My apologies for the longer than usual break I’ve had to have with the blog. Nothing’s wrong, I’m just a lot busier than I’m used to. I’ll be back as soon as I’m able. (A few more hours a day might help, if you have any to spare.)

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Marcia Muller

   

A. A. FAIR – Owls Don’t Blink. Bertha Cool & Donald Lam #6. Morrow, hardcover, 1942. Reprinted many times, including Dell 211, mapback edition, 1940s, and Dell R101, paperback, October 1961.

   A. A. Fair is a pseudonym of Erle Stanley Gardner, but don’t pick up one of these novels featuring private eyes Bertha Cool and Donald Lam expecting a couple of carbon copies of Paul Drake. Cool and Lam are an amusing and endearing pair — perfect foils for one another.

   Bertha Cool, at the time of this novel. is the middle-aged proprietor of an L.A. investigative firm, pared down to a mere 165 pounds but ever on the alert for a good meal. Her partner, Donald Lam, is a twerp in comparison — young, slender, and forever on the defensive for what Bertha considers excessive squandering of agency money. But there’s considerable affection between the two, and with Donald doing the legwork, they crack some tough cases-and have a lot of fun while doing so.

   Owls Don’t Blink opens in the French Quarter of New Orleans, where Donald is occupying an apartment once rented by a missing woman he has been hired to find. He is due to meet Bertha at the airport at 7:20 the next morning and knows there will be hell to pay if he’s late. Fortunately. he arrives on time. and together they meet the New York lawyer who has hired them to find Roberta Fenn. a former model.

   Over a number of pecan waffles — a number for Bertha. that is, who only eats “once a day” —  the lawyer is evasive about why he wishes to locate Miss Fenn. But Cool and Lam proceed with the case-and Bertha proceeds with several lavish meals, still on that same day.

   The discovery of the missing woman’s whereabouts proves all too easy, and also too easy is the discovery of a corpse in Roberta Fenn’s new apartment. But from there on out, everything’s as convoluted as in the best of the Perry Mason novels. The scene moves from New Orleans to Shreveport, Louisiana, and from there to Los Angeles, where its surprising (although possibly a little out-of-leftfield) conclusion takes place.

   And there’s a nice twist in the Cool-Lam relationship that will make a reader want to read the later entries in this fine series, such as Crows Can’t Count (1946), Some Slips Don’t Show (1957), Fish or Cut Bait (1963), and All Grass Isn’t Green (1970). Especially entertaining earlier titles are The Bigger They Come (1939) and Spill the Jackpot (1941).

     ———
   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:

   

ROBERT FINNEGAN – Many a Monster. Simon & Schuster, hardcover, 1948. Bantam #363, paperback, May 1949. Stark House Press, softcover, 2022 (three-in-one edition also including The Lying Ladies and The Bandaged Nude).

   Dan Banion’s a reporter. His editor sics him on the story of an escaped lunatic from the insane asylum — a recently convicted serial killer of women.

   Dan looks into the story, but the further he looks, the more it seems like the kook is innocent: The serial murders continue to mount irrespective of whether the kook’s in custody.

   Dan solves the case, but not before tussling with the KKK, quitting his job, and witnessing more grisly murders.

   Dan Banion’s cool, the writing’s great, but the story’s nothing to write home about. It’s one of those where a cagillion suspects are rounded up and the writer settles on one of them seemingly at random as if he was running low on paper.

IF SCIENCE FICTION, July 1967. Editor: Frederik Pohl. Cover art by Jack Gaughan. Full text and illustration available at archive.org. Overall rating: ***½

PHILIP JOSE FARMER – The Felled Star. Serial, part 1 of 2. See review later after both parts are available. [The entire two-part serial is a section of Farmer’s novel The Fabulous Riverboat.]

E. A. WALTON “Pelandra’s Husbands. First story. Love proves stronger than possible immortality. (1)

ANDREW J. OFFUTT “Population Implosion.” Novelette. The plague hits only old people, in direct correspondence to the birth rate. Excellent idea suffers [is marred] only by jumps in the story. (5)

C. C. MacAPP “A Ticket to Zenner.” Novelette. A thief leaves behind a ticket, in a SF intrigue story, reminiscent of Eric Ambler, but without the convincing background. (3)

ALAN DIRKSON “Adam’s Eve.” Novelette. A world without humans has only waiting robots, but two find how to obtain services for themselves. (3) [His only published SF story.]

KEITH LAUMER – Spaceman! Serial, part 3 of 3. See review coming up soon. [Book publication as Galactic Odyssey.]

— July 1968.

   I reviewed the book, by Robert Thorogood, here:

A Mystery Review: ROBERT THOROGOOD – The Marlow Murder Club.

so when I learned that they were doing a TV series of it, I was naturally curious.

   To me, it seems that the cast the lead characters perfectly. I remember not a lot about the story itself, but the little I do and the little I see in the snippets below, the synchronization seems well within very close range. Given who the author is (Death in Paradise, obviously), adapting the book to TV I’d say was a project that was meant to be done.

PRESS RELEASE:

   MASTERPIECE Mystery! today announced that The Marlow Murder Club, adapted by author Robert Thorogood from his best-selling novels, premieres on PBS Sunday, October 27th at 9/8c. Along with the airdate, MASTERPIECE also announced that the cast and crew are already in production on Season 2.

REVIEWED BY DAN STUMPF:

   

THE JANUARY MAN.  MGM, 1989. Kevin Kline, Susan Sarandon, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Harvey Keitel, Danny Aiello, Rod Steiger, Alan Rickman. Writer: John Patrick Shanley. Director: Pat O’Connor. Streaming online with ads on various platforms. Available for rent on Amazon Prime as well as other outlets.

   You have been unjustly fired from a job you did well,and now your ex-employers, faced with a crisis Only You Can Handle come crawling to ask you back. Along the way they almost interrupt you in a casual act of heroism, but you agree to come back, whereupon the Red Carpet is rolled out, you meet a sexy young girl who falls madly in love with you, your ex-girlfriend suddenly wants you back, and everybody who ever talked nasty to you is now at your beck and call.

   And wouldn’t it be great if they all brought Beer?

   Well, I suppose there are worse male fantasies, and although The January Man is neither as suspenseful as it should be nor as amusing as it could be, it still deserves some credit for realizing its limited aspirations in a light-hearted and relatively non-violent way. In fact, for a movie about a serial killer of women, it’s surprisingly un-sadistic in concept and execution (no pun intended — honest).

   The January Man also offers some decent thespic opportunities to its performers, who try not to look too surprised at getting them. Kevin Kline is engagingly off-beat as the Cop-turned-Fireman Hero called back to solve the Calendar Girl Murders, Danny Aiello and Rod Steiger are appropriately choleric as his superiors, and Susan Sarandon purveys her own brand of predatory sexuality as Kline’s ex-sweetie.

   Best of all is Alan Rickman, looking more than ever like a young Vincent Price, as the Maynard Krebbs to Kline’s love-happy Dobie Gillis.

— Reprinted from The Hound of Dr. Johnson #34, September 2004.

   

Reviewed by TONY BAER:

   

ED LACY – Moment of Untruth. Toussaint M. Moore #2. Lancer 73-554,  paperback original, 1964. Later printing, 1967.

   The phrase ‘the moment of truth’ comes from bullfighting. It refers to the moment that the matador makes the kill.

   Toussaint Moore is a retired detective. He’s a happily married postal worker. But his wife gets preggers and he’s strapped for cash. So he goes back to his old detective agency looking for some work to supplement his income.

   The old PI firm is happy to see him. They just got a call from a rich Mexican lady who wants to hire an American PI for $100 a day. Plus expenses, Touie should be able to pocket close to two grand for a couple of weeks work. She won’t say what the case is — but they figure its just a wandering husband or something.

   When Touie makes it to Mexico it turns out the case is much more sinister. The client’s husband has just been murdered by a poisonous snake planted in his bed. He’d been working on an expose of the most famous matador in Mexico. He found evidence that the matador was a fraud — but before he could publish his story, he was killed.

   Touie cracks the case and everything turns out copacetic. For those that survive.

   I like Toussaint Moore quite a bit — but the story is just okay.

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Robert J. Randisi & Bill Pronzini

   

LOREN D. ESTLEMAN – Sugartown. Houghton Mifflin, hardcover, 1984. Fawcett Crest, paperback, 1985. ibooks, softcover, 2001. Winner of the PWA Shamus award for best novel of 1984.

   Since the publication of Motor City Blue in 1980, Estleran and his tough Detroit private eye Amos Walker have been a formidable team, combining to create an average of one high-quality PI novel per year. Walker has been called “hard-edged and relentless”; Estleman has been lauded as “having put Detroit on the detective map.” Both encomiums are accurate; and in Sugartown, author and Eye carry on the tradition.

   Walker is hired, first, by an elderly Polish immigrant to find her grandson, who has been missing for nineteen years:

   He disappeared following an ugly, tragic incident where his father shot his mother, his sister, and then himself-a scene of carnage that the boy discovered upon returning home from school. Later the old woman also asks Walker to find a family heirloom, a silver cross — a job that leads him directly into a murder case.

   Walker’s second client is a Soviet defector and famous author who thinks a Russian spy is out to kill him. After an investigation that takes Walker through the dark underbelly of Detroit, he escapes a trap that almost takes his life and establishes a connection between the two cases.

   Plenty of action and solid writing in the Chandler tradition make Sugartown (which won the PWA Shamus for Best Novel of 1984) the same kind of potent book as its predecessors in the Amos Walker series. The others are Angel Eyes (1981), The Midnight Man (1982), and The Glass Highway (1983).

   The versatile Estleman has also written two novels as completely different from the hard-boiled private eye as it is possible to get: a pair of Sherlock Holmes pastiches pitting the Great Man against two legendary Victorian “monsters,” Sherlock Holmes versus Dracula (1978) and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes (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.
   

REVIEWED BY DAN STUMPF:

   

MURRAY FORBES – Hollow Triumph. Ziff-Davis, hardcover, 1946. Stark House, trade paperback, 2023.

HOLLOW TRIUMPH. Eagle-Lion, 1948. Also released as The Scar (Paul Henreid, Joan Bennett; directors: Steve Sekely, Paul Henreid).

   Murray Forbes’ Hollow Triumph  has an interesting idea for a book: Henry Mueller is a failed medical student and small-time chiseler with an over-sized ego, fresh out of prison when he discovers he bears an amazing resemblance to Viktor Bartok, a prominent psychologist.

   Readers of this sort of thing will figure at once that Mueller will kill Bartok and take his place, and that’s pretty much what happens, but Forbes gives it a cute twist: Mueller’s impersonation becomes a greater success than he figured on (The American Dream: if you fail at one thing, re-invent yourself as something else.) and as time passes, he wins even greater fortune and honor… and he can’t stand the fact that the murdered man is getting all the credit for his killer’s work: Mueller rubbed out Bartok, but it was Mueller who got erased, and his overweening pride leads him to….

   It’s a clever thought, and somebody should write a book about it someday; Murray Forbes just didn’t seem too interested. Time and again he just tells us about things when he should be showing them. So we get lines like “She felt suspicious,” or “He was scared,” which ain’t exactly deathless prose. There are even points where Forbes seem to lose interest entirely, and instead of storytelling, he resorts to synopsis, resulting in passages like, “He went to New York to received the honor, then came back and continued work with his patients …”

   I kept reading, but I’m not sure why.

   Fans of Old Time Radio may recall Forbes as an actor on Ma Perkins and other programs, but this was his only novel, and in 1948 the Movies bought it, discarded most of the plot, noired up the rest, and released it under the original title and as The Scar. Like Forbes’ writing Paul Henreid’s acting is just perfunctory, but there’s fine photography by john Alton, and Daniel Fuchs’ script makes intelligent use of a plot twist that would have been a facile punch-line in lesser hands.

— Reprinted from The Hound of Dr. Johnson #34, September 2004.

   

OTHER WORLDS SCIENCE STORIES. June-July 1951. Editor: Raymond A. Palmer. Cover art: H. W. McCauley. Overall rating: *

RUSSELL BRANCH “Time Flaw.” Novelette. The love betwen Captain Hunter of the S. S. Stella and one of his passengers is interrupted by disaster and application of Einstein’s theories. Poor writing keeps plot from any depths it might have been capable of. (1)

POUL ANDERSON “The Missionaries.” Alien worship of machines is carried to its logical conclusion, cannibalism. (2)

R. BRETNOR “The Fledermaus Report.” Martin Fledermaus, chosen as first human to fly to the moon, discovers that the beauty of one’s wife is relative. Tripe. (0)

ROBERT BLOCH “The Tin You Love to Touch.” Low-grade comedy about the female robot maid that comes between Roscoe Droop and his domineering wife, This is really low. (0)

RAY PALMER “Mr. Yellow Jacket.” Galactic census-takers discover that some humans have the power yo make thoughts real, Included (page 81) is one of the silliest theories of meteors ever. (0)

S. J. BYRNE “Beyond the Darkness.” Novella. Intrigue aboard one of a fleet of FTL ships seeking new worlds for humanity. The passengers are subjected to a memory-erasing device so that the rebellious navigators can return to contest for already inhabited worlds. Nad, our hero, finds the ex-captain still alive; the plan fails, escape, discovery, loss of heroine, villain returns from oblivion, cowardly brother redeems himself. People don’t really talk and act this way, do they? *½

— July 1968.

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