Thu 30 Oct 2008
As I often do before heading out of town, I’ve been doubling up on posts this week, as you may have noticed. Rich Harvey’s Pulp Adventurecon #9 is an all-day show on Saturday in Bordentown NJ, and I’ll be there:
Saturday, November 1, 2008
10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Ramada Inn of Bordentown
1083 Route 206, Bordentown NJ
(Just off NJ Turnpike Exit 7)
FIFTY TABLES with plenty of terrific material. PULP MAGAZINES, vintage paperbacks and related movie & paper collectibles! You won’t find more pulp magazines anywhere else on the east coast!
I’ll be leaving tomorrow morning with Paul Herman. We’re planning on doing some bookhunting along the way, then stopping at noted pulp collector Walker Martin’s home in NJ in the afternoon and staying overnight with noted paperback collector Dan Roberts over in nearby PA. (Paul of course is also noted, and so am I.)
It’s always a great trip, and I’m looking forward to it.
Thu 30 Oct 2008
REVIEWED BY WALTER ALBERT:
HIDEAWAY. RKO-Radio, 1937; Richard Rosson, director; Fred Stone, Emma Dunn, Marjorie Lord, J. Carroll Naish, William Corson, Tommy Bond. Shown at Cinecon 41, September 2005.
A rural comedy-drama, with Fred Stone, a major stage performer who created the role of the Scarecrow in the original production of The Wizard of Oz (1903), heading the cast.
Fred is a lazy farmer who takes in as boarders a crew of urban gangsters, led by J. Caroll Naish, in search of a cache of money from a bank robbery, believed to be hidden somewhere on the property formerly occupied by a confederate of the Naish gang. The film is populated by country boobs, with Stone’s family (Dunn, Lord, and Tommy Bond of “Our Gang” fame, who died recently), a relative island of sanity in the surrounding inanity.
The film was chosen to introduce guest Marjorie Lord, who had a minor film career and is best known for her TV role as Danny Thomas’ wife in Make Room for Daddy.
J. Carroll Naish walked off with the film, which depressed me for its misuse of Stone and its cheapening of the once-popular rural melodrama. A more charitable view is that it’s a routine, bottom-of-the-bill quickie, with some good performers doing their best to make a weak script palatable.
Wed 29 Oct 2008
Posted by Steve under ReviewsNo Comments
ANNE ROWE – Up to the Hilt.
Detective Book Club; hardcover reprint [3-in-1 edition], November 1945. First edition: M. S. Mill, hardcover, 1945. Other hardcover reprint: Grosset & Dunlap, no date (cover shown).
To quote Inspector Barry on page 55: “Society murders are a pain in the neck.” I don’t know whether all of Anne Rowe’s mysteries take place in the same milieu (I always wanted to use that word), but after one she wrote early on in her career, in 1930, to be precise, she became prolific later on, producing a total of seven in the years between 1941 and 1946.
Barry is in three of these, including this one, of course, and an Inspector Josiah Pettingill is in three of the others. Pettingill’s cases all seem to take place in Maine. Inspector Barry seems to be a New York City and suburban Connecticut sort of guy.
Telling the story in this one is Jane Applebee, head of a literary agency inherited from her aunt, and dead is one of her leading clients, a lady whose luster, though, had been fading. Living in an apartment on the top floor of a converted Manhattan loft building, Jane has many friends, neighbors, relatives (two sisters) and (sort of) a new boy friend, one Dr. Hunt Berwick, a somewhat mysterious man who has connections enough (it seems) to become an advisor to the aforementioned Inspector Barry.
This is another old-fashioned detective story, and they surely don’t write them like this any more, where even with the wide range of characters, both leading and walk-on, the focus is on the mystery, and little else. On page 19 there is even a diagram of the layout of Jane’s entire floor, with the warning on the page opposite that it is going to prove important later.
And yes, it does, but you have to read Jane’s description also, as the map does not include precisely and exactly what it should. The story is crisply told, though, and if you can forgive the inspector for making Jane his right-hand lady, filling her in (and therefore us, the reader) with certain details we shouldn’t have been able to ascertain otherwise, it’s quite enjoyable.
Another small problem, if that is what it is, and I almost hate bringing it up, is that after two more murders, there are surprisingly few candidates left to be the killer. One is obvious, the other is not, and there doesn’t seem to be anyone else. (You always exclude the maids, don’t you?)
The 1940s Manhattan set is not the sort of society I’ve ever mixed in, as I’ve probably said before, and it’s surely too late now, but this is the kind of mystery that sneaks me into it, so to speak, and with all of smart deducing going on, what it does is serve up a heaping amount of vicarious pleasure, double-portioned.
— July 2002 (slightly revised)
[UPDATE] 10-29-08. I’ve reviewed one other book by Anne Rowe previously on this blog, one called Too Much Poison (1944), and yes, it takes place in the same wartime Manhattan social set.
Along with it I included a complete bibliography for her, so I won’t repeat it here. Inspector Barry was in that one, too, and if I made either it or this one sound like your kind of detective story, then I think it most probably is. In fact, I guarantee it.
Wed 29 Oct 2008
A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review by Marcia Muller:
TONY HILLERMAN – Listening Woman. Harper & Row, hardcover, 1978. Paperback reprint: Avon, April 1979. Many other reprint editions, both hardcover and soft.
Joe Leaphorn is assigned to a double homicide that has occurred on a remote plateau of the Navajo reservation. Hosteen Tso, an old man, had complained of illness and gone to Margaret Cigaret, known as Listening Woman, for a pollen-blessing ceremony. During a brief period when Listening Woman left him alone, both Hosteen Tso and her niece and assistant, Anna Atcitty, were bludgeoned to death.
The old man, Listening Woman reports to Leaphorn, knew something about some sand paintings that had been desecrated, but refused to discuss it, saying cryptically that he had made a promise to someone long ago. Following this rather slender lead, Leaphorn travels across the barren mesas to that part of the Indian nation where the Navajo wolves and witches are said to dwell.
As in Hillerman’s other novels, ancient tribal beliefs come into sharp conflict with the modern world – a conflict that is reflected in Leaphorn himself. And when he finally reaches the solution to the crimes, he sees how legend can be manipulated to suit the designs of evil men.
Hillerman has put his knowledge of Navajo custom and mysticism to good use in this novel. His stark depiction of the New Mexico landscape is particularly fine, conveying a haunting sense of how insignificant one man is against the vastness of nature, and making this a compelling and often chilling book.
Joe Leaphorn also appears in The Blessing Way (1970), Hillerman’s first novel. A nonseries novel, The Fly on the Wall (1971), is a political story set in the capital of an unnamed midwestern state. In addition, Hillerman has produced a juvenile novel and various works of nonfiction, including the hilarious The Great Taos Bank Robbery and Other Affairs of Indian Country (1970).
Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007. Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.
Tue 28 Oct 2008
Posted by Steve under Authors
, Reviews1 Comment
REVIEWED BY BOB SCHNEIDER:
WILLIAM P. McGIVERN – Police Special. Dodd Mead, hardcover, May 1962. Hardcover reprint: Mystery Guild, August 1962.
McGivern had a rich and varied writing career ranging from newspaper work to pulp fiction to crime novels (five of which were made into feature films most notably Odds Against Tomorrow starring Robert Ryan and Harry Belafonte, 1959) to screenplays (the John Wayne film Brannigan, 1975) to TV series scriptwriting (Kojak).
Like many once popular and respected mystery writers from the middle of the last century, McGivern is rarely read today. A review of Police Special (1962), a collection of three of his crime novels, may serve to re-kindle interest in this neglected writer.
Rogue Cop (1954), the first entry in this omnibus, tells the story of once honest but now corrupt Philadelphia cop Mike Carmody and his younger honest cop brother, Eddie. Mike spends the first half of the novel trying to protect Eddie from the murderous thugs who now bankroll his affluent lifestyle.
It becomes clear early on that Mike will ultimately fail to prevent the murder of his brother. The second half of the story follows Mike’s efforts to avenge Eddie by bringing down the guilty criminals. Whether Mike succeeds or not and if so at what cost to himself and others is only revealed in the final chapters.
This is a gripping morality tale filled with menacing scenes and dangerous confrontations worthy of Hammett himself. McGivern believes that we all make countless daily choices to be good or bad, to be brave or cowardly. The decisions we make have consequences and effects far beyond ourselves and the immediate present.
The Seven File (1956) describes a kidnapping from beginning to end. Two of the central characters, as in Rogue Cop, are brothers. Duke Farrell was once a golden boy — strong, smart, athletic but of flawed character.
Hank Farrell, not quite as strong, smart or athletically gifted as his older brother has stayed clear of Duke for many years until the two are brought together by the meticulously planned kidnapping of a wealthy family’s child.
McGivern shows that deeply flawed people are unlikely to carry out even the most perfect of schemes because they will inevitably deviate from the plan due to their own greed, cowardice and poor judgment. Despite numerous setbacks the kidnappers do manage to snatch the child and one must read through to the final chapter to learn of the ultimate outcome of the crime.
McGivern alternates the story’s middle chapters between the kidnapper’s actions and the FBI’s efforts to solve the crime. The chapters featuring the criminals are grippingly menacing and expose their gradual loss of control over events. The FBI chapters painstakingly detail the procedures of a mid-twentieth century kidnapping investigation.
A theme that emerges from McGivern’s storytelling is that most of us are capable of at least one act of courage or one act of mercy, no matter how costly to ourselves, which can turn around a seemingly lost situation. The action takes place mostly in New York City and Maine. The title of the story derives from a code name that the FBI gives to this kidnapping investigation.
The Darkest Hour (1955) shows how corruption on the New York City waterfront affects the lives of those who work on and live near the docks. Steve Retnick returns to Manhattan after serving time for manslaughter. He was a tough but honest cop who crossed the wrong people and was framed for his efforts by some union thugs.
Retnick has seemingly lost everything; his job, his wife and five years of his life so he is hell bent for revenge no matter what the cost to himself or others. Though Retnick believes that all his former friends and co-workers have abandoned him, he still does have some allies and it is those allies who provide the framework for his ultimate salvation — should he choose to use them. As is typical in a McGivern story, there are many gritty confrontation scenes between the various characters.
McGivern’s writing style, subject matter and themes are neither for the fainthearted nor for those seeking a high amount of classic detection. Whether tackling police corruption, political corruption, union corruption or civic corruption, he zeroed in on the weaknesses of society and created compelling crime stories that are still entertaining and meaningful half a century after they were written.
— — —
Additional bibliographic data:
Rogue Cop. Dodd Mead, hardcover, 1954. Paperback reprints: Pocket 1030, 1954; Pyramid M3188, 1973; Berkley, 1987.
The Seven File. Dodd Mead, 1956. Paperback reprint: Pocket 1156, 1957, as The #7 File. Also: Berkley, pb, 1989, under the original title.
The Darkest Hour. Dodd Mead, 1955. Also published as: Waterfront Cop, Pocket 1105, paperback, 1956. Also: Berkley, pb, 1988, under the original title.
See this earlier post for a complete listing of all of William P. McGivern’s crime fiction. This review also appears on the Golden Age of Detection wiki, reprinted by permission.
Tue 28 Oct 2008
A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review by Marcia Muller:
TONY HILLERMAN – The Ghostway. San Diego: Dennis McMillan, 1984. (Limited edition.) Also published in a regular trade edition by Harper & Row, 1985. Paperback reprint: Avon, 1986. Many other reprint editions, both hardcover and soft.
Hillerman’s second series character, Navajo tribal policeman Jim Chee, is a younger man than Joe Leaphorn and more closely tied to mainstream American society. Because of this, he is perhaps less interesting than Leaphorn, and the Chee books lack the haunting, magical quality of Hillerman’s earlier work. Chee is nonetheless a complex character and the dichotomies he must face within himself are closely intertwined with the plots.
The Ghostway concerns a Los Angeles Navajo who has shot a hoodlum to death and in turn been seriously wounded in a parking lot on the reservation. The FBI is looking for the man — Albert Gorman — for some reason that they do not discuss in detail with the Navajo police, and he is traced to the hogan of a relative, Ashie Begay.
But when Chee, the sheriff’s deputy, and the FBI agents arrive at the hogan, they find no signs of life; the hogan’s smoke hole has been plugged, its doorway boarded over, and a hole cut in one side. To Chee this means someone has died inside and the hogan thought to be possessed by the malicious chindi (ghost) of the dead person has been abandoned.
There are things that bother Chee about the situation: Ashie Begay was a wise old man, accustomed to death, and he loved his home; surely when he saw that Albert Gorman, the wounded man, was close to death, he would have moved him outside, as is the custom.
And when Chee finds Gorman’s body, it has been prepared as the dead are supposed to be, except Begay has neglected to wash the corpse’s hair with yucca suds. Did something interrupt the preparations? And where has Ashie Begay gone?
At the time the case begins, Chee is facing a tough personal decision: Should he join the FBI and leave the reservation with his white lover, Mary Landon? Or should he stay on here where his roots are and risk losing her?
Before he can resolve this, however, Ashie Begay’s granddaughter, Margaret Billy Sosi, disappears from her boarding school, and Chee must track her down. Eventually he finds her in Begay’s contaminated hogan — a place where even he, with his logical policeman’s mind, is loath to step — but she quickly eludes him.
He follows her to Los Angeles, where Navajos of the Turkey Clan, to which she belongs, live in abject poverty. Chee’s investigation takes him back to the reservation again, and into its far reaches where a Ghostway (purifying ceremony) is being performed. And at the ceremony, he must confront not only a killer but also the cultural conflict within himself.
While not as powerful as the Leaphorn novels, The Ghostway ties its thematic matter into the plot in an extremely satisfying way, and Chee is developed to greater depth than before. Any reader will be eager to see how he resolves his conflicts in future novels.
The previous Chee books are People of Darkness (1980) and The Dark Wind (1982).
Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007. Copyright Â© 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.
Mon 27 Oct 2008
MAX MURRAY – The Right Honourable Corpse.
Farrar Straus & Young, US, hardcover, 1951, as The Right Honorable Corpse. Hardcover reprint: Unicorn Mystery Book Club, 4-in-1 edition, April 1951. US paperback reprint: Collier, 1965, as The Right Honorable Corpse. British hardcover: Michael Joseph, 1952. British paperback reprint: Penguin #1203, 1957.
Back when he was actively writing, which was up right up to his untimely death in 1956, Max Murray was never one of the big names in the field of mystery fiction. Even though he had a respectable string of detective novels in a ten year stretch between 1947 and 1957, he may not even have been in the second or third tier of big names, in spite of the fact that many of his books were reprinted in this country by Dell in paperback and either the Detective Book Club or the Unicorn Mystery Book Club in hardcover.
The problem may have been that he never used a series detective. I’ve thought this of several mystery writers before, but I don’t believe I’ve ever quite come out and said it. I think it takes a steady focal point, a recurring detective character that the readers can feel comfortable with before they’ll take the author to heart as well.
With obvious exceptions, of course. But authors like Andrew Garve and E. X. Ferrars, to take two rather disparate examples, were extremely prolific and presumably very popular in their day, are all but totally forgotten now. Ferrars did have a few recurring characters, but if you can name one without going and looking up her bibliography, you are the winner of today’s trivia contest, and truth be said, when Garve wrote as either Roger Bax or Paul Somers, he did have a couple of series characters. You’re this year’s trivia champion if you can name either.
And I’m straying from the review of the book in hand, without making a very solid case for my conjecture, I’m afraid, but perhaps I’ll return to it some day.
Here below is Murray’s entry in Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin, along with a few facts about him, most of which I didn’t know, until I looked him up earlier today:
MURRAY, MAX(well). 1901-1956. Born in Australia; newspaper reporter in that country, the U.S., and England; scriptwriter and editor for BBC during WWII; married to author Maysie Greig.
The Voice of the Corpse (Joseph, 1948, hc) [England] Farrar, 1947.
The King and the Corpse (Joseph, 1949, hc) [France] Farrar, 1948.
The Queen and the Corpse (Farrar, 1949, hc) [Ship] See: No Duty on a Corpse (Joseph 1950).
The Neat Little Corpse (Joseph, 1951, hc) [Jamaica] Farrar, 1950. Film: Paramount, 1953, as Jamaica Run (scw & dir: Lewis R. Foster).
The Right Honourable Corpse (Joseph, 1952, hc) [Australia] Farrar, 1951.
The Doctor and the Corpse (Joseph, 1953, hc) [Singapore; Ship] Farrar, 1952.
Good Luck to the Corpse (Joseph, 1953, hc) [France; Academia] Farrar, 1951.
The Sunshine Corpse (Joseph, 1954, hc) [Florida]
Royal Bed for a Corpse (Joseph, 1955, hc) [England] Washburn, 1955.
Breakfast with a Corpse (Joseph, 1956, hc) [Nice, France] U.S. title: A Corpse for Breakfast. Washburn, 1957.
Twilight at Dawn (Joseph, 1957, hc) [Australia]
Wait for the Corpse (Joseph, 1957, hc) [England] Washburn, 1957.
All of his books were published in the UK, but when they were published in the US, strangely enough they were often published here first. And as befitting his background as a world news correspondent for the BBC, his books take place all over the world, with only two of them in Australia, where he was born. (And as it turns out, where he died, while back on a visit.)
The Right Honourable Corpse is one of the two, as it so happens, and from the description of (a) the closely knit circle of politicians, bureaucrats and diplomats in the small and isolated capital city of Canberra, and (b) life in the beautiful but desolate Australian out-of-doors, you’d think he’d lived there all his life. And, truth be guessed at, perhaps in his own mind, perhaps he did.
Dead, but mourned only on the surface, is Rupert Flower, the powerful Minister for Internal Resources, poisoned to death during a piano concert going on in his home. Vain and vindictive — a dangerous combination — he was a man whose untimely passing was foreseen by many.
Martin Gilbert, the pianist, turns out to be the central character, and I for one would have liked it immensely if he’d ever made a return appearance, which sad to say he did not. It turns out that he is a spy — a domestic one. He works undercover for the new Commonwealth Security Service, and it is not a job that he likes, and his extreme distaste only grows as the case goes on.
Bitter, sarcastic and outwardly enigmatic in tone and behavior, Martin discovers that friendship with the people he is observing does not go hand-in-hand with reporting those observations on to his superior, Sir David Reynolds. Nor is falling in love consistent with the role he is playing, another problem being that one of the possible suspects is also his best friend and in love with the same girl.
The plot is quite largely secondary to the players, but it’s a good one. At the end, it’s also fairly clear why Martin Gilbert was never brought back for an encore. As a character himself, he gave all he was capable of in this one. I don’t think he had another murder case to be solved in him. He is used up, worn out, but never thrown away. No sir or ma’am. Tears seldom come to my eyes at the end of detective stories, but I’m not unwilling to say they did this time.
[UPDATE.] 10-28-08. Taken from a couple of emails sent by Jamie Sturgeon:
Enjoyed your piece on Max Murray, a quick e-mail to point out correct title Wait for a Corpse. There’s a note on Crimefictioniv.com (Part 7) to say Twilight at Dawn was rewritten by his widow Maysie Greig (it says wife but should be widow) and published as Doctor Ted’s Clinic. It is possible that Twilight at Dawn is not criminous or only marginally at best.
Also: In the entry for Maysie Greig in ADB (Australian Dictionary of Biography) Max Murray’s middle name is Alexander and year of birth as 1900. No separate entry for Max Murray.
Mon 27 Oct 2008
A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review by Marcia Muller:
TONY HILLERMAN – Dance Hall of the Dead. Harper & Row, hardcover, 1973. Paperback: Avon, 1975. Many reprint editions, both hardcover and soft.
Tony Hillerman is a master storyteller, the kind who can spin you a yarn that will keep you on the edge of your chair replete with ghosts, evil spirits, sinister happenings, legends, and all the other ingredients that make up the culture of a people.
The people he writes of are the Navajo and Zuni Indians of the American Southwest. His books are full of Indian lore. (Hillerman himself went to an Indian boarding school for eight years, and knows the culture as few Anglos do.)
Set against the vast and often desolate expanse of the great reservations near Four Corners (where the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado abut one another), they re-create the loneliness of the high mesas.
If life is hard for those who live there, it is also hard for Hillerman’s heroes – tribal policemen Joe Leaphorn and, in more recent books, Jim Chee. There are no instant backup systems on the mesas, no quick computerized information resources, indeed few methods of communication.
Alone, the protagonists must rely on their own intelligence, good judgment, and instincts that have been passed down in a society almost as old as the ancient land where it sprang up.
Dance Hall of the Dead (which won the MWA Edgar for Best Novel of 1973) opens, as a number of Hillerman’s books do, with a scene from the life of a resident of the reservation, in this case a Zuni.
And immediately we are confronted with one of the numerous contrasts between modern and an ancient culture that are a trademark of Hillerman’s work: “Shulawitsi, the Little Fire God, member of the Council of the Gods and Deputy to the Sun, had taped his track shoes to his feet.”
The Little Fire God is a young Zuni man in training not for a track meet but for a religious ceremony. As he rests, thinking of many things that disturb him (but not allowing himself to become angry because at this time in the Zuni religious calendar, anger is not permitted), a strange figure appears from behind a boulder….
Now that we have been drawn into the Indian consciousness, the scene switches to Zuni tribal-police headquarters where Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn is being briefed on a jurisdictional problem. The Little Fire God, in ordinary life Ernesto Cata, and his Navajo friend, George Bowlegs, are missing, and there are indications that one of them has been knifed. While Cata’s disappearance is in Zuni jurisdiction, Leaphorn is asked to find Bowlegs.
Cata is presumed dead, and the police suspect Bowlegs is his killer. But there are also rumors that a kachina – a Zuni ancestor spirit – got Cata and frightened Bowlegs. When Cata’s body is found, Leaphorn’s search intensifies; and as he crosses the rugged reservation, fact becomes mixed with legend, and Leaphorn, an outsider to the Zuni culture, must sort out the reality of the situation.
Dance Hall of the Dead is a fascinating study in the conflicts between two Indian cultures, as well as a fine mystery, the scenes and characters of which will haunt you for a long time after you reach its conclusion.
Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007. Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.
TONY HILLERMAN, R.I.P. The much loved author of the Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee mysteries died October 26 of pulmonary failure. He was 83. See the The Rap Sheet online for more details and many remembrances.
Sun 26 Oct 2008
BOUCHER ON WOOLRICH:
WHEN TITANS TOUCHED
by Francis M. Nevins
Previously on this blog:
PART I. THE NOVELS.
PART II. THE STORY COLLECTIONS.
Part III. LETTERS, A CARD AND A MEETING.
Boucher wrote Woolrich for the first time in the late spring of 1944, requesting permission to reprint a story in his anthology Great American Detective Stories (World, 1945). Replying on June 5, Woolrich recommended that Boucher use the 1938 “Endicott’s Girl,” which he called “my favorite among all the stories I’ve ever written.”
Boucher didn’t care for that one, as he explained in a July 19 letter to World editor William Targ: “It has in extreme measure the frequent Woolrich flaw – a fine emotional story which ends with loose ends all over the place and nothing really explained.”
Instead Boucher opted for “Finger of Doom” (1940), which he retitled “I Won’t Take a Minute.” The new title was retained when the story was included in The Ten Faces of Cornell Woolrich (1965). “Endicott’s Girl” remained uncollected until I put it in Night and Fear (2004).
On July 20, one day after his letter to Targ, Boucher wrote Woolrich again: “In the past month or two I’ve read over 30 [of your] pulp stories. And even from such a dose as that I still feel no indigestion; which means, I take it, that you are (as I have suspected all along) the goods. Keep ’em coming!”
Woolrich’s reply, dated July 23, solved a puzzle for me. I had long suspected that his “The Penny-a-Worder” (1958; first collected in Nightwebs, 1971), which is about a pulp writer who has to hack out a story overnight to go with an already completed front cover illustration, was based on personal experience.
After finding the July 23 letter among Boucher’s papers at the Lilly Library I knew it for a fact. In it Woolrich mentioned that he particularly remembers his story “Guns, Gentlemen” (1937; collected as “The Lamp of Memory” in Beyond the Night, 1959) “because I wrote it to match up with the cover of the magazine, which they sent me.” This doesn’t mean, of course, that he wrote the story in a single night!
On a file card dating from 1950 or early 1951, when he was co-editing The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Boucher set down his reaction to the idea of reprinting Woolrich’s novella “Jane Brown’s Body” (1938). “This brilliantly macabre concept spoiled for me by 2 things: a.) My pet irritation of writing exclusively in present tense; b.) A pulp plot so formulaly obvious that each step can be accurately forecast. Inept, for Woolrich, but because of his name let’s include.”
It was reprinted in the magazine’s October 1951 issue and collected in The Fantastic Stories of Cornell Woolrich (1981).
Boucher finally met Woolrich while on a visit to New York in April 1965. He died without writing about the encounter but his widow, Phyllis White, was present and described it for me before her own death:
“[W]e were in a restaurant with some MWA members after a private viewing of a film…. Clayton Rawson [then managing editor of EQMM] told us that before going home he was going to drop in on Cornell Woolrich, who was convalescing from surgery, and he suggested that we come along.
“Of course Tony was thrilled at the prospect. We went to the hotel room where Woolrich was temporarily quartered. One eye had been operated on and he was to go back after an interval for an operation on the other. [Saint Mystery Magazine editor] Hans Santesson was there trying to look after him. He was supposed to go easy on drinking so he was sticking to wine. Santesson kept suggesting pleasantly but ineffectively that he slow down.
“The room had until recently been used for storage of furniture. It was in good enough condition except for lacerated wallpaper. Woolrich complained that the hotel staff was sneering and laughing at him behind his back. Rawson asked Woolrich whether he had anything lying around that would be suitable for reprint in EQMM.
“Woolrich rummaged around and turned up something. There was a bit of comic pantomime in which Rawson started to look at the story and then tried to hide it from rival editor Santesson peering over his shoulder.
“The only dramatic incident of the evening was missed by Rawson, who had to leave to catch his train. The door opened suddenly and a crowing man burst in with a girl and a bottle. The hotel had mistakenly sent him to that room and he was indignant on finding us there…
“The intruder withdrew, leaving Woolrich convinced that this was another part of the conspiracy against him. Eventually we left but it wasn’t easy. Woolrich thought that people who went away, no matter how long they had stayed, were leaving because they didn’t like him. Tony was delighted that he had finally met Woolrich, and at the same time thought that it wouldn’t do his own nerves any good to see too much of him… ”
He needn’t have worried. They never met again. Boucher died of lung cancer on April 29, 1968, at the unbearably early age of 56; Woolrich of a stroke on September 25, a little more than two months before his 65th birthday. Just a few months apart. Forty years ago this year. May they rest in peace.
Thu 23 Oct 2008
RICHARD HALEY – Thoroughfare of Stones.
Headline, UK, paperback reprint, 1996. First hardcover edition: Headline, UK, 1995. No US edition.
You may be more widely versed in British mystery writers who’ve never been published in the US than I am – and for whatever reason, there are a good many of them – but I have a feeling that Richard Haley may be as new a name to you as it was to me when I picked this book up to read.
Here’s what the blurb inside the front cover says about the author:
“Richard Haley was born and educated in Bradford, West Yorkshire, and has lived all his life in that area. He Began his working career in the wool trade, than undertook administration and personnel work for an international company producing man-made fibres, which gave him plenty of opportunity to travel.
“Now retired, he lives with his wife in his native town, which inspired the background to this first John Goss novel, and he recently completed his second.”
As for John Goss, he’s a private detective based in a town called Beckford, which confused me a little, as according to the Google map I have, Beckford and Bradford are quite a distance apart. No matter. Even though Thoroughfare of Stones has its flaws, it shows that Richard Haley should have started writing PI novels long before he did. (I grant you that living a life before taking up writing can often give you something to write about, and that may well be the case here. It should also be noted that Haley wrote three non-mystery novels before turning to PI fiction.)
Before continuing further, though, here’s a list of all the John Goss novels, taken from Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin:
Thoroughfare of Stones (Headline, 1995)
When Beggars Die (Headline, 1996)
Written in Water (Hale, 1999)
Fear of Violence (Hale, 2000)
Haley has another PI character named Frank Crane, who so far has appeared in the following novels, not in CFIV, all having come out post-2000:
The Murderer’s Son (Hale, 2006)
Dead Dream Girl (Hale, 2007)
Blood and Money (Hale, 2008)
The only one of these I own is the one in hand, and let’s get to it, shall I? Goss is a PI more or less by default, having been turned down by the police force for health reasons. In Thoroughfare he’s hired by a wife who is wondering where her husband is wandering. He’s a a wealthy executive for large chemical firm’s local branch, and Goss has no problem asking (and getting) a thousand a week plus expenses.
There is no other woman, though, as Goss soon discovers, but along the way I learned what the British idiom “getting his leg over” means. You can look it up. I won’t tell you. What he does learn is something worse in one sense, although Mrs. Rainger doesn’t seem to agree, but the local police force do. Or would if Goss would tell them, but he hesitates, and for a while all seems lost, as the “enemy” is quite capable of being as ruthless as any other gang of villains when cornered and at bay.
I should also mention Fernande, a girl Goss meets and gets to know very well. She is almost-but-not-quite beautiful, sexy, flighty, mercurial, a liar, a consummate actress, and Goss simply can not resist her. In terms of the case he is working on, Fernande works in Rainger’s office, but otherwise she is not involved with any of his other activities. Nonetheless she is important both to Goss and (as they soon discover) to the predicament he puts them in …
… the resolution to which takes up the last 150 pages of a novel containing just over 400 pages. I’ll wager that if you’re like me, they won’t take you much more than an hour to read, the pages will be turning so fast. This is a thriller novel, not a detective puzzle, make no mistake about it.
Looking back once you’ve finished, you’ll realize that the opposition was just a little too efficient and deadly to make such foolish mistakes as they eventually did, but if they hadn’t – as we all well know – Goss and Fernande would never have survived past page 300.
Lest you get me wrong, no PI novel containing more than 400 pages could be readable if the characters were not top notch and ably created, and in Thoroughfare of Stones, they are. It takes more than all-out action to make a believer out of me.
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