I’ve asked Greg Shepard, publisher and editor-in-chief at Stark House Press, to tell us what’s come out from them recently or what will be showing up soon. He has most graciously agreed:

by Greg Shepard

   This year Stark House Press will celebrate being in business for 20 years. Our first book was a hardback collection of fantasy stories by Storm Constantine. We followed that with a few more Constantine projects, then jumped into Algernon Blackwood territory, a supernatural sidestep on our way to crime.

   Twenty years in the publishing business has brought us full circle; in January, 2019, we published the definitive biography of Algernon Blackwood by Mike Ashley — The Starlight Man. This is not only the first paperback edition, but also the most complete version, since Ashley added back in all the bits his UK hardback publisher asked him to take out back in 2001, with lots of new pictures as well.

   Although our primary focus has mainly been “men’s” hardboiled, noir fiction of the 40s to the 60s — our lead title for January was Lead With Your Left and The Best That Ever Did It by Ed Lacy, two gritty, New York cop mysteries — we recently began adding more of the women’s suspense authors from that era, too. In November of 2018 we issued End of the Line by Bert & Dolores Hitchens as part of our Black Gat series. This is one of five railroad mysteries that Dolores wrote with her rail-detective husband, Bert. But Dolores also wrote a lot of fine standalone mysteries during the 1950s, and we will be bring six of those back over the next couple years, starting with Stairway to an Empty Room and Terror Lurks in the Darkness next fall.

   In February, we will be proudly publishing two novels by the incomparable Jean Potts. She won the Edgar Award for one them, Go, Lovely Rose, and was nominated for the other one, The Evil Wish. Both are excellent novels of psychological suspense, the first story dealing with the murder of a woman whom everyone in town hates, the second concerning a murder that is planned but not executed, leaving distrust and suspicion in its wake. Booklist has already labeled these “two masterpieces” and we’re excited to be bringing them back, with more to come.

   Stark House will also be reprinting the works of Bernice Carey and Helen Nielsen. Back in November of 2016 we reprinted Woman on the Roof by Nielsen, and in May we have two more of her clever Southern California mysteries to offer: Borrow the Night and The Fifth Caller. Also in May we will be publishing (for the first time in paperback) Carey’s The Man Who Got Away With It and The Three Widows. Carey set her novels in small town California where she lived, often peppering them with her own brand of social justice. As Curtis Evans says in his introduction, “the most significant contribution of Bernice Carey to mid-century crime fiction was her commitment to exploring realistic social conditions in her novels.” She also created some very interesting characters.

   Over in the noir camp is one of my personal favorites, Gil Brewer. We published two of his noir thrillers, The Red Scarf and A Killer is Loose, back in October. Brewer was the master of momentum. He’d create a desperate situation for this protagonist—usually involving lots of cash and a young, willing woman — and turn him loose to frantically pursue each with equal amounts of sweat and lust.

   This year, we are reprinting Redheads Die Quickly, the definitive collection of Brewer stories edited by David Rachels back in 2012, with five new ones added. And later this year we will be complementing this volume with two new Brewer collections: Death is a Private Eye, set for August, and Die Once — Die Twice, tentatively scheduled for early 2020; each volume edited and introduced by David Rachels.

   In March, Stark House is following up its Carter Brown program with three more Al Wheeler mysteries: No Law Against Angels, Doll for the Big House and Chorine Makes a Killing. If you don’t recognize these titles, that’s because No Law was published here as The Body (the very first Brown book to be published in the U.S.) and Doll as The Bombshell.

   Back in the late 1950s, when Brown’s Australian publisher started to populate the world with his books, the feeling was that they needed Americanizing. So these first few Wheeler stories were revised for the U.S. audience. I thought it’d be more fun to reprint the original Australian versions, so that’s what we’re doing. In fact, Chorine has never been published in the U.S. at all, so that’s a first for most American readers.

   Those are just a few of the highlights. There’s more: Jeff Vorzimmer has edited the mammoth The Best of Manhunt and will be discussing it in a separate post. That’s our big summer title, set for July. I am also working on a second trio of Lion Book noirs, another two-fer of Barry N. Malzberg satires (The Spread and The Social Worker), our final Peter Rabe volume (New Man in the House and Her High School Lover), plus lots of odds and ends over at Black Gat Books, including authors like Noël Calef, Ovid Demaris, Fredric Brown and Louis Malley.

   If you like (love) old vintage crime fiction as much as I do, and if you have a Nook, Kindle or other similar electronic reading device, you’re in luck.

   A new ebook website, Prologue Books, has been in the works for the past few months, and it’s now online at

   You’ll find a complete list of current offerings below. Greg Shepard of Stark House Press, one of the fellows responsible for this new line of books, tells me that other authors yet to come are Harry Whittington, Dan Marlowe, Helen Nielsen, G. H. Otis, Jack Webb, Gil Brewer, Louis Trimble, Barry Malzberg. Westerns are next. Science fiction and adventure are coming, he says. (The other fellow involved is Ben LeRoy, editor of Tyrus Books. Trust me. These guys know what they’re doing.)

   My reaction? What a great idea! One whose time has come. The good stuff. The kind of tough, hard-boiled fiction I’ve been reading for over 50 years. Looking through the list of books below, I bought some of them new off the local drugstore’s spinner rack when I was still in my teens. (I still have them.) The others in my collection I had to scrounge up from used bookstores here and there all over the country, from Maine to St. Louis and back again.

   And here they are again, all spruced up, the dust brushed off and ready for a new generation of readers. Personally all I could wish for are paper editions as well, but this is the next best thing. Believe me, this is the best news I’ve had all week.

      Robert Colby

Run for the Money
The Faster She Runs
The Deadly Desire
The Captain Must Die
Secret of the Second Door
Lament for Julie
Beautiful But Bad
These Lonely, These Dead
Murder Mistress
The Star Trap
Kill Me a Fortune
In a Vanishing Room
The Quaking Widow

      Richard Deming

This Game of Murder
Tweak the Devil’s Nose
Give the Girl a Gun
The Gallows in My Garden

      Fletcher Flora

The Seducer
The Brass Bed
Park Avenue Tramp
The Hot Shot
Wake Up With a Stranger
Killing Cousins
Leave Her to Hell

      William Campbell Gault

Sweet Wild Wench
The Convertible Hearse
Square in the Middle
Vein of Violence
The Wayward Widow
The Bloody Bokhara
Murder in the Raw
Dead Hero
County Kill
Don’t Cry for Me
The Hundred Dollar Girl
The Canvas Coffin
Run, Killer, Run
Night Lady
Million Dollar Tramp
End of a Call Girl
Death Out of Focus
Day of the Ram
Blood on the Boards

      Orrie Hitt

Shabby Street
Woman Hunt
Untamed Lust
Unfaithful Wives
The Sucker
The Promoter
The Lady is a Lush
Suburban Wife
Sin Doll
Ladies Man
I’ll Call Every Monday
Dolls and Dues

      Frank Kane

A Short Bier
A Real Gone Guy
Trigger Mortis
Red Hot Ice
Johnny Liddell’s Morgue
Dead Weight
Stacked Deck

      Henry Kane

The Case of the Murdered Madame
Martinis and Murder
Don’t Call Me Madame
Death of a Dastard
Armchair in Hell
Fistful of Death
Death is the Last Lover

      M. E. Kerr

Fell Down
Fell Back

      Ed Lacy

The Freeloaders
Two Hot to Handle

      Whit Masterson

A Hammer in His Hand
A Shadow in the Wild
Badge of Evil
Dead, She Was Beautiful
Evil Come, Evil Go
The Dark Fantastic
A Cry in the Night

      Marijane Meaker

Scott Free
Game of Survival

      Wade Miller

Deadly Weapon
Murder Charge
Shoot to Kill
Uneasy Street
Murder – Queen High
Calamity Fair

      Vin Packer

The Young and Violent
Girl on the Best Seller List
Something in the Shadows
Dark Don’t Catch Me
Come Destroy Me
Alone at Night
5:45 to Suburbia
Don’t Rely on Gemini
The Damnation of Adam Blessing
The Evil Friendship
The Hare in March
The Thrill Kids
The Twisted Ones
Three Day Terror
Intimate Victims

      Kin Platt

Murder in Rosslare
Match Point for Murder
Dead As They Come
The Body Beautiful Murder
The Giant Kill
The Kissing Gourami
The Princess Stakes Murder
The Pushbutton Butterfly
The Screwball King Murder

      Talmage Powell

With a Madman Behind Me
Man Killer
Start Screaming Murder
The Girl’s Number Doesn’t Answer
The Killer is Mine
The Smasher
Corpus Delectable

      Peter Rabe

The Silent Wall
The Return of Marvin Palaver
The Box
My Lovely Executioner
Murder Me for Nickels
Journey into Terror
Blood on the Desert
Benny Muscles In
Anatomy of a Killer
Agreement to Kill
A Shroud for Jesso
A House in Naples

      Charles Runyon

The Anatomy of Violence
Color Him Dead
Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die
The Prettiest Girl I Ever Killed

Summer & Fall 2010

   This past summer’s titles from Ostara Publishing’s Top Notch Thrillers imprint which aims to revive Great British thrillers “which do not deserve to be forgotten” included a 50th anniversary reissue of a classic manhunt; the story of a World War II conspiracy from one of the biggest selling authors of the 1970s; an award-winning against-the-clock thriller; and a Gothic chiller from an author described as the literary link between Dennis Wheatley and James Herbert.

   Watcher in the Shadows by Geoffrey Household is the tense, spare story of a manhunt across England’s green and pleasant countryside in 1955 which has been described by one critic “As if Gunfight at the OK Corral had been transposed to St Mary Mead.”

   Geoffrey Household, the writer widely considered to be the natural successor to John Buchan, had an unrivalled feel for the English countryside and the primitive bond between hunter and prey.

   First published fifty years ago in 1960, Watcher in the Shadows is a masterly description of a deadly game of cat-and-mouse which ranks comfortably alongside Household’s legendary Rogue Male.


   Black Camelot, first published in 1978, combines a superbly researched wartime conspiracy plot with blistering action and rightly led to the author, Duncan Kyle, being favourably compared to Alistair Maclean and Desmond Bagley.

   Under his real name, John Broxholme was a distinguished journalist and Chairman of the Crime Writers’ Association, but it was as Duncan Kyle that he achieved international fame from the moment his first thriller, A Cage of Ice, became an instant bestseller on publication in 1970.


   Francis Clifford was one of Britain’s most respected thriller writers from his first well-crafted mysteries in the late 1950s to his untimely death in 1975. His 1974 novel The Grosvenor Square Goodbye was a sensation on publication, won the Crime Writers’ Silver Dagger and was serialised in national newspapers.

   The action of the book takes place in less than 24 hours and begins with a crazed lone gunman bringing the West End of London – and the American Embassy – to a violent halt. But nothing, absolutely nothing, in this ingenious ticking-clock thriller can be taken for granted.


   The Young Man From Lima, first published in 1968, shows all the trademark touches which made author John Blackburn “today’s master of horror” (Times Literary Supplement).

   John Blackburn held a unique place among British thriller writers of the 1960s, adding his own taste for the Gothic and the macabre to the conventions of the thriller, the spy story and the detective novel, and always at a ferocious pace. As a writer he is seen as the literary link between the work of Dennis Wheatley and James Herbert and many of his plots were based on scientific or medical phenomenon presaging the work of writers such as Michael Crichton.


         7th December 2010

   Top Notch Thrillers, the new imprint of print-on-demand publisher OSTARA celebrates its first year in operation with the re-issue of two classic British thrillers.

    John Gardner’s debut novel The Liquidator was originally written as an affectionate spoof of the James Bond genre and featured the cowardly, accident-prone agent “Boysie” Oakes.

   Originally published in 1964, shortly after the death of Ian Fleming, the Boysie Oakes books were seen as a natural successor to Bond and in the 1970s, John Gardner (by now an established thriller writer) was approached by the estate of Ian Fleming to continue the 007 franchise. In total, Gardner wrote over 50 novels, the last of which was published posthumously in 2008.


   Victor Canning (1911-1986) was one of Britain’s best-loved popular novelists, whose first book was published at the age of 23 and whose writing career spanned more than 50 years. The Rainbird Pattern is probably his most famous thriller and won the Crime Writers’ Association’s Silver Dagger in 1972. It was filmed by Alfred Hitchcock (his last film) as Family Plot.


   In the first year since its inception, the Top Notch Thrillers imprint has reissued 14 novels from what consulting editor Mike Ripley calls: “the heyday of British thriller writing – the 1960s and 1970s.”

   Says Ripley, himself an award-winning crime writer and a member of the International Thriller Writers organisation: “It’s a fantastic honour to be re-issuing many of the thrillers I grew up reading, but it is not just a question of nostalgia. The range and distinctiveness of British thrillers forty years ago was staggering, and the sheer quality of imaginative writing then simply does not deserve to be forgotten.”

   Full details of all Top Notch Thrillers can be found on Titles are available from Amazon (£10.99 in the UK, $16.98 in the US).

   Series Editor Mike Ripley can be contacted via

Editorial Comment:  The last two are not yet available from Amazon in the US, but they can be obtained from in the UK for $15.95, postpaid. (Price and availability may change quickly.)

    Back in January of 2009, I posted an article by Nicholas Flower about his role in creating new titles for Charles Williams’ crime novels when they were published in the UK by Cassell.

    The piece was updated in February, and in March cover images of five more dust jackets of books in the Cassell series were added, thanks to Bill Pronzini, along with new commentary about them by Nicholas.

    Cassell published fifteen Charles Williams thrillers, though, and until last week there were only twelve that were included in Nicholas’ article. And there things stood, until now, thanks to some helpful online booksellers who very kindly supplied us with images of the three that were missing. All fifteen covers are now part of that original post.

    I hope you’ll go back and take a look. You can find the post here. I think it’s worth the visit, or even a revisit!

                    — Steve

    It’s taken me longer than it should have, but this afternoon I finally finished the formatting of a checklist that should be of interest to everyone who reads and collects mysteries published during the Golden Age of Detection.


    Compiled by Victor Berch, the title is “A Checklist of HARPER’S SEALED MYSTERY SERIES,” and to tempt you even more, here are the first two paragraphs of Victor’s introduction to the list:

    Following in the footsteps of Doubleday, Doran & Co.’s entrance into the mystery series with its Crime Club series early in 1928, Harper Brothers introduced in 1929 an unusual concept for its series. Each publication was to have a certain portion of the mystery story sealed off from the reader at a climactic point in the story. If the reader wished to continue to discover the author’s explanation and solution to the committed crime(s), the reader would then have to break the seal and read on.

    Should the reader lose interest in the author’s story and returned the book to the bookseller with the seal intact, the reader would be refunded the cost of the book.

    This series of books, obviously very collectible today, was published between 1929 and 1934. The most prominent author included in the series was beyond a doubt John Dickson Carr, with nine books in the series (in six years!). It’s the cover of one of these that you see here up above. Other authors include Freeman Wills Crofts, Milton Propper, Mary Plum, Hulbert Footner and Albert Payson Terhune.

    Thanks to Bill Pronzini and his collection, covers of some two dozen or more are included. The list is too long to have posted on the blog. You’ll find it instead here on the main Mystery*File website. (Follow the link.)

    And just how many of the books were returned to Harper’s for a refund? You’ll have to read Victor’s article.

AN IPL CHECKLIST, by Victor A. Berch

IPL A Checklist

   This is Steve speaking. IPL is the short form of a tongue-twister name of a publishing company called International Polygonics Limited. The man behind the company was Hugh Abramson, and the man behind him, working as a series consultant and helping to choose what books to reprint, was Douglas G. Greene, who’s presently the man in charge of Crippen & Landru, publisher of previously uncollected stories of a long list of mystery writers.

   Together, as the head honchos behind IPL, they put together a long run of paperback mystery reprints, with a soupcon of hardcovers and original novels thrown in. Authors such as John Dickson Carr (and his alter ego Carter Dickson), Margaret Millar, Leslie Charteris, Craig Rice, Clayton Rawson, and George Baxt.


   Should I name more? I can, and easily. Ngaio Marsh, Ellery Queen, Jonathan Latimer, Charlotte Armstrong, E. Richard Johnson, and Stuart Palmer. All of the above, and others, were among those with multiple titles offered.

   Impressed? You should be.

   Among the non-mystery titles IPL published were more than a handful by P. G. Wodehouse.

   Several years ago Victor Berch completed a checklist of all of the IPL titles, and you can see it here on the main Mystery*File website. (Click on the link.)

   Note that it’s long enough that it takes two full pages, with a link on the first taking you to the second. Be sure you find your way to both pages.


   This pair of web pages is still being worked on, which is why the checklist has never been announced officially until now. I have many many cover images to add to it, including back covers, and research into some of the non-mystery books remains to be done.

   But as a checklist of the books themselves, they’re all there, with plenty of cover images already included. It also could use a better introduction and overview of the entire IPL operation, but you can consider this a Preview, with more to come, as soon as I can do it.

   To my mind, this is an extraordinary run of paperbacks, but because of limited distribution of the books, few people are as aware of their existence as they should be. This checklist should help remedy that — or at least Victor and I hope so!


New Titles: February 2010

   Three months after the imprint’s launch, Ostara Publishing has issued four more titles in their print-on-demand Top Notch Thrillers series which “aims to revive Great British thrillers which do not deserve to be forgotten.”

   The new titles, originally published in Britain between 1962 and 1970, were selected by crime writer and critic Mike Ripley, who acts as Series Editor for TNT:

   The Tale of the Lazy Dog by Alan Williams is a brilliant heist thriller set in the Laos-Cambodia-Vietnam triangle in 1969 as a mis-matched gang of rogues and pirates attempt to steal $1.5 billion in used US Treasury notes.


   Time Is An Ambush is a delicate, atmospheric study of suspicion and guilt set in Franco’s Spain, by Francis Clifford, one of the most-admired stylists of the post-war generation of British thriller-writers.


   A Flock Of Ships, Brian Callison’s bestselling wartime thriller of a small Allied convoy lured to its doom in the South Atlantic, was famous for its breathless, machine-gun prose and was described by Alistair Maclean as: “The best war story I have ever read.”


   The Ninth Directive was the second assignment for super-spy Quiller (whose fans included Kingsley Amis and John Dickson Carr), created by Adam Hall (Elleston Trevor) and is a taught, tense thriller of political assassination which pre-dated Day of the Jackal by five years.


   Announcing the latest batch of reissues, Mike Ripley said:   “Our new titles are absolutely in line with the Top Notch ethos of showing the range and variety of thrillers from what was something of a Golden Age for British thriller writing. They range in approach from slow-burning suspense to relentless wartime action and feature obsessive, super tough, super cool spies and some tremendous villains. Above all, they are characterised by the quality of their writing, albeit in very different styles.

    “When first published, these titles were all best-sellers and their authors are among the most respected names in thriller fiction. Many readers will welcome these novels back almost as old friends and hopefully a new generation of readers will discover them for the first time.”

   Top Notch Thrillers are published as trade paperbacks with a RRP of £10.99.


I just ran across a comment from Bill Crider on the rara avis site about Harlequin censoring the six recent mystery vintage paperbacks that they republished. This really annoys me. See this site for more and a link to the Harlequin site where they cheerfully announce the censorship:

I wish I was joking but I’m not.

Best, Walker

Excerpted from the Harlequin blog:

Remember, our intention was to publish the stories in their original form. But once we immersed ourselves in the text, our eyes grew wide. Our jaws dropped. Social behavior—such as hitting a woman—that would be considered totally unacceptable now was quite common sixty years ago. Scenes of near rape would not sit well with a contemporary audience, we were quite convinced. We therefore decided to make small adjustments to the text, only in cases where we felt scenes or phrases would be offensive to a 2009 readership. Also, grammar and spelling standards have changed quite a bit in sixty years. But that did entail a text edit, which we had not anticipated. AND, we had to clear those adjustments with the current copyright holders, if we had been able to locate them.

And of course, the covers: Though we used the original covers, they had to be scanned and touched up.

Here’s the comment I left:

I’m a collector of old vintage paperbacks, and I have been since I bought them new off the circular racks in drugstores and supermarkets when I was growing up.

This business of sheltering our eyes from things you think might offend us now is absolute nonsense. Who do you think we are, a bunch of weak-kneed sissies? Even if it makes us uneasy every once in a while to look at our past, history IS history, and it’s ridiculous to try to cover it up.

Please do us a favor, and keep publishing your X-rated romance novels, and leave the mystery and noir genres well enough alone. You say you’re delighted to have been able to reprint these books. I think you should be ashamed of yourselves, trampling on the work of others, especially when (as far as I can tell) it’s been done without their permission.

[UPDATE] 01-17-10. David Rachels has done us all a great service, and for doing so, I thank him. He’s taken a copy of one the James Hadley Chase books that was one of the six that Harlequin reprinted, and done a line-by-line comparison with the original.

Not too surprisingly, considering Chase’s reputation (which the editors at Harlequin obviously knew nothing about), not only were there words, phrases and the occasional sentence removed, but entire chunks of text.

Needless to say, unless done with really skilled hands, besides the fact that’s tampering with the author’s intentions, it also hardly makes for smooth reading. See David’s blog for full details.

NICHOLAS FLOWER on Charles Williams:

   My father, Desmond Flower, was the Literary Director of Cassell at the time I joined the firm in the 1950s. He visited New York every year to buy books for UK publication from NY publishers and agents. On one of his visits he was given a copy of Scorpion Reef for consideration.


   This, the Macmillan (NY) edition, must have been the first hardcover edition of a thriller by CW. My father liked it, bought the rights and we published it in 1956.

   It was critically well received and this led to the idea of reissuing his Gold Medal paperbacks as hardcovers in the Cassell crime list.

   As is clear from the order of their publication, there was no correspondence between the order of original Dell or Gold Medal publication and the order in which we republished them. Some of them were republished under their paperback titles, such as The Big Bite, but it was felt that some of the titles, particularly the “Girl” titles, were not right for the hardcover market.

   It was at this point, before I took over editorial control of the Crime list in 1960, that I got involved with CW, because the pleasant task of thinking up new titles was left to me. Each time we were resetting a book for which we felt a new title was needed, I would write to CW with a suggestion and he accepted every one.

   Those I remember putting to him include:

      Operator  [Cassell, 1958; previously Girl Out Back, Dell 1958]


      The Concrete Flamingo  [Cassell, 1960; previously All the Way, Dell 1958].


      The Catfish Tangle  [Cassell, 1963; previously River Girl, Gold Medal 1951].


      Mix Yourself a Redhead  [Cassell, 1965; previously A Touch of Death, Gold Medal 1954]


      The Hot Spot  [Cassell, 1965; previously Hell Hath No Fury, Gold Medal 1953].


   Because the decision to reissue earlier titles in hardcover, and to retitle some of them, had been taken by Cassell, the US hardcover editions of Gold Medal reissues followed within the same year. New titles, written by CW after 1958, such as Aground and Dead Calm, went straight into hardcover, the US edition preceding the Cassell edition.

   The reissuing of the Gold Medal books in hardcover, many with new titles, played a crucial role in the continuation of CW’s success. It led to the creation of a new audience, not least through library sales. It brought him to the attention of critics in the mainstream and publishing trade press where, on both sides of the Atlantic, he was consistently well reviewed.


   This rebirth of his books led in turn to their reissue, under the new titles, in two further paperback phases: first, following on directly from the hardcover editions, by Pan in the UK, and Pocket Books and Harper and Row in the US; then later, through another phase of reissues, in the 80s and 90s, by publishers such as Penguin and No Exit Press.

    The photo attached is one I took of Charles Williams on the top floor of the Cassell building in Red Lion Square, London, in the early 60s.

   On the literary side, I have always divided his thrillers, not into sea vs land, but into water vs land. In all the books which contain boats, fishing, water and swamp, there is a deeply nostalgic and pervasive atmosphere of mystery – smooth water providing both a feeling of calm and of hidden menace.

   There is no better example of a water novel than what I retitled The Catfish Tangle, the title referring to the catfish which Shevlin catches for the restaurant at the head of the lake.


   In the 60s, Cassell and Collins were the pre-eminent UK publishers of blockbuster novels. Our authors included Alec Waugh, Nicholas Monsarrat, Irving Stone and Irving Wallace. The last time CW visited our office, I put to him the idea that he could write a wonderful full-length novel using a liner as the setting.

   And the Deep Blue Sea ((Signet, pb, 1971; Cassell, 1972) is, in my opinion, not really a sea novel; the liner in the book is merely a platform for psychological interplay and misdeeds. I do not think it is successful as a thriller, but it clearly shows what he could have achieved through his powers of characterisation had he been prepared to work on a bigger canvas.

   Might it have revitalised his career? Sadly we shall never know. He said no; he was happy doing what he knew best and felt he was too stuck in his ways.


NOTE: For an essay by Bill Crider on Charles Williams, along with a complete bibliography, follow this link to the primary Mystery*File website.


[UPDATE] 02-01-09.   After making a couple of minor edits in the piece above, Nicholas and I have been discussing some of the other books by CW that Cassell published. One of them was The Sailcloth Shroud, which was published first in the US in hardcover (Viking, 1960; Cassell, 1960).

    No change in title was made for this one:


    There are two others for which the titles were changed, but for these Nicholas says: “I did not think up the the titles [for these two books]. I have a feeling (no more than that) that CW may have retitled them himself.”

       Stain of Suspicion [Cassell, 1959; previously Talk of the Town, Dell First Edition, 1958]


       Man in Motion [Cassell, 1959; previously Man on the Run, Gold Medal, 1958]


   Two additional books were published first as paperback originals in the US, then by Cassell in the UK. There were no changes in title for either of these:

       The Big Bite [Cassell, 1957; Dell, 1956]


       The Long Saturday Night [Cassell, 1964; Gold Medal, 1962]


  [LATER.] 03-17-09.   In his most recent email, Nicholas adds the following:

    “I left Cassell in 1970 following the take-over of the company by Crowell Collier Macmillan of New York. By then all but one of CW’s novels, Man on a Leash, had been published.

    “In 1965 the name of the crime list was changed to CASSELL CRIME and the decision was taken to reduce production costs by introducing a standard in-house series cover. The three band covers, which I designed, each featured a studio photograph incorporating elements of the story. The Hot Spot was the only CW thriller to appear with a CC series cover.”

[UPDATE #2] 09-11-10. Twelve covers are reproduced above, but Cassell actually published fifteen of Charles Williams’s thrillers, not including his comic crime stories, such as The Wrong Venus and The Diamond Bikini.

   Thanks to the assistance of some online booksellers who graciously supplied us with the three previously missing, we can now display the covers of all fifteen:

       Aground. [Cassell, 1961; Viking, US, hardcover, 1960; Crest s471, US, pb, 1961; Pan, UK, pb, 1969]


       Dead Calm. [Cassell, 1964; Viking, US, hardcover, 1963; Avon G1255, US, pb, 1965; Pan, UK, pb, 1966]


       Man on a Leash. [Cassell, 1974; G. P. Putnam’s Sons, hardcover, 1973; no paperback editions]


   For these last three covers, thanks to Nigel Williams Rare Books, London, for the cover image to Aground; to Instant Rare Books of Auckland, New Zealand, for Dead Calm; and to The Antique Map & Bookshop, Puddletown, Dorset, for Man on a Leash.

   Finally, a special note of thanks to Mark Terry of, who earlier supplied the cover of Scorpion Reef, and to Bill Pronzini, who sent me all the others.

   Here’s an email I’ve just received from Fender Tucker, head exec at Ramble House:

    “Ramble House has just released its fourth Rupert Penny mystery, The Lucky Policeman, available at the Ramble House web site and their Lulu store. That leaves four more Penny books to bring back for modern readers.

    “Ramble House has few resources for finding and acquiring these books and in the past has relied on generous collectors who have loaned us copies of the book to scan, OCR and edit. If you have one of the remaining Penny books — in any condition, in fact, the worse the better — and would loan it to me, I will return it as soon as I’ve got the book edited and will send you a copy of the Ramble House edition as soon as its available.

    “This is the modern way of reviving old books so ordinary readers can enjoy them. The traditional method appears to have failed and the big publishers don’t seem to be interested in the classic old books of yesteryear. Ramble House doesn’t have to make any money — I assure you it doesn’t — but we’re eager to do it for love. And a damn good read.”

      From the Ramble House website:

Rupert Penny: The Lucky Policeman

Rupert Penny


The Locked Room, Acrostic, Train Schedule
World of Rupert Penny

   Between 1937 and 1941 British writer Ernest Basil Charles Thornett wrote several puzzle-oriented mysteries that until now have only been available in the UK. Using the pseudonym Rupert Penny and the first person friend of Police Inspector, Tony Purdon, the author takes you to the stodgiest of English manors where murder dwells, if not reigns. Inspector Beale must use all of his puzzle-solving skills, including acrostics and elaborate timelines, to track down the murderer in classic not-so-cosy style.

   1938’s The Lucky Policeman takes Tony Purdon and Inspector Beale to an insane asylum where an inmate has escaped and townspeople are dying from a mysterious spike to the lower brain. And they are all missing their left shoe!

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