March 2008


   If the weather doesn’t interfere — a final blast of winter weather seems to be headed straight for CT — I’ll be on my way to NJ and PA tomorrow, doing some bookhunting with Paul Herman and aiming for the Bordentown NJ Pulp & Paperback show on Saturday. I imagine I will see some of you there.

   I’ll need a couple of days after that for R&R and for doing my taxes, which somehow haven’t found a way of doing themselves this month. So the not-so-good news is, if all goes as planned, this will be my last post until I surface again sometime next week. I hope you all have something to read while I’m gone!

          — Steve

   The print version is still waiting to be published, but I’ve just received the good news that the new Revised Crime Fiction IV for 2008 is now available on CD-Rom. The author, Allen J. Hubin, has just informed me that he’s received his copies from Bill Contento, and I’m looking forward to obtaining mine from him.

Crime Fiction IV.

   The price remains the same, $49.95, and can be ordered from Bill through the Locus Magazine website. (Follow the link.) Bill says he hasn’t had a chance to update the ad, but if you order, which of course I think you should, it is the Revised 2008 Edition that you’ll be getting.

   And don’t forget that Al continues to update the online Addenda to the Revised Crime Fiction IV. Even though the content is restricted to authors and books from the year 2000 and before, new information keeps coming in. This data consists largely of corrections and additions, but even some deletions are included, when — for example — it’s discovered that some books thought to have been published never were. As for me, I’ve been adding images, web links and more, which of course you know if you’ve been reading the Mystery*File blog for any length of time. Coming soon: Part 26 of this ongoing project…

   Posted this morning on Reading the Past, my daughter’s historical fiction blog, is some sad news, that of the recent death of Karen Swee, the author of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Murder (Bridge Works, 2004), a historical mystery taking place in New Jersey during the American Revolution.

KAREN SWEE Life Liberty

   From the back cover: “Karen Swee, whose ancestors fought in the American Revolution, lives in Highland Park, New Jersey, across the Raritan River from New Brunswick, where her novel is set. She is a former psychotherapist who grew up in Chicago then moved to Seattle, where she was educated at the University of Washington. She has also lived in Iowa, Toronto, Mexico, and Nova Scotia.”

   Also from the back cover, describing the book: “During the winter of 1777, tavernmistress Abigail Lawrence discovers the body of an overnight guest pinned to the floor with an upright sword. She must find the killer before the occupying British army uses the murder as an excuse to take over her Raritan tavern in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Against a backdrop of wartime tension and hardship, Abigail unravels a puzzle that involves stolen diplomatic papers, captivating spies and avaricious traitors.”

   The book received high praise from Publishers Weekly and Booklist, and more in the series were expected, but apparently this is not to be.

   Go first to Reading the Past for more, then to her obituary in the Newark Star-Ledger.

VICTORIA LAURIE – Crime Seen.

Obsidian; paperback original. First printing, September 2007.

   This is the 5th in this series of “Psychic Eye” mysteries, all featuring Abby Cooper, a professional psychic who dabbles in solving mysteries. For the record, here’s the list:

VICTORIA LAURIE Abby Cooper

      Psychic Eye Mysteries:

1. Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye (Signet, December 2004)
2. Better Read Than Dead (Signet, June 2005)
3. A Vision of Murder (Signet, December 2005)
4. Killer Insight (Signet, September 2006)
5. Crime Seen (Obsidian, September 2007)
6. Death Perception (Obsidian, September 2008)

   … a list of mysteries written by Victoria Laurie which has recently been expanded by a new series of …

      Ghost Hunter Mysteries:

1. What’s a Ghoul to Do? (Signet, April 2007)
2. Demons Are a Ghoul’s Best Friend (Signet, March 2008)

   … in which M. J. Holliday and her partner Gilley are, as advertised, ghostbusters who also come across mysteries to solve in the course of their daily routine.

   I suppose I sound slightly dismissive there, and if I did, I probably meant it, just a little. Psychic detectives have been around a long time — since the days of Weird Tales and Seabury Quinn’s detective Jules de Grandin, and probably even before that.

   The fact is, in spite of what you may have seen or heard about on TV, according to Wikipedia, “no psychic detective has ever been praised or given official recognition by the F.B.I. or US national news for solving a crime, preventing a crime, or finding a kidnap victim or corpse.”

VICTORIA LAURIE Crime Seen

   And another fact is — or is this just my opinion? — solving crimes by psychic means takes all of the fun out of solving mystery puzzlers. Well, OK. It’s just my opinion.

   What Abby Cooper has the ability to do is to wave her hand over her FBI boy friend’s “closed case” files, get pictures from them in her mind and give him hints as to who the culprit is or how he got away with it. Or she can accompany her PI girl friend to interview suspects and give her a kick under the table when she know the suspect is lying.

   In Crime Seen she helps Dutch — that’s her boy friend — catch Dutch’s new partner’s former partner’s killer. Or rather, what she’s asked to do is to help prevent the confessed killer from getting parole. In doing so, she risks her life at least once, when a enemy Hummer runs her and her PI friend Candice off the road into a deep ravine.

   And she doesn’t tell Dutch. There are some issues involved. Go figure. The characters are otherwise pleasant enough, and the psychic abilities just unreliable enough, that the book is easy and — in spite of my statement above — fun to read. Just don’t take it too seriously, and my own personal pre-judgments aside, you’ll see why this is a popular series that’s doing well.

   The news of mystery writer Arthur Lyons’s unexpected death appeared quickly on the mystery blogs today. First to report was Jiro Kimura’s The Gumshoe Site, followed up soon after by Jeff Pierce at The Rap Sheet, with a long and personal homage to Mr. Lyons. The latter died on March 21st of complications from pneumonia and a stroke; he was only 62.

   Arthur Lyons’s primary character, the one who appeared in all the novels he wrote on his alone and not as part of a twosome, was a LA-based private eye named Jacob Asch. Borrowing Kevin Burton Smith’s words:

    “JACOB ASCH was a glib, cynical, half-Jewish reporter for the L.A. Chronicle until he got sent to jail for refusing to reveal a source. He did six months on a contempt of court beef, and when he was sprung, the glamour of journalism, for some reason, had lost its appeal for him. So now he’s a glib, cynical, half-Jewish LA private dick who gets involved in some very nasty murders, instead.”

   From an interview that Jeff Pierce did with Arthur Lyons some time ago, here’s the author’s take on his character:

    “You’ll never find Asch doing anything unlikely. He will not usually find stuff through coincidence. He’s a plodder. That’s what private detection is, going through papers. All of Asch’s cases come out of paper. He works with paper more than he does people, whereas in Ross Macdonald and with most of those guys, they do it with information people tell them. But there aren’t too many people out there who are going to spill their guts to an investigator, unless the guy has a handle on what’s going on.”

    Here’s a complete list of Arthur Lyons’s work, at least in printed form. Taken and expanded upon from Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin, I’ve been able to find covers from all but one of the Jacob Asch books. I apologize that it’s a mixture of hardcovers and paperbacks, nor have I made note of the various reprint editions in which his books have appeared.

LYONS, ARTHUR (Jr.) (1946-2008)

* The Dead Are Discreet (n.) Mason/Charter 1974 [Jacob Asch; Los Angeles, CA]

ARTHUR LYONS The Dead Are Discreet

* All God’s Children (n.) Mason/Charter 1975 [Jacob Asch; Los Angeles, CA]

ARTHUR LYONS All God's Children

* The Killing Floor (n.) Mason/Charter 1976 [Jacob Asch; Los Angeles, CA]

* Dead Ringer (n.) Mason/Charter 1977 [Jacob Asch]

ARTHUR LYONS Dead Ringer

* Castles Burning (n.) Holt 1980 [Jacob Asch; Los Angeles, CA]

ARTHUR LYONS Castles Burning

* Hard Trade (n.) Holt 1981 [Jacob Asch; Los Angeles, CA]

ARTHUR LYONS Hard Trade

* At the Hands of Another (n.) Holt 1983 [Jacob Asch; California]

ARTHUR LYONS At the Hands of Another

* Three with a Bullet (n.) Holt 1985 [Jacob Asch; Los Angeles, CA; Idaho]

ARTHUR LYONS Three with a Bullet

* Fast Fade (n.) Mysterious Press 1987 [Jacob Asch; California]

ARTHUR LYONS Fast Fade

* Unnatural Causes [with Thomas T. Noguchi, M.D.] (n.) Putnam 1988 [Los Angeles, CA; Dr. Eric Parker]

ARTHUR LYONS Unnatural Causes

* Other People’s Money (n.) Mysterious Press 1989 [Jacob Asch; Los Angeles, CA]

ARTHUR LYONS Other People's Money

* Physical Evidence [with Thomas T. Noguchi, M.D.] (n.) Putnam 1990 [Los Angeles, CA; Dr. Eric Parker]

* False Pretenses (n.) Mysterious Press 1994 [Jacob Asch; Los Angeles, CA]

ARTHUR LYONS False Pretenses

Films:

       Slow Burn, based on Castles Burning. Starring Eric Roberts as Jacob Asch.

ARTHUR LYONS Slow Burn

Non fiction:

       The Second Coming: Satanism in America (1970)
       Satan Wants You: The Cult of Devil Worship in America (1971)
       The Blue Sense: Psychic Detectives and Crime (1991) (with Marcello Truzzi)
       Death on the Cheap: The Lost B Movies of Film Noir (2000)

ARTHUR LYONS Death on the Cheap



[UPDATE] 03-26-08. For an insightful essay by Jeff Pierce on both Lyons and Jacob Asch, may I suggest a return visit to The Rap Sheet. It was written in 1981 or thereabouts, but its age does not diminish the timeliness of this followup post in any way whatsoever.

    Any assistance toward answering any of these questions would be greatly appreciated. Leave a comment or reply to me directly, and I’ll pass the word along to those who are asking.

(1) From John Herrington in the UK:

A. E. FIELDING

    “I have been doing some research on the elusive Dorothy Feilding/A. Fielding and have discovered that papers relating to her are held in the collection of papers of UK literary agent A.P. Watt which are held in the library of the University of South Carolina.

    “I asked the library but they are not willing to look themselves!! A pity as there might be vital clues about her. They suggested using a professional searcher, but I don’t want to pay up front for possibly a zero result – plus paying anyone might be difficult as I do not use credit cards.

    “Don’t suppose you know anyone who might have access to the library who might be willing to have a look?”

(2) From Ken Johnson:

    “I believe I mentioned previously that I am working on an addition to my Digest Index which will index the contents of the anthologies and collections therein. I have everything I need except for two books that are eluding me. I am writing to you in the hope that you can help me with these, or network me to someone who can.

    “The hardest book to find is the Bonded Mystery edition of This Is Mr. Fortune by H. C. Bailey. The only documentation on this book is the listing in Kevin Hancer’s Price Guide. No library on the web has it and no one ever seems to be selling one.

    “The most frustrating book is the Bestseller Library edition of The Mysterious Mr. Quin by Agatha Christie. Several libraries on the World Catalog have it but my attempts to get information through inter-library loan have been frustrated by the response that the book apparently does not have a contents page. It would seem I need to convince a friendly librarian to actually look at it and jot down the contents for me. I am optimistic on this score by the discovery that one of the libraries that has a copy is Bowling Green University.

    “So, my first question is: do you know anyone, or can you network me to anyone, connected to Bowling Green University or their Popular Culture collection who might be willing to accommodate my request for info on the Christie book?

    “The second question is: would you be willing to mention my quest for the contents of these two books in one of your blog entries, in the hope of drawing the info out of some collector?

    “Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated. The completed index will document several abridged mystery collections whose exact contents are not otherwise known and therefore will be potential annotations for the Addenda to Al Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV. I also be glad, after it is posted, to share with you my documentation for these collections.”

    That edition of the book by H. C. Bailey may not exist. My copy of Hancer’s guide isn’t handy at the moment, but a quick check reveals that Graham Holroyd does not include it in his. Neither fact, that it’s in one and not the other, is entirely convincing. It would be nice to know for sure.

(3) This question’s from me. As everyone reading this already knows, I’m sure, Phyllis Whitney died not too long ago at the age of 104. While doing some research in CFIV over the weekend, I came across the following entry:

EMERY, (Russell) GUY (1908- )
       Front for Murder (Macrae-Smith, 1947, hc) [San Francisco, CA] Boardman pb, 1948.

   I asked Al Hubin whether he had any updated information about Mr. Emery. His reply: “Probably Guy Emery is not still alive, but he’s not in ssdi under any combination of his name, and peoplefinders doesn’t turn up anyone born in 1908.”

   And that’s as far as I’ve gotten with this, except that it does give me a good chance to add a cover image that I’ve always thought was quite nice:

GUY EMERY



[UPDATE] 03-26-08. Results so far:

(1) One tentative offer to do the library research has been tendered so far, but if you live in that part of the country and are willing to do the required digging into some archives, please check to see if things have worked out as we hope they have.

(2) Ken has been in touch with a Popular Culture librarian at Bowling Green, and the titles of Mr. Quin stories are now known. As for the H. C. Bailey title, here’s what Dan Roberts has had to say:

Steve: Please pass this on to Ken Johnson or post it on your blog.

I canít speak to the Christie Bestseller title, but no library or bookseller has the Bonded This is Mr. Fortune title because Iím virtually certain that it does not exist. Hancer is not the only reference that lists it ó R. Reginald and M.R. Burgess also list it in Cumulative Paperback Index 1939-1959, Gale Research Co., Detroit 1973 page 9.

It is well-known that Reginald and Burgess (actually only Reginald ó Burgess is a fictitious name) salted his compilation with a number of books that do not exist in order to nail plagiarists, and Hancer did indeed plagiarize and was successfully sued by Reginald. Since Iím familiar with the Bonded series (having once had them all and now having about 90% of them — some are digest size, others are pb size), Iím virtually certain the Fortune title is one of Reginaldís fake listings. H.C. Baileyís The Twittering Bird Mystery (Bonded No. 8 ) does exist, however.

Hope this helps. Dan Roberts.

(3) Nothing yet on Guy Emery.

[UPDATE] 03-27-08. A reply from Ken Johnson, re the H. C. Bailey mystery:

Steve,

Actually I disagree. The intro to Reginald’s Cumulative Paperback Index mentions the check entries and states that none of them involve real authors, which is definitely the case for all the ones so far known. While Reginald lists both the Susan Wells ((Footsteps in the Air)) and the H. C. Bailey (which Hancer identifies as #s 15 and 16) he does not supply the book numbers, so Hancer could not have cribbed them from him. It is also my understanding that all of Reginald’s check entries were purged from Hancer’s later editions.

I looked again at my copy of Bonded Mystery #13. The inside back cover has an ad for both the Wells and Bailey books, with black and white drawings of the covers, stating that they will both be on sale next month. Since I cannot find any other confirmation of their existence, they were probably never issued. Hancer may very well have assigned them book numbers as a way of generating his own check entries, which he seems to have done a lot of after Reginald sued him for repeating his check entries.

I will have to update the entry in my Digest Index. If I hadn’t gone looking for the contents I might never have spotted this. Please thank Dan for his comments; I would appreciate any other comments he might have that would improve my index. I still have a lot to learn.

All my best,

Ken

NORMAN DANIELS - The Deadly Ride.

Lancer; paperback reprint, no date stated but stated elsewhere to be 1968. Original title: The Marshal of Winter Gap, as by Peter Grady (Avalon Books, hc, 1962); paperback reprint: Airmont Books, 1963.

NORMAN DANIELS The Deadly Ride

   Iím not too sure of the date for the hardcover edition, which I found online in several places, since the copyright date given in this Lancer edition is 1963. A trifling matter, I suppose, and I guess it ought to bother me more than it does.

   Nor have I done much research into the western fiction that Norman Daniels wrote. I found two more he did as by Peter Grady, but his overall output Ė hundreds of books, mostly mysteries, but romances too, including gothics as by Dorothy Daniels Ė is too large for me to start sorting out which is which right now. Suffice it to say, I’m sure, Daniels could write anything that someone paid him to do, beginning in the era of the pulp magazines, and for the most part he made it come it out right and professionally done.

   This western at hand is a perfect example of that. Itís slight and in the beginning a not very promising story of a rancher who used to be a gunman, emphasis on the ďused to be,Ē especially now that he has a nine-year-old son.

   But when his wife is killed by a stray bullet in the lawless town of Winter Gap, heís sorely tempted to revert to his old ways, which doesnít quite do. Prodded on, though, by the urging of Louise Amister, whose father was the last marshal the town ever had, what he does do is appoint himself town marshal, daring any of the rougher elements in town to tell him no.

   Characterization is slim Ė Iíve outlined about 80% of it already Ė but thereís just enough here, along with a surprise or two, and a semi-sappy, soapy sort of ending, to make for a couple of hours of reading and a story thatís surprisingly hard to put down.

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