March 2008

LIBBIE BLOCK – Bedeviled. Detective Book Club; hardcover 3-in-1 reprint, July 1947. Hardcover first edition: Doubleday Crime Club, 1947. Paperback reprint: Dell 344 (mapback edition), 1949.


   Surprisingly, this is the only mystery novel that Libbie Block ever wrote — a one-hit wonder, and it is a doozey. Right from the first page. Right from the first sentence: “I am Elizabeth, and I want to kill a woman named Coca Himbert.”

   Elizabeth tells most of the story herself, and it’s like being inside a dis-eased mind, as she slowly becomes aware that her husband, a struggling young classical composer, is being stolen away from her by the maestro conductor’s young wife (this is a recurring pattern) and murder becomes her only solution, an obsession she cannot remove from her mind.

   And when the woman is eventually murdered, Elizabeth confesses, even though she does not actually remember committing the crime. But the police have no other suspect. Did she do it, or can she find the person who did? It’s a mystery like no other I can recall.

   The ending is both crystal clear and morally ambiguous. It’s one that makes you sit back and think — not the sort that makes you trace back the plot to see if all the pieces fit — that’s the part that’s clear — and not the question at all. Definitely a book worth searching out, though probably not easily found.

— August 2000


   [UPDATE] 03-04-08.   I failed to follow through bibliographically when I wrote this, and the last part of the final sentence is incorrect, or at least it is if all you?d like is a copy to read. Copies of the Dell mapback, while collectible, are quite plentiful. You can find many offered for sale online even as I speak. Nor are the hardcover editions all that difficult to come by, but to say something on my own behalf, this review was written before it had become known how common some previously “hard to find” books really were.

   I was correct in saying that this is the only mystery novel that Libbie Block wrote, but she wrote at least four other novels. One of them, Wild Calendar, was the basis for a major Hollywood production, Caught (1949) with James Mason, Barbara Bel Geddes and Robert Ryan. Mostly she seems to have done short fiction, with loads of stories appearing as early as 1934 in magazines like The Saturday Evening Post, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and Ladies Home Journal. She died in 1972.

   In any case, I hope I made it clear that I liked Bedeviled, the one mystery novel she did do. I’m going to have to read it again. I made it sound noirish, which may or may not be true, and I’d like to find out. And even more than that, I don’t remember the ending, and I made that sound rather interesting too.

   (It’s funny, but I seldom remember endings, unless it?s something totally Ackroydian in nature. It’s a good thing, I guess, because it allows me to re-read a book with as much pleasure as it did the first time. When it’s not such a good thing, it shows up at times like now. I feel as though I’m typing without really knowing what I’m talking about. Awkward? Yes.)

   The following grouping of authors came from Part 20 of the online Addenda to the Revised Crime Fiction IV and the top portion of the alphabet, along with various offshoots along the way.

ABBOTT, MONICA. 1914-2003. Add both dates. Joint pseudonym with Stanley Abbott: Lesley Howard, qq.v.

ABBOTT, STANLEY. 1906-1976. Add both dates. Joint pseudonym with Monica Abbott: Lesley Howard, qq.v.

ADAMS, HERBERT. 1874-1958. Pseudonym: Jonathan Gray. Attended City of London School; a surveyor (and member of the Surveyors Institute) before turning to writing. Noted as the author of a number of golfing mysteries; Adams’s most frequently recurring series character was amateur sleuth Roger Bennion. A review of Death of a Viewer earlier here on the Mystery*File blog contains additional bibliographic information.
      The Golden Ape. Methuen, UK, hc, 1930. Lippincott, US, hc, 1939. SC: Jimmie Haswell. [From page 32: Haswell is a lawyer who “solves the crimes that baffle Scotland Yard. Makes a hobby of it.” He appears in nine of Adams’s detective novels.] Note: See The Scarlet Feather.

ADAMS The Golden Ape

      The Scarlet Feather. Cherry Tree, UK, pb, 1943. Add note: This is a reworking of The Golden Ape with the same plot but different character names.

ALEXANDER, RUTH. 1879-1958. Married name: Ruth Alexander Rogers. Correct previous information about the author’s name and date of birth; add date of death. Her earliest books were novelizations of plays and films, many of a criminous nature. One of these is shown below (Readers Library, UK, hc, 1932). After World War II, her output seems to have been limited to romance novels.


      Sorry You’ve Been Troubled. Readers Library, UK, hc, 1930. Novelization of play written by Walter Hackett, 1876-1944, q.v., and later published by French in 1931. Add note: The novelization was actually written by Ruth Alexander, although she was not credited.

ALLEN, WILLIAM EDWARD DAVID. 1901-1973. Add as a new author entry. British historian and businessman. Pseudonym: Liam Pawle, q.v.

ANONYMOUS: CHAMBERS’S JOURNAL ANTHOLOGIES. The actual authors of many of the stories in the following story collections are now identified. The complete contents appear to be online ? here and ?? here:

      ? Chewton Abbot and other tales. W. & R. Chambers Ltd., UK, hc, 1887. Series: Tales from Chambers’s Journal; add date. With some crime:
         Among Queer People, by ??
         Chewton Abbot, by Hugh Conway
         A Flight in the Dark, by ??
         The White Hart Inn, by ??

      ? Five Brothers’ Five Fixes. W. & R. Chambers Ltd., UK, hc, 1885. Series: Tales from Chambers’s Journal. Short story collection, some criminous, including at least those indicated with an asterisk:
         A Black Mare with a White Star, by Thomas W. Speight (*)
         Daisy’s Choice, by ??    [add]
         Five Brothers’ Five Fixes, by Rev. C. Elliot
         A Hand and a Ring, by G. Lamley (*)

      ?? The Lighthouse of the Gannets, and other stories. W. & R. Chambers Ltd., UK, hc, 1884. Series: Tales from Chambers’s Journal. With some crime:
         The Lighthouse of the Gannets, by John Berwick Harwood
         The Monks of Cockaigne, by ??
         Under Godfrey, by W. Thornbury
         An Unexpected Blessing, by Robert Black
         Zekel Flint, by George Manville Fenn

      ?? My Friend Ching and other tales. Chambers, UK, hc, 1884. Series: Tales from Chambers’s Journal; add date. With some crime:
         The Cabman’s Story, by ??
         Children I Have Met, by James Payn
         My Friend Ching, by John Berwick Harwood
         A Narrow Escape, by ??

      ? Our Feather Farm and other tales. W. & R. Chambers Ltd., UK, hc, 1886. Series: Tales from Chambers’s Journal; add date. With some crime:
         Blamyre’s Chambers, by W. Thornbury
         The Jansetjee Jeejeebhoy, by W. Thornbury
         Miss Fyfe’s Adventure, by Thomas W. Speight
         Our Feather Farm, by John Berwick Harwood
         The Phantom of Deadmoor Tower, by Lewis Hough
         The Wife’s Secret, by ??

ARMER, ALAN (ARTHUR). 1922- . Correct birth date confirmed; add middle name. American screenwriter, producer and director; retired Cal State Northridge professor in the Radio-Television-Film department. Producer for the following television series, among others: The Untouchables, The Fugitive, and Cannon. For The Fugitive he received both an Emmy and an Edgar Award (1965) from the Mystery Writers of America. Co-author of one book of plays for television included in the (Revised) Crime Fiction IV.
      Vest Pocket Theatre: Twenty Tested Television Playlets (with Walter E. Grauman). New York: French, hc, 1955. A collection of one-act plays, three of them criminous in nature.

ARTHUR, FRANCIS. A new author’s entry.
      The Touch of a Vanished Hand. Remington, UK, hc, 1889.

ARTZ, EMILY S. 1942- . Add middle initial and year of birth. Joint pseudonym with Fran Pokras Yariv: Emily Francis, q. v.

AUGUST, VIENNA. A new author’s entry.
      -Eye of the Crow. New Orleans: High Humidity, pb, 1998. “A Romantic Voodoo Tale.”

VIENNA AUGUST Eye of the Crow

FRANCIS, EMILY. Joint pseudonym of Emily S. Artz, 1942- , q.v. and Fran Pokras Yariv. Under this pen name the co-authors of one book included in the (Revised) Crime Fiction IV. See below.
      Elena. Leisure, pb, 1977. Setting: Greece.

HOWARD, LESLEY. Joint pseudonym of Monica Abbott, 1914-2003, and Stanley Abbott, 1906-1976, qq.v. Under this pen name, the authors of one mystery novel included in the (Revised) Crime Fiction IV. See below. (The cover shown is that of a British paperback published by NEL, 1977.)
      Invitation to Paradise. Coward-McCann, hc, 1974. Add: Cassell, UK, hc, 1974. Setting: Mediterranean Island.

PAWLE - Strange Coast

PAWLE, LIAM. Add: Pseudonym of William Edward David Allen, 1901-1973, q.v. Under this pen name, the author of one crime novel included in the (Revised) Crime Fiction IV. See below.
      Strange Coast. Lovat Dickson, UK, hc, 1936. Setting: Russia.

MARY JO ADAMSON – The Blazing Tree.

Signet, paperback original; first printing, June 2000.

MARY JO ADAMSON The Blazing Tree

   Adamson, whose previous mysteries featured Lt. Balthazar Marten and were set in present day Puerto Rico, starts a new series with this book. Taking place in 19th century New England, The Blazing Tree is the first case tackled (and solved) by Boston police reporter Michael Merrick.

   Merrick, at one time a serious opium-eater, has been rehabilitated and given his previous position by an unknown benefactor. The newspaper’s owner, Jasper Quincey, will not say who that good soul is, but he gives Merrick a new assignment: to become his eyes and ears and find out who is responsible for a number of fires that have been set near and around Hancock, a Shaker village somewhere in western Massachusetts. One of these fires, not accidental, has now caused a fatality. Perhaps murder was not what was intended, but a death it is all the same.

   Masquerading as a new member, Merrick joins the community of Shakers and his investigation begins — and which is where the mystery comes to a near dead stop. Or at the least, it proceeds in only fits and starts. For history buffs, there is a goodly amount of background to be filled in, all very interesting, but that’s not the real problem.

   Which is this: there is simply too much story involved. One of the Shakers in Hancock is the same man who was the partner of Merrick’s father, and who may have cheated his mother out of his share of the business. The man’s son is tormented by a strange affliction now known as Tourette’s syndrome. Another boy is lame and unable to speak, traumatized by some earlier accident or bad treatment. And there is Sister Esther, with whom Michael soon finds himself falling in love. This causes problems, as celibacy is one of the main tenets of the Shaker religion.

   So it is no wonder that the mystery falters and stutters. Adamson has very good intentions, but in spite of a semi-uplifting ending — the mystery is solved, given some of Quincey’s eventual input, but not all of Michael’s problems — the tale doesn’t quite get out of second gear.

   As an aside to more devoted detective fiction fans, the resemblance to Nero Wolfe and his second-in-command, Archie Goodwin, is probably quite intentional.

          — May 2000. This review first appeared in The Historical Novels Review. It has been revised and expanded since then.

[UPDATE] 03-03-08.    Using Al Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV as a guide, here’s a complete list of all of Ms. Adamson’s mystery fiction:

MARY JO ADAMSON May’s New Fangled Mirth

       ADAMSON, M(ARY) J(O).  1935- .

   According to the calendar, Adamson’s first series ended far too early. I’ve not read any of them, but from what I’ve read, Marten was a homicide detective for the NYPD who traveled to Puerto Rico and decided to stay.

      — The Balthazar Marten books:    [Setting: Puerto Rico.]

         * Not Till a Hot January. Bantam, 1987.
         * A February Face. Bantam, 1987.
         * Remember March. Bantam, 1988.
         * April When They Woo. Bantam, 1989.
         * May’s New Fangled Mirth. Bantam, 1989 .

   Until I checked online just now, I was positive there were more in Ms. Adamson’s second series than two, but that’s all there seems to have been:

      — The Michael Merrick books:    [Setting: Massachusetts, 1870s.]

         * The Blazing Tree. Signet, 2000.
         * The Elusive Voice. Signet, 2001.

   I recently came across another box of unsorted Gothic Romance paperbacks in my basement, and I finally took the time to go through it today. The results that you see below will eventually be found in Part 25 of the online Addenda to the Revised Crime Fiction IV, appearing online in the next month or so. (You’ll read about it here first, of course.)

   I may have mentioned this before, but many of the gothic romances published in the 1960s and 70s for women (mostly) were really written by men. The short grouping of authors that follows goes a long way in proving that statement.

ALEXANDER, JAN. Pseudonym of Victor Jerome Banis, 1937- , q.v.; other pseudonym Lynn Benedict. Under this pen name, the author of 19 gothic or romantic suspense paperbacks included in the (Revised) Crime Fiction IV.
      The Wolves of Craywood. Lancer, 1970. Add setting: northern California. Also add: reprinted as by V. J. Banis (Wildside Press, 2007). “…the countryside around Cray manor blazed with the legend of the werewolf.”

JAN ALEXANDER Wolves of Craywood

BANIS, V(ICTOR) J(EROME). 1937- . Pseudonym: Jan Alexander, q.v.; other pseudonym Lynn Benedict. Note: Besides the gothic romance novel noted below, many others have also been recently reprinted under the author’s own name. These will be cited in full in Part 25 of the Addenda.
      _The Wolves of Craywood. Wildside Press, pb, 2007. Previously published as by Jan Alexander, q.v.

BOND, EVELYN. Pseudonym of Morris Hershman, 1926- , q.v.; other pseudonyms Arnold English, Sam Victor, Jack Whiffen & Jess Wilcox. Under this pen name, the author of 21 gothic or romantic suspense novels included in the (Revised) Crime Fiction IV.
      The Crimson Candle. Add setting: New York City, 1894. “Was Kim Atwood a murderess or the victim of a maniacal plot?”

EVELYN BOND The Crimson Candle

BOYLE, ANN (PETERS). 1916- . Married James Hancock Boyle in 1938; the author of a number of romance novels and a contributor of short stories and serials to many children’s magazines. Besides the gothic paperback original below, the author of two other romance novels (Avalon; 1975, 1977) included in the (Revised) Crime Fiction IV and indicated as having marginal crime content.
      Moon Shadows. Manor, pb, 1978. Add setting: Austria.

ANN BOYLE Moon Shadows

HERSHMAN, MORRIS. 1926- . Pseudonym: Evelyn Bond, q.v.; other pseudonyms Arnold English, Sam Victor, Jack Whiffen & Jess Wilcox. Under his own name, the author of three mystery novels included in the (Revised) Crime Fiction IV.

HUFFORD, SUSAN. 1940-2006. Add year of death. Actress and singer; appeared in the Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof, 1970-72, with various theatrical touring companies, and on television. Married for many years to daytime television star Michael Zaslow, who died of ALS in 1998. The author of eight gothic or romantic suspense novels included in the (Revised) Crime Fiction IV. Series character Hilda Hughes, a professor of literature at the University of Michigan, appears in at least five of them.
      Melody of Malice. Add setting: London, and SC: Hilda Hughes. “The devil himself seemed to play the keyboard of horror…”

SUSAN HUFFORD Melody of Malice

ROSS, CLARISSA. Pseudonym of W. E. D. Ross, 1912-1995, q.v.; other pseudonyms: Laura Frances Brooks, Lydia Colby, Rose Dana, Jan Daniels, Diane Randall, Ellen Randolph, Dan Ross, Dana Ross & Marilyn Ross. To a long list of other paperbacks under this name, add to the (Revised) Crime Fiction IV the one below:
      Summer of the Shaman. Warner, pb, 1982. Setting: Vermont. “Out of the past a dark curse threatens her dreams … her life.”

CLARISSA ROSS Summer of the Shaman

ROSS, W(ILLIAM) E(DWARD) D(ANIEL). 1912-1995. Pseudonym: Clarissa Ross, q.v.; other pseudonyms: Laura Frances Brooks, Lydia Colby, Rose Dana, Jan Daniels, Diane Randall, Ellen Randolph, Dan Ross, Dana Ross & Marilyn Ross. At one point in his career, Mr. Ross reported his total output as being 323 novels and 600 short stories. His novels were largely gothic thrillers, nurse romances, and western adventures; as Marilyn Ross, his wife’s name, perhaps best known as a long list of Dark Shadows paperbacks based on the popular daytime soap opera.


Bantam; paperback reprint, October 1998. Hardcover first edition: Doubleday, 1997.


   This is the third of what has turned out to be a five-book series, one in which Lilly Bennett in essence tells us some of her memoirs, the stories being told in first person, you see. Coming in at the middle may have caused me some confusion, but in her home town of Bennett’s Fort, Wyoming, Lilly is both a U.S. Marshal and a private eye.

   I think some of the confusion was due to the act that I never really had the feeling that she was doing either job very well. Entertaining, yes, but organized, she is not. Lilly is soon to be 50, rather outspoken, and a member of a very wealthy family with her own helicopter that takes her from ranch to town. She also wears designer clothes, at least when she’s forced to.

   Dead – or at least the first victim – is a millionaire letch named Cyrus Vaile, who collapses and dies at his 90th birthday party. What he’d asked Lilly to do when he’d hired her just before the party was to find the $20 million which had disappeared from the endowment he’d bestowed upon the local Roundup Repertory Company earlier that year.

   While it takes a while to sort through all of Lilly’s back story – her family, friends, employees, and friendly rivals – the members of the theatrical company are easy to identify. Most of Kellogg’s descriptions are right on target.

   And once you get to know them, the recurring players are sketched in equally well. Besides the mystery and the detective work that has to be done, a goodly portion of the story’s 320 pages are devoted to the upcoming wedding of Lilly’s goddaughter – and Lilly’s ongoing angst over her good friend Jack’s failure to pop the question himself, no matter how compatible they may happen to be.

   As I suggested earlier, Lilly’s detective work takes second place to all of the other events in her life – or it seems to. Lilly does not tell the reader all, which is annoying at least once when it is the most obvious, and awkwardly so. But it also turns out that there was a clue – or indeed two – well-hidden and cleverly done, in the fashionable clutter of the life of one of the more interesting private eyes who lives in Wyoming I have ever read about. (No, really.)

   Additional comment: Following the Lilly Bennett series was Insatiable, a stand-alone mystery coming out in 2001. Since then Ms. Kellogg has switched to relating the misadventures of Kick Kewswick, a high-class jewelry thief turned sleuth, specializing in – jewel thefts. There are now four books in this series, which I will be giving a try one of these days. Check back later and see if I don’t.

   I was working last night making annotations in Part 20 of the online Addenda to the Revised Crime Fiction IV. There are a number of only one- or two-book authors in this grouping, but in one way or another, all of their books all look interesting to me. In fact, I have already ordered one author’s books from various online sellers, and I’m considering those of another.

HOLLAND, REBECCA. Pseudonym of Ruby Horansky, 1930- , q.v. Under this pen name, the author of two mystery novels included in the (Revised) Crime Fiction IV. See below.
      Danger on Cue. Raven House, US, pb, 1980. Setting: Connecticut; summer stock theatre. “Acting is a cruel business – and sometimes a deadly one!”

HOLLAND Danger on Cue

      Shadows on the Bay. Popular Library, pb, 1977. Setting: Maryland. [A gothic romance.]

HORANSKY, RUBY. 1930- . Add year of birth; living in New York City. Pseudonym: Rebecca Holland, q.v. Under her own name, the author of two mystery novels included in the . Series character and setting in each: Nikki Trakos, an attractive, 30-year-old six-foot police detective in Brooklyn NY.
      Dead Ahead. Scribner, US, hc, 1990. Piatkus, UK, hc, 1992. “… her chauvinistic chief gives Trakos three days to find the killer of a middle-aged loser shot to death in a desolate section of Brooklyn.”


      Dead Center. Scribner, US, hc, 1994. Piatkus, UK, hc, 1993, as Dead Centre. “[Nikki’s] first major case, the murder and sexual mutilation of a high-profile Manhattan politician.”

HORNE, VIVIAN (D.) 1941- . Add middle initial and correction of birth date. Graduated from California State University at Domiguez Hills; lives in Pasadena, California. Author of one crime novel included in the (Revised) Crime Fiction IV. See below.
      When the Snowman Melts. Xlibris, pb, 1999. Setting: San Francisco CA. Prosperous black attorney Marcus Garvey Walker and his wife Elizabeth, a TV news anchor, “seem to have it all until AIDS, murder and a detective named Macbeth Chen step in.”

HORNE When the Snowman Melts

HORRIGAN, JACK [JOHN?]. 1929-2004? Add possible real first name and tentative year of death. Author of one crime-related play included in the (Revised) Crime Fiction IV. See below.
      Children! Children! New York: French, pb, 1970. [2-act play.] [The Broadway production opened March 7th, 1972, and closed after only one performance.] Add film: Hemdale, 1986, as Twisted (scw: Glenn Kershaw, Bruce Graham; dir: Adam Holender). Movie description: “A psychotic young adolescent […] torments his new baby-sitter with electronics, swords and mind games.”

HORRIGAN Children! Children!

HORTON, JOHN (RYDER). 1920-2007. A CIA senior executive in the directorate of operations who became chief of the Soviet bloc division. In retirement, he wrote three espionage novels listed in the (Revised) Crime Fiction IV and started a small vineyard in southern Maryland. Series character & setting in all three books: CIA agent Ted Oliver; Mexico City, Mexico. See below:
      A Black Legend. Ivy, pb, 1989.
      The Hotel at Tarasco. Ivy, pb, 1987.
      The Return of Inocencio Brown. Ivy, pb, 1991.

HORWITZ, MERLE (HERBERT). 1929- . Add middle name and year of birth. Graduated from the University of Southern California; a veteran trial lawyer who has represented many celebrities in domestic-related cases. Author of two private eye novels listed in the (Revised) Crime Fiction IV. Series character in each: PI Harvey Ace, retired and wishing to play the horses and take it easy. See below.
      Bloody Silks. Knightsbridge, pb, 1990. Setting: Los Angeles, CA.
      Dead Heat. Knightsbridge, pb, 1990.

HOSKINS, BERTHA LADD. 1865- . Add year of birth; death date not known. Born in Providence RI; later a physician living in Brookline MA. Author of one novel included in the (Revised) Crime Fiction IV.
      The Double Fortune. New York: Neale, hc, 1909. “A splendid and dramatic tale of travel and adventure, of absorbing mystery and strange experiences…”

HOUSEN, MARTHA (E.) 1928- . Add middle initial and confirmed birth date. Author of one mystery novel included in the (Revised) Crime Fiction IV. See below.
      Murder in the Sunshine. iUniverse, pb, 1999. Setting: Albuquerque, NM; theatre. [Millie and Andy Milliken lease a theater harboring a deep, dark secret from its vaudeville/silent movie days. ]

HOUSEN Murder in the Sunshine

HOVEY, DEAN L. 1952- . Add year of birth. Author of one mystery novel included in the (Revised) Crime Fiction IV, plus one sequel published post-2000.
      Where Evil Hides. Minnesota: j-Press, pb, 2000. Setting: Minnesota. “Somewhere in rural Pine County Minnesota, a man of evil hides by day and stalks his victims at night. Undersheriff Dan Williams and his deputies use every investigative technique, yet the man seems to be invisible.”

HOVEY Where Murder Hides

HOWARD, HAMPTON (WARREN). 1945- . Add middle name and year of birth. Author of two spy thrillers listed in the (Revised) Crime Fiction IV. See below.
      Friends, Russians, and Countrymen. St. Martin’s, hc, 1988. Allen, UK, hc, 1990. Setting: New York City, NY. “Flamboyant counterspy Edward Stuart […] must flush out a Soviet spy from among the upper levels of the U.S. nuclear strategy council.”
      War Toys. Stein, hc, 1983. Setting: Paris. “He knows who set him up. And they know he knows… A thrilling CIA double-cross.”

HOWARD, JOELY (A.) 1969- . Add middle initial and year of birth. Author of one romantic suspense novel included in the (Revised) Crime Fiction IV. See below:
      Rewarding Pursuits. iUniverse, pb, 2000. Setting: Seattle WA.

HOWARD Rewarding Pursuits

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