Magazines


REVIEWED BY MIKE TOONEY:

   
(Give Me That) OLD-TIME DETECTION. Autumn 2021/Winter 2022. Issue #58. Editor: Arthur Vidro. Old-Time Detection Special Interest Group of American Mensa, Ltd. 36 pages (including covers). Cover image: A Rumpole Christmas.

   This issue of Old-Time Detection continues to maintain the usual high standards for the publication, being replete with perceptive book reviews and features that would be of interest to any mystery fan.

   “Mystery Reviews” by Jon L. Breen has Breen, one of the sharpest detective fiction critics, finding R. D. Rosen’s Strike Three, You’re Dead a most agreeable mix of baseball and amateur detection — “may be,” he says, “the ultimate sports mystery.” For fans of Wall Street mysteries, there’s a “more-than-adequate British equivalent” in David Williams’ Advertise for Treasure.

   In “The Paperback Revolution,” Charles Shibuk covers a lot of classic detective fiction ground with short but pithy assessments of some of the works of Eric Ambler (Journey Into Fear, 1940), Leslie Charteris (The Saint in New York, 1935), Agatha Christie (The Moving Finger, 1942), Joseph Harrington (Blind Spot, 1966, and The Last Doorbell, 1969), Baynard Kendrick (Out of Control, 1945), Ross Macdonald (The Underground Man, 1971), Ngaio Marsh (Overture to Death, 1939), Ellery Queen (There Was an Old Woman, 1943, and Calamity Town, 1942), Dorothy L. Sayers (Murder Must Advertise, 1933), and Rex Stout (The League of Frightened Men, 1935, and The Rubber Band, 1936).

   Dan Magnuson offers us his tribute to the late J. Randolph Cox, not only a close friend but also a Nick Carter expert, and, among other good things, the author of books about Walter Gibson and Flashgun Casey.

   A fine addition to the issue is an “Author Spotlight” by Michael Dirda focusing on Edmund Crispin, more often than not one of the most delightful detective fiction authors of the Golden Age. You’re not likely to find a more comprehensive yet concise essay on Crispin than this one.

   In the “Christie Corner” by Dr. John Curran, the foremost living expert on the works of Agatha Christie, comes news of the publication of a non-Christie book (The Invisible Host, 1930), the plot of which some would say Agatha “borrowed” for And Then There Were None (1939); Curran, however, is more than a little skeptical and offers good reasons for his doubts. Since 2022 marks the 90th anniversary of The Thirteen Problems (USA title: The Tuesday Club Murders), a publisher has decided to “re-imagine” Miss Marple, even commissioning some non-crime writers to do the bloody deed — I mean, give us their interpretations of the character. Curran finishes by briefly noting a computer game featuring Hercule Poirot and yet another scrambled up short story collection “culled from throughout Christie’s career.”

   This issue’s fiction selection is T. S. Stribling’s “The Mystery of the Choir Boy” (EQMM, January 1951), in which Dr. Poggioli gets involved in a scheme meant to hoodwink the public but which culminates in murder.

   “‘Count the Man Down,’ A Nero Wolfe Pilot” by Bruce Dettman illumines the experimentation that Hollywood in the ’50s was performing in adapting well-known — meaning “hopefully it’ll make money since everybody’s heard of it” — quantities to the small screen. Inspired by the huge success of Perry Mason, the producers tried  — and failed — to bring Rex Stout’s famous detective and his “assistant” to life (“pretty much a botched effort”). Only the actor playing Archie gets a thumbs up from Dettman, a rookie thespian who in a few years would become a TV icon.

   “The Life and Death and Life of Sherlock Holmes” by Richard Lederer compactly outlines the career of the Sage of Baker Street and the adience-abience dilemma that confronted his literary creator.

   Then come more in-depth book reviews of John Mortimer’s A Rumpole Christmas (2009), reviewed by Ruth Ordivar, a collection of five stories whose “quality more than makes up for the thin quantity”; Anthony Berkeley’s Murder in the Basement (1932), reviewed by Harv Tudorri, in which Roger Sheringham seeks “to get to the bottom of a problem and to prove it to my own satisfaction”; Agatha Christie’s Crooked House (1949), reviewed by Sheila M. Barrett, a story whose “elements are laid forth as the reader might expect from Christie’s expert hand”; Jon L. Breen’s Listen for the Click (1983), reviewed by Arthur Vidro, a sports/mystery novel that works just right; and Christie’s Murder in the Mews (1937), reviewed by Trudi Harrov, containing four stories that collectively manage to “hit the spot.”

   “The Non-Fiction World of Ed Hoch” has the all-time master of the short detective story “Seeking the First Mystery Magazine,” from possible candidates like Old Cap. Collier Library and voluminous Nick Carter publications in the late 19th century through Detective Story and Mystery Magazine and, of course, Black Mask in the early years of the 20th century. As Hoch tells us, however, designating what was actually the first mystery magazine could come down to a matter of categorization.

   “The Readers Write”: “Thanks for continuing to do this labor of love for all of us who enjoy the Good Old Days!”

   . . . and finally there’s the Puzzle Page—and it’s a doozy.
      ___

   If you’d like to subscribe to Old-Time Detection:

Published three times a year: spring, summer, and autumn. – Sample copy: $6.00 in U.S.; $10.00 anywhere else. – One-year U.S.: $18.00 ($15.00 for Mensans). – One-year overseas: $40.00 (or 25 pounds sterling or 30 euros). – Payment: Checks payable to Arthur Vidro, or cash from any nation, or U.S. postage stamps or PayPal. – Mailing address: Arthur Vidro, editor, Old-Time Detection, 2 Ellery Street, Claremont, New Hampshire 03743.

Web address: vidro@myfairpoint.net

ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE – February 1967. Overall rating: 3½ stars.

STANLEY ELLIN “The Twelfth Statue.” Short novel. A movie producer noted for his quickie productions and his weakness for young girls disappears from his closed-off Italian movie set. The location of his body seems to be obvious halfway through, but Ellin still has some twists left, in addition to masterful background. (5)

JANE SPEED “Fair’s Fair.” A child’s view of murder, that of a man who killed a cat. (4)

CHARLES B. CHILD “A Quality of Mercy. Reprinted from Collier’s, 11 March 1950. Inspector Chafik solves the murder of a blackmailer, but destroys the incriminating etter. Excellent background an characterization. (4)

ROBERT L. FISH “The Adventure of the Perforated Ulster.” Schlock Homes breaks up a plot by a trading stamp company to destroy confidence in British clubs. Hilarious. (5)

JUDITH O’NEILL “The Identification.” First story. Woman betrays rebel organizer. Awkward beginning. (2)

R. BRETNOR “Specimen of the Week.” Anthropological species turns on guardian.. (1)

S. K. SNEDEGAR “Charles H. Goren Solves a Bridge Murder.” Too bad I don’t know anything about bridge, but story was poor anyway. (0)

VINCENT McCONNOR “The Man Who Collected Obits.” Man who works in a newspaper morgue discovers weird coincidence in the daily obituaries. (3)

PATRICIA HIGHSMITH “Camera Fiend.” Reprinted from Cosmopolitan, September 1960, as “Camera Finish.” A not-so-bright murderer allows his picture to be taken with his victim. (3)

ARTHUR PORGES “The Scientist and the Multiple Murder.” Eight men are electrocuted in s rooftop pool. Seems contrived. (3)

MARGERY SHARP “Driving Home.” Reprinted from Good Housekeeping, August 1956. Man needs wife’s alibi and thus saves their marriage. Too much soppy writing. (2)

LAWRENCE TREAT “F As in Frame-Up.” A spendthrift husband is framed for murder involving theft of necklace. Lieutenant Decker’s hunch plays off. (4)

-November 1967

REVIEWED BY MIKE TOONEY:

   
(Give Me That) OLD-TIME DETECTION. Summer 2021. Issue #57. Editor: Arthur Vidro. Old-Time Detection Special Interest Group of American Mensa, Ltd. 36 pages (including covers). Cover image: Dust jacket of The Bellamy Trial (1927).

   With this issue of Old-Time Detection we get some fine essays on detective fiction’s Golden Age, as well as book reviews, and a piece of fiction that subverts your expectations long before that became a thing.

   Martin Edwards kicks things off with his assessment of why there’s been a renewed interest in old-time mysteries with his essay, “The Golden Age Detective Fiction Renaissance”; you’ll either be confirmed in your opinions or surprised at his conclusions.

   Michael Dirda adds his voice to Edwards’s in a piece which explains his reasoning as to why our favorite field of literature is, despite dire predictions of its demise to the contrary, still quite popular with the reading public; the title tells all: “Mysteries Provide Escapism.” To support his thesis, Dirda takes us for an interesting side trip into Japanese honkaku fiction.

   Charles Shibuk’s “Paperback Revolution” installment covers soft cover reprints from the early ’70s of not only such detective fiction stalwarts as Chandler, Christie, Gruber, Kendrick, MacDonald, Marsh, EQ, and Sayers, but also less prolific practitioner Ed Lacy, as well as thriller writer and Hollywood fave Walter Wager, who, in contrast, seemed at the time to be a ubiquitous fixture on spinner racks throughout the nation.

   Then comes Jack Ritchie’s ingenious story, “The Absence of Emily” (1981), which shows us how to commit murder for fun and profit — but especially profit.

   Next is Jon L. Breen’s account (“The Mystery of Craig Rice”) of the sad life and times of screwball mystery writer Craig Rice, who was already on a one-way decline due to drug abuse almost at the same moment her popularity was peaking.

   A companion piece to Breen’s is Arthur Vidro’s “Stu Palmer’s and Craig Rice’s Withers/Malone Team-Ups,” nicely detailing the six stories that appeared in EQMM (1950, 1951, 1954, 1955, 1959, and 1963). Vidro shows how from correspondence between Palmer and Fred Dannay you can only conclude that Palmer did most of the heavy lifting, turning out stories with only minimal input at best from Rice.

   Edward D. Hoch next explains why, if you ever win an MWA award, it’s good advice to “Never Wash an Edgar.”

   Book reviews abound: Charles Shibuk on Raymond Goldman’s The Murder of Harvey Blake (1931), Douglas G. Greene about John Dickson Carr’s The Problem of the Wire Cage (1939), Harv Tudorri on Erle Stanley Gardner’s The D.A. Calls It Murder (1937), Ruth Ordivar about Agatha Christie’s N or M? (1941), Kathleen Riley on Ngaio Marsh’s Final Curtain (1947), and Arthur Vidro about one of the Haycraft-Queen Cornerstones, Frances Noyes Hart’s The Bellamy Trial (1927), a largely forgotten classic.

   Finally come readers’ reactions and a mystery puzzle that truly is a challenge to the reader.

   You can find a review of the previous issue of OTD here.

   If you’d like to subscribe to Old-Time Detection:

Published three times a year: spring, summer, and autumn. – Sample copy: $6.00 in U.S.; $10.00 anywhere else. – One-year U.S.: $18.00 ($15.00 for Mensans). – One-year overseas: $40.00 (or 25 pounds sterling or 30 euros). – Payment: Checks payable to Arthur Vidro, or cash from any nation, or U.S. postage stamps or PayPal. – Mailing address: Arthur Vidro, editor, Old-Time Detection, 2 Ellery Street, Claremont, New Hampshire 03743.

Web address: vidro@myfairpoint.net

ANALOG SCIENCE FICTION. January 1967.  Cover by Chesley Bonestell.     Overall rating: 3½ stars.

POUL ANDERSON “Supernova.” Short novel. An inhabited planet is found to be in danger from a nearby supernova, and the Polesotechnic League sends the Trader Team headed by David Falkayn. In exchange for technology capable of saving their world, the Meresians are asked for a base for scientific study and, of course, a chance for profit. Politics follow. Mostly bland. (3)

HARRY HARRISON “A Criminal Act.” Having too many children may someday be a crime against society. [The penalty may be] legalized murder as the answer to the extra life created. (4)

MACK REYNOLDS “Amazon Planet.” Serial, part 2 of 3. See report to follow later.

H. B. FYFE “The Old Shill Game.” Robots shills are programmed to buy from robot vendors to increase sales. (3)

KEITH LAUMER “The Lost Command.” [Bolo #3.] A construction crew accidentally activates a semi-intelligent war-machine buried deep underground after the end of a war ended 70 years before. (4)

-October 1967

NEW WORLDS SCIENCE FICTION. September 1966.    Overall rating: ***½ stars.

MICHAEL MOORCOCK “Behold the Man.” Novella. An English bookseller and amateur psychiatrist travels in time to observe Christ’s crucifixion, but becomes Christ himself. It is hard to imagine that this was not written for controversy-in-itself, for it seems deliberately offensive. Much is made of the conflict between religion and science, but there seems to be no real point, as Moorcock cannot justify his version either.    ****

ARTHUR SELLINGS “The Evening Sun Go Down.” The future society of a conquered Earth, maybe. (0)

JOHN CALDER “Signals.” The memoirs of an interatomic signals physonomist, or communications expert. Nothing really new. (3)

CHARLES PLATT & B. J. BAYLEY “A Taste of the Afterlife.” Novelette. To aid in the the skirmishes before WWIII, scientists devise a way to separate the electronic afterlife from a man. Far-out, but chillingly real. (3)

J. G. BALLARD “The Atrocity Exhibition.” Supposedly this means something. (0)

BRIAN W. ALDISS “Another Little Boy.” A parallel between the Bomb and the Pill is made, at a time 100 years from Hiroshima when the associated guilt feelings exists no more. Light treatment is terrifying. (4)

THOMAS M. DISCH “Invaded by Love.” Novelette. How Love can conquer the world, especially when brought by invading aliens. Only the Secretary-General of the UN resists, but he waits too long for his triumph. Powerfully portrayed. (4)

–September 1967

         Taken from the Murania Press website:

   The award-winning journal of adventure, mystery, and melodrama is back! After a two-year absence Blood ‘n’ Thunder returns as a book-length Annual, its 264 pages crammed with articles, illustrations, and fiction reprints. As always, the emphasis is on pulp magazines, vintage Hollywood movies, and Old Time Radio drama.

   The Annual’s first section is a centennial tribute to the legendary detective pulp Black Mask, which celebrated its 100th birthday last year (an event planned for recognition in the canceled Spring 2020 issue of BnT). In addition to a history of the Mask, our tribute includes two reprinted articles from old writers’ magazines: a 1929 issue analysis by literary agent August Lenniger and a 1934 feature on pulp fictioneering by the Mask‘s most famous editor, Joseph T. “Cap” Shaw.

   Also, Will Murray profiles aviation-pulp writer George Bruce (one of the few pulpsters to hit the big time as a Hollywood screenwriter); Tom Krabacher discusses the fantasy-adventure novels written by Spider scribe Norvell W. Page for Unknown; Denny Lien examines the 1936 one-shot pulp featuring Flash Gordon; Gilbert Colon compares the prose and filmed versions of H. P. Lovecraft’s classic yarn “Dreams in the Witch-House”; Matt Moring reveals the true identity of enigmatic pulpster “W. Wirt”; and Sai Shanker offers a history of the Butterick Company, the New York dress-pattern company that published Adventure, Romance, and Everybody’s magazines.

   Additionally, Will Oliver covers the abortive Weird Tales radio show and a later attempt at supernatural horror, The Witch’s Tale. And there’s a lengthy excerpt from the new book by Martin Grams and Terry Salomonson on the creation and early development of the Lone Ranger radio program. BnT editor-publisher Ed Hulse contributes well-researched essays on the 1929 film adaptation of A. Merritt’s Seven Footprints to Satan, the 1943 Republic serial Secret Service in Darkest Africa, and the early career of well-regarded “B”-movie director George Sherman.

   Finally, the Annual reprints “Mountain Man,” the 1934 first installment in Robert E. Howard’s hilarious Western short-story series featuring Breckinridge Elkins.

PRICE INCLUDES SHIPPING TO BUYERS IN THE U.S. ONLY. INTERNATIONAL BUYERS MUST CONTACT US FIRST TO DETERMINE ADDITIONAL SHIPPING COSTS.

ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE. January 1967. Overall rating: 3½ stars.

HUGH PENTECOST “Volcano in the Mind.” Short novel. Dr. John Smith. First appeared in The American Magazine, December 1945, as “Volcano.”

   Dr. John Smith, an unobtrusive psychiatrist-detective, stops a clever murderer who is trying to drive a man to kill his wife, thus disposing of them both. Smith is very perceptive in his quiet way, but the story may be just a little dry. ****½

Bibliographic Update: Dr. John Smith appeared in three novellas in The American Magazine (collected in Memory of Murder, Ziff-Davis, 1947), one short story in EQMM, and two novels.

JULIAN SYMONS “The Santa Claus Club.” Francis Quarles. 1st US publication. Previously published in Suspense, UK, December 1960. A threatening letter typed on one of only 300 possible machines; a club where all dress up like Santa. The grand ’tec tradition? (2)

KENNETH MOORE “Protection.” An outsider wants some of the Orleans Street District action but needs protection. (3)

TALMAGE POWELL “Last Run of the Night.” A bus-driver is a killer. Obvious. (2)

HAROLD R. DANIELS “Deception Day.” A man commits a perfect murder in killing his shrewish wife. It’s too bad that justice, or conscience, had to win out. (4)

MICHAEL HARRISON “The Mystery of the Gilded Cheval-Glass.” A “hitherto unpublished” story of C. Auguste Dupin, who saves an artist from arrest by deciphering a dying ma’s last words. Let’s leave it for Poe enthusiasts. (2)

ROBERT McNEAR “The Salad Maker.” Mystery of the Absurd. That’s the right word. (1)

JAMES HOLDING “The New Zealand Bird Mystery.” The two authors of the Leroy King stories use a small scrap of writing for their deductions in solving a shipboard murder. (3)

BERNARD J. CURRAN “The Mysterious Mr Zora.” First story. Would 94,600 people not notice an extra 10¢ charge on their checking account? (1)

ELLERY QUEEN “Last Man to Die.” Reprinted from This Week, November 3 1963. Also published in the June 2004 issue of EQMM. QBI: Intelligence Department. A butlers’ club forms a tontine, the outcome of which EQ must decide. Not difficult. (3)

MICHAEL GILBERT “A Gathering of Eagles.” Previously published in Argosy (UK) January 1966, as “Heilige Nacht.” Calder and Behrens are called to Bonn to complete a cold-war breakthrough in Intelligence. Fast-moving and exciting. (4)

CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG “The Cool Ones.” A grandmother’s quick thinking gives her grandson the clue to the location of her kidnappers. (3)

–September 1967
REVIEWED BY MIKE TOONEY:

   
   The latest issue of Old-Time Detection has, as they say (or as they used to say), hit the stands, and it was certainly worth the wait. Classic detective fiction has found a congenial home in OTD.

   Dr. John Curran, known far and wide as the foremost living expert on Agatha Christie, is up first with his coverage of all things AC-related — Christie on Screen (the sputtering adaptation of Death on the Nile, yet a third version of Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?, and a questionable Swedish-German production featuring a bisexual Sven Hjerson); Christie on Stage (the return of The Mousetrap to the West End and a dubious public domain adaptation of The Mysterious Affair at Styles); and The Christie Festival, also making a cautious return.

   Michael Dirda is up next with his thorough-going review of Mark Aldridge’s nonfiction Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Greatest Detective in the World (2020). Dirda notes the “tyranny of the contemporary,” a very real phenomenon of the social media age in which Christie’s brilliant sleuth, Doyle’s Holmes, Stout’s Wolfe, and Chesterton’s clergyman don’t receive the high regard they deserve.

   J. Randolph Cox spotlights John Buchan, the thriller writer’s thriller writer of the post-World War I era. Critics are divided on what made Buchan’s fiction so popular; perhaps, as Cox tells us, it was “the matter-of-fact, no-nonsense tone of Buchan’s style, [which] explains the high degree of plausibility surrounding even the most improbable events. The reader is drawn into the vortex of the situation along with the hero, neither one aware of what will happen next.” You can’t ask more of that from any thriller.

   When it comes to analyzing detective fiction, no one was more qualified than the late Edward D. Hoch, the ne plus ultra of short mystery writers. Here he takes on Ellery Queen’s novel output at some length and concludes how important EQ’s long fiction was: “Ellery Queen’s novels, and the changing character of Ellery himself, reflected the evolution of the American mystery from 1929 to 1971.”

   This issue’s piece of fiction is the extremely rare “The EQMM Cover Murders,” which saw publication only once before. The author, Marvin Lachman, has added an explanatory introduction about what some might dismiss as a piece of juvenilia — but shouldn’t — because it’s an excellent character study of a misanthropist who decides to exact revenge on the world only to discover the truth of Emerson’s dictum about foolish consistencies and hobgoblins. There’s a nifty twist ending worthy of O. Henry.

   While Ed Hoch dealt with Ellery Queen’s novels, Stephen Thompson launches into EQ’s short fiction, specifically in this installment the stories in his/their first collection, The Adventures of Ellery Queen (1934). Thompson can’t help but noting how Queen’s early tales have “in miniature, the same inventiveness displayed in the early novels: the bizarre situations, the brilliant deductions, and the startling solutions.” This column is the first of a series covering EQ’s seventy-seven short stories.

   As for EQ’s latter day novel The Finishing Stroke (1958), not only does Ted Hertel tell us why it’s his favorite but editor Vidro also appends a letter from a very well-known detective fictioneer to Ellery Queen, calling it “the best story you have ever done.”

   Next come Jon L. Breen’s short but pithy reviews of Ted Wood’s Dead in the Water and Don Flynn’s Murder Isn’t Enough (both from 1983), followed by Charles Shibuk’s 1971 reviews of contemporary paperback reprints. Concerning the latter, how many of these titles do you recognize? Christie’s Appointment with Death, Collins’s Night of the Toads, Francis’s Enquiry, Garve’s Boomerang, Gilbert’s The Family Tomb, Harrington’s The Last Known Address, Kendrick’s The Last Express, Macdonald’s The Dark Tunnel and Trouble Follows Me, Marsh’s Killer Dolphin, Sayers’s Clouds of Witness and The Documents in the Case, Symons’s Bland Beginning, and Tey’s Miss Pym Disposes and To Love and Be Wise.

   And, as usual, the issue finishes up with readers’ reactions and a puzzle page. If you’re one of those rare types who are au courant with old-time radio you shouldn’t have a problem with the puzzle, but if, like me, you aren’t . . . .

   If you’d like to subscribe to Old-Time Detection:

Published three times a year: spring, summer, and autumn. – Sample copy: $6.00 in U.S.; $10.00 anywhere else. – One-year U.S.: $18.00 ($15.00 for Mensans). – One-year overseas: $40.00 (or 25 pounds sterling or 30 euros). – Payment: Checks payable to Arthur Vidro, or cash from any nation, or U.S. postage stamps or PayPal. – Mailing address: Arthur Vidro, editor, Old-Time Detection, 2 Ellery Street, Claremont, New Hampshire 03743.

Web address: vidro@myfairpoint.net

ANALOG SCIENCE FICTION November 1961. Edited by John W. Campbell, Jr. Cover by Schoenherr for “Science Fact: Gravity Insufficient” by Hal Clement. Overall rating: 2 stars.

CHRISTOPHER ANVIL “No Small Enemy.” Short novel. A force invading Earth is defeated, but only under purely fortuitous circumstances. A rather unorthodox company happens to have an experimental steam-powered car and a newly-invented viewing device that gives the user telekinetic powers. Fun, if you can accept this. (2)

JIM WANNAMAKER “Attrition.” Novelette. An obnoxious Interstel agent discovers the reason for the disappearance of an exploration crew, a mutant plant throwing poisonous seeds. Being told in the first person doesn’t help. (1)

HARRY HARRISON “Sense of Obligation.” Serial, part 3 of 3. See later report.

–September 1967

REVIEWED BY MIKE TOONEY:

   
(Give Me That) OLD-TIME DETECTION. Autumn 2020/Winter 2021. Issue #55. Editor: Arthur Vidro. Old-Time Detection Special Interest Group of American Mensa, Ltd. 36 pages (including covers). Cover image: The Radfords’ Who Killed Dick Whittington?

   As is his usual wont, in this latest edition of Old-Time Detection Arthur Vidro has once again delivered a valuable compendium of information about classic detective fiction, resurrecting long-forgotten pieces as well as showcasing up-to-date commentary about the genre.

   When, in 1951, Howard Haycraft and Ellery Queen (the editor) got together to compile a list of what they considered to be a “Definitive Library of Detective-Crime-Mystery Fiction,” they probably had no idea that their compilation (commonly called the “Haycraft-Queen Cornerstones”) would still be worth consulting seventy years later. One of their choices for the list is Clayton Rawson’s locked room classic Death from a Top Hat (1938), which receives Les Blatt’s scrutiny. Another “cornerstone” is Somerset Maugham’s Ashenden (1928), which Michael Dirda, in contrast to the usual consensus opinion, does not regard as “the first modern espionage novel.”

   Two now largely forgotten detective fiction novelists worth spotlighting are the married writing team of E. and M. A. Radford; they receive their due attention in Nigel Moss’s essay, which sadly notes that despite a long writing career “the U.S. market eluded them.” Moss also highlights the play, that rare theatrical bird, an honest-to-goodness whodunnit, derived from the Radfords’ sixth novel, Who Killed Dick Whittington? (1947).

   While he was still living, impossible crime expert Edward D. Hoch turned his attention to Agatha Christie’s short fiction and found most of it praiseworthy: “If the short stories often are not the equal of the best of her novels, they still sparkle on occasion with her vitality and ingenuity, reminding us anew of the pleasure of a well-crafted tale.”

   Dr. John Curran, the world’s foremost expert on all things Christie, has nice things to say about Mark Aldridge’s Poirot: The Greatest Detective in the World, in his opinion a “must-have book for the shelves of all fans of the little Belgian and his gifted creator.” Curran also includes little-known facts about Agatha, only a few of which yours truly was aware.

   Continuing with the Christie theme is a talk by Leslie Budewitz aptly entitled “The Continued Influence of Agatha Christie”; “she was,” says Budewitz, “first and foremost a tremendous storyteller.”

   Then come a couple of apposite reviews, both by Jay Strafford: Sophie Hannah’s The Killings at Kingfisher Hill (2020), starring Hercule Poirot; and Andrew Wilson’s I Saw Him Die (2020), the fourth in a series of novels making the most of that Queenian fictional trope of featuring a detective fiction writer as, well, an amateur detective.

   The center piece of this issue of OTD, both figuratively and literally, is Stuart Palmer’s entertaining story “Fingerprints Don’t Lie” (1947), in which Hildegarde Withers, sans Inspector Piper, solves a knotty murder in Las Vegas.

   Continuing with Charles Shibuk’s series of paperback reprints from the ’70s (at the time a noteworthy and welcome trend for classic mystery buffs), he highlights works by Nicholas Blake (Mystery*File here), Charity Blackstock (Mystery*File here), John Dickson Carr (of course!; Mystery*File here ), Agatha Christie (also of course!; Mystery*File here), Raymond Chandler (ditto; Mystery*File here), Henry Kane (Mystery*File here), Patricia Moyes (Mystery*File here), Ellery Queen (Mystery*File here), Dorothy L. Sayers (Mystery*File here), Julian Symons (Mystery*File here), Josephine Tey (Mystery*File here), and editor Francis M. Nevins’s (Mystery*File here) nonfictional The Mystery Writer’s Art, “obviously the logical successor to Howard Haycraft’s The Art of the Mystery Story (1946) . . .”

   Several pages of contemporary reviews of (mostly) classic mysteries follow: Jon L. Breen about Robert Barnard’s School for Murder (1983/4) and Evan Hunter’s “factional” Lizzie (1984); Harv Tudorri about Ed Hoch’s Challenge the Impossible (2018); Ruth Ordivar about Erle Stanley Gardner’s The Case of the Angry Mourner (1951); and two reviews from Arthur Vidro about Barbara D’Amato’s The Hands of Healing Murder (1980) and John Ball’s In the Heat of the Night (1965): “with maturer re-reading, I am dazzled . . .”

   The issue wraps up with letters from the readers and a befitting puzzle about Agatha Christie.

   All in all, Issue 55 is definitely worth adding to your collection.

   If you’d like to subscribe to Old-Time Detection:

Published three times a year: spring, summer, and autumn. – Sample copy: $6.00 in U.S.; $10.00 anywhere else. – One-year U.S.: $18.00 ($15.00 for Mensans). – One-year overseas: $40.00 (or 25 pounds sterling or 30 euros). – Payment: Checks payable to Arthur Vidro, or cash from any nation, or U.S. postage stamps or PayPal. – Mailing address: Arthur Vidro, editor, Old-Time Detection, 2 Ellery Street, Claremont, New Hampshire 03743.

Web address: vidro@myfairpoint.net

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