October 2021

THRILLER. “Lady Killer.” Associated Television [ATV], UK, 18 January 1973. (Season one, Episode one.) Robert Powell, Barbara Feldon, Linda Thorson, T.P. McKenna, Mary Wimbush. Screenwriter/creator: Brian Clemens. Currently streaming on Shout Factory TV.

   At least at the present time, all six seasons of this Brian Clemens-created mystery series are available to be seen online. Clemens is known best, of course, for his involvement with The Avengers, but he also had more than a hand in producing The Baron, The Persuaders!, and The Protectors, plus a few other British TV series not nearly as well known as the one that brought Diana Rigg to the world’s attention as Emma Peel, John Steed’s sexy partner in some of the more bizarre cases of crime-solving in television history.

   As much as I’ve been looking forward to sampling the series, “Lady Killer” doesn’t get Thriller, the series, off to the best start possible, at least it didn’t to my most considered satisfaction. It begins with a shy, pretty but not quite beautiful girl from Indiana (Barbara Feldon) being picked up by a handsomely dressed young chap (Robert Powell) in a British resort hotel and almost literally swept off her feet.

   Every single viewer watching this knows he’s a scoundrel from the first time they see him, but it’s also clear that the young lady he has his eyes on has not had much experience in matters such as this.

   After they’re married, while his plans for her are not yet clear, we know – and probably too soon, for the sake of the story – that he does have plans for her. Could the new housekeeper be involved? Or the man who stops by thinking he has recognized her new husband? She doesn’t know something, however, that the viewer knows, and that is that Linda Thorson’s name was quite openly visible in the opening credits.

   The newly married couple’s new house is close to the sea, with a steep cliff down to the water below. What we have, in other words, is disaster of some kind ahead, and the story doesn’t waste a minute letting the viewer know about it. Which is probably where my disappointment in the story comes in. Semi-spooky, but even though there’s a twist in the tale ahead, too obvious to be really spooky, if you know what I mean.

   On the other hand, it was nice to see Barbara Feldon’s acting ability wasn’t limited to playing Agent 99 on Get Smart, that other show that made her famous.

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Thomas Baird


EDMUND CRISPIN – The Moving Toyshop. Gervase Fen #3. Gollancz, UK, hardcover, 1946. Lippincott, US, hardcover. 1946. Penguin, US, paperback, 1977. Felony & Mayhem, US, trade paperback, 2011.

   The droll opening scene of The Moving Toyshop has Richard Cadogan in his garden in the heart of London, dickering with his publisher over advances and royalties for his latest book of poetry and absentmindedly waggling a pistol under the publisher’s nose. Cadogan is “craving for adventure, for excitement: anything to stave off middle age.”

   He soon finds it in Oxford. After lightheartedly prowling the late-night streets, he enters a dark toyshop, finds a body, and gets conked on the head. Before the first  chapter is over, the body and the lethal toyshop are gone.

   Cadogan consults his old friend Gervase Fen, and the investigation gets rolling (sometimes almost out of control when dashing about in Fen’s sportscar, a vociferous Lily Christine III).

   The poet gets swept along, interviewing witnesses, bullying blackguards, rescuing damsels, facing death, and eventually breathlessly winding up the mystery. Along the way, the spirited duo enlists an elderly don and various clumps of students, attends chapel, puzzles out the clues in a nonsense rhyme, argues literature on the phone with the chief constable, interprets an eccentric will, and generally chases around Oxford in a boisterous fashion.

   Gervase Fen is very serious and determined when being a detective, but volatile and absentminded. When in a tight spot, he plays literary games, like Unreadable Books and Awful Lines from Shakespeare, and makes up titles for the thrillers that Crispin writes. He claims that “I’m the only literary critic turned detective in the whole of fiction.”

   The Oxford background is well realized, and the humor sustains the story. The basic plot was obviously influenced by John Dickson Carr. The climactic scene, revolving around the chase to catch the criminal, is so powerful, so moving, that Alfred Hitchcock borrowed it to use as the windup in his film
Strangers on a Train (1951).

   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.

   You all know what movie this video clip is taken from, don’t you?

J. T. McINTOSH – Snow White and the Giants. Serialized in If SF, October-January, 1966-67. Avon S347, paperback, May 1968. Also published in the UK as Time for a Change (Michael Joseph, hardcover, 1967).

   The town of Shutel, England, is destined to be the site of the worst disaster in the world’s history. It is also the main attraction for a history class traveling from the future, but there are ulterior motives behind their visit. They hope that a dangerous mutant strain can be eliminated by altering the past. In spite of disrupted plans, success is theirs, at least temporarily.

   The first installment is quite leisurely in its pace, almost maddeningly casual, as the visitors seem to take few pains to conceal their strangeness. When the fire breaks out, the action increases abruptly and continues until the final lengthy discussion and explanation. People act correctly, as real people should, and do, in the face of something new, or confronted with disaster.

Rating: ****

-October 1967


GORILLA AT LARGE. Panoramic Productions/Fox, 1954. Cameron Mitchell, Anne Bancroft, Lee J. Cobb, Raymond Burr, Lee Marvin, Charlotte Austin, Peter Whitney, Warren Stevens, John Kellogg, Billy Curtis, and John Tannen. Written by Leonard Praskins and Barney Slater. Directed by Harmon Jones.

   If you only see one movie in your entire life, it should be Gorilla at Large. Where else in the known universe will you get a chance to hear tough cop Lee J Cobb snarl, “We’ve got two gorillas around here, and one of them’s a murderer.” Where, I ask you?

   Cobb is only one feature of a surprisingly able cast for what is essentially an inflated B-movie. Raymond Burr radiates menace very nicely as the boss of an elaborate carnival, playing effectively off Anne Bancroft as his wife, who does a trapeze act above the cage of Goliath “the world’s largest Gorilla” who manages to narrowly miss grabbing her at each performance.

   Cameron Mitchell and Charlotte Austin walk through their bland parts as leading man and heroine, and Lee Marvin is wasted as a comic relief dumb cop, but Perter Whitney as a blackmailing carny and John Tannen as a publicity flack with his eye on the main chance ooze a very fitting sleaziness into their under-written roles.

   Come to that, maybe it’s the writing that puts Gorilla at Large. so firmly into B-movie class. The dialogue is flat and obvious when it isn’t memorably bad, the plot is predictable when it’s not implausible, and…

   Oh yeah, the Plot: Burr decides to put Cameron Mitchell in an ape suit to double for Goliath, but someone steals the hirsute suite and goes around killing blackmailing carnies and blaming it on Goliath. Yeah, who’s gonna notice an ape running around the lot? And the concept is not helped at all by the fact that the real ape and the phony are both played by guys in gorilla suits.

   Fortunately, all this arrant nonsense is handled with pace and precision by Harmon Jones, a director who had his moments, and in his sure hands, it’s all really quite enjoyable. And really, if you’re only going to see one movie in your whole life, well, whathehell, it might as well be Gorilla at Large.


What can I say. I think she’s wonderful, and he’s no slouch either:



JOANNA CANNAN – Death at the Dog. Inspector Guy Northeast #2. Victor Gollancz, UK, hardcover, 1940. Reynal & Hitchcock, US, hardcover, 1941. Rue Morgue, US, trade paperback, 1999.

   Six weeks after the beginning of World, War II, a rural squire is found dead in his local pub, The Dog.  Mathew Scaife was hated by just about everyone who knew him, so the consensus of public opinion was that it was good riddance and too bad.

   It couldn’t be put down  to natural causes. His son, Edward, and Edward’s wife, are unhappy because the squire won’t come up with the money to modernize the farm  on which they live with him; Crescy Hardwick is upset because he has given  her notice to vacate the cottage she has fixed up and loved.

   His other son gets along neither with him nor with the upper class villagers. Bert Saunders is also being  turned out of his home. Two: other local couples are  suspects mainly because they were in the lounge bar when  he was killed.

   Detective-Inspector Guy Northeast, C.I.D., is delegated the tasks of sorting out these and other motives and finding an intelligent murderer who must also have access to nicotine, a car sponge, and a horse. Northeast is himself an  interesting character who has had run-ins with the local police force in a previous case, and in this one is fascinated by an older woman.

   Carefully drawn characters,   good local  background, and a skillful   murder method give this mystery high marks. I shall  look around for others by Cannan.

– Reprinted from The Poison Pen, Volume 3, Number 4 (July-August 1980).


Bibliographic Update: There was one earlier case for Inspector Northeast, that being They Rang Up the Police (Gollancz, 1939), that perhaps being the one Maryell refers to in this review. As for the author, she wrote a total of thirteen mysteries between 1929 and 1962; of these, five were cases solved by Inspector Ronald Price. 



RICHARD A. LUPOFF – The Cover Girl Killer. Hobart Lindsey #5. St. Martin’s, hardcover, 1995. Apparently no contemporaneous paperback edition (!).

   I quit this series after the first, The Comic Book Killer, because I thought the lead was a wimp, but someone told me that I ought to read this one for reasons [you’ll see below], so I did.

   Ace insurance investigator Hobart Lindsey is searching for the model who was the subject of a cover painting for a rare and obscure paperback published in the late 1940s. A tycoon had died in a suspicious helicopter crash, leaving millions either to the unknown model (if she can be found) or to a foundation for indigent artists.

   Hobart finds himself plunged into the world of paperback collectors, while his lover, police Sergeant Marva Plum, struggles with the suspected murder. A personal nemesis from his first case reappears, adding danger and angst.

   Well, I think you may recognize a paperback collector even before his real-life inspiration is named in the afterword. He has something of a regal air about him. This still isn’t going to be one of my favorite series, but it has definitely improved, and I enjoyed it because of the background. Lindsey isn’t quite as much of a wimp as he was, at least. There’s a nice intro by Bill Pronzini, too.

   Required reading [for everyone reading this].

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #22, November 1995


      The Lindsey and Plum series —

1. The Comic Book Killer (1988)
2. The Classic Car Killer (1992)
3. The Sepia Siren Killer (1994)
4. The Bessie Blue Killer (1994)
5. The Cover Girl Killer (1995)
6. The Silver Chariot Killer (1996)
7. The Radio Red Killer (1997)
8. The Tinpan Tiger Killer (1998)
9. One Murder At A Time (2001)
10. The Emerald Cat Killer (2010)

MARVIN ALBERT writing as NICK QUARRY – The Girl with No Place to Hide. PI Jake Barrow #3. Stark House/Black Gat Books #34; paperback, October 2021. Previously published as by Nick Quarry: Gold Medal #938, paperback original, 1959.

   The Girl with No Place to Hide is one of six Jake Barrow novels that author Marvin Albert wrote for Gold Medal as paperback originals back in the late 50s and early 60s, all as by Nick Quarry, one of his various and sundry pen names. Walking home from high school every day around this same time, I’m sure I bought my first copy from one the two spinner racks in the front of the supermarket along the way.

   I’m sure that its lurid cover had something to do with my spotting it and snatching it up right away. (The cover of the Black Gat reprint is perfectly fine, but forgive me, Greg, I still like the original, and it isn’t pure nostalgia that makes me think so.)

   Jake Barrow tells the story himself, so it isn’t exactly clear what he looks like, a PI whose home base is New York City, a town which he knows his way around in quite well, but if I were casting him in a TV series, say, Dane Clark would be my first choice. In this one, he doesn’t have a client for quite a while, but someone eventually volunteer himself as one, so Barrow not only has the satisfaction of solving the case, but he comes off satisfactorily in a financial sense as well.

   The tale begins with a girl – a good looking one, of course – who is obviously on the run from someone or something, but even though Barrow tries to help by inviting her up to his apartment for safekeeping, the sanctuary he offers is far from good enough, and the girl ends up dead there.

   What follows is what seems like an ordinary PI novel from the 50s, complete with sleazy characters, muscle guys, gamblers, boxers, shady gigolos, and more attractive women than you or I would probably meet all year, but Jake does it in less than a week.

   You have to take the bad with the good, though. Barrow gets clunked over the head more times than I could keep track of, which so far hasn’t happened to me yet this year, knocking on wood.

   Hidden amidst all of this action is, believe it or not, a better than average detective story, tangled in more threads than you might think, assuming that this is yet another ho-hum PI story, which while it’s not Hammett or Chandler level, it also most definitely is not as well.

   My brother asked me this question, and while I remembered the scene, I couldn’t tell him in what movie or TV show it appears in. (I may even have reviewed it, which would be embarrassing, but what can you do.)

   At least one of the murders in the movie, which is my recollection of where I saw it, is that a giant mirror is placed crosswise across a narrow, isolated stretch of road, so that the driver of an oncoming car would see his own headlights reflected back at him. Trying to avoid an accident, the driver of said car would swerve the only way he could, and straight down into a ravine, the bottom of which is hundreds of feet down.

   Remember that one?

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