April 2020

MARTIN KANE, PRIVATE EYE “Black Pearls.” NBC, 27 March 1952 (Season 3, Episode 27). Lloyd Nolan as Martin Kane, Walter Kinsella, King Calder. Guest Cast: Mary Alice Moore, Edith King, Eugene Baxter, Richard Purdy. Writer: Donald S. Sanford. Director: Frank Burns.

   Martin Kane, Private Eye, starring William Gargan, started on radio for Mutual on August 7, 1949, then began on TV for NBC on September 1, 1949. When the radio show moved to NBC  on July 1, 1951, Lloyd Nolan took over the title role for a year on both radio and TV. Lee Tracy followed up on the radio version until the end of its radio run on December 21, 1952.

   Following Lloyd Nolan on the television series were both Tracy and Mark Stevens. The last TV episode was June 17, 1954. (I hope I have all these dates, networks, and actors correct. It got a little complicated on me.)

   I remember the radio show when it was on Mutual. As I recall, it was on Sunday afternoon, just before The Shadow. I never saw any examples of the television version until just now, and I wasn’t impressed. Even though it was state of the art the time, it was cheaply produced, and I somehow found it doubly so by the inclusion of the sponsor’s ads (Sano cigarettes and a couple brands of pipe tobacco) right into the program itself.

   Nor was the story anything for anyone involved to feel especially proud about. Kane is sent $500 in cash to come disguised as a news reporter to a yacht in the Florida Keys. The note is unsigned, but the money is good. Not surprisingly, the only reason he’s brought on board to to be the fall guy in a frame-up in a case of murder and stolen pearls. What was interesting was how one of those new cameras that not only take photos but also develop them internally is involved.

   There is some effort by the part of the screenwriter to make all four people on board look as guilty as possible, but in at least one case, the plot he/she/they had in mind in never followed up on. I usually like Lloyd in either the movies or on TV, but in this particular instance he flubs his lines rather noticeably two or three times. All in all, Martin Kane, Private Eye was not one of the gems of the Golden Age of Television.



A. E. W. MASON – No Other Tiger. Hodder & Stoughton, UK, hardcover, 1927. George H. Doran, US, hardcover, Doran, 1927. Reprinted in the UK several times in paperback. Stage play (see bottom photo): First produced at Opera House, Leicester, 3rd December and St. James’s Theatre, 26th December 1928.

   A. E. W. Mason, bestselling author, playwright, spy, producer, and literary bon vivant, is best remembered today for penning one of the classics of the adventure genre, the often filmed The Four Feathers, but to modern mystery readers he is equally known as the creator of Inspector Hanaud, who with his “Watson,” Mr. Ricardo, appeared in popular novels such as The Prisoner in the Opal, They Wouldn’t Be Chessmen, and his most admired classic The House of the Arrow, so it may come as some surprise that his best mystery novel, a fast paced tale of adventure, revenge, madness, mystery, and atmosphere not only doesn’t feature Hanaud, some don’t even classify it with his mystery novels.

   No Other Tiger opens in Burma.

   There is a rough truth, no doubt, in the saying that adventures occur to the adventurous. But fantastic things may happen to anyone. No man, for instance, was ever less fantastically-minded than Lieutenant-Colonel John Strickland, late of the Coldstream Guards. He disembarked from the river steamer at Thabeikyin and motored by the jungle road over the mountains to the Burma Ruby Mines at Mogok with the simple romantic wish to buy a jewel for a lady. Yet in that remote spot, during the sixty hours of his stay, the first fantastic incident happened to him, of a whole series which was to reach out across the oceans and accomplish itself in the fever of lighted cities.

   Within hours of his arrival in Burma a man is killed, Maung H’la, who is apparently mauled by a tiger,and true to his nature Strickland takes up his weapon for a dangerous tiger hunt with the local hunter wounded, a hunt where Strickland finds no tiger, but a savage man, a European … “no other tiger passed that way that night,” he encounters in the jungle.

   Mason splendidly evokes the danger and the suspense of the hunt carefully building up the lore of tiger’s danger ( “You’ll hear him suddenly snarling and tearing the kill at the foot of your tree, and you’ll find the impulse to loose off your rifle at that jungle-cat overwhelming. Yes, even though I have warned you! You’ll feel that you must! No other sin in your whole life will ever tempt you more.”) and even more carefully builds to the moment Strickland encounters the human tiger.

   Strickland’s first impression of him, after his shock of surprise, was of enormous power, the power of an animal… For the face he saw was not merely haggard and lined, but to Strickland’s strained fancies, horribly evil, evil to the point of majesty… evil seemed to flow from this man, so savage, so furtive he looked, such a mixture of cunning and cruelty was stamped upon his features… He stood out in the open, his eyeballs glistening in the moonlight, the sweat shining on his face; and he moved his head slowly from side to side like a great cobra before he strikes. There was something bestial, something subtle. Strickland actually shuddered in his retreat. Thus, he thought, must Lucifer have looked on the morrow of his fall.

   The dead native, it seems, had once served in England and was something of a scoundrel suspected of something illegal there, and he recently panicked when he saw the lean tigerish European arrive. And soon Strickland discovers that Lady Ariadne Ferne, the woman he came to Burma to buy a fabulous jewel for, is tied to Maung H’la and the mysterious tiger man through her friend Corinne, the famous dancer, who according to Commissioner Thorne would have stood in the dock with Maung H’la if the latter had been tried.

   On return to England, as you ought to expect from this era, Strickland learns Lady Ariadne is engaged to another, and being a good sport gives her the jewel anyway, but soon, through her crowd he meets the beautiful Corinne and her fiance, the Spaniard Leon Battchilena, a rotter if there ever was one.

   It becomes Strickland’s job to untangle the web that connects Maung H’la and Corinne to the too trusting Adriadne and the mysterious man in the jungle, a mystery that involves a handsome young English bridegroom, a miscarriage of justice, terrible suffering (“he must always have silk against his skin”), a cold blooded murder, and a man turned into beast whose inhuman vengeance is key to the whole business and who must be confronted by Strickland and his beloved Adriadne in a deadly tiger trap set by the treacherous Corinne (a change there was in the very atmosphere of the room, not so much a chill as a tension. Corinne had a feeling that now at last she was put upon her trial ) for her innocent friend as she schemes to escape justice for her crimes.

   This colossal figure of a man, with murder and revenge and violence in his thoughts… was making for the window, to shut off all possibility of escape.

   The theme of the book is the Victorian horror of atavism that inspired Stevenson’s Hyde, Stoker’s Dracula, and Doyle’s Hound, for though an innocent man is the victim, inhuman temper, strength, and bestiality make him impossible to identify with or pity, he is a beast that has to be put down an epic tragic villain (he…coupled his ferocity with cunning. He took big chances, but not small ones). Mason is never better than when he is portraying the almost inhuman qualities of his two legged tiger who he wisely keeps just outside the readers’ sight as a deadly shadow for much of the book.

   Better yet are the portrayals of some quite strong, intelligent, modern (for the time), and fierce women (“She’s dead now. I know it. She’s dead now,” and the cry ringing out through the windows across the moonlit lawn and glistening river—just at the hour when Elizabeth Clutter actually did die.).

   Even when they faint it isn’t without good reason.

   It is easily Mason’s best mystery novel, with solid detection, mystery, a line of suspense, a splendid villain and some equally splendid characters good and bad (Strickland for one has twice the nerve and brains of most silly ass heroes of this era), even a comical French policeman has quiet dignity.

   It’s only a shame it was never filmed though a BBC radio play version is available that rather gives away all the mystery element in the opening.

   Yes, it is melodrama, but it is well written melodrama.

   Any thriller is only as good as its villain, and this one has a dandy, worthy to stand by those great throwbacks of Victorian nightmare.

   And there is that memorable simple line that says so much and provides the books perfect title.

   No other tiger passed that way that night.

   No other tiger…only the human one.

JOSEPH COMMINGS “The X Street Murders.” Short story. Senator Brooks U. Banner #12. First published in Mystery Digest, March-April 1962. Reprinted in The Mammoth Book of Perfect Crimes and Impossible Mysteries, edited by Mike Ashley (Running Press, softcover, 2006). Collected in Banner Deadlines: The Impossible Files of Senator Brooks U. Banner (Crippen & Landru, hardcover/paperback, 2004). [See Comment #4.]

   Joseph Commings’ stories of his larger-than-life and impossible-crime-solving sleuth Brooks Banner in the pulps (10-Story Magazine, Ten Detective Aces, etc.) of the late 1940s before transitioning to the digest magazine of the 1950s and 60s (Mystery Digest, The Saint, Mike Shayne), but for some reason, while there were a couple dozen of them, he was never able to get one accepted for EQMM. And that’s a shame, since all of them that I’ve read have ben excellent examples of the form.

   â€œThe X Street Murders” is no exception. It involves the shooting of a man in an inner office by a gun which is immediately found but even though it is definitely the gun that was used, it’s in a sealed envelope (both before and after) with no holes in the packaging. Impossible? Yes!

   Yes, that is, until the explanation, which is a good one. As a character, Senator Banner is a little hard to take. Commings wrote very much in the John Dickson Carr mode, and if you find Dr. Gideon Fell or Sir Henry Merrivale a little over the top, they have met their match and then some in Brooks Banner. But then again, you probably don’t love stories such as this one for the characters; it’s for the puzzle, and I don’t think I’m speaking only for myself.




FIND THE BLACKMAILER. Warner Brothers, 1943. Jerome Cowan, Faye Emerson, Gene Lockhart, Marjorie Hoshelle, Bradley Page, John Harmon, Lou Lubin, and Jimmy the Crow. Screenplay by Robert E Kent, from a story by G. T. Fleming-Roberts. Directed by D Ross Lederman.

   I’m not really sure what prompted me to watch this, because if I saw it listed on TCM, the cast alone would have made it a “Must-Miss.” I mean, a movie starring Jerome Cowan? Jerome Cowan? Whothehell would ever make a movie starring Jerome Cowan? Whothehell would watch it?

   Well I did, and I’m glad because this little 55-minute b-feature offers wit, speed, and a certain awareness of its own silliness I found irresistible.

   Jerome Cowan tops the cast as D. L. Tree, the least-known Private Eye in town, and selected for that reason by aspiring mayoral candidate “Honest John” Rhodes (Gene Lockhart, who looks like he never did an honest thing in his life ) to deal with a gambler named Molner, who owns a crow he has trained to say, “Don’t kill me, Rhodes!” It seems Molner has plenty of enemies, and if he turns up dead, Rhodes could get convicted on the crow’s testimony.

   Yeah. Convicted on a crow’s testimony. Okay. Well then. Faster than a speeding simile, Tree goes to Molner’s apartment and finds him dead on the floor, in the time-honored tradition of such stories. And so the search is on for the squawking squealer.

   Said search gets quickly complicated by:

   Molner’s rather ineffectual bodyguard (John Harmon) now in search of new employment;

   Tree’s brassy secretary (Marjorie Hoshelle) in search of back pay;

   Faye Emerson as a gold-digger with an inside track on the felonious fowl;

   Cool gangster Bradley Page, who holds IOUs from a dead man;

   A diminutive Hired Gun (Lou Lubin) sort of a smaller, nastier Wilmer Cook type with a ready gun.

   A bent lawyer and the usual too-persistent cop showing up whenever they can be unhelpful.

   That’s a lot of beef to be moving around in a movie this short, and Blackmailer takes the only reasonable course of action — chuck logic out of the script, throw in some rapid-fire patter and hope no one notices this thing makes no damn sense.

   It works. Find the Blackmailer is a near-hour of fast-paced silliness with an ending so ludicrous I don’t dare reveal it – no one would believe me!




THE HARD MAN. Columbia Pictures, 1957. Guy Madison, Valerie French, Lorne Greene, Barry Atwater, Robert Burton, Rudy Bond, Trevor Bardette, Myron Healey. Director: George Sherman.

   The Hard Man begins with a gunfight. Lawman Steve Burden (Guy Madison) faces off against his friend, Ray Hendry (Myron Healey). Hendry is quick with his gun. But not quick enough. For Burden ends up killing Ray. So much for questioning him. As it turns out, there was some question as to whether Ray was truly guilty of murder or whether he had been set up. To find out, Burden travels to a small town where cattle baron Rice Martin (Lorne Greene) and his wife live out a tenuous romantic existence. Martin’s top dog in town and he’s sure to let everyone know it. But being a big shot doesn’t mean that his wife Fern (Valerie French) is beyond straying. In fact, nothing seems to set Martin into more of a rage than knowing his wife may be running around behind his back.

   Although the movie is most definitely a Western, there’s something very film noir about the whole affair. A movie nominally about a tough lawman, it really turns out to center around a femme fatale and her ability to skillfully manipulate the men in her life. Fern Martin plays all the menfolk against each other, weaving a devious little web of lies as the body count piles up. In tandem with the film noir plot, the movie also has numerous instances where some exceptionally hardboiled dialogue is employed. These scenes are thoroughly enjoyable, such as when Rice asks his wife why she sits in the dark like a cat, and she answers that it allows her to avoid seeing things she’s rather not see. Good stuff, indeed.

   Now, is The Hard Man a particularly good movie? Yes and no. It’s got some grating orchestral music for a score, and it has a decidedly studio lot feel to it. No wide vistas here. And Guy Madison, while talented, simply didn’t have the screen charisma of John Wayne, Randolph Scott, or James Stewart.

   And yet. If you go into The Hard Man expecting very little, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised. While an overall decidedly average motion picture, this Columbia Pictures release has several things going for it. Although Madison was the top-billed star, it’s really Lorne Greene and Rudy Bond who shine. Both basically steal every scene they are in. Many will primarily remember Greene as America’s favorite TV dad Ben Cartwright on Bonanza or as Adama on the original Battlestar Galactica. In The Hard Man, Greene gets to demonstrate his ability to play a villain with great skill. His physicality, combined with his distinct deep voice, makes for a thundering bravado performance.

   As for Rudy Bond, his portrayal of a hired gunslinger is utterly convincing and delightfully memorable. Bond also demonstrated similar traits in his portrayal of a murderous bank robber in Jacques Tourneur’s Nightfall (1957), released that same year. Rudy Bond double feature? Sounds good to me.

ALAN AMOS – Panic in Paradise. Doubleday / Crime Club, hardcover, 1951. Detective Book Club 3-in-1 edition, hardcover reprint, no date stated. No paperback edition.

   Life in Panama was little different in 1950 than it is now, but somehow this story of a hunt for hidden Spanish treasure reads as though it could be happening today, perhaps because only such timeless matters as human frailties and relationships are involved.

   The framework, that of various characters putting down in diary form the story as it passes their way, starts out awkwardly, then becomes a fascinating chain of murders, kidnappings, escaped lunatics, downed bridges, and cut phone lines. Non-stop reading fare.

Footnote: Alan Amos was a pseudonym of Kathleen Moore Knight, a mainstay author for the long-running Crime Club line of books. As Amos she wrote a total of four mystery adventures such as ths one. Under her own name, she was most famous for her series of mysteries featuring Penberthy Island selectman Elisha Macomber, of which there were sixteen. It’s a long way from Cape Cod to Central America, but I don’t think the Panamanian jungle has ever been brought to life more vividly.

–Reprinted from Mystery*File #13, June 1989 (mildly revised).

LOU MANFREDO “A Study in Mint.” Short story. Gus Oliver #5. First published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, November 2013. Probably never reprinted or collected.

   Lou Manfredo, befoe he turned his hand to writing, was a 25-year veteran of the Brooklyn criminal justice system. Upon his retirement he wrote three well-regarded novels about a Brooklyn cop named Joe Rizzo, who also appeared in a handful of short stories about life of a policeman whose primary goal was to do his job and do it well.

   He also wrote five stories about Gus Oliver, who at the time of this story, was the constable in the small farming of Central Islip, Long Island. “A Study in Mint” is in fact the prequel to the other four, taking place in 1939 and telling the tale of how Oliver cracked the case of the first murder to have taken place there since its founding, or well over 200 years earlier.

   The death of one its inhabitants is designed to look like suicide, or so the state trooper who is first on the scene is convinced. By why was the body found near a well-kept garden, Gus asks himself, and why had he already contracted for some home improvements to be done with he month?

   It’s a case of the local cop knowing the people in the town he’s close to, not the outside one who comes in and sees things that are of surface value only. There are no surprises in this story, only good old-fashioned police work. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

      The Gus Oliver series –

Central Islin, U.S.A. Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Aug 2009
The Home of the Brave. Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Jan 2012
A Path to Somewhere. Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Sep/Oct 2012
The Star of the Running Blood. Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine May 2013
A Study in Mint. Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Nov 2013

THE ENTITLED. Anchor Bay, direct to DVD, 2011. Kevin Zegers, Victor Garber, Laura Vandervoort, Devon Bostic, Dustin Milligan, Tatiana Maslany, Stephen McHattie, Ray Liotta, Anthony Ulc. Director: Aaron Woodley.

   I don’t get it. This is a kidnapping film, and the gimmick is that it’s supposed be one committed by one of the floundering 99%, taking it out on the rich 1%. I have no brief in favor of the 1%, or not in this way, at least, as three idle rich kids (two male, one female) are held for ransom, that of $1.000,000 each from their respective three fathers. These guys (Ray Liotta, William Graber, and Stephen McHattie) are probably as crooked as all get out, or so it is (more than) hinted at throughout the movie.

   The question is, or at least it was for me, which of the three sets of protagonists (the three kidnappers, the three kidnapees, thr three fathers) are the most unlikable. The leader of the kidnappers (Kevin Zegers) is, I suppose, the one we are to root for, but loving his mother who can no longer pay her own medical bills, is not enough to warrant a killing spree like this, which is exactly what happens in movies like this when things go wrong, and yes, indeed, do they ever.


I SEE YOU. Saban Films, 2019. Helen Hunt, Jon Tenney, Judah Lewis, Owen Teague, Libe Barer, Alan Williams. Writer: Devon Graye. Director: Adam Randall.

   It’s best to go into thriller movies such as this one totally cold. Although I don’t believe the one below does, even the trailers can tell you more than you might want to know about the twists and turns the story line has in mind.

   I’ll do my best to keep such things a secret, but I have feeling that many reviews won’t, so please be careful out there.

   I See You begins with several threads of the story all at once, but all somewhat disconnected, but not really. First, a young ten year old boy disappears while bicycling through a heavily wooded area close to a small town where one of the police officers (Greg Harper, played by Jon Tenney) is having a domestic problem with his wife (Helen Hunt). He has discovered that she has taken on a lover, and while she has apologized, neither he nor their teen-aged son has decided to forgive her.

   Strangely enough, the case of the missing boy has all the earmarks of a culprit now in jail. Was he wrongly convicted, or is their a copycat at work? Even more strangely, scary events are beginning to happen at the Harpers’ home. Silverware is missing, the record player begin playing by itself, and Mr. Harper is locked in a closet. Worse, a coffee mug falls from the roof on Mrs. Harper’s former lover, and he is later found dead in their basement.

   This all spooky enough for several dozen movies, but the explanation is even spookier. This is all I will tell you, but I will say that the second half of the movie is even better than the first half, assuming that thrillers like this are among your favorite movie-watching fare.

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Max Allan Collins

ELLIOT CHAZE – Black Wings Has My Angel. Gold Medal #296, paperback original, 1953. Stark House Press, trade paperback, 2012 (published with One Is a Lonely Number by Bruce Elliott) New York Review of Books, trade paperback, 2016. Reprnited earlier as One for the Money (Berkley Y658, paperback, 1962).

   The reputation of Black Wings Has My Angel as the quintessential Gold Medal paperback is deserved. It has everything that made these originals so good: a fast-moving story, sex, and fine descriptive writing.

   Escaped con Tim Sunblade (an alias chosen after his jailbreak, “because it smells of the out of doors”) is resting up after rough-necking on a drilling rig.  In a small hotel in a little fishing village on the Atchafayala, he encounters Virginia, a beautiful prostitute whose $!0-a-night fee causes him to guess rightly that she, too, is keeping a low profile; soon he finds she is a high-priced call girl on the run. Virginia seems aloof, even cold, but the two pair off.

   When Tim tries to ditch her. only to discover she has anticipated him and stolen his money, they reteam and Virginia’s passion bubbles to the surface. Camping out in the mountains in Colorado, Tim decides Virginia has what it takes to help him pull off an armored-car job. They move to Denver and set up a respectable front,. renting a house, Tim working another hard labor job, as the robbery is meticulously planned, and then carried out.

   Bu1 Chaze’s antihero 1s too complex to be described simply as amoral; his immoral deeds haunt him in a manner an amoral individual would shrug off. A murder he’s committed calls at him as he and Virginia slide into a rich, decadent life-style in New Orleans. Soon Tim is pulled obsessively into his respectable past, for a brief, violent layover in his small hometown, before the couple ride out an even deeper, darker compulsion: to look into a certain abandoned mine shaft, to stare into the darkness that is death.

   Gold Medal originals were often James M. Cain pastiches, and Chaze’s novel is one of the best – far better than the novels Cain himself was writing at the time, Chaze’s bleak social satire – the working and upper classes arc shown to be equally venal – helps keep Tim’s actions understandable and even sympathetic. The swift, compelling, natural-sounding first-person narration is marked by quietly vivid images (“She was lying on the sleeping bag in the sun, as slim and bare as a sword”).

   Black Wings Has My Angel (reprinted as One for the Money, Berkley, 1962) is an early work, and would seem to promise a major career in the genre for Chaze. But Cbaze, a newspaperman, has published novels only occasionally, and not always in the suspense field, In Chaze’s recent mystery series about newsman Kiel St. James, the promise of his Gold Medal original is not kept: Mr. Yesterday (1984) is haphazardly plotted, an unconvincing structure that collapses upon its interesting characters and well-drawn southern setting.

Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.

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