October 2012


THE SERIES CHARACTERS FROM
DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY
by Monte Herridge


        #15. Senor Arnaz de Lobo, Soldier of Fortune, by Erle Stanley Gardner.

SENOR ARNAZ DE LOBO

    Senor Arnaz de Lobo … announces himself bored with life… But Senor Lobo makes no secret of his dissatisfaction. The world, he claims, has become too civilized to offer adventure. (The Choice of Weapons)

   Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970) is probably best known for his long-running series about the always victorious lawyer, Perry Mason, but he also had hundreds of exciting stories in the pulps. Many of these appeared in Detective Fiction Weekly, where he had multiple series running: Senor Arnaz de Lobo, Sidney Zoom, Lester Leith, the Patent Leather Kid, The Man in the Silver Mask, and other standalone stories that could have been turned into series. The Lester Leith series seems to have been the most popular in the magazine, but the other series were popular as well.

   The Senor Lobo stories are fun, action-packed stories that were nothing like the other detective and mystery stories in the magazine. Senor Lobo and his friend, El Mono Viejo, are basically soldiers of fortune thrown into the midst of a city where they continually find adventure and danger.

   Lobo is like a knight errant, always ready to jump to the defense of a lady in danger or to right a wrong. Of course, the adventurers don’t turn down any money that comes their way, and many a criminal finds himself divested of his cash after running into them. Here is a paragraph from the beginning of one their adventures that describes Lobo:

SENOR ARNAZ DE LOBO

   To appreciate the character of Senor Arnaz de Lobo, revolutionist, soldier of fortune, and gang buster, it must be remembered that he was hard. Governments are not overthrown, even in South and Central America, save by courage, valor, and a certain ability to capitalize circumstances. (A Matter of Impulse)

   His physical description is given early in the series:

   Standing in the doorway was six feet of lean, whip-corded strength, bronzed by tropic suns. Dark eyes surveyed them in scornful appraisal. He was attired in a natty spring suit. In his right hand he carried a light cane. The left hand held the hat… (Gangsters’ Gold)

   He reveals that he is only part Spanish — his mother was Spanish and his father American, and he himself is an American citizen. This brings the question as to whether his name had been changed or was originally Lobo. He can speak not only English and Spanish but also French and Chinese. He fought in Central and South America and also in China and Africa.

   Events from the past are often alluded to in the course of their American adventures. El Mono Viejo’s real name is not given in the series, just his nickname and description: “which means ‘The Boss Ape,’ short, abnormally broad of shoulder and long of arm, his eyes round and brown.” (Costs of Collection)

   Although Senor Lobo often uses guns in the course of his adventures, his favorite weapon is his sword cane. It has a retractable blade, and Lobo often uses it in confrontations with criminals. Lobo kept weapons of various kinds in his car that would be of use in close quarter fighting, including hand grenades.

   One story describes an outing against gangsters thusly: “And now as they swept into this gangster hide-out, each man carried two hand grenades, two guns, extra clips of shells, and a tear gas bomb.” (The Sirens of War)

   So they were well prepared for any fighting to be done, which is more than most of the criminals up against them could claim. Senor Lobo also had a special car for his adventures – a roadster “specially constructed for power, acceleration, and an ability to take right angle turns at high speed.” (Broken Eggs)

   Unfortunately, Lobo’s adventures were rough on equipment, and the car was shot to pieces by a machine gun in “Broken Eggs.” However, doubtless he had it repaired or acquired another because cars were indispensable in his work.

   Another requirement for his work was a safe place to live. He had to constantly change his apartments whenever their location was revealed, often abandoning his belongings at the same time. “To maintain safety it was necessary that he keep himself well under cover. The place where he had his apartment was known to but two people, El Mono Viejo and himself.” (Carved in Jade)

   Lobo also tried to keep his whereabouts secret from the police. As El Mono Viejo stated about the police viewpoint: “They are angry now at our methods. They say we are as much of a menace to law enforcement as are the gangsters upon whom we war.” (Carved in Jade)

   In virtually every story the soldierly professionalism of Lobo and his lieutenant are stressed, and the lack of such qualities in their gangster opponents is also stressed. In fact, the gangsters’ lack of ability to handle the tactics of the two soldiers of fortune is shown to best effect in the story “Barking Dogs.” Here the two soldiers raid a gangster headquarters in order to rescue a woman, and defeat a gangster mob many times their size. Afterwards, the gangsters claimed to the police and newspapers that twenty rival gangsters had raided their stronghold, and asked for a police investigation. Clearly, they never knew what hit them.

   The series, which ran for 23 stories, starts out with basically a two-part beginning, though each can be read separately and were published four months apart. In “The Choice of Weapons” and “Gangsters’ Gold”, the two parts of the opening story, Lobo is up against a hard fight with Butch Pender and his gang. These early stories are full of action, with Lobo out-maneuvering the gangsters twice in their attempt to rob gold from a bank. Lobo originally came to the U. S. in response to a strange situation. It seems that a dying American gangster named High Test Barker, wanting revenge on his enemies, makes a will leaving $70,000 in gold to Senor Lobo.

   The will makes the condition that Lobo can have the money only if he avenges Barker’s death. So Lobo comes up to take care of the situation and steps into what might be termed a hornet’s nest of trouble. The first stories are based upon this plot. After it runs its course, Lobo becomes involved in one adventure after another in the city.

SENOR ARNAZ DE LOBO

   The series seems to have quite a lot of the influence of Leslie Charteris’ series about The Saint (who appeared in DFW itself in 1938-39 and 1943). However, there was nothing like it in the magazine during the series run from 1930-34.

   Detective Fiction Weekly boasted many series, and none of them were remotely similar to Senor Lobo. Plenty of professional detectives, both private and government, ran through the pages. Also plenty of amateur detectives of all kinds appeared in stories. Senor Lobo fell into none of these categories. He was a professional who enjoyed what he did as a mercenary and revolutionary, as well as his new work as a gangbuster.

   Lobo was at his happiest when engaged in a conflict. He states to a woman: “sometimes I feel the lust for adventure in my blood… Perhaps I’ll pull out one of these days and start another revolution.” (Gangsters’ Gold)

   He does eventually leave for another revolution — in the last story, “Opportunity Knocks Twice”, he and his assistant leave the city for Latin America for this purpose.

   In an example of Lobo’s predilection for getting into trouble, see the story “The Sirens of War”. In this story, Lobo is bored with inaction and soft living. He is pacing the late night sidewalks of the city looking for action. As his assistant, El Mono Viejo, says, “it has been a week, and we have had no action.”

   So they wander the streets until, finally they find some trouble to get involved in. Trouble in the form of a kidnapping of a wealthy woman. Lobo involves himself in the matter to the extent that he goes after the kidnappers and in a couple of violent shootouts wipes them out. He returns the ransom money, minus what he takes for expenses.

   The expenses are what Lobo refers to in other stories as “the costs of collection”, and usually run ten per cent of the money returned. (Costs of Collection)

   Lobo gets involved in more conflicts with criminals by investigating any strange occurrence that strikes his interest. After things quieted down too much, he got the idea of paying taxicab drivers to report unusual occurrences to him. This helped keep Lobo busier, even if only part of the drivers’ reports led to action against criminals.

   Another example of Lobo’s penchant for getting into trouble occurs in “Carved in Jade”, an early story. This one starts in Chinatown, a popular setting for Gardner. Lobo wants to eat Chinese food, but his visit to a Chinese restaurant involves him with a group of gangsters who try to kill him in a trap. Lobo is up against both American and Chinese criminals in this story.

   One of the funnier stories is “Costs of Collection”, where Lobo and his friend are almost broke, thanks to their bank going under with all of their money in it. Far from finding it to be a bad situation, the two adventurers laugh about the situation and decide they have to make more money.

   “Caramba!” said El Mono Viejo, “but we need guardians, we two. We put money in a bank, and presto! We cannot take it out!” So Senor Lobo needs to find some gangsters to fight and money to appropriate. He uses almost the last of his money to pay for information from a cabdriver, and as a result finds some crooks to fight and a young woman to rescue. Coincidentally, Senor Lobo takes $10,000 in cash from some crooks as what he calls the “spoils of warfare”. So he is back in the money again.

   By the time of the story “A Hundred to One”, many of the local gangsters were fed up with Lobo’s interference in their affairs and made attempts to eliminate him by setting traps. In the words of one newspaper that Lobo saw, they intended “to rid the city of a “disturbing influence” in the shape of an independent adventurer, who seemed to enjoy interfering with gang activities for the sheer pleasure of the ensuing conflict.”(A Hundred to One)

   Lobo smiled at the article; all he wanted was some excitement and conflicts with the gangsters were one way to do this. In fact, he tells El Mono Viejo: “We can ask but three things of life, beautiful women, hard fighting—and a clean getaway.” (A Clean Getaway)

   So we can assume this is the philosophy of Senor Lobo. But he has another philosophical comment in another story: “Senor Arnaz de Lobo snapped out his philosophy of life in a single sentence: “I am not afraid to die,” he said, “nor do I want to be afraid to live.” (The Spoils of War)

   El Mono Viejo is constantly warning Senor Lobo to beware of beautiful women, because their enemies may use them as bait for traps for him. Nevertheless, Lobo continues to enter the traps. As he says: “Trap or no trap, I like the bait. There is beauty and adventure, a woman and danger, a mystery and a threat. I know of no better combination.” (A Clean Getaway)

   El Mono Viejo is much more serious-minded than Lobo, and more cautious. Lobo occasionally calls him “Sobersides” to poke fun at his serious attitude. El Mono Viejo enjoys the action and adventure, but he sees matters differently: “life is a stern reality.” (Leaden Honeymoon)

   The Senor Lobo series was undoubtedly more fantasy than reality based, but it was the kind of crime-fighting stories that appealed to readers, as shown by the fact that it lasted for 23 stories and probably could have run longer.

   Each story features Senor Lobo and El Mono Viejo becoming involved in gangster activities, and usually culminates in a violent gun battle (sometimes with explosives used).

   Naturally, Senor Lobo always comes out on top and wins the girl when one is part of the conflict. El Mono Viejo told Senor Lobo “it was a wonderful idea of yours — this business of coming to the city and antagonizing organized crime.” (Opportunity Knocks Twice). He only complained when there was insufficient action.

SENOR ARNAZ DE LOBO

   The last story, “Opportunity Knocks Twice,” is a fast-moving tale of action, started when a taxicab driver’s report of a very unusual occurrence puts Lobo on the trail of a $10 million secret and murder.

   At the same time, Lobo and El Mono Viejo are getting ready to offer their services to a revolutionary, who is in the city buying arms for a revolution in Latin America. If he doesn’t want their services, then they will offer them to the opposing side.

   By this time, El Mono Viejo is tired of the “guerilla warfare” with the city’s gangsters, and wants nothing more than to leave so they can get involved in a war or revolution. So the story is of the two mercenaries running around trying to resolve the murder and at the same time keep an eye out for when the time is ripe to leave for Latin America.

   The title refers to the two opportunities that Senor Lobo has in the story: firstly the murder and secondly the revolution. As Senor Lobo says at the end of the story: “In our profession,” he said, “one does not overlook opportunity’s second knock.”

   So the series has a conclusion of a sort, as the two prepare to leave the city they have lived in for over four years. It is certain that the criminals will not miss them.

   This is an excellent series that deserves reprinting. As this series was finishing its run in 1934, another series was beginning that seems to show some influence of Senor Lobo: the Park Avenue Hunt Club series of Judson P. Philips. This was a small group of men who were devoted to fighting gangsters, and enjoyed their work. Though it is doubted if they ever enjoyed it to the extent that Senor Lobo did.

        The Senor Arnaz de Lobo series by Erle Stanley Gardner:

The Choice of Weapons     July 12, 1930
Gangsters’ Gold     November 15, 1930
Red Hands     December 6, 1930
A Matter of Impulse     February 7, 1931
Killed and Cured     February 21, 1931
Carved in Jade     May 9, 1931
Coffins for Killers     July 25, 1931
No Rough Stuff     December 5, 1931
Sauce for the Gander     December 12, 1931
Barking Dogs     March 26, 1932
A Hundred to One     April 30, 1932
A Private Affair     June 25, 1932
Trumps     November 12, 1932
A Clean Getaway     December 3, 1932
Tickets for Two     December 31, 1932
The Spoils of War     January 14, 1933
Leaden Honeymoon     March 11, 1933
Results     May 6, 1933
The Sirens of War     September 16, 1933
Costs of Collection     November 18, 1933
The Code of a Fighter     January 27, 1934
Broken Eggs     May 5, 1934
Opportunity Knocks Twice     October 27, 1934

Note:   An earlier version of this article appeared in Blood ‘n’ Thunder magazine (#16, Fall 2006).

    Previously in this series:

1. SHAMUS MAGUIRE, by Stanley Day.
2. HAPPY McGONIGLE, by Paul Allenby.
3. ARTY BEELE, by Ruth & Alexander Wilson.
4. COLIN HAIG, by H. Bedford-Jones.
5. SECRET AGENT GEORGE DEVRITE, by Tom Curry.
6. BATTLE McKIM, by Edward Parrish Ware.
7. TUG NORTON by Edward Parrish Ware.
8. CANDID JONES by Richard Sale.
9. THE PATENT LEATHER KID, by Erle Stanley Gardner.
10. OSCAR VAN DUYVEN & PIERRE LEMASSE, by Robert Brennan.
11. INSPECTOR FRAYNE, by Harold de Polo.
12. INDIAN JOHN SEATTLE, by Charles Alexander.
13. HUGO OAKES, LAWYER-DETECTIVE, by J. Lane Linklater.
14. HANIGAN & IRVING, by Roger Torrey.

ROBERT PATRICK WILMOT – Blood in Your Eye. J. B. Lippincott, hardcover, 1952. Pocket 975; paperback, October 1953. Cover illustration by James Meese.

   Blood in Your Eye is the first of three cases cracked by New York City private eye Steve Considine, and for the record, here’s a list of all three:

      Blood in Your Eye. Lippincott, 1952; Pocket 975, Oct 1953.
      Murder on Monday. Lippincott, 1953; Pocket 997, March 1954.

ROBERT PATRICK WILMOT

      Death Rides a Painted Horse: Lippincott, 1954; Jonathan Press #80, abridged, no date.

ROBERT PATRICK WILMOT

   You’re much more likely to like this one if you’re a fan of hard-boiled tough guy detective fiction; it really isn’t one that’s going to convert you. The cover of the paperback is (um) an eye-catcher, and the first 100 or so pages are terrific. By that time, though, while the pace hasn’t let up, the air has started to leak out of the tires, and by the time the book is over, you may have cause to wonder from where solution came, far left field?

   To start at the beginning, though, Considine is hired to wet-nurse an actively practicing but generally amiable alcoholic on a plane trip to England, where a doctor is waiting for him. On the night before their departure, Charlie Gillespie, given in the past to hallucinatory and (hence) quite invalid misinterpretations of everyday events, claims to have seen a murder committed, and soon after, goes underground and disappears completely.

   Considine’s job: find him, and thus we have a story. What I think I’ll do is give you two long quotes, both of which caught my attention in no uncertain terms, but in not exactly the same way. First, from pages 36-37, where Considine is alone in a bedroom with a girl who’s involved — and of course there is:

ROBERT PATRICK WILMOT

   Her handbag was on the chair, and she had to turn her back to me, bending to pick up the bag. I moved fast. I wrapped my left hand around her, breast high, and I clapped the palm of my right hand across her mouth, pressing hard. I picked her up bodily and carried her into the bathroom and set her on her feet and shifted my left hand to her mouth while I reached out with my right and turned on the shower taps, full blast. You could hardly hear her yell at all, or me, either, when she sunk her teeth into my hand.

   She bit hard and it hurt like hell and I went crazy mad, for a moment. I got my right hand into her hair and gripped it and spun her around and slapped her across the mouth with the flat of my bloody left hand. Then we were locked in tearing, panting embrace, me trying to hold her hands while she clawed at my face and jerked her knees up into my body, until I got both her arms pinned and pulled her so close that she couldn’t use her hands or knees, and I could feel her breasts swelling firm and big against my chest, and her curved long thighs against my thighs.

   Desire and rage were so completely mingled within me that I twisted her wrist even as I kissed her lips — and I kissed her lips hard. Her head went back and she gave a long, sighing, panting breath, and for an instant her lips met mine wide and warm, and her body seemed to melt in a yielding movement that made it part of my own… Then she butted me solidly on the cheek with her head and twisted loose from my hands.

   It’s quite a first date, even for a kindergarten teacher, which in fact she is, although Considine doesn’t know that yet. He continues:

   And isn’t this all just simply wonderful, I thought, leaning against the door. Gillespie’s out somewhere maybe waxing up a million dollars’ worth of trouble, and you’re supposed to be looking after Gillespie, and what do you do, Considine, what do you do? You don’t take a babe’s word for it that she’s a whore when she says she’s a whore; you’ve got a lousy false pride that’s piqued because you can’t figure out what sort of petty racket she and her pimp and the other guy are mixed up in, and you’re a sorehead who can’t take it when the girl pulls some of the same stuff on you. So you make with the muscles, and now you’ve got her, and what do you really want of her, except the one thing you can’t have unless you take it by force.

   The girl’s name is Carla Paul, and later on — here’s the other quote coming up now — Considine is talking the case over with the cop on the case. From pages 65-66:

    “One more thing,” Christie said to me. He looked about him as though to be sure there was no one else in the room, lowered his voice and squinted at me. “You ever read detective stories, Considine?”

    “Sometimes,” I said, wondering what-the-hell.

    “You know how it is in those stories,” Christie said. “They got a regular formula. The hero is always a bright gum-shoe, with ideas, and he’s always getting fouled up with a lot of stupid, sadistic city cops who do everything they can to prevent him from solving the crime.”

    “I bet you could write yourself,” I said. “How do you know, if you haven’t ever tried?”

    Christie ignored my remark. “So, because of the dumb cops, our Shamus hero has to more or less take the law into his own hands. In order to bring the villain to book, it’s necessary for our hero to break every law in the book, himself.”

    “Tell me more,” I said.

    “Take a case like this,” Christie went on. “The cops might wanna case Carla Paul’s room, just to see what they could see. But they’d need a warrant, because if Carla or the landlady came in while they were shaking down the place, there’d be hell to pay. If it did happen to be a case of mixed identity, I’d hate to be the cop who happened to be caught with a handful of her unmentionables.”

    “Time presses,” I said, “so suppose I just take the story from here. The Shamus in your story isn’t inhibited by legal red tape or bothered by stupid principles against the search. Right?”

    “Oh, so right,” Christie cooed.

    “So he waits until Paul isn’t home,” I said, “and he opens her door with a skeleton key, or maybe a strip of celluloid because that makes it sound harder. He goes into the room and combs it good, and maybe he finds something — a letter or something — that gives him a line on Mr. Blair? Okay so far?”

    “Perfect,” Christie answered, avoiding my eyes. “I doubt if Raymond Chandler himself could do better.”

    “There’s only one thing wrong,” I said, “and that’s the possibility that someone may come in and catch the bold hero in shaking down the apartment. Someone like a big, tough policeman, for instance. Or a two hundred and fifty pound wrestler, who doubles as a janitor.”

    “That ain’t in the script,” Christie said, “but I’ll admit it would be awkward if it happened.”

    “Yes, wouldn’t it? And then our Shamus gets carted off to the nearest police station and placed in a backroom where a lot of uncouth persons ask impertinent questions about him having been in the apartment. And then maybe Shamus gets so indignant that he gives a discourteous answer, and loses some of his teeth.”

    I flipped my cigarette at the cuspidor and grinned at Christie. “I need my teeth, lieutenant. I might be sent out on a job that paid so well I could afford to eat steak.”

    Christie rolled a pencil around on the desk top and looked at me thoughtfully. “Of course,” he said, “the Shamus could always ask to speak to Lieutenant Christie.”

    “No doubt he could,” I said, “and by the time he got to talk to Christie, our hero would have a pocket full of teeth. See you later, Chris.”

    We went out, and as we closed the door, Christie sighed again.

   I don’t know about you, but for me, that was worth the price of admission, right there. I also have to admit that there was a time, about half way through, that I had absolutely no idea where the story was going next, and that’s doesn’t happen, or at least not very often.

    You may take that as a good thing — I do — but what it also means it that it takes a full final chapter that’s ten pages long, after the bad guys have been named and identified, to tie up all of the loose ends, or at least all but one, a huge, massive coincidence that Wilmot dares not even mention, but I will. Possible? Sure, but without it, it all falls apart.

— October 2002


[UPDATE] 10-06-12. I’ve not been able to find any personal information about the author online, but I did come across a reference to one quote that’s interesting. From the cover or jacket flap of a British edition of Death Rides a Paper Horse: “Robert Patrick Wilmot has been compared by Anthony Boucher of the New York Times to the young Dashiell Hammett.” I have not found the quote from the Times itself, but it does suggest that reading the book again may be in order, or even all three of them.

REVIEWED BY WALTER ALBERT:         


WHAT PRICE GLORY 1926

WHAT PRICE GLORY. Fox, 1926. Victor McLaglen, Edmund Lowe, Dolores Del Rio, William V. Mong, Phyllis Haver, Elena Juardo, Leslie Fenton, Barry Norton, Sammy Cohen, Ted McNamara. Director: Raoul Walsh, director. Shown at Cinevent 38, Columbus OH, May 2006.

   This was a year for repeat screenings, but I had never seen this great success of 1926. The film was based on the Lawrence Stalling/Maxwell Anderson stage hit of 1924, but with the antics of co-stars McLaglen (Captain Flagg) and Lowe (Sergeant Quirt) beefed up at the expense of the strong anti-war message of the play.

   Much of the film deals with the combative womanizing of Flagg and Quirt, but the climax features a well-staged battle sequence that does play up the brutality and inhumanity of war, with the obligatory sacrifice of a secondary character whose demise you can spot coming very early in the film. (He’s the young artist who’s the least likely of the recruits but performs gallantly until his heroic death.)

WHAT PRICE GLORY 1926

   There’s a similar sacrificial lamb in the first talking-film sequel (The Cock-Eyed World, 1929), demonstrating once again that Hollywood loves nothing better than a formula that strives to repeat the success of the original. Still, with its engaging cast and Walsh’s vigorous direction, the film has retained much of its impact.

Editorial Comment:   Mike Grost has a long in-depth look at this movie on his website. Check it out here.

REVIEWED BY MICHAEL SHONK


PARIS PRECINCT. Episode: “A Woman Scorned.” Etoile Production for MPTV, syndicated, 1954-1955, 26 half-hour episodes in black and white. Cast: Louis Jourdan and Claude Dauphin. Technical adviser: Inspecteur Jean Couade. Created by Jo Eisinger. Produced by Andre Hakim.

PARIS PRECINCT Louis Jourdan

    Yet another police procedural based on “real” cases, Paris Precinct used the files of the Paris, France police department. Shot on location in Paris, the series was produced for American syndication by Etoile Production, a company owned by Louis Jourdan, Claude Dauphin, producer Andre Hakim and writer Jo Eisinger.

“A Woman Scorned.” Teleplay by Charles K. Peck Jr. Guest Cast: Giselle Preville, Jean Ozenne, Bruce Kay, Nicole Francis, and Phillippe Clay. Directed by Sobey Martin. *** While on a date with an American soldier, a young blond woman dies from poisoned brandy.

    The episode can be found on YouTube in more than one place including here:

    “A Woman Scorned” was a typical TV mystery of the era. The simple story was told in the linear style procedural fans are accustomed to with one twist that made it worth watching for the rest of us. It begins with the murder then introduced our detectives who began a step-by-step search for the killer.

    Our two detectives are different enough to make a good team. Louis Jourdan plays the serious Inspecteur Beaumont, lead detective and show’s narrator. Claude Dauphin is charming as the lighthearted Inspecteur Bolbec.

    In their first scene we see the two detectives differences through their reading material. Jourdan’s Beaumont is reading a police file, while Dauphin’s Bolbec is enjoying a cheap noir paperback The Blonde Died Young. Bolbec jokingly envies the fictional detective who has made love to three beautiful blondes and one redhead in the first hundred pages.

PARIS PRECINCT Louis Jourdan

    “A Woman Scorned” suffers from some overacting from the supporting cast, one of the common flaws of early TV caused by talentless newcomers or actors who were inexperienced in the subtleties of acting on television versus stage or film.

    The episode featured more sets and characters than the usual 50s TV syndication low budget series, partly to give our detectives another excuse to drive through the Paris streets as they moved from one character’s location to another.

    There is a surprising absence of fights and chases in “A Woman Scorned,” but that may not have been typical for the series. In Billboard (April 16, 1955), Leon Morse reviewed the Paris Precinct episode “The Convict” and commented favorably on the action scenes such as the bar-fight and a chase across the rooftops of Paris. Morse believed the show should appeal to melodrama fans looking for something off beat.

    Writer Charles K. Peck Jr. career would include film (Seminole, 1953), TV (Caribe, 1975) and Broadway (La Strada, 1969). His script for “A Woman Scorned” lacked the action one expects from 50s crime TV, but it had its moments, most notably the twist involving the murder weapon.

    Director Sobey Martin stuck with the style of the time, begin with master shot, cut to close ups, and toss in an occasional odd angle such as from overhead. Martin would work for many TV series including Boston Blackie, but he is best known for his work with Irwin Allen and series such as Lost in Space and Time Tunnel.

PARIS PRECINCT Louis Jourdan

    As with most of the early TV syndicated series, specific dates for the series can be difficult to determine. The first mention of the series I could find was in Broadcasting for November 23, 1953 (followed by Billboard, November 28, 1953). Plans were for 117 half hour TV-film episodes to be done in color and distributed by MPTV. Filming had to start May 1, 1954 due to Louis Jourdan’s commitment to a Broadway play (most likely, The Immoralist). Paris Precinct was expected to air September 1954.

    In Billboard, May 29, 1954, the series was being offered for sale. Twenty-six episodes were available. Also offered were thirty-nine half hour episodes that would be available in color by September 1, 1954. The additional thirteen episodes most likely were never filmed.

    As for Paris Precinct being shot in color but airing in black and white, Billboard (October 23,1954) ran an item about MPTV desire to shoot its TV-Film series in color (tint), but producers had discovered the black and white prints were fuzzy on the air.

    “The first twenty six segments of Duffy’s Tavern were tinted, and the last thirteen were monochrome,” noted the article, “as are MPTV’s subsequent shows which were originally planned for tint.”

    September 25, 1954 Billboard mentions MPTV had yet to sell Paris Precinct (and Sherlock Holmes) to any TV station or sponsor. In October, UM&M took over the sales of Paris Precinct (Billboard, October 23, 1954).

    In December 1954, Max Factor agreed to sponsor the series in four major markets, New York, Detroit, Chicago, and Los Angeles (Billboard, December 25,1954).

    Shulton (Old Spice) agreed to sponsor Paris Precinct in a nation-wide campaign aimed at thirty-five markets in March 1955. In what would be Old Spice’s first TV commercials, Louis Jourdan starred in thirteen commercials to be used with the series. The commercials, filmed by Transfilm, Inc in New York, were sixty seconds or twenty seconds each and filmed live with a jingle. (Billboard, March 5, 19, and 28, 1955).

    The production details listed in Billboard (May 28, 1955) gave the initial release date for Paris Precinct as December 1954, and twenty-six episodes were available for syndication.

    “A Woman Scorned” is a mildly entertaining half hour mystery that will appeal to those who enjoy an old-fashioned police procedural or those who enjoy seeing 1954 Paris. Hopefully, more episodes will someday surface.

EDWARD MARSTON – The Vagabond Clown. St. Martin’s, hardcover, August 2003.

EDWARD MARSTON The Vagabond Clown

   Marston is a wonderfully prolific writer. Besides two separate series written as by Keith Miles, which as it happens is his real name, he has three additional series under this particular pseudonym, all historical mysteries: (1) with Christopher Redmayne, an architect, and Jonathan Bale, a constable in 1600s London, England; (2) the Domesday series, with Ralph Delchard, soldier and Gervase Bret, lawyer in medieval England; and (3), of which this is the latest, a series featuring Nicholas Bracewell, book holder for Westfield’s Men, an accomplished acting company in Elizabethan times.

   A book holder includes the jobs of both stage manager and road manager, and Nicholas has his work cut out for him in The Vagabond Clown, what with one clown incapacitated with a broken leg, and the second, recruited from a debtor’s cell, subject to serious bouts of wine, women and japery.

   Murder and other calamities also follow the trail of the travelers as they make their way from London to Dover, making adjustments to their plays as they go. The jealousies and acrimony between the two clowns make for fine amusement, and it is hard to imagine how the life of troupers like these on the road could be better described.

   The solution to the mystery is more than a little weak, alas, with motivations hidden until the very end, far too late to be of any help to the reader at home, though the culprits themselves are painfully obvious. An uneven entry in the series, therefore, but one that’s definitely worth reading.

PostScript: For the sake of completeness, the detective novels written under the Keith Miles byline are (1) the Alan Saxon mysteries, in which the current day golfer goes from country to country solving crimes and (2) a rather new series following the adventures of Merlin Richards, a young Welsh architect and a Frank Lloyd Wright protégé, taking place in Phoenix and Chicago in the 1920s and 30s.

   This is embarrassing. Marston/Miles can write faster than I can read.

— October 2003



[UPDATE] 10-03-12. Here it is, nine years later. The Vagabond Clown was the 13th in the Nicholas Bracewell series; there are now 16. Other current totals:

Eleven books in the Domesday series.
Six books in the Christopher Redmayne series.
Ten books in the Inspector Robert Colbeck series (begin in 2004).
Five books in the Captain Rawson series (begun in 2008).
Two books in the Inspector Harvey Marmion and Sergeant Joe Keedy series (begun in 2011).

       As by Keith Miles:

Six books in the Alan Saxon series.
Two books in the Merlin Richards series.

       As by Martin Inigo (not mentioned above):

Two books in the Dan Hawker series

   In the past nine years, if my count is correct, Marston/Miles has written 23 books.

REVIEWED BY DAN STUMPF:


LUCAS TODD – Showdown Creek. Macmillan, hardcover, 1955. Toronto Star Weekly Novel, newspaper supplement, Saturday 19 November 1955. Permabook M-3044, paperback, 1956

FURY AT SHOWDOWN. United Artists, 1957. John Derek, John Smith, Carolyn Craig, Nick Adams, Gage Clarke, Robert Griffin. Screenplay: Jason James, based on the novel Showdown Creek, by Lucas Todd. Director: Gerd Oswald.

FURY AT SHOWDOWN

   Showdown Creek is the kind of spare, gritty tale that Westerns should aspire to. Researching this, I can find no other book attributed to Lucas Todd, the author, nor any bio/bibliographic background on him, but perhaps that’s as it should be for a book that celebrates the outcast as this once does.

   As the story opens, Brock Mitchell is trying to ramrod a one-horse ranch for his broken-legged Uncle Ben and live down a reputation as a smart-ass hellion. Uncle Ben has arranged financing to get him through lean times, but the deal’s hit a snag, and nobody seems to know what the delay is —- until Mitchell learns that Chad Deasey, an ex-con with a grudge against him, has hit town and put up a respectable front, tied in with the most prominent local lawyer (soon to turn up dead) and persuaded the town banker to put the brakes on Uncle Ben’s deal, apparently just to ruin him and repay Mitchell for killing Deasey’s brother in a fair fight back in Brock’s gun-toting days.

   It’s pretty standard stuff for a Western: crooked banker, shady lawyer, upright hero handy with a gun, honest ranchers and even a purty blue-eyed widder woman trying to understand it all. Author Todd seems to know something about moving cattle around (not all western writers do) and he puts it across as he ladles out the more standard ingredients into his prairie stew, giving Peters a hot-headed sidekick and adding something about the railroad coming through.

FURY AT SHOWDOWN

   But he also tinges all this with an almost intangible feel for the dilemma of a flawed man painfully misunderstood. Every fight, shoot-out and unsolved crime echoes not only in physical violence but also in the looks Brock gets from the good citizens of Showdown Creek: the rumors, conversations broken off when he enters a room, and his increasing isolation from a community he needs.

   It’s intriguing stuff, and if it never quite rises to the level of Camus, the sense of alienation is still strong enough to lift this above the run-of-the-range shoot-’em-down and linger in the memory.

   Showdown Creek was filmed, appropriately enough, by Gerd Oswald, himself something of a Hollywood pariah, who was given only five days and a cast of unknowns and no-talents to do the job —- the only two players you ever heard of in this movie are John Derek and Nick Adams, so you see what I mean about the acting.

FURY AT SHOWDOWN

   The marvel is that Fury at Showdown emerges as a tight, deeply-felt tale of guns, cattle and youthful angst.

   Given the low budget and tight schedule, Fury at Showdown is necessarily a town-bound western, rarely leaving the claustrophobic confines of office, saloon and jail for the free range that now seems more like a false promise than the reality of the West.

   Somehow, though, that only helps convey the sense of constriction felt by the hero (or supposedly felt; this is John Derek acting, remember) as he struggles to reach some wide open plain of the soul, free of the town’s censure.

   That sounds like tall boots for a B Western to fill, but writer Jason James tweaks the story significantly — in his version, Chad Deasey has always been a respectable citizen and it’s Brock Mitchell who’s the ex-con, just released from jail for killing Deasey’s brother — and director Gerd Oswald puts it across with well-judged camera work and a sense of pace that never falters.

   Fury at Showdown never got much attention, and it’s far from ideal, but definitely worth your time.

FURY AT SHOWDOWN

REVIEWED BY BARRY GARDNER:


MICHAEL RALEIGH – A Body in Belmont Harbor. Paul Whelan #2. St. Martin’s, hardcover, 1993. iUniverse, paperback, May 2000.

MICHAEL RALEIGH Body in Belmont Harbor

   When I found this in the library last week I vaguely remembered reading the first in the series, Death in Uptown, but couldn’t remember anything about it. Not particularly promising, but it was a lean library day, so I checked it out anyway. Good move.

   PI Paul Whelan is a Chicago native who works the dangerous Uptown neighborhoods. As your basic hardboiled PIs tend to be, he’s somewhat at loose ends when a lady asks him to follow a man she suspects of murdering her husband two years ago. The police ruled it a suicide, but she doesn’t believe that; particularly since a small-time hood called her and said he had evidence against the man, then turned up in Belmont Harbor, murdered.

   Whelan doesn’t see much there, but the money’s good, and he takes the case. This quickly brings him in contact with Al Bauman, a legendary and irascible Chicago cop whom he helped and with whom he clashed in the first book. Bauman is investigating the hood’s murder, and Whelan’s involvement isn’t wanted. We know how that goes, though.

   This is one of the better PI books I’ve read lately. The story is told in a straightforward third-person narrative, from Whelan’s point of view other than the prologue. Whelan is a sympathetic and believable character, more reminiscent of Marlowe than Spenser though without the wisecracks. He manages to be both tpugh and vulnerable, and credibly so.

   The cop, Bauman, is also very well portrayed, seems one of the more realistic ones I’ve come across. There is a wealth of Chicago color, particularly in the area of restaurants and taverns, and although I don’t know from Chicago, it seemed real to me. The plot mechanism was the weakest part of the story, bit wasn’t so bad as to cause outrage. All in all, I liked it considerably.

— Reprinted from Ah, Sweet Mysteries #9, September 1993.


       The Paul Whelan series —

Death in Uptown. St. Martin’s 1991
A Body in Belmont Harbor. St. Martin’s 1993
The Maxwell Street Blues. St. Martin’s 1994
Killer on Argyle Street. St. Martin’s 1995
The Riverview Murders. St. Martin’s 1997

Editorial Comments:   For more information about the author, he has a webpage here. I have three of the five Paul Whelan novels, but I’ve never read one. Barry’s review of this one tells me that I may have made a mistake about that.

« Previous Page