March 2022

DAY KEENE – Passage to Samoa. Gold Medal #823, paperback original; 1st printing, November 1958. MacFadden Book #50-384, paperback reprint, 1967.

   A non-stop reading adventure taking place in the South Pacific, complete with beautiful women, a deep-sea diver with all of his equipment, a sleepy lagoon, a sunken ship with safe reportedly full of money, and bodies piling up a regular intervals throughout the book, starting from page three on. What more could you ask for?

   One wonders how Day Keene knew so much about diving, boats and islands in the South Pacific, because that’s all that this book is about. Well, besides the usual human emotions of greed, jealousy, and lust, which were what all of Day Keene’s books were about. Matt Kelly is the diver, and rich spoiled brat of a woman named Sylvia Ryan is the stepdaughter of the man who died on the small ship now sitting om the bottom of over a hundred feet of water.

   Is it any surprise that they are in bed together soon after the first murder occurs? This is the kind of stuff that was so enticing to teenagers sneaking peeks in Gold Medal paperbacks on every spinner rack in every drugstore in the country back in the late 1950s. What they learned from them is rather tame now, over sixty years later, even on network TV, and you can tell me if that’s a good thing or not.

   As for the story itself, I found Keene neatly finessing his way a couple of the weaker spots of the overall tale, but as for otherwise being a compulsive non-stop reading adventure, as I said at the top of this review, you’d better believe me. It is.



  THEY WERE SO YOUNG. First released in Germany as Mannequins fur Rio (Corona Filmproduktion, 1954). Lippert Pictures, US, 1955. Scott Brady, Raymond Burr, Johanna Matz, Ingrid Stenn, Gisela Fackedely, Eduard Linkers, Gert Frobe. Screenplay by Felix Lutzkendort and Kurt Neumann. Suggested by Interpol files compiled by Jacques Compandez. Additional screenplay uncredited by Dalton Trumbo, Michael Wilson, and Ernest Blass. Directed by Kurt Neumann.

   Their hearts were high in the sky … They never knew their feet were in the dirt.

   Sometimes mistakenly identified as film noir, this West German and American co -production is pure exploitation with only the presence of American stars Scott Brady and Raymond Burr anywhere near actual noir.

   It opens with the discovery of a dead half-nude young woman on the beach in Rio de Janeiro, with a quick stop at the Brazilian police who announce this is a case for Bureau 19 of Interpol.

   That noted, and despite the film allegedly being based on Interpol files and one later mention of the International Police (there is not and never was such a thing and Interpol has no enforcement abilities much less having any agents in 1954 television and movies to the contrary — I’ll save my rant about the infamous and phony Interpol for the comments section if anyone doesn’t know their troubled history) that aspect of the film ends with this single reference.

   Very quickly this switches from an investigation by Interpol to a straight up story of innocent girls caught up in a white slavery ring.

   “The Desperate Drama of Lost Women,” as the trailer claims.

   Eve (Johanna Matz) and Connie (Ingrid Stenn) arrive in Rio in the company of M. Albert (Eduard Linkers) who has brought them to Rio to work as fashion models living and working at the Villa Berganza under the direction of Mdme. Lansowa (Gisele Fackedely), “You’ll meet a good many rich and cultured people… I suggest you let me choose your friends at first.”

   Among the rich and cultured people they meet is Jaime Coltos (Raymond Burr) a local tycoon and his American engineer Richard Lanning (Scott Brady) just back from six months in the jungle. Burr is attracted to Connie, and Brady, a little worse for drink, gets a water bottle broken over his head by Eve.

   Eve has caught on what Villa Bergandza is a front for and she and Connie leave the next day seeking help, but they have no papers and the police show little sympathy. Gaslighted by Albert and Mdme. Lansowa they find themselves back at the Villa Bergandza with no authorities they can turn to, not even their own Consulates.

   But Eve, out on an arranged date, remembers Lanning is at the hotel where she is taken and goes to him for help. He agrees after spying the men who followed Eve and plans to let her stay in his room while he seeks help, but an emergency phone call from Coltos forces him to return to the jungle and Coltos’s villa there.

   Rather than leave Eve he decides to take her with him and perhaps persuade Coltos, an influential man, to help her. I won’t offer any Spoilers here, but it you haven’t figured out the twist coming you haven’t paid attention to any movie of this type you have ever seen, much less ever seen a movie from this period with Raymond Burr in it.

   Brady plays the usual somewhat lunk-headed gauche American abroad common to this era. At least here his blundering is blundering, not portrayed as somehow an advantage. At best you can say his character is determined to help the girl however ineptly.

   Eve ends up prostituted on a riverboat where Connie has been sent run by the murderous Captain Lobos (Gert Frobe) used as a pleasure boat for the local workers and Lanning, by now falling for her, slips on board with a party of workers with an ally hoping to help Eve escape.

   Another twist more or less out of left field awaits them, but Interpol still has nothing to do with it.

   Running a short hour and twenty minutes this is a fairly tight, well done little melodrama that skirts film noir and exploitation without ever being exactly one or the other. However exploitative the trailer and campaign for the film, it never comes anywhere near living up to that promise. Despite a few scenes this was mostly shot in Hamburg.

   Some film enthusiasts may get all excited by the uncredited appearance of Dalton Trumbo and Michael Wilson’s names related to this, and there are a few decent bits of dialogue here and there that they might have contributed, but honestly you could never tell watching this such distinguished company worked on it. Neither the story nor the dialogue suggests anything special here. At most they might have punched up the script for the American dubbing.

   Brady is fairly charming here as a mostly one-note hero, exactly what is called for, but nothing more. Matz is attractive and innocent enough if a little hard to believe as quite this naive despite a back story out of Dickens and Little Nell. The villainy is acceptably smarmy and Ingrid Stenn actually halfway good as the doomed Connie.

   I do question if Connie is really a common name for Belgian girls, but then I lived in France not Belgium.

   The exploitative American title sounds like some sort of teen drama or soap opera which probably kept this from getting to any audience it might have had on initial release.

   It’s currently available on YouTube. Nothing special here, but better done than you might expect with the American stars lending a bit of weight to it. It’s worth killing an hour or so if you have nothing better to do which is actually fairly high praise for this kind of film.


EDWARD D. HOCH “The Theft of the Brazen Letters.” Short story. Nick Velvet #4. First published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, November 1968 (their 300th issue). First collected in The Spy and the Thief (Davis, digest-sized paperback; 1st printing, December 1971).

   The reason I like Hoch’s Nick Velvet series so much is that there’s always a twofold mystery to be solved in them. Nick’s fee is $20,000 per each commissioned theft he agrees to take on, and each time it is always for some insignificant object that no one would ever think worth stealing. Mystery number one: How does he mange to steal that very insignificant object? Mystery number two: Nick is also a very inquisitive guy, and of course he’s always also interested as to why he was asked to steal the item he does.

   For example, from the introduction to this story in EQMM, previous thefts he’s taken as assignments include stealing a tiger from a zoo, water from a swimming pool and a toy mouse from the prop room of a movie studio. In “The Theft of the Brazen Letters,” he asked to steal three of seven neon letters from the outside of a commercial building. The seven letters are SATOMEX. I think you can deduce on your own which three letters Nick’s client wants stolen, but I don’t think you’ll have any more idea than I did as to why.

   As is usual for Ed Hoch’s stories, this is purely a puzzle tale. Nothing more nor anything less, and that’s super fine for me. There’s even a bonus in this one, as Nick has the local cops to contend with, and as a surprise to me, he’s one up on them as well. The zinger at the end is simple, but a zinger nonetheless.



THE FOREIGNER. STX Films, 2017. Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Michael McElhatton, Liu Tao, Charlie Murphy, Orla Brady, Katie Leung. Written by David Marconi, based on the 1992 novel The Chinaman by Stephen Leather. Directed by Martin Campbell. Currently streaming on Netflix.

   The Foreigner may not come with instant name recognition, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a well-crafted, solid thriller. Directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale), the movie benefits from the presence of two action stars: Pierce Brosnan, who Campbell directed as James Bond in GoldenEye (1995) and Hong Kong-turned-Hollywood martial arts star, Jackie Chan.

   This, however, is not your comedy/action hybrid 1990s Jackie Chan movie. Gone is the humor and the goofy, charming persona that he imbued with ease into nearly every character he portrayed. Here, Chan plays against type as a broken, lonely, and vengeful father determined to avenge the death of his daughter. It’s striking how Chan all but disappears into his character. Moving with a sullen gait and with notable bags under his eyes, Chan’s character – a man who has lost everything and has nothing to lose – is mourning personified.

   Chan portrays Ngoc Minh Quan, a London restaurant owner of Chinese-Vietnamese heritage. A dedicated father, Quan ends up witnessing his daughter die in a bombing perpetrated by a rogue IRA splinter group in London. From then on, his life will never be the same. Not only is his wife gone – she died giving birth to his daughter – but he is also suffering from the ongoing trauma of having lost two young daughters when fleeing the communist takeover of South Vietnam decades ago.

   Quan sets his sights on Liam Hennessy, a Sinn Féin politician now serving as Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. The British have tasked Hennessy with finding out who the rogue IRA operatives in London were. Complicating matters is the fact that Hennessy has an IRA past, one that he swears is behind him. But is it? Quan, for one, certainly doesn’t think so.

   As the movie progresses, the film reveals itself to be driven by two narrative thrusts. One deals with Quan’s single-handed quest for revenge. As it turns out, the beaten down Quan has more than one trick up his sleeve. As a young man in South Vietnam, he had Special Forces training and served with the US Army with distinction. Those skills, while perhaps a little rusty, prove to be very useful to Quan as he takes out many of Hennessy’s men. It’s great to see that Chan has still has many of his martial arts acting chops (pun intended), even though there are moments when he gets a little too John Rambo – think First Blood (1982) – for believability’s sake.

   The other, more interesting, story line concerns Hennessy’s divided loyalties and vulnerability in the tinderbox of Belfast politics. Brosnan shines here as a former terrorist who has supposedly decided to break away from his violent past and advance his cause through the political system instead.

   Trying to please both the British and the young radicals in Catholic nationalist circles proves a heady job, one that seems to have strained his marriage beyond repair. Like any good movie about Northern Irish politics, there are betrayals and plots, schemes and broken dreams. In The Foreigner, it’s Chan’s character who enters this insular world and lights the matches that end up burning it all to the ground.

   Both entertaining and captivating, The Foreigner is one of the better thrillers that I’ve watched recently. It’s nothing I would go out of my way to watch a second time, but it kept me interested enough. One final thought: for whatever reason, I don’t remember any songs from the movie. There is a soundtrack, however and it blends seamlessly with the downbeat, claustrophobic atmosphere of the film.

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Bill Crider & Bill Pronzini


CARROLL JOHN DALY – The Snarl of the Beast. Edward J. Clode, hardcover, 1927. Gregg Press, hardcover, 1981. Perennial, paperback, 1992. Lead story in The Snarl of the Beast: Race Williams, Volume 2 (Altus Press, 2016).

   Carroll John Daly was one of the fathers of the modern hard-boiled private eye, a primary influence on such later writers as Mickey Spillane. His style and plots seem dated today, but the presence of his name on the cover of Black Mask in the Twenties and Thirties could be counted on Lo raise sales of the magazine by fifteen percent.

   Daly’s major contribution was Race Williams, the narrator of Snarl of the Beast and the first fully realized tough-guy detective (his first appearance, in the June 1, 1923, issue of Black Mask, preceded the debut of Hammett’s Continental Op by four months). Williams was a thoroughly hard-boiled individual. As he says of one criminal he dispatches, “He got what was coming to him. If ever a lad needed one good killing, he was the boy.” Williams doesn’t hesitate to dole out two-gun, vigilante justice.

   The Snarl of the Beast has an uncomplicated plot: Williams is asked by the police to help track down a master criminal known as “the Beast” and reputed to be “the most feared, the cunningest and cruelest creature that stalks the city streets at night.” Williams is willing to take on the job and to give the police credit for ridding the city of this menace, just as long as he gets the reward.

   Along the way he meets a masked woman prowler, a “girl of the night,” and of course the Beast himself. Daly is not known for literary niceties — his style can best be described as crude but effective — yet there is a certain fascination in his novels and his vigilante/detective. Characterization is minimal and action is everything. “Race Williams — Private Investigator  — tells the whole story. Right! Let’s go.”

   Race Williams also appears in The Hidden Hand (1929) and Murder from the East (1935), among others. Daly created two other series characters, both of them rough-and-tumble types, although not in the same class with Williams: Vee Brown, hero of Murder Won’t Wait (1933) and Emperor of Evil (1937); and Satan Hall, who stars in The Mystery of the Smoking Gun (1936) and Ready to Burn (1951), the latter title having been published only in England.

   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.

DOUG SWANSON – House of Corrections. Jack Flippo #5. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, hardcover, 2000. Berkley, paperback, May 2001.

   Fifth in the series and unfortunately the last. Rather than repeat myself, for more about the author and some additional comments about the series and its leading character, you can do a lot worse than to see my review of Dreamboat, number two overall, posted here on this blog nearly fifteen years ago

   Some of which needs repeating, though. Before becoming a mostly unsuccessful PI,  Jack Flippo was an Assistant D.A. in Dallas. His boss back then is now retired but in trouble. He’s in jail, and he needs help. It seems he was driving a car belonging to his wife, was stopped for speeding, and the cops in a dump of town found a “smidgen” of heroin in the car.

   What he needs Jack to do is find his wife, who is off sailing somewhere in Galveston Bay. It sounds easy enough, and Jack owes the guy, and so he says yes, which as it turns out is a bad, bad mistake. Somehow the case is connected with the deaths of two drug dealers in the same small tank town as Luster, and guess what, the wife is proving harder to find than she should be.

   This is one of those books in which nobody, and I mean nobody, is telling the truth, sometimes two or times over. Flippo is also not the brightest bulb in the box, so it takes him a while to figure this out, and even then he always seems one step behind. What the author Doug Swanson is doing here is taking the most irreverent way of telling a PI story, shaking all the usual ingredients around, and seeing what comes out. Down and dirty is only half of it.

   It’s a rip-roaring of an ending, though. I wouldn’t mind seeing a movie made of this one. Maybe Robert Mitchum as Jack Flippo; Lance LeGault as Wesley; Cybill Shepherd as the wife; and Margot Kidder as the intrepid girl reporter anxious to make her mark in the world. It’s quite a mix, and it’s too bad the series ended with this one.

TENSPEED AND BROWN SHOE “The Robin Tucker’s Roseland Roof and Ballroom Murder.” ABC, 03 February 1980 (Season 1, Episode 3). Ben Vereen (E. L. “Tenspeed” Turner), Jeff Goldblum (Lionel Whitney). Guest Cast: Elayne Heilveil, John Pleshette, Leo Gordon. Created & written by Stephen J. Cannell. Director: Arnold Laven. Currently streaming  at the Shout Factory website

   As I recall, whenever I’ve found the series available, whether streaming online or on DVD, the first two episodes, comprising a two-part pilot, has not been included. And so, as a direct consequence, I’ve never been properly introduced to the two main characters in this quite enjoyable comedy slash mystery show – the main question being how these two quite opposite fellows got paired up in the first place. The second question I still have is how they got their nicknames, which are barely mentioned in this one, if at all.

   I could use a helping hand, in other words. And on this blog, that’s what the comments are for.

   Based only on this third episode then, Ben Vereen (Tenspeed) is a fast talking con man who ia apparently out on parole, while Jeff Goldblum (Brown Shoe) is a former accountant who has always dreamed of becoming a PI, and now here he is as one. He’s quite the opposite in personality to his new partner, being uptight and unwilling to be in any way shady in how he operates.

   This one begins with the latter receiving a thousand dollar bill by private courier, along with the halves of two others. He is promised the other two halves if the job he is offered is accomplished correctly: to find a young girl with only a photo and address to go on. As it so happens, she is a very naive dime-a-dance girl at a 1940s era dance hall, apparently with no adjustment for inflation, and the story goes on from there. Quite naturally as in stories such as this, bodies pile up more quickly than we the viewer even know who they are or were. It is equally obvious that more than one party wants to find the girl.

   It’s all done in solid tongue-in-cheek fashion, with full awareness of all the well-established tropes of the PI novel, with dialogue to match. One phrase that I remember was along the lines of “the fat man had more chins than the Hong Kong phone directory.” And the two stars appear to be having a good time with all the fun and games they are asked to play. I don’t know what reaction yours might be, but I had as much fun with this one as the two players seem to have had.


IF SCIENCE FICTION. February 1967. Editor: Frederick Pohl. Cover art: [Paul E.] Wenzel. Overall rating: 3 stars.

LARRY NIVEN “The Soft Weapon.” [Known Space series #14.] Novella. Two humans and a puppeteer have stolen from them a strange weapon from the past. Corresponding to each setting the weapon takes on a new shape and purpose. Much too long [43 pages]; not until the second half does there seem to be any story at all. (2)

   [Collected in Neutron Star (Ballantine, paperback original, 1968), and Playgrounds of the Mind (Tor, 1991).]

BRUCE McALLISTER “Gods of the Dark and Light.” A contrast between religions as settlers invade an isolated planet, and what religions become. (4)

   [Although this story has never been reprinted or collected, Bruce McAllister has written a long list of short fiction, and as of last year was still adding to that list.]

KEITH LAUMER “Forest in the Sky.” [Retief.] Novelette. On a planet where the inhabitants are forced to live in he sky to avoid the ferocity of their children on the ground, Retief again saves the diplomatic staff from the Grocci. Quite funny. (3)

   [First collected in Retief: Ambassador to Space (Doubleday, 1969 / Berkley, 1970.) The long running series of Retief adventures were a big hit back in the day.]

ALGIS BUDRYS “The Iron Thorn.” Serial, part 2 of 4. To be reviewed in its entirety at a later date.

ROBERT RAY “Confession.” A priest in North Australia receives an alien with a message of deep religious significance. Overdone. (2)

   [This was the author’s only published science fiction story.]

RICHARD WILSON “The Evil Ones.” Novelette. A murderer committed to a rest-home redeems himself by aiding aliens to repair their ship and leave Earth. Sentimental at the end, but effective. (4)

   [First collected in The Story Writer and Other Stories (Ramble House, 2011.) Wilson wrote only two novels, but was well known for a long list of short fiction.]

MATHER H. WALKER “The Dangers of Deepspace.” Glamorous space reality isn’t. (3)

   [The second “one shot wonder” in this issue.]

C. C. MacAPP “A Beachhead for Gree.” [Gree series.] Novelette. The battle against the Gree continues, this time on a planet of pacifists. From page 149: “It appears … you are as fanatical as those you fight.” A good point, but the evil of Gree overcomes. (3)

   [Never reprinted or collected. The last of nine stories about the long fought battle against the Gree.]

–December 1967


CHRISTOPHER BUSH – The Case of the Tudor Queen. Ludovc Travers #18. Cassell, UK, hardcover, 1938. Holt, US, hardcover, 1938.  Penguin #849, paperback, 1953. Dean Street Press, trade paperback, 2018. (I believe that Dean Street has reprinted all 63 Travers books in uniform softcover editions.)

   Amateur detective Ludovic Travers and friend Supt. George Wharton of Scotland Yard inadvertently stumble on two dead bodies in the house belonging to one of the dead persons. She is actress Mary Legreye, who recently was applauded as Mary Tudor.

   She and her houseman, Fred Ward, appear to have committed suicide.  Miss Legreye is sitting in a high-backed chair with the furniture cleared away, so that the scene is like one from the play. Both Travers and Wharton are suspicious, and the police surgeon corroborates their view. These are murders. But by whom, and why?

   Miss Legreye is pregnant, the p.m. reveals, but no man can be found who can be named as her paramour. Actors,  manager, and playwright in turn are investigated and found to have alibis. The case is almost given up as hopeless when Travers sees the light. A cast-iron alibi turns out to be faked, very cleverly indeed. When it yields to Travers’ investigation, a cruel, cold-blooded murderer 1s taken.

   Interesting all the way.

– Reprinted from The Poison Pen, Volume 3, Number 2 (March-April 1980).

PLEASE MURDER ME! Distributors Corporation of America, 1956. Angela Lansbury, Raymond Burr, Dick Foran, John Dehner, Lamont Johnson, Denver Pyle, Russell Thorson. Director: Peter Godfrey. Available for viewing on YouTube.

   As almost all of the user reviews on IMDb point out, this inexpensively made feature attraction could easily have been a dry run for Raymond Burr in being chosen for the leading role in the Perry Mason TV series the following year. A small but significant portion takes place in a courtroom, one which looks a lot like the one on Perry Mason – but then again, don’t all courtrooms in the movies or on TV look alike?

   As well-known lawyer Craig Carlson, Burr plays a defense attorney in this one. Accused of murder is the woman he loves, Angela Lansbury as Myra Leeds. Dead is Carlson’s best friend, Myra’s husband, from whom she was seeking a divorce. She claims she shot him in self-defense, and with a ploy that shocks all of the onlookers in the courtroom, including a gaggle of eager reporters, Carlson makes it stick.

   Then comes the truth, which I won’t reveal (but which I’ll allow you to guess), which is when the movie takes off at double speed, ending in the kind of moment that is only allowed in the movies, but which I found quite engrossing. The fancifulness of it all can easily be overlooked in light of the intensity of Raymond Burr’s character, which is almost but not quite over the top. Angela Lansbury, as a femme fatale, not so very much. In my opinion, of course.


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