October 2007


   I’m off to Michigan tomorrow, and the town of Cadillac in particular, about 100 miles north of Grand Rapids, and 50 miles south of Traverse City. That’s the town where I grew up. My sister lives there now, and my brother and his family come over from London, Ontario. Monday’s the Canadian Thanksgiving, so we celebrate that as well as Columbus Day. We always have a great time.

   I’ll be heading home late on Monday. I’m sorry to miss Gary Lovisi’s paperback show in New York City this weekend, but he just happened to pick the wrong date. (Just kidding, Gary!)

— Steve

   The death of Denny Martin Flinn, a rather unique contributor to the realm of detective fiction, does not seem to have been widely noted in the world of mystery fandom. The fact appears in Part 19 of the Addenda of the Revised Crime Fiction IV, which I’m working on now. Otherwise only Jiro Kimura’s Gumshoe Site seems to have mentioned it.

   Obituaries have appeared in several entertainment-oriented news sources, however, including Variety and Broadway World. A man of talent in many fields, Mr. Flynn died of complications of cancer on August 24th of this year. He was 59.

   Here are his credits in CFIV, by Allen J. Hubin, slightly updated and amended. I’ll get back to the books in a minute.

      FLINN, DENNY MARTIN (1947- 2007)
           San Francisco Kills (Bantam, 1991, pb)  [Spencer Holmes; San Francisco, CA]
           Killer Finish (Bantam, 1991, pb)  [Spencer Holmes; San Francisco, CA]

   But first, here are some of Mr. Flinn’s non-mystery writing accomplishments. For more information on any of these, you may follow the links above.

   ? He performed on Broadway in Sugar and the revivals of Pal Joey and the Pearl Bailey company of Hello, Dolly!

   ? He choreographed Charles Strouse’s off-Broadway musical Six and he restaged Sugar for its West Coast premiere.

   ? As a performer, he appeared in the national companies of Fiddler on the Roof, starring Jan Peerce and Theodore Bikel as well as two-and-a-half years in one of the national tours of A Chorus Line.

   ? Flinn wrote and directed the musical Groucho, starring Lewis J. Stadlen, which played off-Broadway and toured the country for two years.

   ? As a writer, his first book was What They Did for Love, the story of the making of the Broadway musical A Chorus Line.

   ? He co-authored with Nicholas Meyer the screenplay for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

      THE MYSTERY NOVELS:

San Francisco Kills. Bantam, pb, January 1991.

San Francisco Kills

      From the front cover:    “He bears the family name and has a talent for detection. Just call him Holmes … Spencer Holmes.”

      From the back cover:   … If there be any here present who knows just cause why they may not be lawfully be joined in marriage, I require him now make it known …

   Following the priest’s request, a shot rang out and the groom fell dead.

   What kind of killer was clever enough to get away with murder in front of hundreds of witnesses? That is just the sort of question that appeals to Spencer Holmes, a San Francisco detective who has inherited a fascination for foul play, a talent for deduction, good looks, and hoards of money from his illustrious grandfather, the immortal super sleuth Sherlock Holmes.

   In a case as complicated as they come, Spencer Holmes, assisted by his inscrutable companion, Sowhat Dihje, must use his formidable intelligence to follow a faint trail that leads from the mansions of the well-to-do into the not-so-distant past – to ferret out a remakable affair of friendship, love … and murder.

Killer Finish. Bantam, pb, August 1991.

Killer Finish

   From the front cover:   “When it comes to solving crimes, he was born to it. … He’s Spencer Holmes, San Francisco sleuth.”

   From the back cover:    “It does appear that the Great Gandolfo has suffered an irreversible mistake in an otherwise well-conducted act!”

   And in this case, appearances were not deceiving. The Great Gandolfo was run through with his own sword, and it didn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to see that the erstwhile magician had died on stage – literally.

   What it did take was Spencer Holmes, Sherlock’s equally talented grandson, who happened to be attending Gandolfo’s final performance. And what the master sleuth, along with his sidekick, Sowhat Dihje, finds upon investigation, is a twisted trail of colorful suspects, grand illusions, missing persons, and voices from the dead. And that is only the beginning. For in the city by the bay, the mixture of magic and murder is potent – so potent that even the most pedigreed of detectives will be astounded by a … KILLER FINISH.

   In a short author’s biography on the final page of Killer Finish, it was announced that Mr. Flinn was working on a third novel, one called Lady Killer. For whatever reason, it was never published.

   Searching the Internet, it appears that Irene Adler is the lady in question, if you are asking the one I think you are, and on another site it is stated that “Spencer’s mansion in Frisco has a Nero Wolfe Room, which perhaps hints at his parentage, since it has already been well-established that Wolfe is Sherlock Holmes’ son.”

   On page 14 of San Francisco Kills, the plaque attached to the door of Holmes’ mansion door reads:

SPENCER HOLMES
Consulting Detective
2210 Baker Street

which I believe entitles him to be called a Private Detective. One who does not do divorce or “keyhole” work, but one who takes only the cases that intrigue him the most.

   One other site briefly describes the books are humorous pastiches. Here, for example, from page 194 of the same book cited above, is the following passage. Spencer Holmes is speaking to a fellow who has just finished a game of tennis:

    “How was your game today?” Spencer inquired.

    “Fine. And yours?”

    “Afoot.”

    “I don’t think I understand.”

    “I’m sorry. It is a colloquial expression. Before your time, I think.”

    “Ah.”

  Steve:

Cheap Thrills

   Goodness, it’s been a long time since we’ve encountered each other. I’ll be at Gary Lovisi’s doings next Sunday but you don’t seem to attend them any more. A very handsome new edition of Cheap Thrills came out earlier this year, with color illustrations and reprints of many of the actual letters I gathered when first doing the book many long years ago. My next book is due out in October, entitled Good Girl Art and covering that comic book genre from Sheena to the present.

   As to your blog about the Phantom. Here’s a correction on pennames. I am not now nor never have been Marshall Macao. This attribution is, I think, due to the fact that some chap wrote some sleazy kung fu books and a listmaker mixed them up with the two novelizations of the old Kung Fu TV show I did. Macao was once a Portuguese possession and I am half Portuguese, but that’s the only connection.

   The source of the Frank S. Shawn penname, which I have oft explained to crowds of uninterested fans of mine, is this — I took the name of my wife, Frances and the initial of my younger son, Steffan, and the first name of my older son Sean, and fashioned an alias.

   I actually worked with Falk on these, dropped into his Park Ave. South apartment once, talked to him on the phone quite a bit. The novels were all based on old strip continuities and King Features would send me proofs of whatever strips were being adapted. Of course, with the novels I had to add quite a bit in the way of characters and subplots. And the books were much better written.

Good Girl Art

   Bruce Cassiday also did three of Avon’s Flash Gordon novels back then. I wrote the first three but got tired of dealing with the fellow at King Features, who was a lintpicker (as we used to say in the old days). He complained several times that I was ending chapters in the middle of the page and thus robbing them of several half pages of copy that they were paying for.

   I got the Phantom job originally because Falk, who didn’t keep up with things, had offered it to Alfred Bester, a friend of mine. Bester had ghosted Falk’s strip for a while during WWII and gone on to write The Demolished Man, etc. Knowing nothing of this, Falk assumed he’d be available for the assignment.

   Working with Falk was no problem. One of the few things he told me not to do was mention the color of the Phantom’s costume. At the time it was purple in America, but red and brown in other countries.

   Keep in touch.

Best,

      Ron Goulart


>> Alas, I won’t be at Gary’s paperback show once again this year. It’s next Sunday, but I go to Michigan every Columbus Day weekend to visit my sister, and my brother comes over from London Ontario for a short family get-together. Something had to give, and Gary’s show will go on, but without me, I’m sorry to say.

   Thanks for your comments on working with Lee Falk, though, and I’ll pass the word along to Al Hubin to delete your Marshall Macao reference. Question: You did two of the four novelizations of the Kung Fu TV series. None of the books (as by Howard Lee) are in Crime Fiction IV. I remember the series, and in fact have the first season on DVD. Would you say that the books as written have enough crime content that they should be included? My general impression is that they do.

   To everyone who’s planning their Christmas and holiday present list, from spouses, kids, parents, or simply to give yourself, there are a couple of big hints subtly hidden on this page.

— Steve

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