PAUL GALLICO – Too Many Ghosts. Doubleday, hardcover, 1959. Pocket/Cardinal #C-426, paperback, 1961. Intl Polygonics Ltd, softcover, 1988.

   Lord Paradine was running short of funds to keep Paradine Hall open in the Post War economic slump in the United Kingdom so it seemed like a good idea to open up part of the place as a sort of residential country club to invited guests and residents, but some uninvited guests of the kind that play strange harp music, blow out candles, make weird noises in the night — including a nebulous nun — are now sharing the digs and something has to be done.

   That’s when Sir Richard Lockerie, who went to Cambridge with a curious fellow, recalls his old friend Alexander Hero.  Hero is a sort of private detective of the supernatural, doing psychical research with the aid of science; in short, ghost-busting and doing quite well at it in Post War England.

   Alexander Hero featured in two novels by Paul Gallico, this and The Hand of Mary Constable, in which Hero investigates Professor Constable’s haunting by his dead daughter, plus suspiciously competent mediums, and a Russian plot to convince him to defect. When filmed in the US as a made-for-television movie titled Daughter of the Mind, the venue moved to this country. Don Murray played Hero and was  hired by Fed Ed Asner to prove what Ray Milland was seeing wasn’t his daughter’s spirit.

   Even if you are largely unaware of Alexander Hero, you likely have heard of his housekeeper, Mrs. Harris, or as she says in her Cockney accent, ’Arris, who you might have recently followed on her trip to Paris, and in other adventures to New York, Rome, and even Parliament. It is a rare occasion of Mrs. Hudson outshining (and selling) Mr. Holmes.

   Paul Gallico’s rather remarkable career began as a noted sports writer, his book on Lou Gehrig filmed as Pride of the Yankees with Gary Cooper. In fiction he started out pretty strong with the elegiac haunting wartime tale, The Snow Goose, moved on to the popular Adventures of Hiram Holliday in the slicks and an early television series with Wally Cox, The Small Miracle, Ludmilla, Coronation, the basis for the film Lily, Thomasina, The Abandoned, the Cold War thriller Trial by Terror (filmed as Assignment Paris), the best-selling The Boy with the Bubble Gun, The Zoo Gang (which became a television series), and among others something called The Poseidon Adventure and Beyond the Poseidon Adventure. Ten of those were either filmed or made into television series, not counting short stories adapted on screen.

   Brilliant, high handed, and with an eye for the ladies, Alexander Hero is pretty much a Great Detective, and while the books flirt with the supernatural they tend to come down hard on rational explanations of supposed miracles, quite human villainy, and for all the chills and suspense, logical solutions to impossible mysteries.

   Too Many Ghosts is a classic manor house mystery of the Golden Age variety where haunting and not murder is the game afoot, though Gallico makes the stakes just as high, and those not fond of the supernatural in mystery fiction may enjoy it in that Gallico has it both ways in terms of detection and thrills while still keeping both feet on the ground.

“A Clever Little Woman,” by the author of “Nick Carter.” Nick Carter. First published in the New York Weekly, 24 November 1894. (Real author unknown.) Reprinted in The Great American Detective, edited by William Kittredge & Steven M. Krauzer (Mentor, paperback original, October 1978).

   Of all the dime novels and other fictional exploits of Nick Carter (“Master Detective”) it is unclear why the editors of The Great American Detective chose this one to lead off their anthology of … guess what? Stories about great American detectives. But it’s not bad and in fact, it’s quite readable and only slightly stilted and not at all as fusty as you might expect a non-literary piece of fiction written in 1894 might be.

   Nick is hired to learn who forged a check purported to have been signed by an old man with heart trouble. Only indeed by accident and happenstance was the deed discovered. Filling Nick Carter in on the details is the daughter of a distant relative from upstate New York who is currently living with the family, a bright young lady who has brought a good deal of recent cheer to the household.

   Only someone with uninterrupted access to Mr. Brandon’s checkbook could have forged the check, so all of the recent callers to the house must be investigated. Nick Carter does a good job of it, but today’s readers will know who the guilty party at once. (I assuming that those of you reading this are as good a detective in these matter as I am, which is a very low bar to hurdle, I assure you.)

PIERS ANTHONY – Chthon. Ballantine U6107; paperback original; 1st printing, 1967. Cover artist unknown. Berkley, paperback, 1975. Ace, paperback, 1987. Nominated in 1968 for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel of 1967.

   Because of his love for the creature known as a minionette, Aton Five is sentenced to imprisonment in the underground caverns of Chthon, from which no escape is known. But the image of his nymph drives Aton to find a way out, no matter the consequences to his fellow inmates.

   He must find the key to his own behavior, buried in his memory, before he can fight his evil birthright and love normally. For the minionette he loves is his mother, for whom inversion of love is natural, but who sacrifices herself to swing the balance in his inner conflict. Chthon is more than a place, It is an intelligence seeking to use Aton to destroy man, but all it has seen before [has been] man’s unsanity.

   A story of love, and of cultural conflict, on many levels. The very structure of the novel demonstrates this, as it is told in flashbacks and flashforward parallel to — and symbolizing — Aton’s adventures in Chthon’s caverns. A highly effective way of presentation, as parts which are obscure [at first reading] will be clarified by continuing on, but the significance [of which] would be decreased if told in the usual chronological fashion.

   Hence the story is more than a tale of love; it is also one which requires time and effort [to reach the depth it offers].

Rating: *****

— June-July 1968.
Reviewed by TONY BAER:


RUDOLPH WURLITZER – The Drop Edge of Yonder. Two Dollar Radio, softcover, 2008, 2017.

      “Elk’s elk and meat’s meat, son, and nothin’ matters, and to hell with the rest of it.”

   Wurlitzer, descendant of the jukebox maven, wrote a screenplay about Zebulon, a mountain man stuck between this life and the underworld, to be filmed by Sam Peckinpah. The screenplay can be found here:

E. BAKER QUINN One Man's Muddle

   Unfortunately, Peckinpah died before filming it. Then Hal Ashby was going to direct it. And died. Then Jim Jarmusch was going to direct it — but couldn’t agree with Wurlitzer on the script. So, instead, Jarmusch filmed Dead Man, lifting many of the same themes without crediting Wurlitzer. (For an interview discussing this stuff, see

   Giving up on the film, Wurlitzer reworked the screenplay into a novel: Drop Edge of Yonder.

   Zebulon, mountain man, fur trader, outlaw, shootist, gold digger, horse thief, and gambler, gets shot in the heart during a card game gone wrong. But he doesn’t die. He should be dead. But he ain’t. At least not hardly. Maybe a little bit — but with one foot in this world and one foot in the other.

   So he wanders. “Quien es,” he keeps asking. Going from town to town, from card game to card game, always losing to a royal flush with the queen of hearts pulled off the bottom of the deck.

   He hooks up with Delilah, African courtesan to a Russian Count. But she’s just like him, cursed to meander this earth, neither of this world nor the other. Condemned to wander til they fathom this, that:

      “All trails are dreams and there was never anything to try for or do; only to be.”



ERIC NEWBY – The Last Grain Race. Secker & Warburg, UK, hardcover, 1956. Reprinted several times, including Lonely Planet, softcover, 1999.

   There are authors you hear about and mean to try, but never get around to until some fortuitous turn at a local book store or the generosity of a friend puts them in your hands. Thanks to such a friend, I came across The Last Grain Race.  Eric Newby. In 1938, in the shadow of war, the eighteen year old Newby shipped as an apprentice seaman on one of the last cargo sailing ships still operating, and his account of circling the world on this floating anachronism makes a vivid testament to a forgotten way of life.

   Vivid perhaps, and certainly engaging, but not at all romantic. Newby’s description of the squalor, tedium, filth, hard work and bad food makes me understand better why sailors used to be recruited with press gangs, and his lively depiction of his crew-mates (mostly people you’d cross the street to avoid speaking to — even in the face of oncoming traffic) brings out the ugly, erratic nature of men who choose this kind of life.

   It’s a thoroughly engrossing tale, spiked by Newby’s light, lucid prose (his description of a storm at sea is one of the best I’ve ever read), and I rather think he’s an author I ‘ll return to.

— Reprinted from The Hound of Dr. Johnson #7, May 2000.
A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Kathleen L. Maio


HOWARD ENGEL – The Suicide Murders. Benny Cooperman #1. St. Martin’s, hardcover, 1984. Penguin, paperback, 1985. Adapted for radio (CBC) and TV (CBC, 1985), with Saul Rubinek starring in the latter as Benny Cooperman.

   Until the 1980s, Canada was not known for its native detective fiction. The Benny Cooperman novels by Howard Engel — along with the work of Eric Wright and Ted Wood — represent the beginnings of a vital new school of crime writing in Canada.

   The Suicide Murders is the first of a series of mysteries starring Benny Cooperman, private eye. Benny is a nice Jewish guy who makes his extremely modest living as a detective in his hometown of Grantham, Ontario. He still goes home to have dinner with his elderly parents at least once a week. He possesses intelligence enough. and the requisite amount of determination. Still, life or a case too often forces him lo play the schlemiel.

   The novel opens with the classic scene of a beautiful woman entering his office and enlisting his aid. Myrna Yates thinks her successful husband may be cheating on her. She hires Benny lo trail him. This simple assignment becomes much more complicated when the seemingly faithful Mr. Yates dies of a gunshot wound to the head soon after buying himself an expensive new bike. The police say suicide. Benny disagrees. His investigation continues. as do the murders, until he brings the case to its sad, satisfying conclusion.

   Benny’s mean streets may be in Ontario and not L.A., but his adventures are still reminiscent of the classic American private eye. He is no tough guy, but he is strong as well as compassionate. The supporting cast of characters, including the murderer, arc also nicely realized.

   Benny Cooperman returns in The Ransom Game (1984), Murder on Location (1985), and Murder Sees the Light (1985).

   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.

Reviewed by TONY BAER:


E. BAKER QUINN – One Man’s Muddle. Heinemann, UK, hardcover, 1936. Macmillan, US, hardcover, 1937.

   James Strange just spent the past four years in prison for manslaughter and morphine dealing in London. He was insinuated with dirty members of Scotland Yard and was selling confiscated drugs as a side gig. It was a pretty lurid scandal at the time, and his face was infamous.

E. BAKER QUINN One Man's Muddle

   Upon release, he’s decided to go straight. So he heads for the nice, quiet village of Cold Spring. No history, no connections, no hassles. A chance to begin again.

   On arriving, first thing he does is run into one of his former junkies. She’s married the local squire, doing pretty well for herself. But still using junk on the sly.

   The junky freaks out on seeing Strange, sensing blackmail, and the squire comes finally to know of her junked out ways.

   And then she’s murdered. With Strange the leading suspect. Strange is forced to become detective again to prove himself innocent and find the one to blame.

   Strange has a compelling voice. Imagine morphing George Harvey Bone (of Hangover Square) with Philip Marlowe. Described as looking like Gary Cooper, sarcastic and witty, but with a flashing psychopathology that scares you enough that you don’t wanna invite him to dinner. Or turn your back.

   It’s a strong, tough, uncompromising piece of work, belonging on a shelf with Hangover Square and Brighton Rock. Long out of print, but worth checking out if you can get your hands on a copy.

NOTE: David Vineyard reviewed it previously here on this blog:

CHESTER ANDERSON – The Butterfly Kid. Book #1 of the Greenwich Village trilogy (see below). Pyramid X-1730; 1st printing, December 1967 (cover by Gray Morrow). Gregg Press, hardcover, 1977. Pocket, paperback, 1980. Dover, softcover, 2019. Nominated for the Hugo award in 1968 as Best Novel of 1967.

   The Reality Pill is introduced to Greenwich Village by six-foot tall lobster aliens with crummy Lazlo Scott as their agent. Chester and his roommate Michael the Theodore Bear are first directly confronted withe potentialities of the pills when they meet Sean sitting on a park bench calmly making hallucinogenic butterflies come to life.

   Later they accidentally take the pills themselves, and the resulting riot and destruction convinces them that the Communists or aliens or whatever behind the plot must be stopped. They recruit a group of friendly hippies and set out for the reservoir to stop citywide pollution

   The appeal is that of the quietly wild hippy outlook on life as they go about saving the world. “Have you ever tried to talk a bunch of hippies into helping you save the world? Forget it, Next time I save the world, by starky, I’m going to do it solo. Faster that way, less work.”

   Lots of laughs, which is remarkable in science fiction., but the ending is obvious. It is not until page 166 that the method of defeating the aliens occurs to Chester, but then he has other things on his mind.

Rating: ****

— June 1968.


      The Greenwich Village trilogy –

1 The Butterfly Kid (1967) by Chester Anderson
2 The Unicorn Girl (1969) by Michael Kurland
3 The Probability Pad (1970) by T. A. Waters

GEORGE C. CHESBRO. “Candala.” Robert “Mongo the Magnificent” Fredrickson. First appeared in An Eye for Justice, edited by Robert J. Randisi (Mysterious Press, hardcover, 1988: A PWA Anthology). Collected in In the House of Secret Enemies (Mysterious Press, hardcover, 1990).

   Mongo the Magnificent appeared in quite a few novels by author George C. Chesbro as well as short fiction such as this one. You may have read some of them, but in case not, I’ll introduce him to you formally now as Dr. Robert Frederickson, private detective, criminology professor, martial arts expert, ex-circus acrobat, and dwarf. A unique individual, to say the least.

   Most of the work that I’ve read in which he appears has always seemed to be, including the cases he takes as a PI, to have more than a hint of mysticism to them, whether it’s actually there or not. So it is with “Candala,” in which he plays a dual role as college professor as well as a PI.

   He’s hired by a girl from India whose would-be fiancé, one of Mongo’s better students, has suddenly shut her out of her life, and she wants to know why. [WARNING: Plot Alert] With even that small amount of build-up, it probably will not surprise you if I tell you that he has not found another romantic interest, but what has happened has roots in the caste system still endemic in their homeland (at least at the time the story was written).

   Most fictional PI cases involve cheating spouses, missing children, dealings with mob bosses and the like. This, as you can tell, is not one of them. There’s no overt mysticism in it, but the hint is there, and it turns out to be a case I’m sure Mongo will never forget.

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Newell Dunlap


DAVID ELY – Seconds. Pantheon, hardcover, 1964. Signet P2507, paperback, 1964. Harper Voyager, softcover, 2013. Film: Paramount, 1966 (director: John Frankenheimer).

   A prosperous banker leaves his New York office at noon, knowing full well he may never see it again. Following an address on a slip of paper, he takes a cab to a run-down laundry in a slum area of the city. From there. he is directed to a warehouse. From the warehouse. he is taken in the back of a truck to a large office building, and it is here the transition process begins.

   For the banker (soon to be a painter known as Wilson) has elected literally to change his life and be “reborn” as a new man. A surgically altered cadaver shows up in a hotel room and the banker is officially pronounced dead of a heart attack. Meanwhile, we follow Wilson through his own surgical alterations, and before you know it, he has been relocated to California and lo the life of a single. moderately successful painter.

   Wilson cannot relax and enjoy himself, though. His new life strikes him as shallow and meaningless, and he feels an overwhelming desire to visit his wife and daughter. This he does, going against numerous warnings from representatives of the company that gave him his new identity. The company, it seems, creates about 3000 new identities each year, so it has a stake in seeing that no one jeopardizes its operation. Obviously Wilson is one of those people who will never make the transition properly, so he is brought back for further “processing.”

   Few books can match the suspenseful beginning of Seconds, as the reader wonders what in the world is going on. The suspense tapers off when we learn what is going on. but increases again as we begin to wonder what the company will do with the renegade Wilson. As it turns out, Wilson is not the only man who has made an unsuccessful transition-and from a business standpoint, the company’s disposition of these failures makes perfect sense.

   This unusual and nightmarish novel was made into an equally suspenseful John Frankenheimer film in 1966, with Rock Hudson and Salome Jens.

   David Ely has made a career of producing offbeat suspense fiction, both novels and short stories for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and such slick magazines as Cosmopolitan. (One of his Cosmo stories, “The Sailing Club,” was the recipient of the 1962 Best Short Story Edgar.) Among his other novels are Trot ( 1963), The Tour (1967), Poor Devils (1970), and the eerie Mr. Nicholas (1974).

   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.


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