September 2023



THE LEOPARD MAN. RKO, 1943. Cast: Dennis O’Keefe, Margo, Jean Brooks, Isabell Jewell, Marguerite Silva, Abner Biberman, James Bell, Margaret Landry, Fely Franquelli, Ariel Heath, Tuulikki Paananen. Producer: Val Lewton. Writers: Ardel Wray and Edward Dein, based on the novel Black Alibi (1942) by Cornell Woolrich. Director: Jacques Tourneur.

   “You don’t get the idea, mister. These cops banging those pans, flashing those lights, they’re gonna scare that poor cat of mine. Cats are funny, mister. They don’t want to hurt you, but if you scare them they go crazy. These cops, they don’t know what they’re doing.”


   Despite what everybody says about The Leopard Man, it’s not really a horror film. Of course it looks and even sounds like one most of the time, and it’s true producer Val Lewton specialized in horror films (e.g., Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, etc.). Nevertheless, when you eliminate all the terror trappings, what’s left isn’t just a crime movie but an actual mystery film.

   It’s clear the intention was to ratchet up the suspense as much as possible — and then go beyond that. So it’s surprising to realize that just about every moment of violence is off screen; lighting and sound effects do the job of suggesting the horrors we don’t see.

   “Mamacita, let me in! Let me in! Let me in! If you love me, let me in!”


   When someone is attacked and murdered on one side of a door, we and another person on this side of it hear the violent scuffle but only see the victim’s blood oozing under the door.

   In a darkened cemetery dimly lit by a hazy moon, another victim is stalked by something unseen up in the trees. The camera focuses on the tree limbs as they creak downward and then spring up, with the attacker just out of visual range. All we hear is a muffled scream.

   The Leopard Man has many moments like that. The source material was Black Alibi, a 1942 novel by Cornell Woolrich.


   Numerous books and stories by Cornell Woolrich have been adapted for other media, such as these films: ‘Convicted’ (1938), ‘Street of Chance’ (1942), ‘Phantom Lady’ (1944), ‘The Mark of the Whistler’ (1944), ‘Deadline at Dawn’ (1946), ‘Black Angel’ (1946), ‘The Chase’ (1946), ‘Fall Guy’ (1947), ‘The Guilty’ (1947), ‘Fear in the Night’ (1947), ‘The Return of the Whistler’ (1948), ‘I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes’ (1948), ‘Night Has a Thousand Eyes’ (1948), ‘The Window (1949), ‘No Man of Her Own’ (1950), 6 episodes of the ‘Suspense’ TV series (1949-50), 3 segments of ‘Robert Montgomery Presents’ (1950-51), ‘Rear Window’ (1954), ‘Obsession’ (1954), ‘Nightmare’ (1956); 3 installments each of ‘Lux Video Theatre’ (1954-57), ‘The Ford Television Theatre’ (1955-57), ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ (1956-58), and ‘Thriller’ (1961); ‘The Bride Wore Black’ (1968), ‘You’ll Never See Me Again’ (1973, TVM), even ‘Mrs. Winterbourne’ (1996) — and this list of media adaptations is hardly exhaustive.

GALAXY SF – June 1967. Editor: Frederik Pohl. Cover artist: Gray Morrow. Overall rating: ***

POUL ANDERSON – To Outlive Eternity. Serial; part 1 of 2. See review following the July 1967 issue.       [NOTE: Expanded in 1970 and published as the novel Tau Zero.]

GARY WRIGHT “Mirror of Ice.” More a sports story than SF, but an exciting account of a new form of bobsledding. (4)

R. A. LAFFERTY “Polity and Customs of the Camiroi.” Further investigation of politics, religion, and life on Camiroi. (3)       [NOTE: This follows the story “Primary Education of the Camiroi” in the December 1966 issue.]

ROGER ZELAZNY “The Man Who Loved the Faioli.” The gravekeeper of the universe meets a comforter of those who are about to die. Wish I understood. (3)        [NOTE: This story has been collected and anthologized many times.]

C. C. MACAPP “Spare That Tree.” Novelette. A detective tries to regain a stolen tree by disguising himself as a tree himself. Goes from bad to worse. (1)

JIM HARMON “Howling Day.” The advance publicity releases for an invasion of Earth are mistaken for scripts. (2)

LARRY NIVEN “The Adults.” Novella. An alien in search for a lost colony brings Earth the roots and seeds for the tree-of-life, but the discovery is no longer needed or wanted by mankind. The alien’s culture is brought out piecewise and sympathetically, and its death, while necessary, is also regrettable. However, the story is clumsily written, and even worse, poorly edited. Much too long [at 70 pages]; the ending is best. ***        [NOTE: This story was expanded in 1973 and published as the novel The Protectors.]

CHARLES V. DeVET “Alien’s Bequest.” An alien invader was sent with the best wishes of another intelligent race. (3)

— April-May 1968.

MONTE NASH “The Long Ride.” Syndicated / Four Star Productions. September 17, 1971 (Season One, Episode One). Harry Guardino (Monty Nash). Guest stars: Don Gordon, Lew Gallo. Based on the character and books by Richard Telfair. Director: Nicholas Colasanto. Currently streaming on YouTube (see below).

   Monty Nash is a government agent who, in this short-lived syndicated series (it lasted only 14 episodes), is assigned the task of getting a government witness safely from a jail in South Bend, Indiana, to a courtroom in Chicago. The plan is to use a decoy while Nash and the witness drive by car.

   Things don’t go well. There must have been a leak. Somebody on the inside must be on the take.

   Problem is, as far as any enjoyment there may have been in watching this really really disappointing misfire, is that the Bad Guys are Utterly Inept. Even shooting at Nash’s car from a helicopter, wouldn’t you think that would be enough to get the job done? No, sir. Not this time around. It turns out they turn tail and skedaddle as soon as Nash opens fire on them with only a handgun.

   As an actor, tough and gruff Harry Guardino fits the part the screenwriter and director wanted him to play. The direction is OK. The story, though, collapses under its own triteness into something not worth watching. Luckily the show is only 22 minutes long, streaming as it does without space for commercials.

   And oh yes. The music is too jazzy and too loud. I think they were trying to make believe something interesting was going on.

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Ellen Nehr


DORIS MILES DISNEY – Who Rides the Tiger. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1945. Ace, paperback, 1965. Zebra, paperback, 1989.

   Unlike so many other authors, Doris Miles Disney never wrote the same book twice, even though she frequently used Connecticut as a background and always included a romantic element. In this novel, flashbacks that sometimes catch the reader unaware create a tangled, two-layer story of a great-aunt’s will, an old house filled with a lifetime accumulation of furniture and memories, and fourteen diaries that intrigue (as well as confound) the modem-day heroine, Susan.

   Her search for the motive behind her impoverished father’s exclusion from Great-Aunt Harriet’s will is aided by a recently returned Army Intelligence officer, Philip, who has a stake in the past, as well as a deep interest in Susan’s future. This story could justifiably be called a Gothic, since it involves tangled family relationships. an old house, and all the other trappings; but its mounting feeling of suspense and terror transcends the form and makes Who Rides the Tiger a startling tale of malevolence.

   Disney’s skill at creating dialogue and atmosphere is also evident in her other non series books, including Testimony by Silence (1948), No Next of Kin (1959), Voice from the Grave (1968), and Cry for Help (1975). In addition, she created three series characters: insurance investigator Jeff DiMarco, who is featured in such titles as Dark Road ( 1946), Method in Madness (1957), and The Chandler Policy ( 1971 ); postal inspector David Madden, who appears in Unappointed Rounds (1956), Black Mail (1958), and Mrs. Meeker’s Money (1961); and small-town Connecticut policeman Jim O’Neill, who is the hero of such early novels as A Compound of Death (1943) and The Last Straw (1954).

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.

WILLIAM E. BARRETT “The Tattooed Cop.”  Novelette. Needle Mike. First published in Dime Detective Magazine, February 1936. Collected in The Complete Cases of Needle Mike, Volume 2 (Steeger Books, November 2022).

INTRO. This is the second story in this 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. To answer the question I brought up in the first paragraph, the answer is Yes.
   Let’s go on, I’ve never been sure if William E. Barrett, author of the “Needle Mike” stories is the same person who later wrote such bestsellers in the 50s as The Left Hand of God, but it could be. After all, if MacKinley Kantor could go on to better things from [beginning in]  the pulps, so perhaps could a few others.

   But who’s Needle Mike, you may be saying. He’s actually the son of a millionaire, and he relieves the monotony of his existence by posing as the disheveled operator of a run-down tattoo parlor on the wrong side of the St. Louis tracks. He appeared in a long series of stories in Dime Detective during the middle 30s, and this one’s about “The Tattooed Cop.”

   In it, the identification of a dead cop with a tattoo on his chest gets Mike (or Ken McNally) into deep trouble with a tough gang of marijuana peddlers who prey on gullible college boys and girls looking for a cheap thrill. It reads pretty well — an interesting premise, that you’ve got to admit —  up until the moment Mike gets a mammoth hunch about a doped-up weed addict he finds in an upstairs room in the gang’s hideout. He’s right, of course, and the story becomes little more than confused action from that point on.

SAMUEL HOLT – What I Tell You Three Times Is False. Sam Holt #3. Tor, hardcover, 1987; paperback, 1988. Felony & Mayhem, softcover, 2006, as by Donald E. Westlake writing as Samuel Holt.

   Former TV star Sam Holt and three other actors and actresses typecast in their roles of fictional detectives, along with assorted wives, lovers, and so on, are trapped on an isolated Caribbean island with a killer who seems intent on being the last one left alive.

   After a slow start, setting the scene, the mystery revs into high gear, with the killer and the detectives  squaring off in a long, complicated game of murder, somewhat reminiscent of Ellery Queen, but by a noticeable hair, not quite as clever as the master.

(*) Original footnote: If anyone know who Samuel Holt is, let me know. (And note that the similarity on plotting to EQ’s work is matched by the pseudonymous author-character relationship. It couldn’t be just a coincidence, could it?)

– Reprinted from Mystery.File.6, June 1988.

      The Sam Holt series –

1. One of Us Is Wrong (1986)
2. I Know a Trick Worth Two of That (1986)
3. What I Tell You Three Times Is False (1987)
4. The Fourth Dimension Is Death (1989)

THE ROCKFORD FILES. “The Countess.” NBC. 27 September 1974 (Season 1, Episode 4). James Garner, Gretchen Corbett, Joe Santos, Tom Atkins. Guest stars: Susan Strasberg, Art Lund, Dick Gautier, Harold J. Stone, Gloria Dixon. Teleplay by Stephen J. Cannell, based on a story by Roy Huggins (credited as John Thomas James). Director: Russ Mayberry. Currently streaming on the Roku Channel.

   Rockford is hired by a young woman (Susan Strasberg) who is being blackmailed by a man from her past (Dick Gautier, in a perfect role for him, just oozing oily sleaze) who knows a secret about her earlier life so destructive to her marriage to her second husband she won’t even tell Rockford what it is.

   Of course she does, eventually. And so I assume I can tell you, too. (If I’m wrong, please close your eyes now.) She grew up in a small town in Illinois, and life happened. After skipping bail in Chicago, she ended up in Europe and marrying a count she met there, thus referring to herself as a countess ever since. Now back in the US and happily married again, she wants to stay that way. Blackmailers being who there are, when this fellow is killed, Rockford’s client is high on the list of suspects.

   As well as a couple of syndicate hoodlums whom Rockford soon discovers following his every move. But of course the primary suspect is Rockford himself. He was there on the scene when the fellow was killed, with eyewitnesses, a fact that strains his usually friendly relations with Detective Becker (Joe Santos). Luckily Rockford has a good lawyer at hand, namely Beth Davenport (Gretchen Corbett), who does more lawyer work in this one than she has previously in the series (which largely consisted of wheedling Rockford to work for her pro bono).

   Although I have not reported on any of the earlier episodes, I have been watching the series in order, and this is the first time I can definitively say the people in charge have gotten their acts together. The case is simple but coherent, there are a lot fewer scenes of cars driving endlessly around in this one, and much less padding of the running time with the camera following people along as they’re quietly strolling from one place to another.

   But the big thing I noticed in this one is the comfortable feeling the regular players have reached in interacting with each other. Garner’s natural good-looking charm and his occasional sheepish grin are also in full force in this one.

CARROLL JOHN DALY “Corpse & Co.” Novelette. Race Williams. First published in Dime Detective Magazine, February 1936. Added later (see comments #7 and #13): Collected in The Adventures of Race Williams (Mysterious Press, trade paperback, 1989), and in Just Another Stiff, The Collected Hard-Boiled Stories of Race Williams, Volume 5 (Steeger Books, 2019).

INTRO: This pulp fiction PI review has been excerpted from a column I did for the April/May/June, 1979 issue of The Not So Private Eye, a fanzine published by Andy Jaysnovitch for several years in the late 70s. In this particular column, titled “Speaking of Pulp,” I dissected, if you will, the complete February issue of Dime Detective Magazine. It was a long column, so I’ve decided to break it up and post it here story by story.

   And so with no further ado, here’s what I had to say about story Number One:
   The lead novel is a Race Williams yarn, written by a name you should recognize. The story is entitled “Corpse & Co.”, and it’s written of course by Carroll John Daly. It’s called a novel on the contents page out of courtesy only, for it runs only 33 pages long. Still, in terms of actual wordage, my calculator works that out to be the equivalent of 70 to 75 pages of today’s average hardcover novel. So call it a third of a novel.

   And it reads that way as well. Maybe I have bad luck whenever I pick up a pulp to read a Daly story in it. His stories, whether a Race Williams adventure like this one, a Satan Hall yarn, or whatever, they always seem as though they were installments of unannounced serials. What I mean is I get the idea that a series of connected Daly stories would follow in consecutive issues of a given magazine, each supposedly complete in themselves, but always seeming to begin in the middle of a plot, and never winding up the loose ends completely. I’ve never taken the time to check this out, and so perhaps I stand to be corrected.

   Anyway, the focus of all the action this time around is a previous case in which the bodies that Williams so happily provided in the final scene were conveniently disposed of by one Gentle Jim Corrigan. To avoid bringing in the feds, and to save Mary Morse’s business and reputation, Williams agreed to this course of action. Of course that leave Miss Morse open to a bit of blackmail, and that’s this story. Since her jewelry business is still floundering, Race refuses her case at first (no dough in it), until he’s forced to take it when the blackmailer gets the bright idea that Williams will make a handy target for tommy-gun practice and is better off dead just on general principles.

   As a prime example of the supreme self-appointed vigilante, Race Williams was probably the founder of that particular school of tough private eyes. Mike Hammer turned out to be a more than willing student of his a number of years later, with the principal difference being that Hammer has never yet turned a willing dame down. Florence Drummond, alias The Flame, says to Williams, “Brains are something you haven’t got.” Mary Morse is in love with him, and he treats it as a minor complication.

   Dirty Harry, of movie fame, is another who shoots first, in the name of the law, and worries about the law,only afterwards. But while Race Williams lives by his guns, and that’s the extent of the story. Not much is said about constitutional law and the rights of criminals here. Here’s the last line: “When better corpses are made, Race Williams will make them.”

THE NARROW MARGIN. RKO Radio Pictures, 1952. Charles McGraw, Marie Windsor, Jacqueline White. Directed by Richard Fleischer.

   A cop from Los Angeles goes to Chicago to bring back a key witness in a grand jury investigation. The woman, the widow of a slain mobster, has a copy of the payoff list, and the syndicate is going all out to stop her from testifying.

   Most of the movie takes place on a train heading back to the Coast, As the cop, McGraw talks tough, and for the most part, although no great thinker, he can back it up. Marie Windsor is even better in her part, and I think I’d have given her another ending.

– Reprinted from Movie.File.2, June 1980.




KINKY FRIEDMAN – The Love Song of J. Edgar Hoover.  The Kinkster #9, Simon & Schuster,  hardcover, 1996. Ballantine, paperback, 1997.

   Reviewing Kinky Friedman is a tough row to hoe. So much of his appeal is in the flavor, and flavors are about as hard to describe with words as emotions. You’ve just got to taste it know if you like it

   Kinky’s problems begin when a woman comes to him with a tale of a missing husband she wants him to find. She was referred to him by a friend, and being at loose ends, as he generally is, he decides to see what he can do. He finds that she’s involved in unexpected ways with more than one of his friends, and that the real story is both elusive and complex. Before it’s over, he’s been shot at in Washington, set on fire in Chicago, and confused everywhere.

   What can I say? Nothing I haven’t said before, I’m sure. If you like Friedman’s books, you like them for his thoroughly  irreverent and politically incorrect attitude, and his wry, telling, and amusing way with one-liners and aphorisms. The man is stone funny, or at least is to me; I know people who can’t abide him in the smallest of doses.

   His plots more often than not aren’t , or at best are farcical. You don’t read Kinky for plots. You read him for characters, and his books are filled with colorful ones. I go back to what I started with: you just have to try him and see.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #26, July 1996.

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