August 2021

ED DOHERTY – The Corpse Who Wouldn’t Die. Mystery House, hardcover, 1945. Handi-Book #49, paperback, abridged, 1946.

   The protagonist in this better-than-average mystery from a lower-than-average publishing company is Dan Fallon, free-lance writer, who comes on board the S. S. Lesterloid just before it docks in New York, hoping to find someone worth interviewing for a human interest story. One such candidate is a sailor on board who was the only survivor of a ship sunk at sea. Another perhaps is a world famous writer or one of his entourage.

   Before he can talk to the sailor, Eric Raft, however, the man is found dead in his cabin, first shot then hit over the head with one of those blunt instruments you find every so often in mystery novels such as this. Even after the ship lands and everyone is allowed to disembark, Dan finds himself caught up in solving the case, even though the primary detective is Inspector Scott McBurney of Homicide, a 300 pound fellow who looks and talks a lot like Sidney Greenstreet.

   It is not clear how Fallon gets himself invited into the activities of the group surrounding the writer John Helm, but it’s good thing he does, because they constitute the entire list of suspects. Now you may be thinking that the set up so far doesn’t sound like anything out of the ordinary, and I didn’t either until the amount of alibis and other lies start to come into play. The relationships between the characters are complicated, and it seems every and every one has a reason to give an alibi for someone else. It’s either that, or to establish one for themselves.

   I love this kind of approach to a murder case that’s all tangled up like this. Another problem is the gun, which is used to commit another murder – but how did they manage to get it through a very thorough customs inspection?

   I do wish the ones responsible for the title had chosen another one. Hoping not to spoil anything for anyone but [WARNING] it has a lot to do with what happens toward the end of the book that would have been a lot more of surprise without the title the book was given.

   Otherwise, anyone looking for a decent, well-written 1940s era detective story might look around for a copy of this one. I enjoyed it.

Reviews by L. J. Roberts


HARLAN COBEN – Win.  Grand Central Publishing, hardcover, March 2021.

First Sentence: The shot that will decide the championship is slowly arching its way toward the basket.

   Billionaire friend of the author’s Myron Bolitar character, Windsor Horne Lockwood III is taken to the tower apartment of a hoarder who has been murdered. While one can barely move in the main room, the victim’s bedroom is immaculate with minimal contents. However, there is a Vermeer painting that had been stolen from the Lockwoods, and a bespoke leather suitcase bearing the Lockwood family crest and Win’s initials.

   Both the painting and the suitcase had been missing since Win’s cousin, Patricia, had been kidnapped, yet escaped, more than 20 years ago. The apartment murder victim was behind a group of 70s domestic terrorists, some of whom are still free. The FBI, and Win, would like to find them.

   As the psychopathic sidekick to best friend Myron Bolitar, Win was intriguing. As the protagonist, he’s just boring. By the nature of his character, he’s an empty shell mimicking a functional person. In that, Cohen succeeded in creating his character. However, as a reader, it is not enough.

   The narcissistic recitation of his wealth, art, cars, planes, suits, guns, knowledge of martial arts disciplines, is eye-rolling. It soon becomes apparent his family is as psychotic as he is. Yes, he has one slight crack of humanity; but even that threatens to be a continuation of his dysfunctional family line.

   As for the Jane Street Six, those of us who lived through the years of the SLA, etc., don’t need to be reminded, especially when we now have the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, QAnon, etc. It may have been Coben’s attempt to make the plot current but, with many being on overload, it just doesn’t work.

   Win is a book most readers will probably enjoy. Some, however, may find themselves not caring enough to do more than skim through.

Rating: NR (Not Recommended)

NEW ORLEANS AFTER DARK. Allied Artists, 1958. Stacy Harris, Louis Sirgo, Ellen Moore. Director: John Sledge.

   According to TV Guide, this sad imitation of Dragnet was based on a television series. It took some searching, but I finally discovered that Stacy Harris was also the lead on an obscure syndicated series called N.O.P.D. so that must be the one but that’s all I know about it.

   This movie version concerns dope traffic coming into New Orleans, and two homicide detective who investigate when two showgirls who use the stuff are bumped off. The motive is not exactly clear, but apparently there is a chance they’ll talk if they’re arrested and forced to go without their regular supply.

   Stacy Harris was a veteran radio star — in fact, he was the leading man on This Is Your FBI for most of its eight years on the air — and while his voice is about twice the size he actually is, he does a decent job, but everyone else in this movie acts as stiff as a board.

   At best, this would be fifth-rate TV. How’d they ever come to make a whole movie of it?

– Very slightly revised from Mystery*File 26, December 1990.


RICHARD A. LOVETT “A Pound of Flesh.” Alex Copley #1. Novella. Analog SF, September 2006. Never reprinted.

   A tale of the not-too-distant future, but if the author is to be believed, PI’s are always destined to be down on their luck and work in dingy offices in the bad part of town. Alex Copley, who tells his own story is one such, and speaking on down on his luck, here’s the way his life is going. He is behind on his rent, no surprise there, but here’s the thing, and it’s the thing that makes his a science fiction story.

   Nanotechnology has made it possible to avoid having to call in bill collectors when tenants cannot come up with the rent. When a contract is signed, the signee agrees to be injected with nano bots that, if/when the time comes and a loan is not paid, the defaulter is automatically infected with a pre-specified ailment or disease, which lasts until a antidote nano is taken. No more bail bondsmen, in fact no more lawyers. A brand new way of conducting many a business or financial attraction.

   Or in other words, Copley has a lot to worry about. Until, that is, a beautiful lady client comes knocking on his door. She needs his help, and what’s more, she has money, and she’s willing to spend it. What she needs Copley for is to find a former partner in formulating a another type of nano that can tell if a person, once infected, is telling the truth or not.

   It’s a great beginning, but the rest of story is wasted on finding the former partner, who has gone off hiding in deep backwoods country, and far too many pages are spent with Copley’s adventures in tracking him down, including traveling down a river in a kayak over several whitewater rapids.

   The initial concept is good, but the follow through failed to grab me. It’s still nice to know that you can find PI stories almost everywhere. (This is apparently Alex Copley’s only recorded case.)



TERI HOLBROOK – A Far and Deadly Cry. Gale Grayson #1. Bantam, paperback original, 1995.

   This is a first novel by a lady who is a former journalist. Interesting — the publicity material refers to her several times as Teri Peitso.  She is an American, a Southerner.

   Gale Grayson, an American expatriate once married to an Englishman, and her 3-year old daughter Katie Pru live in a picturesque Hampshire village where now all seems well. It didn’t three years ago, when Gale’s husband was cornered in the local church by police seeking to arrest him for terrorism, and rather than be arrested blew his brains out.

   All will not be well again, either, as Gale’s baby-sitter, a young local woman, is found murdered. The policeman who led the charge that resulted in the church death is dispatched from Scotland Yard to investigate, and all the half-healed wounds are opened again.

   This was recommended to me by someone whose tastes I didn’t know that well, and it looked a bit thick (nearly 400 pages), but it was a village mystery, so I tried it-and it turned out pretty well. Quite well, actually. The Chief Inspector and his lady Sergeant were believable and likable characters, and the numerous villagers were generally well-drawn also. The viewpoints shifted frequently (with that of the police predominant), and the story occasionally slowed down a bit; not surprising in a book of this length.

   But considering how little actually happened, action-wise, it held up really well. It could have been 50 pages shorter, but as is it’s still one of the better village mysteries I’ve read this year.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #22, November 1995

      The Gale Grayson series

1. A Far and Deadly Cry (1995)
2. The Grass Widow (1996)
3. Sad Water (1998)
4. The Mother Tongue (2001)

Bibliographic Update: The author’s full name is now known to be Teri Peitso-Holbrook.

ANALOG SCIENCE FICTION. January 1967.  Cover by Chesley Bonestell.     Overall rating: 3½ stars.

POUL ANDERSON “Supernova.” Short novel. An inhabited planet is found to be in danger from a nearby supernova, and the Polesotechnic League sends the Trader Team headed by David Falkayn. In exchange for technology capable of saving their world, the Meresians are asked for a base for scientific study and, of course, a chance for profit. Politics follow. Mostly bland. (3)

HARRY HARRISON “A Criminal Act.” Having too many children may someday be a crime against society. [The penalty may be] legalized murder as the answer to the extra life created. (4)

MACK REYNOLDS “Amazon Planet.” Serial, part 2 of 3. See report to follow later.

H. B. FYFE “The Old Shill Game.” Robots shills are programmed to buy from robot vendors to increase sales. (3)

KEITH LAUMER “The Lost Command.” [Bolo #3.] A construction crew accidentally activates a semi-intelligent war-machine buried deep underground after the end of a war ended 70 years before. (4)

-October 1967

DAVID PETERS – Mind-Force Warrior. Psi-Man #1. Charter/Diamond, paperback original; 1st printing, October 1990. Ace, paperback, 2000, under the author’s real name, Peter David.

   Actually, [as far mystery fiction goes], this is a ringer, and maybe I shouldn’t be reviewing it here. You might find this book in the “action-adventure” section of your favorite chain bookstore. If that fails, you might want to check through the science fiction section before you find it, if you find it at all.

   Then again, the series that this is intended to be the first of might actually take off, like the endless series of Mack Bolan adventures or the Destroyer books that, now that my friend Will Murray is writing them, seem to be going as strong as ever.

   To get down to particulars, if you don’t expect a literary masterpiece, and are either a pulp or comic book fan, there is a better than even chance you even enjoy this. The year is 2021, a former high school teacher named Chuck Simon is the hero, and his trouble begin when the authorities learn that he has psychic powers that can kill. Telekinesis, mental telepathy, maybe even more.

   The problem is that Chuck is a Quaker, and he refuses the opportunity to become the government’s number one assassin, Things have downhill in the years from then to now. Constant air pollution, suspension of the Bill of Rights, a cashless society, cities infested with constant violence. (I think we can blame it on former President Quayle, whose statue is seen on page 104.)

   Not quite as bloody violent or militaristic as most of the men’s adventure series have become lately, this a book that can be read in a very short time. Since David Peters is in reality comic book writer Peter David — the Amazing Spider-Man, among other credits — you should not be surprised at the vivid, picturesque style of writing. You should also not be surprised at either the shallow characterization or the creaky turns of plot. Let me know: if I ever read another, do you want to hear about it?

– Slightly revised from Mystery*File 26, December 1990.

      The Psi-Man series —

1. Mind-Force Warrior (1990)
2. Deathscape (1991)
3. Main Street D.O.A. (1991)
4. The Chaos Kid (1991)
5. Stalker (1991)
6. Haven (1992)



ELLIOTT CHAZE – Goodbye Goliath. Kiel St. James #1. Charles Scribner’s Sons, hardcover, 1983. No paperback edition.

   The entire staff of The Catherine Call hated the general manager, John Robinson, and wished horrible things would happen to him. When the city editor, Kiel St. James, finds Robinson with a letter spike shoved through the back of his neck, those wishes are fulfilled.

   The investigation into Robinson’s death is handled by Orson Boles, who favors a “lizard-green polyester suit” and cracker dialect for conducting investigations. St. James can draw out the more literate Boles, the two men having been friends for years in the small Alabama town they live in.

   Boles soon narrows the suspect field down to five. The major clue comes from finding Robinson’s much loved hat crumpled on the floor; closer inspection shows that it has a small hole that corresponds to the size of the letter spike, and is traced with blood, The blood type is not the same as Robinson’s and Boles’ investigation finds only five people on The Catherine Call who have the matching blood type. Kiel St. James is one of those, and is suffering from blackout spells.

   A subplot surrounds St. James and the state of his love life. His girl friend, Gretchen, is called out of town on business which soon turns into a permanent move out-of-state. St. James keeps bumping into cub reporter Crystal Bunt, “the newspaper’s all-weather, free-style “sex symbol.” St. James tries to hold out against Crystal’s efforts to get beyond his resolve, but doesn’t succeed. The love story that evolves is a pleasant addition to the standard investigation that follows.

   Chaze provides substance, to his mystery by allowing the characters to develop to a point where the reader can care about them, There is a small town charm to Goodbye Goliath that is enhanced by the authentic newspaper atmosphere the author presents.

   Chaze has worked for the Associated Press and as a city editor of the Hattiesburg American, and presently lives in that Mississippi town. Goodbye Goliath is his seventh novel, and an ideal one to curl up with in a comfortable chair.

– Reprinted from The Poison Pen, Volume 6, Number 1 (Spring 1984).
by Walker Martin

   Finally, after two years a Pulpfest! Last year there was no convention because of the virus and I had not missed a show in a very long time. I almost went to Pittsburgh anyway in 2020 just to morosely hang out at the hotel but I couldn’t talk anyone else into driving out. But this year there was a convention and I swore I’d make it, pandemic or no pandemic.

   Since one of our group decided not to drive with us, there was only four of us and we therefore did not need the larger van. Driving out was nice weather, unlike the horror story driving back at the end of the show. We arrived at 3 pm on Thursday and found the dealer’s room to be busy with most tables set up for business. I estimate well over 300 in attendance and a hundred or so tables. I heard that attendance was supposed to be a lot larger but there was a 25% cancellation during the past two weeks as collectors either bit the dust or decided to not attend due to the pandemic.

   The dealer’s room closed at 5 pm and was immediately followed by a great pizza party hosted by many of the dealers. I then hung out in the hotel bar with friends where I drank five pints of beer. I firmly believe that drinking a lot of beer helps scare away the virus. Also it was free, due to my fellow collectors who also believe that beer is the staff of life. Thank you Matt Moring, Richard Meli and the veteran whose name I did not catch. Later on the bartender claimed he did not pay the bar tab, and he came to me for payment. But I told him I only drink the beer. I don’t pay for it. Plus he’s a vet. He should get free beer.

   The next morning I got up and followed my usual practice of getting rid of hangovers by eating a large breakfast and drinking plenty of coffee. I have to admit the hotel serves the best and largest buffet breakfast that I have ever encountered. It was delicious.

   Then into action when the dealer’s room opened at 9 am. Masks were recommended and most started off wearing them but as the day progressed, the masks came off. I told Matt it was like a scene out of Fritz Leiber’s “Coming Attraction” in the November 1950 issue of Galaxy SF. Social distancing was followed, but then we stopped worrying and concentrated on buying pulps and books.

   What did I buy? Well Doug Ellis had some great art for sale, especially cover paintings and interiors by Hubert Rogers. I almost bought some but I talked myself out of buying any since I have stacks of art leaning against my walls and bookcases. However history was made as my old friend Digges La Touche bought a cover painting from a paperback. In 50 years he has never bought art, except for one Barbara Cartland paperback cover. He always concentrates on buying masses of pulps, but no more I guess. I stop buying art and he starts.

   I also found some of the extremely rare and hard to find large issues of Everybody’s from the WW I era. Sai Shanker had an excellent article in the new Pulpster about the history of Everybody’s. The magazine lasted 355 issues and went from slick to pulp. He will soon publish a collection of the best stories from the magazine. Speaking of upcoming books, Steeger Books, otherwise known as Matt Moring, will be coming out with a collection of “The Campfire” letters from Adventure in the twenties. These books are must buys if you collect fiction magazines.

   As usual I had a table and sold some rare items. This time I had some duplicates of of the Manhunt Detective imitators. These digest magazines were published in the fifties and sixties and have sexy covers showing girls fighting or killing some poor guy. Cool! I’ve been collecting these digest since 1956, so I’ve been at it for 65 years. Time flies when you are having fun, and I considering collecting magazines to be a hell of a lot of fun. My wife thinks different.

   The Pulpster 30 was given to all the attendees and it was the best issue yet of all the 30 issues. William Lampkin is the editor and Mike Chomko the publisher. Copies are available from Mike Chomko Books and I give this magazine my highest recommendation. It’s large format, 8 1/2 by 11, 60 pages, and in color. Several articles were on The Shadow, including interviews with artists Jerome Rozen and Graves Gladney. Other articles dealt with the love pulps (escape literature for three million maidens), the debut of online newgroups dealing with pulps, the history of Everybody’s by Sai Shanker, Tony Davis on editor Dorothy McIIwraith, and a Darrell Schweitzer interview with Hugh Cave.

   PulpFest is known for the great programming and all the panels and discussions were outstanding. If I had to pick one above all the others I would have to highly recommend Laurie Powers’ “The Queen and Her Court: Great Women Pulp Editors.” It is obvious that Laurie spent a lot of time on this presentation which deserves to be reprinted in a print magazine or book. It is a great example of original pulp research and not just the rehashing of well known facts.

   Other programming was also noteworthy like the discussion on Shadow artists. This was supposed to be presented by David Saunders but he could not attend and Chet Williamson stepped in. I also liked Doug Ellis on Margaret Brundage and the discussion on Eva Lynd: Countess, Actress, and Cover girl. Eva Lynd was supposed to be the Guest of Honor but could not attend but she sent a very nice thank you film.

   This was also the first year of ERBFest. I hope these Edgar Rice Burroughs scholars and fans will return next year. As usual the presentation of The Munsey Award was a highlight of the programming. This year’s award was given to Rich Harvey who has not only published many pulp books and magazines, but more importantly, has been the organizer behind the annual one day convention, Pulp Adventurecon. There have been more that 20 of these shows usually held in Bordentown during November of each year. Congratulations Rich!

   The auction was held Saturday night and though there was no estate auction, many collectors contributed items of interest. Halfway through the auction an overpowering thirst descended upon me, and I adjourned to the bar where unlike Thursday and Friday, I had to pay for my own drinks. I forget which night it happened but the fire alarm went off, and we had to leave the hotel. Fortunately I had a full beer in hand and simply strolled out the door hoping that not too many pulps would be destroyed. Many other collectors had to get dressed and leave their beds. That’s what happens when you go to bed too early.

   I was glad to see that Blood n Thunder had not bit the dust. The Blood n Thunder 2021 Annual made its debut as well as Sam Sherman’s When Dracula Met Frankenstein. Both published by Ed Hulse’s Murania Press.

   Next year will be the 50th Anniversary of Pulpcon/Pulpfest. The first one was held in 1972 and I was there! I sure as hell wish all the other attendees were still around and we could have a panel discussing the good old days. But it’s getting down to The Last Man Standing and hopefully I’ll be present to talk about the way things were and what happened. In 1972 I was one of the youngest collectors present and now in 2021, I’m one of the oldest. My advice for a long life? Drink Beer and collect books, pulps, and art. It worked for me!

   Driving home on Sunday was a mess. Heavy rain and the nagging fear of water in the basement. But I dodged the bullet again and my basement was dry. My pulps and wife welcomed me home.

   I would like to thank the Pulpfest committee: Jack Cullers, Sally Cullers, Mike Chomko, Peter Chomko, William Lampkin, William Maynard, Tony Davis, Barry Traylor. I know I’m leaving out someone else and maybe Mike or Jack could list the correct committee in the comments.

   Windy City Pulp Convention is only a couple weeks away. I hope to see you there!



OUTSIDE THE WALL. Universal, 1950.Richard Basehart, Marilyn Maxwell, Signe Hasso, Dorothy Hart, John Hoyt, Joseph Pevney, Lloyd Gough, and Harry Morgan. Written by Henry Edward Helseth and Crane Wilbur. Directed by Crane Wilbur.

   No classic, but it’ll keep you watching.

   Richard Basehart plays Larry Martin, a convict just shy of 30, released after fifteen years in prison (do the math.) At loose ends on the outside, he gets a job in a TB sanitarium. A bit of exposition shows Martin to be tough and savvy, but lacking in social skills and completely at a loss with women — elements that will figure into the plot just ahead.

   About this time Martin sees newspaper headlines about a million-dollar heist of an armored car, the gang decimated in a shoot-out that left only two at large with the loot — and recognizes photos of head-perp Jack Bernard (John Hoyt) from the time he spent in stir. And as plot would have it, a few days later Bernard is admitted to the sanitarium under an assumed name, near death from TB.

   All this time, Martin has been struggling to establish a relationship with his co-workers, passing over pretty and pleasant nurse Celia (Signe Hasso) for greedy blonde Charlotte (Marilyn Maxwell.) When Charlotte lets him know she wants the “finer things” in life, Martin accepts a job offer from the fugitive Bernard.

   It seems Bernard is paying protection to his ex-wife Ann (venomous Dorothy Hart) and needs Martin to deliver it while he’s laid up. Ann only seems interested in how soon Bernard will croak, but it soon develops that she has a few nasty friends (including a sadistic Harry Morgan) who think Martin must be the other survivor of the heist, and their ticket to the hot millions.

   From this point on, Outside the Wall gets agreeably tricky and enjoyably violent. Helseth wrote the novel basis of the classic Cry of the City, and he has a sure feel for dishonor among thieves. He’s not helped at all by Crane Wilbur’s flat-footed direction, and neither are the actors, but Richard Basehart gives out with a neatly-played character — smart and tough among the low-lifes he grew up with, but lost and vulnerable with ordinary folk, and quite unable to cope with the decent woman who wants to save him.

   The result is a film that mostly misses its potential. But it comes close enough to stay with.

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