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ADVENTURES IN COLLECTING:
BOOK HUNTING IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
by Walker Martin


   For two glorious, insane, and busy weeks I’ve been on the trip of a lifetime. The adventure started May 31, 2017, when I boarded the Queen Mary 2 in Brooklyn, NY and ended on June 14, 2017, when I stumbled off the airplane at the Newark, NJ airport. At no time did I get more than five hours sleep each night and often not even five hours. But it was worth the trip because everything was free and paid for by a fellow book and pulp collector that I’ve been friends with for almost 50 years.

   What do I mean by free? The entire trip was paid for, free seven day luxury cruise, free hotel rooms in London, free hotel in Hay on Wye, otherwise known as “The Town of Books,” free trains, free airplane tickets. In another words the only thing I had to pay for was my books, beer, and some food (the food was free on the 7 day cruise).

   There were six of us on this trip and the total cost must have been over $20,000, or close to it. The story behind how all this came to pass is fascinating and began over 100 years ago when a young boy named Ollie Pendar decided to start collecting Cracker Jack baseball cards in 1914. He was born in 1905, so he was only nine years old and never dreamed that his card collection would finance a trip of a lifetime 100 years later.

   He put together the baseball card collection by buying and eating boxes of Cracker Jack, each of which had a card as a prize. He obtained the official Cracker Jack Album and pasted the cards in during 1914 and 1915. There were over 100 cards of some of the great early baseball stars. This was back in the era when baseball truly was The National Sport, not like today when people flock to such sports as football and basketball. Shortly after Ollie went away to boarding school, and his mother packed them away in a box where they stayed for almost 100 years.

   Now mothers are known for their dislike of baseball cards, comic books, stamp collections, etc. They usually throw such collections in the trash, meanwhile chuckling with glee and sadistic happiness. That’s why these collectibles are so valuable and rare. Without mothers we would be drowning in piles of comics and baseball cards, all worthless because our moms did not throw them away.

   But Ollie’s mom saved them and there the cards resided in the attic for the teens, twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties. I’m sure Ollie and his mother forgot about them and did not realize they were sitting on a future fortune. Ollie lived a long life as an attorney and died at age 96 in 2002. His heirs did not open the box containing the cards until 2014 and before the Internet they probably would have been chucked into the garbage. But nowadays a simple google search on your computer, and you can see the cards are worth a fortune.

   They have even been given a name: The Stockton Find. To make a long story short, the cards were auctioned off one by one and realized over six figures. Some sold for only hundreds each but some sold for thousands. I believe one card had a high bid of $26,000. There were three main heirs, and my friend got a third of the amount realized. I’ve known hundreds of book collectors, and I know what they would have done with such a windfall of money. They would have blown it on their book and pulp collections, spent it on themselves, maybe put it in the bank, or perhaps spent it on their favorite vices such as drugs, booze, or women. Or perhaps the collector’s wife would confiscate the money. I’ve seen it happen time and time again, so I know whereof of speak.

   But my friend did not do any of the above. Instead he decided to spend his share of the money on a book hunting cruise and trip to England and Wales. I think it is now time to identify the generous collector who dreamed up this trip and paid for it: Everard Pendar Digges La Touche. His relatives, neighbors, co-workers know him as Pen, but book and pulp collectors know him as Digges. Since he retired as a Major from the Air Force and one of his favorite literary characters is The Major by L. Patrick Greene, he is often called The Major.

   Behind his back we sometimes refer to him as The Reading Machine, but it is a compliment based on the character The Thinking Machine and the fact that Digges can read a book anywhere and any time except while in the shower. The only reason he doesn’t read in the shower is because the pages get drenched and he can’t read the words.

   I should also introduce the five readers and collectors that Digges invited to go on this trip:

      Nick Certo–Book dealer, art collector, and expert on conspiracy theories.

      Richard Corcoran–Businessman, student of politics, and the youngest member by far of our little group

      Scott Hartshorn–Book seller, art collector, and expert on film noir.

      Ed Hulse–Editor, publisher, author, and the man behind Blood n Thunder magazine and Murania Press.

      Walker Martin–Since I’ve filled up my house with books, pulps, vintage paperbacks, original art, dvds, and jazz cds, I refer to myself as The Collector. But others call me Percy, since I think Percy Helton was one of the greatest character actors ever filmed.

   Unfortunately only three of the above could take the seven day cruise. The other three flew out to England seven days later, and all six of us met in London. I feel I have to say something about the cruise which was an amazing way to start off this grand adventure. I’ve been on a cruise before so I knew what to expect but this was a luxury cruise with everything first class. There were almost 3,000 guests and over 1,000 employees making sure that the guests enjoyed themselves.

   I’ve never eaten such fine and excellent food for seven days. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were superb events where fine food and drink were served. The service was unbelievable. During the day entertainment such as plays, music, and all sorts of events kept us busy. At night there were several jazz clubs on board the ship.

   I ate, drank, and gained ten pounds due to my gluttony. All the food was paid for already but I managed to rack up almost $400 for beer, gin and tonics, and other incidentals. It was a cruise to die for, and I probably would have died if it had been much longer! Also on this heavenly cruise were Digges and Scott Hartshorn.

   When the ship docked, we met the other three collectors at our hotel in London and the six of us spent two days in the big city visiting museums, 221 Baker Street, several bookstores, Charing Cross Road, riding the subway system and eating and drinking in pubs. I loved the pubs, and now I wonder why the USA doesn’t have more of them.

   The six of us in front of 221 Baker Street, the home of Sherlock Holmes in London. From left to right: Digges, Walker Martin, Richard Corcoran, Nick Certo, and Ed Hulse. Scott Hartshorn is peering over the top of Ed.

   Digges and Ed in 221 Baker Street!

   This shows four of us in the cafe of the Richard Booth Bookshop in Hay on Wye. Booth was the self appointed King of Hay On Wye. On the left are Digges and Ed Hulse. On the right are Walker Martin and Richard Corcoran. (Richard is the young guy.)

   Here are Ed Hulse and Digges La Touche strolling between some buildings. The streets were narrow and the sidewalks very small. I was almost run over by a couple of speeding cars. What better way to die while hunting for books?

   This photo shows some of the shops and bookstores. All these buildings are made to last and built of stone, unlike many houses in the US.

   As we visited the bookstores I noticed a serious problem, mainly how the hell was I going to fit all the books in my luggage? Most bookstores in London and Hay on Wye did not want to ship the books to America. So when I saw a book I wanted, I usually made a note of it and figured I could probably buy it a lot cheaper in the US. Certainly that would solve my luggage problem and postage would be a lot cheaper. When I arrived back home I looked up several books on abebooks.com and sure enough they were available at far lower cost.

   But there were still rare books that had to be bought! Most were in Hay on Wye, which is a beautiful little town of about 30 to 40 bookstores and perhaps a pub on every street corner. Our hotel in Hay on Wye was the beautiful Swan Hotel, and I recommend it highly. They had a great breakfast included with the room and two pubs. They also had a nice meeting room for us to hang out in between book buying. The staff was extremely friendly and seemed glad to see us, unlike the hotel in London which was disappointing to say the least.

   Almost all the bookstores in Hay on Wye were of interest. We spent four days there which is ample time to investigate them. Richard Booth’s Bookshop and Cafe was the biggest and Murder and Mayhem the most interesting. But the one I found to be the best and most unusual was The Poetry Bookstore. It was a former ice house, and I spent some time in the basement where it was still chilly and very damp. It is the only bookstore in the UK devoted to books dealing with poetry. The main floor had many books on poetry, and the basement had hundreds of poetry magazines. I collect and read these back issues and have thousands in my own collection, but I still managed to find some back issues I needed.

   About half of our group had no interest in The Poetry Bookstore, of course, but there were plenty of other stores to satisfy our bibliomania. Many detective novels were bought in Murder and Mayhem and Digges found some volumes of P. G. Wodehouse that he still needed. Nick being a book dealer himself, found several books for his own collection and for possible customers, including the exceedingly rare magazine The Outsider, containing poems by Bukowski. The three issues were priced at hundreds of pounds but I’m sure he got a good deal. I don’t collect Blackwood’s Magazine, but I found several volumes reprinting stories from the 1800’s on into the 1920’s and 1930’s.

   There were plenty of books that were not rare, but we bought them to read. I was kept busy scribbling away titles and authors that I intended to look up in the US and order through abebooks. In addition to poetry magazines, I also collect literary or little magazines. I found a few oddball titles and managed to read several stories and articles in my room at the Swan Hotel.

   Here is Ed Hulse again, this time in front of the remains of an old castle which is being restored.

   Speaking of reading, what else did I read during the two weeks? In addition to poems and stories from the literary magazines, I read several tales from Blackwood’s Magazine, a collection of Robert Silverberg stories from his best period of 1970-1972, and a book of Philip Larkin’s poetry chosen by Martin Amis.

   It seemed that this trip was full of funny events, one howler after another. But this is to be expected when a bunch of old friends get together for such a big trip and adventure. Let me pick out a few to give you a taste. They all involve literature in some form or another:

      1. One of our group found what looked like a first edition of 1984 by George Orwell in dust jacket and in great condition. Only six pounds! Rushing up to pay for it, the cashier calmly said with a sneer, “You do realize this is the Dutch edition”. Needless to say none of us can read Dutch.

      2. As readers and book collectors, we all know the power of a good story. No matter what our surroundings, we can lose ourselves in a good novel. This happened to me when my roommate started to brew coffee and almost set the room on fire in our London hotel. I was in bed, under the covers reading and noticed nothing until I heard loud cursing coming from the kitchen area. Looking up I saw a lot of smoke billowing through the room. But there was no sprinkler system or fire alarm! We managed to put out the fire and get a fan to blow out the smoke. A few days later I saw a big tower of apartments go up in flames on TV in London, and I totally understood that the British have different fire codes than we do.

      3. This is a true story. Near the end of our trip as we started to realize that no one was going to ship all our books back to the US, we started to throw away our clothes in order to make more room in the luggage for books. It would be cheaper to buy a new pair of pants or a shirt back home, so we started to think about what clothes to throw away. All of us may have thrown something away to make room for books. I packed so many books in my suitcase that I broke one of the zippers. There still was one zipper that held the suitcase barely closed, and somehow it made it across the Atlantic on the airplane. When I unpacked it at home the zipper finally broke and everything spilled out on the floor. Close call! If it had broken in London or on the plane I would have been doomed.

   There was one major disappointment for me. I used to have a complete set of London Mystery Magazine, 132 issues during 1949-1982. But in a moment of insanity I disposed of it for practically nothing. I checked with several bookstores in Hay on Wye and nobody had copies, in fact many did not even know what I was talking about. If anyone has a set or a large amount of issues, please contact me.

   Peparing to leave the beautiful Swan Hotel in Hay on Wye. From left: Nick Certo, Scott Hartshorn, Richard Corcoran, Ed Hulse, Walker Martin, and Digges.

   Digges and I on the train back to London from Hay On Wye. During the 3 1/2 hour train ride Digges read the entire trip while I pondered what beer I would order in the next pub.

   And so ended our grand adventure. I’m still exhausted from very little sleep and I have some weight to lose. Also I miss the pubs! But I’d like to thank three people who made this trip possible. First of all my thanks to Ollie Pendar, who as a little boy over a hundred years ago was smart enough to be a collector. I’ve always said collectors are the best people in the world. Second, I want to thank Ollie’s mother. Unlike most mothers, she did not throw away the baseball cards!

   Thanks also to Nick Certo and Richard Corcoran for the use of their photos. But most of all I want to thank my old friend Digges, aka Pen and The Major.

Beautiful skyline of Hay on Wye in Wales.

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


   Recently I became interested in LES INCONNUS DANS LA MAISON (STRANGERS IN THE HOUSE), one of Georges Simenon’s stand-alone crime novels that was published in France and made into a French movie during the Nazi occupation. More recently I got interested in another, which was also first published in occupied France and adapted into an Occupation-era movie. Unlike the vast majority of Simenons, LE VOYAGEUR DE LA TOUSSAINT (1941) has never been published in the U.S.

   My copy, one of the rattiest-looking in my collection, is of Geoffrey Sainsbury’s English translation, STRANGE INHERITANCE, issued by Routledge & Kegan Paul in 1950. I read it a number of years ago and recently read it again and for the life of me I still don’t see why American publishers passed on it.

   At 222 closely printed pages it’s almost twice as long as a Maigret and has far more characters, although many of them are onstage briefly if at all. The protagonist is 19-year-old Gilles Mauvoisin, whose parents, a pair of mediocre music-hall performers, died in a common accident in Norway. (The proper name of the city where they died is Trondhjem, sometimes Anglicized as Trondheim, but Sainsbury renders it as Trondjhem.)

   Gilles is smuggled back into the French port of La Rochelle, where his closest relatives make their home, and discovers that his uncle, the wealthy and much-hated Octave Mauvoisin, died a few months earlier. Under Octave’s will Gilles inherits everything provided he live in the same house with Octave’s much younger widow. (This accounts for the English title.)

   It soon develops that the widow had had a long-standing affair with a local doctor whose wife is an invalid. When that woman suddenly dies, the novel just as suddenly morphs into crime fiction as suspicion spreads around La Rochelle that she was poisoned by her husband—and that Octave Mauvoisin was likewise poisoned by his wife. Gilles, married by now to a girl his own age but clearly in love with the new-found aunt who is ten years his senior, sets out to clear her before she’s put on trial.

   Almost in the Maigret manner, Gilles and a police detective he pays to take early retirement and become his personal PI reconstruct a typical day in Octave’s life and thereby, also in the Maigret manner (i.e. without the kind of clues we find in Anglo-American classic whodunits), identify the real murderer. Simenon never convinced me that Gilles is the teen he’s made out to be but I do recommend the book—if you can find a copy!—and hope to see the movie someday.

***

   More than thirty years ago I discovered by accident that James Atlee Phillips, better known as Philip Atlee the author of the Joe Gall espionage novels, had moved to St. Louis County not far from me. Phillips was known as a curmudgeon who in all the years he’d been writing had never sat down for an interview but, having much more chutzpah in my younger days, I got in touch with him and, for reasons that are still obscure to me (perhaps because he was about to turn 70 and felt it was time to give an account of himself) he agreed to sit down with me and a cassette recorder. Our conversation, first published in Espionage magazine in 1985 and included in my 2010 collection CORNUCOPIA OF CRIME, is the source for almost everything published anywhere about his life.

   It’s easy enough to find good discussions of his Joe Gall novels but not so easy to learn about his first whodunit, written in ten days and published back in 1942 when he was still in his twenties and not reprinted even at the height of the popularity of the Gall series. THE CASE OF THE SHIVERING CHORUS GIRLS sounds from its title like a Perry Mason exploit but you don’t have to read any further than the dust jacket copy to realize that this book’s protagonist is not a Mason clone but a cross between Nero Wolfe and Baynard Kendrick’s then popular blind sleuth Captain Duncan Maclain.

   After losing his eyesight in an auto smashup, the distinguished diplomat Henry Morton Wardlaw decides to devote his life to solving crimes without leaving his lavish Manhattan penthouse, where he even grows flowers, which he can smell but can’t see. Like Wolfe and Maclain he needs a leg man, or we might say eyes and ears, which he obtains by hiring two associates: Emery Landers, a jobless young law graduate of the University of Colorado, and George Caster Patterson, a Mike Mazurki-like hulk with a flair for photography.

   They call each other Emmy and Bopeep and, when not sleuthing for Wardlaw, whom for no particular reason they call Judge, they spend their time bantering and getting plastered. The less said of these characters, if you want to call them that, the better.

   Apparently Wardlaw and his team have carte blanche from the NYPD to investigate any crime that strikes their fancy. In SHIVERING CHORUS GIRLS it’s the sudden death of a juggler while performing in a night club located in the basement of a hotel. To explain how Jim Phillips came to conceive this book I need to quote from our conversation.

    “[I]n 1939 I went to work in New York for Billy Rose…at the World’s Fair, where his Aquacade played to about 14,000,000 people in two years….I was a second-string publicity man….It was our job to get the Rose name and the Rose activities in as many New York newspaper columns every day as we could….I did a lot of submissions to Dorothy Kilgallen, Winchell, Leonard Lyons. We would send five or six items to these columnists and one of them, preferably the most interesting, would have Billy Rose’s name in it, so if we were lucky we got to plug him.

    “My office was in the Paramount Hotel on the mezzanine floor, and we had the whole basement of the hotel for the Diamond Horseshoe night club [which was owned by Rose].

    “I also used to ream out acres of background stuff about newspapers blowing through Times Square around the statue of Father Duffy at midnight.”

   So much for the origin of the club in the hotel basement, and for the source of the countless “background stuff” passages such as this one from the beginning of Chapter Three.

    “The sun was rising when they came out of the Jewel Box and caught a cab. The city was beginning to stir, and although it was not quite six o’clock, people were hurrying down the streets. The subway stations were coughing up a thin stream of humanity, and the streetcars were jangling through Times Square with sleepy-eyed people riding on them.”

   A few of these passages even mention the statue of Father Duffy. The juggler’s death turns out of course to be murder, by a poison needle inserted in one of his clubs. (Shades of the first Nero Wolfe novel! In FER-DE-LANCE, which first appeared in 1934, Wolfe investigates the death of a college president on a golf course and discovers that the handle of one of his clubs had been gimmicked with a poison needle.)

   In due course there’s another poison needle murder, this one committed with a sort of blowgun connected to a clarinet, and then there’s a third, which is more conventional. Emmy and Bopeep also encounter an attempted kidnaping on a night subway and a plethora of other incidents before Wardlaw pieces together the whole farrago, which depends on a coincidence worthy of Harry Stephen Keeler.

   Even if Jim had given us a sorely needed map of the club and its backstage layout, no one would call this book a masterpiece. But it’s routinely readable and in a few spots—principally the brutal police third-degree of a gangster—it’s quite effective. I’m proud to have known the author, especially since during one of our talks he signed my first edition, which I had picked up for 49 cents years before I got to meet him.

***

   On a long-distance Amtrak trip last month I packed in my carry-on bag THE COUNT OF NINE (1958), one of the dozens of novels starring irascible Bertha Cool and ingenious Donald Lam that Erle Stanley Gardner wrote as A.A. Fair between 1939 and his death in 1970. The C&L detective agency is hired by wealthy big-game hunter Dean Crockett II to protect the items in his valuable collection from being ripped off during a forthcoming dinner party.

   Bertha checks out all the guests but at the end of the festivities both a 4-inch-tall jade Buddha and a 5-foot-long blowgun are found to be missing. Lam tracks down these items in record time and returns the blowgun to Crockett’s penthouse, where it’s apparently used a few hours later to kill him.

   As usual in Fair novels, detection takes a back seat to scam artistry, with Donald encountering a clever tax-evasion scheme and a repulsive photographer with a playbook full of devices to get women to sleep with him. He also encounters some jewel thieves whom he scams into prison cells after they beat him to a pulp. Finally we return to the Crockett killing. Battered but unbowed and thanks to reasoning that leaves much to be desired, Donald exposes a murder weapon almost as bizarre as Phillips’ deadly clarinet.

   Anthony Boucher in the New York Times Book Review (June 15, 1958) said that “[t]he pace of the story is inimitably Gardneresque” and especially admired what he called “the adroitness with which Donald so arranges facts that homicide can reach the right answer for all the wrong reasons.” Either he saw something I missed or he was in an especially generous mood that day.

COLLECTING PULPS: A Memoir
Part 19: Pulp Art
by Walker Martin


   I’ve talked before about how I love collecting the original pulp and paperback cover art and illustrations. My feeling is that every book and pulp collector should have at least one example of cover art in their library. I’m not recommending that book collectors go to the extreme that I have gone to with scores of pieces, but it’s a thing of beauty to have a pulp, paperback, or dust jacket cover art framed and hanging on your wall with your book collection.

   Recently Steve Lewis was visiting me, and he took over 30 photos, not only of the pulp art but also of other items in my house. This installment should give an example of how one long time collector has dealt with the addiction known as bibliomania. I’ve been at it now since I was a child in 1956. That’s over 60 years!

   This first photo shows me standing next to my most valuable painting, the cover of Black Mask, for February 1933 by Jes Schlaikjer. Normally, I never would have been able to afford this cover painting because it’s from the classic 1930’s period of Black Mask when the covers showed stark, violent scenes with just a few images. But the seller perhaps did not realize it was a Black Mask cover by Schlaikjer. Over my shoulder is a Lyman Anderson painting for an early 1930’s issue of Alibi.

   The second photo is a paperback cover painting by James Avati illustrating a scene from the novel, The Double Door, by Theodora Keogh. Avati was one of the very most influential cover artists in the paperback field, and he was widely imitated. Again, this was a painting that I normally would not be able to afford, but I bought it on credit from an art gallery in NYC.

   I’ve often taken out bank loans, used my credit card, paid on the installment plan, in order to feed my art and bibliomania addiction. I’ve never regretted my decision to buy books or art. What I’ve regretted are the books and art that I did not buy!

   This third photo shows a corner of my mystery paperback room and part of a Dell paperback rack. For decades I hunted for paperback racks from the forties and fifties and finally found five of them at a Windy City show several years ago. They were too fragile to be shipped, and it was two years before the dealer managed to find someone driving across the country in a van to deliver them to my house.

   Here below are three more photos of the mystery paperback room. I have the books shelved by alphabetical order except for my Ace Doubles and Dell Mapbacks. The Dell Mapbacks may be complete or close to it. I even found the crossword paperbacks and I wonder how they ever survived? Also pictured is my Bantam Books paperback rack which is in fine condition. The room is very crowded with books, just the way I like it!

   This next photo shows two of three large western pulp cover paintings that are hanging by the stairs to the second floor. Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s it was possible to buy western, detective and adventure cover art for very low prices. The three paintings were delivered by a long time collector named Chet Woodrow, who risked driving through a terrible New Jersey snow storm to my house.

   Price? A hundred dollars each. Back then I thought such prices were ridiculously low and I still think so. One funny thing about Chet was that he had the worse condition pulp collection that I’ve ever seen. The magazines looked to be in fine condition with nice covers and spines but when you tried to open them the interior pages were very brown and brittle and almost impossible to read.

   The Dime Western painting below is from the 1930’s and the artist is the great Walter Baumhofer. Many years ago at an early Pulpcon, I was talking to artist Norman Saunders, and I saw a car drive into the hotel parking lot. I said excuse me to Norman and ran outside where I asked the driver who was not even out of the car if he had any pulp paintings.

   He said yes and sold me this painting out of the trunk of his car for only $400. I then went back and showed Norman Saunders the painting that I just had bought in the parking lot and he couldn’t believe that I had just bought an excellent Baumhofer painting out of a car trunk.

   We then spent much of the convention in the hotel bar talking about pulp art. I tried to get Norman to sell me some of his paintings, but he was leaving them in his will to his children.

   The two bookcases below show part of my extensive DVD collection. I believe these are mainly film noir movies, another my addictions. The crusader painting is from a 1931 Adventure. I got it from the estate of A. A. Proctor, who was the editor of Adventure in the early 1930’s.

   Above is one of my favorite pieces of art. It’s a bizarre illustration by Howard Wandrei, the brother of Donald Wandrei. Howard died an early death of alcoholism, but he was a writer of pulp fiction and a sort of outsider artist. This piece fascinates me with its complexity and strangeness. Dwayne Olson has written at least three long book articles on Howard Wandrei, but he is an unjustly forgotten, excellent artist.

   The next photo shows me holding the February 1956 issue Galaxy. This is the actual magazine that I bought off the newsstand in Hoscheck’s Deli, and it so impressed me that I became the fiction magazine collector that I am today. It led to my present collection of thousands of pulps, slicks, and digest magazines.

   Above is a corner of my son’s former room. For thirty-five years Joe lived with us and then a couple years ago decided to get his own place and moved out. It did not take me long to move into his room and convert it into a library and art gallery!

   I have over thirty-five pieces of art in the room and eight bookcases. I think I’m now in every room of the house with art and books. All five bedrooms, the garage which I converted into a library and gallery, the basement, living room, family room. Even the bathrooms and kitchen have art. If I had room I would build another house in the back yard. The large painting is from Detective Fiction Weekly.

   This is Paul Herman who has been friends with Steve Lewis and me for quite a while. He’s standing next to a western paperback cover painting.

   Above is a corner of dining room with a western painting by Sam Cherry. I love western art, but many collectors seem prejudiced against westerns. They are colorful, full of action, and not as expensive as science fiction or hero art.

   Below is another Dime Western painting by Walter Baumhofer showing a girl and cowboy blazing away, back to back. Art dealer Steve Kennedy owned it for many years and would never sell it, but one day he needed money, and I managed to talk him into selling it to me. I seem to remember me whining, begging, and crying. Collectors know no shame!

   I’ve told this story before in my article on collecting Western Story Magazine, but the painting below amazingly enough came from my next door neighbor! What’s the odds of a non collector moving next door and having a pulp painting? Took me years to talk him into selling it to me. It’s by Walter Haskell Hinton from Western Storyin the 1930’s.

   Above is a row of cover paintings. The first one is from Street & Smith Detective Story. The second one is a Spider cover which was repainted by Raphael Desoto, the original artist. The third one is by Wittmack from People’s.

   Another western from one of the Popular Publication pulps. I only paid $400 for it. In the background you can see in the laundry room three of the dozen or so preliminary drawings I have framed. The artist would make a preliminary sketch and if approved would then go ahead and paint the cover. Not many of these survived, but I love them and pick them up whenever I see them. Not many art collectors care about them, but I think they are of great interest.

   The next three photos show areas of my basement. The first is an almost complete set of Western Story. Of over 1250 issues, 1919-1949, I need only nine issues.

   The second shows some Ace High magazines and the third photo gives an idea of a corner of the basement. The basement is about 60 feet long by 30 feet wide. I’ve filled the entire area with shelving.

   In 1989 when I moved into this house I hired a contractor to turn the two car garage into a library and art gallery. These photos show some the area which I’ve filled with artwork, books, and pulps. All the neighbors asked me the same thing. “Why am I turning my garage into a library?” My response was why should I park my cars in my house? But who can understand non readers and non collectors?

   More photos of my converted garage taken from different angles. You can see some of the art hanging above the pulps.

   The final photo is of me and Steve Lewis. We have been friends for almost 50 years and I’ve been reading the various incarnations of Mystery*File for almost as long. Over Steve’s shoulder is a large painting from The Saturday Evening Post by Harold Von Schmidt. It’s from 1950 and illustrates a scene from a serial starring series characters Tugboat Annie and Glencannon. It was the only time they met in a story, but it has an interesting background.

   The Glencannon series were comedies and the Post readers found them hilarious. During the 20 year period of 1930-1950 there were over 60 stories written by the author, Guy Gilpatric. I’ve read them all and they are among my favorite stories. They have all been reprinted in omnibus collections and there was even a British TV series back in the 1950’s.

   Unfortunately there was a tragic ending to this comedy series. Gilpatric’s wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer and in a fit of depression they decided on a murder suicide pact. He shot his wife and then took his own life. Later there was a rumor or evidence that the doctors had made a mistake and made the wrong diagnosis.

   I obtained the painting from an art gallery by telling the owner that I’d like to get a painting showing my favorite series character, Glencannon. I was stunned when he said he knew where one was, and it turned out to be the best one of them all, the one where Glencannon meets Tugboat Annie. Von Schmidt is a famous western artist, and I’d never be able to afford one of his paintings, but since this was a non-western the price was a lot lower.

   So thanks, Steve, for taking these photos and also thanks to Sai Shanker for twice taking photos that unfortunately did not turn out as well. I love reading about the collections of other collectors and maybe this memoir on my art collection will make you decide to become an addicted, out of control bibliomaniac also! I’ve enjoyed the trip and it’s been a great ride…

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


   Last month I talked about some of the correspondence between Erle Stanley Gardner, creator of Perry Mason, and Harry Stephen Keeler, creator of the craziest characters — not to mention the books that housed them! — ever conjured up on land or sea. But I had no space to say anything about the one Keeler book in which ESG is mentioned. THE GALLOWS WAITS, MY LORD! was written in 1953, the year Harry’s last novel to appear in English in his lifetime came out, and was published nowhere, not even in Spain, which continued to put out books of his until shortly before his death in 1967.

   Thanks to that rogue publisher Ramble House, GALLOWS has been available in Keeler’s native tongue — which is not to be confused with English! — since 2003, and it can still be found on the Web. The setting is the mythical banana republic of San do Mar and the plot has to do with the frantic attempts of a Yank who bears the un-Yankish name Kedrick Merijohn to escape hanging, by order of Presidente Doctor Don Carlos Foxardo — whose crack-brained treatise is the required text in every hospital in the country, not to mention its med school! — for the poisoning murder of a stranger while the stranger was trying to poison him. It doesn’t help Merijohn’s case that he inexplicably changed shoes with the corpse after the fatal incident.

   Very late in the book we join British diplomat Sir Clyde Kenwoody in Hollywood where he meets Detective Sergeant Pete O’Swin, who’s wearing a purple derby and a rainbow-hued plaid jacket.

   “Hope you’ll pardon these here sartorical accoutryments, Sir Clyde, but when I got the call from my own chief to report instantly to you here, I’d just finished, over at Metric-Golden-Meier, a walk-on part in one of their new who-done-its — Th’ Case o’ the Dizzy Dipplodoccus by Erle Stanley Gardner, in case you’re int’rusted — yeah, I do a little histrionicals, y’know? — and they not only insisted … on my fetchin’ along a standard dick’s derby — but a purple one! — and bringin’ this screaming mimi of a jacket for a coat. Techn’color ‘twas in, see? And 3-D.”

   This paragraph, which no one else living or dead could have written, not only reveals how HSK made use of ESG — and why whenever I write about our Harry I tend to insert clauses like this one, which invariably end with an exclamation point! — but perhaps will explain to readers who have been spared any acquaintanceship with his immortal works why I call him the wackiest wackadoodle who ever wore out a typewriter ribbon.

***

   Keeler sometimes played the wack for the game’s sake, sometimes to make a point, and occasionally he did both at once, as witness a passage one chapter later when the same O’Swin expounds on one of Harry’s loony laws while also reminding us that his creator was something of a Socialist.

   “Well, Mr. Larson, in this gre-e-at and glor-i-ous Land of the Free an’ the Home o’ the Brave — this Garden Spot of a Utipio run and opyrated for th’ human Serf and countless serfs yet unborned, by th’ National Amer’can Association of Malefact — skip it—Manufacturers, there is a unwrit pervision ‘at a lug took into custardy gets his rap cut in half later if he’s made a sing to them as took him in. A sing bein’ a squawk. A squawk bein’ a co’fession ….”

   When the issue is raised that perhaps the actions of O’Swin and Sir Clyde are unconstitutional, the diplomat points out that “if you’re taken over there [to the police station], and start to set forth your constitutional rights and prerogatives, you’ll only wake up a few hours later lying on a cold cement floor of an isolated cell, with an aching — more probably broken — jaw….” To which O’Swin adds: “Well … we have evoluted certain interestin’ methods t’ cope with the Bill o’ Rights and the Constitution.” This is precisely how matters stood until a number of years later when the Supreme Court began applying federal Bill of Rights protections to criminal defendants in state courts.

***

   In another recent column I devoted an item to the strange case of Georges Simenon’s stand-alone crime novel STRANGERS IN THE HOUSE, which was published in Nazi-occupied France in 1940 as LES INCONNUS DANS LA MAISON and made into a French movie of the same name the following year but wasn’t translated into English until after World War II. The translation, by Geoffrey Sainsbury, appeared in England in 1951 and in the U.S. three years later.

   It’s the same translation both times, right? Wrong!!! In the English version as reprinted in 2006 by the New York Review of Books with a new introduction by P.D. James, we find on page 70 a passage where the protagonist Hector Loursat ponders whether there are any similarities between him and any of the strangers in his house. “Yet there was no connection. Not even a resemblance. He hadn’t been poor like Emile Manu or a Jew like Luska….”

   In the American version this becomes: “There was no connection. No resemblance. He hadn’t been poor like Manu, or an Armenian like Luska….” Incidentally, Manu’s first name in the American version is Robert, not Emile. The first alteration is understandable, and exactly what Anthony Boucher had done several years before when translating for EQMM a Simenon story with a Jewish villain. But why the second change? And, if we were to compare the two versions line by line, how many more alterations would we discover?

***

   It’s not connected with anything else in this column, but I feel compelled to bring up a recent death. Colin Dexter, creator of the immortal Inspector Morse, died on March 21, age 86. I met him once, when he was on a book tour with a St. Louis stop, and was smart enough to bring with me the only Morse novel I then had in first edition, LAST SEEN WEARING (1976), which he signed for me.

   The earliest entries among his thirteen novels didn’t make much of an impression, but once the Morse TV movie series was launched, John Thaw’s superb performance as the brilliant but flawed Oxford sleuth caused Dexter’s sales to climb into the stratosphere. The series lasted for 33 episodes, each approximately two hours long. Ten of them, including my favorites — “The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn” and “Service of All the Dead” — are based on his novels.

   The other three novels — THE RIDDLE OF THE THIRD MILE (1983), THE SECRET OF ANNEXE 3 (1986) and THE JEWEL THAT WAS OURS (1991) — were never officially filmed. Three early episodes were based on ideas or other material by Dexter, and when he turned them into the novels above, they were not remade. (The respective telefilm titles for the trio are “The Last Enemy,” “The Secret of Bay 5B” and “The Wolvercote Tongue.”)

   In Dexter’s final novel, THE REMORSEFUL DAY (2000), which was also the source of the last Morse TV movie, the Inspector dies — not at the hands of a murderer but because, as Dexter explained, he drank too much, smoked too much and almost never exercised. Well, he may have died physically, but I strongly suspect he and his creator will live on for many decades to come.

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


   I can hardly believe it but we are less than six months away from the 60th anniversary of the debut of Perry Mason the TV series. It was a Saturday evening, September 21, 1957, and among the millions of viewers whose sets were tuned to CBS at 7:30 P.M. Eastern time was a bookish 14-year-old, just beginning his second year of high school, who had discovered and gotten hooked on Erle Stanley Gardner’s Mason novels several months earlier.

      For the next few years I watched the program religiously, catching most of the finest episodes and almost all of those that were at least nominally based on Gardner’s novels. By the time I began dating on Saturday nights the series had become humdrum and routine, at least to my taste, but it remained in prime time for an amazing nine seasons, and countless viewers still identify Gardner’s characters with their TV incarnations: Raymond Burr (Mason), Barbara Hale (his secretary Della Street), William Hopper (private detective Paul Drake), William Talman (DA Hamilton Burger), and Ray Collins (Lt. Tragg).

   To mark the occasion, if a bit prematurely, I’m going to devote most of this column to the first episode aired and the book it was taken from.

***

   First, the book. The Case of the Restless Redhead (1954) opens with Mason happening upon a trial for larceny in suburban Riverside. Evelyn Bagby, a near-broke waitress with Hollywood dreams, is accused of having stolen $40,000 in jewelry from the trunk of Irene Keith, a wealthy businesswoman on her way to Las Vegas to be bridesmaid at the wedding of movie star Helene Chaney and boat manufacturer Mervyn Aldrich.

   Seeing that assigned defense counsel Frank Neely is out of his depth cross-examining the witness who claims to have seen Bagby open the trunk, Mason over lunch offers the young man a few pointers. That afternoon Neely demolishes the prosecution witness and wins a verdict of acquittal. Bagby comes to Los Angeles to thank Mason and they discuss whether she’s entitled to compensation from Keith, who signed the complaint against her.

   Bagby suggests that she might have been framed for the jewel theft because she’d recognized a newspaper photo of Chaney’s former husband as the phony drama coach who had swindled her out of her inheritance several years before and whom she had called, demanding restitution. Mason gets her a job as waitress at the Crowncrest Inn, which is on a mountaintop connected with the metro area by a narrow and desolate road.

   That evening Bagby calls Mason and claims to have found a .38 Colt Cobra with a 2-inch barrel planted in her room at the Inn. Mason tells her to meet him at a certain restaurant, bringing the gun. When they get together she says she was attacked on the mountain road by a man wearing a pillowcase mask, at whom she fired two shots with the .38. Mason reports to the authorities. When he, Della, Bagby and an officer visit the scene of the incident, they find a wrecked car and inside it a dead man, shot in the head and wearing a pillowcase mask.

   When it’s discovered that the mask came from the Crowncrest Inn, and that the dead man was in fact the fake drama coach who had cheated her, Bagby like all Mason’s clients gets charged with murder. Much of the rest of the novel takes place at the preliminary hearing where Mason defends her.

   Looking at the plot through a microscope reveals flaws here and there. As the hearing begins, the decedent’s body is identified not by the police or a medical examiner but by one of the characters, who isn’t needed as a witness but whom Gardner needs in the courtroom later.

   At the end of the book Mason “deduces” a good bit of the plot without a shred of evidence to go on. There are other holes too but they didn’t faze Anthony Boucher and I didn’t let them bother me much either. Boucher in the Times Book Review (7 November 1954) said: “Some intricate defensive maneuvers to confuse the ballistic evidence may baffle not only the judge and the prosecution but also the reader; you’ll have to keep your mind as sharp and devious as Mason’s own to follow this one, but it’s a wonderful roller-coaster ride.”

   For the sake of those who don’t want to have the novel spoiled by my saying too much about the plot, I’ll let the cat out of the bag in a paragraph which will remain hidden unless you click on it. Here, kitty!

***

   The telefilm with which the Mason series debuted keeps the ballistic maneuvers pretty much intact but simplifies the novel in almost every other way imaginable. Irene Keith is dropped, as are fledgling lawyer Frank Neely and his fiancée and the whole larceny trial with which the book opens. The rationale for the titular adjective, that Bagby likes to keep moving from one place to another, winds up on the cutting-room floor, leaving us with nothing but alliteration for its own sake.

   Bagby’s bullets, which in the novel complicate the plot by striking certain objects, on the small screen hit nothing. The ballistic testimony which dominates several chapters of the novel is cut to the bone. But with something like 52 minutes of air time to do justice to a full-length book, what option other than cutting was available?

   All in all, adapter Russell S. Hughes did a creditable job. It was the only teleplay he wrote for the series. Before the first season’s end, he had died. Age 48. Cause unknown.

   Raymond Burr as Mason is spectacularly slender, having reportedly lost between 60 and 100 pounds while preparing for the part, and smokes up a storm, as do several other characters including his client, who is seen finding the planted .38 in her cigarette box. The client was played by lovely Whitney Blake (1926-2002), who will also pop up later in this column.

   Prominent in the cast were Ralph Clanton (Mervyn Aldrich), Gloria Henry (Helene Chaney) and Vaughn Taylor (Louis Boles). The first several minutes could be mistaken in dim light for film noir, thanks especially to ominous background music by the never-credited Ren Garriguenc (1908-1998), whose talent (when he wanted to exercise it) for sounding like his CBS colleague Bernard Herrmann has fooled experts. Bits and pieces of Herrmann music are heard here and there but they are few and far between.

   About the director, William D. Russell (1908-1968), not a great deal is known. He began making movies after World War II at Paramount, where he helmed several “heartwarming” comedies. During a pit stop at RKO he made Best of the Badmen (1951), a Western starring Robert Ryan, Claire Trevor, Robert Preston and Walter Brennan, which can be seen complete on YouTube.

   Like so many directors of his generation who saw their careers crumbling thanks to TV, he embraced the new medium and began specializing in situation comedies, directing 61 episodes of Father Knows Best before moving to CBS. There he took up more serious fare, notably a few early episodes of Gunsmoke and 28 of Perry Mason.

Afterwards he went back to the sitcom, directing 48 segments of Dennis the Menace and 128 of the 154 episodes of Hazel (1961-66), starring Shirley Booth as live-in housekeeper for an affluent family, the female head of which was played by — I told you she’d pop up again! — Whitney Blake. (Whether she arranged for Russell to come aboard, or vice versa, or whether it’s just a coincidence, remains what Russell concentrated on for a few years and then dropped: a mystery.) Less than two years after the series was cancelled — which happened the same year Mason was cancelled— Russell died. Age 59. Cause unknown.

***

   On top of all his novels and stories and travel books and Court of Last Resort pro bono work on behalf of the wrongfully convicted, Erle Stanley Gardner kept up a gargantuan correspondence. One of his correspondents was Harry Stephen Keeler (1890-1967), the wackiest wackadoodle who ever sat down to a typewriter. Several of Harry’s multi-colored “Walter Keyhole” newsletters, assembled and arranged by me in The Keeler Keyhold Collection (2005), include quotations from ESG’s letters to him.

   In one of them, probably dating from the late Fifties or early Sixties, Gardner alluded to the fact that both his mother and Keeler’s happened to have the same first name; an odd one to say the least. “Now ‘Adelma’ [Keeler wrote] is not a recognized name….Name experts say that it is undoubtedly an artificial synthesis, or fusion, of the names ‘Adeline’ and ‘Thelma’.”

   Why not Adelaide, or Selma? After comparing notes, the two discovered “that a grandfather of each had been in the Civil War” (presumably on the same side) and concluded that “over some camp fire their grandfathers must have met, and talking of possible ‘odd’ names for girl-children, agreed…to name their first daughters ‘Adelma’.” Well, maybe. Anyway it’s a good story.

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


   Considering that I was an inch from death last month, perhaps a March column is asking too much of myself. We shall see. I suspect this one is going to be a bit skimpy.

***

   On the 6th of February, at age 91, Alec McCowen died. He was one of the most revered English actors, having appeared in several Shakespeare productions, including ROMEO AND JULIET and KING LEAR, and a number of 20th-century classics like PYGMALION and EQUUS.

   He also had roles in 30-odd movies, of which the best known is probably FRENZY (1972). Who can forget his performance in that last of Hitchcock’s great films? As the harried Scotland Yard inspector, a bangers-and-mash man if ever there was one, who comes home after a hard day trying to track down a serial rapist and killer only to find his wife (Vivien Merchant) getting ready to serve him a tasty dinner of sautéed lovebirds’ wings or something of the sort, he’s unforgettable.

***

   The last time I saw FRENZY was when it came out 45 years ago, but it’s still green in my memory. Shot in London, it tells the story of down-and-out ex-RAF pilot Richard Blaney (Jon Finch), who becomes the prime suspect in a series of brutal rape-murders and goes on the run. The real criminal is Robert Rusk (Barry Foster), a Covent Garden fruit-and-vegetable merchant as was Hitchcock’s father, and much of the location shooting takes place in the neighborhood the director knew as a boy.

   For a time the fugitive Blaney is protected by fellow RAF veterans — which would have made more sense if the picture’s events had taken place immediately after World War II, when the surviving Battle of Britain pilots were national heroes — but eventually he’s caught by Inspector Oxford (our man McCowen) and locked up. Knowing by then that Rusk is the real murderer, Blaney escapes and sets out for revenge.

   I’d be a toad if I gave away more of the plot, which is summarized on several websites devoted to the picture. Among all the Hitchcock films after PSYCHO (1960), FRENZY stands out as by far the most suspenseful.

***

   So far this is indeed a mini-column, but a recent phone conversation with a friend who teaches literature and film allows me to extend it. For a forthcoming book on film noir, my friend has agreed to write a chapter on the French contributions to the genre during the Nazi occupation. This is a subject on which I’m woefully ignorant but I do know that one of the titles that falls within this category is LES INCONNUS DANS LA MAISON (1941), which was based on Georges Simenon’s 1940 novel of the same name, translated into English after the war as STRANGERS IN THE HOUSE (1954).

   In both novel and film the main character is Hector Loursat, a gross and unkempt lawyer — his bearishness signaled, at least for those who know a little French, by his name — who has retreated into an alcoholic shell after his wife left him. When a small-time gangster is discovered murdered in the huge Loursat house, our protagonist finds himself forced to defend his daughter’s lover, who’s accused of the crime.

   Unusually for Simenon, a good bit of the novel takes place in court, and the legal procedure will cause readers familiar with the English or American systems to throw up their hands more than once. (For example, the defense counsel cannot question witnesses directly but must ask the judge to repeat each question to whoever is on the stand.) Anyone who expects the kind of forensic fireworks associated with Perry Mason novels is likely to find the book frustrating, but on its own terms it’s widely considered one of the best of Simenon’s stand-alone crime novels and I would have to agree with this verdict.

   How close the Occupation-era movie came to its source is unclear, although from what I’ve found on the Web there seem to be considerable differences. The film climaxes with a passionate speech by Loursat (Raimu), indicting the older generation for the peccadilloes of the young, which has no counterpart in Simenon. (This speech can be accessed on YouTube, but it’s in French.) To discover any other differences I’ll have to wait for my friend’s essay.

***

   To complete my account of Simenon’s novel [WARNING] I have no choice but to reveal the real killer. It turns out to be a young delinquent called Justin Luska, whose motivation for the crime is clear as mud. He’s described as the “son of a tradesman,…[who] because of his red hair, his name, his real first name, Ephraim, the Eastern origin of his father, was the object of ridicule of his schoolmates….People said that he smelled, like his father’s shop….”

   When the father enters the courtroom late in the proceedings, Simenon tells us that he looked like “a man belonging to that race of humans you find sleeping in the corridors of night trains, sitting patiently in police stations, trying desperately to explain themselves in an impossible language, the sort that is always questioned at frontiers….[D]idn’t the fact that his coat smelled bad cause others to step aside?….He was dark and oily, almost flabby….”

   The word Jew is never mentioned, at least not in the English translation that postdates WWII and the Holocaust, but the Luskas père et fils remind us irresistibly of those scruffy East European Jews who to Simenon’s discredit pockmark his novels of the 1930s.

   If they are clearly identified as Jews in the original French, this wouldn’t be the first time a translator refused to be true to Simenon’s text. As I discussed in an earlier column, Anthony Boucher did precisely the same thing when during the war years he translated a Simenon short story with a Jewish villain for EQMM. Sometimes it’s better to be unfaithful. Indeed, when the 1941 movie was re-released after the war, the soundtrack was tinkered with so that Luska’s first name morphs from Ephraim to the clearly un-Jewish Amédée. In the France of the immediate postwar years, even the appearance of anti-Semitism was taboo.

***

   Ah! Now we have a column of respectable dimensions. Perhaps I’ll do better, or at least longer, next month.

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


   If you looked for a January column and couldn’t find one, the reason is very simple. There wasn’t any.

   Early in the morning of the day before Christmas I went into the hospital for something relatively minor and was told that I had suffered a silent heart attack and needed bypass surgery. As you can imagine, the news hit me like a ton of bricks. The operation was performed on January 3. I was told afterwards that I came very close to death. I was discharged from the hospital on the 16th of the month and since then have been recuperating at home. I’m getting stronger by the day but am still nowhere near 100%.

   Before my medical adventures began I had written much of what I thought would be my January column. A month later, here it is.

***

   It was more than half a century ago, either 1962 or 1963, an early Sunday morning around 1:00 or 1:30 A.M. I returned home from a date with the first love of my life to find my brothers still up and the TV tuned to the Late Show, or maybe the Late Late Show. The movie looked interesting so I sat down to watch the last 20 minutes. It was about a Nazi spy ring based in a Manhattan skyscraper.

   The spies are holding a young woman prisoner but she manages to get a message out. Feds raid the building. A couple of spies escape into a nearby movie theater. The gun battle with the Feds coincides with a gun battle on the screen. An unlucky moviegoer falls over dead. One spy gets out and into a cab and heads for the Battery, followed by the hero whom I recognized as Robert Cummings.

   They both wind up at the Statue of Liberty. The spy tries to escape again, crawls out onto one of the statue’s arms. Cummings reaches for him, grabs his coat sleeve. The spy starts to fall as Cummings tries to haul him in to safety. Then we get a close-up of the stitches at the shoulder of the spy’s jacket starting to give way. An unearthly scream. The End.

   Recognize the picture? It’s Hitchcock’s Saboteur, made in 1942, back when I was busy being a fetus, roughly twenty years before I caught the end of it on the small screen. Remember the name of the man who played the spy? It was a Broadway actor 27 or 28 years old named Norman Lloyd.

   Now let’s time-travel in both directions at once, forward ten years or so from when Hitchcock made that movie, back a decade or so from when I watched its climax. The year was 1952, or maybe ’53. My parents had recently bought their first TV set and already I was an addict. One Sunday afternoon I happened to be watching the cultural program Omnibus, which was running a made-for-TV movie in five (I think) weekly installments.

   The title was Mr. Lincoln. The voice of the actor playing young Abe was one of the most distinctive I’ve heard in my life: biblical, prophetic, patriarchal. At the end credits I learned his name: Royal Dano. An unusual name, easy to remember. (Trivia question: Anyone know who played Ann Rutledge? It was Joanne Woodward.) I don’t remember noticing who directed the film and the name wouldn’t have meant anything to me at age 9 but, as if you haven’t guessed, it was Norman Lloyd. A cut version is now available on DVD.

   Lloyd was born in 1914, when my parents were small children. His career began in the early 1930s with the left-wing Group Theater. Later he joined Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater and went to Hollywood with the company but returned to New York when the movie Welles was planning got cancelled. Had he stayed awhile longer, he would have had a part in Citizen Kane. As it was, his film debut was in Saboteur, and later he appeared in Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945) and Chaplin’s Limelight (1952).

   His first television role was in one of the earliest TV dramas ever broadcast, an experimental program that dates back to 1939. In the late Fifties and early Sixties he served as associate producer on Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-62) and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1962-65). He also directed several episodes, usually based on short stories by John Collier, Ray Bradbury, Stanley Ellin, or literary figures like John Cheever and Philip Roth. But he never stopped being an actor, and among today’s audiences he’s perhaps best known for his role as Dr. Auschlander in St. Elsewhere (1982-88) and for playing opposite Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society (1989).

   I bet you thought I’d next give you the year of his death. I can’t. He’s still alive today. At age 102 he’s the oldest working actor in the U.S. and probably in the world. For 75 years he was married to the same woman, who died in 2011, the same year my own wife died. Until recently he played tennis, the game which was his passion for generations. In the 1950s he played regularly with Charlie Chaplin and usually beat him, mainly because Chaplin was too vain to wear his glasses and often lost sight of the ball. His memory remains sharp as ever, and the Internet is full of reminiscences of him by himself and others. If ever there was a person with an awesomely long life and creative career, it’s Norman Lloyd. In the first months of this new year, let’s celebrate him.

***

   I can’t guarantee a March column but my health is improving so nicely that it’s far more likely than not that there will be one. They may never see the column you’re now reading, but my deepest thanks to all the people — doctors, nurses, family, friends – who helped me through this crisis.

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


   No sooner did I send off my November column than I learned of another death in October. Norman Sherry, who devoted almost thirty years of his life to researching and writing a 3-volume, 2250-page biography of Graham Greene, died on October 19 at age 91. For Volume One (1989) he received an Edgar from MWA. The New York Review of Books chose Volume Two (1994) as one of the eleven best books of its year. If I have a special fondness for Volume Three (2004), perhaps it’s because I contributed to it a little.

   The story of how he came to be Greene’s biographer has been often told. In 1974, the year he turned 70, the man who was perhaps the finest English novelist of the 20th century — and certainly one of the finest crime and espionage novelists ever — was in the market for a biographer and became interested in Sherry, whose previous life of Joseph Conrad Greene had much admired.

   The two met for lunch at London’s Savile Club but apparently nothing was decided. They met again and, walking across a busy street, Greene was knocked down by a taxi. “You almost lost your subject,” he said to Sherry. “Not half so bad as losing your biographer,” Sherry replied. That bit of quick wit got him the job. It was the beginning of a decades-long hunt with Sherry the literary detective tracking Greene through Mexico, Cuba, Liberia, Vietnam, Haiti, most if not all of the Third World places in which his quarry had set novels.

   The quest was ruinous to Sherry’s health — dysentery, gangrene that cost him fifteen feet of his intestines, the list seems endless — but he carried on. After Greene’s death in 1991 he found himself at odds with his subject’s closest relations, many of whom despise his three volumes. You can find what Greene’s son Francis thought of the books by googling “Graham Greene Norman Sherry,” such as this article from the New York Times, and there are similar critiques elsewhere on the Web.

   But there are also extravagant, near-idolatrous comments by others. My own view is that if you want to understand, or at least come as close as humanly possible to understanding, the brilliant, profoundly devious, sex-obsessed alcoholic who wrote like a dark angel and gave us THIS GUN FOR HIRE, BRIGHTON ROCK, THE CONFIDENTIAL AGENT, THE MINISTRY OF FEAR and so many other novels that have nothing to do with crime or espionage, you can’t do without Sherry’s epic biography.

   But perhaps I’m biased since, as I said above, I contributed a morsel to Volume Three. After such a buildup I’d be a toad if I didn’t share that morsel here with those who haven’t read the biography, so here goes. Back in 1984 and purely by accident I discovered that James Atlee Phillips, better known as Philip Atlee, author of the Joe Gall espionage novels, had moved to St. Louis County where I lived. Jim was reputed to be an interview-shunning curmudgeon but I took a chance, called him and, to my flabbergastment, was invited to come out to his place for dinner.

   After the meal we adjourned to his basement office, and I taped an hour-long conversation with him which was published in Espionage magazine (November 1985). That interview went so well that arrangements were made for me to follow up by interviewing Jim’s younger brother, David Atlee Phillips.

   David, who lived in Bethesda, Maryland, had written a novel and one or two nonfiction books but until his retirement a few years before our meeting most of his time had been spent working for the Central Intelligence Agency in Guatemala, Cuba, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Venezuela, rising through the ranks to become one of the foremost practitioners of what is euphemistically called covert action.

   The next time I was on the East Coast I took the Amtrak Metroliner from New York to Washington, D.C.’s Union Station where David met me. We had an excellent lunch at La Mirabelle, a restaurant in McLean, Virginia that was favored by people in the CIA. Over our meal he told me a story which was so good, I insisted on his repeating it when we got to his house and I had my cassette recorder running.

   In the late 1950s, soon after Cuba had become a Communist country under Fidel Castro, David was sent to Havana in deep cover. He was there when Graham Greene came to work with director Carol Reed on the movie OUR MAN IN HAVANA, starring Alec Guinness and based on Greene’s novel of the same name. Much of the picture was shot on the streets of Havana, with David shadowing Greene as they filmed.

   “And at one point Greene said to the director, ‘All right, we should change this line and have him say the following.’ And Alec Guinness said: ‘Fine.’ But then a comandante, a man with a star on his shoulder, a military censor, walked up and said: ‘No, you can’t change that line.’ I’ll never forget the look on Graham Greene’s face when he realized for the first time that there might be some flaws in the new Cuban society,…when his work was suddenly subject to censorship.”

   My interview with David was also published in Espionage (July 1987) and, like my conversation with his brother, can be found in my book CORNUCOPIA OF CRIME (2010), but you won’t find the anecdote I just quoted in the magazine version. Not wanting to see that incident permanently on the cutting room floor, I shared it with Norman Sherry, who included it in Volume Three of the Greene biography. That’s the tidbit I contributed to Norman’s massive project. I still think it was worth saving.

***

   I haven’t read Peter Ackroyd’s ALFRED HITCHCOCK: A BRIEF LIFE but recently read a review in the Times with a passage I particularly liked: “[T]he world of menace [Hitchcock] conjured embodies our deepest, most existential fears. Fears (especially resonant today) that the universe is irrational, that evil lives around the corner, that ordinary life can be ripped apart at any moment by some random unforeseen event.”

    Let’s play Jeopardy! for a minute, shall we? Answer: The author whose work and world are described by those words equally as well as Hitchcock’s. Question: Who is Cornell Woolrich? Second answer: Same as the first but with “composer” substituted for “author.” Question: Who is Bernard Herrmann?

   Hitchcock, Woolrich, Herrmann, so much like Jules and Jim and Catherine in Truffaut’s film: round and round, together bound. When I first started calling Woolrich the Hitchcock of the written word, that was a moment of inspiration if I ever had one.

***

   I received an interesting email recently from a man who had been reading some of the early Woolrich stories collected in my DARKNESS AT DAWN (1985) and had a question about one of them, the 1934 “Walls That Hear You.” That tale, in case you’ve forgotten it, is about a man who discovers that his younger brother has been found with all ten fingers cut off and his tongue severed at the roots.

   Later, in the hospital, we are told that he “shook hands hard” with his brother. How is this possible, my reader asked, when the younger brother’s fingers have been cut off? Could Woolrich have been writing at such white heat that he forgot this? The best reply I could come up with was that we’re supposed to imagine the narrator embracing his kid brother’s fingerless and bandaged hands between his own. Can anyone reading this column come up with anything better?

COLLECTING PULPS: A Memoir, Part 18:
The Importance of Friends
by Walker Martin


   This series has been stressing the joy of collecting pulps and books, but also of great importance is surrounding yourself with like-minded friends. I cannot overstress the importance of this factor in collecting.

   The simple fact is that the great majority of the people that we come in contact with are not collectors at all and don’t really have any understanding or sympathy with our love of collecting books and pulps. They are non-collectors pure and simple, and when they see our collections, they may say that the collection is great or of interest, but usually what they are thinking is along the lines of why don’t you sell the books; why don’t you clean up this clutter; why don’t you see a therapist to address this problem of hoarding…

   Since they are non-collectors, they just about have to think these things and thus be unsympathetic to your collecting interests. So it is of great importance to have friends that collect also in order to preserve your sanity and keep enjoying your collection. And I’m not talking about just long distance friends that live far away in another city. I’m talking about friends that visit you and talk about book and pulp collecting. I’m just recovering from five days of intense interaction with such friends. The excuse for us gathering together was the Pulp Adventurecon pulp convention which was held in Bordentown NJ on November 5, 2016. This was the 17th year that this annual one-day show was held and I’ve attended all of them. Following is a summary of what happened each of the 5 days as the book collecting friends visited me in Trenton, NJ:

Wednesday, November 2 — Matt Moring of Altus Press and the owner of the rights to Popular Publications and Munsey drove down from the Boston area and spent all five days discussing future plans, pulps, original artwork, and his Altus Press pulp reprints which have now passed the 200 book mark. Several more collections in his Dime Detective Library have just been released and are available at the Altus Press website, Mike Chomko Books, and amazon.com. But the big news was about the second volume of the Race Williams BLACK MASK stories. Titled THE SNARL OF THE BEAST, it will be available at the end of November. It is a big book and looks like a black tombstone which is sort of suitable for a Carrol John Daly hard boiled book.

   While having dinner with long time friend and pulp collector Digges La Touche (hereafter referred to as The Major since he retired as a Major in the Air Force and his favorite pulp series is The Major by L. Patrick Greene) Matt showed us an amazing sight, one I never thought I’d see ever again. He is publishing three of the best pulp magazine titles, picking up the volume number where it was when the magazines ceased publication. The titles are BLACK MASK, ARGOSY, and FAMOUS FANTASTIC MYSTERIES. They are slightly larger than the pulp format and each issue has a new story in addition to reprints. Plans are for later issues to also have articles and interviews. And here I thought the pulps were dead!

Thursday, November 3 — An area collector has decided to reward his long time friends by inviting them to his storage areas (he has several) and letting them take their choice of books, no charge, subject to his final approval since there are some titles he cannot bear to let go. No pulps are included but many hardback and paperback books are available. This is by invitation only and only for his good friends. Sai Shanker, who is one of the very few pulp collectors from India joined Matt and me and we carried out several boxes of books. Now that is what I mean about the importance of friends!

   We all had breakfast, lunch, and dinner together while talking about books, pulps, movies, and artwork. I can’t name the non-collectors that I’d want to eat all three meals with during the day. But the passion of collecting books is a great feeling and one you want to share with other collectors. So I ate and drank too much but it was like being at an all day party. But a party unlike the usual parties because everyone was talking about books!

Friday, November 4 — The celebration continued as I hosted a pulp luncheon for around a dozen of my book collecting friends. Fellow collectors started to arrive at 11:00 am and the only non-collector present was my wife. After a few hours of hearing us talk about books, she had to leave because non-collectors can only take so much. Books, books, books…

   Among those present were Jack Seabrook, expert on Fred Brown and the TV show ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS; Jack Irwin, long time pulp collector who actually bought the magazines off the newsstands; Ed Hulse, publisher of BLOOD n THUNDER magazine; Paul Herman, art and BLACK MASK collector; Nick Certo, long time pulp dealer and art collector; Scott Hartshorn, another long time collector; and of course Matt Moring, Sai Shanker, and The Major.

   After several hours we then went to dinner at an Irish pub where we continued to talk about pulps and books. To a collector, this is like heaven, being with like minded book lovers, talking about that great subject, collecting books. Hell, we even read the things!

Saturday, November 5 — The Major picked me up at 7:30 am and by 8:00 am we were at the Bordentown convention which always is held at a Ramada Inn on route 206. The official opening time is 10:00, but dealers started to set up at 7:00 am. I had a table next to my good friends Scott Hartshorn and Mike Chomko. Sai, Matt, and The Major did not have tables but they were always nearby and ready to discuss literary subjects. Also close by with tables were Ed Hulse, Paul Herman, and Nick Certo.

   There were almost 50 dealers’ tables crammed into the room and all sorts of books and magazines were represented. Each Pulp Adventurecon gets better and better and this 17th edition was the largest yet. Well over 100 attendees and the room was busy until 4:00 when we started to pack up. I price things to sell and I sold several SF pulps which were all priced at only $5.00 each. Same with some DVDs, many still in shrink wrap. I also had nine SHADOW digests which I priced at only $10 each, maybe the bargain of the show. I sold seven of them, and then someone wanted a discount on the final two, like the 2 for $15 I guess. I told him they were priced at rock bottom and he walked away. Collectors!

   I found some bargains: 22 issues of my favorite SF fanzine, FANTASY COMMENTATOR. Price around $3.00 each. I have many of them already but at that price I might as well get them all. The same thing with SCREAM FACTORY, a great magazine which I have some copies of, but I don’t remember which ones. I bought a stack of them for $3.00 each. I also found a big bound copy of CHUMS, the British boy’s magazine. Unreadable crap of course, but the artwork was interesting and the price even more interesting at only $5.00.

   After the show closed, we all drove to the near-by Mastoris Diner, which is a famous landmark restaurant known for its large portions and baked pastry. About a dozen of us devoured as much as we could, but even then they give you so much it is difficult to finish.

   As usual I noticed I was the only one drinking. Only beer, true, but I’m a firm believer in the Mediterranean diet which consists of plenty of fruit, vegetables, nuts, fish, and not much meat. Also wine and beer each day. So far it’s working for me…

Sunday, November 6 — The fifth and final day. Several of us were invited back to the free book storage area, and we met for breakfast before devouring more books. Food may finally kill your appetite but my appetite for books never ends.

   So ends five intense days of friends discussing all sorts of bookish topics. Now I have to catch up on my reading!

A SPECIAL NOTE OF THANKS to Sai Shankar for the use of the photos you see above.

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


   As I was beginning to think about how to open this month’s column, I opened the morning paper and found the answer handed to me. Ed Gorman had died. The date was Friday, October 14, a few weeks short of his 75th birthday. The cause was cancer, with which he’d first been diagnosed 14 years ago.

   He was something of a recluse among writers, leaving his home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa almost never, once reportedly turning down an all-expenses-paid trip to Europe, but managed to stay in touch with countless colleagues thanks to email and the telephone.

   Ed Gorman was one of the most prolific and compelling crime fiction writers of our generation, the author of dozens of novels and short stories under his own name and several others, plus Westerns and horror novels, plus anthologies, plus material for the Web on other writers, the list goes on and on. He was also one of the founders of Mystery Scene magazine, in whose latest issue there’s a moving tribute to him by editor Kate Stine. In so many ways, including his enthusiasm for everything he was involved in and the generosity with which he advised, mentored and supported writers younger than himself, he was the Anthony Boucher of our generation.

   Of course he never wrote science fiction as Boucher did, but then Boucher never wrote Westerns. I wish I were one of the tiny handful of writers who knew him well.

***

   Ever heard of The Digest Enthusiast? I hadn’t either, until one of its contributors, a man named Steve Carper, recently sent me a copy of the third issue (January 2016). It’s digest sized — what else would you expect? — and deals with all sorts of digest sized publications like magazines and paperback books and you-name-it.

   The subject of Carper’s contribution is the collections of short fiction by Dashiell Hammett that were assembled and edited by Ellery Queen — that is, by the Fred Dannay half of the Queen duo — mainly in the 1940s, and were published as digest-sized paperback originals under the Mercury, Bestseller and Jonathan Press imprints of Lawrence E. Spivak, the original publisher of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

   As veteran readers of this column are aware, now and then I’ve compared a few of Hammett’s stories as they originally appeared in Black Mask and other pulps with the versions published twenty or more years later in EQMM and those digest-sized collections. Fred told me many times that every story ever written was too long. True to that belief, he had a habit of changing — usually in the form of cutting — the stories he reprinted. Even Hammett’s.

   Now I learn from Carper’s article that a man named Terry Zobeck has been systematically comparing the Hammett stories as reprinted in EQMM with the versions published in Black Mask and elsewhere decades earlier. The article offers a few examples from Zobeck’s research. One sentence in the Continental Op tale “Who Killed Bob Teal?” (True Detective Stories, November 1924) reads: “Finally she shrugged, her face cleared, and she looked up at us.” Reprinting the story in EQMM (July 1947) and in the collection Dead Yellow Women (1947), Fred put a period after “cleared” and dropped the last six words.

   Another sentence as originally published reads: “Dean and I rode down in the elevator in silence, and walked out into Gough Street.” Under Fred’s editorial blue pencil the sentence ends with “elevator”. Anyone who wants to explore this subject in exhaustive detail needs to read the long series of Zobeck’s posts on Don Herron’s “Up and Down These Mean Streets” blog .

***

   “Who Killed Bob Teal?” is one of the lesser exploits of Hammett’s nameless Continental Op, but it’s of considerable historical interest, for reasons I can’t explain without [Warning] giving away the plot. Teal, a youthful detective for the Continental agency, had appeared in a few earlier tales in the series and in “Slippery Fingers” (Black Mask, 15 October 1923) was described by the Op as “a youngster who will be a world-beater some day.”

   According to the Op in the present story, he “had come to the agency fresh from college two years before; and if ever a man had the makings of a crack detective in him, this slender, broad-shouldered lad had….[W]ith his quick eye, cool nerve, balanced head, and whole-hearted interest in the work, [he] was already well along the way to expertness.” As the head of the San Francisco branch of the agency describes Teal’s murder to the Op:

   “He was shot with a .32, twice, through the heart. He was shot behind a row of signboards on the vacant lot on the northwest corner of Hyde and Eddy Streets, at about ten last night….I would say that there was no struggle, and that he was shot where he was found….He was lying behind the signboards, about thirty feet from the sidewalk, and his hands were empty. The gun was held close enough to him to singe the breast of his coat….”

   The case he’d been working on for the past few days had been brought to the agency by a farm-development engineer named Ogburn, who suspected that his business partner, Herbert Whitacre, had been embezzling money from the firm and was about to disappear. “I sent Teal out to shadow Whitacre,” the agency head tells the Op. It doesn’t take our sleuth long to conclude that the murderer of Bob Teal was Ogburn.

   “Bob wasn’t a boob! He might possibly have let a man he was trailing lure him behind a row of billboards on a dark night, but he would have gone prepared for trouble. He wouldn’t have died with empty hands, from a gun that was close enough to scorch his coat. The murderer had to be somebody Bob trusted, so it couldn’t be Whitacre…. There was only one man who could have persuaded him to drop Whitacre for a while, and that one man was the one he was working for — Ogburn.”

   Why this story is of historical importance should be clear to anyone who remembers how Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon immediately knew who had killed his partner Archer.

   “Miles hadn’t many brains, but, Christ! he had too many years’ experience as a detective to be caught like that by the man he was shadowing. Up a blind alley with his gun tucked away on his hip and his overcoat buttoned? Not a chance….But he’d’ve gone up there with you, angel….You were his client, so he would have had no reason for not dropping the shadow on your say-so….He’d’ve looked you up and down and licked his lips and gone grinning from ear to ear—and then you could’ve stood as close to him as you liked and put a hole through him….”

   There’s just one thing arguably wrong with the way Hammett handled the situation in the Bob Teal story. The plot requires that Teal must know and trust the client Ogburn, but little if anything in the story tells us that they even knew each other!

   “I sent Teal out to shadow Whitacre,” the Old Man tells the Op. We can’t infer from that that the two men had met. But, reviewing the two reports Teal had filed before his death, the Op tells us that “Ogburn had given Bob a description of Mrs. Whitacre….”

   This means that the two had met and had at least one conversation. It would have been easy for Hammett to be more specific about this matter, for example by having the Old Man tell the Op that he had introduced Teal to Ogburn and that the two had had lunch or a drink together, but for some reason he chose not to. The result, whether Hammett intended it or not, may well be one of the most subtly clued fair-play stories in the annals of short detective fiction.

***

   The fact that no one ranks “Who Killed Bob Teal?” among Hammett’s better tales probably explains why it wasn’t included in the Library of America volume of Hammett’s Crime Stories and Other Writings (2001). If we confine ourselves to material that has appeared in print, then we can read this and the other stories omitted from that volume only as Fred Dannay edited them for EQMM seventy or more years ago.

   Fortunately we live in the age of the Web, and thanks to Terry Zobeck’s Herculean labors we can read or at least reconstruct the original versions of most if not all of Hammett’s lesser stories. Thank you Mr. Zobeck!

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