December 2015


TOMBSTONE CANYON. Sono Art-World Wide Pictures, 1932. Ken Maynard, Cecelia Parker, Sheldon Lewis, Frank Brownlee, Jack Clifford. Director: Alan James.

   For a low-budget programmer, Tombstone Canyon isn’t that bad. As a matter of fact, this quirky, surprisingly violent Western starring Ken Maynard has a decent enough story. Maynard, who had a prolific career in Westerns, portrays “Ken,” a man in search of his true identity. Who was his father? Where did he come from? In order to get the answers he seeks, he travels to a town a stone’s throw away from Tombstone Canyon. There, he plans to meet a man who knows the secret to his past.

   But when the man who knows Ken’s secret past turns up dead and a grotesquely disfigured man in a black cape called The Phantom appears on the scene, things get weird. Not so much supernatural weird, but just a bit off kilter. Tombstone Canyon is surprisingly atypical; there’s no singing, almost no humor to speak of, and a level of brutality that wasn’t typical in films of this era.

   That’s not to say that the movie is some forgotten classic. It really isn’t. This is largely due to the fact that the movie’s means of telling a compelling story is altogether clunky and haphazard. Part of this, of course, is reflective of the time period in which the movie was made. So you end up seeing the texts of written letters on screen as a means of advancing the story and listening to dialogue that feels more like exposition than what would naturally flow from fully developed characters.

   Nevertheless, there’s something about Tombstone Canyon that makes it worth watching. It’s almost as if the filmmakers were wanting to do so much more than their financial and technical limitations would allow. This may be just another an average Western, but I’d very much consider giving it an “A” for effort.

William F. Deeck

JOYCE PORTER – Sour Cream With Everything. Jonathan Cape, UK, hardcover, 1966; Panther, UK, paperback, 1968. Charles Scribner’s Sons, US, hardcover, 1966.

   Unfortunately for Edmund (Eddie) Brown, named by his mother after Edmundo Ros, who Mrs Brown thought was Irish, he speaks fluent Russian, albeit of the prerevolutionary variety, and closely resembles a Russian that the British Board of Trade (and one wonders whether Tim Heald’s Simon Bognor is aware of this aspect of the Board of Trade) wants to smuggle out of the Soviet Union for 26 days. It is Eddie’s role, whether he likes it or not, and he emphatically doesn’t, being more than a bit of a coward, to replace the Russian during that time.

   Eddie is more than a bit of a failure, too, which he blames on the lack of an old school tie, and none too bright, except when it comes to survival — his own. After a period of training at a fake lunatic asylum, Eddie is sent into the Soviet Union in a pink Bentley in the company of an especially unpleasant virago.

   When Eddie thinks he has successfully completed his part of the mission, he finds that he has been known to be a British agent all along. His seeming willingness to commit murder saves him from arrest, however, since the real KGB agent wants Eddie to murder the agent’s wife.

   Joyce Porter has created two of the funniest characters in the mystery field in Chief Inspector Wilfrid Dover and the Hon. Constance Morrison-Burke. Eddie Brown, reluctant and inept spy, at least in this novel, is not in their class. But if you haven’t read Porter’s books featuring Dover and the Hon. Con, you may find how Eddie mucks things up quite amusing.

— Reprinted from CADS 21, August 1993. Email Geoff Bradley for subscription information.

      The Eddie Brown series —

1. Sour Cream with Everything (1966)
2. The Chinks in the Curtain (1967)

3. Neither a Candle Nor a Pitchfork (1969)
4. Only with a Bargepole (1971)

THE HALLIDAY BRAND. United Artists, 1957). Joseph Cotten, Viveca Lindfors, Betsy Blair, Ward Bond (Big Dan Halliday), Bill Williams, Jay C. Flippen, Christopher Dark, Jeanette Nolan. Director: Joseph H. Lewis.

   For any number of reasons, Ward Bond didn’t get a chance to play leading roles in movies all that often, but even though he’s billed fourth, it is his performance in The Halliday Brand that takes the film out of the ordinary to something that lifts it above the limited budget it must have had.

   Joseph Cotten had the bigger name, but while his performance was otherwise spot on as usual, he was not really a cowboy. Ward Bond was, and as the bullheaded father who fights a losing battle with his three rebellious children in The Halliday Brand, bellowing all the way, he makes sure that everyone for miles around knows who owns the biggest ranch, built the town from the bottom up, and as sheriff, who ruled the range with no holds barred.

   But when he allows the half-breed suitor for his daughter’s hand to be lynched, then kills the boy’s father in an ill-advised attempt at a man-to-man reconciliation, he drives his older son away (Joseph Cotten), totally alienates his daughter (Betsy Blake) and leaves the third (Bill Williams) trying to be a good son but finding himself lied to in the old man’s plotting and scheming.

   Much of the story is told in flashback, which I believe is unusual in a western, but maybe I missed the others. This was the next-to-the-last movie that director Joseph H. Lewis made, and the movie is filmed with many interesting shots at various angles, and with lots of objects in the foreground. Overall, as a western, this may fall into the category of high melodrama for some, with some obviously outdoor scenes filmed on an indoor set, but as a melodrama, this is an very good one.


THE MUMMY LIVES. Global Pictures, 1993. Tony Curtis, Leslie Hardy, Greg Wrangler, Jack Cohen, Mohammed Bakri. Suggested by the story “Some Words with A Mummy” by Edgar Allan Poe. Director: Gerry O’Hara.

   To say that Tony Curtis was miscast in the schlocky, ridiculously plotted The Mummy Lives is to miss the point entirely. Indeed, without Curtis in this overall forgettable mummy film, there’d be no reason to watch it whatsoever.

   But with Curtis, it’s an entirely different story, for there’s nothing – and I mean nothing – quite like hearing a thick Bronx accent coming from the mouth of a character named Dr. Mohassid. The thing you really need to know about the good doctor is that he happens to be – you guessed it – the resurrection of an ancient Egyptian named Aziru, a guy who was sentenced to death and mummification for his illicit love affair with Kia (Leslie Hardy), a lovely, dark haired concubine.

   When he doesn’t look completely bored, Curtis plays it for laughs, almost winking at the audience as if he were Vincent Price. The Mummy Lives may not be a good movie, but it has its moments. At its worst, it’s a throwaway cheap horror film that doesn’t work. At its best, it is pure camp, a celebration of the ridiculousness of Hollywood’s mummy curse mythology.

   I wouldn’t recommend anyone going out of the way to see this one, but I’d love to see it programmed as a midnight movie somewhere.


ELAINE FLINN – Dealing in Murder. Avon, paperback original, 2003.

   After her cheating husband involved her successful (and very upscale) antiques store in a criminal scam, Elaine Flinn’s protagonist fled to Carmel, California. Cleared of complicity but with her reputation still tarnished, Porter has set up amodest business in a shop in Carmel that a long-time friend has made available to her and adopted the name “Molly Doyle.”

   She quickly demonstrates a a penchant for being present at murder scenes and has not only to work to keep her young business afloat but solve crimes for which she’s clearly a prime suspect. As an added inducement to another category of readers among whom I count myself, there’s an art connection involving a cache of rolled-up canvases in a style Flinn characterizes as “early California.”

   These are more appealing to Molly than some of the stock she’s peddling in reduced circumstances but they also turn out to make her situation more dangerous and put her in direct conflict with the relentless killer.

   She’s a high-end snob but compensates for this with a sharp intelligence and impressive body of knowledge about the antiques business that makes her very likable and interesting. This is a first novel by a long-time San Francisco antiques dealer. I would recommend it to any reader of mysteries with the slightest interest in collecting.

      The Molly Doyle series —

1. Dealing in Murder (2003).   Nominated for an Agatha, Gumshoe, Barry and Anthony.
2. Tagged for Murder (2004).   Barry Award: Best Paperback Original. (2005).

3. Deadly Collection (2005).
4. Deadly Vintage (2007).

Editorial Note: Sad to say, Elaine Flinn died of pneumonia and cancer in September 2008.

The Saint and the Five Kings:
Or How the Saint Became Saintly
A Literary Speculation in Saintliness by David Vineyard

   You can be well versed in the saga of Simon Templar, the Saint, Leslie Charteris’s creation, have read all the books and short stories by Charteris and others, seen all the movies and television episodes, have followed his adventures on radio, in the long running comic strip written by Charteris and drawn by Mike Roy, and later John Spanger and Doug Wildey, and his own comic book featuring newspaper reprints and original material by Charteris, and still not know the story of the Saint and the Five Kings. That is because the Five Kings never appeared between the covers of an actual book, but only in the Saint stories appearing in the British pulp magazine The Thriller, commencing with issue number 13 dated May 4, 1929.

   The Five Kings make their auspicious debut with this line:

   â€œSnake” Ganning was neither a great criminal nor a pleasant character, but he is interesting because he was the first victim of the organization known as the Five Kings…

   If that sounds familiar, it is because when is saw print in hard covers from Hodder and Stroughton a year later in 1930 as Enter the Saint, a key change had been made. The title of the story had been changed from “The Five Kings” to “The Man Who Was Clever” and the “organization known as the Five Kings,” now read “the organization led by the man known as the Saint.”

   You would not know what the Saint was to mean to The Thriller and its success in this early issue. There is no stick figure with a halo on the cover or inside the magazine, and while the Saint is identified as the Saint in the story no mention of him as an individual is made anywhere in the promotion, nor is that rectified for the rest of the year despite the appearance of the rest of the stories that comprise Enter the Saint and the two Saint novels that follow, The Last Hero, aka The Saint Closes the Case, and The Avenging Saint. The closest the Saint gets to headlining is in a story entitled “The Return of the Joker,” as the Saint is the fifth king, or Joker.

   Earlier that year two J. G. Reeder stories comprising Edgar Wallace’s Red Aces had appeared, and at that point it was Edgar Wallace that was the backbone of The Thriller, and it doesn’t take much imagination to see that Charteris’s Five Kings is very much a variation of Wallace’s Four Just Men, with each man hidden by a King in the deck of cards and the Saint behind the Joker.

   Patricia Holm is even along as the Queen to these five kings and Claude Eustace Teal and even the Saint’s man ’Orace, and in every other way the Saint is the Saint, you just wouldn’t know it based on the copy on the cover or inside the covers. Even the previews don’t mention the Saint, only the Five Kings.

   I’ve found few changes between the story as they appear in The Thriller and the stories in book form, save for that emphasis on the Five Kings by the magazine and by Charteris, and it is clear the selling point, though never stated, is “here is another series along the lines of the Four Just Men.”

   Of course the stories are nothing like Wallace’s Four Just men stories, and other than the Five Kings themselves the Saint is closer to Charteris’s other model, Bulldog Drummond, than Edgar Wallace in most matters. However much Wallace influenced Charteris’s subject matter, he is much closer to Raffles, Arsene Lupin, Sexton Blake, Oppenheim’s Peter Ruff, Drummond, Dornford Yates, John Buchan, and Anthony Hope than even Wallace’s Edwardian gentleman adventurers like the Brigand.

   Early on the Saint even encounters a mad scientist with a gas that dissolves a live goat that more than resembles the fate of Robin Bishop’s small dog in Sapper’s The Final Count, but even then the Five Kings are still getting better press than the Saint however much he dominates the story.

   Knowing how long it takes for reader reaction to be gauged by a magazine in terms of sales and letters, it is possible that it isn’t until Enter the Saint, the first collection of stories after the Saint’s debut in Meet — the Tiger that Simon Templar and his little stick figure avatar began to appear on the cover and in the interior of The Thriller.

   Since none of the stories in the magazine appear in book form under the same title and have those minor variations, and the Saint himself is not mentioned in any of the advertising in 1929, it would be entirely possible to miss him, especially since two other Charteris’s heroes appear in the magazine the same year only to fade into obscurity, while receiving equal weight in terms of promotion by the magazine. however.

   I’m trying to think of another series where a character so successful took that long to be recognized, but other than the 19th century French newspaper serial character Rocambole by Ponson du Terrail, and Nick Carter who started as the boy detective companion to Old Seth Carter, I’m coming up blank.

   Certainly other characters changed notably as their series went on. Good examples of this are Allingham’s Albert Campion and Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey. But as clear as it is reading the stories that they are about the Saint and always meant to be about the Saint and no one else, but reading the copy surrounding them you would be hard put to guess that.

   Still, you have to wonder what would have happened if that first book after Meet — the Tiger had been titled Enter the Five Kings? Would a saintly career have been cut short?

CARTER DICKSON – A Graveyard to Let. Berkley X1502; reprint paperback, January 1968. First published in the US by William Morrow, hardcover, 1949; first published in the UK by William Heinemann, hardcover, 1950. Other paperback reprints include: Dell #543, 1951; Belmont-Tower, 1973; Zebra, 1988.

   When I was younger I used to gobble up anything John Dickson wrote as if they were candy going out of style, whether under his own name or as (in this case) Carter Dickson. I don’t remember reading this one, though, but some 60 years later (almost), I hope I might be forgiven if I did, and I forgot.

   No matter. Either way, the book was new to me this time, or the same as, and unfortunately while it has its strong points, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I expected to, and I’ll get to that in a moment.

   The irrepressible Sir Henry Merrivale is in the United States in A Graveyard to Let, which was written relatively late in his crime-solving career. It was the 19th of 23 novels he appeared in, and he makes the the initial part of his stay in this country a spectacular one. When finished, he must make haste to Washington DC, it is revealed, but for what reason, HM refuses to say.

   There are a couple of comic (and almost silly) routines that take up more time than they should, to my way of thinking, the first as he demonstrates to a subway cop in vivid bombastic fashion how to go through the turnstiles free of charge. After reading how he did it, I went back to the original passage, and while while happened at the time isn’t very clear, I don’t think HM’s explanation holds up.

   There is another passage toward the middle of the book in which HM unaccountably shows his prowess at American baseball, the only purpose in the story being, as far as I can tell, is for HM to clout a fastball over the fence into an almost deserted graveyard, where a body, seriously wounded but not dead, is found.

   The man is also the same person who disappeared into thin air by jumping into a swimming pool under the watch of a small but significant crowd of people, and never coming out. Only his clothes come to the surface.

   And that’s the crux of the case. HM has half the solution right away, or so he claims, but does he reveal his deductions? Not a chance – but that’s of course the game we’re playing, so I don’t hold that against anybody.

   There are a couple of possible solutions, the other expounded upon by the aforementioned subway cop, which in many ways makes more sense than the real one, which takes all of Chapter 19, more than 20 pages long to work out in detail.

   While intrinsically fascinating, that’s too much work, in my mind, but Carr/Dickson nearly pulls it off. Until, that is, you close the book and start to wonder, why on earth did the man who jumped into the pool need to put such a dramatic — and complicated — plan into action?

   The reader of today isn’t interested in this kind of story any more, but you who are readers who are still interested in detective puzzles, this is one in which you have to watch the author’s every word. Every word. And as I said up above, at the risk of repeating myself, Carr/Dickson nearly makes it work.

  SAGEBRUSH LAW. RKO Radio Pictures, 1943. Tim Holt, Cliff Edwards, Joan Barclay, John H. Elliott, Roy Barcroft. Director: Sam Nelson.

  BEAU BANDIT. Radio Pictures, 1930. Rod La Rocque, Doris Kenyon, Mitchell Lewis, Tom Keene (as George Duryea), Walter Long, Charles B. Middleton, James Donlan. Director: Lambert Hillyer.

   Here are a couple of old western movies I taped off AMC over 20 years ago, back when AMC showed older movies without commercials and several years before TCM came along. It was by far my favorite cable channel at the time, whether the movies were classics or not.

   And neither of these two films are, to be honest with you, and neither is worthy of a full write-up (nor a short one, either, but what the hey). Tim Holt made a lot of B-western movies in the 40s, maybe almost 50 of them, but I never saw a one of them, growing up. I don’t know why they were never shown in my small home town, but as far as I recall, they never were.

   In Sagebrush Law, he has to clear his dad’s name as a banker who supposedly committed suicide after fearing he’d be caught stealing from his bank. Using the wrong hand, no less.

   Holt may have been the most handsome of the good guy western heroes, but what he didn’t seem to have was the onscreen charisma of either a Hoppy or a Roy or even a Gene, nor is the story any deeper than what I’ve just outlined. Cliff Edwards as his sidekick contributes a couple of songs, but needlessly so, and Joan Barclay is barely seen, and never in closeup.

   In Beau Bandit Rod La Rocque and a horrible pseudo-Spanish accent play a charming Mexican bandit in full Robin Hood mode, acting as a middle man in a romance that the local banker wishes to break up. This early talkie is acceptable fare, even today, but no more, and then only if your ears can make some accommodation for the accent.


THE WILD WILD WEST. “Night of the Inferno.” CBS, 17 September 1965. (Season 1, Episode 1.) Robert Conrad (James T. West), Ross Martin (Artemus Gordon). Guest Cast: Suzanne Pleshette, Victor Buono, Nehemiah Persoff, James Gregory (as President Ulysses S. Grant). Written by Gilbert Ralston and Michael Garrison (creator). Director: Richard C. Sarafian.

   Directed by Richard C. Sarafian, “Night of the Inferno” was the pilot episode for The Wild Wild West, the genre bending spy-Western series that aired on CBS from 1965-1969. The series starred Robert Conrad and Ross Martin as Secret Service agents tasked with foiling plots against the U.S. government after the Civil War. Conrad portrayed the series’ hero, Jim West, while Martin portrayed his memorably named partner/sidekick, Artemus Gordon.

   In “Night of the Inferno,” the audience meets Jim West and Artemus for the first time. The two Secret Service agents set out from Washington to the New Mexico Territory in order to hunt down a warlord by the name of Juan Manolo. Along the way, West encounters a seductive woman from his past and also has to face off against a Mexican general, Gen. Andreas Cassinello (portrayed by the prolific character actor, Nehemiah Persoff, who appeared in numerous television series during his long career and was the voice actor for the animated character Papa Mousekewitz in the An American Tail film franchise).

   Altogether, this pilot episode works quite well in both introducing the two main characters as well as the gadgetry that Jim West would make extensive use of while fighting to save the Union from various super villains and their devious plots. An interesting tidbit: when the series was in the works, the title was going to be The Wild West. Perhaps it sounded just a little too basic, hence the additional of the second “Wild” when the episodes began to air.


Kat Gang is a jazz singer based in New York City. This is a live version of the first track on her 2014 CD of the same title.

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