail, highlights the bit players (a short interview with a mill foreman makes the character real for us, even though he’s never seen in the book again) and throws in the little details that make a story come alive without slowing the pace.

   There’s an incredibly tense few chapters that occur when a run goes wrong, and another nice bit when Billy’s associates turn on him, but the quiet scenes in little shops, watching children at play or just hanging around an empty jail are no less entertaining.

   And best of all, when the story gets to where we knew it was going all along, Heath goes for drama instead of melodrama. When the ending comes, it never seems stage-managed, but arises easily from the characters themselves.

   I’ll add that Heath treats the racial prejudice of his time much as Jane Austin treated the plight of women in hers: He acknowledges its presence and patent evil, bases some of the plot on it, but makes the book more about individuals than issues.

   If you’ve never read anything by William L. Heath, you should give yourself a treat.

Note:   For a short biography of the author and a list of the books he wrote, go here:


G vs E (aka Good vs Evil). USA. July 18, 1999 to October 31, 1999. Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy) March 10, 2000 to May 12, 2000. Rockfish Films / USA Studios / Universal. Cast: Clayton Rohner as Chandler Smythe, Richard Brooks as Henry McNeil, Marshall Bell as Ford Plasko, Googy Gress as Decker Benbow, Tony Denman as Ben Smythe, and Deacon Jones as himself. Executive Producers: Jonas Pate, Josh Pate and Paul Biddle. Created by Pate Brothers (Jonas and Josh).

   This Cable original series from the USA Network had a fun premise that offered up enough laughs to make it entertaining. Yet there were too many flaws that eventually doomed it with the Heavenly Listeners on its Day of Judgment.

   G vs E (as it was called in the first season on USA) featured the adventures of two dead men working for the Corps, God’s bounty hunters. Chandler Smythe and Henry McNeil are two murder victims trying to earn their way into Heaven after living a life not worthy of either Heaven or Hell.

ORANGE VOLVO. (July 18,1999) Written and Directed by Jonas Pate and Josh Pate. Guest Cast: Troy Evans and Dominic Keating Recurring Cast: Susie Park, Blake Heron and Ashley Rogers. *** Reporter and widower Chandler Smythe is killed during a mugging gone bad. Next Chandler finds himself still in Los Angeles and being told he is dead by two men called Ford and Decker. They offer him a second chance at redemption if he joins the Corps, God’s bounty hunters.

   Stationed in the Hollywood division of the Corps, Chandler and new partner Henry hunt down people who have made a deal with the Devil. They try to get the person to renounce the deal but should they fail the Devil takes their client’s soul and turns them into a Morlock (demon). Morlocks and the Corps fight a constant deadly battle, a war of good versus evil.

   The leader of the Corps is tough mean Deacon Jones. Played by the real Deacon Jones a Hall of Fame NFL player that terrorized quarterbacks during his career in the 60s-70s. He brings his no nonsense approach and the ability to inspire fear to his leadership of the Corps.

   Here Deacon gives some advice and also explains the three rules of the Corps:

   The Corps rules are simple:

   No sex. Morlocks look like normal humans except when they die or seen in a mirror. Morlocks use sex to trap Corps agents to kill and turn them into a Morlocks.

   Agents can not contact friends and family. Their loved ones will not recognize them and the Morlocks would use them against the Corps agent.

   Corps agents have no special powers or magic. They can be killed and if they die they face immediate judgment for where they will spend their afterlife.

   While Deacon Jones was a better football player than actor his character is one of the best parts of the entire series. However the rules are a major flaw of the series and while offering conflict for the drama, the rules are responsible for most of the buzz kill when the story gets fun.

   A bigger mistake is the series focus on rookie Chandler Smythe, the worst part of the series. Chandler is a self-absorbed whining loser who refuses to give up being involved with his son. The son is a teenage boy on the edge of going bad. This running plot point is a constant source for Chandler to do something stupid and put everyone in danger. Neither actor Clayton Rohner (Chandler) or Tony Denman (son Ben) are able to make their unlikable characters any less unlikable.

   Richard Brooks’ portrayal of dead 70s cop Henry McNeil is another highlight of G vs E. The series does a fine job parodying 70s TV cops shows from the visual style to the buddy cop relationship between experienced and groovy Corps agent Henry and bumbling idiot rookie Chandler.

   The last two regulars are Ford and Decker, Chandler and Henry’s superiors. Both Marshall Bell and Googy Gress have fun with their roles as bumbling inept superiors and are fun to watch.

   My favorite episode of the series is “Buried,” the third episode of season one. This is a fun episode as the focus is on the buddy relationship of Chandler and Henry as Gods bounty hunters trying to save souls. But even this episode could not avoid spoiling some of the fun with maudlin scenes between Chandler and son.

BURIED. (August 1, 1999) Written and Directed by Josh Pate. Guest Cast: Reno Wilson, Michael Paul Chan and Emmanuel Lewis. Recurring Cast: Susie Parks. *** Chandler tries to save a young boxer from Hell but ends up buried alive. He calls Henry (by cell phone) and Henry begins a quixotic adventure across Los Angeles to find and save Chandler.

   NBCU cable networks USA and Syfy have often shared original programs. USA ordered 22 episodes of G vs E. It aired Sunday at 8 pm and lasted eleven episodes. USA has always aimed at the general audience so G vs E was much better suited for the SciFi (now SYFY) channel and its different smaller audience. The series changed its name to the easier to understand Good vs Evil and moved to the Sci-Fi channel on Friday night for its final eleven episodes.

   The series did a good job exploring the inner workings of the Corps. In an episode from the second season, “Portrait of Evil” wraps itself in parody of 70’s TV buddy cop shows and the film Rear Window as it shows the process of possible promotion (aka Judgment Day) for members of The Corps.

PORTRAIT OF EVIL. (May 5, 2000) Written by Marshall Page. Directed by David Mackay. Guest Cast: Thomas F. Duffy and Jack Donner. Recurring Cast: Jack Esformes. *** Henry retrieves some important documents the Corps was after, kills two Morlocks and saves Chandler’s life. Hero Henry is offered possible promotion to Heaven while Chandler wallows in self-pity.

   While not totally forgotten today, man, if they had just been satisfied doing Starsky and Hutch fight demons, Good vs Evil could have been a cult classic on the level of X-Files and Twin Peaks. Instead it is just another series of many during the wild cable/syndicated days of the 80s through early 2000s that a few viewers remember with fond memories.

CRAIG RICE – The Corpse Steps Out. John J. Malone, Jake Justus & Helene (Brand) Justus #2. Simon & Schuster, hardcover, 1940. Reprints include: Pocket #476, paperback, 1947. IPL, softcover, 1989. Rue Morgue Press, softcover, 2012.

   If I were to put together a list of detective mysteries that take place in or around radio stations, this would have to be included, and somewhere on top of the list. When radio star Nelle Brown gets into trouble with a blackmailer (and an ex-lover) and some letters he possesses, it is up to Jake Justus, her overworked press agent, to keep her image as squeaky clean as her adoring public thinks she is.

   Problem is, and it’s a big one, when Nelle goes to the blackmailer’s apartment to confront him, she finds him dead, and the letters nowhere to be found. More than that, when Jake goes to investigate, the body itself is nowhere to be found.

   There are two more murders before the book is done, and at least two of them, when eventually found, have been moved hither and yon, all for a good purpose, you understand. Aiding Jake in this madcap sequence of activities are Helen Brand, vivacious socialite — and rather wealthy, as I understand it — and Jake’s attorney, John J. Malone, who is often described as crooked, but while he may skirt the edges of legalities, I would not call him crooked, not on the basis of his actions in this book.

   It also may be that Jake and Helen will have managed to have gotten married by the time the next book in the series came around, but try as they may, they don’t seem to get to the altar in this one. Too many bodies disappearing and popping up again!

   This is a fun book to read all the way through, save perhaps the ending, when all of the strange events that have been happenings have to be sorted out and explained, including the naming of the killer. I also caution you that there is a lot of drinking that goes on in this book. Gin, mostly, but when the supply of gin runs out, rye will do, with beer as a chaser. Or is it the other way around?

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