WITHOUT LOVE. MGM, 1945. Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Lucille Ball, Keenan Wynn, Carl Esmond, Patricia Morison. Director: Harold S. Bucquet.

   When a wartime inventor comes to Washington, he finally finds a room with a young widow who is also a great admirer of science. He has had experiences with love; she has had enough love to fill a lifetime. Result: a platonic marriage. You can take it from there.

   While Tracy tries to be as hard as nails, and can’t, Katharine Hepburn combines a certain kind of buoyancy with girlish primness. In 1945 she was also extremely beautiful, and it’s worth wading through all the stagey dialogue and moth-eaten plot just to see her.

— Reprinted from Mystery*File #24,, August 1990.



PATRICIA MOYES – Down Among the Dead Men. Henry & Emmy Tibbets #2. Holt Rinehart & Winston, US, hardcover, 1961. Ballantine U2240, US, paperback, April 1965. Henry Holt, US, paperback, 1986. First published in the UK as The Sunken Sailor (Collins, hardcover, 1961).

   When the Tibbetts go on vacation, murder a usual is not far behind. Invited by friends to go sailing for a week in the North Seam they discover themselves instead find the killer of a man temporarily marooned on a fog-covered sandbank.

   For a while in this book there is more talk about boating than I cared to know, but once the mystery begins, the at least full attention is paid to it. There are lots of clues, most very well hidden, and except for a middle portion which sags rather predictably, this is fine stuff.

— Reprinted from Mystery*File #23,, July 1990. (very slightly revised).


Bibliographic Notes:   Henry Tibbett was an Inspector, later Chief Superintendent, with Scotland Yard. Somehow or another, his wife Emmy invariably found herself mixed up in many if not all of his cases. Nineteen of their adventures together were published between 1959 and 1993. Patricia Moyes died in the year 2000 at the age of 77.

THE BACKWARD REVIEWER
William F. Deeck


CHRISTOPHER BUSH – The Perfect Murder Case. Ludovic Travers #2. Wm Heinemann, UK, hardcover, 1929. Doubleday Crime Club, US, hardcover, 1929. US hardcover reprints: P. F. Collier & Son; Grosset & Dunlap [no dates given]. UK hardcover reprint: Howard Baker Ltd, 1970.

   A letter sent to the London dailies and to Scotland Yard tells them that the writer, “Marius,” is going to commit the perfect murder. A second letter is transmitted giving further information, and then a third and final letter sets forth the night and in what area the crime will be committed.

   The murder takes place as outlined, and it indeed appears to be a perfect one. The murdered man is apparently detested by all who know him, including his nephews who stand to inherit a goodly sum. But while Scotland Yard’s investigation focuses on the nephews, each has what seems to be an unimpeachable alibi.

   What Marius had not counted on, however, is the interest taken in the case by Durangos Unlimited and its Enquiry Agency, aided and abetted by the curiosity and insights of Ludovic Travers. Without them, Scotland Yard would have remained baffled, despite the thoroughness of its investigation.

   This is an excellent example of a mystery from the golden age, well written and interesting. If I have any complaint about it, it would be that Travers is not more prominent throughout the book.

— Reprinted from CADS 15, November 1990. Email Geoff Bradley for subscription information.


Bibliographic Note:   Ludovic Travers appeared in a grand total of 61 detective novels, spanning a time period of over 40 years, from 1926 to 1968.

CONRAD ALLEN – Murder on the Mauretania. George Porter Dillman & Genevieve Masefield #2. St. Martin’s Press, hardcover, December 2000; paperback, January 2002. Gerald Duckworth and Co Ltd, UK, softcover, 2002.

   If I can’t read a mystery taking place on a train, the next best thing is one that takes place on an ocean liner crossing either the Atlantic or the Pacific. It’s a happy combination of travel, limited access, and the proximity of new people to meet — and once a murder has been committed, a whole list of possible suspects.

   This second adventure in crime for the detective twosome of George Porter Dillman and Genevieve Masefield takes place in 1906 aboard the maiden voyage of the Mauretania, the pride of the Cunard Line — the biggest and the fastest at the time and for many years to come. They met in Murder on the Lusitania, the first book in the series and are now not only co-workers on board ship, but lovers as well.

   Conrad Allen certainly did his research before tackling this book, and it shows. Details of life aboard all three the ship’s passenger levels are described in detail, from the elegance of first class as compared to the cramped quarters of third.

   The book starts out leisurely enough, with the only crimes Dillman is required to investigate are some thefts of silver jewelry, and he very quickly has his eye on the most likely suspect. But after a hige afternoon squall, the man has disappeared. He’s nowhere to be found. Has it anything to due with a fortune in gold bullion the ship is also carrying?

   You bet it does.

   And lest you think Genevieve Masefield has nothing to with the story, her portion of the job is to mingle with the passengers in first class, and keep on eye on an elegant lady who seems to have nothing in common with the man who is masquerading as her husband.

   A long, nearly 300 pages of fine, sophisticated detective work. I think Dillman and Masefield could not help but love their jobs!

       The George Porter Dillman and Genevieve Masefield series —

1. Murder on the Lusitania (1999)

2. Murder On the Mauretania (2000)
3. Murder On the Minnesota (2002)
4. Murder on the Caronia (2003)
5. Murder on the Marmora (2004)

6. Murder on the Salsette (2005)
7. Murder on the Oceanic (2006)
8. Murder on the Celtic (2007)

NOTE:   Conrad Allen is but one of the pen names to have been used by British author Keith Miles, aka David Garland, Martin Inigo, Edward Marston, and Christopher T Mountjoy.

THEY CALL IT SIN. First National Pictures, 1932. Loretta Young, George Brent, Una Merkel, David Manners, Helen Vinson, Louis Calhern. Director: Thornton Freeland.

   The biggest attraction this small unprepossessing pre-Code film has is luminously beautiful Loretta Young, only 19 years old at the time and an actress you just knew was going somewhere, even in 1932.

   It’s kind of a silly film, but with themes I’m sure resonated with audiences at the time, in the depths of the Depression. When a traveling salesman of sorts (David Manners) hits a small town in Kansas, he’s already engaged to a girl back in Manhattan, and he has no idea he’ll find himself so completely smitten by the girl he finds playing the organ in church on Sunday morning.

   Her parents have small town values, but Marion Cullen doesn’t share them. There is a reason for that, which I won’t go into, and she sees in Jimmy a way to leave her particular small town behind, and she does, following him to New York, thinking that he loves her.

   Which he does, deeply, but as I mentioned up above, he already have a fiancée, and reluctantly he does the honorable thing. But what this does is leave Marian on her own in the big city, a theme of forbidden fruit, I imagine, to small-town audiences.

   She does all right, though, and I doubt that you will be surprised to have me tell you that. First she hooks up with another would-be Broadway starlet named Dixie Dare (Una Merkel), but then has to fend off the advances of a lecherous but well-known producer.

   Nor is he the only one. A doctor friend of Jimmy (George Brent) has his eyes on her, too. Beauty, it seems, is not to be denied.

   It is around this point of its running time that the film takes on a somewhat darker tone, but even though this film has been released on DVD as part of a box set of pre-Code movies, there are only hints of really dastardly stuff. We do get to see the charming Dixie Dark romping around in her room in her lingerie, though, which is a fact that seems well worth mentioning. Mostly, though, this is entertaining fun, a film that today would be hard-pressed to even make it into the PG category.

BASIL HEATTER – Virgin Cay [+] A Night Out. Stark House, trade paperback; 1st printing, July 2017. Includes Virgin Cay (Gold Medal, paperback original, 1963) and A Night Out (Popular Library, paperback original, 1956). Introduction by Steve Lewis.

   The book actually needs no introduction, not if you’ve read my reviews of the two paperback novels that comprise this just published reprint of both, here:

http://mysteryfile.com/blog/?p=47342

and here:

http://mysteryfile.com/blog/?p=47173

   Of course, you could go back and read both reviews and then buy the Stark House combo, which not too surprisingly, if you think about it, I do recommend.

           

YOUNG FURY. Paramount Pictures, 1965. Rory Calhoun, Virginia Mayo, William Bendix, Lon Chaney [Jr.], Richard Arlen, John Agar, Preston Pierce, Jody McCrea, Merry Anders. Story & screenplay: Steve Fisher. Producer: A. C. Lyles. Director: Christian Nyby.

   An outlaw who’s turned against his former gang (Rory Calhoun) returns to his hometown to make a stand against them, but in the meantime his son (Preston Pierce), having grown up alone, has formed his own gang of hooligans, and his burning desire is to spit in his father’s face for deserting him.

   This mixture of the standard western with the juvenile delinquent saga of the 50’s misses on almost all cylinders, Richard Arlen, as the stalwart but luckless sheriff, might be pleased with his role in this movie, but except for William Bendix in a cameo part, nobody else.

PostScript:   William Bendix died in 1964, and this was his last movie role. He played both dim-witted villains and comedy roles with equal ease. I can’t think of anyone who did it better.

— Reprinted from Mystery*File #24,, August 1990. (very slightly revised).


KEITH LAUMER – The Other Side of Time. Imperium agent Brion Bayard #2. Berkley F1129, paperback original; 1st printing, August 1965. Signet, paperback, November 1972. Collected in Beyond the Imperium (Tor, paperback, 1981) with Assignment in Nowhere (1968). Also collected in Imperium (Baen, paperback, 2005) by adding Worlds of the Imperium (1962) to the preceding volume. First hardcover edition: Walker, 1971. Originally serialized in Fantastic Stories, April-June 1965.

   From the title you might expect this to be a time-travel novel, and it is, but only in a way. What it really is is a novel of parallel universes, each separated from the other by the slimmest fabric of branched-off possibilities. What the world ruled by the Imperiumis is is an alternate Earth, one in which subtle differences between that world and ours are slowly but surely designed to be picked up on. (The time travel aspect comes in when it is discovered that in some parallel universes time travels at a different rate than it does in others.)

   It might be best to read Worlds of Imperium, the first in the series, before tackling this one. The Other Side of Time is a mapcap adventure in time and space that starts out in high gear and then notches the action up every two or three chapters along the way. What leading protagonist Bryon Bayard, based in Stockholm Zero-Zero, learns almost at once is that his world is being invaded by the orge-ish creatures called the Hagroon, and unless he does something about it, he will be the only one who survives. The rest of the books consists of him fighting a one-man resistance against the invaders, and as he does so, getting tossed this way and that in world after world, sometimes a captive and sometimes an utterly abandoned castaway.

   As a man of some endurance and ingenuity, Bayard is a MacGyver of his time times ten. It is a lot of fun seeing him juryrigging a shuttle based on a box and a few magnetic coils and setting off across a space-time continuum otherwise completely impossible to fathom — except in the imagination of an author like Keith Laumer.

   I cannot do better than to quote directly from page 152 of the Signet edition:

   The transparent helmet was in place, all the contacts tight. Dzok made a couple of quick checks, gave me the O sign with his fingers that meant all systems were go. I put my hand on the “activate” button and took my usual deep breath. If Dzok’s practice was as good as his theory, the rewired S-suit would twist the fabric of reality in a different manner than its designers had intended, stress the E-field of the normal continuum in a way that would expel me, like a watermelon seed squeezed in the fingers, into that curious non-temporal state of null entropy — the other side of time, as he poetically called it.

   If it worked, that was.

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Robert J. Randisi


J. F. BURKE – Location Shots. New York: Harper & Row, hardcover, 1974. Charter, paperback, 1980.

   This is the first of three medium-hard-boiled detective novels featuring Sam Kelly, the resident house dick at the Hotel Castlereagh on Seventy-second Street in Manhattan. Kelly is black, bald, and forty — one of the more recent black series detectives in crime fiction. His girlfriend is Madam Bobbie, a voluptuous blonde who lives in the hotel across the square, the Charmain Towers — but her girls do most of their work out of the Castlereagh.

   As this book opens, Sam and Madam Bobbie are awakened in her apartment by police sirens. They discover that the street in front of both hotels is full of cops, and Sam goes down to investigate. As it turns out, a woman in room 8A of Kelly’s hotel, Anna Jensen, was murdered during the night. Kelly knows for a fact that a friend of his, David Christopher, who lived in 9A, was a “friend” of the dead woman’s, but when he goes to 9A, he finds his friend dead as well.

   At odds with Commander Fuseli, the cop in charge, Sam also finds himself involved with characters indigenous only to New York, as well as talking birds and a search for a manuscript and a tape recording that might lead to the killer.

   Burke uses the city of New York so well that it virtually becomes another character in this novel and in the subsequent books in the series. Sam Kelly is also featured in Death Trick (1975) and Kelly Among the Nightingales (1979).

         ———
   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:   Burke also wrote two books about a nightclub pianist named Joe Streeter: The Kama Sutra Tango (Harper, 1977) and Crazy Woman Blues (Dutton, 1978).

REVIEWED BY JONATHAN LEWIS:


MAN WITHOUT A STAR. Universal International, 1955. Kirk Douglas, Jeanne Crain, Claire Trevor, William Campbell, Richard Boone, Jay C. Flippen, Screenplay by Borden Chase & D. D. Beauchamp, based on a novel by Dee Linford (1952). Director: King Vidol.

   It starts off promising enough. Frankie Lane’s title song plays while we see a black train belching billows of smoke into a blue Western sky as it traverses a long barren landscape. The theme soon becomes obvious, that of how fencing in grassland with barbed wire represents the beginning of the end for the Old West. All indications are that the primary story Man Without a Star is designed to tell is that of one man’s unfruitful quest to battle the forces of technological progress as it advances across the frontier.

   Problem is: the movie loses this central focus and, as it drifts further away from what could have been a unifying them, it ends up being more of a mixed-up muddled affair that doesn’t pack nearly the punch of the movie it should have.

   Kirk Douglas portrays Dempsey Rae, a cowboy from Texas who has made his way out to Wyoming to work as a cowhand. His reason for leaving Texas is simple: he doesn’t like barbed wire and the concomitant range wars that arise when greedy ranchers use it to claim grassland as their own. So, along with Jeff Jimson (William Campbell), his newfound green young friend that he takes under his wing, Dempsey goes to work for lady ranch owner Reed Bowman (Jeanne Crain). Soon enough Dempsey discovers that Reed’s rivals are using barbed wire to enclose their grassland. From then on, it’s game on. Dempsey is going to side with his new employer and lover.

   Soon enough, however, Dempsey realizes that the seductive Reed is just as much a scoundrel as any avaricious male rancher. Case in point is her hiring of gunslinger Steve Miles (Richard Boone) to put the squeeze on her rivals. Before long, Dempsey’s world is turned upside down. His new friend Jeff betrays him, Reed deserts him, and he’s working for the ranchers who are using barbed wire – the stuff he hates more than anything else in the world.

   Nothing in this movie ever gels. There are too many subplots and thematic elements that are raised but which are never fully explored, thus detracting from the movie’s would-be central theme, that a single man attempting to outrun the closing of the American frontier.

   For instance, there’s the introduction of Idonee (Claire Trevor), a local madam who seemingly has known Dempsey for many years. The film doesn’t exactly know what to do with her, so she appears, then disappears, then comes back again to play the role of Dempsey’s personal savior. Similarly, the father-son cycle of life relationship between Dempsey and Jeff seems artificial and forced.

   Then there’s the case of the murder that takes place in the opening minutes of the film, in which an itinerant traveler on the same train as Dempsey and Jeff kills a man. The murder, along with the introduction of the town’s sheriff to investigate the crime when the train comes to a halt, just happens and never comes up again.

   This is my main criticism of Man Without a Star. A lot of stuff just happens, making the movie, despite a solid performance by Douglas, a bit too formulaic for its own good.

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