ROBERT BLOCH – The Night of the Ripper. Doubleday, hardcover, 1984. Tor, paperback, 1986.

   It just wouldn’t be Halloween without something from Robert Bloch, and this Jack-the-Ripper mystery fits the bill quite nicely: no great shakes as a novel, but fast and readable as always from Bloch.

   Mark Robinson, an American doctor studying in London, is the central character, but he shares the stage with Eva Sloane, a dilettante nurse and medical student, and Inspector Abberline, the plodding but canny man from Scotland Yard. Bloch does his usual smooth job of shifting from character to character to generate movement and suspense, and if none of them is terribly deep, they’re at last consistent and believable.

Bloch also does a sturdy job tracing the Ripper’s crimes with historical accuracy and ringing in all the usual suspects and bit-players, politicians, prostitutes and public figures. Which leads to my main carp with the thing: a surfeit of Guest Star walk-ons, as the characters share scenes with Oscar Wilde, Bernard Shaw, Conan Doyle and even the Elephant Man, none of whom contribute materially to the plot.

   Ah yes, the plot. I spotted the character who would turn out to be the Ripper pretty quickly, but that’s because I know Bloch from endless reading since my teens. On an objective level he plays fair with the reader, but can’t avoid some of the conventions of the form — like the witness who offers to tell Robinson who the Ripper is if he’ll meet her in a few hours at….. And we all know who dies next, don’t we? And when Robinson and Eva agree to meet later so they can take their suspicions to Inspector Abberline, cliché dictates that something befall her in the meantime, now doesn’t it?

   Somehow though, these bits of literary laziness don’t spoil this undeniably fast-moving and vivid tale. Bloch seemed to take pleasure in writing it, and he passes it on to the reader in a form perfect for the season.


JOHN BARNES – Orbital Resonance. Tor, hardcover, December 1991; paperback, October 1992.

   A lot of different people have compared Barnes to Heinlein on the basis of this book, and for once the comparisons seem to have a modicum of validity. If you liked Heinlein’s “juveniles,” or any of his books before he went weird, you’re very likely to enjoy this.

   It chronicles the life of a 12-year-old girl living in an asteroid colony thousands of miles from a devastated earth, if you want a bare-bones summary. You might call it a coming-of-age story, but that wouldn’t do justice to it. For one thing, it presents one of the more believable self-contained environments I’ve come across, both physically and sociologically as well.

   For another, the lead character is both likeable and credible, an all too uncommon juxtaposition. It’s a well-paced story that will hold your interest, and excellent science fiction of a kind too seldom seen nowadays. Try it.

— Reprinted from Fireman, Fireman, Save My Books #5, January 1993.


THE MUMMY. Universal Pictures, 1932. Boris Karloff, Zita Johann, David Manners, Arthur Byron, Edward Van Sloan, Bramwell Fletcher, Noble Johnson. Director: Karl Freund.

   It’d been a couple of years since I last saw The Mummy, but that was on DVD. Seeing the 1932 Universal film on the big screen, as I had the opportunity to do last weekend, was a particularly enjoyable experience.

   The classic horror film begins with the famous Universal Pictures propeller airplane flying around the Earth (see below), before quickly transitioning into the opening credits set to the hauntingly familiar score taken from Tchiakovsky’s “Swan Lake.” First, the names Carl Laemmle and Boris Karloff, now so familiar to classic movie fans everywhere, appear on the screen. Then soon, the players are introduced and the movie’s narrative begins.

   Directed by Karl Freund, The Mummy not only is a thoroughly enjoyable pre-Code thriller, but it also set the template for mummy and Egyptian supernatural themed movies yet to come. Boris Karloff portrays Imhotep, a resurrected mummy, now lurking about modern Cairo, all in the hopes of bringing his lost love, the princess Ankh-es-en-amon, back to life – or at least a living death! When he encounters the lovely half-British, half-Egyptian Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann), he realizes that she is the living reincarnation of his long lost love. What diabolical schemes will the cursed Imhotep come up with so he can reunite with his ancient love!

   An altogether enjoyable film, The Mummy nevertheless progresses at a noticeably slow pace. Indeed, reaction shots interspersed through the film clearly indicate that the movie was produced at a transitional time for commercial cinema when silent films were giving way to talkies. Karloff and Johann, however, have some unique and expressive faces that long reaction shots and close ups only enhance the viewer’s immersion in the story.

Here’s the title track from The Poppy Family’s 1969 LP Which Way You Goin’ Billy?, their first album. Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, the band featured Susan Jacks on lead vocals and Terry Jacks on rhythm guitar.

ADAM HALL – Quiller. Jove, paperback; 1st US paperback printing, December 1985. First published in the UK as Northlight by W. H. Allen, hardcover, 1985 (shown).

   After reading Michael Shonk’s recent review of the Quiller novel The Tango Briefing, along with the episode of the TV series based on it, I thought I’d give one of the books a try myself. I’m glad I did.

   It’s only a guess, but I assume the name change made by the US paperback publisher was an attempt to get a bit more name recognition out there where a would-be buyer could see it. Even in the UK all of the titles after Northlight began with Quiller as the first word. I do not know why the first US publication of the book was in paperback. The Quiller Memorandum came out as movie in 1965, so interest in the series by hardcover publishers may have diminished greatly in the 20 year meantime.

   Northlight, as you may be wondering, is the name of the mission that Quiller is given in the book. An American atomic sub has been attacked and destroyed by a trigger-happy Russian naval officer, acting on his own initiative. The problem is that a peace conference between the US and Russia is about to convene in Vienna. What Quiller is asked to do, with the British government acting as a middleman, is go underground behind the Iron Curtain and retrieve the double agent up above the Arctic Circle who has a tape recording detailing the incident in detail.

   All is not what it seems, however, and not unexpectedly Quiller is often left on his own and unaware of all of the intrigue going on at levels far over his head. He has to be wary of everyone he meets, including a cell of operatives who seem to be an extremely interested third party in the operation.

   This is a tough, suspenseful book from beginning to end, even at a length of over 350 pages. Quiller tells his own story, so it is hard to pinpoint who he is exactly, but he is basically world-weary and dedicated, suspicious of everybody and everything at every turn. tough-minded and resourceful, terse and not very good at James Bondian repartee. I assume so, at least, for he does not even try. There is very little humor in the story he tells, making George Segal, somewhat offbeat as an actor, seem to me to be an unusual choice to portray him in the movie, which I have net seen in over 50 years.

   The book does not make for very relaxing reading, which is exactly as it should be, with cliffhangers at the end of almost every chapter. I had a good time with it.

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Thomas Baird

FRANCIS BEEDING – Death Walks in Eastrepps. Mystery League, US, hardcover, 1931. First published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton, hardcover, 1931. Dover, softcover, 1980. Arcturus Publishing, softcover, 2011.

   At one time Death Walks in Eastrepps was regarded as one of the ten greatest detective novels. Well, even mystery critics can make a slip once in a while. This book is quite competent, it rises above the humdrum, but the writing does not contain the verve to make it a classic.

   A serial murderer terrorizes the seaside resort village of Eastrepps in Norfolk. The local police, led by Inspector Protheroe and Sergeant Ruddock, search for a brutal homicidal maniac. As the bodies count up to six, Chief Inspector Wilkins of Scotland Yard is called in.

   The relationships between the East Anglian residents, the individual policemen, and the press are explored. The tangled motives and alibis are sorted out. Public pressure mounts, and results in a false arrest. Then strong police work brings a man unjustly to trial. The woman in his life endeavors to clear his name while the courtroom drama heats up. This is a complex story, full of surprises.

   Francis Beeding is the collaborative pseudonym of two English literary men, John Leslie Palmer and Hilary Adam St. George Saunders. Together they wrote thirty-one criminous novels, about half of them spy stories featuring Secret Service agent Colonel Alastair Granby; among the tales are The Six Proud Walkers (1928), Hell Let Loose (1937), and The Twelve Disguises (1942).

   They also wrote The House of Dr. Edwardes (1927), which Alfred Hitchcock transformed into his 1945 Gregory Peck/Ingrid Bergman film, Spellbound.

   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007. Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.

Bibliographic Note:   There was only one later outing for Inspector Wilkins, that being Murder Intended (Hodder, UK, 1932; Little Brown, US, 1932).

William F. Deeck

NORMAN FORREST – Death Took a Greek God. Hillman-Curl, US, hardcover, 1938. Detective Novel Classic #16, US, digest-sized paperback, 1942. First published in the UK by Harrap, hardcover, 1937.

   It is time for the execution scene from The Case of the Flying Knife. Epoch Films, an English movie studio, is filming the hanging of actor Raoul Granger, the handsomest man in Europe. Someone makes it a real hanging when the lever of the trap is pushed by one of a group of people who had no great love for Granger.

   Inspector Grief is called in from Scotland Yard. Fortunately for him, he has the assistance of John Finnegan, the most brilliant medical jurist of the day. In a case with few real clues, Finnegan traps the murderer with cameras rolling in a reenactment of the hanging scene.

   Not fair play, and the writing leaves something to be desired, but the investigation is a good one and the outcome a surprise.

— Reprinted from MYSTERY READERS JOURNAL, Vol. 7, No. 4, Winter 1991/2, “Murder on Screen.”

Bibliographic Notes:   Norman Forrest was the pen name of Nigel Morland (1905-1986), a prolific British mystery writer who wrote dozens if not hundreds of detective novels under his own name and several other pseudonyms. There was one earlier outing for John Finnegan, that being Death Took a Publisher (Harrap, 1936; Hillman-Curl, 1938).

A Giant in the Field Has Left Us:
ED GORMAN (1941-2016).

   I was away from the computer most of the day yesterday, and I’m only now catching up with the bad news. (Dan Stumpf’s movie review was scheduled for yesterday late on Saturday.) Ed Gorman’s death this past weekend was not unexpected, as his long battle with cancer was well known, and the last post on his blog was on way back on July 1st.

   Bill Crider talks about the man and his career on his blog more eloquently than I can, as does James Reasoner on his blog. Besides a long career in writing and editing, Ed Gorman was one of the friendliest and most helpful men I’ve ever corresponded with, and although I never met him, this hits me hard on a personal level.

   In the title of this post I said that Ed was a Giant in his field. He was actually a towering figure in four: Mystery, Western, Science Fiction, and Horror. From the Fantastic Fiction website, here’s a list of the books and stories he left behind:


   Jack Dwyer
1. Rough Cut (1986)
2. New, Improved Murder (1985)
3. Murder Straight Up (1986)
4. Murder in the Wings (1986)
5. The Autumn Dead (1987)
6. A Cry of Shadows (1990)
7. What the Dead Men Say (1990)
8. The Reason Why (1992)
The Dwyer Trilogy (omnibus) (1996)
The Jack Dwyer Mysteries (omnibus) (2016)

1. Murder on the Aisle (1987)
2. Several Deaths Later (1988)

   Leo Guild
1. Guild (1987)
2. Death Ground (1988)
3. Blood Game (1989)
4. Dark Trail (1991)

   Jack Walsh
1. The Night Remembers (1991)

   Robert Payne
1. Blood Moon (1994) aka Dead Cold
2. Hawk Moon (1995)
3. Harlot’s Moon (1997)
4. Voodoo Moon (2000)

   Sam McCain
1. The Day the Music Died (1998)
2. Wake Up Little Susie (1999)
3. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (2000)
4. Save the Last Dance for Me (2001)
5. Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool (2002)
6. Breaking Up Is Hard to Do (2004)
7. Fools Rush in (2007)
8. Ticket to Ride (2009)
9. Bad Moon Rising (2011)
10. Riders on the Storm (2014)

   Cavalry Man
1. The Killing Machine (2005)
2. Powder Keg (2006)
3. Doom Weapon (2007)

   Dev Mallory
1. Bad Money (2005)
2. Fast Track (2006)

   Collected Ed Gorman
1. Out There in the Darkness (2007)
2. Moving Coffin (2007)
Out There in the Darkness / Moving Coffin (2007)

   Dev Conrad
1. Sleeping Dogs (2008)
2. Stranglehold (2010)
3. Blindside (2011)
4. Flashpoint (2013)
5. Elimination (2015)


Grave’s Retreat (1989)
The Black Moon (1989) (with Loren D Estleman, W R Philbrick, Robert J Randisi and L J Washburn)
Night of Shadows (1990)
Robin in I, Werewolf (1992) (with Angelo Torres)
Shadow Games (1993)
I, Werewolf (1993)
Wolf Moon (1993)
The Sharpshooter (1993)
Cold Blue Midnight (1995)
The Marilyn Tapes (1995)
Black River Falls (1996)
Cage of Night (1996)
Runner in the Dark (1996)
Gundown (1997)
The Poker Club (1997)
The Silver Scream (1998)
Trouble Man (1998)
Daughter of Darkness (1998)
I Know What the Night Knows (1999)
Senatorial Privelege (1999)
Ride into Yesterday (1999)
Storm Riders (1999)
Pirate’s Plea (2000)
What Dead Man Say (2000)
Lawless (2000)
Ghost Town (2001)
Vendetta (2002)
Rituals (2002)
Relentless (2003)
Lynched (2003)
Gun Truth (2003)
Branded (2004)
Two Guns to Yuma (2005)
Shoot First (2006)
A Knock at the Door (2007)
The Midnight Room (2009)
The Girl in the Attic (2012) (with Patricia Lee Macomber)
The Man From Nightshade Valley (2012) (with James Reasoner)
The Prodigal Gun (2012) (with James Reasoner)
Now You See Her (2014)
Run to Midnight (2016)


Dark Whispers (1988)
Prisoners (1988)
Cages (1989)
Best Western Stories of Ed Gorman (1992)
Criminal Intent: 1 (1993) (with Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini)
Moonchasers (1995)
Legend (1999) (with Judy Alter, Jane Candia Coleman, Loren D Estleman, Elmer Kelton, Robert J Randisi and James Reasoner)
Famous Blue Raincoat (1999)
The Dark Fantastic (2001)
Crooks, Crimes, and Christmas (2003) (with Michael Jahn, Irene Marcuse and Susan Slater)
The Long Ride Back (2004)
Different Kinds Of Dead and Other Tales (2005)
The End of It All (2009)
The Phantom Chronicles Volume 2 (2010) (with Robin Wayne Bailey and Harlan Ellison)
Noir 13 (2010)
Scream Queen And Other Tales of Menace (2014)
The Autumn Dead / The Night Remembers (2014)
Dead Man’s Gun (2015)
A Disgrace to the Badge (2015)
Enemies (2015)
The Long Ride Back and Other Western Stories (2015)
Graves’ Retreat / Night of Shadows (2015)
Shadow Games and Other Sinister Stories of Show Business (2016)
Cemetery Dance Select (2016)


Out There in the Darkness (Novella) (1995)
Cast in Dark Waters (2002) (with Tom Piccirilli)

      Graphic Novels

Trapped (1993) (with Dean Koontz)


Survival (2012)
Dirty Coppers (2012) (with Richard T Chizmar)
Yesterday and the Day Before (2012)
Brothers (2015) (with Richard T Chizmar)

       Short Stories

The Broker (2006)
Deathman (2006)
Stalker (2006)


THE WHITE REINDEER, Finland, 1952. Original title: Valkoinen peura. Mirjami Kuosmanen and Kalervo Nissila. Written by Erik Blomberg and Mirjami Kuosmanen. Directed by Erik Blomberg.

   Since Writer/Director Blomberg and Writer/Leading-Lady Kuosmanen were married, this is obviously a family project. It’s also quite a memorable film: Not a horror movie (though it’s listed in Phil Hardy’s Encyclopedia) as much as a grim fairy tale or a spooky folk song.

   I should say for starters that this is set in contemporary Lapland, the northernmost part of Finland, and though there are villages with substantial houses, everyone seems to spend most of their time in smallish tents or huts (Yerts, maybe?) out in the frozen wilderness, catching and herding reindeer, or whatever people used to do before there was Cable TV.

   The film opens with a mysterious woman staggering out of the snowy wastes and into a hut where she dies and gives birth to a baby, which is cared for by the locals, who name her Pirita, and she grows up a scene or two later into Ms. Kuosmanen. And as you’re probably unfamiliar with this actress, I’ll just say she is devastatingly beautiful, with one of those radiant complexions that seem crafted to show off large haunting eyes and a sensuous mouth.

   Pirita marries Aslak, a local hunter (played by Kalervo Nissila, a Kent Smith type), but when he goes off hunting after the honeymoon, she gets into a snit and goes to visit the local shaman for a love potion that will make her irresistible.

   What follows is a beautifully-done scene, murky and moody, as the Shaman does his medicine-show-magic, gives Pirita the usual potions and instructions on the proper rites… and then discovers what Pirita didn’t now herself: she’s a witch!

   Too late it seems. There follows another creepy scene or two as Pirita performs the rites in front of one of the most imposing totems I’ve ever seen in the movies (and needless to say, with the kind of flicks I watch, I’ve seen a totem or two in my day….) and finds she can transform herself at will into the eponymous white reindeer, pursued by one hunter after another (i.e. irresistible to men!) but when they catch her she transforms again and kills them — just how is never shown, but she’s suddenly sporting a set of very sharp teeth.

   Visually, this film is simply stunning, shot almost entirely outdoors in one of the most haunting landscapes on earth, with epic shots of vast snowy landscapes dotted with scraggly trees, ribboned with migrating herds of reindeer, miles long, shifting and curling about the countryside. We get breathtaking scenes of the principals racing around on skis or reindeer-pulled toboggans, and eerie night-time tableaus with the snowscapes bathed in eerie moonlight as everyone’s breath turns into clouds of evanescent mist.

   And then there’s Ms. Kuosmanen, sometimes glowing and beautiful in the classic Hollywood tradition, and other times… well let’s just say that when the killing mood is on her she can produce the kind of predatory smile we wouldn’t see again till Barbara Steele turned up in Black Sunday.

   Indeed, the only real letdown here is the final chase, as Aslak her husband chases down the White Reindeer, with a conclusion straight out of some old and plaintive ballad. The chase itself is done in a surprisingly flat and objective manner and just fails to generate the emotion it should.

   That’s a minor carp though. It’s a film I’ll remember, a film I’ll watch again, and as I finished it, it occurred to me that with the oppressive landscapes and Ms. Kuosmanen’s striking beauty, you could call it Bergmanesque: Ingmar or Ingrid, take your pick.


CHARLIE CHAN IN THE CHINESE CAT. Monogram Pictures, 1944. Sidney Toler, Joan Woodbury, Mantan Moreland, Benson Fong, Ian Keith, Sam Flint, Cy Kendall. Based on charcaters created by Earl Derr Biggers. Director: Phil Rosen.

   When it comes to James Bond, Roger Moore is by far my favorite actor to portray 007. When it comes to super-sleuth Charlie Chan, Swedish-born actor Warner Oland is the actor who I most associate with the role. That’s not to say that other actors haven’t portrayed Bond or Chan with conviction and skill. It’s just that when asked to develop a mental picture of either fictional character, Moore or Oland immediately come to mind.

   That being said, I am far from close-minded when it comes to different actors portraying the playboy spy or the Chinese aphorism-wielding police detective. Although I can’t claim that Sidney Toler is my top Chan, I still consider Charlie Chan and the Wax Museum (1940) (reviewed here), a film in which Toler gave a solid performance, to be a highly worthwhile, if still deeply flawed, crime film.

   The same can’t be said for The Chinese Cat. Directed by Phil Rosen, this installment in the Charlie Chan series is a real disappointment. Although the movie begins on a somewhat promising note with a locked room mystery in which a businessman is shot to death alone in his study.

   But the movie soon descends into an inchoate mess in which various crime film elements are employed, all without any coherent effect. There’s a love affair between a detective and the dead man’s daughter; a criminologist who has written a book about the aforementioned murder; a gang of jewel thieves; twin brothers; and various attempts on Chan’s life.

   Adding to the disappointment is the clumsy inclusion of the character of Birmingham Brown (Mantan Moreland), an African-American cabbie who chauffeurs Charlie and Number Three Son (Benson Fong) around town as they race against the clock to solve not one, but three murders.

   By the time it all wraps up, it takes a great deal of energy to care about the identity of the murderers, let alone about the reasons why everything went down the way it did.

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