ERIC TAYLOR “Kali.” Short story. First published in All Star Detective Stories, November 1929. No cover image available. Reprinted in The First Mystery Megapack (Wildside Press, ebook, April 2011).

   As a detective pulp, All Star Detective was not in top tier of those being published at the same time, but it did last for some 26 issues between October 1929 and June 1932. Most of the authors they published were unknowns even then, but the list does contain a few whose names are still recognizable today, such as Leslie Charteris, Erle Stanley Gardner, T. T. Flynn, and Johnston McCulley.

   You can let me know if you disagree, but Eric Taylor, is not likely to be one of them. He did write several dozen stories for the detective pulps between 1927 and 1937. Even before that, he began his career with a handful of stories in 1926 for Droll Stories and others in that particular category. Starting in 1937 or so, he switched gears and began writing for Hollywood, churning out scripts for many of the Ellery Queen movies, plus the Crime Doctor and The Whistler films, Universal’s monster movies and so on. He died in 1952.

   The story “Kali” is, however, does not add a lot of weight to his resumé. How the folks at Wildside Press happened to choose this one for one their many collections of old genre stories I do not know. It’s the story of a young guy named Roy who loves a girl named Margaret who is trapped into living in a well-fortified prison of a house with her guardian “aunt” and he new husband, a mysterious Bengali by the name of Ishan Dan Bahaji.

   Margaret will not receive her inheritance if she marries without her aunt’s permission before she is 23, and the Bengali’s influence over the aunt means that that will never happen. Worse, strange things are going on the house, and Roy’s attempts to break in and learn what they might be always end in fierce battles — and sudden deaths — with a small cadde of loyal servants.

   The writing is crude, true, but it also has a lot of momentum. Back in 1929, the secret that lives behind the barred door of the house would have been not only plausible but also something fearfully terrible. Not quite so much today — the title of the tale may give you a bit of a clue — but I have admit that the drive behind the tale is still there.