SELECTED BY JONATHAN LEWIS:


JACK LONDON “The Enemy of All the World.” First published in Red Book, October 1908. First collected in The Strength of the Strong (Macmillan, 1914). Anthologized several times, including The Science Fiction Stories of Jack London (Citadel Press, hardcover, 1993). Available online by following the link above.

   Jack London’s “The Enemy of all the World” reads more like a work of journalism than a work of fiction. That itself shouldn’t be surprising, given London’s journalism background and extensive corpus of non-fiction writings. What makes this particular short story worth reading, however, is that it’s a work of “journalistic science fiction,” an imaginative recounting of future events from the perspective of the then present.

   Published in the October 1908 issue of Red Book, “The Enemy of All the World” unfolds in purely narrative form. Absent is any dialogue or a writing style that would automatically give it away as a work of fiction. The anonymous, distant narrator recalls the life and times of one Emil Gluck, a neglected child who grew up into a vengeful mad genius and who was executed in 1941. Much like a villain in Jules Verne’s works, Gluck is a scientist socially cut off from a society that scorns him.

   Also similar to those madmen depicted in Verne’s fiction, Gluck utilizes technology to wage a one-man war against the world. Emil Gluck, dastardly villain that he is, utilizes electro-plating – his “apparatus” to wreak havoc with modern technology:

   In the meanwhile Emil Gluck, the malevolent wizard and arch-hater, left no trace as he traveled his whirlwind path of destruction. Scientifically thorough, he always cleaned up after himself. His method was to rent a room or a house, and to secretly install his apparatus— which apparatus, by the way, he so perfected and simplified that it occupied little space. After he had accomplished his purpose he carefully removed the apparatus. He bade fair to live out a long life of horrible crime.

   Fortunately for society, the western powers’ secret services are on Gluck’s trail. It is one intrepid U.S. secret service agent by the name of Silas Bannerman (a perfect name, right?) who finally tracks Gluck down and makes him his prisoner.

   A story with more than a hint of political commentary, “The Enemy of all the World” is worth consideration both as a work of early science fiction and as further evidence that London, who was involved in socialist politics in the Bay Area, had political views that weren’t so easily categorized.

REVIEWED BY BARRY GARDNER:


BRIAN FREEMANTLE – Comrade Charlie. Charlie Muffin #9, hardcover, St. Martin’s, US, hardcover, 1992. First appeared in the UK: Century, hardcover, 1989.

   I think this is the ninth Muffin book — the idiot US publishers have retitled so many that I can’t be positive I haven’t missed one. Regardless of how many, Freemantle has created one of my favorite espionage characters in the scruffy Muffin.

   Charlie is the eternal outsider, the irreverent prole amongst the stuffy aristocrats of England’s secret services. Unfortunately for them, he’s as cunning as a weasel and has a highly developed instinct for self-preservation. He’s already brought down numerous superiors who had thought to rid them-selves of him, and earned several sets of undying enmity in the process. His escapes haven’t been unalloyed with tragedy; his wife was killed in an early book, and he later had to leave a lover behind in Russia.

   As usual, Freemantle starts out with several semi-related plot threads, and brings them ever closer as the tale progresses. Charlie’s immediate superior is after him again with dismissal the least of his aims; an old Russian nemesis of Charlie’s is given the job of stealing some Star Wars technology from a plant in England and decides to get even with Charlie in the process; and he enlists Charlie’s old lover, all unwitting as a part of the plan. Will the lovers be reunited, or destroyed? Will Charlie emerge triumphant again, or will this be the time they get him? Well, you’ll just have to read it and see.

   And you’l1 enjoy it. Good writing good story, great character. Charlie Muffin is a genuinely engaging maverick, and Freemantle always puts him through some complex, interesting, and readable paces. Great Britain has produced a number of outstanding espionage series, and in my mind Charlie M. ranks with the best. Do it.

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


Bibliographic Note:   Barry’s numerical calculation was quite correct. This was the 9th book in the Charlie Muffin series. Through 2013, there have been 16 in all.

From this jazz singer’s 2010 CD, A Fine Romance, released jointly with her husband Jim Tomlinson on tenor saxophone.

Reviewed by DAVID VINEYARD:


JIGSAW. Britannia Films, UK, 1962; Beverly Pictures, US, 1965. Jack Warner, Ronald Lewis, Yolande Donlon, Michael Goodliffe, John LeMesurier, Moira Redmond. Screenplay by Val Guest, based on the novel Sleep Long, My Love by Hillary Waugh. Director: Val Guest.

   Hillary Waugh’s first police procedural novel, Sleep Long, My Love, featuring Chief Fred Fellows gets moved to Brighton in England with redoubtable favorite humane British copper Jack Warner (P. C. 49, The Quatermass Experiment, et al) is Chief Inspector Fred Fellows in this excellent procedural noir, that in addition to the Waugh novel, also calls on the actual famous Brighton trunk murders for inspiration.

   Detective Sgt. Jim Wilks (Ronald Lewis) gets called out when an estate agents office is broken into over Easter weekend. Nothing is missing save for some papers on a rent house and Wilks raises the ire of the office owner when he is dismissive of the crime, so to calm the waters his uncle and boss, Chief Inspector Fellows, shows up and asks to take a look around the rental property related to the stolen papers.

   That’s when he and Wilks find a body, or most of it, in a trunk, a youngish woman with no identity, and no way to tell how she was murdered. The only witnesses are a nosy neighbor, a grocery delivery man, and the estate agent. There are no prints, and the signature on the rental agreement is gone. They know the man they thought to be the woman’s husband is in his thirties, has brown hair, and the kind of common model and color car he drives — nothing more specific.

   Readers who know Waugh’s books and are long time Fellows fans may be surprised how much transfers across the ocean with few changes. Although some aspects of the book are anglicized, for the most part the plot stays close to its origin as do the characters.

   Like most procedural films, the daily routine of police work is emphasized with tired police sacrificing their personal lives to pursue a ruthless killer before he strikes again. Notable moments include a lonely young woman who lives with her father and just misses being the next victim (Yolande Donlan, the American wife of director and writer Guest); the victim’s parents when they finally identify her (John LeMesurier and Moira Redmond both quietly effective); and an ex convict (Michael Goodliffe) with a sex offender charge who fits the profile of the killer perfectly and lied to police, but who Fellows believes is the victim of circumstance.

   Low key acting (for the most part, Donlon is a bit over the top), a lucid script that never lets the viewer get lost among the various twists and turns of the investigation, sharp portraits of the people involved, Warner’s very human Fellows, a brilliant bit of work on Fellows part right out of the book, and an nice ironic last moment twist that breaks the killer’s alibi even though it has been mentioned a dozen times in the script — all add up to a superior film set against a background too seldom used.

   This one was recently on TCM and is available on YouTube. Go out and find it. It’s a top notch little British procedural noir film with excellent cast and a fine adaptation of the maiden outing in one of the best procedural series ever written. This one is a keeper.

EMPLOYEES’ ENTRANCE. First National Pictures/Warner Brothers, 1933. Warren William, Loretta Young, Wallace Ford, Alice White, Hale Hamilton, Albert Gran, Ruth Donnelly. Director: Roy Del Ruth.

   While 20 year old Loretta Young is breathtakingly beautiful in this film, star billing rightly goes to Warren William. As Kurt Anderson, the fire-breathing and much hated manager of the Franklin Monroe Department Store, he is the Evil Boss personified, trampling down and firing employees at will who can’t meet his standards, and absolutely cutthroat in his dealings with suppliers who can’t meet their contracted deadlines on time.

   He is on the job 24/7, and anyone who can’t keep pace with him is swept aside like yesterday’s dead leaves. Even the board of directors hates him, including the owner of the store himself, but they can’t fire him. Why? Because in the middle of the Depression, the store makes money.

   Anderson has one flaw, perhaps. He is not married — he doesn’t have time for a wife, he says — but he does have an eye for the ladies. Which is where the enchanting Madeline comes in (Loretta Young). He seduces her, quite frankly so, even though the scene shifts quickly to the following day. Once on the payroll as a model, though, she catches the eye of Wallace Ford, a miniature Kurt Anderson in the making, but as the latter’s newly appointed assistant — the previous having been summarily dismissed as deadwood with no new ideas in years — he can’t ask her to marry him.

   But they do anyway. Get married, that is, and in secret, which means that Madeline must continue to fend off Anderson’s advances, unsuccessfully so, which makes this a somewhat racy comedy as well as a serious romantic drama, one definitely made in the pre-Code era.

   But getting back to Warren William, what he does so well is to play an utter cad, but one with good reasons for doing what he does. Deadwood should be replaced. Standing up to the bankers on the board of directors should be done; all they’re interested in the money coming in, with no effort on their part, at the expense of the workers Anderson would have to let go if he were to retrench and cut back as they advise him and as every other business is doing — and failing as a result.

   Warren William makes us, the viewer admire, if not quite like him, even as we hate him. That’s a tough job for any actor to pull off, and William makes it look easy.

THE BACKWARD REVIEWER
William F. Deeck


TIMOTHY KNOX – Death in the State House. Houghton Mifflin, hardcover, 1934. Black Cat Detective #24, digest-sized paperback, 1946.

   In the Capitol of an unnamed state — internal evidence suggests New Jersey — the Governor is working late. When someone inserts a knife in his neck. he stops working. Since the Governor is a womanizer, a gambler, and an owner of a “speak” and gambling den, he has lots of enemies.i

   Called in to investigate is Eli Scott, apple grower and chief of police of a small town. Solving the murder is beyond the dubious talents of the capital city’s police since this is an impossible crime: Those who could have murdered the Governor all clear each other.

   An only novel, interesting primarily because it’s a rather good impossible crime for the times.

— Reprinted from MYSTERY READERS JOURNAL, Vol. 6, No. 3, Fall 1990, “Political Mysteries.”


Bibliographic Notes: Bill was quite correct in saying that this was Timothy Knox’s only novel. What he may not have known is that Knox was the pseudonym of Charles Fisher & Elizabeth K. Read, about either little is known. Fisher, however, was also the author of a short story collection entitled Some Unaccountable Exploits of Sherlock Holmes (1956; perhaps self-published).

Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:


FORTY GUNS. 20th Century Fox, 1957. Barbara Stanwyck, Barry Sullivan, Dean Jagger, John Ericson, Gene Barry, Robert Dix. Director: Samuel Fuller.

   Written, directed, and produced by Samuel Fuller, Forty Guns is an emotionally stormy, visually captivating “noir” Western. It’s one of those many mid-to-late 1950s Westerns with a script, had it been in the hands of a studio craftsman, would have produced just another generic movie about a gunman turned lawman facing off against a power hungry cattle baron. But in the hands of the Fuller, an auteur known for his work in Westerns and the war film genre, the movie rises above its recycled cinematic tropes and becomes something far more unconventional.

   Filmed in Cinemascope in black and white and replete with extremely well-staged sequences, Forty Guns stars Barry Sullivan as Griff Bonnell, a gunfighter who realizes that his kind’s days are numbered. With the lawless frontier dying, Bonnell decides to become a lawman and signs up as a federal marshal in Cochise County, Arizona. Along for the ride – both figuratively and literally – are his two brothers: Wes (Gene Barry) and Chico (Robert Dix).

    While Wes romances a local woman who just happens to be the daughter of the local gunsmith, Griff confronts with local cattle baroness Jessica Drummond (Barbara Stanwyck), a headstrong woman whose hotheaded brother Brockie is responsible for terrorizing the local townsfolk.

   Although they are on opposite sides of the law, Griff and Jessica Drummond find themselves attracted to one another. Both know that they are the last of dying breed, strong willed people who have risen far above what the world expected from them. Any chance of rapprochement is forever shattered when Brockie murders Wes in cold blood on his wedding day.

   While there are some gritty action sequences, Forty Guns is a richly textured film overall. It’s a Western that’s also a Gothic romance, a drama rich in Freudian subtext, and an occasionally subversive take on the Western genre itself. Pulpy to the core, Fuller’s film doesn’t seem to have garnered the same critical attention as Anthony Mann’s grittier Westerns.

   That’s unfortunate, particularly given how natural Barry Sullivan seems in his role as an aging gunfighter who, in the name of family loyalty, is willing to turn his back on what is perhaps his last chance at love and a normal life.

REVIEWED BY BARRY GARDNER:


JONATHAN GASH – The Lies of Fair Ladies. Lovejoy #15, St. Martin’s, hardcover, 1992. Penguin, paperback, 1993.

   I’ve been more or less a fan of the Lovejoy series since it began, though I thought the last one (The Great California Game) was a total waste of paper. I approached this one with some caution, but hoping that a return to native shores would restore the series to something like normalcy.

   For those new to the series, Lovejoy is an antique dealer, womanizer, and thoroughgoing rogue who lives only for antiques (women are more of a nuisance). He’s back home and his usual self, juggling a few lovers and on the lookout for the main chance. The plot is a hodgepodge of elements that all come together (after a fashion) in the end: a major antiques robbery, 17th century witch hunts, an apprentice who is the Mayor’s wife, and a popular radio announcer. To explain it coherently would overtax my power to synopsize briefly.

   The main attractions of the series for me have always been the antique lore and the speech patterns of Lovejoy and his cronies. Those remain, but in the last few books the plots have seemed to me to be a little loose, and I suspect that I’m growing less fond of Lovejoy himself. The series may be wearing a little thin, but is still worth your time if you’re a fan.

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

Available from Stark House Press, Amazon, Walmart and at PulpFest 2016.

LOUIS L’AMOUR “Unguarded Moment.” First appeared in Popular Detective, March 1952. Collected in The Hills of Homicide (Bantam, paperback, 1983).

   The first paragraph caught my attention:

   Arthur Fordyce had never done a criminal thing in his life, nor had the idea of doing anything unlawful ever seriously occurred to him.

   The second really had me sitting up and taking notice:

   The wallet that lay beside his chair was not only full; it was literally stuffed. It lay on the floor near his feet where it had fallen.

   And the third had me hooked all the way:

   His action was as purely automatic as an action can be. He let his Racing Form slip from his lap and cover the billfold. Then he sat very still, his heart pounding. The fat man who had dropped the wallet was talking to a friend on the far side of the box. As far as Fordyce could see, his own action had gone unobserved.

   But of course he was seen, and therein lies the story. It continues with some petty blackmail, an accidental death, the dead man’s girl friend who wants to …

   This is Cornell Woolrich territory, maybe with clearer and simpler language, but pure noir from beginning to end.

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