November 2013


REVIEWED BY DAN STUMPF:         


THE GIRL HUNTERS. Colorama Features, 1963. Mickey Spillane (Mike Hammer), Shirley Eaton, Scott Peters, Guy Kingsley Poynter, James Dyrenforth, Charles Farrell, Kim Tracy, Hy Gardner, Lloyd Nolan. Based on the novel by Mickey Spillane. Director: Roy Rowland.

THE GIRL HUNTERS

   A film with credentials is The Girl Hunters, directed by Roy Rowland and co-written by Mickey Spillane who also portrays his own creation, Mike Hammer.

   Casting-wise, this is just about plu-perfect. The ideal actor in a part that was (subconsciously, at least) written just for him, even by him. It’s like Onan Meets Pygmalion, and the fact that the rest of the film is somewhat routine cannot dim the brilliance of this concept.

   For the record, The Girl Hunters deals with Mickey/Mike’s search for his missing-presumed-dead Girl Friday Velma, who disappeared years ago, turning the once-tough PI into a gutter-drunk . Which is where the story opens.

THE GIRL HUNTERS

   Two minutes later, M/M gets a clue that Velma may still be alive and he’s the Old Hammer once more. Clean and sober now (if still a little reminiscent of Thomas Hobbes’ description of Life — nasty, brutish and short), M/M becomes a trenchcoated juggernaut, mowing through the legions of cheap punks, commie spies and panting dames who beset his path.

   Like I say, this is all fairly routine stuff for anyone familiar with Spillane: there’s a helpful but handcuffed-by-the-law G-Man (played by Lloyd Nolan, still smooth and professional 20 years after his days as a B-movie PI but looking a bit bored), a helpful but nerdy plot-device newsman Hy Gardner, always there with information to move the story along, and helpful but slightly-suspect Black Widow Shirley Eaton, whose crusading anti-communist husband was killed by a burglar who didn’t set off the alarm while riffling the safe with the Government Secrets, and if you can`t pick the Killer out of this lineup you just don’t know your Spillane.

   In terms of execution, it’s all a little bland, but the acting is surprisingly not-awful. Surrounded by consummate professionals, Spillane lives up to the thesping around him, looking very relaxed and convincing, and while I wouldn’t care to see him play King Lear, I have to say that he delivers his lines well … which, since he wrote them, may be less surprising than I thought.

THE GIRL HUNTERS

THE SECOND GREAT PAPERBACK REVOLUTION:
E-Books and the Second Coming of the Pulps and The Paperbacks
by
David Vineyard

 

   It is common on this blog for myself, and others, to bemoan why so many of the great (and admittedly not so great) writers of the past are not represented in today’s book market. The lament usually goes something like this:

   They don’t write them like they used to, and all the great old books are lost, forgotten. You can’t find (choose the name of your choice) in print. The only books out there are dull and badly written in comparison. The new generation doesn’t know what it is missing …

   In the immortal words of Seinfeld: ‘Yada yada yada…’

   Well, I sorry to deny my fellow curmudgeonly collectors and readers one of our pet hobby horses, but our favorite lament is no longer true, and so untrue that the solution to the problem is not in some dusty musty smelling used bookstore, crowded book fair or busy convention where you have to cram a year’s worth of book hunting and buying into a few cramped hours, but no farther away than a fingers touch away and under $10 in cost.

   In the last 24 hours I have recreated some major elements of my lost collection, and the most it has cost me for a single volume has been $4, in many cases less than $1. Understand I’m not just talking about obscure or once famous writers from another age, though I’ve recovered my complete Charlie Chan, Philo Vance, Mr. Moto, Bulldog Drummond, Dr. Thorndyke, Father Brown, Sherlock Holmes, Raffles, and Tarzan collections — all for a grand total of $1.99 (the Tarzan); those have been around almost from the beginning, in public domain.

   No, I’m talking about a second paperback and pulp revolution equal to the first, and, like the first, in cheap readily accessible attractive and easily transportable editions. Oh, and I might add so far I haven’t spent a dime for the devices to read them, though I certainly plan to buy an inexpensive Kindle soon. Carrying a thousand books in a device smaller than a trade paperback gives a new meaning to the word ‘pocketbook.’

   More importantly, some of these writers haven’t been available at these prices since the 1980‘s.

   Who am I talking about?

   John D. MacDonald, Dan J. Marlowe, William Campbell Gault, Ross McDonald, Peter Rabe, Wade Miller (the complete Max Thursday for .99 each), Frank Kane, Brett Halliday, Mickey Spillane, Donald Hamilton, Stephen Marlowe, Ed Lacy, Henry Kane: and from the pulps, Nebel, Chandler, Hammett, Paul Cain (for free), Carroll John Daly, Robert Leslie Bellem, not to mention Doc Savage, the Spider, the Avenger, the Black Bat, even Nick Carter, Frank Merriwell, and the Rover Boys …

   Almost all those books are under $10, most under $5 and many under $1. Some are even free.

   Granted, you don’t have the pleasure of an actual book in your hands, and it takes a bit of time to adjust to reading in this format (arguably the Kindle, Nook, etc are closer to actually reading a book), but many of the complaints I’ve heard lodged against e-books here echo what was said of the pulps and paperbacks as well. E-books will never replace the feel of a book, certainly not a leather bound or quatro buckram edition with its scent and heft, but frankly I had less than 100 such books in my extensive collection and few of them were worth what I paid for them. E-books won’t appreciate in value either, but they are here, available, and no doubt will develop their own following.

   To quote James Joyce, I’m not trying to convert you or pervert myself, but I am trying to point out that this is far and away the most important revolution in books since the paperback was born. When I began collecting it took me years to accumulate books by John Buchan, Sapper, Dornford Yates, Louis Joseph Vance, Maurice Leblanc, Talbot Mundy, Edgar Wallace, Rohmer, Van Dine, and others. Now all it takes is a few keystrokes and a WiFi or DSL connection. I could, with a little effort, and under $500 dollars, download my entire collection of over forty years worth close to $100,000, in less than eighteen hours — and that only because of sheer volume.

   I don’t ask that you adapt to the e-book, or even read one, but don’t complain about expensive limited reprint editions or the scarcity of this material. Everyday more volumes are being added and new generations of readers are discovering these writers, people, I might add, who would not have purchased them from a paperback kiosk and certainly not in limited overpriced editions. Most of these books have reviews by people who read and enjoyed them and don’t know there ever was a paperback revolution.

   I currently reside in a small town, a small and spectacularly illiterate community, where the only source of books are a high school library and the Dollar General, and neither updates its stacks often or carries much more than women’s soft core porn, vampire and ‘romantic suspense’ novels. A treasure is a remaindered Preston and Childs or Cussler. Once a month, if I’m lucky, I get to a Hastings. For now that’s it. But, at my fingertips I have access to books from around the world in countless languages and libraries as important as Oxford’s Boedelian and Harvard.

   Like the first paperback revolution this includes an entire new world of original e-books, many better than you could hope, or no worse than what you find on the mass market book stands at Wal-Mart, and numerous sources of free books. I can also, for far less than the near $30 they cost on the stands, purchase the latest bestseller. You can even purchase an e-book “safe” for $20 to protect your collection — more than I can say for actual books.

   Then too, those of us who have been married should welcome the end of those long forbearing stares when our collection threatens to over run the house having already driven the cat and both cars out of the garage and threatening to cause the ceiling to collapse by their sheer weight in the attic…

   Books and collecting have always evolved. Don’t be the guy complaining because some German named Gutenberg put all those monks copying books out of business. This is not a fad, it’s a revolution, and standing in the way of one has never been a good idea.

   How could any of us complain about our favorite writers being in print and finding new and enthusiastic readers? Because digital editions take up no actual physical space (a Kindle can hold 10,000 books and will only get more powerful), and cost virtually nothing to reprint, the possibilities are endless.

   Most of us converted without pain from 16 mm to VHS to DVD, to Blu-Ray. This is the same thing, only here when a format goes kaput you don’t have to replace everything you own in Beta, you download a free converter and soon it’s all back. Granted Kindle won’t play on Nook and so on, but you can get a free app to read any format or get a free Calibre converter for extinct formats like Microsoft Readers LIT that take up little space on your PC and require no tech savvy to use.

   For those of us born in the shadow of the first paperback revolution this one is even bigger, and likely more fundamental culturally. You don’t have to embrace it, but recognize what it means. Book collecting will never be the same again. This is the most important thing to happen to books since Gutenberg, I have no idea where it is going, but if it keeps my favorites from the past available I say it’s going in the right direction.

   Somehow I don’t think Erle Stanley Gardner or Mickey Spillane would be the least bothered by having their work bring in money in another format — I can promise you Alexandre Dumas, the most business savvy author who ever lived (despite losing everything numerous times) wouldn’t mind at all.

   Collectors, and I include myself, need to dismount our high horses before we fall off of them.

   Oh brave new world that has such formats in it.

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


   Feeling tired and lazy in these dog days of early autumn, I began asking myself whether I could cobble together a respectable column from the mystery reviews I wrote for my eyes only back in the Sixties and Seventies. To provide a soupcon of unity I decided early on to limit myself to U.S. writers and to novels I wasn’t terribly happy with. Shall we see how the experiment came out?

***

   Baynard Kendrick’s Blind Allies (Morrow, 1954) begins promisingly as a seedy character who claims to be but obviously is not the son of an oil tycoon retains blind detective Captain Duncan Maclain to go to his dad’s mansion at 3:00 A.M. and open a safe whose combination is in Braille.

   May I jump to the first murder? The lights go out in the old dark house, all the suspects run around like buffoons, the lights go on and voila! a body. Back in 1968 I couldn’t find a single kind word for this disaster of a book, which struck me as wretchedly organized and plotted and written, stuffed with implausibilities and contradictions, padded beyond endurance, and resolved by blatant guesswork.

   My reaction would probably be the same were I to re-read it today, but if you’ve tackled this or any other book discussed here more recently than I and think I was too harsh, please say so.

***

   In recent decades dozens of female private eye novelists have flourished, most if not all of them writing about female private eyes. But back when Chandler ruled the genre the only woman in the field was M. V. (Mary Violet) Heberden (1906-1965). She seems to have been heavily influenced by Brett Halliday, and her PI Desmond Shannon is best described as Mike Shayne seen through a woman’s eyes.

   His problem in The Lobster Pick Murder (Doubleday, 1941) is to find out who stuck the pick into the sadistic plastic surgeon’s medulla oblongata. Nothing about this exercise — plot, prose, characterizations, upper-crust Long Island setting, theatrical milie — rises above the drearily competent, and most readers will identify the perp about 200 pages before Shannon. Some of the later Heberdens I’ve read are much better but they’re not on the table this month.

***

FRAZER Find Eileen Hardin

   The writer who was born Milton Lesser (1908-2008) and is best known as Stephen Marlowe, creator of globe-trotting PI Chester Drum, also used other bylines. Roughly 90% of his Find Eileen Hardin — Alive! (Avon #T-343, PBO, 1959), signed as by Andrew Frazer, is the mixture as before.

   Private dick and former football hero Duncan Pride returns to his alma mater when his old girlfriend, now married to his old coach, begs him to help find the coach’s missing teen-age daughter, who’s rumored to have become a call girl. The search brings him up against criminal enterprises like prostitution, abortion (remember this was a dozen years before Roe v. Wade), the enticing of innocent virgins into a life of sin and the fixing of college athletic events, not to mention murder.

   Frazer does give us a few reasonably vivid scenes at a deserted oyster cannery and the old Idlewild air terminal, but the book is too long and full of cliches, much of the motivation would not be out of place in a soap opera, and the sniggering attitude towards sex is a turn-off.

***

   The success of Mary Roberts Rinehart, Agatha Christie and countless others disproves the thesis that sexism forced all or most women mystery writers of the pre-feminist era to adopt male bylines. But it was common practice for women writing the sorts of mysteries generally associated with men, like M.V. Heberden with her PI series, and also like DeLoris Stanton Forbes (1923- ), whose novels about police detectives Knute Severson and Lawrence Benedict appeared under the name Tobias Wells.

   Dead by the Light of the Moon (Doubleday, 1967) is a readable but uncompelling semi-procedural about the murder and de-breasting of an old woman in a Boston apartment building during the great East Coast blackout of 1965. Wells has just finished spreading suspicion evenly among various fellow tenants of the victim when suddenly and arbitrarily the guilty party confesses. Sure, real-life crimes often end this way, but a fiction writer must do better.

***

KOEHLER Hooded Vulture Murders

   The novels of Robert Portner Koehler (1905-1988) were published almost without exception by a house at the absolute bottom of the literary food chain, although it does hold the distinction of having been the last U.S. publisher of that great wack of American literature, Harry Stephen Keeler.

   Koehler’s The Hooded Vulture Murders (Phoenix Press, 1947) deals with two hapless California PIs who stumble upon the murder of a blackmailing journalist while driving through southern Mexico on the uncompleted Pan American Highway. Naturally the bumbling native officials welcome with open arms the intrusion of these brilliant Anglo sleuths, although readers may wish the boys had stayed home.

   Koehler paints local color vividly enough but the book is ineptly plotted, woefully written, pathetically characterized, laughably clued, and all in all a pretty lame excuse for a whodunit.

***

   Enough for one month. It took more time and work than I expected to unstiffen the language of these ancient jottings without changing anything substantive. But it’s good to know that I have enough material in the archives for a few more columns if I get to feeling tired and lazy again.

REVIEWED BY WALTER ALBERT:         


THE WRONG BOX. Salamander Film Corp., UK, 1966. Michael Caine, Nanette Newman, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Ralph Richardson, John Mills, Peter Sellers, Wilfred Lawson, Tony Hancock. Director-producer: Brian Forbes. Based on the book by Robert Louis Stevenson & Lloyd Osbourne. [Osbourne was Stevenson’s stepson.]

The Wrong Box

   This 1966 version of The Wrong Box is a movie graced by the beetle-like humor of Dudley Moore and a perfect caricature of a fact-spouting pedant, played by Ralph Richardson.

   The film is not as good as the sum of its parts, and is not particularly enhanced by a romantic subplot involving Michael Caine and a forgettable British actress, but the manic attempts of two members of the inimitable “Beyond the Fringe” company, Moore and Peter Cook, to make certain that their uncle, played by Richardson, is the last surviving member of a “tontine” and, thus, inheritor of a fortune of some one hundred thousand pounds, are often very funny.

   Cook is the fast-talking “brains” of the team, constantly maneuvering around the sweet-talking bumbling of overactive Lothario Moore, but Moore gets the best line. After it is pointed out that Cook has altered a death dertificate but inadvertently put on the next day’s date, Moore comments, “here today, gone tomorrow,” a perfectly logical statement in the context of this zany Victorian comedy.

   It is one of the few films I have seen in which the line “the butler did it” is uttered to truly comic effect, and the final scene is a triumph of comic miscalculations that somehow seem inevitable and right.

   A funny take-off on caper-and-chase films, The Wrong Box did not find much of an audience in this country in its original release and is sometimes hampered by a too-obvious and arch adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson original story by the America scriptwriters, but the talented cast surmounts most of the weaknesses, and the film is worth watching for.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 8, No. 1, January-February 1982 (slightly revised)



Editorial Comment:   My own review of this film, posted here on this blog almost six years ago (!) agrees with Walter in all but one important aspect.

Reviewed by DAVID L. VINEYARD:         

GAMBLING SHIP. Paramount, 1933. Cary Grant, Benita Hume, Jack La Rue, Roscoe Karns, Glenda Farrell, Arthur Vinton, Marc Lawerence. Screenplay: Max Marcin, Seton I. Miller. Adaptation: Claude Binyon. Based on the serial “Fast One” appearing in Black Mask magazine by Paul Cain (Peter Ruric). Directors: Louis Gasnier and Max Marcin.

PAUL CAIN The Complete Slayers

   He said: “I’m going to reopen the Joanna D. — Doc Haardt and I are going to run it together — his boat, my bankroll.” Kells said: “Uh huh.” He stared steadily at the electric fan, without movement or change of expression. Rose cleared his throat, went on: “The Joanna used to be the only gambling barge on the Coast, but Fay moved in with the Eaglet, and then Max Hesse promoted a two-hundred-and-fifty-foot yacht and took the play away from both of them.” Rose paused to remove a fleck of cigaret paper from his lower lip. “About three months ago, Fay and Doc got together and chased Hesse. According to the story, one of the players left a box of candy on the Monte Carlo — that’s Hesse’s boat — and along about two in the morning it exploded.”

   That passage from the Paul Cain novel is as close as this movie gets to the hardboiled classic it was based on, Fast One, though more than a bit of the basic plot is used — just not to the same effect as in the book.

   How Fast One, a novel that was so terse and stacatto it made Hammett read like a Victorian triple decker, became this romantic dramedy with Cary Grant and Benita Hume is one of those mysteries only a Hollywood producer could explain — or justify — but that’s what happened on the classic Black Mask serial’s way to the big screen as Gambling Ship.

PAUL CAIN Fast One

   Gone are Gerry Kells, the tough as nails gambler and gunman, and Grandquist (Kells looked at the woman. She was blonde — but darkly, warmly. Her mouth was very red without a great deal of rouge, and her eyes were shadowed and deep. She was a tall woman with very interesting curves. Fay said: “This is Miss Granquist.”), a femme fatale so fatal and tough she could give lessons to Hammett’s Diana Brand and Brigid O’Shaunessy as well as Chandler’s Velma, and in their place we have a tough but much smoother Cary Grant as Ace Corbin (replete with gray at the temples and a streak in his wavy dark hair), a New York gambler finding it hard to go straight and Benita Hume as the most lady like (if not entirely wholesome) moll you can imagine (well kept too, her apartment in Los Angeles has a bathroom the size of most bedrooms).

   Gambling Ship opens in New York where the newspaper boys are hawking the extra that gambler Ace Corbin has just been acquitted of a murder charge, a fact that seems to amuse police and public alike:

   Woman: “I saw him at the Bijou once, gee but he was handsome.”

   Second Woman: “Yeah, but he kills people.”

   First woman: “So does rheumatism.”

   Kells has similar problems in the book:

    “I happened to be too close to a couple of front-page kills,” Kells went on. “There was a lot of dumb sleuthing and a lot of dumb talk. It got so, finally, when the New York police couldn’t figure a shooting any other way, I was it.” Granquist was silent, smiling. “They got tired trying to hang them on me after the first three but the whisper went on. It got to be known as the Kells Inside….”

    “And at heart you’re just a big, sympathetic boy who wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

    “Uh, huh.” He nodded his head slowly, emphatically. His face was expressionless.

    “Me — I’m Napoleon.” Granquist took a powder puff out of the bag and rubbed it over her nose.

PAUL CAIN Fast One

   That pretty much sums up this semi-tough film that might be a dress rehearsal for one of Cary Grant’s later iconic roles as gambler Mr. Lucky. Here Ace Corbin is sick of New York and the rackets, and having walked from a frame set up by hood Pete Manning (Jack La Rue), all Corbin wants is to head to the coast and take a vacation.

   Not so easy, as flunky Marc Lawerence points out when one of Ace’s men tosses Ace’s shoulder holster and gun in his bag: “Sometimes even a good man has to blast his way loose.”

   It’s hard to imagine Kells having to be persuaded to “blast his way loose”:

   Then Beery said, “Look out!” and something dull and terrible crashed against the back of Kells’ head, there was dull and terrible blackness. It was filled with thunder and smothering blue, something hot and alive pulsed in Kells’ hand. He fell.

   On the train to the coast Ace meets beautiful society girl Eleanor Kiniston and a romance blossoms, Ace introducing himself as Bruce Grahame. Ace isn’t the only one with a secret. Eleanor is really Eleanor La Vere, girlfriend of Joe Burke (Arthur Vinton), a west coast gambler who runs an off shore casino.

   Burke’s in a bind for money, thanks to his chief competitor hijacking his customers for his own ship, Pete Manning’s Paradise. Once home Eleanor finds out what a bind Burke is in, and being to noble to walk out on him drops Bruce.

   Eleanor: “I couldn’t walk out on Joe when he’s down and out.

   Eleanor’s friend Jennie Sands (Glenda Farrell): “That’s the time to walk out.”

   Meanwhile Burke’s henchman Blooey (Roscoe Karns) is an old friend of Ace, and tries to convince Ace to go in with Burke, a chance to buy into a good deal and take revenge on Manning, but Ace is in love and wants none of it.

   Burke to Ace sarcastically: “Everybody knows what a forgiving nature you have.”

   Blooey: “Yeah, Ace always sends flowers.”

   But Manning won’t leave Ace alone so he agrees to go in with Burke. and starts by hijacking back all the players Manning hijacked in the first place.

   Ace: “Sometimes even a good man has to blast his way out … I’m gonna have that vacation even if I have to kill a few people.”

GAMBLING SHIP

   That does sound like Kells.

   Again, this hews close to the novel:

    “Now I’ll tell you one, Jakie. You’d like to have me on the Joanna because I look like the highest-powered protection at this end of the country. You’d like to carry that eighteen-carat reputation of mine around with you so you could wave it and scare all the bad little boys away.”

   His first night on the ship Eleanor shows up and finds out he’s Corbin, but he still thinks she’s a classy society woman, an illusion that will have to stay in place when Manning fire bombs the ship.

   The ending is well done and exciting, and being pre-Code, neither Ace nor Eleanor have to repent or suffer for the error of their ways. A clinch, a kiss, and Ace is ready to turn that vacation into a honeymoon, assuming he still has marriage on his mind after finding out who she is. This being the pre-Code era, happily ever after didn’t always need a license and a justice of the peace. It’s a very different ending than Fast One.

   Gambling Ship has a bad reputation among fans largely because it is based on Fast One, the legendary hardboiled extravagansa of flying bullets and McGuffey’s reader prose by screen writer Peter Ruric (The Black Cat, The Raven, Grand Central Murder …) writing as Paul Cain.

GAMBLING SHIP

   Granted it would have been nice to see his novel get the pre-Code treatment with Grant as tough-as-nails lethal gambler gunman Kells (though reading the book I always have Alan Ladd in mind), but that aside this isn’t a bad little film and like any decent pre-Code film (or is that indecent?) it’s interesting to note the little touches like the teasing dialogue bordering on double entendre, the suggestion of nudity (Hume outlined fairly clearly in a pebbled glass shower), skimpy lingerie (and not a lot of it), and a cavalier attitude to sex, without moralizing or due punishment, that could only be hinted at in later films.

   To be fair, any movie that has both a journey on a train and a gambling ship can’t be all bad.

   It’s interesting to note as well just how much of the Grant persona and the familiar gestures and slow takes are already established even at this point. It’s not hard to see watching this how Leslie Charteris and Raymond Chandler both could envision the Saint and Philip Marlowe as played by Grant (who was also a pick to play James Bond). He dominates every scene without doing much of anything but being Cary Grant, and for an actor at this early stage in his film career that’s no mean feat.

   Gambling Ship is no masterpiece, but it is a swift moving well done film with crisp direction, a smart script filled with clever quips, a first class cast, and an exciting finale, as well as good camera work by Charles Lang.

GAMBLING SHIP

   If you can manage to forget what it might have been considering its source you will likely enjoy it. And it’s not like Hollywood reserved this treatment for Ruric’s book, or have we forgotten Satan Met a Lady, the second version of The Maltese Falcon?

   That said, once or twice toward the end of the film you get a glimpse of how Grant might have played Kells, and you have to at least think about what might have been, Fast One is a very violent book that reads more like it was written with a tommy gun than a typewriter.

   Kells turned and spoke sharply to Granquist: “Lie down on the seat.” She muttered something unintelligible and lay down on her side across the back seat.

   They turned swiftly down Cherokee and a spurt of flame came out of a parked, close curtained limousine to meet them, lead thudded, bit into the side of the car. Borg stepped on the throttle, they plunged forward, past. Kells looked back at Granquist. She was lying with her eyes tightly closed and her face was very white. He put one arm back toward her and she rose suddenly to her knees, put her hands on his shoulder.

   He smiled. “We’re all right, baby,” he said softly. “They build these cars in Detroit — that’s machine-gun country.”

   Machine gun country is where Ruric’s book would feel at home, if not the film based on it.

GAMBLING SHIP



Note: The novel Fast One has been reviewed by Bill Pronzini some time back on this blog. Check it out here. And both the novel and the author are discussed in depth by Walker Martin in his review of The Complete Slayers, by Paul Cain. It’s worth your reading again, or for the first time, if you haven’t already.

THE BACKWARD REVIEWER
William F. Deeck


HOSANNA BROWN — I Spy, You Die. Victor Gollancz Ltd, UK, hardcover, 1984. G. K. Hall, US, hardcover, 1985. Back-In-Print Books, UK, softcover, 2004.

   The Kavendish Laboratory at Cambridge is developing the Pasar. The Pasar could be used to supply, among other things, free power to the world, or it could be employed to destroy the world. Someone is providing the Chinese, it seems, with piecemeal information about the research.

   Three of the scientists at the laboratory are members of Michaelhouse College, a rather hidebound group who have only recently and reluctantly discovered that females can be scholars. Thus, Her Majesty’s Government, with that delightful government ability to ignore the obvious, concludes that a female investigator is what is needed.

   Adding to what would appear an already chilly reception, the government decides to choose an American. Frank le Roux has achieved some reputation doing investigations for IBM. She is young and beautiful — it goes without saying, doesn’t it? — and she is black, if one-eighth part on her mother’s side qualifies her to describe herself as such. But just to prove her bona fides in this matter, she is a natural blonde.

   At her first evening at Michaelhouse during a Festive dinner, a goblet is passed around the table for all to drink from. Frank is the penultimate imbiber, but something keeps her from tasting. The last drinker, the Master of the college, partakes and dies, poisoned with choral hydrate. If Frank had not put the poison in the goblet, then either she was the target of the poisoner or the poisoner didn’t care if she died along with the Master. Does this bother Frank or even pique her curiosity? Nope.

   The next morning Frank has breakfast with the director of the laboratory, a man now in the running for the mastership of the college. On being shown around his apartment, she spots his four-poster bed. A bed, it becomes clear, means sex to Frank, and she invites the director to have at it.

   He does, and it is, of course, perfect, despite its quickness. “Gruff, half-swallowed professorial grunts of pleasure as Frank herself seemed easily, lightly, to peak. A deep contented moan of ecstasy, like a long-held trumpet note.”

   (Mystery writers, should they wish to make a great deal of money, ought not to write novels but a nonfiction work about how their heroes and heroines manage perfect sex both quickly and under unusual circumstances, And how do “professorial grunts of pleasure” differ from ordinary grunts? But I digress.)

   Frank then proceeds to tell her bedmate, one of the possible suspects of the leaks, all about her top-secret investigation.

   Page 44 had been reached. The world, as far as I could tell, had not been destroyed. Frank, in her own inimitable fashion, must have been successful. Was it really necessary to read on? I decided it would be more enjoyable to abandon the book and read about the adventures of Pooh Bear in a world much more realistic than is contained in I Spy, You Die.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 10, No. 1, Winter 1988.


Bibliographic Notes:   There was one further adventure of Frank le Roux, I am mildly surprised to say — I am inclined to trust Bill’s judgment on all matters criminous — that being Death Upon a Spear (Gollancz, 1986).

   As another point of interest, I am sure that Bill did not know — else he would have mentioned it — that “Hosanna Brown” was the pen name of Robert Malcolm Ward Dixon, who has no further entries in Al Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV.

MAKE A LIST – TV SERIES REMAKES
by Michael Shonk


   Remakes of TV series are so popular it seems everyone is doing it. Books continue the stories of MURDER SHE WROTE and MONK, comic books keep BUFFY THE VAMPIRE and THE MIDDLEMAN alive, and movies (and the studios that make them) love dead TV series. One could make a long list of TV series that have made it to the big screen including GUNN (1967, based on PETER GUNN), A TEAM, POLICE SQUAD, X-FILES, STARSKY AND HUTCH, etc. So it is no surprise television occasionally turns to its own past.

   Not all remakes are a bad thing. Look at the past of COLUMBO. The character Columbo first appeared in an episode of the TV anthology series THE CHEVY MYSTERY SHOW in “Enough Rope” (NBC 7/31/60). The story for the episode was partly based on a short story “May I Come In” (published in ALFRED HITCHCOCK MYSTERY magazine under the title “Dear Corpus Delicti”) that did not have Columbo in it.

   In 1962 the TV episode was remade into a stage play “Prescription Murder” which was adapted into a NBC TV Movie in 1968 starring Peter Falk. In 1971 the character returned in a NBC TV Movie called “Ransom For a Dead Man.” COLUMBO then became one of the rotating series in NBC MYSTERY MOVIE from 1971 until 1978. ABC brought back the cancelled series in 1989 for a series of TV Movies, first as part of ABC MYSTERY MOVIE (1989-1990) series, then as randomly scheduled TV Movies that lasted until 2003.

   The resurrection of cancelled TV series is so common there is a book out covering the subject, TV FAST FORWARD: SEQUELS & REMAKES OF CANCELLED TV SERIES 1955-1992 (McFarland & Co. 1993) by Lee Goldberg (DIAGNOSIS MURDER). No doubt the book would double in size if it were brought up to date. To avoid a book long post here, I decided to be extra picky about what I include (feel free to ignore my rules in the comments). What I discovered was how much of TV’s best shows were adapted from other mediums.

   So it must be original for TV. No series based on characters from books. Bye Sherlock Holmes, The Saint, Nero Wolfe, Ellery Queen, Mike Hammer, Perry Mason, Dracula, THE UNTOUCHABLES, HOUSE OF CARDS, and even STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO (yes, the two main characters were based on books by Carolyn Weston). No films. Bye LA FEMME NIKITA, ROBOCOP, and MCCLOUD. No plays. Bye CASABLANCA. No radio. Bye DRAGNET and GUNSMOKE. No comics. Bye BATMAN, SUPERMAN, FLASH GORDON, HUMAN TARGET and THE TICK. Not even “pulps”. Bye SHEENA QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE.

   The remake must have aired on American TV. No unaired pilots.

   I will limit myself to the mystery/crime genre. But every genre has many TV remakes of its own including science fiction with STAR TREK, and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, westerns with MAVERICK, KUNG FU, and BONANZA, action with SEA HUNT and DUKES OF HAZZARD, romance with CUPID and LOVE BOAT, horror with DARK SHADOWS, KOLCHAK THE NIGHT STALKER and THE ADDAMS FAMILY, children’s programs with SCOOBY DOO and BUGS BUNNY, comedies with GILLIGAN’S ISLAND, GIDGET, and ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, and dramas with DALLAS and THE FUGITIVE.

   Cancelled series getting remade as pilots is nothing new but perhaps the earliest to make it back on the air was TIGHTROPE (CBS 1959-60) with unsold pilot THE EXPENDABLES that aired on ABC 9/27/62.

   Starting in the 1970s the TV Movie became a popular format. The increase demand for content had each network looking everywhere for program ideas including its dead but not totally forgotten TV series.

   TV series to return as TV Movies included RETURN OF THE MOD SQUAD (ABC 1979), RETURN OF FRANK CANNON (CBS 1980), RETURN OF THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (CBS 1983), STILL CRAZY LIKE A FOX (CBS 1987), WILD WILD WEST REVISITED (CBS 1979), MORE WILD WILD WEST (CBS 1989), and I SPY RETURNS (NBC 1994).

   PETER GUNN returned to TV in a TV Movie (ABC, 1989) starring Peter Strauss. According to TV FAST FORWARD, the PETER GUNN TV Movie was a pilot that, along with MURPHY’S LAW (starring George Segal), would have been part of ABC MYSTERY MOVIE. But ABC went with Universal studios for COLUMBO and KOJAK remakes instead. MURPHY’S LAW (based on a book series TRACE that was a remake of a book series DIGGER, both written by Warren Murphy) was picked up as a weekly series but PETER GUNN was not.

   Others to rise from the dead in TV Movies included James Garner in THE ROCKFORD FILES (CBS 1994-99), Angela Lansbury in MURDER, SHE WROTE (CBS 1997, 2000 -2003). Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers in HART TO HART (NBC 1993-94; Family Channel 1996-97).

   POLICE STORY started as a weekly series on NBC (1973-77). In 1977 the series changed from 60-minute episodes to TV Movies that ended in 1978. In 1987-88 NBC brought POLICE STORY back for a series of TV Movies.

   During the late 1980’s the market for programs exploded with the addition of new networks Fox, UPN, WB, and cable networks such as USA. The number of TV series remakes (the return of at least one of the original cast) and reboots (old series with new cast) increased.

   Perhaps the strangest series remake was for ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS. During the series first run (1958-65) it bounced between CBS and NBC with different titles, the one thing uniting the series was host Alfred Hitchcock. Producer Christopher Crowe wanted to do an anthology series but had recently failed with one, DARKROOM (ABC 1981-82). The networks were not interested until he mentioned ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS.

   NBC aired the NEW ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS first as a TV Movie in 1985. Based on the TV Movie’s success NBC made it a weekly series that aired from 1985 to 1986, then NBC moved it to its sister station cable network USA. The series featured Alfred Hitchcock as host which was unusual as Hitchcock had died in 1980 five years earlier. The series colorized Hitchcock’s original black and white introductions and used them with the new stories.

   Cancelled TV series that have made the comeback to weekly series include BURKE’S LAW (ABC 1963-66; CBS 1994 -95). An episode from the remake is currently available on YouTube.

   Others to return from cancellation as a new weekly series included THE FBI (ABC 1965-74) that was rebooted as TODAY’S FBI (ABC 1981-82), THE HITCHHIKER (HBO 1983-87) waited until 1989 when it aired on USA until 1991. And HAWAII FIVE-O (CBS 1968-80) has returned as HAWAII FIVE-0 (CBS 2010-present).

   CHARLIE’S ANGELS (ABC, 1976-81) enjoyed a successful theatrical series run after ABC cancelled the series before crashing in a terrible TV series remake (ABC 2011). MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (CBS 1966-73) got its TV remake series (ABC 1988-90) first before being rebooted into a successful movie series. There are episodes from the remake currently on YouTube.

   IRONSIDE (NBC 1967-75) returned in 1993 with the original cast in TV Movie RETURN OF IRONSIDE. NBC rebooted the series in 2013 with Blair Underwood as Ironside. This was not the first rebooted TV series that changed the race of a main character.

   THE NEW ADAM 12 (syndicated, 1990) still featured a police car patrolling the city, but the black and white now had two different cops inside, one white and the other black.

   KOJAK (CBS 73-78; CBS TVM 1985 and 1987; ABC (part of ABC MYSTERY MOVIES) 1989-90; USA 2005 – weekly series) Kojak, TV’s most famous Greek-American detective played by Telly Savalas (who died in 1994), would be recast with black actor Ving Rhames taking over the role of Kojak for the 2005 USA network series.

   As with IRONSIDE and KOJAK, there have been cancelled series that have enjoyed the afterlife as a TV movie and TV series.

   GET SMART (NBC 1965-69; CBS 1969-70) has been remade and rebooted in a variety of forms including a TV movie GET SMART AGAIN (ABC 1989) and a TV series sequel (FOX 1995).

   KNIGHT RIDER (NBC 1982-86) first returned on NBC in TV Movie KNIGHT RIDER 2000 (1991). Syndicated TV movie KNIGHT RIDER 2010 (1994) kept little but the title. Next was syndicated TV series TEAM KNIGHT RIDER (1997-98). NBC tried one more time and rebooted the original version with a TV Movie and TV series in 2008-09.

   While SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN was based on a book, the Bionic Woman Jaime Sommers (Lindsay Wagner) was a character created for the TV series in 1975 and spun off to her own TV series, BIONIC WOMAN (ABC, 1976-77; NBC 1977-78). She also appeared in the three TV Movie remakes of the SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN on NBC (1987-94). NBC rebooted the series again for a series in 2007 that had Michelle Ryan taking over the role of Jaime Sommers.

   HUNTER (NBC 1984-91) returned on NBC as TV Movies in 1995, 2002 and in 2003. In 2003 a weekly series was attempted but lasted only three hour-long episodes. YouTube currently has the 2003 episodes on line. Here is episode three.

   The British and American have been exchanging TV series since the 1960s. Today PBS and BBC America make sure American’s see the British originals and British remakes of US series such as LAW AND ORDER UK (2009-present), while other networks are shopping all over the world for shows to Americanize.

   THE AVENGERS (United Kingdom 1961-69) aired on ABC (1966-69). The remake THE NEW AVENGERS aired in the UK from 1976-77 and aired on CBS in 1978-79. CBS wanted to do an American version. It was to be produced by Quinn Martin and created by Brian Clemens (THE AVENGERS). It was called ESCAPADE (that may have aired once on CBS in 1978). Here is a YouTube clip of the opening.

   British series that had American versions included CRACKER (1993-95) remade by ABC (1997-1999), BLACKPOOL (2004) became VIVA LAUGHLIN (CBS 2007), LIFE ON MARS (2006-07) with ABC’s version airing 2008-09, and ELEVENTH HOUR (2006) remade by CBS (2008). THE PRISONER (1967-68) was shown on CBS in 1968 and rebooted by AMC in 2009. LOW WINTER SUN (AMC 2013) was based on the British LOW WINTER SUN (2006).

   Remakes not only come from our past and the United Kingdom, but now from all over the world.

   Israel has inspired two American series. HOMELAND (SHOWTIME 2011-present) is based on PRISONER OF WAR (aka HATUFIM) (2009- present). HOSTAGES (CBS 2013-present) is airing at almost the same time as Israeli version of HOSTAGES (BNEI ARABA).

   Other countries supplying programs for American remakes are Denmark with FORBRYDELSEN (2007-12) rebooted as THE KILLING by AMC (2011-2013). THE BRIDGE (F/X 2013-present) is based on a Denmark-Sweden coproduction (Danish: BROEN; Swedish: BRON – 2011-present). While Netherlands PENOZA (2010-12) inspired RED WIDOW (ABC 2012). And coming soon to FOX is RAKE, based on the Australian series (2010-present).

   With the increasing number of places and ways the audience can find programs, places such as Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube where you don’t even need a TV set to watch, new programs need to find some way to stand out in the crowd. The remake is a quick easy way to attract attention, but just the title will not make any series successful. The series still has to be good enough to make viewers want to watch it next week.

         SOURCES:

TV FAST FORWARD by Lee Goldberg

IMDb

TV Tango

Wikipedia

PETER RABE My Lovely Executioner

PETER RABE – My Lovely Executioner. Gold Medal #967, paperback original; 1st printing, February 1960. Five Star, hardcover, 1999. Stark House Press (with Agreement to Kill), trade paperback, 2006.

   It’s my opinion — and so far’s I know, nobody else’s — that Peter Rabe should have a name in the mystery field comparable to some of those writing in the heyday of Black Mask magazine. No, not a top-notcher like Hammett or Chandler, but more along the lines of a Raoul Whitfield, say.

   Like the one at hand, much of Rabe’s work seems to have been devoted to inside glimpses into life in the underworld. Tough, sexy, hard-boiled — all are adjectives that seem to apply. To a certain extent, it occasionally takes some work to read in between the lines Rabe wrote, as if you really had to think like a crook to make the pieces of the puzzle fit together the way they should.

   This one opens with a guy named Gallivan as he’s being busted out of prison. Non-voluntarily, it should be added. He has only three weeks to go before his time is up. Now he’s on the run, aided by the prison-mate who helped spring him, along with a girl named Jessie whom the other guy seems to know.

   Gallivan’s problem is threefold: what’s their motive; how can he escape them; and should he escape them? Add another: can he escape them?

   Not a major story, by any means. There are no big scenes that stand out in your memory afterwards, ones you’d automatically think of when you think of this book. There are a lot of little ones, though, each one individually hardly worth a mention, but each one etched in its way in a small semblance of perfection.

Rating:   B

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 6, No. 3, May-June 1982 (slightly revised).

Reviewed by
CAPTAIN FRANK CUNNINGHAM:


E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM Great Impersonation

E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM – The Great Impersonation. Hodder & Stoughton, UK, hardcover, 1920. Little Brown, US, hardcover, 1920. Reprinted many times since, including Pocket Book #224, paperback, 1943. Currently in print in various POD editions.

   Sir Everard Dominey, in his twenty-sixth year, leaves England, and after ten years of wandering, turns up in 1913 in German East Africa, where Baron Leopold Von Ragastein, a military commandant, rescues him from death in the bush.

   Dominey and Von Ragastein discover that they knew each other at Oxford, and that the amazing likeness which existed between them in undergraduate days still persists. Then Von Ragastein, who has been ordered to London by the Wilhelmstrasse, determines to make way with the Englishman, assume his identity and enter upon his espionage as Sir Everard Dominey.

   There is a love story of charm and appeal and a mystery that the reader is hardly likely to solve until the last page.

— Reprinted from Black Mask magazine, August 1920.


Bio-Bibliographic Note:   For as much as you might like to know about E. Phillips Oppenheim, check out this website dedicated to him. Quoting:

    “…Oppenheim published over 150 books and countless magazine stories between 1884 and 1946. While most often identified as a mystery writer, Oppenheim’s novels range from spy thrillers to romance. All of them have, however, an undertone of intrigue. Several of his books were published under the pseudonym, Anthony Partridge.”

REVIEWED BY DAN STUMPF:


DAN J. MALOWE One Endless Hour

DAN J. MARLOWE – One Endless Hour. Gold Medal R2050, paperback original, 1969. Reprints: Gold Medal T2662, paperback, 1972. Stark House Press (with The Name of the Game Is Death), trade paperback, 2013.

   I like to spend October watching old monster movies and reading spooky books. Things like Burn Witch Burn and Firebug, which I did. But I found nothing all last month quite so chilling as One Endless Hour, by Dan J. Marlowe.

   For awhile therein the 1960s Marlowe bid fair to take up the legacy of Jim Thompson with books like The Name of the Game Is Death and The Vengeance Man, but he chose to settle in the comfortable groove of the continuing (and no doubt more profitable) Earl Drake series, and who can blame him really?

   One Endless Hour is the “bridge” book between the old stuff and the new, and as such it has an attractively pointless momentum I find immensely appealing — that and the over-the-top violence and crude sex of its time.

   The first chapter of Hour is actually the last chapter (slightly re-written) of The Name of the Game Is Death: the bank robber hero finding his partner murdered, killing the woman who betrayed him (“Tell it in Hell, bitch, if you can get anyone to listen,”) and castrating the local lawman behind it all. Then we get a furious car chase and running gun battle that climaxes with our hero (now Earl Drake) getting his hands and face burnt off and ending up in the state prison hospital being systematically tortured — and plotting his escape.

   And that’s just the first chapter.

   There follows a uniquely creepy tale of plastic surgery, bribed guards, jail-break, double-cross, more murders and two bank robberies—one of which goes sour in spectacularly kinky fashion, all told in about a hundred and sixty fast-turning pages. An unforgettably hard-boiled story and perfect for the Halloween season.

   Dan J. Marlowe may have gone on to better selling books, but those of us who cherish the truly subversive in fiction will remember him more fondly for books like this.

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