PHILIP R. CRAIG – The Double-Minded Man. Jeff Jackson #3. Cbarles Scribner’s Sons, hardcover, 1992. Avon, paperback, 1993. Reissued as Vineyard Deceit: Avon, paperback, 2003.

   I thought a previous book about the ex-Boston cop on Martha’s Vineyard was pretty lightweight. I felt much the same about this one. The plot revolves around an Arab potentate who is on the island to reclaim an heirloom stolen by one of the island inhabitants’ ancestors many years ago. Murders occur (naturally), and both Jackson and his ladylove, Zee, are placed in jeopardy.

   I still like Craig’s breezy style okay, still think Zee’s an attractive character, still enjoy the background, and still am not offended by the hero. But the plot still isn’t much, and I just don’t think it all comes together in any remarkable fashion. It’s not a bad book, and there are worse ways to pass a dull afternoon; there are a lot better, too. Library only.

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


ZEPPELIN. Warner Brothers, US/UK, 1971. Michael York, Elke Sommer, Peter Carsten, Rupert Davies, Marius Goring, Anton Diffring, Andrew Keir, Alexandra Stewart. Screenplay by Arthur Rowe & Donald Churchill, based on a story by Owen Crump. Directed by Etienne Pèrier.

   This big wartime adventure film often looks good, and has some decent photography and special effects, but it’s as leisurely as some of E. Phillips Oppenheim’s World War I diplomatic spy novels, which it too often resembles, when it could use a healthy dose of John Buchan-style action or even William LeQueux melodrama.

   Michael York is perfectly cast as Lt. Geoffrey Richter-Douglas, a Scot of mixed German background assigned to a desk at Whitehall, thanks to his vertigo, when London is attacked from the air and bombed by German zeppelins for the first time. The country is in a panic, the government is asking questions, and unknown to Geoffrey, he is in the cross-hairs of Captain Whitney of British Naval intelligence (Rupert Davies) under the direction of the famous Admiral Needles Hall (Richard Hurdnall) — the brilliant British spy who uncovered the famous Zimmerman telegram — and German Military Intelligence in the person of seductive Alexandra Stewart.

   When the Germans try to recruit Geoffrey to defect, he learns that is exactly what his people want him to do, defect and use his contacts in Germany, notably Professor Anschul (Marius Goring) to get a look at the new zeppelin he is developing. In no time Geoffrey is in Germany, where he discovers his knowledge of Scotland is part of a German plan by Colonel Hirsch (Anton Diffring) and Major Tautner (Peter Carsten) to use the new zeppelin to destroy British morale once and for all and end the war.

   Complicating things are Professor Anschul’s beautiful younger wife Erika (Elke Sommer), who sees right through Geoffrey, but doesn’t care he is a spy so long as her husband isn’t hurt.

   In short order, Geoffrey finds himself on board the zeppelin commander by Captain Von Goirer (Andrew Kier) under the watchful eyes of Hirsh and Tautner on its mission to destroy the treasures of the British empire stored in an abandoned Scottish castle in the highlands for the duration, trying to survive and contact his people.

   There is a fairly exciting raid on the castle, somewhat undercut in that the hero stands around for the duration with his hands in the air, then a nicely shot attack on the zeppelin by the RAF as they try to escape with Geoffrey on board, then the film just sort of fizzles to the end with nothing much resolved except most of the cast is dead and the rest are wet, and considering Sommer is covered to the throat in coveralls for most of the picture, even her wet in a white blouse is a let down.

   Zeppelin is by no means a bad movie. It is perfectly cast, it looks great, and if it had been made in the 1930‘s it would likely be one of my favorite films, but if had been made then, it would be half an hour or more shorter, and not waste so much time on a preachy anti-war message that never rises to the level of irony, so it just gets in the way.

   A much better film would have been to do it tongue in cheek in the manner of The Assassination Bureau, but that isn’t the film they made. As it is, made in Technicolor and widescreen in 1971, it isn’t dull, but it isn’t very exciting either, a fatal flaw for a big screen action epic. Still, if you ever wanted to see a Technicolor film of an Oppenheim WWI era spy novel, minus the slapstick and musical numbers of Blake Edwards’ Darling Lily, this is pretty much your best bet.

William F. Deeck

FRANKLIN MAYFAIR – Over My Dead Body. Book Company of America #009, paperback original, 1965.

   Rodney Valino, soon not to be a publicity man for Magno-Feierstrein Studios, has as a last assignment the publicity for Antietam, a Civil War epic starring one of the most detested men in Hollywood, Robey Hardin. Among other things, Hardin is a lecher and perhaps a blackmailer, and he has ruined several careers. He is also responsible for Valino’s losing his job.

   With most of the people involved in the new picture hating Hardin passionately, it is no surprise that he is murdered during filming. Because of Hardin’s proclivities, suspects are numerous. But the police, among them a friend of Valino’s, have their eye on the publicity man. Because of this, Valino feels he must detect on his own. He identifies the murderer and puts his life at risk, somewhat to his surprise.

   This is an amusing, literate and well-plotted novel that should have been picked up by a major publisher.

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

Bio-Bibliographic Notes:   Franklin Mayfair was the pen name of Felix Mendelsohn, Jr. (1906-1990). This is the only crime novel he wrote under either name. Under his own name, he was also the author of “two unremarkable comic sf novels, Club Tycoon Sends Man to Moon (BCA, pbo, 1965) and Superbaby (Nash, hc, 1969; Paperback Library, 1970).” Thanks to the Science Fiction Encyclopedia for the quote.

   Book Company of America was a short-lived paperback published based in Beverly Hills CA. In the years 1964-65 they published a total of 17 books, three of which are regarded as criminous and included by Al Hubin in his comprehensive bibliography of the field, Crime Fiction IV.

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Karol Kay Hope

GEORGE BAXT – The Affair at Royalties. Scribners, hardcover, 1972. Intl Polygonics Ltd., paperback, 1988. First published in the UK by Macmillan, hardcover, 1971.

   George Baxt is best known for his Pharaoh Love trilogy — a series of murder mysteries written in the late 1960s and set in the underground of homosexual New York. The books feature a bizarre homosexual black police detective, Pharaoh Love. Another Baxt series features the popular detective duo Sylvia Plotkin and Max Van Larsen, a pair of wacky lovers and sometime partners in crime detection who run across like-minded wackos in the melting pot of New York City.

   The Affair at Royalties is no less interesting than the above, although certainly more conservative. A good-looking and brilliant young Englishwoman regains consciousness in what they tell her is her very own bed. She has suffered a total memory loss, nerve-racking in itself, but to make matters worse, she is also the suspect in a brutal murder of which, of course, she has no memory.

   She can’t even remember which of the men at her bedside is her husband, much less if she loves him or not, so she makes eyes at one of them anyway. Unfortunately, he turns out to be the local homicide inspector, and the relationship begins on a rocky note.

   As she slowly regains her memory, she finds she is a notorious mystery-story writer. We watch her put her extraordinary analytic mind (and loud mouth) to work solving the mystery of her own amnesia, risking- — with true “liberated” woman chutzpah — the possibility that she will, in the process, indict herself for murder.

   Good characters, plot, movement, and a particularly nice rendition of what happens when the strong female meets the strong male: Will they destroy each other or fall in love?

   Other notable Baxt titles are A Queer Kind of Death (1966), with Pharaoh Love, and “I!” Said the Demon (1969), with Plotkin and Van Larsen.

   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.


D-DAY ON MARS. Republic Pictures, 1946. Feature version of the movie serial The Purple Monster Strikes (1945). Dennis Moore, Linda Stirling, Roy Barcroft, James Craven, Bud Geary, Mary Moore. Directors: Spencer Gordon Bennet & Fred C. Brannon.

   Back in the mid-60s someone got hold of a bunch of Serials from the ’40s, cut them down to 90 Minutes (from their original four hour plus running time!) and sold them to TV as feature films. D-Day on Mars is the thus truncated version of The Purple Monster Strikes, an early Republic Serial, and it’s actually pretty good with lots of well-staged fights and nifty cliff-hangers.

   Veteran Heavy Roy Barcroft plays a Martian, come to Earth to steal the plans and prototype for a new Space Rocket so he can go back to Mars, build a mess of ’em and conquer Earth. (Warning!) He doesn’t make it. (End of Warning!)

   As usual in these things, he ties up with a Gangster and they go around stealing or trying to steal Annihilator Beams, Rocket fuel, Magneto-Sensors and whatever else the writers decided they’d fight over that week, and of course Hero Dennis Moore keeps getting in rock’em sock’em slug-feats with the hood and his men.

   For some reason, they almost always fight in groups of three – Maybe it was Union Rules or Family Pride: I see the Stunt-Men saying to the Producer, “We Don’ work ’less-a Tony work-a too.” Whatever the case, in each chapter, there’s a face-off, someone gets the drop on someone else, the gun gets knocked out of his hand and everybody throws punches, furniture and each other around for several minutes until the bad guys get away.

   After awhile, this gets a bit redundant, but this one’s mostly fun, with inventive stunt-work and some nice comic-bookish sets and costumes.

WILLARD E. HAWKINS – The Cowled Menace. Sears Publishing Co., hardcover, 1930. Wildside Press, softcover, 2008.

   If I were to guess, I’d say you’re thinking “Ku Klux Klan” right about now, but, no, instead of novel involving the white sheets of racial intolerance, the cowled menace of this early detective story is that of monkshood, the wild flower whose poisonous brew has become a traditional part of the legend of Theseus and Medea.

   Yes, a detective story, told in that glorious but supremely artificial style of the Golden Age of detective stories. Doing the sleuth-work is the famous Balmore O’Day. criminologist, investigator extraordinary, complete with a less brilliant assistant named Gillespie, who tells the story of how, in spite of three eye-witnesses, a man is cleared of murdering the husband of the woman he loves.

   The naive simplicity of this book is about as far from today’s ultra-gritty police procedurals as you can possibly imagine, taking place in a timeless world of never-was that yet could be yesterday. or 50 years ago. At times tinged with the purplish prose of Gothic terror, and utterly hopeless as a document of social significance, nevertheless this only mystery novel of Willard Hawkins still provides an evening’s worth of entertainment.

   It never promised more than that.

Rating: C minus.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 2, No. 4, July 1978 (slightly revised).

Bio-Bibliographic Note: Reprinted from the Tellers of Weird Tales website:

    “Willard E. Hawkins was born on September 27, 1887, in Fairplay, Colorado, and seems to have lived in Colorado all his life. He was a writer, editor, publisher, public speaker, and proprietor of World Press, Inc., all without benefit of a college degree. According to the [online] The FictionMags Index his first magazine credit was “The Human Factor” in The Blue Book Magazine, September 1912. Hawkins also contributed to Breezy Stories, The Cavalier, Chicago Ledger, The Green Book Magazine, The Red Book Magazine, Western Outlaws, Western Rangers, and Western Trails, among others.”

KENN DAVIS – Acts of Homicide. Fawcett Gold Medal, paperback original; 1st printing, October 1989.

   Here’s an example of another series of private eye novels that I managed to accumulate most — if not all of — back when they were being published, but until now this is the first I’ve read. Or maybe the second, as the first in the series came out in 1976, and sometimes it’s difficult to think back that far and be sure.

   In any case, the PI in question is Carver Bascombe, who is black and who works in the Berkeley, California, area. Unfortunately, in this, the seventh of his eight appearances, there’s not much else that’s said about him. He tends to be taciturn, shrugs a bit when confronted, and that’s about I can tell you at the moment.

   The case he’s on in Acts of Homicide finds him working undercover as an accountant for a acting company that’s preparing to put on an updated version of Medea. Unfortunately someone seems intent on stopping the production, and his or her attempts to do so are finally sufficient to bring on the police. The book begins with the murder of a young girl who would have liked to have been a member of the cast, but who was only allowed to work behind the scenes instead.

   More murders occur, and besides helping the police, Carver Bascombe finds himself becoming more and more attracted to the officer in charge, a capable enough woman but one whose career depends on her hiding the hide the fact that she is severely disturbed by the sight of dead bodies.

   With lots of suspects to be combed through, this is a detective puzzle through and through, undermined (in my mind) by the fact that the first victim was found nude with all of the blood drained from her — a sensationalistic killing there was no real need for in terms of the plot. Kenn Davis is a very smooth writer, though, especially when it comes to dialogue. On the other hand, an occasional propensity for using exclamation marks in his own narrative was (I thought) a negative.

   All in all, however, this was a decent enough venture that I’d read another, when I come across another in my collection, entertained as well by an author who seems to have known something about putting on plays and the history of the stage.

   In support of that last statement, let me point out that some of the characters’ names in Acts of Homicide are also those of actors in the past, sometimes the far distant past:

         Edmund Kean
         Charlotte Cushman
         Colley Cibber
         Frank Craven
         Barton Booth
         Charles Macklin
         August Iffland

   … and more than likely, a few others I missed.

       The Carver Bascombe series —

The Dark Side. Avon, 1976 [with John Stanley]
The Forza Trap. Avon, 1979.
Words Can Kill. Gold Medal, 1984.
Melting Point.Gold Medal, 1986.
As October Dies. Gold Medal, 1987.
Nijinsky Is Dead. Gold Medal, 1987.
Acts of Homicide. Gold Medal, 1989.
Blood of Poets. Gold Medal, 1990.

Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         

TOURIST TRAP. Compass International Pictures, 1979. Chuck Connors, Jocelyn Jones, Jon Van Ness, Robin Sherwood, Tanya Roberts, Dawn Jeffory, Keith McDermott. Director: David Schmoeller.

   There are slasher films and there are supernatural horror movies. And there are those films that are a bit of both subgenres, movies in which the deranged maniac killer has borderline supernatural abilities. Think John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), in which Michael Myers is both figuratively and literally the Boogeyman.

   Then there’s Tourist Trap, a creepily quixotic slasher film with supernatural elements that are so very over the top as to preclude the movie from making a whole lot of narrative sense. Add in in a beautifully weird main theme by Italian composer Pino Donaggio (heard above) and a crazed leading man performance by Chuck Connors – the Rifleman himself – and you’ve got yourself one totally off kilter, but inescapably fun late seventies horror film.

   Tourist Trap begins as so many other low-budget horror films do; namely, with a group of young attractive girls and a couple of their male friends stranded in the middle of nowhere with car trouble. Then, wouldn’t you know it? A Good Samaritan (Connors) comes along and offers to help the kids with their troubles. The guy’s a little weird and lives alone in a house filled with stuff that belongs in a circus tent, but hey, there’s no one else around, so why not accept the old geezer’s offer.

   So from what I’ve told you, you probably have a fairly soon sense of where the movie is going from here?

   Thing is: you’d be wrong. All because I didn’t mention the mannequins that come to life and kill one of the youngsters during the first five minutes of the film. You see, one of the two guys in our coterie of stranded travelers makes the initial foray into a house up the road while seeking help. Within minutes, mannequins – the type you’d see in a store – come to life and murder him. It’s from then on that you know you’re not watching just another slasher film.

   But still, it’s difficult, without spoilers, to tell you how very weird the movie is going to get. Borrowing elements from Gothic horror, the best atmospheric Hammer films, all American road trip films, and mad scientist films, Tourist Trap ends up being a wild nonsensical ride that is simultaneously darkly comical and genuinely horrifying. The closest horror movie I could use as a point of comparison is The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), which I reviewed here, which is similarly not easy to describe, but hard to forget.

WILLIAM CAMPBELL GAULT – Square in the Middle. Random House, hardcover, December 1955. Bantam #1602, paperback, May 1957.

   Although a very prolific author in his day, I imagine that Gault is remembered now mostly by fans of private eye novels and for his two primary series characters, both members of the profession, Joe Puma and Brock (The Rock) Callahan. Only a small handful of Gault’s crime fiction novels were standalones, of which Square in the Middle is a prime example.

   It’s also a prime example of noir fiction, and if it had even been made into a movie (it never was), it could have been a good one. Picture James Garner, say, as a happily married man, but who, when his wife and two children take a vacation away from home together, meets a very entrancing waif of a woman sitting along in bar (Audrey Hepburn, if we could afford to pay her salary), and all of a sudden, Jim Gulliver becoming exactly as the title says, the square in the middle.

   Lynn Bedloe, as it turns out, is a member in good standing of a gang of friends, some married to each other, some not, although some would like to be, and when Gulliver hesitantly and ever so cautiously tries to learn about Lynn, he finds himself a member of the gang as well, and well over his head.

   And when one of the members of the gang ends up dead, and Gulliver is the first on the murder scene, none of of the connections he has as a well-known member of the community seems to mean anything to a publicity hungry detective who’s assigned to the case.

   Square in the Middle is as much a character study as it is a detective mystery, which takes going back and re-reading certain earlier parts of the book to be sure it all hangs together properly (it does), but if characters who are trying to find their way in the wilderness of suburban 1950s sunny California appeal to you at all, then so will this book.


JONATHAN KELLERMAN – Private Eyes. Alex Delaware #6. Bantam, hardcover, 1992; paperback, October 1992.

   Child psychologist Alex Delaware’s latest case involves people from 20 years in his past. An actress had been assaulted with acid, and become a neurosis-crippled recluse; her 7-year old daughter had called a hospital for help, and Delaware had become involved. The girl, now grown, is calling for his help again. The acid-thrower is out of prison, and the daughter is terrified for her mother again. Then the mother disappears.

   I like the Delaware books, and have from the first. I think he’s a strong, believable character, as is his homosexual policeman friend, and his love interests have been well-handled. I enjoy the psychological background, and for the most part have found it believable. This is not the best in the series, but it’s good, and I recommend it.

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

Bibliographic Note:   Including Breakdown, published this year (2016), there are now 31 books in Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series, with at least one more scheduled for next year

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