?   DAVID ALEXANDER – The Corpse in My Bed. Revised edition. Originally published in hardcover as Most Men Don’t Kill (Random House, 1951). Reprint hardcover, under the latter title: Unicorn Mystery Book Club, June 1951.

    ?   ROBERT BLOCH – Spiderweb. Paperback original; 1st printing, 1954. Reprinted by Hardcase Crime (#42), pb, April 2008, backed with Shooting Star, also by Bloch.


   On the shelf right next to the Robert Bloch book [reviewed here not so long ago] was something I couldn’t remember reading for the life of me, so I took Ace Double D-59 with me on vacation.

   Ace Doubles in those days consisted of one original novel — usually by some competent hack — and a reprint. In this case, the reprint was The Corpse in My Bed (originally Most Men Don’t Kill) by David Alexander, which is the sort of thing you’d expect from David Goodis, if David Goodis wrote screwball comedy.

   Terry Rooke is a shell-shocked veteran and ex-bowery-bum, now tyro P.I. who finds himself framed for murder and forced back into his erstwhile skid-row milieu while he finds the real killer.

   Alexander never really evokes the vagrant ethos like Goodis did, and his attempts at comedy are more funny-weird than funny-ha-ha, but the eccentric sleuth of the piece — who enters the story like some figure lowered onstage by ropes in a Greek Play — is in the best tradition of Golden Age Eccentric Sleuths: Tommy Two-Toes is an obese ex-tramp turned millionaire who surrounds himself with a menagerie of exotic animals and bindlestiffs, whom he employs as his legmen.


   He also does his cogitating while smoking an obscene pipe, between fits of gluttony. An engaging character, but I’m afraid I figured out whudunit before he even entered the story.

   Spiderweb, on the flip side, is no more surprising, perhaps, but it’s much more inventive. Basically, it’s Robert Bloch’s take on [William Lindsay Gresham’s] Nightmare Alley, with Hollywood wanna-be Eddie Haines recruited to play life-style guru/front-man for a coterie of extortionists and blackmailers led by an Evil Genius straight out of Von Stroheim: a pudgy, bald guy with a monocle and German accent no less.

   If the characters aren’t terribly original, Bloch at least puts the plot across quickly enough to keep it diverting, as Haines finds himself framed for murder and thrust into the defense of the suckers he’s supposed to be fleecing. Some of this is quite good, actually, and makes one wonder why more of Robert Bloch’s early work never got reprinted.

Editorial Comment:   Tommy Two-Toes, the gent who does the detective work in the Alexander book, also appears in Murder in Black and White (Random House, 1951).