September 2012

William F. Deeck

J. H. WALLIS – Murder by Formula. Dutton, hardcover, 1931.

J. H. WALLIS Murder by Formula

   During a meeting of the elite Aristoi Club, the Hanging Committee — art, let me hasten to say — discusses crime novels. Several members urge Andrew Wingdon, best-selling author who writes, according to one character, “readin’ books,” to write his own detective novel, or “trash” book. The formula proposed to Wingdon, as he iterates it:

   Story gripping, distracting, entertaining, but not grief-producing — no reality of death; a murder early in the book — first or second chapter, followed by at least one more to prevent loss of interest; the murdered a person or persons of consequence in the story … continual atmosphere of menace to principal surviving characters … no wholesale murders, no use of madmen, animals or artificially bred humans; the guilty always in full view and prominent; the detective supplied no more information than the reader; London and Scotland Yard or Manhattan and the new York police; and a beautiful girl wooed and won by the end of the story.

   Wingdon begins making notes and the others depart. The next morning Wingdon is found dead in the club, killed more or less in the manner discussed the previous evening.

   At the end of his novel, Wallis claims in verse that he himself followed the formula. For the most part I agree with his contention, particularly since fair play was not a criterion.

   The investigation by Inspector Jacks, in the first of several novels featuring his alleged abilities, is slipshod or negligent. For example, Jacks is unaware that apartments and houses have rear entrances and that a murderer might use them.

   A locked-room murder occurs that is given no thought by Jacks and is explained in one unlikely sentence during a most unlikely denouement. Jacks gives Wingdon’s widow, with whom he is smitten — see the last sentence in the formula — an automatic to protect herself at a meeting she shouldn’t attend but provides no instruction about use of the weapon, though this may be excused, I suppose, because the automatic turns out to be a revolver.

   Maybe in his later novels Wallis either is more careful with his plot or writes more persuasively. Maybe.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 13, No. 4, Fall 1992.

        The Inspector Wilton Jacks series —

Murder by Formula. Dutton 1931.
The Capital City Mystery. Dutton 1932.
The Servant of Death. Dutton 1932.
Cries in the Night.Dutton 1933.
The Mystery of Vaucluse. Dutton 1933.
Murder Mansion. Dutton 1934.

   J. H. Wallis has four other works of crime fiction listed in Hubin, including Once Off Guard, which was the basis of the film The Woman in the Window (1944), directed by Fritz Lang. Dan Stumpf reviewed both the book and the film here earlier on this blog.


THE SNOOP SISTERS: “THE FEMALE INSTINCT.” NBC. Pilot for TV series, 18 December 1972. Two hours. Helen Hayes (Ernesta Snoop), Mildred Natwick (Gwendolyn Snoop Nicholson), Paulette Godddard, Jill Clayburgh, Lawrence Pressman, Bill Dana, Kurt Kazner, Edward Platt, Craig Stevens, Fritz Weaver, Art Carney. Teleplay: Leonard Stern & Hugh Wheeler, based on a story by Leonard Stern, who also directed.

   The series that followed this pilot episode began a year and day later, but as part of NBC’s Wednesday Mystery Movie, there were only four additional 90-minute episodes that ever aired. Other segments in the monthly rotation were Banacek, Tenafly, and Faraday and Company. Of these, the only one I remember watching on a regular basis was Banacek, which is also, I’m sure – without looking it up – the one that lasted the longest.


   The entire season of The Snoop Sisters has been released on DVD, but this is the only one I’ve watched, so far. As a mystery, it is not very successful, but it was intended to be as much of a comedy as it was a detective series, and even at that, the pilot, at least, was not as funny as I think was intended. Amusing, yes, and enjoyable, but not out-and-out funny.

   One thing I did not know before watching is that the Snoop Sisters were actually named Snoop, although Gwendolyn was widowed. The premise is that they are elderly and less than conventional in their approach to life, but still very sharp and far from dotty. Ernesta, as it happens, is a writer of detective novels, while her sister transcribes them and types them out.

   Their nephew (Lawrence Pressman) is a lieutenant on the police force, which enables them to interfere (the right word, I think) in his cases. To keep them out of trouble (good luck with that) Lt. Ostrowski has assigned an ex-policeman named Barney (Art Carney) to chauffeur them around in an ancient Lincoln touring car.


   You may have noticed Paulette Goddard’s name in the credits. This is the last time she ever appeared in either the movies or on TV. It’s a short role, unfortunately. She plays an old time movie actress who’s in the process of writing her memoirs, and “hot” is the understatement of the year if you had to describe them in only one word. And “dead” is the word that comes next, as there are any number of people who would do anything to keep the book from being published.

   You may have also noticed Jill Clayburgh’s name in the credits. She was very young when she made this movie but also very beautiful, and you can tell from every moment she’s on the screen that she was going to be a star. (Hindsight, of course, is valuable, too, but I will stand on the previous statement as being 100% correct.)

   The problem with so many suspects is that the writers of the screenplay (one of the them being half of the “Patrick Quentin” pen name) had a very easy task of it. Pick one out of a hat, and he’s it. There is a long scene in which explanations are made, but with it taking place with the two Snoop sisters in the back of their car during a long chase after the killer across one of New York City’s many bridges, it is very difficult to make out many of the details.

   One nice touch is the use of some footage from The Ghost Breakers (1940), and one of the props in that film, to help solve the case. Paulette Goddard was a knockout then, but she still had a fine stage presence in this, her last appearance, as well, at the age of 62. It was good to see her again, one last time.

REX STOUT The Golden Spiders

REX STOUT – The Golden Spiders. Viking Press, hardcover, October 1953. Bantam #1387, paperback, November 1955. Reprinted many times in both hardcover and soft. Episode of TV series: Nero Wolfe: 16 January 1981 (Season 1, Episode 1), with William Conrad & Lee Horsley. TV movie: A&E, 5 March 2000, with Maury Chaykin & Timothy Hutton.

    There is a scene in The Golden Spiders involving a shootout in a garage, and I must be getting old. When I came to this passage when I read it earlier this week all I could think of was what on earth is Archie doing, getting involved in a shootout in a garage?

REX STOUT The Golden Spiders

   Archie Goodwin, Nero Wolfe’s right hand man, is a man of many talents. Besides following orders, wising off to the guys on the Homicide squad, interviewing suspects and transcribing his notes perfectly, he carries a gun and is as tough as he needs to be when the case calls for it. It still took me by surprise, that’s all. I think of Wolfe himself as a man of intellect, not even needing to leaving his home to solve cases, doing it all upstairs, so to speak.

   The case starts out in striking fashion. Two of Wolfe’s clients are later found murdered, run over by the same car, one of them a lady with a distinctive pair of earrings, shaped in the form of golden spiders. Says Wolfe on page 55: “I resent the assumption that people who come to me for help can be murdered with impunity.”

REX STOUT The Golden Spiders

   So begins a path that many a PI has had to take, but this case, involving an organization devoted to helping Displaced Persons, while suitably complicated, just isn’t very interesting. Even the ending, with all of the people involved gathered together with Inspector Cramer, Nero Wolfe and Archie failed with me this time out. With the hands of everyone dirty of something, who cares who the actual killer is?

   Nor do Wolfe’s well-noted powers of deduction come into play. He decides to investigate one of people involved only because the police were checking on everyone else and why should he duplicate their effort, and of course he’s right. Even more distasteful, in a theoretical purist sort of way, is the fact that much of information that Archie produces is by means of torturing one of the guys in the garage after the shooting. I know I’m in the minority on this, but Pfui.


THE RAINBOW TRAIL. Fox, 1925. Tom Mix, Anne Cornwall, George Bancroft, Lucien Littlefield, Mark Hamilton, Vivian Oakland, Doc Roberts, Carol Halloway, Diana Miller. Screenplay by Lynn Reynolds, based on the novel of the same name by Zane Grey. Cinematography by Dan Clark. Director: Lynn Reynolds. Shown at Cinevent 38, Columbus OH, May 2006.


   A sequel to the film of Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage (Fox, 1925) in which Mix played the role of Jim Lassiter, a Texas Ranger pursued by an outlaw posse who evades his pursuers by sealing himself in a remote valley with a young woman he has rescued from the villain who held her and her mother captive.

   Now, some years later, Lassiter’s nephew John Shefford (played by Tom Mix) tracks his long-missing uncle to the valley into which he had disappeared, with the only road to the refuge leading through a “rough frontier settlement” controlled by surviving enemies of Lassiter.

   This handsomely photographed and exciting film is climaxed by an assault on Lassister’s cabin in Paradise Valley that takes great scenic advantage of the treacherous terrain. This film may lack some of the visual poetry of Riders but it’s an exceptional Western with a splendid performance by Tom Mix in top form.


Franchise Players in the Mystery Genre
by Michael Shonk

   What is a franchise character? Let’s adapt the word as used in the film business and apply it to books. So our franchise character is any character that has been featured in three or more books. Good golly, look at them all.

   A franchise character should be special, unique among the rest, so lets narrow it down a bit. The character must appear in three or more original novels. No comic books, short stories, screenplay adaptations, folklore or ballads. And since this is Mystery*File, we will limit our choices to the mystery genre.

Michael Shonk

   Considering there are countless mystery books series released every month, it is shocking how many of fiction’s most beloved and remembered characters don’t have a book series to his or her name.

   Dashiell Hammett’s NICK and NORA CHARLES, the most famous and best of the detective couple appeared in only one novel The Thin Man. There is good news for the two. November 2012, Mysterious Press plans to release Return of the Thin Man, featuring two novellas Hammett wrote to be used as the basis for the movies “After the Thin Man” and “Another Thin Man.” But it is still not enough to make a book series.

Michael Shonk

   Others who failed to make the list due to a lack of a series of original novels include CONTINENTAL OP, BOSTON BLACKIE, BATMAN, SUPERMAN, CISCO KID, DICK TRACY, and ROBIN HOOD.

   Still too many characters for a list, so let’s add films. It is only fair since we stole their word, franchise. Of course in the past, a movie franchise was called, oddly enough, a series. So how can we define a movie series, oops, franchise (and limit our number of characters on the list)? Let’s require three or more original theatrical films shown in America featuring the same studio or independent producer, and/or actor. They must be original films for the movie theatre, doing what Thrush never could do and eliminate MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. with its films made up of TV episodes.

   While there have been several films featuring PHILIP MARLOWE and ZORRO, none were a part of a series of three films featuring the same studio and/or actor. Also off the list are: LEW ARCHER, NERO WOLFE, JOHN J. MALONE, MIKE HAMMER, FLASHGUN CASEY, TRAVIS MCGEE, RAFFLES, FLETCH, and MR AND MRS NORTH.

Michael Shonk

   Still too many characters, so let’s add a weekly TV series, a miniseries of three or more episodes, or three or more TV Movies, but no network pilots or foreign productions that have not aired on American TV. You are welcome to add in the comments any, such as the reported PHILO VANCE Italian series, which would restore the character to the list.

   A surprising number of popular mystery characters have never had a TV series such as SAM SPADE, THE SHADOW, NICK CARTER, MR. MOTO, BULLDOG DRUMMOND, JAMES BOND, JACK RYAN, JASON BOURNE (only a two part TV movie), and HARRY PALMER (who has only two TV Movies so far).

Michael Shonk

   One character will qualify soon, making him lucky number thirteen on our soon to be revealed list. Thomas Harris created HANNIBAL LECTER, the villain with an odd diet, in a series of four books that began with Red Dragon (1981). A famous movie series of four films has followed beginning with Manhunter (1986). Sometime in the upcoming TV season (most likely in 2013) a TV series featuring the serial killer and cannibal will premiere on NBC.

   What should we include in the mystery genre? Should we include the action/adventure series of INDIANA JONES and TARZAN? How about horror and JASON VOORHEES from Friday the 13th? All have a series of original books, series of films, and a weekly TV series. I’m not adding them to our list of mystery characters, but feel free to argue in the comments why I should or suggest others.

   So who survived? Who can be called a franchise character in all three major formats?


Michael Shonk

CHARLIE CHAN – Created by Earl Derr Biggers as a minor character in the book House Without a Key (1925) that was serialized in the magazine Saturday Evening Post. Five more books were to follow. CHARLIE has appeared in many films, the first being a ten episode serial from Pathe House, Without a Key (1926), with George Kuwa playing the minor role of CHAN. Fox produced sixteen films between 1931 and 1938 starring Warner Oland. After Oland’s death, Sidney Toler took over the part with eleven for Fox, then eleven more for Monogram Studios. After Toler’s death, Roland Winters took over the Monogram series for six films between 1947 and 1949. J. Carrol Naish played the detective in the syndicated TV series The New Adventures of Charlie Chan (1957 – thirty-nine episode). The character played a minor role in the animated children cartoon featuring Chan’s children solving crimes called The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan (CBS, 1972). Keye Luke was the voice of CHARLIE CHAN.

Michael Shonk

ELLERY QUEEN – Created by “Ellery Queen” (Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee) in the novel The Roman Hat Mystery (1929), the first in a decades-long book series. Movies have proven unkind to ELLERY, but he was featured in a Columbia film series that lasted seven films, four starring Ralph Bellamy and three with William Gargan. There have been four different TV series featuring the character. The Adventures of Ellery Queen (DuMont, 1950-51; ABC 1951-52) starred Richard Hart then after Hart’s death, Lee Bowman. Adventures of Ellery Queen (Syndication, 1954, thirty-two episodes) starred Hugh Marlowe in the series also called Murder is My Business. The Further Adventures of Ellery Queen (NBC, 1958-59) starred George Nader until the production left New York for Hollywood where Lee Philips took over. Finally (so far), perhaps the best TV adaptation of a traditional mystery detective was Ellery Queen (NBC, 1975-76) starring Jim Hutton.

Michael Shonk

DR. FU MANCHU – Created by Sax Rohmer. The character began in short story “Fu-Manchu,” published October 1912 in the magazine The Story-Teller. A long series of books would follow. Harry Agar Lyons was the first in films to portray the evil Doctor in the silent British movie serial The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu (1923). Warner Oland starred in three Paramount films starting with Mysterious Dr Fu Manchu (1929). Better remembered is the film series with Christopher Lee that lasted five films beginning with The Face Of Fu Manchu (1965). Glen Gordon played the role in the syndicated TV series “Adventures of Fu Manchu” (1955 – thirteen episodes).

Michael Shonk

HERCULE POIROT – Created by Agatha Christie, the Belgian PI first appeared in The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1916) and lasted thirty-three novels before he met his end in Curtain (1975). Austin Trevor (Alibi, 1931) was the first to play the character in film. Peter Ustinov played the private detective in three theatrical films (Death On the Nile, 1976, Evil Under the Sun, 1982 and Appointment With Death, 1988) and three TV-Movies for Warner Brothers (Thirteen at Dinner, 1985, Dead Man’s Folly, 1986, and Murder in Three Acts, 1986). The most popular portrayal of the character has been by David Suchet who has played POIROT since 1989 for various productions usually seen in the United States on PBS series Mystery.

Michael Shonk

LONE WOLF aka MICHAEL LANYARD – Louis Joseph Vance created the ex-thief turned adventurer that appeared in a series of eight books beginning with The Lone Wolf: A Melodrama (1914). The character first appeared on film in silent movie The Lone Wolf (1917) starring Bert Lytell, who would star in five films, the other four for Columbia. Most of the LONE WOLF films came from Columbia Pictures with Warren William starring in nine and Gerald Mohr in three. The syndicated TV series, The Lone Wolf (also known as Streets of Danger) turned him into a PI. The series starred Louis Hayward and lasted thirty-nine episodes.

Michael Shonk

MATT HELM – Created by Donald Hamilton, the government agent appeared in over twenty-five books beginning with Death of a Citizen (1960). MATT HELM changed from tough-guy to campy spy in a movie series of four films starring Dean Martin beginning with The Silencers (1966). In 1975 a TV series starring Tony Franciosa as ex-spy turned PI aired for one season on ABC.

Michael Shonk

MICHAEL SHAYNE – Created by “Brett Halliday” (David Dresser). The character first appeared in Dividend on Death (1939) and continued in a series of seventy-seven novels. Lloyd Nolan played the red headed PI in a 20th Century Fox film series of seven movies beginning with Michael Shayne, Private Detective (1940). PRC followed with five movies starring Hugh Beaumont. Richard Denning played the PI in a NBC-TV series (1960-61).

Michael Shonk

MISS JANE MARPLE – Agatha Christie is the only author with two franchise characters. MISS JANE MARPLE first appeared in Murder at the Vicarage (1930) and would last a total of twelve novels, the final one being Sleeping Murder (1976). Arguably the best of the entire “Little Old Lady” turned detective subgenre. Margaret Rutherford played the character in the popular “Murder” film series for MGM that lasted four films beginning with Murder She Said (1961). The character has PBS to thank for showing the British productions of her TV series starring such actresses as Geraldine McEwan and Julie McKenzie.

Michael Shonk

PERRY MASON – Created by Erle Stanley Gardner. The only lawyer on the list, he first appeared in The Case of the Velvet Claws (1933) and continued for eighty-five novels. Warner Brothers film series began with The Case of the Howling Dog (1934) and lasted six films, four starring Warren William. Raymond Burr starred in the CBS TV series that lasted between 1957 through 1966. CBS would bring back the character in New Adventures of Perry Mason (1973-74) with Monte Markham playing the lawyer. In 1985, Raymond Burr would return to star in thirty TV Movies between 1985-1993 (CBS).

Michael Shonk

THE SAINT aka SIMON TEMPLAR – Created by Leslie Charteris in Meet–The Tiger! (1928). The former thief turned adventurer Simon Templar has been featured in over ninety books. The character has appeared in many films including an RKO series of eight films with George Sanders starring in five. Two series featuring the character have appeared on America television. The Saint starring Roger Moore began in 1962 on British television and later in syndication to American television stations. In 1966 NBC aired episodes from the series. CBS’s Return Of The Saint starred Ian Ogilvy and ran twenty-four episodes during the 1978-79 season.

         I have left off one consulting detective and one amateur detective who belong on the list. Can you name who they are? One of the missing is obvious while the other is a surprise. Please use the comments for your answer, as well as other suggestions and comments.



ELLERY QUEEN The Spanish Cape Mystery

ELLERY QUEEN – The Spanish Cape Mystery. Frederic A. Stokes, hardcover, March 1935. Pocket #146, 1st printing, February 1942; 17th printing, May 1951 (shown to the right). Many other reprint editions, both hardcover and soft.

   The titular Spanish Cape is a small hunk of land sticking out into the ocean somewhere along the North Atlantic seaboard. There is only one home there, that of Walter and Stella Godfrey and their family, along with assorted summer guests, none of whom knew him before they were invited, nor he them. Which is a good way to get a good detective puzzle started, but wait, you haven’t heard how this mystery really gets going.

   Which is with the kidnapping of Rosa, Stella and Walter’s daughter, along with Stella’s brother and Rosa’s uncle, by a giant one-eyed pirate-like figure who has made a big mistake. By his own account, what he really meant was to drag a fellow named John Marco out of the house and dump his body at sea. On whose orders? After the error was discovered, it must have been the person who followed through with Marco’s death back at the Godfrey manor.

ELLERY QUEEN The Spanish Cape Mystery

   A death, however, which is even more puzzling. Marco is found strangled on an outdoor terrace, totally nude except for a cape, hat and walking stick. Most of the Ellery Queen detective puzzles are larger than life, and this one, as you may have surmised, is no exception.

   Ellery is called upon to lend a hand while on vacation. Inspector Queen, however, is not along with him. Working with Ellery on this case is Judge Macklin, a long time friend whom he is traveling with, and the local police, headed up by one Inspector Moley, who growls in frustration about as well as Ellery’s dad does when the deduction seems to get derailed, so the latter is not particularly missed.

   As intricately plotted as any of Ellery’s early cases, this ninth case in novel form (and the last with this particular title pattern), finds Ellery a lot looser and less formal in his approach, with his pince nez mentioned only once, if I recall correctly. (I may be wrong about this.)

ELLERY QUEEN The Spanish Cape Mystery

   Ellery Queen, the authors, still don’t know much about proper police procedure, nor does the occurrence of sudden, unexpected death cause nearly as much stir as surely it would in real life, but that’s not the point. This is a puzzle mystery, through and through, which each piece of the jigsaw needed to point the finger in the end at only one suspect, and one suspect only.

   I enjoyed it all very much, thank you, even though I decided very early on who the killer was, and even though I was right about that, I failed to catch the significance of the naked body of the not-very-well-liked Mr Marco. Having thought about it now for 24 hours since I finished the book, there’s simply no way for me to write around it. The killer’s behavior was simply too bizarre for me.

   It’s a shame that all of Ellery’s deductions are based on such a single weak point, but if you can give the authors the benefit of the doubt, everything else snaps into place in absolutely perfect fashion.

ROARING LIONS: A Chronological Bibliography of All Crime Fiction Titles in LION BOOKS and LION LIBRARY
by Josef Hoffmann

   Lion Books were published by Martin Goodman. This paperback line lasted from 1949 until 1955 and was edited by the legendary Arnold Hano, an author of western and crime novels and of a classic baseball book.

   He promoted Jim Thompson, David Goodis, Robert Bloch, David Karp, Richard Matheson and other very good crime writers by publishing their work as paperback originals. He also promoted a rising star novelist named Kenneth Millar (Ross Macdonald) and other important authors – Stanley Ellin and Gerald Kersh, for example – in paperback reprints.

   Although not all crime novelists of Lion Books are in this class Lion Books usually stand for a certain level of writing. Most of the Lion Books are collectible paperbacks with good cover art by Rudolph Belarski, Harry Schaare, Robert Maguire, Robert Stanley, Mort Kunstler and others. Some books are now very pricey.

   The publisher established a similar paperback line called Lion Library when Hano left in 1954. It lasted from 1954 until 1957 and published in part the same writers. Finally New American Library purchased Lion Books, Inc.

   As I do not own many Lion Books I obtained the information about this paperback line from Jon Warren: The Official Price Guide Paperbacks, House of Collectibles, N. Y. 1991; Gary Lovisi: Antique Trader Collectible Paperback Price Guide, Krause Publications, Iola, WI, 2008.

   Which of the Lion Books were crime titles and which were reprints of first editions, I learned from Allen J. Hubin: Crime Fiction IV. A Comprehensive Bibliography, 1749-2000, 2010 Revised Edition, Locus Press.

    Warning: If you read too many Lion Books in a short time the simplicity and vulgarity of their vernacular will get on your nerves. There are just too many words like hell, swell, kill, hate, lust, sin, skin, sweat, blood, babe, blonde, dope, jungle etc.

   And the emotions of the protagonists are too direct and primitive. You will long for the reflected, differentiated and elegant prose of authors like Chandler, Woolrich or Highsmith. So after a typical Lion Book it is better to read something very different like a humorous detective novel or a historical mystery to be able to enjoy another Lion Book once in a while.

         LION BOOKS:     (PBO = paperback original)

Morgan, Michael (C. E. Carle/Dean M. Dorn): The Blonde Body (LB 11), 1949; cover art Len Oehman. First edition: Nine More Lives, Random House 1947


Jackson, Shirley: The Lottery (LB 14), 1950; cover art Herman Bischoff. First edition: Farrar 1949 (short stories)

Marsh, Peter: The Devil’s Daughter (LB 16), 1949; cover art William Shoyer. First edition: Swift 1942

Ross, Sam: He Ran All the Way (LB 19), 1950; cover art Harry Schaare. First edition: Farrar 1947

Tucker, Wilson: To Keep or Kill (LB 21), 1950; cover art Herman Bischoff. First edition: Rinehart 1947


Lynch, William: The Intimate Stranger (LB 25), 1950; cover art Woodi. PBO.

Balchin, Nigel: The Small Back Room (LB 31), 1950; cover art Wesley Snyder. First edition: Collins 1943

Jackson, Shirley: The Road Through the Wall (LB 36), 1950; cover art Harvey Kidder. First edition: Farrar 1949

Gray, Russell (Bruno Fischer): The Lustful Ape (LB 38), 1950; cover art Julian Paul. PBO.

Appel, Benjamin: Brain Guy (LB 39), 1950. First edition: Knopf 1934

Ellin, Stanley: The Big Night (LB 41), 1950. First edition: Dreadful Summit, Simon 1948


Eastman, Elizabeth: His Dead Wife (LB 44), 1950. First edition: The Mouse with Red Eyes, Farrar 1948

Tracy, Don: How Sleeps the Beast (LB 45), 1950. First edition: Constable 1937

Millar, Kenneth: Trouble Follows Me (LB 47), 1950. First edition: Dodd 1946


Millar, Kenneth: The Dark Tunnel (LB 48), 1950. First edition: Dodd 1944

Jaediker, Kermit: Tall, Dark and Dead (LB 51), 1951. First edition: Mystery House 1947

Wilhelm, Gale: No Letters for the Dead (LB 52), 1951; cover art Pease. First edition: Random House 1936; reprint: No Nice Girl, Pyramid G-440, 1959

Bordages, Asa: The Glass Lady (LB 56), 1951. First edition: Godwin 1932

Teagle, Mike: Murders in Silk (LB 60), 1951. First edition: Hillman-Curl 1938

Trimble, Louis: Blondes Are Skin Deep (LB 62), 1951. PBO


Keene, Day: My Flesh Is Sweet (LB 68), 1951. PBO

Tracy, Don: The Cheat (LB 69), 1951; cover art Harry Schaare. First edition: Criss-Cross, Vanguard 1934

Bogar, Jeff (Ronald Wills Thomas): The Tigress (LB 72), 1951. First edition: Payoff for Paula, Hamilton & Co. 1951

Durst, Paul: Die, Damn You! (LB 75), 1952. PBO. (Classified as a western by Lovisi.)

Gordon, James: The Lust of Private Cooper (LB 77), 1952. First edition: Of Our Time, Dobson 1946; reprint: Collision, Farrar 1947

Bogar, Jeff (Ronald Wills Thomas): My Gun, Her Body (LB 79), 1952. First edition: Dinah for Danger, Hamilton & Co. 1952


Butler, Gerald: The Lurking Man (LB 81), 1952. First edition: Mad with Much Heart, Jarrolds 1945

Wolfson, P. J.: Bodies Are Dust (LB 83), 1952. First edition: Vanguard 1931

Prather, Richard S.: Lie Down, Killer (LB 85), 1952. PBO


Wills, Thomas (William Ard): You’ll Get Yours (LB 87), 1952. PBO

Lucas, Curtis (William Francis Urell): So Low, So Lonely (LB 91), 1952. PBO

Karp, David: The Big Feeling (LB 93), 1952. PBO

Evans, John (Howard Browne): Lona (LB 94), 1952; cover art Earle Bergey. First edition: If You Have Tears, Mystery House 1947; reprint: The Blonde Dies First, Horwitz 1956


Appel, Benjamin: Hell’s Kitchen (LB 95), 1952. PBO

Kersh, Gerald: Prelude to a Certain Midnight (LB 98), 1952; cover art Rudolph Belarski. First edition: Heinemann 1947

Thompson, Jim: The Killer Inside Me (LB 99), 1952. PBO


Elliott, Bruce: One Is a Lonely Number (LB 100), 1952; cover art Earle Bergey. PBO

Paul, Gene (Paul Conant): Little Killer (LB 104), 1952; cover art Prezio. PBO

Karp, David: The Brotherhood of Velvet (LB 105), 1952. pBO

Thompson, Jim: Cropper’s Cabin (LB 108), 1952. PBO


Eisner, Simon (Cyril M. Kornbluth): The Naked Storm (LB 109), 1952; cover art Robert Skemp. PBO

Ring, Douglas (Richard S. Prather): The Peddler (LB 110), 1952. PBO

Walker, Shel (Walter J. Sheldon): The Man I Killed (LB 112), 1952. PBO

Karp, David: Hardman (LB 119), 1953; cover art Prezio. PBO

Thompson, Jim: Recoil (LB 120), 1953. PBO

Francis, William (William Francis Urell): Don’t Dig Deeper (LB 123), 1953. PBO

Goodis, David: The Burglar (LB 124), 1953. PBO


Thompson, Jim: The Alcoholics (LB 127), 1953. PBO

Otis, G. H.: Bourbon Street (LB 131), 1953. PBO

Karp, David: Cry, Flesh (LB 132), 1953. PBO

Goodis, David: The Dark Chase (LB 133), 1953; cover art Julian Paul. First edition: Nightfall, Messner 1947

Matheson, Richard: Someone Is Bleeding (LB 137), 1953. PBO


Untermeyer, Jr., Walter: Dark the Summer Dies (LB 138), 1953. PBO

Scott, Warwick (Elleston Trevor): Cockpit (LB 140), 1953. First edition: Image in the Dust, Davies 1951

Roueche, Berton: Rooming House (LB 141), 1953. First edition: Black Weather, Reynal 1945

Scott, Warwick (Elleston Trevor): Doomsday (LB 148), 1953. First edition: The Domesday Story, Davies 1952

Thompson, Jim: Bad Boy (LB 149), 1953; cover art Mort Kunstler. PBO

Falstein, Louis: Slaughter Street (LB 151), 1953; cover art Lou Marchetti. PBO

Lorenz, Frederick (Lorenz Heller): A Rage at Sea (LB 152), 1953; cover art Maguire. PBO

Bezzerides, A. I.: Tough Guy (LB 153), 1953. First edition: Long Haul, Carrick 1938; reprint: They Drive by Night, Dell Book 416, 1950


Paul, Gene (Paul Conant): Naked in the Dark (LB 154), 1953. PBO

Thompson, Jim: Savage Night (LB 155), 1953. PBO

Jaediker, Kermit: Hero’s Lust (LB 156), 1953; cover art Lou Marchetti. PBO

Lipsky, Eleazar: The Hoodlum (LB 161), 1953. First edition: The Kiss of Death, Penguin 1947

Curtis, Lucas (William Francis Urell): Angel (LB 162), 1953. PBO

Manners, William: The Big Lure (LB 165), 1953. PBO

Appel, Benjamin: Dock Walloper (LB 166), 1953. PBO

Heatter, Basil: Sailor’s Luck (LB 170), 1953. PBO

Otis, G. H.: Hot Cargo (LB 171), 1953. PBO


Francis, William (William Francis Urell): The Corrupters (LB 174), 1953. PBO

Leiber, Fritz: Conjure Wife (LB 179), 1953; cover art Robert Maguire. First edition: Twayne 1953. (Classified as SF by Lovisi.)

Matheson, Richard: Fury on Sunday (LB 180), 1953. PBO


Thompson, Jim: The Criminal (LB 184), 1953. PBO

Bloch, Robert: The Kidnaper (LB 185), 1954. PBO

Goodis, David: The Blonde on the Street Corner (LB 186), 1954. PBO

Fairman, Paul W.: The Joy Wheel (LB 190), 1954. PBO

Thompson, Jim: The Golden Gizmo (LB 192), 1954. PBO

Lorenz, Frederick (Lorenz Heller): Night Never Ends (LB 193), 1954; cover art Clark Hulings. PBO

Meskil, Paul S.: Sin Pit (LB 198), 1954; PBO

Rosmanith, Olga (Ferney Wood): The Long Thrill (LB 200), 1954. PBO

Thompson, Jim: Roughneck (LB 201), 1954. PBO

Keene, Day: Sleep with the Devil (LB 204), 1954. PBO


Craig, Jonathan: Alley Girl (LB 206), 1954. PBO. Reprint: Renegade Cop, Berkley 1959

Trevor, Elleston: Tiger Street (LB 207), 1954. First edition: Boardman 1951

Keene, Day: Joy House (LB 210), 1954. PBO

Sparkia, Roy Benard: Boss Man (LB 211), 1954. PBO

Thompson, Jim: A Swell-Looking Babe (LB 212), 1954. PBO


Fessier, Michael: Fully Dressed and in His Right Mind (LB 214), 1954. First edition: Knopf 1935

Flora, Fletcher: Strange Sisters (LB 215), 1954. PBO

Cassill, R. V.: Dormitory Women (LB 216), 1954. PBO

Thompson, Jim: A Hell of a Woman (LB 218), 1954. PBO

Manners, William: Wharf Girl (LB 219), 1954. PBO

Davis, Jr., Franklin M., The Naked and the Lost (LB 221), 1954. PBO

Untermeyer, Jr., Walter: Evil Roots (LB 222), 1954. PBO

Lorenz, Frederick (Lorenz Heller): The Savage Chase (LB 223), 1954; cover art Al Rossi. PBO

Goodis, David: Black Friday (LB 224), 1954. PBO

Baldwin, Linton: Sinners’ Game (LB 227), 1954. PBO

Heatter, Basil: Act of Violence (LB 228), 1954; cover art John Leone. PBO

Lipman, Clayre & Michel: House of Evil (LB 231), 1954. PBO

         LION LIBRARY:

Frazee, Steve: The Sky Block (LL-3), 1954; cover art Robert Maguire. First edition: Rinehart 1953

Wolfson, P. J.: The Flesh Baron (LL-4), 1955. First edition: Is My Flesh of Brass?, Vanguard 1934


Kennedy, Stetson: Passage to Violence (LL-9), 1954; cover art Al Rossi. PBO

Karp, David: Escape to Nowhere (LL-10), 1955. First edition: One, Vanguard 1953

Rosen, Victor: Dark Plunder (LL-11), 1955; cover art Al Rossi. PBO

Clark, Christopher: The Unleashed Will (LL-15), 1955. First edition: Little 1947

Greene, Graham: Nineteen Stories (LL-31), 1955; cover art Arthur Shilstone. First edition: Heinemann 1947

Walker, David: The Storm and the Silence (LL-33), 1955; cover art George Erickson. First edition: Houghton 1949

Millar, Kenneth: Night Train (LL-40), 1955; cover art Samson Pollen. Reprints LB 47 with new title.

Gordon, James: Collision (LL-41), 1955; cover art Gilbert Fullington. Reprints LB 77 with new title.

Coates, Robert M.: The Night Before Dying (LL-45), 1955; cover art Al Brule. First edition: Wisteria Cottage, Harcourt 1948

Millar, Kenneth: I Die Slowly (LL-52), 1955. Reprints LB 48 with new title

Ross, Sam: He Ran All the Way (LL-59), 1955; cover art George Gross. Reprints LB 19.

Lorenz, Frederick (Lorenz Heller): A Party Every Night (LL-63), 1956; cover art Robert Schultz. PBO

Kauffman, Lane: Kill the Beloved (LL-64), 1956; cover art Charles Copeland. First edition: The Perfectionist, Lippincott 1954

Garland, Rodney (Adam Hegedus): The Heart in Exile (LL-76), 1956; cover art Arthur Shilstone. First edition: Allen 1953

Tucker, Wilson: To Keep or Kill (LL-84), 1956; cover art Robert Maguire. Reprints LB 21.

Karp, David: The Girl on Crown Street (LL-86), 1956. Reprints LB 132 with new title.

Flora, Fletcher: The Brass Bed (LL-87), 1956. PBO

Kent, David: A Knife Is Silent (LL-91), 1956; cover art Mort Kunstler. First edition: Random House 1947

Miller, Wade: Kiss Her Goodbye (LL-96), 1956; cover art Charles Copeland. PBO


Park, Jordan (Cyril M. Kornbluth): Sorority House (LL-97), 1956; cover art Clark Hulings. PBO

Lorenz, Frederick (Lorenz Heller): Ruby (LL-104), 1956; cover art Samson Pollen. PBO

Wilhelm, Gale: Paula (LL-115), 1956; cover art Morgan Kane. Reprints LB 52 with new title.

Appel, Benjamin: Alley Kids (LL-116), 1956; cover art Samson Pollen/Carlos De Mema. Reprints LB 95 with new title.

Tracy, Don: The Cheat (LL-118), 1956; cover art Charles Copeland. Reprints LB 69.

Thompson, Jim: Recoil (LL-124), 1956; cover art Robert Maguire. Reprints LB 120.

Eisner, Simon (Cyril M. Kornbluth): The Naked Storm (LL-125), 1956; cover art Robert Stanley. Reprints LB 109.

Garland, Rodney (Adam Hegedus)
: The Troubled Midnight (LL-128), 1956; cover art Charles Copeland. First edition: Allen 1954

Wills, Thomas (William Ard): You’ll Get Yours (LL-129), 1956; cover art Harry Schaare. Reprints LB 87.

Goodis, David: Nightfall (LL-131), 1956. Reprints LB 133 with new title.


Roueche, Berton: Rooming House (LL-133), 1957; cover art Arthur Sarnoff. Reprints LB 141.

Williams, Ben Ames: Leave Her to Heaven (LL-136), 1956; cover art Clark Hulings. First edition: Houghton 1944

Hudiburg, Edward: Killer’s Game (LL-137), 1956; cover art Harry Schaare. PBO

Thompson, Jim: A Hell of a Woman (LL-138), 1956; cover art Morgan Kane. Reprints LB 215.

Thompson, Jim: The Kill-Off (LL-142), 1957; cover art William Rose. PBO

Jackson, Charles: Thread of Evil (LL-143), 1957; cover art Lou Marchetti. First edition: The Outer Edges, Rinehart 1948

Lorenz, Frederick (Lorenz Heller): Hot (LL-144), 1956; cover art Rudy Nappi. PBO

Friedman, Stuart: The Bedside Corpse (LL-148), 1957; cover art Robert Stanley. First edition: The Gray Eyes, Abelard 1955

Williams, Ben Ames: A Killer Among Us (LL-149), 1957; cover art Harry Schaare. First edition: The Silver Forest, Dutton 1926

Appel, Benjamin: Brain Guy (LL-151), 1957; cover art Mort Kunstler. Reprints LB 39.

Masur, Harold (ed.): Dolls Are Murder (LL-152), 1957; cover art Mort Kunstler. PBO

Paul, Gene: The Big Make (LL-158), 1957; cover art Robert Maguire. Reprints LB 104 with new title.

Lorenz, Frederick (Lorenz Heller): A Rage at Sea (LL-165), 1957; cover art James Bama. Reprints LB 152.

Roth, Holly: The Sleeper (LL-171), 1957; cover art Rudy Nappi. First edition: Simon 1955

Falstein, Louis: Slaughter Street (LL-172), 1957; cover art Robert Maguire. Reprints LB-151.

Editorial Comment:   I wish I had the space to show more of the covers here, but there are many, many more where these came from. Check out Bruce Black’s BookScans website, starting here.


   Even though only a portion of the posts on this blog are about Vintage Motion Pictures, I’m delighted to announce that I’ve been accepted as a member of VAMP.

   Check out their website. Lots of links there to other movie-oriented blogs, all worth visiting!

WHEN A MAN’S A MAN. Atherton / Sol Lesser Productions, 1935. Based on the novel by Harold Bell Wright. George O’Brien, Dorothy Wilson, Paul Kelly, Harry Woods, Richard Carlyle. Director: Edward F. Cline.

WHEN A MAN'S A MAN George O'Brien

   Here’s a western with a story line that’s as standard as they come, at least as far as Hollywood is concerned – that of one cattle rancher diverting an area’s water supply from a neighboring ranch to his own – but in this case, it’s also one that’s a whole lot more entertaining than anything in the first part of this sentence might suggest.

   There are two reasons for this, and one of them may be that the movie’s based on a novel, rather than one dreamed up by a hack of a script writer, no offense intended. The other, though, may be the star, George O’Brien, who is not your typical B-western movie star. Not in When a Man’s a Man, he isn’t.

WHEN A MAN'S A MAN George O'Brien

   He’s chunky, he’s from the East (an engineering school, as I recall, where he majored in football), he may be a little naive or idealistic, and when he’s hired by the rancher whose cattle are now dying (see above) he discovers that he’s accidentally become part of a love triangle, the other two being the rancher’s daughter (Dorothy Wilson) and the rancher’s foreman (Paul Kelly). Reluctantly but admirably, he’s willing to stand aside, and stand aside he does.

   He’s almost but never quite a comic figure. I don’t think there is any western actor other than George O’Brien who could pull off a role like this and make it succeed.

WHEN A MAN'S A MAN George O'Brien

   There is, of course, more to the story than an ill-fated romance – for one of the two men, that is – and that is how to deal with the scheming evil rancher, played by Harry Woods (also see above). This involves a lot of digging, some dynamite, and some last minute rescuing.

   All in all, there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had from watching this old western movie, more than you might think if you come across it with no advance notice. Which is what happened to me, and I’m glad it did.

NOTE:   There was a second movie that was made based on the same novel, that being Massacre River (1949) starring Guy Madison and Rory Calhoun, but you know how that goes. I’ve read the description of that movie written by someone on the IMBD website, and I don’t see much resemblance between the two films at all.



MILES BURTON – Death Leaves No Card. Collins, UK, hardcover, 1939. First US edition: Ramble House, 2012.


    “If it was a case of murder, it was a case with remarkably few clues. When members of the Maplewood family and their servants broke down the bathroom door, they found the body of Basil Maplewood, who apparently died while getting into his bath. Certainly there was nobody else in the locked bathroom. And yet there was no indication at all of how the young man might have died. Even the post-mortem didn’t come up with a likely cause of death. You’d have to say, really, that in this case, Death Leaves No Card. Which is the title of the Golden Age mystery by Miles Burton, which is the subject of today’s audio review on the ‘Classic Mysteries’ podcast.”

— Les Blatt, ‘Classic Mysteries’

       See also:

    “For the first time since his fully-fledged debut in The Menace on the Downs, Inspector Arnold of the Criminal Investigation Department goes it alone in attempting to solve the death of a man discovered alone in a locked bathroom. The cause of death baffles the police and although there are suggestions that something like electric shock may be to blame no possible source can be discovered. Suspicion quickly falls on the dead man’s uncle, and he clearly has a motive, but opportunity and means seem to be non-existent and the mystery begins to look insoluble.”

— R. E. Faust, GAD Wiki


    “Plot wise, this book is still a fairly competent entry into the locked room sub-genre, but the ho-hum storytelling also makes it a decidedly unexciting one — and not a book that you’ll likely finish in one sitting.”

— Patrick, “Beneath the Stains of Time”

    “Death Leaves No Card (1939) is an excursion by the author into the Impossible Crime, one of around eight novels he wrote in this subgenre. It’s a mild and ultimately fairly minor book. … The explanation of the impossible crime is sound enough, but none too creative.”

— Mike Grost, “A Guide to Mystery and Detection”

       Other Burton reviews:

From The Saturday Review, September 24, 1938, “The Criminal Record” —


    “Title and Author: THE PLATINUM CAT – Miles Burton (Crime Club: $2.00)

    “Crime, Place, Sleuth: Calcined corpse in English cottage identified as possessor of valuable War secrets. Miles Burton and War office independently seek killer.

    “Summing Up: Interesting spectacle of several clever investigators reaching same conclusions by different methods, plus better than average international spy yarn.

    “Verdict: Able.”

From The Saturday Review, February 2, 1946, “The Criminal Record” —

    “Title and Author: ACCIDENTS DO HAPPEN – Miles Burton (Crime Club: $2.00)

    “Crime, Place, and Sleuth: Violent deaths decimate English country family. Desmond Merrion is on scene but confession solves all.

    “Summing Up: Enough casualties to suit most gory-minded reader. Interesting background and characters. Assorted sleuths all baffled.

    “Verdict: Sanguinarily boring.”

       Street writing as “Cecil Waye” —


    “John Street — former intelligence officer, practitioner of politico-military propaganda and well known to readers of crime and detective stories as “John Rhode” and “Miles Burton” — was ‘not an easy man to know — his reticences were such that all who met him could not fail to respect them, but to those who were privileged to enjoy his friendship he leaves memories of kindnesses and sensitive understanding that might surprise many of his readers.’

    “Something that came as a surprise for almost all of Street’s many readers when this article first appeared is that he also wrote mysteries under another, previously unsuspected pseudonym. A pseudonym that, like ‘John Rhode,’ plays on his real name. John Street was also ‘Cecil Waye,’ author of a series of four novels published in the early 1930s.”

— Tony Medawar, “A ‘Rhode’ by Any Other Name”

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