1001 Midnights

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Edward D. Hoch


ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE – The Hound of the Baskervilles. George Newnes Ltd., UK. hardcover, March 1902. McClure Philips & Co, US, hardcover, 1902. Originally serialized in The Strand Magazine from August 1901 to April 1902. Reprinted numerous times. Adapted to radio, TV and the movies even more countless times.

   Unlike the first two Sherlock Holmes novels, The Hound of the Baskervilles is successful in every way, a book that would be a classic even without the buttressing of the Holmes short stories. The legend of a gigantic hound that stalks the members of the Baskerville family on the moor near their ancestral home forms the background for the only Holmes novel to tell a complete story without recourse to a lengthy flashback following the solution.

   The book opens with Holmes’s deductions about Dr. James Mortimer, drawn from a walking stick he had left the night before. Mortimer himself soon returns, and tells Holmes and Watson of the legend concerning the Baskerville family. Sir Charles Baskerville has been killed recently, apparently by the gigantic hound of the legend.

   Holmes and Watson begin their investigation, with Holmes disappearing for a time to live in disguise on the moor itself. An escaped convict named Selden is in the area, as are a band of Gypsies. Sir Henry Baskerville seems destined to be the next victim, but the convict is killed instead, apparently by mistake. In the end Holmes and Watson face the hound themselves, and find a logical solution to the baffling case.

   The Hound of the Baskervilles represents one of the few occasions in the Holmes canon when Doyle uses seemingly supernatural events to heighten the atmosphere of mystery. It is also more of a whodunit than most Holmes stories, with the sort of shifting suspicion that readers came to expect from later writers.

   The book can be criticized (and has been. by John Fowles and others) for its marked shortage of pure detection. But it has its clues and its red herrings-and best of all, it has Holmes and Watson, in a story that shows Doyle at the peak of his powers. Neither he nor Holmes would ever be quite so good afterward.

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.

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Edward D. Hoch


ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE – The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. George Newnes Ltd., UK, 14 October 1892. Harper Brothers, US, hardcover, 15 October 1892. Stories previously published in twelve consecutive monthly issues of The Strand Magazine from July 1891 to June 1892. Collection reprinted numerous times. Stories adapted to radio, TV and the movies even more countless times.

   The most famous book of short detective stories, and one of the best, remains this collection of the first twelve short stories about Arthur Conan Doyle’s immortal sleuth Sherlock Holmes. It is doubtful that the two earlier novels about Holmes would be remembered as more than curiosities today had it not been for the short stories that followed.

   Judged strictly as a writer of detective stories, Doyle rarely played fair with the reader: In many of the stories, key facts are withheld and we have no opportunity to match Holmes’s brilliant feats of deduction. But it is not the plots so much as the characters of Holmes and Dr. Watson that have kept the stories alive for nearly a century. Doyle hit upon the perfect way to popularize the formula with which Poe and others had experimented, and his detective remains justly popular.

   As many readers, both children and adults, have discovered to their pleasure, the stories in this first collection fully justify the book’s enduring popularity. All twelve are worthy of note, beginning with “A Scandal in Bohemia,” the least typical story in the Holmes canon. In it we meet Irene Adler and accompany Holmes on a delicate mission.

   It was the second story in the book, “The Red-Headed League,” that really set the tone for those that followed. Here we have the client calling upon Holmes, the brilliant deductions by Holmes regarding the man’s background, the statement of the problem, the investigation by Holmes, and the solution. It was a pattern that rarely varied but almost always entertained the reader.

   In “The Red-Headed League,” a critical and popular favorite among the Holmes stories, a man is hired because of his red hair to copy articles from the encyclopedia every day in a small office. Holmes discovers the real motive for this odd undertaking.

   The crime in “The Five Orange Pips” has its roots in the activities of the Ku Klux Klan, and “The Man with the Twisted Lip” takes us inside a London opium den, showing Holmes as a master of disguise. “The Blue Carbuncle,” one of literature’s great Christmas stories, is about a missing jewel. “The Speckled Band,” about a woman frightened to death in a locked room, is a story almost everyone knows. and is probably the most popular Sherlock Holmes tale of all. “The Copper Beeches” is about a young woman hired to carry out an odd set of instructions at a country home.

   Also in the volume are “A Case of Identity,” “The Bascombe Valley Mystery,” “The Engineer’s Thumb,” “The Noble Bachelor,” and “The Beryl Coronet” all typical of the cases from Holmes’ s most rewarding period.

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.

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Robert J. Randisi & Marcia Muller


WARWICK DOWNING – The Player. Joe Reddman #1. Saturday Review Press, hardcover, 1974. No paperback edition.

   ‘The Player” is Denver private investigator Joe Reddman. He was given his Cheyenne name, Nataq, nha-ewo-tsimtisi,” by Bluetree Woman, the Indian who raised him. It means “Man Who Plays Garne” — and Reddman plays his particular game very well.

   In this first recorded case, Reddman is hired by a man named Aaron Cane to clear his nephew, a rookie cop named Denny McLoughlen, of a murder charge. At the same time, he takes on another job — to look into a two-year-old, $450,000 bank robbery involving an armored car that was decked out as a stagecoach. He soon discovers the two cases are connected, but before he can uncover exactly how and why, Denny McLoughlen is murdered. That, plus his growing involvement with Denny’s girlfriend, complicates his efforts, and more murder and mayhem lead up to an action-packed climax.

   Downing’s grasp of Denver’s history recalls a rough-and-tumble past that is coated with only a thin veneer of elegance. and the Rocky Mountain scenery is used to exceptionally good effect. Joe Reddman is an interesting character, a man of great integrity, and it is a shame that he has appeared as the main character in only one other novel — intriguingly titled The Gambler, the Minstrel, and the Dance Hall Queen (1976), in which an old legend from the mining camps on the south slope of Pike’s Peak seems to be repeating itself in present times. He also has a cameo appearance in The Mountains West of Town (1975), which features lawyer Nathan Tree.

   These three novels comprise Downing’s entire contribution to crime fiction. One hopes that others will be forthcoming.

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: There were no further adventures of Joe Reddman, but Warwick Downing did publish six later novels which appear to be genre work, either westerns or mystery/suspense titles.

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Bill Pronzini


TODD DOWNING – Vultures in the Sky. Hugh Rennert #4. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1935. Coachwhip Publications, paperback, 2012. American Mystery Classics, hardcover, 2020.

   Hugh Rennert, special investigator for the U.S. Customs Service, is on his way from Laredo, Texas. to Mexico City by train. One of his fellow passengers reports to him a sinister conversation overheard by his wife the night before, in Laredo, in which a threat to “blast the train” was made and there was a cryptic comment about earrings and cuffs and “don’t forget the extra edition.”

   While Rennert ponders the meaning of this, the train enters a long tunnel through El Paso de Los Muertos-and when it emerges, he finds one of the other passengers dead in his Pullman chair.

   Who was the dead man and why and how was he killed?

   And which of the odd group of remaining passengers is responsible? Was it the drunken reporter, the badly sunburned man who hides behind dark glasses, the religious fanatic, the novelty supply salesman, the girl traveling under someone else’s name, or the strange woman who seems totally devoid of emotion and who looks at life with the eyes of a spectator at a play?

   Rennert’s job is made all the more difficult by a strike of Pullman employees of the Mexican National Railway, soldiers sent out by the government to keep order, the kidnapping of the three-year-old son of a wealthy Anglo-American family, another murder, and an unscheduled stop deep in the Mexican desert. But matters take their deadliest turn when the Pullman containing Rennert and the suspects is mysteriously uncoupled, stranding them-with the murderer in their midst-in the middle of nowhere.

   This is an expertly crafted whodunit, well-written (except for a mildly annoying overuse of commas where there should be periods) and offering a vivid, detailed portrait of Mexico in the mid-l 930s. Although an American (and one-quarter Choctaw), Todd Downing lived in Mexico for many years and his work reflects not only intimate knowledge of the country but a deep love and respect for it and its people. Anyone who likes his mystery plot enlivened by frequent glimpses of another culture both old and new is certain to find Downing’s work enjoyable.

   All but one of his nine whodunits are set in Mexico (the one exception has a Texas border background), and all are well worth investigating. Among the best of the other six featuring Hugh Rennert are The Cat Screams ( 1934), which deals with a tide of eerie suicides in the American colony at Taxco; The Case of the Unconquered Sisters (1936), in which Rennert investigates a railway freight wreck and murder at an archeological dig on the edge of a huge sea of lava; and The Last Trumpet (1937), which has a bull fighting background. Downing’s remaining two novels feature Texas sheriff Peter Bounty: Death Under the Moonflower (1938) and The Lazy Lawrence Murders (1941). The latter title, like Vultures in the Sky, deals with murder and mystery aboard a Mexican train.

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.

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Marcia Muller


DONALD McNUTT DOUGLAS – Rebecca’s Pride. Harper, hardcover, 1956. Pocket Books. #1178, 1957. Avon PN321, paperback, 1970. Carroll & Graf, paperback, 1984.

   Rebecca’s Pride is a great home that was formerly a mil1 in the middle of the cane fields on an unnamed Caribbean island; and the man who must investigate the strange events that happen there is police captain Bolivar Manchenil. Manchenil is the “nasty” surname chosen by his grandfather when he was freed from slavery, and it comes from the “lovely, curiously shaped but poisonous tree.”

   Although the captain does not understand why his grandfather would choose to call himself after a tree that has been an agent of death to many, he does not trouble himself about it; he is a man who more or less accepts the world around him at face value.

   When a report comes in that there are “woolies” (ghosts) at the mill, Manchenil must investigate. The owner, a wealthy man named Fordyce (“Dice”) Wales, has not been at his island retreat for many months, and the place is supposedly closed up.

   But there is a light on the third floor, and when Manchenil and two U.S. Treasury men who have been looking for Wales investigate, they find his maggot-infested corpse in the central supporting column where the machinery once was — a place that only a person familiar with mills of this type would have known about. Moreover, when the autopsy is performed, it turns out Wales was poisoned with the juice of the manchenil tree — a method that a native of the island is likely to have used.

   The captain’s inquiries begin with the Von Schook family, to whom the Pride once belonged — and in whose home, coincidentally, Manchenil was raised. There seems to have been some connection between Wales and a Von Schook daughter-in-law, Estralita (who is no paragon of virtue), and surprisingly also with Hannah, a daughter who is an actress living in New York.

   When Manchenil learns that Hannah not only was Wales’s fiancee but also is due to inherit some $40 million now that he is dead, his loyal ties to the family who raised him are strained nearly to the breaking point. Manchenil continues his investigation, however, in his typical low-key manner, until the events set in motion by Dice Wales’s death escalate to an exciting conclusion.

   Rebecca’s Pride, which won a deserved Edgar for Best First Novel of 1956, has recently been reissued in paperback by Carroll & Graf. Douglass wrote only two other books, both featuring the likable, contemplative police captain: Many Brave Hearts (1958) and Saba’s Treasure (1961).

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.

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Ellen Nehr


R. B. DOMINIC – There Is No Justice. Ben Safford #3. Doubleday Crime Club. hardcover, 1971. Paperjacks, paperback, 1985/6?.

   A well-kept secret for a time, but now common knowledge, is that authors of this series are Mary Jane Latsis and Martha Henissart, the collaborative team that also writes as Emma Lathen. Quite different in tone from the world of Wall Street depicted in their John Putnam Thatcher series, the Dominic books concern the inner workings of the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., and related activities in Newburg. Ohio. the place from which Benton Safford (D-Ohio) is biennially elected. Safford’s legislative cohorts, Eugene Valingham Oakes (R-S.D.), Anthony Martinelli (D-R.I.), and Elsie Hollenbach (R-Calif.), serve their districts and the rest of the United States (in that order).

   Coleman Ives (who was born and raised in Stafford’s district) has been nominated by a Republican president to serve as a member of the Supreme Court. The hearings are being conducted by the Senate’s Judiciary Committee. A member of the Senate who has opposed Ives’s nomination is murdered while jogging, but Ives has a perfect alibi, since he was in New York City at the time.

   Safford’s involvement in the investigation deepens when another, evidently related murder takes place at a college graduation at which he is present. Intermittent conversations with his friends, usually over a couple of drinks in his office at the end of the day, make Ben and the reader aware of some gossip. rumor, and home truths about Ives, his personal activities, and the ongoing investigations, both political and police.

   Each book in this series features some aspect of a congressman’s job, such as hearings on educational television or applications of the Pure Food and Drug Act. The constant and varying demands on these elected officials, the way members of Congress really behave and react on a day-to-day basis, and the behind-the-scenes activities of working Washington are well depicted by Dominic. Readers who enjoy identifying a character’s real life prototype will have fun with a number of the characters.

   Other novels featuring this legislative quartet are Murder in High Place (1970), in which they were introduced, and Epitaph for a Lobbyist(1974).
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 Ben(ton) Safford series —

Murder Sunny Side Up.  Abelard-Schuman 1968
Murder in High Place.  Doubleday 1970
There Is No Justice.  Doubleday, 1971.
Epitaph for a Lobbyist.  Doubleday, 1974.
Murder Out of Commission. Doubleday, 1976.
The Attending Physician.  Harper, 1980.
Unexpected Developments.  St. Martin’s, 1984.

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 —

   From https://thrillingdetective.com/2020/10/07/mike-garfin/

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)

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Ellen Nehr


DORIS MILES DISNEY – Who Rides the Tiger. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1945. Ace, paperback, 1965. Zebra, paperback, 1989.

   Unlike so many other authors, Doris Miles Disney never wrote the same book twice, even though she frequently used Connecticut as a background and always included a romantic element. In this novel, flashbacks that sometimes catch the reader unaware create a tangled, two-layer story of a great-aunt’s will, an old house filled with a lifetime accumulation of furniture and memories, and fourteen diaries that intrigue (as well as confound) the modem-day heroine, Susan.

   Her search for the motive behind her impoverished father’s exclusion from Great-Aunt Harriet’s will is aided by a recently returned Army Intelligence officer, Philip, who has a stake in the past, as well as a deep interest in Susan’s future. This story could justifiably be called a Gothic, since it involves tangled family relationships. an old house, and all the other trappings; but its mounting feeling of suspense and terror transcends the form and makes Who Rides the Tiger a startling tale of malevolence.

   Disney’s skill at creating dialogue and atmosphere is also evident in her other non series books, including Testimony by Silence (1948), No Next of Kin (1959), Voice from the Grave (1968), and Cry for Help (1975). In addition, she created three series characters: insurance investigator Jeff DiMarco, who is featured in such titles as Dark Road ( 1946), Method in Madness (1957), and The Chandler Policy ( 1971 ); postal inspector David Madden, who appears in Unappointed Rounds (1956), Black Mail (1958), and Mrs. Meeker’s Money (1961); and small-town Connecticut policeman Jim O’Neill, who is the hero of such early novels as A Compound of Death (1943) and The Last Straw (1954).

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.

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)

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Robert E. Briney


CARTER DICKSON – The Plague Court Murders. Morrow, hardcover, 1934. Reprinted several times in paperback, including: Avon, 1941. Berkley G267, 1959. Belmont-Tower, 1974. IPL, 1990. American Mystery Classics, 2021.

   The house in Plague Court had come into the hands of the Halliday family in 1833, having earlier been associated with the horrific figure of Louis Playge, a hangman’s assistant in the time of the Great Plague. For a hundred years, odd happenings, illnesses, suicides, and rumors of haunting had kept the house a white elephant that the family could neither use profitably nor get rid of.

   Now a group of people is invited to spend the night in the house. The group includes Ken Blake, the book’s narrator; Inspector Masters of Scotland Yard; the current head of the Halliday family and his fiancee; and a psychical. researcher named Darworth, who has lately gained influence over two of the Halliday women.

   The night is filled with unexplained incidents, but the climax comes when Masters breaks into the small stone house in the rear court and finds Darworth’s dead body. The door had been double-locked, from inside and from outside; there arc no other exits; and no one else is inside the house. Yet Darworth was stabbed with a dagger that once belonged to Louis Playge and was stolen the day before from a London museum.

   Blake once worked for H. M. [Sir Henry Merrivale] in Military Intelligence, and Masters is a friend of both men. This connection draws H.M. into his first recorded case. He is memorably eccentric, but not yet the full-blown comic figure of the later books in the series. The atmosphere of Plague Court, in fact, is anything but light. An air of brooding and macabre menace is set up in the early pages and expertly maintained throughout. A second grisly murder occurs before H.M. finally traps a truly surprising “least likely” murderer.

   Other H.M. cases include such ingenious locked-room murders as The Peacock Feather Murders (1937) and The Judas Window (1938), both justly regarded as classics of the form. A Graveyard to Let (1949) is set in New York and features another miraculous disappearance, in which a man dives into a swimming pool in full view of family and friends, and never reappears. The series comes to an end in a blaze of comic glory in The Cavalier’s Cup (1953), a substantial crime puzzle (although there is no murder) that reads like a combination of P. G. Wodehouse and Thorne Smith.

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.

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