Bibliographies, Lists & Checklists

PATRICK KELLEY – Sleightly Invisible. Harry Calderwood #3. Avon, paperback original, 1986.

   Another mystery with magic involved (*) – Kelley’s detective (this is his third adventure) is a magician named Harry Calderwood. Harry was once a big name, on TV and all, but he is now doing street corners. I don’t know why. Maybe I should read the earlier books.

   But maybe I won’t, since I found this one rather disappointing. It involves a missing coed that Harry is forced into finding. Harry has a glib tongue, but his attempts at humor seem to miss tw7o times out of three.  The mystery he solves also needs some work.

– Reprinted from Mystery.File.6, June 1980.


(*) I was referring here to the book The Wealth Seekers, the Shadow paperback by Maxwell Grant reviewed just before this one  in this issue, and a few days earlier on this blog.

      The Harry Calderwood series

Sleightly Murder. Avon 1985.
Sleightly Lethal. Avon 1986.
Sleightly Invisible. Avon 1986
Sleightly Deceived. Avon 1987.
Sleightly Guilty. Avon 1988.

ROBERT KYLE – Kill Now, Pay Later. Ben Gates #3. Dell First Edition B178, paperback original; 1st printing, December 1960. Reprinted as by Robert Terrall (Hard Case Crime, paperback, 2007). Cover art for each by Robert McGinnis.

   This one starts off with Ben Gates hard at work doing a job not often brought up in the world of PI fiction: namely watching over the wedding gifts at a very fancy affair in the outskirts of New York City. The affair is so upscale that Ben has hired an assistant to keep watch on the outside while he’s stuck in the house on the inside.

   It’s a good thing he did, too, as things do not go smoothly. First an inebriated bridesmaid comes into the room where he is standing guard, and the first thing she does is put on a very expensive diamond bracelet and refuse to take it off. It’s a touchy situation, and before Ben is sure he (and his assistant) have it under control, he finds himself falling asleep.

   The coffee he drank to keep himself awake was drugged.

   When he wakes up the next morning, he learns that a burglar had been at work in the house during the night. The bride’s mother, having surprised the intruder in her room, has died of a heart attack, and his assistant had shot and killed the thief.

   Everything’s fine, otherwise, except for Ben’s reputation, and to remedy that, he takes himself on as a client. What follows is a rollicking romp of a case, with lots of lovely ladies to distract Ben from following up on the clues he finds (basically how did the thief, a city fellow, know that the picking would be so good at this particular time and place?). The lovely ladies all have the way of wearing clothing (or not) as to best attract Ben’s attention, and maybe a male reader’s, too.

   Shades of Richard Prather’s Shell Scott stories – straight out of the same Author’s Handbook. No maybe about it.

   A plot line involving a case of possible arson, badger games, naughty photos, blackmail and the like builds up at length to the bursting point. At which time All Hell Breaks Loose.

   Who’d have thought a simple case of watching wedding gifts would turn out to be so complicated? And fun!

      The Ben Gates series —

Blackmail, Inc. Dell 1958.
Model for Murder. Dell 1959.
Kill Now, Pay Later. Dell 1960.
Some Like It Cool. Dell 1962.
Ben Gates Is Hot. Dell 1964.



ROGER L. SIMON – Wild Turkey.  Moses Wine #2. Straight Arrow, hardcover, 1974. Pocket, paperback, 1976. Warner, paperback, 1986.  iBooks, softcover, 2000.

   The second Moses Wine book and in my view a better and less confused book than the first, The Big Fix. From the word go the pace is hectic as Wine, initially challenged to clear best selling author Jock Hecht of the murder of a famous TV woman newscaster, finds himself chasing desperately after Hecht’s killer and searching for some mysterious tapes before he himself is bumped off.

   There’s a touch of the Donald Westlake about some of it, and by and large I enjoyed it. I’m not sure that I believe in Wine’s strange domestic set up or casual sex life — but I’m not sure that it matters.

– Reprinted from The Poisoned Pen, Volume 4, Number 4 (August 1981).

      The Moses Wine series —

The Big Fix. Straight Arrow, 1973.
Wild Turkey. Straight Arrow, 1974.
Peking Duck. Simon & Schuster, 1979.
California Roll. Villard, 1985.
The Straight Man. Villard, 1986.
Raising the Dead. Villard, 1988.
Director’s Cut, Atria, 2003.



IAIN PEARS – The Last Judgment. Jonathan Argyll #4. Scribner, hardcover, 1996. Berkley, paperback, 1999.

   I’ve only read one other in this series, and my vague memory of it was that it was a quite decent read, if nothing major.

   Expatriate British art dealer Jonathan Argyll, now living in Rome, is having a rough season of it. While in Paris buying some sketches for a museum, he works out a deal with a Parisian dealer — if the dealer will see that the sketches are shipped to America, Argyll will deliver one of the dealer’s paintings to a buyer in Rome.

   Nothing could be simpler, right?

   Wrong. First someone tries to steal the painting in the train station, and then a murder is connected with it. Then there’s another, and Argyll’s lover, Flavia di Stefano of Rome’s Art Squad, gets involved The Parisian police are strangely obfuscatory, so Argyll and de Stefano follow the trail back to Paris and secrets buried since World War II and into some serious danger.

   I enjoy this series. I like the art background (though in one sense there isn’t much of it in this one), I like the European setting,  and I like the  characters. These aren’t major books by any means, probably on a par with and similar to Aaron Elkins’ Chris Norgren series, but they are enjoyable. In these days of bloated books about serial killers and women in peril, I value my minor pleasures more and more.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #25, May 1996.

      The Jonathan Argyll series —

1. The Raphael Affair (1990)
2. The Titian Committee (1991)
3. The Bernini Bust (1992)
4. The Last Judgement (1993)
5. Giotto’s Hand (1994)
6. Death and Restoration (1996)
7. The Immaculate Deception (2000)



EARL NORMAN – Kill Me on the Ginza. Burns Bannion #6. Berkley Y626, paperback original, 1962. Barye Phillips cover art. Also available in ebook format (Kindle).

   You know the old saying, “you can’t keep a good thing down?” It seems sometimes you can’t keep a bad thing down either, which explains why Earl Norman’s Burns Bannion novels are back in print.

   Burns Bannion is an expatriate American private eye in Tokyo (each book gives us a long winded explanation how the Japanese would never give an American a P. I. License so Bannion is enrolled as a college student, but never goes to class), and an expert in karate. Literally the little bits of karate you get in these slender books is about the only reason to read them though they promised at times to be so bad they are good without quite making it.

   This one opens with our hero in a club on the Ginza, the neon club district in wide open Post War Tokyo, Burns is leaving a club when a pneumatic Japanese performer heaving precariously in her low cut outfit smacks him over the head with a metal tray.

   “See fat slob! See big hunk! This Burns Bannion! This Tokyo private tante, Snooper! Detective! Lousy Bastard!”    

   So far I can’t disagree with anything she says.

   This is really poverty row private eye stuff with a little international intrigue and exotic locations thrown in. In every book Bannion meets one dimensional (character wise, physically they are three dimensional) Japanese women in various states of undress and gets drawn into pretty non-dimensional cases.

   Bannion fails to recognize this one because she has her clothes on, and he last saw her a week earlier in the buff posing at the Art Photography Studio for Photo Fans also on the Ginza (next to the Urological and Sexual Institute we are told) where Bannion had pretended to be a photographer to check her out for a client, Hedges, a correspondent. Seems the girl, G. N. Noriko was a friend of Bill Crea a missing correspondent who disappeared on a trip to Kobe.

   Before he can go to Kobe though Inspector Ezawa, another Karate man, picks up Bannion and Hedges and takes them to the train station where a dismembered body has been found, and the police have been sent his head in a bowling bag. Bill Crea’s head.

   Not a terrible opening despite Norman’s somewhat tiresome version of wise guy private eye-ese. In this one he’s battling a cult, the Oshira, based on a prototype of modern Japanese gods and predating Buddhism, the hidden god, and something called the Grand Apex which turns out to be a front for sex trafficking from Korea while Bannion gets help from G. N. (and you do not want to know what those initials stand for) and a stripper called Bay-bee.

   There’s also a philosophical criminal called House Charnel who talks like Nietzsche on LSD: “We are all born into the world as enemies.”

   I can see where these time killers were exotic enough at the time to draw some readers. The plots are serviceable, there is a lot of talk about sex and pneumatic Japanese beauties, and of course karate battle aplenty (I wanted to get my hands free so I could Karate-chop the Whore-master to his just rewards.).

   I have a feeling that many people feel more kindly about these than I do, and I have no problem with that.

   I will give Norman this, he manages to keep the action boiling down to the last page and without a single chapter break — that’s right, the edition I read had no chapter breaks, just continuous narrative, and I have a suspicion this may be his best book, though that isn’t saying a lot. He knows something about Japan and probably could have parlayed that into something interesting, but never does.

      The Burns Bannion series

Kill Me in Tokyo. Berkley 1958 [Tokyo]
Kill Me in Shimbashi. Berkley 1959 [Tokyo]
Kill Me in Yokohama. Berkley 1960 [Japan]
Kill Me in Shinjuku. Berkley 1961 [Tokyo]
Kill Me in Yoshiwara. Berkley 1961 [Tokyo]
Kill Me in Atami. Berkley 1962 [Japan]
Kill Me on the Ginza. Berkley 1962 [Tokyo]
Kill Me in Yokosuka. Erle 1966 [Japan]
Kill Me in Roppongi. Erle 1967 [Japan]



POUL ANDERSON – Murder Bound. Trygve Yamamura #3. Macmillan, hardcover, 1962.


   Authors better known for other sorts of writing have occasionally produced good detective novels. Tales by A. A.Milne, C. P. Snow, Antonia Fraser, Isaac Asimov and William F. Buckley (well kind of) come immediately to mind.

   Poul Anderson, the accomplished science fiction and fantasy author, tried his hand at three detective novels between 1959 and 1962. It’s not surprising that the strongest sections of his third mystery, Murder Bound, contain some fantasy elements, especially the scenes connecting Norse sea-legends with modern mystery.

   The book opens with Conrad Lauring returning to America aboard the liner Valborg and listening to tales of Draugs, the ghosts of men drowned st sea. A sailor named Benrud then unaccountably starts a fight and disappears overboard. When Lauring reaches San Francisco, his life is threatened by apparent manifestations of a faceless Draug (Benrud’s ghost), dripping seaweed and all.

   Though Anderson gives some fine atmospheric descriptions of San Francisco, he remainder of Murder Bound is a letdown.· For one thing, it’s difficult to take seriously the investigations of someone named Trygve Yamamura. I’m not kidding; that’s really’ is the name of Anderaon’s private eye. He’s half-Norwegian,. half-Hawaiian, a judo expert who collects Samurai swords.

   Maybe if Anderson had made Yamamura’s Aryan Hawaiianism part of the story, the detective would be acceptable; but in fact; he’s just a normal P,I., and one who seems a bit slow on the uptake. Second, not only is the identity of the Draug  obvious, but the solution assumes an amazing amount of incompetence from a former Gestapo agent.

   There are enough good sections in Murder  Bound to justify spending a few hours with it, but it is not really worthy of an author who could produce such-splendid fantasy novels as A Midsummer’s Tempest and Three Hearts and Three Lions.

– Somewhat shortened from its earlier appearance in The Poisoned Pen, Volume 4, Number 4 (August 1981).


The Trygve Yamamura series

   Poul Anderson: (novels)

Perish by the Sword.  Macmillan 1959.
Murder in Black Letter. Macmillan 1960.
Murder Bound. Macmillan 1962.

   Poul Anderson: (short stories)

Pythagorean Romaji. The Saint Mystery Magazine, December 1959
Stab in the Back. The Saint Mystery Magazine, March 1960
The Gentle Way.  The Saint Mystery Magazine, August 1960,

   Karen & Poul Anderson: (short story)

Dead Phone. The Saint Mystery Magazine, December 1964

MARGARET SCHERF – The Elk and the Evidence. Rev. Martin Buell #4. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1952.

   Reverend Martin Buell is an Episcopal rector in Farrington, Montana, but some how or another, he always seems to find himself caught up in yet another murder case, The Elk and the Evidence appearing right in the middle of his crime-solving career. Margaret Scherf, the teller of his adventures, as well as those of her other series characters, Grace Severance (4 books), Emily & Henry Bryce (4 books), Lt. Ryan (2 books), as well as a sizable number of standalones, is known for her light humorous approach to writing detective fiction, and the example at hand is no exception.

   The case is threefold. (1) A package of elk meat given to Buell as a gift unaccountably contains a man’s toe. (2) A hunter who was a member of a large hunting party has gone missing. And (3) a girl coming to Montana to vet out a wealthy man as possible marriage material encounters two men in hunting clothes leaving a third man overnight in a lower train berth while on her way home.

   Are the three incidents connected? You bet they are.

   The humor comes quietly in almost every page of the first half of the book – only a smile perhaps, but most detective novels have none. The smiles don’t come from wacky behavior, but largely from Buell’s observation of people and the natural order of things in a small town in which everybody knows everybody else. The girl, a natural redhead, has to be put up in a widower’s spare bedroom, for example, which causes a lot of curiosity.

   This is a lot of fun to read, as you can imagine, but unfortunately the detective end of things is, to coin a word,  disappointing. Reverend Buell tries, but as as a man of the cloth, nothing more, he has no way to conduct any kind of proper investigation. The conclusion tries to tie all the preceding events together, but where all of the facts relevant to a motive came from, it is hard to say. And why the man’s toe was removed is even harder to explain. I didn’t even try to follow.

      The Rev. Martin Buell series –

Always Murder a Friend. Doubleday 1948.
Gilbert’s Last Toothache. Doubleday 1949.
The Curious Custard Pie. Doubleday 1950.
The Elk and the Evidence. Doubleday 1952.
The Cautious Overshoes. Doubleday 1956.
Never Turn Your Back. Doubleday 1959.
The Corpse in the Flannel Nightgown. Doubleday 1965.



NANCY BELL – Biggie and the Poisoned Politician. Biggie Weatherford #1, hardcover, St. Martin’s, 1996; paperback, 1997.

   And here we have a first novel by an Austin, Texas lady who is a sorority house-mother at the University of Texas, and who is at work on the next Biggie Weatherford novel.

   Biggie Weatherford is the wealthiest woman in the small East Texas town of Job’s Crossing, and somewhat more than semi-eccentric. When the city fathers decide to put a landfill next to her farm and ancestral graveyard she rises up in righteous wrath, which is further fueled by a strip-mining operation sniffing around the area. But before she can accomplish anything a boarder has his car blown up, a city official is killed, and a mysterious stranger shows up in town.

   Well, they don’t come any cozier than this-pure fluff and a yard wide, but fortunately not very long (200 pages). It’s even got a recipe at the end, for God’s sake. And I actually sort of (*blush*) enjoyed it. It’s narrated by the lead’s 12 year old grandson in a fairly authentic rural Texas voice, which along with the characters was most of its appeal for me. They were painted with a very broad brush, but anyone who’s lived in a small town won’t have trouble recognizing a few of them.

   Bell stumbles once or twice with the voice (a regional first person voice is hard to write for 200 pages, even if you’re raised to speak it) and has a cat doing something a cat wouldn’t do, and the plot is the usual cozy silliness, but if you’re not expecting too much going in, you  might be pleasantly surprised.

   An aside — I’ll be interested to see if she catches any heat from the P.C. crowd for not only portraying a black woman as a maid, but having her have a shiftless husband and be a voodoo woman as well.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #25, May 1996.


      The Biggie Weatherford series —

1. Biggie and the Poisoned Politician (1996)
2. Biggie and the Mangled Mortician (1997)
3. Biggie and the Fricasseed Fat Man (1998)
4. Biggie and the Meddlesome Mailman (1999)
5. Biggie and the Quincy Ghost (2001)
6. Biggie and the Devil Diet (2002)

CAROLYN WESTON – Rouse the Demon. Casey Kellog & Al Krug #3. Random House, hardcover, 1976. Brash Books, softcover, 2015.

   A psychologist trying hypnotism as therapy for juvenile drug addicts is murdered. Cops Casey Kellog and Al Krug investigate and find Dr. Myrick more apprentice than sorcerer. No miracle cures for this encounter group.

   This is the third of the series of novels that inspired the TV show The Streets of San Francisco. It’s plagued by both spotty and shoddy police work, as far as I’m concerned, detracting greatly from a decent plot conception. It’s also very tempting to add that the television actors bring a great deal to their roles, and I would, if I watched it more than once a year.

Rating: C.

– Very slightly revised from The MYSTERY FANcier, January 1977 (Vol. 1, No. 1)

      The Casey Kellog & Al Krug series —

Poor, Poor Ophelia. Random House, 1972.
Susannah Screaming. Random House, 1975.
Rouse the Demon.  Random House, 1976.

FREDERICK C. DAVIS – The Deadly Miss Ashley. Schyler Cole & Luke Speare #1. Doubleday/Crime Club, hardcover, 1950. Pocket #804, paperback, 1951.

   I read and collect Davis’s books mostly because he was an extremely prolific writer for the detective pulp magazines, but if you were to pin me down I couldn’t tell you anything significant that he wrote for them. Maybe the Operator #5 pulp-hero stories?

   Here the detective Agency is Scyler Cole’s, but the switch os that he plays Watson to his own legman, Luke Speare, who appears to have all the brains and energy. The problem is to discover which of the many women inn the case is the accomplice awaiting an embezzler’s return from prison, the loot still hidden.

   The deductions get tedious and self-contradictory, the plot contrived and essentially unreal, but the clues are fair and the killer is deadly. The case hinges to large extent on an undecipherable method of shorthand, invented and taught by a lady in Baltimore – a touch of insanity indeed.

Rating: C

– Slightly revised from The MYSTERY FANcier, January 1977 (Vol. 1, No. 1)


      The Schyler Cole & Luke Speare series —

The Deadly Miss Ashley. Doubleday 1950.
Lilies in Her Garden Grew. Doubleday 1951.
Tread Lightly, Angel. Doubleday 1952.
Drag the Dark. Doubleday 1953.
Another Morgue Heard From. Doubleday 1954.
Night Drop. Doubleday 1955

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