Crime Fiction IV


THE BACKWARD REVIEWER
William F. Deeck


OLIVER WELD BAYER – Paper Chase. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1943. No paperback edition. Film: MGM, 1945, as Dangerous Partners.

   According to The Crime Club, this is a “fast-paced mystery by a new writer who offers speed, humor, and one of the cleverest plot twists ever to appear in a mystery story.” One does wonder whether a fast-paced mystery could be achieved by a writer who doesn’t offer speed, but never mind.

   On the subject of humor, of which I understand little, I yield reluctantly to those who think witless people in unusual situations, particularly characters beyond their depth, provoke mirth. Finally, if there is a clever plot twist, it escaped my, by the end of the novel, numb attention. Another point is that this book was serialized in Liberty, [a magazine] not noted as I recall for its departures from the norm.

   After a plane crash, a confidence couple, man and wife, adopt Albert Mercer and his collection of four wills of which he is executor and beneficiary. When Mercer goes to Cleveland, he discovers that one of the will-makers is planning to write another in which Mercer does not figure. A statue topples on the will-maker, creating suspicion in the mind of his attorney, Jeff Piper, who is trying to get into Air Force Intelligence. Which he did, and how we won the war under that handicap is beyond my comprehension.

   Piper teams up with Elizabeth Neff, detective-story novelist, who has a low opinion of her own books. Together they bumble through an investigation of the confidence couple and— But maybe that’s the clever plot twist and I shouldn’t mention it.

– From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 13, No. 2, Spring 1991.


Bibliographic Notes: Information taken from Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin. No recurring characters.

BAYER, OLIVER WELD; pseudonym of Eleanor Rosenfeld Bayer, (1914-1981) & Leo Grossberg Bayer, (1908-2005)

      Paper Chase. Doubleday 1943
      No Little Enemy. Doubleday 1944
      An Eye for an Eye. Doubleday 1945
      Brutal Question. Doubleday 1947

   The film exists. Starring are James Craig, Signe Hasso, Edmund Gwenn and Audrey Totter. Has anyone seen it?

DEATH NOTED: Gérard de Villiers.

       From The Telegraph (UK):

Gerard de Villiers

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/10421552/French-spy-novelist-Gerard-de-Villiers-dies.html

    “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.

H. W. RODEN – Too Busy to Die. Detective Book Club, hardcover reprint, 3-in-1 edition (no date). First edition hardcover: William Morrow, 1944. Other hardcover reprints: Grosset & Dunlap (no date); World, 1946. Paperback: Dell #185 [1947] & #349 [1949]; both mapback editions.

H. W. RODEN Too Busy to Die

   Knowing little about the author, H(enry) W(isdom) Roden, 1895-1963, I first checked with Al Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV (naturally), and besides the information found in the first part of this sentence, I learned that Roden was an executive with various food corporations over his lifetime. Private detective Sid Ames was a character in all four of his mystery novels; sharing the bill on three of them was public relations expert, Johnny Knight.

   Here are the titles of the four books, all published first in hardcover by Morrow, in what I believe is correct chronological order: You Only Hang Once (1944), Too Busy to Die (1944), One Angel Less (1945 and the only solo appearance of Sid Ames), and Wake for a Lady (1946).

   Four books in three years, then no more. Searching on the Google, I also found an appearance by Roden on Ellery Queen’s radio program, “The Secret Weapon,” February 28, 1945. As was standard procedure for the show, Roden was a guest “armchair detective” whose job in the closing minutes to name the killer before Ellery did. (If Roden succeeded or not, I do not know. Most of the EQ radio programs are not available for listening.)

   On Kevin Burton Smith’s thrillingdetective.com website, he claims the city that Ames and Knight called home was New York City, but I’m not convinced. It’s not named in Too Busy to Die, but the surroundings to me don’t feel like Manhattan — much more like a small Midwestern town, but it had me wondering all the way through. Tellingly, Hubin does not identify the setting either.

   Sid Ames takes only a secondary role in the one I’ve just read. The story is told by Johnny Knight, who hires Ames after a client is found murdered in his hotel room. The old man, now rich with Oklahoma oil money, had come to Knight with a far-fetched story of trying to locate his former adoptive family, from whom he had run away when he was a kid. “Lammed,” is his very word.

   So, with a $2000 fee in hand, Knight feels obligated to find the man’s killer. This is one of those typically 1940s wacky type of screwloose capers, complete with a beautiful blonde, a pint-sized bombshell named Patricia Rodkins who is not only deeply involved in the case but who also goes completely gaga over Knight at first glance, reason unknown but Johnny does not mind.

   Diamonds are also involved, in a package the dead man had left in Johnny’s care, and two families (and hangers-on) of strangely-behaved matrons, dipsy husbands, assorted personal assistants, a hulking lug named Homer and a butler who is also the operator of a well-known west side crap game.

H. W. RODEN Too Busy to Die

   Here’s a quote from page 88, a total non sequitur, I grant you, but I liked it:

    I dropped Pat at her house and returned to my apartment. I found I had a visitor.

    Sid Ames sat in my living room. He looked very comfortable. He was stretched out full length on the couch. He had taken off his coat and shoes. A half-emptied highball glass rested on the floor within easy reach. He had just turned to the final pages of the latest Perry Mason story when I walked in.

    “That Della Street is some dish.” He addressed me as if Della were a personal friend of mine. “But what’s the matter with that guy Mason? There she is all the time waiting to be– Oh, well–” he finished, tossing the book on the floor.

    “Make yourself at home, fellah,” I grinned at him.

   With the body found on page 189, however, there are no more jokes. Things get serious and quite a bit darker in tone, and in spite of the relative loony atmosphere at the beginning, you begin to wonder if the mystery could possibly have a well-explained, coherent ending. It doesn’t.

   Which is not bad, you understand, but a last minute confrontation with the killer, which consists largely of eight pages of Johnny Knight doing all of the explaining, even though the killer on page 201 says:

    “…So why shouldn’t I want to talk about it? In fact, I’ve wanted to talk about it. I’ve wanted to tell someone … [how] … clever I’ve been.”

   And the aforementioned eight pages of tangled reasoning and impossible coincidences ensue. Johnny is also one of those guys who reports on what he sees but nothing more, nothing on what he’s actually thinking. And when he doesn’t comment on the obvious, the reader (that’s me) begins to think that either (a) he’s a lunkhead, or (b) the reader (again that’s me) was wrong, or at least sadly mistaken.

   On the other hand, do I regret the two or three late evening sessions I spent reading this? No, not at all, and I must have the other three of Roden’s books around here somewhere.

– March 2004


   NOTE: Previously reviewed on this blog, both times by Bill Deeck: You Only Hang Once and One Angel Less. (Follow the links)

THE BACKWARD REVIEWER
William F. Deeck


E. L. WITHERS – Diminishing Returns. Holt Rinehart & Winston, hardcover, 1960. Permabook M-4203, paperback, 1961.

E. L. WITHERS - Diminishing Returns

   Six people are having a nightcap. All are poisoned, but only one dies. Then the other five start dying one by one the next time they get together in ways that are made to appear accidental.

   An excellent plot here. Unfortunately, Withers is not able to carry it out without gaping flaws.

   The poison used in the first instance is arsenic, which the author thinks acts almost immediately upon ingestion. There is no explanation for the efforts to make the later deaths appear to be accidents when it is obvious — well, fairly obvious — that the poisoning was murder. One “accidental” death is from a broken neck; possible, to be sure, but most unlikely as described. There are other problems that will be left to the keen-eyed reader to spot.

   To make up for the somewhat strained logic, Withers provides a most delightful detective — this is his only appearance, alas — named Weatherby, who seems to have no first name.

   Weatherby is a retired lawyer, probably a septuagenarian, who likes to sleep until noon and stay up late, who smokes a lot and drinks a great deal, leading to “a slight fuzziness which was always urbane and gentle and good-humored.” He also has no desire “to walk when he could stand still, or to stand still when he could sit, or to sit when he could recline.”

   Read this for the “little old man” detective.

– From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 12, No. 2, Spring 1990.


          Bibliography:    (Taken from the Revised Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin.)

E. L. WITHERS. Pseudonym of George William Potter, Jr., 1930-2010.

   The House on the Beach. Rinehart 1957
   The Salazar Grant. Rinehart 1959
   Diminishing Returns. Rinehart 1960
   Heir Apparent. Doubleday 1961
   The Birthday. Doubleday 1962

THE BACKWARD REVIEWER
William F. Deeck


JUNE TRUEDELL The Morgue the Merrier

JUNE TRUESDELL – The Morgue the Merrier. Dodd Mead, hardcover, 1945.

   When mystery writer John Grover and his new bride, Lee, arrive at the house in Tree-Top Glen, apparently in Los Angeles, where they are to spend their honeymoon, the door is blocked by a body whose hand is the only part that can be seen. Moments later the body vanishes. Then a woman is murdered in one of the bedrooms, stabbed through the heart and with her throat slit.

   Grover and Lee call upon Julius Gilbert, criminologist not detective, who is five feet two inches tall, with two hundred pounds of tummy. (I suspect that Lee, the narrator, is exaggerating.) Muttering oracularly and managing to postpone the consummation of the marriage, Gilbert clears things up in a semi-fair-play novel after only one more murder.

   Those who like frenetic married-couple types should enjoy this one. While the characters are a bit extreme, as is the plot, in spite of these objections I am keeping an eye out for Truesdell’s later pair of novels, according to Hubin not featuring Gilbert or the Grovers, in which she may have exhibited a little more authorial control.

– From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 13, No. 1, Winter 1991.


  Bibliography:     [Taken from Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin]

TRUESDELL, JUNE (1918?-1996?)

        The Morgue the Merrier (n.) Dodd Mead, 1945.
        Be Still, My Love (n.) Dodd Mead, 1947. Film: The Accused, 1949.
        Burden of Proof (n.) Boardman, UK, 1951

A REVIEW BY DOUG GREENE:
   

GERALDINE BONNER – The Castlecourt Diamond Case. Funk & Wagnalls, hardcover, 1906. (“Published, December, 1905.”) First appeared in Ainslee’s Magazine, November 1905. Currently available in several different Print On Demand editions. Online edition: http://archive.org/details/castlecourtdiamond00bonnrich

GERALDINE BONNER The Castlecourt Diamond Case

   This is the second version of this review, In the first, employing suitable modesty, I credited myself with the discovery of Geraldine Bonner, an entertaining but (or so I thought) entirely forgotten writer. Having stated that Bonner is unknown, I then belatedly checked my facts … and I found that five years ago Kathi Maio praised another book by Bonner, The Black Eagle Mystery (1916), in Murderess Ink.

   Such are the perils of research.

   Ms. Maio says that Black Eagle is “a charming mystery” — a phrase that also describes Castlecourt Diamond. The story of the theft of the Marchioness of Castlecourt’s diamonds is told in six “statements.” The first, by the Marchioness’ maid, describes the theft, introduces the main characters, and mentions the two detectives, one official, one private.

   The second section is narrated by “Lilly Bingham, known in England as Laura Brice, in the United States as Frances Latimer, to the police of both countries as Laura the Lady.” It’s not much of a surprise that Laura stole the diamonds, though whether she was acting for someone else is not yet clear.

   On the whole, however, the mystery is primarily a vehicle for Bonner to produce a comedy of manners, and the interest in the second part is Laura’s successful attempt to plant the diamonds on an unsuspecting American couple, Cassius and Daisy Kennedy. The Kennedys have been courting London society (they already know “a bishop and two lords”) and thus can’t throw out Laura and her henchman when, pretending an invitation, they arrive for dinner.

   Two parts of the story are statements by the Kennedys, detailing their schemes to rid themselves of the diamonds and culminating in the theft of the jewels by a seeming sneak-thief. John Burns Gilsey, a private detective engaged by Lord Castlecourt, narrates a section that explains his deductions pointing to the Marchioness as the instigator of the plot, but the book concludes with a statement by the Marchioness showing that Gilsey was only partly correct.

   The Castlecourt Diamond Case is indeed charming, and it is made even more so by its brevity — with large type and margins it contains less than 30,000 words, a far cry from many Victorian and Edwardian detective novels, as anyone who has labored through, say, Lawrence Lynch’s novels with their 550 godawful pages will testify.

   I can’t claim to be the discoverer of Geraldine Bonner, but I’m happy to join Kathi Maio in recommending her works.

– Reprinted from The Poisoned Pen, Vol. 6, No. 2, Winter 1984/85.



BIBLIOGRAPHY:   [Taken from the Revised Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin]

       GERALDINE BONNER (1870-1930). Born in Staten Island, N.Y.

The Castlecourt Diamond Case (n.) Funk 1906.
The Girl at Central (n.) Appleton 1915 [Molly Morganthau (Babbits)]
The Black Eagle Mystery (n.) Appleton 1916 [Molly Morganthau (Babbits).]
Miss Maitland, Private Secretary (n.) Appleton 1919 [Molly Morganthau (Babbits)]
The Leading Lady (n.) Bobbs 1926.
-Taken at the Flood (n.) Bobbs 1927.

Hi Steve,

   W. B. M. Ferguson’s dates are given everywhere, including Crime Fiction IV, as 1881-1967. The birth is correct according to the Irish births registration, but I have now found in the English National Probate Calendar the death of a William Blair Morton Ferguson on 12 January 1958 in Londonderry.

   I have told Allen Hubin as it seems unlikely there are two people of that name, though one never knows.

   But, as I have said, as the 1967 death is given everywhere, I wonder if you could mention this to see if anyone can provide more information. It would also help to spread the word of that incorrect date – if it is incorrect.

   Many thanks

               John

      BIBLIOGRAPHY     [Taken from Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin] —

FERGUSON, W(illiam) B(lair) M(orton) (1881-1967); see pseudonym William Morton; Born in Belfast.

* *The Big Take (Long, 1952, hc) [U.S.]
* *-Black Bread (Long, 1933, hc)
* *The Black Company (Jenkins, 1925, hc) [New York] Chelsea, 1924.
* *Boss of the Skeletons (Long, 1945, hc) [New York City, NY; 1920 ca.]
* _The Clew in the Glass (Chelsea, 1926, hc) See: The Clue in the Glass (Jenkins 1927).
* *The Clue in the Glass (Jenkins, 1927, hc) [U.S.] U.S. title: The Clew in the Glass. Chelsea, 1926.
* *Crackerjack (Long, 1936, hc) Film: Gainsborough, 1938; released in the U.S. as Man with 100 Faces (scw: A. R. Rawlinson, Michael Pertwee, Basil Mason; dir: Albert de Courville).
* *Dog Fox (Long, 1938, hc)
* *Escape to Eternity (Long, 1944, hc) [Dan Cluer; New York City, NY]
* *The Island of Surprises (Long, 1935, hc)
* *London Lamb (Long, 1939, hc)
* _The Murder of Christine Wilmerding (Liveright, 1932, hc) See: Little Lost Lady (Hurst 1931), as by William Morton.
* *Other Folks’ Money (London: Nelson, 1928, hc) Chelsea, 1926.
* *Phonies (Long, 1951, hc) [New York City, NY; U.S. West]
* _The Pilditch Puzzle (Liveright, 1932, hc) See: The Murderer (Hurst 1932), as by William Morton.
* *Prelude to Horror (Long, 1943, hc)
* *The Riddle of the Rose (Jenkins, 1929, hc) [New York] McBride, 1929.
* *Sally (Long, 1940, hc)
* *The Shayne Case (Long, 1947, hc) [Dan Cluer; New York City, NY]
* *Somewhere Off Borneo (Long, 1936, hc)
* *The Vanishing Men (Long, 1932, hc)
* *Wyoming Tragedy (Long, 1935, hc) [Wyoming]

MORTON, WILLIAM; pseudonym of W. B. M. Ferguson, (1881-1967)

* *The Case of Casper Gault (Hurst, 1932, hc) [Police Commissioner Kirker Cameron; *Insp. Daniel “Biff” Corrigan; New York]
* *The Edged Tool (Chelsea, 1927, hc)
* *Little Lost Lady (Hurst, 1931, hc) [New York] U.S. title: The Murder of Christine Wilmerding, as by W. B. M. Ferguson. Liveright, 1932.
* *Masquerade (London: Nelson, 1928, hc) [*Insp. Daniel “Biff” Corrigan; New York] Chelsea, 1927.
* *The Murderer (Hurst, 1932, hc) [*Insp. Daniel “Biff” Corrigan; Police Commissioner Kirker Cameron; New York City, NY] U.S. title: The Pilditch Puzzle, as by W. B. M. Ferguson. Liveright, 1932.
* *The Mystery of the Human Bookcase (Hurst, 1931, hc) [*Insp. Daniel “Biff” Corrigan; Police Commissioner Kirker Cameron; New York City, NY] Mason (U.S.), 1931.

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