June 2012

William F. Deeck

HUGH HOLMAN John Macready

  HUGH HOLMAN. Slay the Murderer. M. S. Mill Co., hardcover, 1946. Signet #684, paperback, 1948.

    — Another Man’s Poison. M. S. Mill Co., hardcover, 1947; Signet #718, paperback, 1949.

   Apparently the third book in the series featuring Sheriff John Macready of Hart County, South Carolina, Slay the Murderer finds the sheriff in something of a bind. Election Day is only two days off, and a prominent citizen is discovered stabbed and poisoned in a locked room.

   The killer ought to be obvious, since he, too, is in the locked room, but Macready is considerably more than just a hick sheriff — though he wouldn’t want the voters to know that — and he finds contradictory evidence.

HUGH HOLMAN John Macready

   Still, if Macready doesn’t arrest the obvious person or doesn’t find out who did indeed do it and how, his re-election to a fairly cushy job that he usually enjoys is doubtful.

   In the later Another Man’s Poison, Macready leaves his county to complain to a politician about the appointment of an inept postmaster. Before he can talk to him, the politician drinks one of his own special cocktails and dies of poison.

   Macready is a witness, and there seems to be no way that the drink could have been poisoned by anyone. Also, it can’t be certain that the politician was the target of the poisoner, for he had taken the glass from someone else. Macready is glad it’s someone else’s problem until the murderer attacks him.

   Two excellent mysteries with an appealing lead character.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 11, No. 1, Winter 1989.

       The Sheriff John Macready series —

Trout in the Milk. Mill, 1945.
Up This Crooked Way. Mill, 1946.
Slay the Murderer. Mill, 1946.
Another Man’s Poison. Mill, 1947.

   Hugh Holman (1914-1981) was the author of two other mysteries: Death Like Thunder (Phoenix, 1942) and as Clarence Hunt, Small Town Corpse (Phoenix, 1951).

   Holman, however, was more than a writer of better than average detective novels, using Bill’s review as a basis for that statement. From http://museum.unc.edu:

    “In 1946, he entered graduate school at the University of North Carolina, where he received his doctorate with a dissertation on William Gilmore Simms. He joined the UNC English department and taught there until his retirement. He served as department chair, acting dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, dean of the graduate school, provost, and special assistant to the chancellor. From 1957 to 1973, he served as chair of the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina Press. Holman was the recipient of a Simon Guggenheim Fellowship (1967), the Thomas Jefferson Award (1975), and the Oliver Max Gardner Award (1977). He was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a founding editor of the Southern Literary Journal.”



“The Venus Microbe.” An episode of A Man Called Sloane. NBC / Woodruff Productions in association with QM Productions. Season 1, Episode 6. Saturday, 27 October 1979, 10-11pm (Eastern). Cast: Robert Conrad as Thomas Remington Sloane III, Ji-Tu Cumbuka as Torque, Dan O’Herlihy as The Director, Michele Carey as the voice of Effie. Guest Cast: Monte Markham, Morgan Fairchild, Darrell Zwerling, Rita Wilson, Karen Purcill. Created by Cliff Gould. Teleplay by Peter Allan Fields, Jack V. Fogarty and Gerald Sanford. Story by Marc Brandel. Executive producer: Philip Saltzman. Producer: Gerald Sanford. Directer: Winrich Kolbe.

   Earlier, I reviewed this series’ pilot TV-movie Death Ray 2000 that starred Robert Logan as Sloane. The character Torque, who was a bad guy in the pilot, was changed to Thomas’ partner for the series. I found the pilot more fun to watch, yet the series had its over the top moments as well.

   A Man Called Sloane is not good enough to be called a James Bond wannabe nor can it be called a Man from U.N.C.L.E wannabe. At best this series is a Eurospy wannabe.

   The Eurospy film was a sub-genre of spy films made mainly in Europe during the 60s to take advantage of the Bond craze. Over the top plot, bad acting, a mess of a script, car chase, gadgets, beautiful women, evil villain, mad scientists, femme fatale, fights, it is all here in this single hour TV episode.

   The plot of this episode features the theft of a deadly microbe brought back from the planet Venus. It is stolen by one of the scientists examining the microbe and sold to Cambro (Monte Markham) of Kartel, an evil organization out to take over the world.

   In the paint-by-numbers script, Thomas and his sidekick Torque arrive to check out a tip that the microbe is about to be stolen. The two work for UNIT, an “elite counter force reporting directly to the President,” with its office hidden in a retail store called “The Toy Boutique.”

   The theft happens while they are there so our heroes get to have a car chase and use some gadgets. The femme fatale (Zacki Murphy) and adulterer-traitor-scientist (Alex Henteloff) escape, while Thomas and Torque are occupied with a pursuing fake ambulance that has some gadgets of its own.

   Meanwhile, two scientists are unconscious in the contaminated lab. They can keep them alive by pumping oxygen into the lab, but they have only twenty-four hours before the mix of oxygen and microbe will cause the lab to blow up. Conveniently, there is an antidote but the traitor scientist (who did not create the formula) has the only copy of the formula.


   And the plot holes are just beginning as the episode continues in an unrelenting stream of formulaic scenes until Thomas finally saves the girl, escapes the death trap and foils the villain’s evil plans. In fact, the script tries to jam too much into one episode. The villain having the deadly microbe is jeopardy enough. There is no need to add the sub-plot of twenty-four hours before the scientists die or the lab goes boom.

   Cambro can destroy the world. Does Thomas need to have a more personal motive to stop him than that? But they briefly mention then never explore the past history between Cambro and Thomas, when the two battled three years before and a woman Thomas cared about was killed. Why couldn’t the writers save a cliché or two for next week’s episode? Three years, Thomas? Yes, obviously the woman meant a great deal to you.

   Acting, as every Eurospy film fan knows, is not the sub-genre’s strong point. While certainly an improvement over Logan from the pilot, Conrad has never played more than a version of himself. At times that can be entertaining enough, but here Conrad lacks his usual charm.

   Fairchild was great as a blonde but not so much as the wannabe PI on the trail of the cheating husband aka traitor scientist. Markham’s evil madman was the standard bland TV villain.

   Bad acting, formula writing and an unbelievably stupid plot and you had a way to spend a mindless hour on Saturday night, if that is your idea of a productive way to spend your Saturday nights.


   The series debuted September 22, 1979. It was scheduled against two other new shows, ABC’s Hart to Hart and CBS’s Paris (which debuted September 29th). The ratings were good in the first three weeks with A Man Called Sloane winning its time slot two of those weeks and tied with Hart to Hart the other week.

   Sloane and Hart both benefited from the ratings disaster of Paris. The ratings for September 29th had Sloane winning the time period with a 34 share, Hart to Hart a 33 share, and CBS’s Paris a 22 share. However, an early warning sign was the ratings were slowly dropping for Sloane.

   Then ABC moved Fantasy Island to Saturday at 10pm (where it had aired the season before) and it was the beginning of the end for A Man Called Sloane. The ratings for the first matchup had Fantasy Island at a 38 share, with Sloane a 28 share and a CBS rerun special Body Human – The Sexes at 20.

   For this episode, “The Venus Microbe” had a 24 share compared to Fantasy Island 38 share and Paris 25 share.

   In the ratings for the period of September 17 thru November 4, 1979, A Man Called Sloane finished 51st out of 73 series.

   The series had a total of 12 episodes filmed and the last original episode aired December 22, 1979.

   This episode is currently (but who knows for how long) available to watch on YouTube. The series itself is available on DVD only in the collector-to-collector’s market.

         SOURCES:    Broadcasting magazine


by Monte Herridge

        #13. HUGO OAKES, LAWYER-DETECTIVE, by J. Lane Linklater.

   One of the precursors of Erle Stanley Gardner’s series character Perry Mason the attorney, the Hugo Oakes series is fairly entertaining. J. Lane Linklater created this series about a criminal defense attorney who solved crimes. He appeared in twenty stories in Detective Fiction Weekly from 1929-1934, a respectable run.

   J. Lane Linklater was the pseudonym of Alex Watkins (1893?-1983?). He had two other series that also ran in the magazine: Sad Sam Salter (1937), and Paul C. Pitt, a kind of conman (1936-1941).

   One of the stories describes Oakes the person: “Hugo Oakes, lawyer, investigator, gruff friend of the penniless in trouble, had four great interests in life. Those interests were law, detection, people—and horses.” (Finishing Touches)

   A physical description of Oakes is noted in another story: “He was a wizard with flowery eloquence, too, but outside of the courtroom it didn’t seem to go with his age-colored, shapeless clothes, his casual manner, his pudgy person.” (You Think of Everything)

   He wears a slouch hat, and rolls his own cigarettes. Very little information is given about Oakes’ background and upbringing. There is a mention by Oakes himself on one occasion that he liked horses because he grew up on a farm (Not One Clew).

HUGO OATES J. Lane Linklater

   He prefers to use ungrammatical, common speech that belies his education. However, when he wishes he can use much better language. Inspector Mallory prefers Oakes to use common language; he “liked Oakes much less when the lawyer used four-syllable words.” (Arsenic in the Cocktail)

   Oakes is not one of the high-priced lawyers with a fancy office and furniture. He has a shabby office that costs him twenty dollars a month, and often doesn’t have enough in his business accounts to pay that. His only employee is Mamie, who is his combination stenographer-bookkeeper-secretary.

   The reason he has very little money is that people rarely paid him for the legal work he did for them. Oakes has a thriving practice helping people with little money out of trouble. He did his own detective work rather than hire a detective agency to do it for him. However, we must remember that these stories take place during the Depression, when many people either lacked jobs or had poorly paying ones.

   Oakes is an egalitarian, preferring regular people and the poor to the better off and wealthy classes. A person’s lack of money never affected Oakes’ decision to take them on as a client.

HUGO OATES J. Lane Linklater

   The only other regular in the series is police Inspector Mallory, who is usually glad to have Oakes help on his cases, but “he would never admit it. They might gibe and grouch at each other on occasion, but Mallory had intelligence enough to recognize the value of Oakes’s assistance, and Oakes was always willing to let the credit go to Mallory.” (Finishing Touches)

   Each story usually involves Oaks being called in by a client and then having to solve a murder, usually to save the client. Once his client was a murder victim before Oakes could reach the scene. Inspector Mallory was always on hand at the scene of the crime. Mallory either does not understand what is going on, or seeks the simplest explanation (always wrong, of course).

   Very rarely did Mallory actively ask for Oakes’ help on a case. One special case was in the story “A Pair of Shoes”, where Mallory asked for assistance. A rich businessman had disappeared, and three weeks of work had led Mallory to be desperate enough to ask for unofficial help. Oakes gets to work and very quickly solves the case in a logical manner.

   Another request for help from Mallory led to a murder investigation by Oakes at a high society horse show in “Not One Clew”. Oakes said he did not care for society, but he did like the horses. Part of the deal with Mallory was a free ticket to the horse show.

   Another off-beat story for the series is “Crazy People Are Smart,” where Oakes accepts the challenge of a prison chaplain and investigates an old murder. Bill Tubby had just twenty-four hours before his scheduled electric chair execution for a crime he claimed he did not commit. Inspector Mallory had solved the case to his satisfaction, and he is afraid Oakes will do something to change the outcome. Oakes goes to the scene of the crime and investigates, coming up with an unusual solution that saves Tubby.

HUGO OATES J. Lane Linklater

   Hugo Oakes has a system for locating the murderer in crime situations: “Always look for the type of mind capable of conceiving and executing the particular crime under scrutiny.” (The Wild Man From Borneo)

   Inspector Mallory knows about this system, and in this story attempts to use it himself. Unfortunately he chooses the wrong person as the murderer, and Oakes has to straighten him out. This is one case where Oakes becomes involved because the victim was a friend of his. Oakes is uncharacteristically not in his usual cheerful mood; in fact he is angry and unsmiling.

   Another story gives a bit more of Oakes’ insight into crime detecting: “But a man always leaves the imprint of his personality on his crime. What a man does is the expression of what he is. He may not leave fingerprints, but he always leaves mind prints.” (Crazy People Are Smart)

   So Hugo Oakes is a believer in the application of psychology to crime-solving. The stories contain little violence, though one exception is in the story “Finishing Touches.” Here Oakes confronts the guilty party and has Inspector Mallory secretly back him up, which is needed when the murderer attempts to kill Oakes. Mallory wounds the murderer and saves Oakes’ life.

   The series is interesting to read, although there are not any great criminal masterminds, fancy destructive gadgets, or gangs of criminals running around. It took all kinds of stories in the pulp era, and this series is better than many other series in DFW.

      The Hugo Oakes series, by J. Lane Linklayer:

Hello, Jim!     September 7, 1929
Court Costs Saved     October 5, 1929
The Wild Man From Borneo     February 22, 1930
The Watchful Woman     May 10, 1930
Not One Clew     May 24, 1930
Crazy People Are Smart     May 31, 1930
The Seventh Green Murder     July 26, 1930
The Lady Confesses     August 23, 1930
Three Old Crows     October 18, 1930
A Pair of Shoes     November 15, 1930
Finishing Touches     January 3, 1931
You Think of Things February 7, 1931
Women Always Mean Trouble     March 28, 1931
Arsenic in the Cocktail     April 4, 1931
He Died Laughing     July 4, 1931
Murder Next Door     September 5, 1931
Find the Silencer     October 10, 1931
The Second Floor Murder     November 19, 1932
The Dead Client     December 2, 1933
On the Brink     June 2, 1934

    Biographical sketch of Linklater from the March 16, 1929 issue of Detective Fiction Weekly:

HUGO OATES J. Lane Linklater

   HERE is a personal greeting from J. Lane Linklater, author of “One O’Clock in the Morning,” in this issue. We asked him to stand up and say a few words to you:

   You can’t mean me, cap’n?

   Oh, well—

   We’ll avoid the statistical as far as possible and get down to the vital.

   I have lived more or less decidedly and existed more or less uncertainly, in Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana; that is, down the Pacific Coast from British Columbia to the Mexican border, and across the south to Louisiana. Thus it will be seen that I have never set foot on any but a coast or border State.

   I have held down — sometimes for a very brief period — forty-three jobs, in offices, restaurants, hotels, boarding houses, and again in offices; in large cities, small towns, construction and logging camps, in green valleys and desert plains. If I was working in a town, it was never far away from a restaurant; if in a camp, it was never very far away from the cookhouse.

   Incidentally, the transition from job to job was at times sudden and drastic. On one occasion, for instance, I was night porter in a “coffee and” dump, and a week later I was head bookkeeper for a chain store system some two thousand miles away. Honestly — or perhaps I should say, actually — I am a very fair bookkeeper.

   While I’m on the question of jobs — and what is more important? — I might add that the last regular job I had, and the one I was on longer than any of the others, was as editor of a farm paper. I was never better fitted for any job than for this one inasmuch as I had never in my life touched my hand to a plow and couldn’t tell the difference between a Jersey heifer and a Shorthorn bull. Now I know what a Shorthorn bull is, having met one in a dissatisfied mood.

   Among the people I have met and become friendly with — and this is vital, from the point of view of both life and letters — were bankers, labor agitators, gamblers, ministers, politicians, hoboes, Chinese cooks, mining-stock promoters, hard-working bohunks, and waitresses. Of these I should say that the bohunks were the most useful, the hoboes the happiest, the Chinese cooks the most successful, and the waitresses the most interesting — to me.

   Perhaps the most accurate indication of the kind of life a man has led is where he has slept. Well, I have slept in very expensive hotels — when I was working there — in middle-class hotels, in cheap hotels, and in fifteen-cent flophouses; also in bunk houses, ditches, city parks, fields, woods and swamps. Of these I should say that the woods were the most comfortable and the flophouses the most interesting.

   I have never been arrested. This I now regret exceedingly. I have had several opportunities, although I never offended society very seriously, except by going broke. I have been accosted on the street around three o’clock in the morning in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New Orleans and other minor municipalities which suspected that my financial status warranted my arrest as a vagrant. Their suspicions were correct, but I was always able to convince them otherwise. As I say, I now regret it. I may yet overcome this disadvantage.

   In these emergencies my tongue was assisted by my face, a deceptively mild arrangement that never seemed to fit the role of roving mendicant. I have been mistaken for a well-known Methodist minister in Portland, Oregon, and for a Chatauqua lecturer in Sweetwater, Texas.

   My formal education, unfortunately, was not very extensive. However, I have read rather incessantly, if not systematically. Meditating upon what I had seen and what I had read I decided, about a year and a half ago, to forsake the discussion of ton litters and live stock diseases for the production of fiction. I inquired about it. I read the writers’ journals. I asked advice of people who know about these things — I was always keen for advice.

   They all told me to hang on to my job for five or perhaps ten years, the while I tried to write fiction. I thereupon quit my job cold. Advice is fine, but I have always thought that if you’re going to do a thing, the thing to do is to go ahead and do it, sink or swim. I’m not rich yet, but the wife and I are going back down to California for the winter.

   I have never been well enough to undertake anything violent, and never sick enough to take to my bed. It is a condition that presages a long life. Under the head of more good luck, I have a wife — acquired about eight years ago — who is a good scout and a smart woman; a father and mother, both alive and well, who are intelligent and good natured—they had to be to put up with me—and a number of friends who stick through the years.

   All of these things count. Not that it matters, but I am now thirty-six years old.

    Previously in this series:

1. SHAMUS MAGUIRE, by Stanley Day.
2. HAPPY McGONIGLE, by Paul Allenby.
3. ARTY BEELE, by Ruth & Alexander Wilson.
4. COLIN HAIG, by H. Bedford-Jones.
6. BATTLE McKIM, by Edward Parrish Ware.
7. TUG NORTON by Edward Parrish Ware.
8. CANDID JONES by Richard Sale.
9. THE PATENT LEATHER KID, by Erle Stanley Gardner.
11. INSPECTOR FRAYNE, by Harold de Polo.
12. INDIAN JOHN SEATTLE, by Charles Alexander.

A TV Review by Mike Tooney

“The Fourth Victim.” An installment of Gunsmoke: Season 20, Episode 8. First broadcast: 4 November 1974. James Arness (Matt), Ken Curtis (Festus), Milburn Stone (Doc), Buck Taylor (Newly), Leonard Stone, Ben Bates, Alex Sharp, Al Wyatt Sr., Frank Janson, Biff McGuire, Lloyd Perryman, Victor Killian, Woody Chambliss, Howard Culver, Paul Sorensen, Ted Jordan. Writer: Jim Byrnes. Director: Bernard McEveety.

GUNSMOKE Matt Dillon

    Genuine whodunits set in the Old West are certainly rare, which makes this episode of Gunsmoke from its final season slightly more interesting.

    A serial killer (seen only in silhouette and shadow) equipped with a .30-caliber rifle and a silencer is stalking Dodge City, murdering at will, sniper-style. Since there seems to be no obvious connection of the victims with one another, his motive is completely opaque.

    Marshall Matt Dillon must turn detective to find the connection, which he does — and yet, technically speaking, he really doesn’t — halfway through the show, prompting him to think Doc Adams will be the next victim.

GUNSMOKE Matt Dillon

    Using a willing Doc as bait, Dillon sets a trap, which is only partially successful, resulting in a severely damaged chair in Doc’s office and a wounded and therefore doubly dangerous sniper — who courteously sends Matt a note swearing revenge on him for interfering in his plans and calling him out for a midnight showdown — alone.

    Feeling he has no better choice, Dillon appears on the deserted streets of Dodge, unaware that Doc and Festus have a surprise in store — but now fully aware of who the sniper really is ….

    Since the plot centers on a woman, it’s interesting that there are no speaking parts for them in this episode. (By this time, Amanda Blake [Miss Kitty] had left the show after an argument with the producer.)

    Unusually for this series, the episode takes place entirely on indoor sound stages.

GUNSMOKE Matt Dillon

    Ben Bates makes an appearance in the same scene with James Arness, which is of interest since he was Arness’s stunt double throughout the run of the Gunsmoke series.

    The mystery and suspense level of “The Fourth Victim” is gratifyingly high, although experienced mystery aficionados should be able to figure it out early on. If only the writer had surreptitiously introduced the final clue sooner, say in the first act, Matt’s solution near the end wouldn’t have had that rabbit-from-a-hat feel to it.

    As it is, however, “The Fourth Victim” is still worth a view. It can be seen in its entirety on YouTube here.

MURDER AD-LIB — Interviews by Ellen Nehr:

EN: When you wrote the first Brother Cadfael mystery, did you plan on making it a series?


EP: Not at all. In fact, the first one was written in a slightly different style, a little lighter, and was conceived as a one off. I hadn’t intended for it go ahead. Indeed I wrote one modern tale between the first and second Brother Cadfael novels, but that’s the last time I’ve been back from the 12th Century.

EN: Will you ever do another Inspector Felse?

EP: I’d like to in a way, but somehow this series has gotten into a rhythm and keeps flowing, so it carries me from one book to the next, and it would be difficult to break the chain. Maybe some day I will.

EN: When you started the Inspector Felse series, you and Michael Innes were the only two who mentioned the home life and family of the officer. What kind of research into police practice did you have to do?

EP: I had to research into police procedures to some extent, but I must confess I was more interested in the family relations and the police officer’s relationships with the people be encounters in the case, which sometimes become personal in a way, and make the whole thing more interesting, I think.

EN: You have used archaeology in some quite unexpected places. Was this deliberate?


EP: Not really. I suppose that I was just interested, and it became a natural thing to make use of it. There’s the one about the Roman Site (The City of Gold and Shadows) that isn’t a photocopy of but certainly is based on Uriconium.

   That’s very close, about three miles, from Shrewsb1ry where there was a ford of the river on a Roman road. We have quite a bit of an ancient city there, which suggested the site of the book.

EN: Could the water have come up and been doing the damage to the bank that disclosed the heating pipes?

EP: Yes, it could, because it is right on the Severn River, and in a flood time it certainly could. Even the inn which I’ve described there is suggested by one just a bit down the river from there.

EN: Have you always lived in that area?

EP: Yes. Within about three miles of where I live now, apart from traveling, of course.

EN: Do you speak Welsh?

EP: No, very little. Quite a lot of Welsh don’t speak it, I’m afraid. It is being taught more again, especial]y in the south, the parts that became industrialized. Welsh is less spoken than it used to be. My grandmother spoke it, but I never learned it properly.


EN: If you had been brought up in another part of Great Britain, how different do you suppose your books would have been?

EP: I think they would have been affected by my surroundings. My writing is extremely visual. It is definitely based on where I am, since I’m describing pictures I can see in my own mind from around me.

EN: Over a period of time have you accumulated an extensive reference library?

EP: Yes, I have quite a big library because if there is a book that I want to use, I like to have it in the house to go back to. Usually, since I was born here, I’ve accumulated knowledge about the region, being interested in history. A lot of it has been historical and archaeological interest.

EN: Now that you are a well-known resident of Shrewsbury, do you find that people are bringing to your attention things that you might have had to research on your own?

EP: Yes, indeed they are. One expert actually came with his own wife to visit me and taught me to make fire. He brought flint, steel, and all the makings, and he left me flints and tinder, although charred cloth would catch.


EN: In The Heretic’s Apprentice you described just how parchment was made. I was fascinated.

EP: Well, I got that out of a history of illuminated manuscripts. Some of the descriptions of the book and the timing of the book came from the same history. There isn’t such a gift book as I’ve described, but that wedding did take place, and the people were real; the Prince from the western empire and Princess from the East did marry that year, and there could have been a present such as that.

EN: I just finished your new book, The Summer of the Danes, and wondered why the Danes lived in Ireland.

EP: They had a small kingdom in Dublin, on and off. Sometimes they lost it; sometimes they got it back again. This all happened over a matter of a hundred years or so. They left a lot of their progeny there, and there was quite a bit of intermarriage. It’s mentioned in the book that 0wain’ s grandmother was a Danish princess.


EN: How and when did the war between King Stephen and Queen Maud finally get settled?

EP: I hope the books may even reach that point. Everyone was exhausted with the war and fed up with it, and from the point that I’ve reached, action actually began to slacken off very much. Each side was just holding on to what it had, and eventually Stephen’s eldest son, whom he hoped would succeed him, died. That left the way rather clearer, and a lot of his own supporters began to think, “We’ve got to settle this somehow.”

   Eventually an agreement was made that Maud’s son, who became the young Henry II, should succeed to the throne, but only when Stephen died. From that time on, there was peace, but Henry II had quite a bit clearing up to do. Stephen died in 1154, and that is ten years further on from where we are now.

EN: When you finish the 12th century books that we are reading in the 20th century and know who did it and why, do you, in your mind, interpret justice as it was then in their context of right or wrong, or as the way we perceive it today?


EP: Well, this I think is essentially the difference between secular sense of justice and the law; between the law and justice in fact and justice tempered with mercy. The Church had the privilege of tempering the secular justice, but I don’t say they did it often, by any means.

   Cadfael doesn’t take the law’s exact point of view. He makes up his own mind on what is for the best, as he did in one case where he let a murderer go away, but having laid on him the penance of remembering life long and acting differently.

   So he got his own way. It’s not secular justice, and it’s a theme I’ve taken up in other books, the conflict between the human sense of justice and what’s dictated by the law. It’s a big question.

EN: Are you a Roman Catholic?

EP: No, I’m an Anglican, but then we were all Roman Catholics, so I’ve tried to project myself.

EN: What do the Benedictines think of the books?

   EP: I have quite a number of Benedictine correspondents and even a lot of clerics and a lot of historians, and on the whole, they very much approve. And they approve of what you’ve touched on, this sense of human compassion coming into the question of justice. They’ve been a great help to me, and they’ve given me great encouragement.

— Reprinted from Mystery*File 31,
       September 1991.

[UPDATE] 06-23-12. Ellis Peters wrote 13 books in her Inspector Felse series; the last one appeared in 1978. She also wrote 20 books in which Brother Cadfael appeared, two of them after this interview took place. Both she and and my good friend Ellen Nehr died in 1995.

IT’S ABOUT CRIME, by Marvin Lachman

ROBERT L. FISH Jose da Silva

ROBERT L. FISH – Brazilian Sleigh Ride. Simon & Schuster, hardcover, 1965. Paperback reprints: Berkley, 1967; Foul Play Press, 1988.

   Robert L. Fish, after a successful business career, became a successful mystery writer at age 48. He wrote the hilarious Schlock Holmes parodies and a fine series of ten books about Captain Jose Da Silva, one of the best of which, Brazilian Sleigh Ride, has just been reprinted by Foul Play Press.

   Fish uses two locales he knows best, Brazil (where he worked many years) and New York, in chronicling the efforts of Da Silva and his friend Wilson of the American Embassy to find who stole a fortune in negotiable bearer bonds.

   The story is compelling and Fish tells it in very lively fashion, especially regarding Da Silva’s extreme fear of flying and his feuding with Wilson.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier,
Vol. 11, No. 1, Winter 1989.

       The Captain Jose da Silva series —

The Fugitive. Simon & Schuster, 1962.
Isle of the Snakes. Simon & Schuster, 1963.

ROBERT L. FISH Jose da Silva

The Shrunken Head. Simon & Schuster, 1963.
Brazilian Sleigh Ride. Simon & Schuster, 1965.
The Diamond Bubble. Simon & Schuster, 1965.

ROBERT L. FISH Jose da Silva

Always Kill a Stranger. Putnam, 1967.

ROBERT L. FISH Jose da Silva

The Bridge That Went Nowhere. Putnam, 1968.

ROBERT L. FISH Jose da Silva

The Xavier Affair. Putnam, 1969.
The Green Hell Treasure. Putnam, 1971.
Trouble in Paradise. Doubleday, 1975.

Allen J. Hubin

SAM LLEWELLYN Dead Reckoning

SAM LLEWELLYN – Dead Reckoning. Summit Books, US, hardcover, 1988. Pocket, US, paperback, 1989. First published by Joseph, UK, hardcover, 1987.

   If Dick Francis turned from horse racing to yacht racing his name might be Sam Llewellyn and he might write Dead Reckoning. This is Llewellyn’s second novel and first mystery, and it’s a gem.

   Charlie Agutter is a boat designer in Pulteney on the coast of England. His fortunes are on the rise, his talents are in demand, and one of his yachts seems likely to win the Captain’s Cup. Then the bottom falls out: Charlie’s brother is killed aboard a boat Charlie designed, and the word gets about that Charlie’s design is fatally flawed.

   Suddenly no one wants to touch him; existing design contracts are put on hold till Charlie can prove his experimental rudder design not at fault. If only he could… But someone badly wants him ruined if not dead.

   Notable drive and suspense.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier,
       Vol. 11, No. 1, Winter 1989.

       The Charlie Agutter series —

Dead Reckoning, 1987.
Blood Orange, 1988. CA in a supporting role.
Deadeye, 1989. CA in a minor role.
Death Roll, 1989. CA in a minor role.

   These four books are only a small fraction of Llewellyn’s total fictional output. For a complete list, check out the Fantastic Fiction website.

CATHERINE AIRD – Henrietta Who? Doubleday, US, hardcover, 1968; Bantam, US, paperback reprint, 1981. Macdonald, UK, hardcover, 1968; Corgi, UK, paperback, 1988.


   Aird’s primary mystery-solving character is Detective-Inspector C. D. Sloan, who’s appeared in all but one of her books. Whether he’s been promoted since his early outings — this was only his second appearance — I can’t tell you, since (I am embarrassed to say) I have not read any of his more recent ones.

   And if there is anything to be learned about his private life in any of his other books, it would be more than may be found in this one, which is nothing at all.

   In Henrietta Who? he’s the Head of the Criminal Investigation Department for the police in Berebury, and as we’re told, it’s a very small Department. His assistant on this case — and also along many of those to follow, I believe — is Constable Crosby, who (as we shall see) is not always the brightest of subordinates. His Superintendent is a gruff, old-fashioned sort of fellow named Leeyes.

   If there were first names given, I missed them. I do not even believe Sloan’s initials were stated, except on the back cover. The emphasis is on the mystery, and for the most part, it’s a good one.

   This was Aird’s third mystery. Her second one, A Most Contagious Game, was the standalone, the only one that Sloan did not appear in. While she knew what she wanted to do — and for at least 90% of the book she succeeded in doing exactly that — there are a couple of weak points that a more experienced writer might have been able to improve upon.


   The story: When a woman is killed as a pedestrian by an automobile whose driver didn’t stop for help, it wouldn’t ordinarily bring Sloan in, but the woman had a daughter, and the pathologist who examines the body says she never had a child.

   The girl’s name is Henrietta, who never knew her father, and abruptly called home from university, she is suddenly not only an orphan, but she has no idea who she is. No birth certificate (possibly stolen), no passport, no other form of identification. A total mystery.

   Sloan is working almost entirely in the dark, with the only information provided by the girl, and she might not be telling the truth. It makes Henrietta Who? a rather unique tale, as far as I know, and the intellectual stimulation generated by the problem Sloan and his cohorts must solve is, in a word, contagious.

   Don’t get me wrong. This is no dry exercise in mental calisthenics. Aird has a dry, understated sense of humor that must be like mine, as it appeals to me immensely. On page 71, Sloan is bouncing ideas off Crosby, and he doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere:

    “No record [Sloan says] of any Grace Edith Wright marrying any Cyril Edgar Jenkins within five years of either side of when the girl thought they did.”


    Crosby took another sandwich and thought about this for the length of it. Then “Grace Jenkins must have had a birth certificate.”

    “Wright,” said Sloan automatically.

    Crosby, who thought Sloan had said “Right,” looked pleased and took another sandwich.

    “Though,” continued Sloan, if she’s Wright, why bring Jenkins in at all, especially if she’s not married to him.”

   Crosby offered no opinion on this.

   Great fun, and the plotting very nearly works. But as far as I can tell, there’s a huge hole a small lorry could plow through, and that’s because it doesn’t seem likely the person who’s the second murder victim — Henrietta’s “mother” was the first — would have kept quiet about the secret that the woman had been keeping for all of those years, not now when she’s dead, and with the newspapers and radio on full alarm about her death.

   Other than that, with all of the red herrings and other false trails that have to be sorted through, this is one fine case of detection — everything else falls into place just the way it should.

— September 2003

[UPDATE] 06-22-12. The very plain cover of the British hardcover edition shown above on the lower right has a very nice surprise inside. Scaled down in size, it may not be as impressive here as it would be if you were holding the book in your hand, but a map of the area where a fictional crime is committed is always a bonus as far as I’m concerned, and this one is a nice one indeed:


   When I wrote this review in 2003, I didn’t specify a count of how many Sloan books there were at the time, but there have been three written since, for a total of 22, the most recent one being Past Tense, published in 2010 when the author was 80. I should check. I don’t believe that many of the last few have been published in paperback in the US, and if I’m correct about that, it’s a shame, as Aird is an author who ought to be better known, and she isn’t.


ALIAS THE CHAMP. Republic Pictures, 1949. Robert Rockwell, Barbra Fuller, Audrey Long, Jim Nolan, John Harmon, Sammy Menacker, Joseph Crehan, John Hamilton, Gorgeous George (George Wagner), Bomber Kulkovich (Henry Kulky). Director: George Blair.

    From Wikipedia:

    “George Raymond Wagner (March 24, 1915 – December 26, 1963) was an American professional wrestler best known by his ring name Gorgeous George. In the United States, during the First Golden Age of Professional Wrestling in the 1940s-1950s, Gorgeous George gained mainstream popularity and became one of the biggest stars of this period, gaining media attention for his outrageous character, which was described as flamboyant and charismatic.     […]

ALIAS THE CHAMP Gorgeous George

    “It was with the advent of television, however, that George’s character exploded into the biggest drawing card the industry had ever known. With the networks looking for cheap but effective programming to fill its time slots, pro wrestling’s glorified action became a genuine “hit” with the viewing public. […] [I]t was Gorgeous George who brought the sport into the nation’s living rooms, as his histrionics and melodramatic behavior made him a larger-than-life figure in American pop-culture.     […]

    “[I]t was Gorgeous George who single-handedly established television as a viable entertainment medium that could potentially reach millions of homes across the country (in fact, it is said that George was probably responsible for selling as many TV sets as Milton Berle).”

   In the comments following Michael Shonk’s review of The Hunter, the subject of wrestling came up, prompting me to take a quick look at at c2c DVD I have of Alias The Champ. With a 59-minute running time, little else was possible.

   Briefly, there’s this honest cop (Robert Rockwell, aka Our Miss Brooks’s dense boyfriend Mr. Boynton), who’s out to stop The Mob from taking over honest professional wrestling — brief pause while those of you who’ve fallen out of your chairs laughing can get back in — ­ with the aid of Gorgeous George’s beautiful female manager (Audrey Long).

   After clearing it with the police commissioner (John Hamilton, pre-Superman), Rockwell becomes de facto wrestling czar in order to battle the Mob Guy (Jim Nolan), who suborns a rival wrestler (Slammin’ Sammy Menacker, using his own name — bear this in mind as we proceed) in order to provoke and then discredit Gorgeous George.

ALIAS THE CHAMP Gorgeous George

   We first see GG in the ring with Bomber Kulkavich (aka Henry Kulky) in a match as close to “the real thing” as a movie can get; At its outset, we hear GG’s deathless line, spoken to the referee: “Get your filthy hands off my hair!”

   After winning this match, GG meets Rockwell, to whom he takes an immediate dislike, especially since he seems to be attracted to the pretty female manager (You may all feel free to make whatever inferences you wish, but this is a 1949 Republic programmer, so I’ll just stay on the surface).

   Anyway, there are some more confrontations between GG and Menacker, including one at a gym that turns into a free-for-all with the added participation of other wrestlers (including the Super Swedish Angel – Tor Johnson), resulting in the Big Match – which ends up with Menacker dead, and GG accused of his murder.

ALIAS THE CHAMP Gorgeous George

   Yes, Slammin’ Sammy Menacker was an actual pro wrestler (you might remember him as one of the strongmen who did the tug-o-war with Mighty Joe Young {along with Henry Kulky, op cit.}), and he gets “killed off” in this movie.

   So anyway, Menacker is “dead,” GG is in jail, and it’s up to Rockwell to clear him and restore honest wrestling’s reputation. Rockwell does this with the aid of “new technology” — the film of the televised match that was made for the East! (The word kinescope wasn’t used.)

   I’ve condensed the daylights out of this plot, so as not to spoil it for so many of you who might want to track it down. As to the acting … no, it’s too easy.

ALIAS THE CHAMP Gorgeous George

   But I should mention the director, George Blair, a Republic workhorse who went on, a few years later, to a regular stint on TV’s Adventures Of Superman.

   And I do want to quote another of Gorgeous George’s classic lines, just after one of the face-offs with Menacker, delivered to his concerned lady manager:

   â€œCome, little one. It’s time for my marcelle.”

   I make no judgement. This one you gotta see for yourself.

Editorial Comment: Alias the Champ was the first and only film in which Gorgeous George was to appear.

ALIAS THE CHAMP Gorgeous George


TED WOOD – Snowjob. Reid Bennett #9. Charles Scribner’s Sons, hardcover, 1993. Worldwide Library, paperback, 1995.

TED WOOD Reid Bennett

   When I think of Canadian mystery writers, three immediately come to mind: Eric Wright, Lawrence Gough, and Ted Wood. All are good, and Wright and Wood are among my favorites. Reid Bennett is Chief and one-man force of a small Ontario town, but often for one reason or another leaves his venue, and the books seem more like hardboiled PI stories than police procedurals.

   Here Bennett comes to a Vermont ski town to aid a Viet Nam buddy in trouble. Doug Ford, black, ex-Marine, local cop, has been arrested for the murder of a local woman. He tells Bennett that he was working with her undercover to bust a money laundering scheme involving local bigwigs and New York Mafia.

   The problem is that he was doing it on his own and didn’t tell anyone in the Department. The problem is compounded by Ford’s personal grudge against the Mafia bigwig, dating from his days as a NYC cop. The frame is tight, the local force is honest but inexperienced, and no one but Bennett believes him innocent. So Bennett and his wonder-dog Sam go to work.

   I’ve never thought that plotting was one of Wood’s strong points, and I’m confirmed in that view here. From the original premise to a confusing if not confused ending, I thought this plot was weak. What I have enjoyed about the series is the well-developed character of Reid Bennett, and the fast paced and forceful writing of Wood; and I still do.

   Wood is an ex-Toronto policeman, and though these are in no sense procedurals there is authenticity to the parts that deal with police work. They are usually violent books, and this is no exception., though it’s less violent than some previous ones.

   I continue to enjoy the Bennett series, though much less than I would if the plots were better. This is not the best of them by any means, but I’d still recommend it to Wood fans.

— Reprinted from Ah, Sweet Mysteries #8, July 1993.

      The Reid Bennett series —

1. Dead in the Water (1983)

TED WOOD Reid Bennett

2. Murder On Ice (1984)

TED WOOD Reid Bennett

3. Live Bait (1985)

TED WOOD Reid Bennett

4. Fool’s Gold (1986)
5. Corkscrew (1987)
6. When the Killing Starts (1989)
7. On the Inside (1990)
8. Flashback (1992)
9. Snowjob (1992)
10. A Clean Kill (1995)

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