FRED MacISAAC “The Corpse Goes East.” Novelette. First published in Ace-High Detective, August 1936. Probably never reprinted.

   Designed by Popular Publications as a companion to Dime Detective Magazine, their mainstay detective pulp, the August 1936 issue of Ace-High Detective was the first of only seven before it was discontinued. One can only guess, but poor distribution and low sales were both probably to blame. The authors appear to be the same as were used in Dime Detective, but I have the feeling that their better material ended up in the latter, and not this new kid on the block.

   Truth in blogging. The cover image you see there to the right is not mine. My copy of this first issue is has no covers, and I had to borrow the image you see from the Internet. My copy is still readable, of course, and over the next few weeks, I will doing so and reporting on the results here. Other authors whose stories are to come are William E. Barrett, Norbert Davis, Thomas Walsh and a handful of others.

   Up first, though, is “The Corpse Goes East,” by author Fred MacIsaac, who wrote hundreds of stories for the pulps, both detective fiction and some very early science fiction. Although he is noted for his many serialized novels in such magazines as Argosy and Detective Fiction Weekly, relatively few of them were published later in hardcover form, and he’s all but forgotten today.

   The leading protagonist in “The Corpse Goes East” is neither a PI nor a policeman in any shape or form, but almost assuredly your next best guess, a young attorney by the name of Tom Franklin. While still struggling financially, he has a girl friend — or he would, if he ever has enough money to ask her out on a date.

   Things pick up between them, though, when the girl comes by his office as a client. Her aunt, it seems, has disappeared, and the niece thinks foul play is involved, most probably at the hands of her much younger gigolo husband. That the aunt is also wealthy has a good deal to to with the motive, if indeed she is no longer among the living.

   What Franklin soon discovers, besides a lack of a trail at all, is that she left her apartment on her own, it was without a stitch of clothing, as her wardrobe is completely present and accounted for. But neither is she (or her body) in the building. It has been searched thoroughly.

   This begins as a detective story, a rather stiff and formally told one, but toward the end the action picks up considerably. Tom Franklin gets by by impersonating a policeman far too often, as far as I was concerned, but maybe that’s only fair, since the police do not deserve any awards for their work on the case. This is a routine story, if ever there was one, and middling enjoyable. On the other hand, though, it would have been considerably less than that if in 1936 you were reading Ellery Queen or John Dickson Carr, two authors with whom Fred MacIsaac was never in the same league.