September 2023

MICHAEL SHAYNE “Man on a Raft.” Unsold TV Pilot. Aired on the NBC summer replacement series Decision, 28 September 1958. Cast: Mark Stevens (Michael Shayne), Merry Anders (Lucy Hamilton), Robert Brubaker (Tim Rourke), Robert Stevenson (William Gentry). Guest star: Diane Brewster. Teleplay by Steve Fisher, based on thee characters created by Brett Halliday. Directed by Mark Stevens. Currently streaming here on YouTube.

   The summer replacement series that replaced The Loretta Young Show for 13 weeks in 1958 consisted entirely of pilot episodes for various series, most of which never came to fruition. The first one shown was picked up, though, and went on to considerable success, that being The Virginian, starring James Drury.

   Not so for this early attempt to get a Mike Shayne series on the air. (The one starring Richard Denning as Shayne came along later.) In it a young good-looking girl comes to Shayne for help in determining when her playboy husband died. He lost his life in a boat at sea, and a good deal of money depends on whether he died before or after his birthday. The other two men on the boat survived, but barely, and the only way of determining what actually happened is by means of a diary one of them kept.

   You can take it from there, but as usual with private eye shows on television, thirty minutes of running time (less time-out spots for would-be commercial buyers) is not enough for more than a bare bones mystery to develop. Other than Mark Stevens as Shayne, none of the rest of the regulars had time enough to make an impression, and Stevens would not have been my choice of an actor to play him. He’s a little too dour for my tastes. In his series Denning looked as though he was having fun playing the role.


WILD CARD. “Pilot.” Lifetime.. 02 August 2003. Joely Fisher (Zoe Busiek), Chris Potter, Rae Dawn Chong, Bronson Picket. Director: Stephen Surjik.  Currently streaming on YouTube (see below).

   Zoe Busiek is making living as a blackjack dealer in Las Vegas, when she learns that her sister has died in an automobile accident back East, and she decides to quit and head there to take care of her three young children, two girls and a boy. Only the youngest, a girl, takes at all warmly to her sudden abrupt presence in their lives.

   Her new life, in other words, will not be easy. Making matters worse is that the insurance company has determined, on the basis of eye witnesses, that her sister was at fault, and there will be no money coming in from them. Feeling something is wrong, she decides to investigate on her own, and – you will not be surprised to learn – she is right. It takes a lot of perseverance and footwork to get there, but each in its way pays off.

   Not only that, when all is said and done, she is offered a job as an investigator with the insurance company. Or should that last sentence end with an exclamation point?

   I’ve chosen not to. All signs have been pointing to this all episode long. The happy conclusion – and yes, the kids becoming OK with her now as well – comes as all in due course, the way things should be., especially on the Lifetime network. Putting things into a proper perspective, I’d consider the entire production a step up from a similar concept on say, the Hallmark Channel. Not quite as sentimentally cloying, and maybe just a hint more of a solid edge to it, the series lasted for two seasons of eighteen episodes each.

   One additional note: I did not realize until I started writing this review that Joely Fisher is the daughter of Eddie Fisher and Connie Stevens. And a half-sister of Carrie Fisher. Talk about family values!

INTRO. Jon and I went to see this as the first film of a Randolph Scott double feature last night. It was showing at the New Beverly Theater in Hollywood, the one owned by Quentin Tarantino. While tempting we didn’t stay for the second feature, but I think a large number of the audience did. The theater wasn’t jam-packed, but as a rough estimate, it was filled to sixty percent capacity, maybe more.

   It was good to see the film on the big screen in an actual theater, with an audience that came to see the movie, not to have a party. It also made me wonder if anyone involved in making the film back in 1957 had any idea that here and now, some 65 years later, the movie would still be around to keep fans watching an enjoying.

   The review below was first posted on this blog on 19 January 2015.

THE TALL T. Columbia Pictures, 1957. Randolph Scott, Richard Boone, Maureen O’Sullivan, Arthur Hunnicutt, Skip Homeier, Henry Silva, John Hubbard, Robert Burton. Screenplay by Burt Kennedy, based on the story “The Captives,” by Elmore Leonard, published in Argosy, February 1955. Director: Budd Boetticher.

   To start off with, let me tell you that this is one of my favorite Western films of all time. I won’t tell you that it’s number one, because I’ll be honest with you as well as myself and say that it isn’t, but it’s in the top five.

   In part it’s the actors. Randolph Scott isn’t a lawman doing his job with professional dignity and humor, a common role he had in westerns. In The Tall T he’s a struggling former cowhand, no more than that, but he was good at his job. But now he’s living alone and struggling to make a go of his own small ranch, as honest with himself and others as the day is long.

   Richard Boone is the villain of the piece, who along with a pair of low-life outlaws he rides with (Skip Homeier and Henry Silva) holds up a stage only to find that it’s not the regularly scheduled one, but one chartered by the man who married the plain-looking daughter of the richest man in the territory, a rabbit of a man who gives up his wife as part of a ransom scheme to save his own hide. Scott, who just happens to be on the stagecoach, is caught up in the plan and as chance would have it, is made a captive too.

   As their captors, Richard Boone and his two cohorts are as murderous and vicious as they come. For some reason, though, Boone lets the yahoos he associates with do all the shooting, and as he confesses to Scott over an open fire, he has a wish to have a piece of land himself. Only Richard Boone could have played the part. A killer who aches with the need for someone intelligent to talk to.

   I don’t know how they managed to make Maureen O’Sullivan so plain looking, but she is, and at length she admits that she her knows exactly why her new husband married her. But it’s Randolph Scott who makes the movie work. Rugged, steely-eyed and quiet-talking, but with little ambition more than to make a living on his own, he’s also more than OK with a gun, a fact that in the end turns out to be rather important.

   Other than the actors, though, it is the storytelling, the combination of script and directing, that simply shines. The budget probably wasn’t all that large, but the story simply flows, with no wasted moments, every scene essential to the story. This is a movie that’s down to earth and real, and made by professionals on both sides of the camera.

   As for Elmore Leonard’s story, the one the movie is based on, you don’t have to read more than two or three pages before you know where the timing and the pacing of the movie came from.

   Most of the movie is taken straight from the story, at most only a long novelette, with only a couple of substantial changes. The campfire scene between Scott and Boone referred to above was added, and the way Scott and the woman defeat their captors was re-orchestrated, both changes for the better.

   Everyone agrees that Elmore Leonard’s crime fiction was always the best around, but to my mind, his western fiction, which came along earlier, is even better. That includes “The Captives,” beyond a doubt, and the movie is even better yet. To my mind, near perfect.


INTRO. This is the fifth and final story in the February 1936 issue of Dime Detective that I covered in its entirety in my column “Speaking of Pulp” in the April/May/June, 1979 issue of The Not So Private Eye.

   The cover illustration is taken from the final story, a long novelette by T. T. Flynn entitled “Bride of the Beast,” which sounds more like a horror story from Dime Mystery than it docs a detective story. Flynn was an extremely prolific detective story writer from the pulps. He’s never seemed to have gathered much attention, but his stories are always filled with action, and more, they seem to know where they’re going.

   In this one, a circus is about to go bankrupt — strange things are happening on the midway! Trouble-shooter Steve Waring is sent out by the bank to find out what’s going on, and on his first night on the job an elephant rider in the opening procession is decapitated, almost in full view of the horrified audience.

   The circus atmosphere is excellent, the menace is effectively scary, and no holds are barred in producing sudden and violent death. It ends with a furious train ride through the night and with the nightmarish capture of a crazy killer about to torture Joan Wells, tied and helpless, running the circus in her father’s absence, with a twisted replica of love. Hence the title. I guess it sounds like corn, but it’s still the best story in the magazine.

   As you’ll have already gathered, if you’ve been paying attention, the emphasis [in the stories in this issue of this magazine] has not been on ordinary detective work, This had probably been even more true in earliest days of Dime Detective, which was first published in the early 1930s but the trend away from grotesque mystery had not yet eliminated it from the magazine by 1936, as we’ve just seen. Many people tell me they prefer the 1940s version of DD, when the accent changed slightly from the incredibly fantastic to the merely screwy.

   Give me a hand, will you? Help me clean up these little shreds of brown paper that are all over the floor here …

BRETT HALLIDAY “Dead Man’s Clue.” PI Mike Shayne. First published in This Week, 28 November 1954. Reprinted in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, September 1957 and in Ellery Queen’s Anthology #9, 1965 Mid-Year Edition, in both two latter cases as “Not–Tonight-Danger.”

   As I’m sure most of you who read this blog on a regular basis already know, both “Brett Halliday” and his fictional character Mike Shayne were the brainchildren of author Davis Dresser. Over the years, though, especially after Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine had begun, but including the novels themselves, Dresser started farming out the telling of the tales to other writers, including such luminaries as Ryerson Johnson, Robert Terrall, Dennis Lynds, James Reasoner, Richard Deming, Hal Charles, and more.

   But as far as is known now, only one of the stories was written by Dresser’s then wife, Helen McCloy, and by some non-pure coincidence, this is the one. It’s unusual in a way, as it’s almost entirely a puzzle story, making it no surprise that the editors of EQMM picked up it for inclusion in both their magazine and a later anthology they did.

   It begins with a client coming to Shayne with a strange confession. To warn his wife about being careless about her purse, he “steals” it from her in a crowd of people, only to discover he’d stolen the wrong one. In one those equally strange coincidences that happen in fiction more often they do in real life, a valuable diamond medallion had been stolen that same evening in the same hotel.

   When Shayne’s client is found murdered, though, any idea of coincidence is immediately rejected. The only clue is a strip of paper with writing on it found in the stolen purse belonging to someone else, thus transforming the tale from that of an ordinary PI story to that of a clever puzzle to be unraveled. Shayne is up to the task, however, in the hands of behind the scenes author Helen McCloy, known for her many works of classic detective fiction. It ends perhaps a little more quickly that I might have liked, but this is still a small “gem” of a story,

W. T. BALLARD – Pretty Miss Murder. Max Hunter #1. PermabookM-4228, paperback original,; 1st printing, December 1961. Never reprinted.

   Back when this book was published, I’m going to assume that Ballard was correct and that in order to get a job working in Clark County, Nevada, and Reno in particular, you had to fill out an application from the sheriff’s office, and be accepted. That’s where Lt. Max Hunter first encounters a vivacious young brunette who’s hoping to start working at a local casino as a cigarette girl while in the state seeking a divorce.

   The attraction is immediate, and is only doubled when he meets again on the job. (As described, she looks exactly like the girl on the cover. (*)) Any further relationship is nipped in the bud, however, when the girl’s body is found later dumped beside a highway leading out of town.

   Hunter takes her death personally, of course, but what he learns is both surprising and disturbing, to say the least. All her life she has been known for leading men on and as a conniving (I can’t use the word) and has even been disowned by her aunt and uncle who raised her.

   Even though thoroughly disillusioned, Hunter continues on the case anyway, which, as it turns out, involves a well known racketeer who is trying to track down the girl’s husband, who has gone missing with $250,000 of the gang boss’s money. As an unexpected twist in the plot at the time, Hunter and Johnny Blessing find it mutually worthwhile to team up together, if only for a while.

   It’s a fun, fast-moving story, the only flaw in which is Ballard describes his characters so well that … well, in my opinion, when they act out of character, something’s wrong. Hunter ought to have trusted his instinct more. I knew exactly what was happening, even as all the while Ballard, as the man in charge of telling the story, was doing his best to divert attention away.

   You might think this would take away the enjoyment of reading to learn how things work out, which they do, but it doesn’t, and all of the threads are tied up tightly at the end. It’s a smooth professional piece of writing, produced by a longtime pulp writer  who didn’t dry up and quit when the pulps died. It’s not really a hardboiled novel, only medium boiled at best, but on that basis, of you’re still with me, I’d say you’d have fun with this one, too.


(^) The cover shown is that of the copy I own, which Ive had for a very long time. Amusingly enough, while I’m not sure you can make it out, but what the girl is selling are spelled out as “cigaretts.” Also note the mutilated cover, with the upper right corner clipped off. This is was often done by those paperback swap shops commonly found almost everywhere a few years back so that books deemed unworthy could not be used to be traded back into the store again. The book cost me ten cents, which to me was a dime well spent, now finally at last.

         The Max Hunter series —

Pretty Miss Murder (1961)
The Seven Sisters (1962)
Three for the Money (1963)



CORRIDOR OF MIRRORS. Apollo, UK, 1948, Eric Portman, Edana Romney, Barbara Mullen, Hugh Sinclair, Bruce Belfrage, Alan Wheatley, Joan Maude, and Leslie Weston. Screenplay (and co-produced by) Rudolph Cartier and Edana Romney, “inspired by the novel by Chris Massey” whatever that means. Directed by Terence Young.

   So many things to say about this movie, but it comes down to two words: See it.

   And now for a lot more words, starting with a nod toward technology and the pleasures of living in an age when I can recommend a fairly obscure feature like this to readers who can actually see it. Remember the days when old-movie watching was dictated by local TV stations?

   Corridor seems to have been something of a vanity production — I assume writer/producer Romney was responsible for her showy billing —f or a career that fizzled. Pity, that, because on the evidence of this film, she had some talent and, though not a classical beauty, was possessed of a frank sex appeal that I found — well — appealing.

   The film itself, however, focuses largely on Eric Portman as a haughty dilettante obsessed with the past, specifically Renaissance Italy, and the portrait of a lady from that period, whom he tries to recreate, using Ms Romney’s character as his palimpsest — a theme wondrously revisited in Vertigo, and I have to say Corridor  stands comparison with Hitchcock’s classic for style and brooding, romantic atmosphere.

   Those familiar with Director Terence Young’s blunt, energetic movies may wonder at this. I wondered myself, and I suspect the beauty of this film may be more due to cinematographer André Thomas than any effort of Young’s. Whichever the case, this is a real dazzler, with striking chiaroscuro effects, beams of light bisecting depths of soft, curtained darkness, picking up just enough detail in the strikingly-realized sets (The Production Design and Art Direction by Serge Piménoff and Terence Verity deserve notice too.) to send our imaginations reeling through Portman’s sepulchral mansion like a drunkard at a wine tasting. Or like the convoluted multi-images of Portman and Romney whirl-waltzing through the multi-mirrored halls.

   The plot doesn’t bear close examination, and the ending gets a bit awkward, but there’s a fine atmosphere of impending violence and gloomy doom throughout, and the characters are drawn with agreeably theatrical flourishes that put this solidly in the one-f-a-kind category. And the must-see class as well!!

CORNELL WOOLRICH – Rendezvous in Black. Rinehart/Murray Hill, hardcover, 1948. Reprinted several times, including Ace H-57, paperback, [1958]. TV play: Broadcast live on October 18, 1956, as part of the CBS television series, Playhouse 90.

   Johnny Marr’s girl had died before they could get married. Had died in fact while waiting for their usual eight o’clock date, Had died because of bottle carelessly tossed from an airplane. The list of passengers was small, only five names. And a loved one of each of those five men are about to die. Methodically and insanely. Camero, the detective finally assigned to the case, is unable to stop people from being themselves and thus unable to stop the murders.

   What Woolrich lacks in technical aspects of writing is made up for by the ability to tell an engrossing story. The minute details of someone’s actions, the broad delineation of character, almost a burlesque of personality, and the use of conversation to describe action are all overdone.

   The war years are described from a personal point of view, and seem unnatural today. It would be most surprising if this has not been made into a movie; it is standard enough fare.Perhaps Walter Matthau could play Camero, as if the part were written for him

Rating: ***

— May 1968.

INTRO. These are the third and fourth stories in the February 1936 issue of Dime Detective that I covered in it entirety in my column “Speaking of Pulp” in the April/May/June, 1979 issue of The Not So Private Eye.

   The next couple of shorts can be disposed of rather quickly. “Postlude to Murder” by Donald S. Aitken features a private eye named Barker on the trail of a missing nephew who doesn’t know he’s suffering from hydrophobia. Once located, he’s immediately kidnapped. Somehow the story’s just too short for all these bizarre happenings to begin to become convincing.

   Next up, Robert Sidney Bowen is a pulp author probably more famous for his flying stories. He did all the science-fictional Dusty Ayres (and his Battle Birds) air war novels, for example, but he also did a couple of hardcover private eye novels in the late 1940s.

   In “The Flying Coffin” his hero is Kip Lacey, ace trouble-shooter for Central Airways, a nice combination of both writing worlds. A strange case; once again, not surprisingly, the emphasis is on the bizarre. A corpse traveling incognito as air cargo is kidnapped, then turns up later as the victim of a hit-and-run accident. There are some noticeable loose ends in the final wrap-up, but only because Lacey’s loyalty is to the airline, and not to the cops.

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Art Scott


MALCOLM DOUGLAS – The Deadly Dames. Gold Medal #614, paperback, 1956. Reprinted by Stark House Press in a 2-for-1 edition with A Dum-Dum for the President, trade paperback, 2015, as by Douglas Sanderson.

   There were innumerable private-eye novels that saw print as paperback originals in the Fifties and Sixties. While many, perhaps most, were routine and forgettable, the intrepid reader will occasionally come across a real sleeper, like this book by the Canadian writer Douglas Sanderson, writing as Malcolm Douglas.

   Bill Yates. easygoing Montreal private eye, takes on what looks to be a simple case of spy-on-the-straying-spouse. But before he even starts work, the client’s rich aunt tries to buy him off, and she promptly goes down under the wheels of a streetcar. Not long after that. two emissaries from the local gambling czar stick him up in his office, looking for a missing will. One day and three or four corpses later, Yates is being pursued by the crooks, the cops, several double-crossing dames, and an Amazon Russian housemaid with romantic notions.

   The action is furious and headlong, culminating with a naked Yates being chased through the Canadian woods while being eaten alive by swarms of mosquitoes. Along the way. Yates sets the world record for the greatest number of people to get the drop on a private eye in the course of a Gold Medal paperback.

   Douglas’s style is classic don’t-take-it-seriously private-eye material: wry, observant. and a bit gaudy — and perhaps just on the edge of parody. Radio detective fans will find it reminiscent of the marvelous scripts Richard Breen used to write for tough guy Jack Webb in Pat Novak for Hire. Exceptionally entertaining.

   The other Malcolm Douglas Gold Medal originals — Rain of Terror (1956), Pure Sweet Hell (1957), and Murder Comes Calling (1958) — are less successful but still good reading. The best of Sanderson’s novels under his own name is probably Mark It for Murder (1959).

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.


Bibliographic Update: Technically this was the only book Sanderson wrote about Montreal-based PI Bill Yates, but on his Thrilling Detective website Kevin Burton Smith points out that Sanderson wrote three other novels about Yates as Martin Brett, except that in those books, Yates was called Mike Garfin. Here’s the tally:

      The Mike Garfin series —


Hot Freeze (1954)
The Darker Traffic (1954)
The Deadly Dames (1956; by Malcolm Douglas) Mike is called Bill Yates in this one, for contractual reasons.
A Dum-Dum for the President (1961)

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