ROBERT COLBY - A TRIBUTE by Peter Enfantino

    Robert Colby died last week.  A lot of people won’t even recognize the name.  That’s a shame, but it’s their loss.  Colby was every bit as good a writer as the other Gold Medal authors of the 50s and 60s who’ve found favor among historians and collectors.  He just never had one of those million sellers like the other guys did.  There was no Death of a Citizen or Hill Girl.  Just respectable sales for some of his “adult” titles like Lament for Julie (Monarch, 1961) and Executive Wife (Monarch, 1964).

    My introduction to Robert Colby, as was my introduction to all the classic Gold medal authors, was through an article Ed Gorman wrote for a magazine I used to co-publish called The Scream Factory.  In the piece Ed sang the praises of a couple dozen GM authors, writers such as Peter Rabe, Vin Packer, Gil Brewer, Wade Miller, and Harry Whittington.  Back in 1993, (when the article first appeared) Black Lizard was publishing a lot of forgotten writers like Packer, Rabe, and Brewer, so I was fairly familiar with those guys.  One of the writers Ed praised was Robert Colby, a name I was not so familiar with.  Ed called Colby’s The Captain Must Die (Gold Medal, 1959) “one of the great GM novels,” so I knew I had to check this one out.

    Because of Ed’s article, I had a long grocery list when I hit Tom Lesser’s annual Paperback Show (a must for pb collectors, by the way) in Mission Hills that following April.  There I found plenty of the recommended reading, including The Captain Must Die (in a quarter box, no less) and two other Colbys: The Star Trap and Murder Times Five.  The latter two were decent reads, but Ed was right on in his assessment that Captain was a must.  It’s a nasty revenge tale that holds its own with the best “nasty revenge tales” that Gold Medal excelled in and could have been made into a nice, tight little 50s noir had the movie deal not fallen through.

    But Bob Colby was more than just a “one-hit wonder.”  He wrote several other respected novels in the 1950s and 60s, including The Deadly Desire and The Secret of the Second Door (both Gold Medal, 1959) and dozens of short stories for Alfred Hitchcock and Mike Shayne.  (Colby’s dark take on Robin Hood, the series of seven “Paint the Town” stories would be perfect for those who’ve read all the Travis McGee’s and need something more.)

    He was also a hell of a good guy, very approachable, and never failed to light up when someone would stop by his table at Mission Hills and remark, “I thought The Captain Must Die was one of the best books I’ve ever read.”  (Which, I assure you, happened frequently.)
    Robert Colby was a good author and a hell of a good guy and he deserves more of a tribute than this, my quick and immediate reaction.  Do me a favor: hunt down one of his novels and give it a try.


Beautiful But Bad (Monarch 282, 1962; Macfadden, 1970)

The Captain Must Die (Gold Medal 835, Jan 1959; Wildside Press, 2000)

The Deadly Desire (Gold Medal 940, 1959)

Executive Wife (Monarch 427, 1964; Macfadden, 1970)

The Faster She Runs (Monarch 379, 1963)

In a Vanishing Room (Ace Double D-505, 1961)

Kill Me a Fortune (Ace Double D-515, 1961)

Kim (Monarch 244, March 1962)

Lament for Julie (Monarch 196, 1961; Monarch 488, 1964; Macfadden 75-317, 1970)

Make Mine Vengeance (Avon 854, 1959; Wildside Press, 2002)

Murder Mistress (Ace Double D-361, 1959)

Murder Times Five (Gold Medal T2622, Oct 1972)

The Quaking Widow (Ace Double D-195, 1956)

Run for the Money (Avon T-430, 1960; Belmont-Tower, 1973)

Secret of the Second Door (Gold Medal 855, Feb 1959; Wildside Press, 2000)

The Star Trap (Gold Medal 1043, Oct 1960; Manor, 1974)

These Lonely, These Dead (Pyramid G380, 1959)

    In addition, Bob wrote a non-fiction true crime book, The California Crime Book (Pyramid, 1973), and co-authored one book with Gary Brandner as by Nick Carter, The Death’s Head Conspiracy (Award AN1178, 1973).  He also wrote several children’s books in the late 80s and early 90s.


Two collections of his stories have been published:

The Devil’s Collector (Deadline Press, 1998, trade pb).  Series character T. C. Brock appears in each:

     • Paint the Town Aquamarine (original)
     • Paint the Town Black AHMM Nov 1975
     • Paint the Town Blue AHMM June 1979
     • Paint the Town Brown  AHMM Sept 1978
     • Paint the Town Gold  AHMM Nov 19, 1980
     • Paint the Town Green  AHMM Oct 1977
     • Paint the Town White  AHMM May 1978

The Last Witness and Other Stories  (Five Star, hardcover, 2002)

    • The Deadly Desire (Gold Medal, 1959)
    • Death Is a Lonely Lover AHMM Dec 1968
    • The Last Witness AHMM May 1967
    • Never Come Back AHMM June 1967
    • Paint the Town Green AHMM Oct 1977  [T. C. Brock]

Except where noted (MS = Mike Shayne’s Mystery Magazine), the following stories first appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine:

The Accidental Widow (2/68)
Another Way Out (8/72)
The Balance of Justice (MS 11/70)
Climb Up to Hell (MS 5/73)
Code Brown (9/69)
Dead Stop on the Road South (3/69)
The Deadly Art (MS 6/68)
Death is a Lonely Lover (12/68)
The Double Take (9/67)
Double Zero (6/75)
Good-Bye, Arline (6/72)
He was Too Much (11/67)
An Important Kill (9/72)
Incident at Malibu Beach (7/71)
The Last Witness (5/67)
The Love Cage (7/72)
A Message from Andrea (5/73)
Murder Door to Door (10/72)
Never Come Back (6/67)
A Nice Wholesome Girl (7/68)
Nightmare at Crestview Towers (MS 1/69)
No Experience Necessary (5/69)
No Way Out (4/72)
The Old Needle (11/68)
Paint the Town Aquamarine (The Devil’s Collector, Deadline Press 1998)
Paint the Town Black (11/75)
Paint the Town Blue (6/79)
Paint the Town Brown (9/78)
Paint the Town Gold (11/19/80)
Paint the Town Green (10/77)
Paint the Town White (5/78)
Resurrection of Jenny Carroll (MS 10/70)
Ride with a Winner (7/67)
Robbery at the Palace (4/73)
A Secret Lonely Place (8/68)
Shadows on the Road (11/71)
The Sound of Murder (2/69)
A Tempting Evil (4/68)
The Tenth Part of a Million (8/67)
Three Minutes to Eternity (9/68)
The Trouble with Harriet (7/69)
Voice in the Night (4/69)
What If I Had Taken the Train (6/68)
Wheels (11/69)






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