Mon 29 Jun 2009
JUDSON PHILIPS – A Murder Arranged. Dodd Mead, hardcover, 1978. Reprint hardcover: Detective Book Club, 3-in-1 edition, November 1978. No US paperback edition. (Shown is the cover of an Italian softcover edition.)
Journalist Peter Styles’ crusade against senseless violence leads him to an out-of-the-way New England village where he becomes the champion of a young man accused and convicted of murder. All the evidence seems to point directly to Tim Ryan, but the feeling of at least half the townspeople is that the state police wrapped up their case far too quickly.
Obviously there’s more than a little resemblance here to a story that recently made Connecticut headlines, and the reader is swallowed up at once into the affairs of a small town. In spite of some fast deductions and the long arm of coincidence in the final chapters, Philips demonstrates once again that few authors are so non-stop reliable as he.
(very slightly revised).
[UPDATE] 06-29-09. For an author as popular as Judson Philips (1903-1989) was, it never made sense to me that a good percentage of his books never came out in paperback. Including the books he wrote as Hugh Pentecost, his hardcover mystery fiction would have filled at least two long shelves at your local library.
Philips began his career writing an even longer list of stories for the pulp magazines in the 1930s, and books continued to come from his typewriter very nearly up to the day he died. A list of his book-length fiction can be found online here.
If it weren’t for readers and collectors of pulp magazines, I imagine that Philips would have fallen long ago into that ever-growing limbo of mystery writers who sold tons of books in their day, but who are fast fading from memory today. (A list of his “Part Avenue Hunt Club” stories from Detective Fiction Weekly that have recently been reprinted in a two-volume set from Battered Silicon Dispatch Box can be found online here.)