Bibliographies, Lists & Checklists

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Karol Kay Hope


AARON ELKINS – Fellowship of Fear. Gideon Oliver #1. Walker, hardcover, 1982. Popular Library, paperback, 1986. TV series: Quoting from Wikipedia “Gideon Oliver is a prime time television series that ran on the ABC television network between February 1989 and May 1989 as part of the ABC Mystery Movie rotation, along with B.L. Stryker, Kojak and Columbo. On the air for only five episodes, the series starred Louis Gossett Jr., and was created by Dick Wolf.”

   The early 1980s spawned a great many new mystery writers, and Aaron Elkins is one of the best of them. This first novel introduces us to Gideon Oliver, a young anthropology professor (Elkins himself teaches anthropology in northern California) who signed up for a summer teaching stint in Europe with the U.S. Overseas College. He’s recovering from the death of his beloved wife the year before and needs a break from that reality. And he’s never been to Europe.

   Oliver gets a change of pace, all right. Far from the confines of academic life, he’s cast as the main character in an international spy ring — but not until he’s been robbed, attacked, and followed all over Europe does he take it seriously. He then teams up with John Lau, a U.S. security officer, who’s not quite so naive about these matters. After being suitably impressed by Oliver’s fine investigative mind — he is a physical anthropologist, after all, and used to solving mysteries with little more than a sliver of bone and some ash for evidence — Lau teams with him and they attack the spy operation with fresh enthusiasm.

   Elkins has a good sense of contemporary character, dialogue, and plot. Gideon Oliver is a good man, and Elkins is good, too. He writes sparsely, to the point, and is cagey enough to keep us wondering until the very end.

   Elkins’s second novel, The Dark Place ( 1983), also features Oliver and is set in the Olympic National Park in Washington State. It also has the distinction of being the first mystery to involve the ongoing hunt for Sasquatch, otherwise known as Bigfoot.

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.

      The Gideon Oliver series

1 Fellowship of Fear (1982)
2 The Dark Place (1983)
3 Murder in the Queen’s Armes (1985)
4 Old Bones (1987)
5 Curses! (1989)
6 Icy Clutches (1990)
7 Make No Bones (1991)
8 Dead Men’s Hearts (1994)
9 Twenty Blue Devils (1997)
10 Skeleton Dance (2000)
11 Good Blood (2004)
12 Where There’s a Will (2005)
13 Unnatural Selection (2006)
14 Little Tiny Teeth (2007)
15 Uneasy Relations (2008)
16 Skull Duggery (2009)
17 Dying on the Vine (2012)
18 Switcheroo (2016)



KAREN KIJEWSKI – Honky Tonk Kat. Kat Colorado #7. Putnam,  hardcover, 1996. Berkley, paperback, 1997.

   I think Kijewski is in the  group (along with Barnes, Grant, and Rozan) of female PI writers just below Muller and Grafton, and ahead of Paretsky and everybody else. My only quarrel with her lies in her seemingly gender-linked trait of endowing her heroine with obnoxious friends and/ or relatives.

   A childhood friend of Kat’s is a country and western star now, and she’s got troubles. Someone is sending her notes that are disquieting and vaguely threatening, and she wants Kat’s help. She’s not being very forthcoming about her past, though, and Kat is having a hard time getting a handle on it all. There’s an abusive ex-husband, a father that vanished when she was two, and a cousin who’s popped up from out of nowhere who wants to be a star, too, and who knows what else. Then someone is killed.

   Interesting that Kijewski and Muller both chose a country and western star background for their latest, though there aren’t many other plot similarities. This is a good, solid PI novel, of a piece with Kijewski’s earlier work except for a welcome lessening of Kat’s personal problems and the presence of her aforementioned obnoxious friends and relatives. See, Karen? You can do it.

   Good first-person narration, interesting background, good book.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #26, July 1996.


      The Kat Colorado series

1. Katwalk (1989)
2. Katapult (1990)
3. Kat’s Cradle (1992)
4. Copy Kat (1992)
5. Wild Kat (1994)
6. Alley Kat Blues (1995)
7. Honky Tonk Kat (1996)
8. Kat Scratch Fever (1997)
9. Stray Kat Waltz (1998)



LINDA GRANT – Lethal Genes. Cat Saylor #5. Scribner, hardcover, 1996. Ivy, paperback, 1997.

   With her four previous books Grant has become one of my favorite female authors. She isn’t a glib as Grafton, or as intense and angst-ful as Paretsky, or as focused on relationships as Muller, but her stories have substance and well-developed characters, and are very well written. Her business-world settings are a refreshing change, too.

   San Francisco Pl Catherine Saylor steps into a new world when she takes a case involving a biotech lab at the University of California. Someone is sabotaging experiments in cutting-edge dot com gene research, and no one there can figure out why, much less who.

   Cat finds a fair amount of academic jealousy, and some pretty lax security procedures, but the culprit and a motive prove more elusive. Then someone dies, and someone else is killed, and the com patch becomes a deadly place.

   My only cavil first off: the villain as eventually revealed wasn’t totally convincing to me, because I didn’t think the character and motivation were nearly well-enough established. That out of the way, I thought  this was Grant’s usual excellent job. She focuses more on the crime and less on the personal life of the protagonist than do most of the female, authors, which is at all to say that Saylor is not a well-drawn and engaging character — she is. Grant’s first-person narration is smooth and paced nicely, and her prose straightforward. She remains one of my favorites.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #26, July 1996.


      The Catherine Sayler series

1. Random Access Murder (1988)
2. Blind Trust (1990)
3. Love Nor Money (1991)
4. A Woman’s Place (1994)
5. Lethal Genes (1996)
6. Vampire Bytes (1998)

RICHARD ABSHIRE – Dallas Deception. PI Jack Kyle #3. William Morrow, hardcover, 1992. Penguin, paperback, 1993.

   Jack Kyle is one of those oh-so-common PI’s who’s barely squeaking by. He sleeps in his office, for example, and his secretary (named Della) works for the occupants of all the offices on the same floor as his. He’s hired on this case (pro bono) on behalf of a cop friend who’s currently laid up in the hospital. It seems that the daughter of the latter’s very close lady friend has been caught on videotape in some very X-rated activity, and not voluntarily.

   Kyle makes with the rough tough scene, gets the tape, makes sure it is the original (but of course the number of copies can’t be determined for sure, but the frightened Freddy, who orchestrated the scene, tells Kyle that that’s all there is. Maybe, maybe not, but Kyle later finds he has a problem to deal with when he finds Freddy dead, with the very naked daughter in the same room.

   That’s pretty much it. The basic plot line. When spelled out like that, it doesn’t seem like much — not to fill nearly 300 pages of small print in the paperback edition — but I haven’t yet gone into the motive, which verges into very nearly science fiction territory, of the “mad doctor” variety, or at least it was back in the early 1990s, and personally, I didn’t find it very interesting, I have to admit, though, it was certainly different.

   Jack Kyle, who tells the story in good old-fashioned first person, is a likeable lunk of a guy. When he’s actually working on the case, the action scenes are well-described and orchestrated, but the banter between Kyle and his friends and associates often come off as forced and lame. Maybe it was just me, but the best I can do on my H/B scale is a meager 4.7.

   That’s out of 10.

      The Jack Kyle series
1. Dallas Drop (1989)
2. Turnaround Jack (1990)
3. The Dallas Deception (1992)

[NOTE]: This is the last of four reviews that went missing during the loss of service undergone by this blog over this past weekend. Unfortunately all of the comments for it have permanently disappeared.

ZELDA POPKIN – Death Wears a White Gardenia. Mary Carner #1. J.B. Lippincott Co, hardcover, 1938. Dell #13, paperback (mapback edition), circa 1943.

   Although she may come close to being a PI (see comment #1), when it comes down to it, Mary Carner probably shouldn’t really be tagged as one. As Death ears a Gardenia begins, she’s the assistant to the on-staff detective at a major department store in the center of Manhattan, and her expertise is not wayward spouses nor missing heirs. It is instead shoplifters and shoplifting, a profession and occupation that’s been around as long as there have been department stores.

   But when murder occurs during a giant anniversary sale, she’s on hand throughout, offering opinions and interviewing suspects right along with the police. She’s slim and pretty, but tough-minded, and her opinions and questions are right on target, as if she’s been doing it all her life.

   Dead is the store’s credit manager, and Zelda Popkin, the author, must have had some experience working behind the scenes in such an establishment is described in picturesque detail, and is a solid part of the tale’s background. Personal relationships, and the secrets the employees have from each other and (they hope) the world as well are revealed to all in the course of the investigation.

   Popkin was a very good writer, with good insight as to how real people think and behave, but in this first book in the series, she doesn’t seem to have gotten the hang of portraying a book-length investigation and keeping things moving. The middle portion of the book deals with the ups and downs of the building’s elevators the night before, details of which are, well, boring. More attention should have been spent on the gardenia in the dead man’s hand. (Not a floor manager’s carnation.) This is what’s really important, and if they’d only asked the poor flower seller outside the store what she knew a lot earlier, the book would have been over in a third of the time, if not less.

Rating (on my well-tested HB Hardboiled scale): 2.5 (out of 10).

      The Mary Carner series —

Death Wears a White Gardenia (1938)
Time Off for Murder (1940)
Murder in the Mist (1940)
Dead Man’s Gift (1941)
No Crime for a Lady (1942)

KATHLEEN MOORE KNIGHT – Three of Diamonds. Elisha Macomber #15. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1953. Detective Book Club, hardcover, three-in-one edition.

   The detective of record in Three of Diamonds is one Elisha Macomber, chairman of the Board of Selectmen of Penberthy Township, Penberthy Island, Massachusetts, a man perhaps in his 70s. Although there is a Chief of Police on the island (think Nantucket), whenever there is a serious crime (murder, for example), he is the one who is charge of the investigation that follows, and over the years, there were quite a few. (See the list below.)

   He’s off stage for much of this one, however. The action centers instead around the Crockett family, long time residents of the island, an older woman who lords it over a young sister and brother, both used to living under her thumb all their lives. In a pottery barn out back live a husband and wife, plus a young female assistant, not, as it turns out, all that harmoniously

   It is the younger brother Titus, not generally considered to be the smartest whip in the barrel, who finds the body, shot between the eyes. But when others go to find it, the body is gone. At the scene of the “crime,” however, is a playing card. The three of diamonds.

   It is difficult to solve a murder, obviously, when there is no body to be identified, if indeed there was a body. Macomber is convinced, however, and does more than due diligence to determine what indeed had happened. The case also involves some recent strangers on the island, who may be connected with some jewel robberies up in Boston,

   There is a chapter or two soon before the ending in which all of the participants in the tale spend their time skulking around in the dark, following each other at times, and in at least one instance, one hitting another over the head. The ending itself is one of those all of the suspects together kind of affairs, in which the obvious suspect sits there with Elisha in charge with a entire collection of least likely suspects.

   One might suspect that author Kathleen Moore Knight would things index control at this point, but she does not. What follows is a fast-paced mixture of confusion and chaos that could easily boggle your mind, if you were to let it. It is better just to sit back and fasten your seat belts. The ending of this one is a doozie!

      The Elisha Macomber series —

Death Blew Out the Match (1935)
The Clue of the Poor Man’s Shilling (1936)
The Wheel That Turned (1936)
Seven Were Veiled (1937)
Acts of Black Night (1938)
The Tainted Token (1938)
Death Came Dancing (1941)
The Trouble At Turkey Hill (1946)
Footbridge to Death (1947)
Bait for Murder (1948)
The Bass Derby Murder (1949)
Death Goes to a Reunion (1952)
Valse Macabre (1952)
Akin to Murder (1953)
Three of Diamonds (1953)
Beauty Is a Beast (1959)

W. T. BALLARD – Pretty Miss Murder. Max Hunter #1. PermabookM-4228, paperback original,; 1st printing, December 1961. Never reprinted.

   Back when this book was published, I’m going to assume that Ballard was correct and that in order to get a job working in Clark County, Nevada, and Reno in particular, you had to fill out an application from the sheriff’s office, and be accepted. That’s where Lt. Max Hunter first encounters a vivacious young brunette who’s hoping to start working at a local casino as a cigarette girl while in the state seeking a divorce.

   The attraction is immediate, and is only doubled when he meets again on the job. (As described, she looks exactly like the girl on the cover. (*)) Any further relationship is nipped in the bud, however, when the girl’s body is found later dumped beside a highway leading out of town.

   Hunter takes her death personally, of course, but what he learns is both surprising and disturbing, to say the least. All her life she has been known for leading men on and as a conniving (I can’t use the word) and has even been disowned by her aunt and uncle who raised her.

   Even though thoroughly disillusioned, Hunter continues on the case anyway, which, as it turns out, involves a well known racketeer who is trying to track down the girl’s husband, who has gone missing with $250,000 of the gang boss’s money. As an unexpected twist in the plot at the time, Hunter and Johnny Blessing find it mutually worthwhile to team up together, if only for a while.

   It’s a fun, fast-moving story, the only flaw in which is Ballard describes his characters so well that … well, in my opinion, when they act out of character, something’s wrong. Hunter ought to have trusted his instinct more. I knew exactly what was happening, even as all the while Ballard, as the man in charge of telling the story, was doing his best to divert attention away.

   You might think this would take away the enjoyment of reading to learn how things work out, which they do, but it doesn’t, and all of the threads are tied up tightly at the end. It’s a smooth professional piece of writing, produced by a longtime pulp writer  who didn’t dry up and quit when the pulps died. It’s not really a hardboiled novel, only medium boiled at best, but on that basis, of you’re still with me, I’d say you’d have fun with this one, too.


(^) The cover shown is that of the copy I own, which Ive had for a very long time. Amusingly enough, while I’m not sure you can make it out, but what the girl is selling are spelled out as “cigaretts.” Also note the mutilated cover, with the upper right corner clipped off. This is was often done by those paperback swap shops commonly found almost everywhere a few years back so that books deemed unworthy could not be used to be traded back into the store again. The book cost me ten cents, which to me was a dime well spent, now finally at last.

         The Max Hunter series —

Pretty Miss Murder (1961)
The Seven Sisters (1962)
Three for the Money (1963)

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Art Scott


MALCOLM DOUGLAS – The Deadly Dames. Gold Medal #614, paperback, 1956. Reprinted by Stark House Press in a 2-for-1 edition with A Dum-Dum for the President, trade paperback, 2015, as by Douglas Sanderson.

   There were innumerable private-eye novels that saw print as paperback originals in the Fifties and Sixties. While many, perhaps most, were routine and forgettable, the intrepid reader will occasionally come across a real sleeper, like this book by the Canadian writer Douglas Sanderson, writing as Malcolm Douglas.

   Bill Yates. easygoing Montreal private eye, takes on what looks to be a simple case of spy-on-the-straying-spouse. But before he even starts work, the client’s rich aunt tries to buy him off, and she promptly goes down under the wheels of a streetcar. Not long after that. two emissaries from the local gambling czar stick him up in his office, looking for a missing will. One day and three or four corpses later, Yates is being pursued by the crooks, the cops, several double-crossing dames, and an Amazon Russian housemaid with romantic notions.

   The action is furious and headlong, culminating with a naked Yates being chased through the Canadian woods while being eaten alive by swarms of mosquitoes. Along the way. Yates sets the world record for the greatest number of people to get the drop on a private eye in the course of a Gold Medal paperback.

   Douglas’s style is classic don’t-take-it-seriously private-eye material: wry, observant. and a bit gaudy — and perhaps just on the edge of parody. Radio detective fans will find it reminiscent of the marvelous scripts Richard Breen used to write for tough guy Jack Webb in Pat Novak for Hire. Exceptionally entertaining.

   The other Malcolm Douglas Gold Medal originals — Rain of Terror (1956), Pure Sweet Hell (1957), and Murder Comes Calling (1958) — are less successful but still good reading. The best of Sanderson’s novels under his own name is probably Mark It for Murder (1959).

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.


Bibliographic Update: Technically this was the only book Sanderson wrote about Montreal-based PI Bill Yates, but on his Thrilling Detective website Kevin Burton Smith points out that Sanderson wrote three other novels about Yates as Martin Brett, except that in those books, Yates was called Mike Garfin. Here’s the tally:

      The Mike Garfin series —


Hot Freeze (1954)
The Darker Traffic (1954)
The Deadly Dames (1956; by Malcolm Douglas) Mike is called Bill Yates in this one, for contractual reasons.
A Dum-Dum for the President (1961)

SAMUEL HOLT – What I Tell You Three Times Is False. Sam Holt #3. Tor, hardcover, 1987; paperback, 1988. Felony & Mayhem, softcover, 2006, as by Donald E. Westlake writing as Samuel Holt.

   Former TV star Sam Holt and three other actors and actresses typecast in their roles of fictional detectives, along with assorted wives, lovers, and so on, are trapped on an isolated Caribbean island with a killer who seems intent on being the last one left alive.

   After a slow start, setting the scene, the mystery revs into high gear, with the killer and the detectives  squaring off in a long, complicated game of murder, somewhat reminiscent of Ellery Queen, but by a noticeable hair, not quite as clever as the master.

(*) Original footnote: If anyone know who Samuel Holt is, let me know. (And note that the similarity on plotting to EQ’s work is matched by the pseudonymous author-character relationship. It couldn’t be just a coincidence, could it?)

– Reprinted from Mystery.File.6, June 1988.

      The Sam Holt series –

1. One of Us Is Wrong (1986)
2. I Know a Trick Worth Two of That (1986)
3. What I Tell You Three Times Is False (1987)
4. The Fourth Dimension Is Death (1989)

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Bill Crider


ROBERT DIETRICH – Murder on the Rocks. Steve Bentley #1.  Dell First Edition A141, paperback original, 1957. Cutting Edge, trade paperback, 2020.

   Steve Bentley, series fiction’s toughest tax accountant, was the creation of Robert Dietrich. better known by his more famous (or infamous) real name of E. Howard Hunt. Because he was employed by the CIA, Hunt used pseudonyms for much of his paperback writing in the 1950s and 1960s; the Dietrich name was used first for Dell Books and later for Lancer.

   In Murder on the Rocks, the first book in the series, Bentley is asked by the beautiful daughter of a South American ambassador to investigate the theft of an emerald worth over $ I million. Instead of the emerald, Bentley finds a corpse, and the case becomes even more complicated when the emerald is apparently returned.

   Another murder takes place; Bentley is threatened by gangsters; and the ambassador’s other daughter, even more beautiful than her sister, practically proposes to him. Eventually Bentley, functioning much like any hard-boiled private eye, sorts things out and deals out a bit of his own kind of justice.

   This is one of the better books in the Bentley series, and most of the tough narrative rings true. How tough? Here’s an example: “When Cadena was a tank sergeant on Luzon he had pulled the head off a dead Jap to win a ten-cent bet.” The Washington setting is described with easy familiarity and the characterization is adequate, although readers may be put off by Bentley’s frequent disparaging comments about homosexuals, which are entirely unrelated to the book’s plot.

   Readers looking for more of Bentley’s adventures should also enjoy End of a Stripper (1960). Perhaps Hunt’s best book as Dietrich, however, is a non-series work, Be My Victim (1956).

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.

      The Steve Bentley series

Murder On the Rocks (1957)
The House on Q Street (1959)
End of a Stripper (1960)
Mistress to Murder (1960)
Murder on Her Mind (1960)
Angel Eyes (1961)
Calypso Caper (1961)
Curtains for a Lover (1962)
My Body (1973)

Next Page »