Diary Reviews


                  Note: Part two of this three-part review can be found here.

FRANK GRUBER “Death on Eagle’s Crag.” Oliver Quade #8. First published in Black Mask, December 1937. There is a tremendous contrast between the mild-mannered encyclopedia salesman Oliver Quade, and the extreme amount of violence that occurs as escaped convicts take over a secluded resort. (4)

                        

RICHARD SALE “A Nose for News.” Daffy Dill #2. First published in Detective Fiction Weekly, December 1, 1934. Unlikely circumstances cause Daffy Dill to be fired from his newspaper job, and he becomes involved in a kidnapping plot while hunting up a story to regain it. Did not seem too believable even while reading it. (2)

                        

LESTER DENT “Angelfish.” Oscar Sail #2. First published in Black Mask, December 1936. Private eye Oscar Sail is hired to steal aerial photos of oil fields and risks his life in a hurricane to save a girl. Vivid picture of the storm’s violence at sea saves the story. (3)

                        

ERLE STANLEY GARDNER “Bird in the Hand.” Lester Leith #33. First published in Detective Fiction Weekly, April 5, 1932. Lester Leith manages to steal stolen jewels under the watchful eyes of the police. Quite entertaining and amusing except for weak beginning. Gardner’s style is very noticeable; less emphasis on violence. (3)

                        

–December 1967

      Note: Part one of this three-part review can be found here.

FREDERICK NEBEL “Winter Kill.” Kennedy of the Free Press & Captain Steve MacBride #32, Novelette. First published in Black Mask, November 1935. Collected in Winter Kill: The Complete Cases of MacBride & Kennedy, Volume 4: 1935-36 (Altus Press, 2014).

   Newspaperman Kennedy of the Free Press gets beaten up quite a bit but manages to capture a murderer whose victim is found frozen to death on the streets. Complicated story, with lots of characters to keep straight. Not really as satisfying [as the first two stories in this anthology]. (2)
   

RAOUL WHITFIELD “China Man.” Jo Gar #18. Published under the name Ramon Decolta in Black Mask, March 1932. Collected in West of Guam: The Complete Cases of Jo Gar (Altus Press, 2013).

   The servant of a Philippines importer is suspected of killing him, but Jo Gar has difficulty in obtaining proof. The flavor of the Orient comes through clearly. (3)

–December 1967

RON GOULART, Editor – The Hardboiled Dicks. Sherbourne Press, hardcover, 1965. Pocket, paperback, 1967.

   Eight stories from the pulp-age detective magazines, when violence and action were the keywords. The question is, are these stories merely representative, or were they chosen to be among the best of each author’s work? If the majority of pulp stories were below these in quality, they deserve obscurity, but if these are indeed only meant as typical examples, future digging might be quite rewarding. Overall rating: 3 stars.

[Note: Rather than reprint the entirety of the eight stories in one fell swoop, what I’ve decided to do is post them on this blog two at a time, over the next few weeks.]

  NORBERT DAVIS “Don’t Give Your Right Name.” PI Max Latin #2. Novelette. First published in Dime Detective Magazine, December 1941. Reprinted in The Complete Cases of Max Latin (Steeger Books, 2013). Max Latin, not-so-honest private eye, solves the murder of another detective working on a case connected with a job of Latin’s. Too many coincidences when thought about afterward, but is effectively done. Characterization is complete, but ending comes fast. (3)

  JOHN K. BUTLER “The Saint in Silver.” Steve Midnight #4. Novelette. First published in Dime Detective Magazine, January 1941. Collected in The Complete Cases of Steve Midnight, Volume 1 (Steeger Books, 2016). Steve Midnight, a cab driver, takes a fare on part of a treasure hunt and becomes involved in the narcotics habit of a religionist’s wife. Well told story, in Southern California surroundings. (3)

               — November 1967.

WORLDS OF TOMORROW – February, 1967.  Edited by Frederik Pohl. Cover by [Gray] Morrow.  Overall rating: 3½ stars.

SAMUEL R. DELANY “The Star-Pit.” Short novel. The golden are those people psychologically capable of traveling beyond the limits of the galaxy, exploring new worlds, having adventures that ordinary people dream of and hate them for. Vyme, working at ship-repair at the edge of the galaxy, is trapped there. But the golden, exploited for their ability, are trapped, too, in another way. The best treatment of this theme ever written. Characterization is truly tremendous; there are no minor roles in this story. The future of the human race on a believable galactic scale. (5)

KEITH LAUMER “The Planet Wreckers.” Novelette. An Earthman gets caught up in the efforts to stop an alien movie company from destroying the US while filming a galactic effort. Meant to be funny, but not very convincing. (3)

KENNETH BULMER “Station HR972.” No story, but a brutal picture of our highway system if this goes on. (3)

RICHARD C. MEREDITH “The Fifth Columbiad.” Short novel. Twelve descendants of Earth capture an enemy spaceship as part of a revenge lasting over 700 years. Action story, with sex arising in inconsistent ways; not too interesting. (2)

–December 1967

IF SCIENCE FICTION. February 1967. Editor: Frederick Pohl. Cover art: [Paul E.] Wenzel. Overall rating: 3 stars.

LARRY NIVEN “The Soft Weapon.” [Known Space series #14.] Novella. Two humans and a puppeteer have stolen from them a strange weapon from the past. Corresponding to each setting the weapon takes on a new shape and purpose. Much too long [43 pages]; not until the second half does there seem to be any story at all. (2)

   [Collected in Neutron Star (Ballantine, paperback original, 1968), and Playgrounds of the Mind (Tor, 1991).]

BRUCE McALLISTER “Gods of the Dark and Light.” A contrast between religions as settlers invade an isolated planet, and what religions become. (4)

   [Although this story has never been reprinted or collected, Bruce McAllister has written a long list of short fiction, and as of last year was still adding to that list.]

KEITH LAUMER “Forest in the Sky.” [Retief.] Novelette. On a planet where the inhabitants are forced to live in he sky to avoid the ferocity of their children on the ground, Retief again saves the diplomatic staff from the Grocci. Quite funny. (3)

   [First collected in Retief: Ambassador to Space (Doubleday, 1969 / Berkley, 1970.) The long running series of Retief adventures were a big hit back in the day.]

ALGIS BUDRYS “The Iron Thorn.” Serial, part 2 of 4. To be reviewed in its entirety at a later date.

ROBERT RAY “Confession.” A priest in North Australia receives an alien with a message of deep religious significance. Overdone. (2)

   [This was the author’s only published science fiction story.]

RICHARD WILSON “The Evil Ones.” Novelette. A murderer committed to a rest-home redeems himself by aiding aliens to repair their ship and leave Earth. Sentimental at the end, but effective. (4)

   [First collected in The Story Writer and Other Stories (Ramble House, 2011.) Wilson wrote only two novels, but was well known for a long list of short fiction.]

MATHER H. WALKER “The Dangers of Deepspace.” Glamorous space reality isn’t. (3)

   [The second “one shot wonder” in this issue.]

C. C. MacAPP “A Beachhead for Gree.” [Gree series.] Novelette. The battle against the Gree continues, this time on a planet of pacifists. From page 149: “It appears … you are as fanatical as those you fight.” A good point, but the evil of Gree overcomes. (3)

   [Never reprinted or collected. The last of nine stories about the long fought battle against the Gree.]

–December 1967

ELLERY QUEEN – The Origin of Evil. Little Brown, hardcover, 1951. Paperback reprints include: Pocket #926, 1953; #2926, 1956. Signet, 1972. Harper Perennial, 1992. Also one of the three novels included in the omnibus volume The Hollywood Murders (J. B. Lippincott, hardcover, 1951).

   Ellery returns to Hollywood and finds reports of its death premature, but a new Hollywood, to be sure. Revenge is apparently the motive for a series of mysterious threats to a pair of business partners; one of them dies of fright.

   It is the other, confined to a wheelchair, who believes he has worked out the murder scheme, but this time the real murderer is even more clever.

   The pseudo-Tarzan living in a tree is the most remarkable character, one most remembered. There seemed to be a bit more lenient attitude toward sex in this story than expected. Ellery falls in love with one unworthy; Paula Paris is not mentioned.

   The series of threats has a hidden significance, as well as the first threatening note. Was EQ’s presence a factor? Lack of evidence keeps justice from triumphing completely, not quite satisfying.

Rating: ***

–December 1967

   

ELLERY QUEEN – The Four of Hearts. Stokes, hardcover, 1938. Pocket Books #245, paperback, 1943. Reprinted many times, including as one of the three novels in the omnibus volume The Hollywood Murders (J. B. Lippincott, hardcover, 1951).

   The producer, not quite as eccentric as previously pictured (*) puts Ellery to work on a screenplay of the life stories of a famous actress and as equally famous actor. When they decide to patch up their feud which kept them apart for thirty years and finally marry, they are poisoned during their honeymoon flight. Ellery tried to keep the son and daughter apart but fails. The murderer plunges to his death as he tries to stop their wedding too.

   An interesting interpretation of Hollywood types, and not only includes the two wild Hollywood weddings, but the double funeral is also extravagantly Hollywood. Ellery falls in love with Paula Paris, a columnist who will not leave her home, but who is able to provide him with clues to solve the case.

   Good detection, a nicely complicated plot [with lots of detection and, even more, fun to read] – one of EQ’s best.

Rating: *****

–Nov-Dec 1967

   
(*) I assume but am not sure that this refers to the same producer Ellery worked for in The Devil to Pay, the previous “Hollywood” mystery and reviewed here.

   

ELLERY QUEEN – The Devil to Pay. Stokes, hardcover, 1938. Pocket #270, paperback, 1944. Reprinted many times, including as one of the three novels in the omnibus volume The Hollywood Murders (J. B. Lippincott, hardcover, 1951). Also note: The Perfect Crime (Grosset & Dunlap, hardcover, 1942) was a novelization of the film Ellery Queen and the Perfect Crime (Columbia, 1941), which in turn was loosely based on this novel.

   Ellery, as Hilary “Scoop” King, the wildest type of parody of a newspaperman, solves the murder of a crooked financialist, Solly Spaeth. After disastrous floods in the Midwest, Ohippi hydroelectric project collapsed, leaving all other stockholders ruined, including Spaeth’s partner. There is also the matter of the correct will, so there are plenty of motives.

   A smooth, easy flow of words, a well-coordinated plot, and as “unlikely” but fairly obvious choice of murderer makes for enjoyable reading. However, there is nothing much to remember it by – I presumably have read it before, but nothing came back this time. Also included are Ellery’s experiences in trying to see an eccentric Hollywood producer.

Rating: ****

–November 1967

   

PHILIP K. DICK – Martian Time-Slip. Ballantine U2191, paperback original; 1st printing, 1964. Cover art by Ralph Brillhart. Previously serialized in Worlds of Tomorrow, August/October/December 1963 as “All We Marsmen.” [See Comment #2.] Collected in Five Novels of the 1960s & 70s (The Library of America #183, 2008).

   Mars in the early 21st century is not really an emigrant’s paradise: water and supplies from Earth are severely limited. The colonies barely self-supporting. The suicide of a black marketeer is the focus of events overwhelming a tightly-knit cast of characters, beset by their own problem of existence. “Death .. Sets a radiating process of action and emotion going…” (page 101).

   Neurosis, and schizophrenia in particular, is the main theme, personified by technician Jack Bohlen, who find himself lost in an autistic boy’s time-warped world. Individual characters are developed individually, possible only in the closed world of Mars.

   A great deal could be done in further development; for example, the society of the native Blackmen is barely touched upon. But it would add nothing to the plot, fitted together well.

Rating: ****

–November 1967

MACK REYNOLDS – Amazon Planet. United Planets #5. Serialized in Analog SF in three parts: December 1966 through February 1967. Ace, paperback, 1975.

   United Planets, with its variety of political systems, socioeconomic theories, and religions, is once again the [setting] for a lecture by Reynolds. This time Renny Bronston of Section G is sent to Amazonia to investigate the alleged suppression of the male half of the population. Amazonia is, however, a most enlightened planet, threatened with overthrow by the forces of a renegade G-agent.

   If it weren’t for the obviousness of the lecture, things might happen a little faster. Reynolds has good ideas, though, the most noteworthy being the possible use of time as monetary basis. A clever plot fits together well, except for a feeling of being just a little too forced.

Rating: 3½ stars.

–November 1967

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