Crime Fiction IV

THOMAS BLACK – Four Dead Mice. Rinehart & Company, hardcover, 1954. Bantam #1448, paperback, 1956, as Million Dollar Murder.

   I’m going to change things around from the way they usually occur here, not just a little, but from top to bottom. Instead of a complete list of Thomas [B.] Black’s private eye Al Delany character at the end of this review, here they are at the beginning:

      The 3-13 Murders. Reynal & Hitchcock, 1946.


      The Whitebird Murders. Reynal & Hitchcock, 1946.

      The Pinball Murders. Reynal & Hitchcock, 1947.


      Four Dead Mice. Rinehart & Co., 1954.

   There are are only the four of them, and why the gap, and why the abrupt end to the series, I do not know. I’d welcome any information that you might have. According to Al Hubin, Thomas Black was born in Kansas in 1910, with a possible death date of 1993, not confirmed. (Information on hand as of the current Revised Crime Fiction IV.)

   I’m sure I’ve read at least one of the first three, but it was so long ago, I’ll not rely on memory, and I’ll report on only this one. It takes place in Chancellor City, an small metropolis with more than its share of alleys, back streets, rundown housing and a wide-open red light district. I had the feeling that it might be St. Louis, in disguise, or Kansas City, perhaps, but that’s only a guess, and it’s probably not relevant anyway.


   Delany is asked by a bakery to find out who might have dropped some dead mice into a vat of bread dough, and the case escalates from there to include the death of a job applicant who flunked an employment check, and more.

   The dialogue is bright and chipper and slangy, and maybe some of the slang makes the book unreprintable today. For example, S.Q.Q. stands for? San Quentin Quail, if that helps any, and that’s what Delaney knows what Honey Ward is, a precocious young girl (in ways also probably unreprintable today) who grabs his attention early on and doesn’t let go.

   Here’s an early scene that doesn’t have anything to do with the plot, and Cora Collins doesn’t appear again, but I liked the flavor it provided:

   The bus had “East Side” on its green destination blind, and standing room only, and I swayed to a handstrap between two oblivious middle-aged vivisectionists who had a job to do and didn’t care who knew it. They were dismembering one Cora Collins, absent, and though Cora was pretty sad generally, her basic errors were three: she had fluffy blonde hair, owned a pseudo mink coat, and her best physical features could be purchased at any drug counter. As the two ladies carved and cut, the bus belly-crawled across C.C.’s graying traffic-congested streets, when I got down on the east bank of the ice-bleak Charles River, I had all the dope on Cora I needed; everything, that is, except her address.

   From a little later on, from page 37, this excerpt is getting closer to the plot:

   …Though I would have liked to have carried the thing further, I didn’t. J. Albert [Benson] was a client and a good one. I told him bowing-out time had come, and after we’d said the conventional things I headed back downtown via Adair Avenue, and on the way in I did a little mental work, finding it nothing but frustrating. It was a small world for sure. Honey had led me to Jack Doyle on the Grand Bridge, he had taken me to Margaret Benson in her Packard, and happenstance had guided me to the Benson place to be on hand when she arrived home. From playing bridge? I didn’t know, but it was a fine night for liars. Honey had lied to me about knowing Reymon, Mrs. B seemed to be lying about here whereabouts of the evening, and it was altogether possible that J. Albert’s secretary, icy Miss Hassett, was living a lie herself, covering an affair for her employer’s wife.

   With other characters involved named Delight (a big nut-brown colored hairpin, handsome as sin and better proportioned), “Baggy Pants” Vance, Bam Carson, George Washington Hite, Little Phil Murio, and a hophead named Sleepy-Sleep, this reads like a cross between Damon Runyon and Harry Stephen Keeler, with triple the coherency of the latter, thanks to numerous recaps and timetables and lists of questions that haven’t have been answered yet.

   I’m not so sure about the ending. I wish Black had pumped up the descriptions of some of the characters earlier on, to give them the presence they needed to fit the roles they were designed to play — and I’m not (necessarily) referring to the killer(s). As it is, it’s solid detection on the run, winging it as it goes, and cramming it all in to fit (for the most part) until the number of pages runs out.

–September 2003

[UPDATE] 02-10-12.   I’m sorry to say that this is all I remember of this book. If I hadn’t written the review, I wouldn’t even be able to tell you where the four dead mice came in. I think this is a positive review, however. I’ve convinced myself I ought to read the book again, next time I get the chance.

William F. Deeck

C. ST. JOHN SPRIGG – Death of an Airman. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1935. First published in the UK: Hutchinson, hardcover, 1934.

S. ST.JOHN SPRIGG Death of an Airman

   Fortunate it is for the minions of the law that Edwin Marriott, Bishop of Cootamundra, Australia, is in England on leave and wants to learn how to fly. For it is he who spots an anomaly when the flight school’s principal instructor expires after his plane crash: rigor mortis never sets in.

   A delayed post-mortem uncovers a bullet wound in the dead man’s head. It can’t be suicide. It also cannot be murder since the pilot was flying alone and no other plane was seen in the area.

   Scotland Yard Inspector Bernard Bray, one of Sprigg’s continuing characters, is called in to assist in the investigation. Even he can’t puzzle out the absence of rigor in the corpse, though he does get on the trail of drug smugglers and peddlers (yes, young people, like sex, this was not something invented in your generation).

   With the help of the Bishop, Bray and the locals break up the drug ring and finally figure out how the deceased pilot met his fate in an entertaining novel that provides some interesting information about the early days of flying.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 12, No. 3, Summer 1990.

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

SPRIGG, C(hristopher) ST. JOHN
. 1907-1937.

   Crime in Kensington (n.) Eldon 1933 [Insp. Bernard Bray; Charles Venables] US title: Pass the Body. Dial, 1933.
   Fatality in Fleet Street (n.) Eldon 1933 [Charles Venables] No US edition.
   Death of an Airman (n.) Hutchinson 1934 [Insp. Bernard Bray]
   The Perfect Alibi (n.) Eldon 1934 [Charles Venables; Insp. Bernard Bray]
   The Corpse with the Sunburnt Face (n.) Nelson 1935. US title: The Corpse with the Sunburned Face. Doubleday, 1935.
   Death of a Queen (n.) Nelson 1935 [Charles Venables] No US edition.
   The Six Queer Things (n.) Jenkins 1937.

Editorial Comments:   There is a longer biography of Sprigg on the Golden Age of Detection Wiki, along with a photo.

   A challenge I might present to you I’m sure I would win is to have you collect all of the books above, or try to. I do not believe you could do it. If you have a collection already, you must have put it together some 40 years ago or more. At one time the US editions of his books were relatively common, but no more, especially in jacket. (The one shown above came from a Sun Dial reprint.)

   As to this particular book, I’ve had a copy since forever, but I’ve never read it. I do wish that Bill Deeck had commented on how clever the “impossible crime” aspect was. At the moment, all it is is a tease.


JACK IAMS – A Shot of Murder. William Morrow, hardcover, 1950. Dell #722, paperback, 1953.


   When a young American woman, Nita Romaine — a night club singer — disappears in Eastern Europe, recently married reporter “Rocky” Rockwell of the Riverside, Ohio Record manages to talk his editor into sending him and his bride to Europe in order to look for her — the missing woman’s fiancé being a local man.

   It isn’t long before Rocky realizes that someone doesn’t want him to be successful. A man mistaken for him is thrown over the side of the ocean liner transporting them, and efforts are made in Paris to get him entangled with the French police.

   Rocky is helped in Paris by Mrs. Pickett, the paper’s society columnist but is forced to go to Poland alone (though an attractive French woman with reasons of her own for going to Poland attaches herself to him) and continue his search.

   From reading the dust jacket, I gather that this was the third book in a series in which Mrs. Pickett was the lead character. Mrs. Pickett is something of a Rosalind Russell type. In this book, however, Rocky is definitely the major character.

   If I were to compare this with another series I would say it was entertaining in the same way that Manning Coles’ Tommy Hambledon novels are entertaining. Lightweight fluff, that is, a pleasant read, but about as realistic as a three dollar bill.

   One wonders how big a city Riverside, Ohio, is and how a local paper can afford to pay to send a reporter and his wife gallivanting through Europe.

— Reprinted from The Hound of Dr. Johnson #9, March 1992.

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

JACK IAMS, 1910-1990.

   The Body Missed the Boat (n.) Morrow 1947.


   Girl Meets Body (n.) Morrow 1947.


   Death Draws the Line (n.) Morrow 1949.


   Do Not Murder Before Christmas (n.) Morrow 1949 [Rocky Rockwell; Amelia Pickett]


   What Rhymes with Murder? (n.) Morrow 1950 [Rocky Rockwell; Amelia Pickett]


   A Shot of Murder (n.) Morrow 1950 [Rocky Rockwell]


   Into Thin Air (n.) Morrow 1952.
   A Corpse of the Old School (n.) Gollancz 1955 [Amelia Pickett]

Editorial Comments:   Al seems to have missed Amelia Pickett as a character in A Shot of Murder. Perhaps her role was small, but I’ll still send him a note to make sure he knows. It’s interesting to see that Iams’ last book, another Amelia Pickett novel, was never published here in the US.

William F. Deeck

ROGER EAST – Murder Rehearsal. Knopf, hardcover, 1934. First published in the UK: Collins, hardcover, 1933.

   When several “accidental” but suspicious deaths occur following the plot of Colin Knowles’s detective novel in progress, and one of those deaths could be advantageous to him in regaining his lost love, is Knowles turning art into reality? But why, then, the additional deaths?

   Superintendent Simmonds of Scotland Yard is called in to investigate the first death and, later, with the help of Knowles’s unfinished novel, makes the connection with the other deaths in a book that combines the thriller and the detective story. If nothing else, this novel gives the reader the chance to re-encounter the greatly cherished delayed revenge motif, despite the necessity to swallow some large coincidences.

   In the Manchester Evening Chronicle, Dr. Watson — frankly, I doubt that this was our Dr. Watson — said East “seems likely to become one of the small band of really first-class detective-story writers.” The promise is here, but it’s only a promise.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 12, No. 3, Summer 1990.

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

EAST, ROGER. Pseudonym of Roger Burford, 1904- ; other pseudonym: Simon.

    The Mystery of the Monkey-Gland Cocktail (n.) Putnam 1932.
    Murder Rehearsal (n.) Collins 1933 [Colin Knowles; Supt. Simmonds]
    The Bell Is Answered (n.) Collins 1934.
    Candidate for Lilies (n.) Collins 1934.
    Twenty-Five Sanitary Inspectors (n.) Collins 1935 [Supt. Simmonds]
    Detectives in Gum Boots (n.) Collins 1936 [Colin Knowles]
    The Pearl Choker (n.) Collins 1954.
    Kingston Black (n.) Collins 1960.
    The Pin Men (n.) Hodder 1963.

SIMON. Pseudonym of Roger Burford & Henry Joseph Hasslacher.
    Murder Among Friends (n.) Wishart 1933 [Insp. (Supt.) Deering]
    Death on the Swim (n.) Wishart 1934 [Insp. (Supt.) Deering]
    The Cat with the Moustache (n.) Wishart 1935 [Insp. (Supt.) Deering]


T. G. GILPIN – Death of a Fantasy Life. St. Martin’s, US, hardcover, 1993. First published in the UK: Quartet, hardcover, 1988.


   I reviewed what I thought was Gilpin’s first novel, Is Anybody There?, for Mystery News, and thought it was a very good and off-beat story. But it turns out that this was his first, published in England in 1988 and only now appearing here.

   Speaking of unlikely teams, how about a professor of theoretical linguistics and a Soho stripper? The professor comes to town seeking an erratic and unlovable nephew of whom he is the guardian, and while having a pint in a pub meets a stripper when she mistakes him for someone else.

   One of her friends has been murdered a short time before, and it turns out that the erratic nephew knew her; as is true of the next stripper who is murdered, very quickly.

   The prof and the stripper get their heads together, he out of concern for the nephew, she for the sorority of strippers, but they come to no conclusions, and the alliance dies aborning when the somewhat sexless prof rebuffs her friendly (no more, surely) advances.

   He is unable to settle back into his routine, however, and when certain events occur he is drawn back in to the world well lost.

   This is one of those books of a peculiarly British type; not farcical, but with a cast of characters just slightly askew. It’s not humorous in a thigh-slapping sense, but somehow the overall tone is one of gentle humor.

   Gilpin is a literate and enjoyable stylist who seems to like the people about whom he writes, and I think you will, too. This doesn’t have the depth of Is Anyone There?, but it’s defintely worth reading. I particularly liked the ending.

— Reprinted from Ah, Sweet Mysteries #7, May 1993.

  Bibliography: Adapted from the Revised Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin —

GILPIN, T(imothy) G., 1946- .

      Death of a Fantasy Life (n.) Quartet 1988; St. Martin’s, 1993.
      Is Anybody There? (n.) Constable 1991; St. Martin’s, 1992.


      Missing Daisy (n.) Constable 1995; St. Martin’s, 1995


B. J. MORISON – The Martini Effect. Elizabeth Lamb Worthington #5. North Country Press, hardcover, 1992.

   Elizabeth Lamb Worthington is a precocious thirteen-year-old who lives with her grandmother in Boston when not traveling with her globetrotting parents. She has just started prep school on Mount Desert Island, Maine, after having been traumatically rejected by the school of her choice. She’s no stranger to the island, as her Grandmother has a summer home there.

   There’s an interesting, not to mention weird, collection of teachers and students, and the school is still abuzz over the suspicious death by drowning last term of a student with unsavory reputation as a blackmailer. Elizabeth Lamb (use of the second name is mandatory), being nosy and having the deceased’s girl-friend as a bunkmate, finds herself investigating.

   Now this is a cozy. The story gets told in a very leisurely fashion, and for quite a way into the book is more of a young-girl-at-school story than anything else. Which is not to say that it’s boring; I liked the protagonist, and I enjoyed reading about her.

   Morison created an environment and set of characters that seemed real to me, though I hasten to add that the closest I’ve been to a prep school is to drive by one. Having visited the island a couple of times, I had hoped for a little more regional flavor than I found, but after all, it wasn’t meant to be a travelogue.

   Against all odds, I enjoyed it; though I don’t know that I’ll be in a hurry to seek out others in the series.

— Reprinted from Ah, Sweet Mysteries #7, May 1993.

      The Elizabeth Lamb Worthington series –

1. Champagne and a Gardener, 1982


2. Port and a Star Boarder, 1984
3. Beer and Skittles, 1985


4. The Voyage of the Chianti, 1987
5. The Martini Effect , 1992

Editorial Comments: Both the author and her character are new to me. Says Al Hubin in the Revised Crime Fiction IV about the author: MORISON, B(etty) J(ane), 1924-2001; born in Maine; owned and operated the Criterion Theatre in Bar Harbor, Maine.

   Despite the young age of Elizabeth Lamb, the books appear to be written for adults, but I may be wrong about this. None of the other reviews I’ve found online for the series seem to say, in the same manner that Barry also did not address the issue. (The fact that all of the titles include alcoholic beverages in them may be telling us something.)

A 76-Year Old Pseudonym Revealed
by Victor A. Berch

   In a recent exchange of e-mails with my colleague, Allen J. Hubin, he queried me about the death date of the author known simply as Arthur Mallory.

   Mallory’s entry in Allen’s Crime Fiction IV appears as follows:

MALLORY, ARTHUR.   1881- ?

      The House of Carson (n.) Chelsea 1927
      Doctor Krook (n.) Chelsea 1929
      The Fiery Serpent (n.) Chelsea 1929
      Apperson’s Folly (n.) Chelsea 1930 [Dr. Kirke Montgomery; New York]
      The Black Valley Murders (n.) Chelsea 1930 [Dr. Kirke Montgomery; New York]
      Mysteries of Black Valley (n.) Chelsea 1930 [Dr. Kirke Montgomery; New York]

   The FictionMags Index adds a little more biographical information about Mallory, specifically that he was born on a ship in the Indian Ocean, along with a list of stories he wrote for Breezy Stories and Detective Story Magazine. No more than a dozen of these are listed, but the connection of Chelsea House and Detective Story is not surprising, since the former was the hardcover imprint of Street & Smith, which also published many pulp magazines, including DSM.

   However, I had no idea how much truth there was in that piece of biographical information from FictionMags, so I set out to discover what might be in the genealogical database.

   There were some Arthur Mallorys, but none that fit the date of birth nor the description of the author. Searching further however, the name Arthur Mallory popped up in an obituary in the New York Times as the pseudonym of Ernest M. Poate, a mystery writer of some note.

   The obituary, which was dated Feb. 3, 1935, also provided the following information: Dr. Poate was born in Yokohama Japan and died in Southern Pines, North Carolina, Feb. 1, 1935, at the relatively young age of 50. He was a physician and an attorney as well as an author.

   Checking out entry for Poate in CFIV, I found the following:

POATE, ERNEST M.   1884-1935.

      The Trouble at Pinelands (n.) Chelsea 1922 [North Carolina]


      Behind Locked Doors (n.) Chelsea 1923 [Dr. Thaddeus Bentiron; New York City, NY]
      Pledged to the Dead (n.) Chelsea 1925
      Doctor Bentiron: Detective (co) Chelsea 1930 [New York City, NY]


      Murder on the Brain (n.) Chelsea 1930 [New York City, NY]

   The first thing one notices is that Mallory and Poate had the same publisher, and digging a little further it can be discovered that the stories in the Dr. Bentiron collection were reprinted from Detective Story Magazine.

   The other major match between Mallory and Poate is that both used doctors as main characters in many of their books. This had to be more than coincidence. Just as the Times obituary had stated, and in spite of the discrepancy between the two dates of birth (and the location), the two men were one and the same.

   Poking around a bit more, I learned that his parents were Thomas Pratt Poate and Belle (Marsh) Poate, missionaries in Japan until the family immigrated to the US in 1892. His birth mother had died in 1896 and by 1900, his father had remarried. His World War I draft registration revealed that he was born October 10, 1884 and his full name was Ernest Marsh Poate.

   Anyone wishing to dig further into the family can examine the Poate family papers housed at Cornell University Library. The basic information on Dr. Poate will appear in the next Addendum to Crime Fiction IV.

— Copyright 2011 Victor A. Berch

    I’ve had less time than usual to spend here at the computer the past couple of weeks, so it’s taken me longer than normal to get Part 41 of the online Addenda to the Revised Crime Fiction IV posted. Al Hubin sent it to me late last week, and it’s ready for viewing at last — corrected, amended and updated as of yesterday evening. (Follow the links.)

   As it happens now every three months or so, like clockwork, there are the usual additions: newly discovered series characters and settings for the novels, a few new authors and novels, dates of birth and death added or corrected. Loads and loads of facts and additional information about our favorite hobby: reading and collecting detective and mystery fiction, with a small portion of it, I’m happy to say, generated by the reviews and other discussions that take place on this blog.

Sex in the City in Alice Campbell’s Desire to Kill
by Curt J. Evans

ALICE CAMPBELL – Desire to Kill. Farrar & Rinehart, US, hardcover, 1934. Collins Crime Club, UK, hardcover, 1934.

   In his interesting and influential but often rather one-sided analysis of English detective novels and thrillers between the wars, Snobbery with Violence: English Crime Stories and Their Audience (1971), Colin Watson portrays the Golden Age English mystery as quite straight-laced, sexually speaking, with blushing crime fiction writers of the day able to bring themselves to refer only “obliquely” to “coital encounters.”

    “The political tone [of the between-the-wars English mystery novel] was conservative save in a handful of instances,” pronounces Watson. “As for morals, it would be difficult to point to any other single branch of popular entertainment that conformed more strictly to current notions of decency. […] An almost Victorian reticence continued to be observed in crime fiction for decades after treatment of unsavory topics had come to be accepted, within limits, as a legitimate feature of the straight novel.”


   Colin Watson likely never read Alice Campbell’s 1934 crime novel Desire to Kill.

   Admittedly, the novel is set in France (specifically Paris), where many English readers no doubt could more easily accept the presence of moral decadence in human life. Still, the plot itself quite strikingly involves elements (drugs, homosexuality, prostitution and sexual voyeurism) that would be right at home in the unbuttoned and unzipped modern mystery.

   Alice Campbell (1887-?) herself was an American, though, like John Dickson Carr, she is associated with the English school of mystery. Originally she came from Atlanta, Georgia, where she was part of the socially prominent Ormond family. (Ormond was her maiden name.)

   Campbell moved to New York City at the age of nineteen and became a socialist and women’s suffragist (this according the blurb on a 1939 Penguin paperback — evidently Penguin did not deem it necessary to shield potential readers from knowledge of this author’s less than conservative background). She moved to Paris before World War One, married the American-born artist and writer James Lawrence Campbell and had a son in 1914. By the 1930s (possibly sooner), the family had left France for England, where Campbell continued writing crime fiction until 1950 (the year The Corpse Had Red Hair appeared).

   Campbell’s first mystery novel was Juggernaut, a highly-praised tale of the murderous machinations of a villainous doctor. (The story was adapted into a film starring Boris Karloff in 1936.) Throughout the rest of the pre-WW2 period, most of her crime tales were set in France.

   Desire to Kill is one of the French novels. Like many of Campbell’s crime stories, it is really more a tale of suspense, though there is some detection in the form of attempts by a couple amateur investigators to pin the crime on the true villain. Dorothy L. Sayers praised the novel “for the soundness of the charactersation and the lively vigor of the writing,” which she thought helped to lift the narrative out of “sheer melodrama.”

   And melodramatic the tale is! The opening sequence, which concerns the events at socialite heiress Dorinda Quarles’ bohemian drug party, is well-conveyed. Sybaritic “Dodo” Quarles imbibes deeply and frequently at the well of moneyed decadence:


    “The girl was by all accounts coarse, flamboyant, untrammeled by scruples or breeding; indiscriminate in love, and with a capacity for drink which led her to the open boast that, like a certain gentleman of Half-Moon Street, she never breakfasted, but was sick at eleven….”

   Dodo’s latest wicked pash is the cult-like new religion of the Bannister Mowbray, obviously a charlatan and a degenerate, at least in the eyes of the respectable:

    “Rumour had it he came of a good Highland family, his mother a Greek; that in a remote past he had been sent down from his university for dubious practices. At all events he was known to have delved deep into mysteries the normal being eschewed, and to have founded a cult which, after being hounded from place to place, was now domiciled in Corsica. Just what went on in the circle of his initiates no outsider could definitely state, but credible report declared the man’s readiness to prey on the infatuated disciples who clung to him with a strange devotion.”

   Bannister Mowbray’s current “henchman and slave” is Ronald Cleeves, the handsome son and heir of Lord Conisbrooke. The author compares him, in a suggestive image, to a “pure Greek temple…invaded by a band of satyrs.”

   Later on Campbell’s amateur detective, the brash, American-born freelance journalist Tommy Rostetter, visits the two men at Ronald’s Parisian abode and finds them “wearing dressing-gowns” and sitting “close together, in earnest discussion over bowls of café au lait.”

   Other characters in the novel — all guests as Dodo’s party — include:

   Peter Hummock, originally of South Bend, Indiana. “Ranked as the most pestiferous social nuisance in Paris,” Hummock nominally deals in antiques and designs tea-gowns “for middle-western compatriots” but spends most of his time “in a tireless dash from one gay function to another, impervious to snubs, detailing scandal.”

   Mrs. Cope-Villiers, “familiarly known as Dick…a reputed addict to cocaine.”

   “The glum and taciturn Australian poetess, Maud Daventry.” A neighbor of Tommy’s (based on Gertrude Stein?), she first is mentioned in Campbell’s earlier Tommy Rostetter mystery, The Click of the Gate (1932). Tommy has “nothing against her, little alluring as was her soggy complexion, mannish dinner-jacket, and untidy mop of hair invariably flecked with cigarette-ash.”

   Announcing that Dodo’s party guests have consumed a powerful hallucinogenic drug, Bannister Mowbray promises them the thrill of intense dreams:

    “They will tend toward wish-fulfillment, of course, but the character will vary with the individual. All I can predict is that if any one of you cherishes a desire ordinarily forbidden, he may…taste an illusory joy of accomplishment.”

   During the period when all the guests at Dodo’s party are ostensibly in drug-induced stupors, Dodo is stabbed to death—a rather Manson-like culmination of events!

   Apparently someone indeed had cherished an ordinarily forbidden desire, a desire to kill; and its accomplishment in those dark hours was not at all illusory.

   When a woman he believes to be innocent is implicated in Dodo’s murder, Tommy investigates to discover what truly happened at this decadent affair. He finds that the dead Dodo is not missed:

   “Who cares a hoot if she did stick a knife into the worthless bitch?”


   “Well, what was she, then? You tell me a nice name for her.”

   Despite encountering indifference and resistance, Tommy perseveres in his investigation and eventually discovers an amazing answer to his problem. Proving it, however, proves a perilous endeavor indeed for him.

   Much of the later part of the novel involves goings-on at a house of prostitution where, for a price, the madam allows those voyeurs who like to look but not touch access to strategically placed peepholes, so that they may watch the house’s illicit couples coupling.

   Though Campbell never directly describes sexual acts, reticent she is not in Desire to Kill. In terms of subject matter the novel certainly offers something outside the beaten Golden Age track — and the mystery is not at all a fizzle either. It is herewith recommended as an antidote to conventional genre wisdom and for its sheer entertainment value.

CAMPBELL, ALICE (Ormond). 1887-1976?

* Juggernaut (n.) Hodder 1928 [France]
* Water Weed (n.) Hodder 1929 [England]
* Spiderweb (n.) Hodder 1930 [Geoffrey MacAdam; Catherine West; Paris]
* The Click of the Gate (n.) Collins 1932 [Tommy Rostetter; Paris]
* The Murder of Caroline Bundy (n.) Collins 1933 [England]
* Desire to Kill (n.) Collins 1934 [Tommy Rostetter; Paris]
* Keep Away from Water! (n.) Collins 1935 [France]
* Death Framed in Silver (n.) Collins 1937 [Insp. Headcorn; Colin Ladbroke; England]
* Flying Blind (n.) Collins 1938 [Tommy Rostetter; England]
* A Door Closed Softly (n.) Collins 1939 [Alison Young; Colin Ladbroke; England]
* They Hunted a Fox (n.) Collins 1940 [Insp. Headcorn; Alison Young; Colin Ladbroke; England]
* No Murder of Mine (n.) Collins 1941 [Insp. Headcorn; England]
* No Light Came On (n.) Collins 1942 [Geoffrey MacAdam; Catherine West; Paris]
* Ringed with Fire (n.) Collins 1943 [London]
* Travelling Butcher (n.) Collins 1944 [England]
* The Cockroach Sings (n.) Collins 1946 [Insp. Headcorn; England]
* Child’s Play (n.) Collins 1947 [England]
* The Bloodstained Toy (n.) Collins 1948 [Tommy Rostetter; Insp. Headcorn; England]
* Veiled Murder (n.) Random 1949    [see Comment #6]
* The Corpse Had Red Hair (n.) Collins 1950 [England]

    — The bibliography above was taken from the Revised Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin.

William F. Deeck

MANNING LONG – Short Shrift. Duell Sloan & Pearce, hardcover, 1945. Bestseller Mystery #B118, digest paperback, no date [1950].


   When Kathy Floyd is returning to the cold bosom of her erstwhile in-laws in southern Virginia, she asks Liz (short for Louise) Parrott, not at all reluctant to get into another possible investigation, to accompany her. Except for the upper-berth problem, the train trip in uneventful until Liz falls into a young man, a young man soon to suffer more fatal injuries.

   Two more murders occur as Liz assists the county sheriff, with his grudging assistance, in his investigations. She discovers the murderer at the same time he does — and well before I did.

   An interesting and amusing picture of Southern “aristocracy,” self-appointed and as strange as other aristocracies, wartime problems, and some peculiar people, with fair, albeit tricky play. While not a memorable novel, it does encourage me to try to find other Liz Parrott investigations.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 12, No. 3, Summer 1990.

Bibliographic data:   To be added tomorrow, along with a cover image. Bill’s last paragraph is particularly encouraging!

[UPDATE] 05-04-11.   From the Revised Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin:

LONG, MANNING. 1906–. Born in Chase City, Virginia, on 3/4/1906; married Peter Wentworth Williams on 5/23/1944. No further details found.

    * Here’s Blood in Your Eye (n.) Duell 1941 [Liz Parrott; New York City, NY]
    * Vicious Circle (n.) Duell 1942 [Liz Parrott; New York]
    * False Alarm (n.) Duell 1943 [Liz Parrott; New York City, NY]
    * Bury the Hatchet (n.) Duell 1944 [Liz Parrott; New York]


    * Short Shrift (n.) Duell 1945 [Liz Parrott; Virginia]
    * Dull Thud (n.) Duell 1947 [Liz Parrott; New York City, NY]
    * Savage Breast (n.) Duell 1948 [Liz Parrott; New York City, NY]


   About Liz Parrott herself, I have found little information. She does have a husband Gordon who sometimes but not always is part of the cases she solves. One bookseller includes this information about Vicious Circle:

    “Liz Parrott had never met her husband’s relatives until the strange summons to a family Christmas came. She didn’t want to go, either—from all that had heard, they wouldn’t be very friendly to an ex-artist’s model. Her suspicions of the family’s hostility turned out to be well-founded. She had only another outsider, Ruth, to comfort her. And when Ruth of arsenic poisoning, it seemed that there was a Liz to mourn her — only Liz who really cared to bring the murderer to justice.”

   And an eBay seller quotes this about Dull Thud:

    “In a house full of women whose men are away, one can expect a certain amount of backbiting and gossip, not to say a little hair pulling. When it comes, however, to stealing someone else’s love letters, Liz Parrott thought things were going to far. How much further they could go she discovered on a bleak morning she went shivering down to the cellar to find out what was wrong with the furnace-and found murder……. ”

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