Jonathan Lewis’s book, entitled Ancient Egyptian Supernatural Tales, will be published by Stark House Press this coming July. The work is a collection of stories assembled and introduced by Jonathan and is best described as follows:

   “A superb collection of stories in which ancient Egyptian mysticism, mummies, and other supernatural occurrences play a significant role, including tales by Edgar Allan Poe, Louisa May Alcott, Arthur Conan Doyle, Tennessee Williams, H. Rider Haggard, Algernon Blackwood, Sax Rohmer and more.”

   The work also includes a lengthy critical introduction to the ancient Egyptian supernatural tale sub-genre of horror fiction. For those of you interested in purchasing the book, you can pre-order your copy now directly through Stark House Press’s website here.

From violinist and lead singer Rani Arbo’s 2001 release Cocktail Swing, her group’s first CD:

FRANK KANE – Poisons Unknown. Ives Washburn, hardcover, 1953. Dell 822, paperback, 1955; Dell D334, paperback, January 1960.

   This is the seventh of 29 Johnny Liddell PI novels plus two short story collections. Liddell’s career started way in 1944 with the story “Murder at Face Value” appearing in the January 1944 issue of Crack Detective Stories, not the highest level of pulp magazines but it was a start. His first appearance in hardcover was About Face, published by Mystery House in 1947.

   In Poisons Unknown, Liddell heads for New Orleans to find a Holy Roller preacher in flowing white robes who’s gone missing. Liddell is working for a mob boss whose crime and corruption Brother Alfred has been sermonizing heavily against. If Alfred is dead, Marty Kirk fears he will be blamed.

   Or is Kirk just using Liddell to set up and eliminate Alfred? That’s what has Liddell puzzled. There is a twist or two, maybe three, in the story that follows, but only one may come as a surprise to anyone who’s spent their lifetime reading old PI novels such as this one.

   All in all, this one’s no more than average but far from mediocre and not nearly as formulaic as Kane was later, only mildly sex-obsessed but interrupted every so often by highly choreographed violence, and easily forgotten by the next morning.

REVIEWED BY JONATHAN LEWIS:


DIAL 1119. MGM, 1950. Marshall Thompson, Virginia Field, Andrea King, Sam Levene, Leon Ames, Keefe Brasselle, Richard Rober, James Bell, William Conrad. Director: Gerald Mayer.

   There are a few things about Dial 1119 that make it particularly unique. Most noticeably, the film is largely bereft of any music, background or otherwise, giving it a rather somber, claustrophobic atmosphere. Which is fitting given the film is about an escaped murderer named Gunther Wyckoff (Marshall Thompson) holding a ragtag group hostage at a neon-lit watering hole.

   The sensibility is pure noir, as one cannot help but feel the undercurrent of despair and hopelessness. Lurking in the background are the aftereffects of the Second World War and its impact on postwar American society.

   Also adding to the film’s uniqueness are two additional elements that, in my estimation, work in its favor.

   First, the cast largely consists of actors and actresses who weren’t top billed names in the business. Crime film fanatics will surely appreciate Sam Levene and William Conrad. But neither of them is present in the movie for very long. Instead, the focus is really front and center on Marshall Thompson, who you may recognize from the sci-fi classic, It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958). Trust me when I say that he’s very good in this and plays his part to the hilt. There’s something about his expressionless face that makes his character particularly memorable.

   Second, the film serves as a seething and prescient indictment of news media saturation in which tragic events are transformed into spectator sports designed for mass public consumption. Like many of the best crime films, Dial 1119 tells us as much about the society that produced the criminal as the criminal himself.

   Overall, Dial 1119 is worth a look. I didn’t know all that much about the movie going in, but after watching it, I can easily imagine myself returning for a second viewing sometime in the years ahead.

REVIEWED BY DAVID VINEYARD:


THE ILLUSTRATED DETECTIVE MAGAZINE. September 1931; 10¢, 122pp, 9″ x 12.”

   This slick magazine distributed through Woolworths and published by Tower Books, is surely one of the strangest detective magazines of that or any other era. The full title includes The Illustrated Detective Magazine, Thrilling and Romantic Mysteries of Real Life, billed as “The Most Unusual Detective Magazine You Can Buy at any Price.”

   The magazine was aimed at women running from 1929 to 1932 and changed its title after thirty three issues to Mystery. Not all the stories are romantic in nature, though the bias in favor of women readers is fairly evident.

   The Illustrated Detective Magazine is an odd mix of disparate material. There are true crime and confession-style articles like “The Woman Who Paid With Her Life” by ‘a Police Official’ about the murder of blackmailer Vivian Gordon; “The Iron Czar” by Jim Roberts about early New York gangster Iron Man Becker; and “He Risked All for the Thrilling Chance,” asking what happened to the crusading detective/reporter of an earlier age, as well as beauty and cooking aids and articles on scientific detection.

   The issue’s fiction opens with a story called “Received Payment,” unbilled to any author but described as ‘another’ crime busting account of Mary Shane, who turns out to be an attractive semi-independent sleuth in this case helping to put bootleggers out of business who sell poisoned bathtub gin. It’s a fairly tough little story and Mary Shane tough as nails in her underworld dealings, if not particularly realistic or believable. It’s closer to the dime novel than hard boiled. This and some other features are illustrated with dramatized photographs while some have black and white illustrations, mostly handsomely done in wash rather than line, thanks to the slicker paper.

   This issue features the opening installment of “The Hollywood Bridal Night Murder” by Octavius Roy Cohen, featuring his popular fat jovial canny sleuth Jim Hanvey. Cohen was a sure seller on the front of magazines of the period, and Hanvey was popular enough to have two film outings. It’s standard Cohen fare, meaning entertaining but nothing special. You won’t be all that driven to find the later installments or the book publication unless you are an obsessive sort.

   The second big story in the issue is “The Egyptian Necklace” by R. T. M. Scott, an adventure of Aurelius Smith, a private detective who would form the basis for Richard Wentworth and the Spider when Scott wrote the first entry in that series. While the story is dated, it shows the strengths and weaknesses of the Smith series and Scott’s writing, and is the most pulp-like of the stories in this issue. It’s probably the story most readers here will enjoy the most, with its hints of melodrama and mystery from the East.

   Major fiction entry number three is a humorous tale by Ellis Parker Butler, “The Heckly Hill Murder” featuring ‘Oliver Spotts, the Near Detective of Mud Cove, Long Island.’ It is a moderately amusing romp by a well known humorist of his time, but mindful too that whimsey doesn’t always survive the passage of time. It shows Butler’s talents to good effect but how a modern reader reacts to it is anyone’s guess.

   The rest of the magazine includes a sort of fictionalized expose called “The Queen of the Beggars” by James Jeffrey O’Brien, about a young man who runs afoul to the beautiful and dangerous self styled ‘queen’ of the big city beggars. There are also some rather sensational ‘true confession’ pieces, a bit on code-breaking, a plea and offer of a $1,000 reward for information leading to the discovery of Judge Crater, and articles on fingerprinting and other aspects of police work, interspersed with ads for Woolworths, articles sold at Woolworths, and publications of Tower Books.

   All in all it is a very odd little magazine, but a pretty good bargain for a dime if you happened to be shopping in Woolworths. This was the third issue, and it continued until 1932 in more or less the same vein. It is certainly one of the stranger magazines of its type I’ve run across.

Here’s the title track from this Texas singer-songwriter’s second album (RCA, 1976):

Reviewed by DAN STUMPF:


SEBASTIEN JAPRISOT – The 10:30 from Marseilles. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1963. Pocket, paperback, 1964. Souvenir Press, UK, hardcover, 1964. Originally published as Compartiment Tueurs, Paris, 1962; translated into English by Francis Price.

THE SLEEPING CAR MURDERS. Fox, 1966. First released in France, 1965, as Compartiment tueurs. Yves Montand, Simone Signoret, Jean-Louiis Trintingnant, Michel Piccoli, Catherine Allegret and Jacques Perrin. Written and directed by Costa-Gravas.

   Two approaches to the same story, with striking differences.

   In the book, the 10:30 a.m. train from Marseilles pulls into Paris and the guy who cleans out the cars finds a dead woman, strangled in her berth (one of six) in a sleeping car. The Police begin their investigation at the logical place: find out who else was in that compartment and see what they know.

   Inspector Graziani and his assistant Jean-Lou get the unenviable assignment of tracking them down, with the dubious help of their superior, a sub-chief who likes to talk in pithy but useless aphorisms (“Cover everything. It’s always where you don’t look….”) whereupon….

   We cut to Berth 226 and the man who used it last night: What he was doing there, how he interacted with the other passengers, and his reaction on finding out the Police want to talk to him. Then, as he rehearses his story, someone comes up from behind and shoots him.

   Graziani and Jean-Lou, meanwhile, are still running down leads and find themselves with a problem: One passenger tells them there was a berth unoccupied; another passenger insists there was a man in it; and the woman who bought the ticket maintains she was there all night.

   Then we cut to another Berth and the woman who used it; what she was doing on the train, what she saw there, and a long bit about her background. She tells the Police everything she knows, and after they leave, someone comes up from behind and shoots her.

   And so it goes as we follow the investigating officers, then switch to another passenger… who also ends up dead. And then another. And then… well, you get the idea; someone is killing everyone who was on the train that night. But why? And how is the killer finding them?

   Then, as we’re running out of berths, the pattern breaks and we get the answer to the riddle of the not-empty bed. We also get a charming tale of young love and youthful idiocy, mixed with a tense cat-and-mouse between the police, the killer, and his last victim.

   Japrisot’s puzzle is a tricky one, and I applaud his craftsmanship, but I have to say things tend to drag a bit when he details the lives of his passenger/victims. It’s as if he’s more interested in the puzzle than the characters — and it shows.

   Costa-Gravas’s film suffers from something similar; things drag seriously when he gets into the minutia of the characters involved, but he manages to save the effort with some sly visual tricks and camerawork that manages to be stylish without showing off.

   Interestingly, he also chooses to reconstruct the story in linear fashion. We start with everyone getting on board before the murder, see them interact, understand the problem of the empty berth right from the start, and get involved with the young klutzes who end up being pursued by the killers.

   Yves Montand has the dog-weary look appropriate for a police detective, and Simone Signoret radiates her usual overstuffed star power, but the most interesting performances come from Catherine Allegret and Daniel Perrin as a pair of youngsters caught up in the machinations of Japrisot’s tricky plot. Together they convey the kind of emotional reality one finds in the best films of Francois Truffaut, and I found myself wanting to see more of their affairs and less of the murders, well-done though they are.

   And one other nod to cinematic convention: Where the book wraps up with off-page arrests, interviews and confessions, the movie ends with a car chase and shoot-out; well done, but I still wanted to see more of those crazy kids.

« Previous PageNext Page »