Bibliographies, Lists & Checklists


REVIEWED BY DOUG GREENE:

   
PAUL McGUIRE – Murder by the Law. Supt. Fillinger #2. Skeffington, UK, hardcover, 1932. No US edition.

TECH DAVIS

   Paul McGuire is known almost exclusively for his classic, A Funeral in Eden, taking place on an imaginary island. Many of his other novels, set in more prosaic locales, deserve better than the almost complete neglect which has been their fate.

   A case in point is Murder by the Law. The crime – -murder of a thoroughly detestable author – is standard, but the book is enlivened by the setting, the character of the detective, and McGuire’s sardonic writing style, The events take place at a meeting of The New Health and Eugenist Conference, and McGuire so thoroughly punctures the movement that even R. Austin Freeman, had he read the book, might have had second thoughts about Eugenics.

   The narrator, Richard Tibbetts, wonders whether a convinced Eugenist might have killed Harold Ambrose simply because the world would be a better place without him. There are, of course, additional suspects, as Ambrose was writing a novel which would embarrass every woman with whom be had an affair.

   The case is competently handled by Superintendent Fillinger, McGuire’s series detective who also appeared in at least two other books, Daylight Murder and The Tower Mystery (which Tibbetts calls “an odd, queer volume”). Fillinger, at more than 400 pounds, may put even Dr. Fell and Nero Wolfe almost literally in the shade. But he is not so eccentric as those worthies. The investigation is straightforward. And it is not until the final four lines that the murderer is revealed.

– Reprinted from The Poison Pen, Volume 6, Number 3 (Fall 1985). Permission granted by Doug Greene.

   
Bibliographic Update: As it so happens, there are now known to be seven recorded adventures in Fillinger’s case file, to wit:

Three Dead Men. Skeffington 1931.
Murder by the Law. Skeffington 1932.
The Tower Mystery. Skeffington 1932.
Death Fugue. Skeffington 1933.
There Sits Death. Skeffington 1933.
Daylight Murder. Skeffington 1934.
Murder in Haste. Skeffington 1934.

   
   As for Australian-born Paul McGuire (1903-1978), he has sixteen works of mystery and detection listed in Hubin, all between 1931-1940, including the seven above. Five of his novels have been published in the US, but as noted above, not this one.

   And, not surprisingly, while Al Hubin reviewed this one here earlier on this blog, there is not a single copy to be found offered for sale. But also by Paul McGuire and  previously reviewed here is Murder in Bostall (US: The Black Rose Murder), this time by Bill Deeck.

FIRST YOU READ, THEN YOU WRITE
by Francis M. Nevins

   

   In memory of Alex Trebek we begin with a Jeopardy!-style clue. This iconic suspense writer appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine 70-plus times, and now more than half a century after his death he’s in the magazine again. The question of course is: “Who is Cornell Woolrich?”

   Beginning with Volume 1 Number 1 (Fall 1941) he had a total of 75 stories in EQMM (or, depending on whether you count once or twice the tale published in two parts in two consecutive issues, 76). I will add a complete list of his originals and reprints in the magazine at the end of this column. Recently, with the publication of the January-February 2021 issue, the number has risen to 76 (or 77). There’s a story behind how this new story was unearthed, and it falls to me to tell it here.

   Woolrich was a native New Yorker, born in 1903, to parents whose marriage came apart soon after they moved to Mexico where his father lived. He grew up there with his father, Genaro Hopley-Woolrich (1878-1948), but after he reached high-school age and returned to Manhattan to live with his mother and maternal grandfather, he never saw Genaro again.

   His earliest novels and stories, beginning in 1926, were not in our genre but somewhat closer (well, maybe not all that close) to the work of the young literary idol of the 1920s, F. Scott Fitzgerald. In 1934 he began a 15-year period of white-hot creativity as the master of suspense, the Hitchcock of the written word. During the middle 1950s, with those years behind him, he set out to return to mainstream fiction with a series of stories about the birth, adolescence, maturity, old age and death of a New York hotel from its opening night in 1896 till the eve of its demolition in 1957.

   Before these tales were published in book form as Hotel Room (Random House, 1958), the editors decided that each chapter in the collection except the first and last, which constitute a framing story, should have some link with an historic event: the end of World War I, the St. Valentine’s Day massacre, the stock-market collapse.

   This decision required the removal of the tales without such a connection. One of these, “The Penny-a-Worder,” was bought by EQMM founding editor Fred Dannay and published in the magazine’s September 1958 issue, the first of a dozen Woolrich originals in the magazine between then and 1970, two years after Woolrich’s death. Were there other such stories? And if so, what happened to them?

   Woolrich’s will left all his literary rights in trust to Columbia University, where he had gone as an undergraduate in the Twenties (although he quit in his junior year when his first novel sold), and Columbia is also the repository of his papers. In March 2019 I was invited to come east and give a talk at the university’s second annual Dr. Saul and Dorothy Kit Film Noir Festival, which was devoted to the many movies based on Woolrich. (You can find my presentation below.)

      

   During the several days of the program, the Columbia library presented an exhibit of Woolrich papers, of which I was treated to a private viewing while I was in New York. Most of what was on display I had seen before, but two manuscripts were new to me.

   As chance would have it, however, I remembered something about one of them. Several years ago Otto Penzler told me that he’d been offered a heretofore unknown Woolrich story, apparently one intended for but excised from Hotel Room. He remembered its first words and quoted them to me: “She came to the hotel alone….” He had not bought the document and didn’t know what had happened to it. Now in 2019 I was staring at the typescript of a story with the exact same first words.

   After returning to St. Louis I asked the professor who had invited me to Columbia if he could possibly arrange for me to be sent a copy of that story. He did, and I liked it very much. And, thanks to the evolution of our genre “from the detective story to the crime novel” over the 60-odd years since Woolrich had written what I now held in my hands.

   I thought it might interest Janet Hutchings, the present editor of EQMM, and emailed her a copy made from mine. Learning that she too liked it very much, I put her in touch with the agent for the Woolrich estate and a deal was made. If you have the first issue of the magazine for this year, you have the story — not under Woolrich’s awkward original title, “The Fiancée Without a Future,” but as “The Dark Oblivion.” Quite an improvement, yes?

   A question may have crossed your mind as you were reading the last paragraph: What about that other Woolrich story in the exhibit? Well, I managed to obtain a copy of that one too, but it was hardly worth the effort. “The Fault-Finder” is not only a poor story — one of many such dating from Woolrich’s last years — but it isn’t crime fiction even in the broadest sense of that term.

   Since no one is ever likely to see this 13-page story, I have no qualms about describing it. The year is 1915, and a husband and wife are in the St. Anselm Hotel, preparing to set out on a vacation cruise across the Atlantic. (Woolrich doesn’t bother to mention that in fact all Europe was at war that year.)

   The woman keeps insulting and belittling her poor henpecked husband. Finally he goes out to a tavern across the street to drown his sorrows and stays there too long so that their ship has already left New York Harbor by the time he returns to the hotel. Furiously she orders him to call up the steamship line and demand their money back. Klutz to the last, the husband can’t remember the name of the ship they were to sail on.

   His wife berates him as an incompetent imbecile and tells him that they were booked on — have you guessed it? — the Lusitania. End of story. It’s perfectly consistent with the central insight of noir — in Hammett’s words, that we live while blind chance spares us — but that doesn’t qualify it as crime fiction or improve it as a story.

   Woolrich may have written these tales a little before the publication of Hotel Room or he may have written them a few years later, in the very early 1960s. What suggests this second possibility is that, along with copies of the stories themselves, Columbia had sent me a sort of cover sheet in Woolrich’s handwriting, the table of contents for a new and expanded version of Hotel Room, with the title of the book changed to Nine Nights in a New York Hotel and each story in the 1958 version re-titled also. The most fascinating aspect of this sheet of paper is at the top: Woolrich writes his own name as the author, just as it was in the 1958 version, then crosses it out and substitutes his well-known pseudonym William Irish! Why did he do that? I think I can explain.

   After the breakup of his marriage to Woolrich’s mother, Genaro Hopley-Woolrich had had liaisons with many women, the last and longest being with Esperanza Piñon Brangas. Their daughter Alma was born in Nogales, Sonora on 17 June 1938 and, as far as I know, is still alive.

   “I learned I had a brother who was a writer when I was fourteen,” Alma said in a telephone interview in Spanish with the Argentine author Juan José Delaney. In 1961 Alma came up from Oaxaca to New Jersey to visit her father’s half-nephew Carlos Burlingham (1925-2004) and his family, staying with them for more than a year.

   Carlos wrote to Woolrich via his publisher, expecting that the son of his Tio Genaro would want to meet the half-sister he’d never seen. He received in reply a telegram from Woolrich’s attorney, of which Carlos gave me a copy. “He flatly refused to accept the fact” that he had a half-sister, Carlos told me, and the attorney insisted that Genaro had remained faithful to Woolrich’s mother throughout his life.

   Once settled in New Jersey, Alma crossed the Hudson to New York in hopes of meeting her famous half-brother. “But he wouldn’t receive me…. I remember that he sent out his secretary saying that he didn’t want to see me.” Woolrich never had a secretary. Juan José Delaney told me that the word Alma had used in their phone interview was secretario.

   It was a man who had turned her away from Woolrich’s door. That man had to have been Woolrich himself. I can’t prove it but I know it. How could anyone have resisted the temptation to sneak a peek at his only living relative without revealing himself? If he had died without a will, his half-sister who speaks little or no English would have inherited all his copyrights by intestate succession.

   To me that explains why on 6 March 1961 he signed a document leaving his rights and everything else he owned in trust to Columbia University. It also explains why, later in 1961, he legally changed his name to William Irish: it was a way of spitting in the face of his long-dead father. The table of contents page for that anticipated new edition of Hotel Room, with its conspicuous name change at the top of the sheet, almost certainly dates from around this time. That new edition of course never materialized, and the tale he called “The Fiancée Without a Future” never saw print until the beginning of this year.

   Now that you know the stories behind that story, I hope that, if you haven’t already read “The Dark Oblivion“ in the January-February EQMM, you soon will.
   
   

CORNELL WOOLRICH Stories in EQMM, along with original appearances:

Fal 1941 Dime a Dance (Black Mask, Feb 1938)
Sep 1943 After-Dinner Story (Black Mask, Jan 1938)
Sep 1944 The Fingernail (”The Customer’s Always Right,” Detective Tales, Jul 1941)
Mar 1945 The Mathematics of Murder (“What the Well Dressed Corpse Will Wear,” Dime Detective, Mar 1944)
May 1945 Leg Man (Dime Detective, Aug 1943)
Feb 1946 The Earring (“The Death Stone,” Detective Fiction Weekly, Feb 1943)
Jul 1946 If the Dead Could Talk (Black Mask, Feb 1943)
Dec 1946 Angel Face (“Face Work,” Black Mask, Oct 1937)
Feb 1947 You Take Ballistics (Double Detective, Jan 1938)
Apr 1947 Steps Going Up (“Men Must Die,” Black Mask, Aug 1939)
Feb 1948 That’s Your Own Funeral (“Your Own Funeral,” Argosy, 19 Jun 1937)
Aug 1948 The Night Reveals (Story, Apr 1936)
Nov 1948 Johnny on the Spot (Detective Fiction Weekly, 2 May 1936)
Dec 1948 The Body in Grant’s Tomb (Dime Detective, Jan 1943)
Mar 1949 Speak to Me of Death (Argosy, 27 Feb 1937)
Apr 1949 Somebody on the Phone (Detective Fiction Weekly, 31 Jul 1937)
May 1949 Momentum (“Murder Always Gathers Momentum,” Detective Fiction Weekly, 14 Dec 1940)
Jul 1949 Collared (Black Mask, Oct 1939)
Oct 1949 Blind Date (“The Corpse and the Kid,” Dime Detective, Sep 1935)
Dec 1949 Mystery in Room 913 (Detective Fiction Weekly, 4 Jun 1938)
Mar 1950 The Humming Bird Comes Home (Pocket Detective, Mar 1937)
Jun 1950 The Night I Died (Detective Fiction Weekly, 8 Aug 1936)
Sep 1950 Cab, Mister? (Black Mask, Nov 1937)
Dec 1950 The Heavy Sugar (Pocket Detective, Jan 1937)
Mar 1951 Through a Dead Man’s Eye (Black Mask, Dec 1939)
Jul 1951 Death in Round Three (Pocket Detective, Apr 1937)
Sep 1951 Charlie Won’t Be Home Tonight (Dime Detective, Jul 1939)
Nov 1951 All at Once, No Alice (Argosy, 2 Mar 1940)
Mar 1953 Goodbye, New York (Story, Oct 1937)
May 1953 Dormant Account (Black Mask, May 1942)
Jul 1953 Cinderella and the Mob (Argosy, 23 Jun 1940)
Sep 1953 The Loophole (“Three Kills for One,” Black Mask, Jul 1942)
Mar 1954 The Last Bus Home (“Of Time and Murder,” Detective Fiction Weekly, 15 Mar 1941)
Jun 1954 Dead Shot (“Picture Frame,” Black Mask, Jul 1944)
Oct 1954 Debt of Honor (“I.O.U.—One Life,” Double Detective, Nov 1938)
Dec 1954 Something That Happened in Our House (“Murder at Mother’s Knee,” Dime Detective, October 1941)
Feb 1955 Meet Me by the Mannequin (Dime Detective, June 1940)
Mar 1955 Invitation to Sudden Death (“Blue Is for Bravery,” Detective Fiction Weekly, 27 Feb 1937)
Jun 1955 Death at the Burlesque (“The Fatal Footlights,” Detective Fiction Weekly, 14 June 1941)
Sep 1955 The Most Exciting Show in Town (“Double Feature,” Detective Fiction Weekly, 16 May 1936)
Dec 1955 One Night To Be Dead Sure Of (“The Living Lie Down with the Dead,” Dime Detective, Apr 1936)
May 1956 The Absent-Minded Murder (“Cool, Calm and Detected,” Black Mask, Apr 1941)
Sep 1956 The Ice Pick Murders (“Death in Duplicate,” Detective Fiction Weekly, 17 Feb 1940)
Jan 1957 Wait for Me Downstairs (“Finger of Doom,” Detective Fiction Weekly, 22 Jun 1940)
Feb 1958 Endicott’s Girl (Detective Fiction Weekly, 19 Feb 1938)
Mar 1958 Don’t Bet on Murder (“You Bet Your Life,” Detective Fiction Weekly, 25 Sep 1937)
Jun 1958 Hurting Much? (“Death Sits in the Dentist’s Chair,” Detective Fiction Weekly, 4 Aug 1934)
Sep 1958 The Penny-a-Worder (original)
Feb 1959 The Inside Story (“Murder Story,” Detective Fiction Weekly, 11 Sep 1937)
Mar 1959 Blonde Beauty Slain (original)
Sep 1959 Dead Roses (“The Death Rose,” Baffling Detective Mysteries, Mar 1943)
Jun 1961 Hot Water (Argosy, 28 Dec 1935)
Oct 1961 The Singing Hat (“The Counterfeit Hat,” Detective Fiction Weekly, 18 Feb 1939)
Jan 1962 Money Talks (original)
Apr 1962 One Drop of Blood (original)
Feb 1963 The Cape Triangular (Detective Fiction Weekly, 16 Apr 1938)
Jul 1963 I’ll Never Play Detective Again (Black Mask, May 1937)
Mar 1964 Working Is for Fools (original; radio-play version of “Dilemma of the Dead Lady,” Detective Fiction Weekly, 4 Jul 1936)
Apr 1964 Steps…Coming Near (original)
Jun 1964 When Love Turns (original)
Oct 1964 Adventures of a Fountain Pen (“Dipped in Blood,” Street & Smith’s Detective Story, Apr 1945)
Dec 1964 Murder After Death (original) Dec 1965 Just Enough to Cover a Thumbnail (“C-Jag,” Black Mask, Oct 1940)
Jul 1966 It Only Takes a Minute to Die (original)
Dec 1966 All It Takes Is Brains (“Crime on St. Catherine Street,” Argosy, 25 Jan 1936)
Apr 1967 The Talking Eyes (“The Case of the Talking Eyes,” Dime Detective, Sep 1939)
Jun 1967 Divorce—New York Style: I (original)
Jul 1967 Divorce—New York Style: II (original)
May 1968 For the Rest of Her Life (original)
Feb 1969 Rear Window (“It Had To Be Murder,” Dime Detective, Feb 1942)
Dec 1970 New York Blues (original)
Apr 1972 Only One Grain More (“The Detective’s Dilemma,” Detective Fiction Weekly, 26 Oct 1940)
Sep 1972 The Lie (Detective Fiction Weekly, 9 Oct 1937)
Jul 1975 Mystery in the Statue of Liberty (“Red Liberty,” Dime Detective, 1 Jul 1935)
Oct 1978 Death Between Dances (Shadow Mystery Magazine, Dec 1947-Jan 1948)
Jun 1983 The Phantom of the Subway (“You Pays Your Nickel,” Argosy, 22 Aug 1936)

   If you’re as big a fan of obscure mystery writers and characters as I am, you’re going to enjoy this immensely.

BLACKIE SAVOY

   Over the past twenty years David Vineyard has been tracking down information about a man who certainly qualifies as all but totally forgotten, Australian thriller writer Paul Savoy and his primary series character Blackie Savoy. Tidbit by tidbit, piece by piece, David has also painstakingly put together a bibliography of perhaps the most difficult set of books to find in all of mystery fiction.

   Over the past several weeks, David and I have compiled all of this information into a single article and posted it on the primary Mystery*File website. (Follow the link.)

   The article is far too long to have been posted it here on the blog. Cover images have been included, but the books, both hardcover and paperback, are so scarce that many of the scans are in far poorer condition than I’d have preferred. Nonetheless, working on the principle that something is better than nothing, I’ve included everything that David has been able to send me.

   The article plus the bibliography, which includes adaptations of Savoy’s work into a single film, Blackie Savoy Gets His (Centaur Studios, 1935), comic strips, radio shows, and a four-year syndicated program on Australian TV that seems to have slipped the memories of almost everyone, is, we believe, all that is known about the author.

   Obviously if anyone can supply any more information, including specific publishing dates, reprint editions, and any covers that David has not come across on his own, would be extremely welcome.

REVIEWED BY BARRY GARDNER:

   

JEROME DOOLITTLE – Kill Story. Tom Bethany #6. Pocket Books, hardcover, 1995; paperback, 1996.

   Doolittle had told me in a letter that this was going to be called Spread Eagle. but said at EyeCon that Pocket Books had decided the original title might be offensive. He didn’t really understand why, and neither do I. Oh, well.

   Tom Bethany lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and makes his living doing … well, sort of whatever comes to hand. He’s managed to extract himself from all the databases most of us are in, and officially he doesn’t really exist But he’s real, and an old friend asks for his help when one of her old friends is found dead, an apparent suicide.

   She’s not sure it is, but if it was feels the woman was driven to it by the newspaper publishing baron who bought her newspaper, and then fired many of her old friends. The man is known as “the Cobra” in the business, and not because of his looks. Bethany doesn’t know if there’s anything there, but a friend’s a friend and he agrees to poke around in the rubble.

   I think Doolittle is one of consistently best storytellers in the business. Sometimes his plots requite a little suspension of disbelief, but never more than I’ve been able to handle. Bethany, the ex-college wrestler and ex-government pilot in Southeast Asia, is simply a tremendously appealing (and irreverent) character. The first person narration is smooth and witty, but not burdened with a wisecrack every other sentence.

   Doolittle’s books are not “heavy,” and are notably free of angst. What they are is entertaining, and readable, and very much worth your time and mine.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #21, August-September 1995

   
      The Tom Bethany series

1. Body Scissors (1990)
2. Strangle Hold (1991)

3. Bear Hug (1992)
4. Head Lock (1993)

5. Half Nelson (1994)
6. Kill Story (1995)

IT IS PURELY MY OPINION
Reviews by L. J. Roberts

   

JANE ADAMS – The Greenway. Det. Inspector Mike Croft #1. Macmillan, UK, hardcover, 1995. Fawcett Gold Medal, US, paperback, 1997. Setting: Contemporary England.

   Cassie Maltham’s cousin disappeared while they were taking a short-cut home through the Greenway, an ancient passageway in Norfolk. Cassie couldn’t remember what had happened, but has suffered from depression and nightmares ever since. Now, 20 years later, Cassie has returned to Norfolk trying to let go of the past. But when another young girl disappears, it draws Cassie back into her nightmares. Detective Inspector Mike Croft, through the urging of Sergeant Bill Enfield, elicits the help of John Tynan, the retired detective who investigated the disappearance of Cassie’s cousin.

   Ms. Adams has written a haunting, yet very human book about guilt and loss. Cassie suffers survivor’s guilt; why did her cousin disappear rather than she. Croft knows the anguish of losing a child, although his son had been killed in a hit-and-run. The story was absorbing with good twists along the way and touches of the supernatural. I shall definitely read more of Ms. Adams’ work.

Rating: Good Plus

— Reprinted from the primary Mystery*File website, January 2006.

   

      The Det. Inspector Mike Croft series –

1. The Greenway (1995)
2. Cast the First Stone (1996) aka The Secrets
3. Fade to Grey (1998) aka Their Final Moments / Final Frame
4. The Liar (2019)

IT IS PURELY MY OPINION
Reviews by L. J. Roberts

   

PAUL ADAM – Sleeper. Gianni Castiglione #1. Time Warner, UK, paperback, 2005. Published in the US as The Rainaldi Quartet (St. Martin’s, hardcover, 2006; Felony & Mayhem, paperback, 2007).

   Giovanni “Gianni” Castiglioni is a luthier – a violin maker – at whose home his friends – a policeman, Guastafeste, a priest, Father Arrigh, and a fellow luthier, Rainaldi – gather each month as an informal string quartet. After one of their sessions, Guastafeste and Gianni find Rainaldi murdered in his studio nearby. His widow tells them he was searching for “The Messiah’s Sister,” the twin to a perfect, unplayed, priceless violin made by Stradivari. Gianni is asked by Guastafeste to help in the investigation.

   This book is being released in hardcover by St. Martin’s as The Rainaldi Quartet in February 2006. No matter the title, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The character of Gianni, the supporting characters and the settings in Italy were well done. The killer, and the motive, weren’t ones I anticipated. But it was the history of violins and violin making I found fascinating. The information enhanced, rather than detracted, from the story. If this is an example of Mr. Adam’s writing, I should definitely read another book by him.

Rating: Good Plus

— Reprinted from the primary Mystery*File website, January 2006.

   

      The Gianni Castiglione series

1. Sleeper (2004) aka The Rainaldi Quartet
2. Paganini’s Ghost (2010)
3. The Hardanger Riddle (2019)The Gianni Castiglione series —

SHEILA RADLEY – The Chief Inspector’s Daughter. Inspector Quantrill #2. Scribner’s, US, hardcover, 1980. Constable, UK, hardcover 1981. Dell / Murder Ink, paperback, 1981. Bantam, paperback, 1987. Felony & Mayhem, trade paperback, 2007.

   The inspector’s name is Quantrill, and you may have met him before in Death in the Morning. That one I haven’t read myself, but I’m going to. This one’s a good one.

   To tell you the truth, though, I wasn’t so sure it was going to be when I started. The first couple of chapters are not all that promising. Stories involving British policemen and their dreary home lives I find more-or-less depressing. A little bit of it, at least, usually goes a long way.

   Apparently, vital communications between Quantrill and his wife have been gradually breaking down over the years, and to compound the problem, their younger daughter has just arrived home from London after a break-up with her lover. Nothing like a good case of murder to bring a family together, hmmm?

   But that’s just what it does. Daughter Alison takes a job as an assistant to Jasmine Woods, a well-known writer of romantic fiction. When Alison finds her employer brutally murdered one morning, she goes into shock, and then she disappears before revealing the important clue she knows.

   Some of the best clues in this story are provided by the simple expedient of omission, however, and you as reader are going to have to stay on your toes to stay ahead of the game. The plotting is rather cleverly done, but Sheila Radley does play fair. And you really do have good chance of beating Quantrill to the killer.

   I liked the ending. While it has nothing to do with the mystery, per se, I think by story’s end the characters have indeed become reasonable facsimiles of human beings for it to considered on of the better cliffhanger finales I’ve read in quite some time.

Rating: B plus.

–Very slightly revised from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 5, No. 2, March/April 1981.

   

      The Chief Inspector Douglas Quantrill series —

Death and the Maiden (n.) H. Hamilton 1978.
The Chief Inspector’s Daughter (n.) Constable 1981.
A Talent for Destruction (n.) Constable 1982.
Blood on the Happy Highway (n.) Constable 1983.
Fate Worse Than Death (n.) Constable 1985.
Who Saw Him Die? (n.) Constable 1987.
This Way Out (n.) Constable 1989.
Cross My Heart and Hope to Die (n.) Constable 1992.
Fair Game (n.) Constable 1994.

REVIEWED BY DOUG GREENE:

   

SIMON NASH – Unhallowed Murder. Adam Ludlow #5. Geoffrey Bles, UK, hardcover, 1966. Roy Publishers, US, hardcover, 1966. Perennial P758, US, paperback, 1985.

   In 1951, Edmund Crispin and his detective don, Gervase Fen, disappeared from the scene (except for an occasional short story) for more than 25 years. But at least for the early 1960S, their places were more than adequately filled by Simon Nash, a pseudonym of Raymond Chapman, and his detective don Adam Ludlow.

   Indeed, Ludlow is basically a new incarnation of Fen, with the same curiosity, the same humor, the same fund of miscellaneous (but literate) information. But imitation is not necessarily bad, especially when it’s done by a fine stylist and plotmonger like Nash. In short, this, the fifth and apparently final book by Nash, is very good indeed. As the title indicates, the setting is a church, whose vicar proceeds to get murdered. There are plenty of possible motives:

   Is someone after the vicar’s accumulation of rare books (which he absentmindedly hid?) Is it significant that the parish council is planning to throw a working family out of a house to be occupied by the curate? Are the desecrations of the altar the responsibility of a group of Satanists.? Did low churchmen, fearing that the parish is “going over to Rome” commit the murder?

   Much of the book is filled with humorous descriptions of parish life, including the high churchmen of the Guild of Saint Cyprian and Severus (“Ah my friend, when will the sweet savour of incense again be sent up in every parish church throughout the land”) opposed by the League for Confuting and Suppressing the Errors of the Tractarians (“Things haven’t been the same since the Roman hierarchy was restored”).

   The detective problem itself is well-handled, but whether the “Romanizers” or the “zealous heretics” would be more pleased with the solution is a moot point.

– Reprinted from The Poison Pen, Volume 4, Number 2 (April, 1981). Permission granted by Doug Greene.

   

      The Adam Ludlow series —

Dead of a Counterplot (n.) Bles 1962.
Killed by Scandal (n.) Bles 1962 .
Death Over Deep Water (n.) Bles 1963.
Dead Woman’s Ditch (n.) Bles 1964.
Unhallowed Murder (n.) Bles 1966.

REVIEWED BY DOUG GREENE:

   

GUY BOOTHBY – A Bid for Fortune. Dr. Nikola #1.  Appleton, hardcover, 1895. Published earlier in the UK by Ward Lock, hardcover, 1895. Reprinted as Enter Dr. Nikola. Newcastle, UK, paperback, 1975. Later reprinted by Oxford University Press, US, paperback, 1996; then many POD editions. Silent film: Unity-Super, 1917.

   Searching for books is often a frustrating task, not merely because (as we all know) some books simply won’t be found but also because those that are located often turn out to be disappointments. In my experience, many highly touted classics have not lived up to their publicity. That is not the case, I’m glad to report, with Guy Boothby’s first novel about Dr. Nikola.

   I leave it to others to discover whether Dr. Nikola is fiction’s first arch-criminal (is Moriarty in the same category?), but it seems likely that the Nikola books form the first sustained series featuring such a nefarious malefactor. A Bid for Fortune has coincidences galore and occasional purple prose (“Oh, my girlie! my poor little girlie! what have I brought you to through my. obstinacy?”), but it is generally well-told and well-plotted. Boothby keeps the reader interested not by overwhelming use of violence – indeed, I don’t recall a single murder in it – but by a sense of mystery.

   The book opens with Dr. Nikola meeting 3 co-conspirators who plan, for an unnamed reason and by unspecified means, to ruin a man named Wetherell: “My toils are closing on you … you will find yourself being slowly but surely ground into powder. Then you may be sorry you thought fit to baulk Dr. Nikola.” The scene then shifts to Australia, to young Dick Hatteras who has made a fortune pearling and who plans to visit his ancestral home in England. He falls in love with Wetherell’s daughter, and on shipboard they pledge their troth (as they used to do; nowadays they just shack up).

   Once in London, his fiancee is forced to 1eave him; he meets Dr. Nikola, and befriends a young nobleman whom he agrees to guide to Australia. The plot becomes steadily more complicated, as Nikola’s minions kidnap Hatteras and the young Lord in Cairo. Eventually, they return to Australia, and rescue all in distress, but Dr. Nikola obtains what he has sought from Wetherell. Nevertheless, the veil of mystery remains even in the final paragraph: “What gigantic coup [Nikola] intends to accomplish … is beyond my power to tell.”

   Boothby, an Australian, had not only a sense of mystery but also a talent for description of 19th century England, Australia and Egypt. A Bid for Fortune is an excellent example of leisurely but engrossing fin de siecle storytelling.

– Reprinted from The Poison Pen, Volume 4, Number 2 (April, 1981). Permission granted by Doug Greene.

   
      The Dr. Nikola series

A Bid for Fortune; or, Dr. Nikola’s Vendetta. Ward 1895.
Doctor Nikola. Ward 1896.
The Lust of Hate. Ward 1898.
Dr. Nikola’s Experiment. Hodder 1899.
Farewell Nikola. Ward 1901.

T. T. FLYNN “The Deadly Orchid.” Trixie Meehan & Mike Harris #1. First published in Detective Fiction Weekly, April 15, 1933. Reprinted in The Pulps, edited by Tony Goldstone (Chelsea House, hardcover, 1970) and Hard-Boiled Dames, edited by Bernard Drew (St. Martin’s Press, hardcover, 1986).

   I have written about the bickering pair of PI’s by the name of Trixie Meehan and Mike Harris before. You can find my review of “Barred Doors,” the seventh in the series, here. To recap quickly, though, they both work for the Blaine Agency and are always casting barbs at each other – in a friendly way, you know —  or at least I think so.

   In this, their first appearance, they go undercover in a plush hotel disguised as husband and wife (but in a suite of adjoining rooms, with a lock on the door between them). With the benefit of an unlimited expense account, they also are pretending to be a fabulously wealthy pair of Texans (oil money), and living it up greatly.

   Their target: a incredulously beautiful wisp of a girl, nicknamed the Orchid, who is also a notorious blackmailer who has also been known to kill her victims when things don’t work out perfectly with one of her schemes.

   Mike is the one who tells the story and the one who works up the plan to discover where the love letters she is holding over her latest victim are located, but Trixie is no slouch either when she is needed to take part in the action.

   There’s not a lot of depth to the tale, but it’s smoothly told, in something of a screwball story sort of way. Somebody really ought to put together a complete collection of their adventures together.
   

      The Mike Harris & Trixie Meehan stories –

The Deadly Orchid (ss) Detective Fiction Weekly Apr 15 1933
Falling Death (nv) Detective Fiction Weekly Oct 28 1933
Murder’s Masquerade (nv) Detective Fiction Weekly Mar 31 1934
The Yin Shee Dragon (na) Detective Fiction Weekly Sep 29 1934
Murder Harbor (nv) Detective Fiction Weekly Dec 1 1934
The City Hall Murders (na) Detective Fiction Weekly Mar 23 1935
Barred Doors (na) Detective Fiction Weekly May 18 1935
Nitro! Nitro! (na) Detective Fiction Weekly Apr 4 1936
The Letters and the Law (na) Detective Fiction Weekly Jun 27 1936
Abbey of the Damned (na) Detective Fiction Weekly Oct 30 1937
Murder Circus (na) Detective Fiction Weekly May 21 1938
The Secret of the Swamp (na) Detective Fiction Weekly Feb 25 1939
Brother Murder (na) Detective Fiction Weekly Dec 2 1939
Mike Finds Trouble (sl) Detective Fiction Weekly Aug 17 1940, etc.
Build Up for Murder (nv) Detective Fiction Aug 20 1941
Killer in the Clouds (ss) Detective Tales Mar 1951

   

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