March 2024

Reviewed by TONY BAER:


GEORGE HARMON COXE – Murder with Pictures. Kent Murdock #1. Alfred A. Knopf, hardcover, 1935. Dell #101, paperback, 1945. Dell #441, paperback, 1950 [cover art by Robert Stanley]. Perennial Library, paperback, 1981. Film: Paramount Pictures, 1935, with Lew Ayres as Kent Murdock.

   Kent Murdock is a crime scene photographer. But in this one, he’s got an ulterior motive. His wife, who he’d like to be rid of, wants $10,000 to give him a divorce. Meanwhile, a prominent lawyer has been murdered. The reward for solving it and selling the story? $10,000. So Murdock decides not to play it straight with the cops, and tries to solve the thing on his own. Which he does. But not in the way you’d expect.


   A very screwball 30’s crime-comedy. The repartee between Murdock and his wanna-be fiancé is quite Tracy-Hepburn-ish. And you may cast them as such in your mind.

   If you go in expecting an B+ screwball comedy, you’ll come away happy. Closer to Cukor than Cain.

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Newell Dunlap & Bill Pronzini

WESSEL EBERSOHN – Divide the Night. Pantheon, 1981. Vintage Books, softcover, 1982.

   It must be strange to have one’s books banned in one’s own country, but such is the case with Wessel Ebersohn, a native and resident of South Africa who records that society as he sees it, blemishes and all. Consider his description of Johannesburg’s citizens:

   “There were the super-liberals who almost felt ashamed to be white. There were the most violent and desperate racialists who would willingly kill to protect a position of privilege. There were artists and railway workers, Jews and anti-semites, nuns and whores, millionaires and the dispossessed …”

   Divide the Night is an intelligent and provocative novel featuring Yudel Gordon, a prison psychologist who also treats private patients. One such patient is a man named Johnny Weizman, who has the rather antisocial habit of leaving his storeroom door open all night and shooting any intruder — usually blacks, of whom he has already killed eight. As far as Yudel is concerned, Weizman is a fanatic and psychotic racist; the Special Police, however, consider him a patriotic citizen, and are much more interested in a fugitive black leader named Mantu Majola who witnessed Weizman’s last murder and who just might (the security police hope) return to settle the score with the racist shopkeeper.

   Caught up in the middle is Yudel, who has troubles of his own-primarily a nagging wife who feels he does not have the proper attitude toward money. Yudel is a highly sympathetic character, well drawn and very human. Similarly, Ebersohn’s other characters come across as real people, which makes us care about the things that happen to them in, and as a result of, the restricted society in which they live.

   The New York Times Book Review called Divide the Night “a powerful book and a well-written one that just happens to fall within the genre of the police procedural.” The same could be said of the first Yudel Gordon suspense novel, A Lonely Place to Die (1979). Also impressive is Ebersohn’s non-series suspense novel, Store Up the Anger (1980).

   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.

LARRY MADDOCK – The Golden Goddess Gambit. Agent from T.E.R.R.A #2. Ace G-620; paperback original, 1st printing, 1967. Cover art credited to Sergio Leone.

   An inscribed plaque found in ancient Crete indicates that the time-structure of pre-historic Earth is being tampered with, possibly by a member of Empire. Hannibal Fortune and Webley trace the plaque back 10,000 years to an island continent in the Atlantic, unrecorded in history. Kronos, the ruler of his own niche in time, is actually a renegade T.E.R.R..A. agent and has established his own religion, designed mainly to perpetuate his own lineage.

   Normi, the girl saved by Fortune from a mob, tells an interesting story of palace politics, which Kronos manipulated to achieve his reign. The beginning of the book is slow, however, and the ending is a muddled mess, hardly worth waiting for. Human breeding has its problems (pages 95-96), so it is doubtful that Kronos could have really affected history. Note that Fortune is taught swordsmanship by a man called d’Kammp.

Rating: **

— June 1968.

Bibliographic Update: Larry Maddock was the pen name of Jack Owen Jardine, who wrote a small number of SF novels and short stories under this and several other pseudonyms in the 1960s, including Howard L. Cory, in collaboration with his wife, Julie Ann Jardine .

         The Agent of T.E.R.R.A. series

1. The Flying Saucer Gambit (1966)
2. The Golden Goddess Gambit (1967)
3. The Emerald Elephant Gambit (1967)
4. The Time Trap Gambit (1969)

MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS. Columbia Pictures, 1945. Nina Foch, Dame May Whitty, George Macready, Roland Varno, Anita Bolster. Based on the book The Woman in Red by Anthony Gilbert. Cinematographer: Burnett Guffey. Director: Joseph H. Lewis.

   A young woman in London, alone except for the landlady and a maid at her rooming house, and barely one male acquaintance, and needing money to pay the rent, finds what seems to be the perfect job – as a secretary/companion to a wealthy woman in the country. It quickly turns out to be not so perfect, though, as when she wakes up in her new residence, she discovers that she is essentially a prisoner and unable to leave the premises. She is also called by a new name and described to the servants as well to the local townspeople as recovering from a serious illness and often delusional.

   As a premise for a tale to present-day audience, it’s one that’s hard to swallow, but once persuaded that yes, such a situation could happen (and even more so back in 1945), it’s a lot easier to start wondering instead what her captors (the somewhat looney tunes mother and son – a perfectly cast Dame May Whitty and George Macready) want with her, and more importantly, how she can get away from their tightly enforced grip.

   All her attempts to escape or letting anyone else know she’s being held a prisoner end in failure, until – well, I won’t tell. Why should I? There’s no need to, I suppose, for one thing. It’s a minor tale, all in all, with only 65 minutes of running time. Anything longer than that then any of the suspension of disbelief you’ve invested in it fade away very very quickly. An hour plus is about as long as it could (should) have been, and it was.

Added Later: I watched this online on The Criterion Channel, where I found it in their current “Gothic Noir” collection.  Is it Gothic? Definitely yes. Is it Noir? I’m not so sure about that. The story line has nothing to do with “noir” as applied to the written word. But if “noir” is taken to apply to moody, well-photographed black-and-white crime films, then yes.


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