(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.

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GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION. December 1966. Overall rating: 4 stars. Editor: Frederik Pohl. Cover by Wenzel. The full text is available at The Internet Archive.

POUL ANDERSON “Door to Anywhere.” Novelette. A senator goes to Mars to investigate an accident involving an experiment with jumpgates, which allow men to cross between any two points in the universe. High-powered physics and cosmology. (4)

JOHN BRUNNER “Children in Hiding.” A colony of Earth has a problem with children who d not develop properly. A shocking ending. (4)

HAYDEN HOWARD “The Modern Penitentiary.” Novelette. Dr. West is convicted of attempted genocide of the Esks, and is sent to New Ottawa Reformation Center, where enlightened practices of rehabilitation, including sex, are used. The scene with Noma in the cell demonstrates that an effective writer need not always be explicit. (5)

LARRY NIVEN “At the Bottom of a Hole.” Novelette. Two stories in one: [1] A smuggler is trapped on Mars and discovers how the old base was destroyed. [2] Two officials discover they have been opposing reasons for space exploration. (3)

ROBIN SCOTT “Decoy System.” Evidence of planetary invaders is rigged to effect nuclear disarmament. (3)

JACK VANCE “The Palace of Love.” Serial, part 2 of 3. Demon Princes #3. Review to appear later.

R. A. LAFFERTY “Primary Education of the Camiroi.” The Dubuque PTA travels to another world to compare educational systems, to Earth’s disadvantage. (4)

–September 1967

INFINITY SCIENCE FICTION. October 1957. Overall rating: 3 stars.  Cover by Ed Emshwiller [as by Ed Emsh].

C. M. KORNBLUTH “The Last Man Left in the Bar.” A bar is the scene of an incomprehensible search for a Chapter Seal, but furnishes considerable material for sardonic comment. (2)

DEAN McLAUGHLIN “Welcome Home.” Novelette. A man trying to have the space program reinstated makes a hero of a returning space pilot, but fails to consider the pilot’s anger. Realistic and exciting. (5)

Update: Even though I gave this one five stars, this has been this story’s only appearance.

EDWARD WELLEN “Dr. Vickers’ Car.” Stupid story of Hyde Park orator taken for a ride. (0)

CLIFFORD D. SIMAK “Death Scene.” How life, and death, would be, given universal 24-hour precognition. Personal, not wide-scale. (4)

ARTHUR C. CLARKE “The Other Side of the Sky.” Serial; part 2 of 2. The last three of the series of six stories. See a later report.

RICHARD WILSON “The Enemy.” An obvious story of the real war between the sexes. (2)

RANDALL GARRETT “To Make a Hero.” Short novel. The inside story exposing legendary hero Leland Hale as the crook he was. Read for fun only. (3)

JOHN VICTOR PETERSON “Second Census.” A census taker turns out to be from Alpha Centauri, checking for children planted on Earth for protection. (1)

–September 1967

IF SCIENCE FICTION December 1966. Cover by Jack Gaughan. Overall rating: 3½ stars.

ALGIS BUDRYS “Be Merry.” Novelette. The survivors of the wreck of the Klarri spaceship had brought disease and plague to Earth, but they too were victims of terrestrial sickness. One small settlement finds a cure, but one they are ashamed of. Excellent story spoiled by an over-literary style, delighting in obscurity. (4)

DURANT IMBODEN “The Thousandth Birthday Party.” At age 1000, each person has one chance in 5000 for immortality. (3)

NEAL BARRETT, JR. “Starpath.” Novelette. After a promising beginning, in which the operation of the instant matter transmitter is described, the story ends as a routine tale of war. (2)

LARRY NIVEN “A Relic of the Empire.” Novelette. A xenobiologist learns the location of the puppeteers’ system by using local plant life to defeat a pirate crew. An episode only. (3)

BOB SHAW “Call Me Dumbo.” Novelette. A woman learns the secret of her drugged existence and neatly fails her “husband.” Two men shipwrecked alone on a planet can carry on the race. (4)

ANDREW J. OFFUTT “The Forgotten Gods of Earth.” Kymon of Kir frees the Princess Yasim from the sorcerer Gundrun. (3)

J. T. McINTOSH “Snow White and the Giant.” Serial, part 3 of 4. See report following the January 1967 issue.

– August-September 1967


PETER ENFANTINO & JEFF VORZIMMER – The MANHUNT Companion. Stark House Press, softcover, March 2021.

   During the early 1950’s there was a science fiction magazine boom which saw dozens of titles published, most of them to eventually die, only to be remembered by obsessive collectors. Yes, I am one of those bibliomaniacs who collect such magazines. We sometimes forget that there was also a crime fiction magazine boom which started with the publication of Manhunt in 1953. This magazine was such a best seller that dozens of imitators appeared during the 1950’s and 1960’s.

   These magazines are rare and expensive nowadays but I have managed to track down most of the Manhunt imitators with titles such as Guilty, Trapped, Off Beat, Pursuit, Homicide, Justice, etc. It’s still possible to put together a set of Manhunt without robbing a bank because so many copies were printed and the magazine had the reputation of being the best of the hard boiled crime fiction magazines.

   In fact, a decade ago, I wrote of my adventures collecting Manhunt and describing how I managed to find 39 of the 114 issues during one weekend at the Windy City Pulp convention. Here is the link to the article. Unlike the imitators, the prices were reasonable and I spent only $8 to $11 for each copy.

   I have spent decades reading and collecting the magazine and have put together more than one complete set as I traded off sets due to temporary insanity. I have come a long way from my teenage years when I had to make a choice between buying SF magazines and buying crime fiction titles. My allowance only went so far back then. But now we live in a golden age with stimulus checks raining down on us. If you don’t want to spend your checks on food and paying bills, then you can buy books and back issues of magazines!

   However, maybe you are not a magazine collector and don’t want to fill your house with thousands of pulps, slicks, digests, paperbacks. Maybe you don’t want to drive your non-collecting spouse crazy. Maybe you don’t want to add another hard boiled addiction to your drugs of choice like alcohol, drugs, gambling, chasing women. Then you are in luck because Stark House Press has already reprinted the best Manhunt stories in two volumes titled The Best Of Manhunt and The Best Of Manhunt, Volume Two.

   Now we have the third Stark House volume dealing with Manhunt, and it is titled The Manhunt Companion. A great magazine deserves a great companion and fellow book lovers, this is it! Over 400 pages and the price is $19.95. The book starts off with an eight page history of the magazine, including the infamous court case charging Manhunt with being lewd and obscene.

   This is followed by almost 300 pages discussing every story in every issue, all 114 issues. Each story is rated on a 4 star system, with the best fiction receiving 3 or 4 stars. The word count is also listed followed by a summary and discussion of each story. At the end of each year, there is a list of the best stories.

   Then follows over 100 pages indexing every story, article, and author, including pseudonyms. There also is an alphabetical index by series and a listing of the TV episodes based on Manhunt stories.

   If you read or collect Manhunt, this is a must buy. We must support this effort and encourage Stark House. Perhaps Peter Enfantino and Jeff Vorzimmer can be convinced to edit a collection of the Manhunt imitators and another companion, only this time on the other crime fiction magazines!

SUPER-SCIENCE FICTION, February 1958. Cover: Kelly Freas. Overall rating: 2 stars.

JACK VANCE “Worlds of Origin.” Novelette. [Magnus Ridolph #10.] Magnus Ridolph uses cultural analysis to solve a murder in space. Maybe a good idea, but it turns out a bit ridiculous. (1)

ARTHUR ZIRUL “Secret Weapon.” A Trade Bureau agent discovers a planet inhabited by beings with telekinetic powers. Without a name author it must take more than length for novelette status. [The story is two pages longer than the one by Vance.] (2)

KELLER ERNST “The Red, Singing Sands.” A woman must choose which of two beings is her husband and which a Martian. (2)

ROBERT SILVERBERG “Prison Planet.” Novelette. After 500 years of isolation a planet once used for deporting criminals is discovered to be relearning the secret of space travel. Predictable. (3)

CALVIN M. KNOX “The Happy Sleepers.” The world’s population begins to fall into continuous sleep, but without affecting the brain’s activity. (2)     [NOTE: Calvin M. Knox was a pen name of Robert Silverberg.]

RICHARD R. SMITH “The Old Timer.” Two Earthmen learn too late the oldest Martian’s secret (2)

ROBERT F. YOUNG “Time Travel Inc.” An obvious story of two men’s journey through time to witness the Crucifixion. (3)

– August 1967

ANALOG SCIENCE FICTION. December 1966. [Cover by Kelly Freas.]   Overall rating: 2½ stars.

MACK REYNOLDS “Amazon Planet.” Serial, Part 1 of 3. See report following Feb 1967 issue.

BEN BOVA “The Weathermakers.” [Kinsman series] Novelette. A hurricane forces Project THUNDERBIRD to begin complete weather control in the East. Smooth, almost documentary style, but reasons for abandoning ship during storm are not clear. (3)

Update: Excerpt from the novel of the same name (Signet, paperback original, 1967). Included in many collections of Bova’s short fiction.

L. EDEY. The Blue-Penciled Throop. Twelve letter from Oswald Lempe, editor of a technical journal. (2)

Update: This was the author’s only work of science fiction.

KRIS NEVILLE “The Price of Simeryl.” Novelette. A Federation investigator considers a planetary government’s request for credit and guns. An interesting picture o what appears to be an entrenched bureaucracy, but the ending is dumb. (2)

Update: Collected in The Science Fiction of Kris Neville (Southern University Press, hardcover, 1984).

PHILIP LATHAM “Under the Dragon’s Tail.” An astronomer goes mad with the approach of the asteroid Icarus. (1)

Update: Reprinted in On Our Way to the Future, edited by Terry Carr (Ace, paperback, 1970).

– August 1967

S-F YEARBOOK: A Treasury of Science Fiction, Number One, 1967.     Overall rating: 2½ stars.

JOHN D. MacDONALD “Ring Around the Redhead.” [First published in Startling Stories, November 1948.] An inventor discovers a doorway to other dimensions, then must defend himself in court when it proves dangerous. Readable in spite of weak plot. (2)

CHARLES L. HARNESS “Fruits of the Agathon.” [First published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, December 1948.] Novelette. Agathon is a word from the Greek meaning death of an individual planned for the good of society. Confusing, disturbing, and unreadable, but much better than average. (4)

MARGARET ST. CLAIR “The Unreliable Perfumist.” [First published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, February 1953.] Intrigue between a family of Martian perfumists. (0)

GORDON R. DICKSON “Show Me the Way to Go Home.” [First published in Startling Stories, December 1952.] Two Cuperians need the help of a talking at to escape Earth. (1)

RAY BRADBURY “The Irritated People.” [First published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, December 1947.] Warfare is conducted by radio music, confetti, and mosquitos. (2)

MARGARET ST. CLAIR “The Stroller.” [First published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, August 1947.] About strange creatures from Venus. (0)

GEORGE O. SMITH “Journey.” [First published in Startling Stories, May 1948.] Space pilot has to come up with FTL theory to prove he traveled to Alpha Centauri. (3)

EDMOND HAMILTON “The Knowledge Machine.” [First published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, June 1948.] Two men take over an inventor’s discovery that speeds learning electronically. (3)

THEODORE STURGEON “The Sky Was Full of Ships.” [First published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, June 1947.] Strange visitors to Earth are concerned about the use of atomic power. A famous last line. (3)

– August 1967

ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, December 1966. Overall rating: 3 stars.

JACOB HAY “The Opposite Number.” The “inside” story of the spy business. (3)

AGATHA CHRISTIE “Hercule Poirot and the Sixth Chair.” Original title: “Yellow Iris.” Poirot stops a murder from occurring at a dinner party. (3)

WILLIAM BRITTAIN “The Boy Who Read Agatha Christie.” Schoolboy foils plan of college students. Enjoyable but trivial. (3)

ARTHUR PORGES “Private Beachhead.” Gimmick with radios too uncertain for story basis. (2)

YOUNGMAN CARTER “Seeds of Time.” SF story about visitor through time. Nothing unusual. (3)

CORNELL WOOLRICH “All It Takes Is Brains.” Novelette. Original title “Crime of St. Catherine Street.” Man on a bet enters Montreal with 75¢ and leaves with $1500, being wanted for murder in the meantime. Exciting in pulp style. (4)

CHRISTOPHER ANVIL “The Problem Solver and the Defector.” Verner finds secret plans. (3)

GEORGE EMMETT “Pushkin Pays.” Attempt to dispose of body in ocean fails, thanks to appearance of Russian submarine. (1)

HELEN NIELSEN “The Chicken Feed Mine.” Three ex-servicemen kill a desert rat for his “savings.” (3)

JOHN T. SLADEK “Capital C on Planet Amp.” SF, but in far-out camp style. Garbage. (0)

L. E. BEHNEY “The Long Hot Day.” Tale from home. Husband kills stranger his wife falsely accuses. (3)

JOHN DICKSON CARR “To Wake the Dead.” Original title “Blind Man’s Hood.” An adequate locked room mystery, but supernatural tone of story is forced. (2)

RUFUS KING “Anatomy of a Crime.” hort novel. Stuff Drscoll solves a murder made to appear a textbook suicide. Actually an inverted detective story as the reader follows the battle of wits between murderer and investigator with fascination. (4)

– August 1967




   After reading Steve’s recent review of “No Rest for Soldiers,” the first story in the October 1936 issue of Black Mask, I pulled out my copy and just finished reading it cover to cover. Not a stinker in this issue. Giving a rating of four stars for the highest, I rate them as follows:

   “No Rest For Soldiers” – John K. Butler – 4.

   “Jail Bait” – Roger Torrey – 3. Although a complete rip-off of the The Maltese Falcon without the “Falcon” to look for (main tec’s partner is killed and he’s going to find the killer, though they didn’t like each other), this is still a pretty good story. I’m not a great Torrey fan but this story works for me.

   “Heat Target” — Russell Bender — 4. Really well written! I don’t think I’ve ever read a story by Bender. I’ll now go see what else I can find that he wrote for Mask.

   “Sail” — Lester Dent — 4. I can’t count the times I’ve read this story over the years. I still wish that he had written more than two stories for Mask before Shaw got the boot. As good as it gets!!

   “A Ride In The Rain” — W.T.Ballard — 4. One of my favorite Mask writers. If anyone out there has not read Ballard, do yourself a favor and try him. Holds up continuously, time after time!

   I really think this is a top issue of Mask from beginning to end. Steve, let us know how you feel after you finish your copy.

   Added later: Just checked on Russell Bender. He only wrote two others for Mask, though lots more for other titles: October 1938 and July 1940. I have both and will be checking them out soon.

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