William F. Deeck

HARRISON R. STEEVES – Good Night, Sheriff. Random House, hardcover, 1941. Mercury Mystery #60, digest paperback, no date, abridged. Superior Reprint M657/The Military Service Publishing Co., paperback, 1945. Note: The Superior paperback was also released with a dust jacket published by Bantam and numbered #149. (See the two cover images below.)

HARRISON R. STEEVS Good Night, Sheriff

   Having graduated from medical examinations for an insurance company to “medical investigator,” Dr. Patterson is asked to read the inquest of the shooting death of Agnes, wife of Dr. Thomas Earlie, who either died by accident or murder.

   Patterson notices some oddities in the testimony and goes to the scene, somewhere in New England, to determine whether the beneficiary of Mrs. Earlie’s insurance policy might have murdered her.

   Pretending to be merely a physician interested in hunting, Patterson fools nearly no one. All those involved in any way with the death are intent on protecting Dr. Earlie, who did not stand to gain from his wife’s death.

   One of Patterson’s conclusions — dismissing a most likely murderer since “temperamentally he couldn’t have done it” — bothered me, but he does in the end spot the culprit through an unusual motive. Or does he?

   An only mystery, whose limited action is more than made up for by solid writing and good characterization.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 11, No. 1, Winter 1989.

HARRISON R. STEEVS Good Night, Sheriff

Editorial Notes:   There was a lucrative deal between the military in the mid-1940s and Ian Ballantine in which the army furnished the paper and Penguin supplied the books, which were then distributed to the various armed forces. Among the books published this way was the line of “Superior Reprints.” The troops received the books free, but they were available for purchase by the general public as well.

   For more on this arrangement, check out the Bookscans website.

   When Ballantine left Penguin to start Bantam, he brought some of the Superior paperbacks with him and re-released them with Bantam jackets. The jackets have mostly disappeared over the years, making them extremely collectible. Once the jacket is removed, if there is any way to tell a Superior paperback from one released as a Superior/Bantam hybrid, I do not know. (I have always assumed not.)

   As for Harrison Steeves, the author himself, I found the following online at the Golden Age of Detection Wiki:

    “Harrison Ross Steeves was born [in 1881] in New York City and educated at Columbia, where he became head of the English department before his retirement in 1947. […] After retirement he lived in New Hampshire. His sole detective work was Good Night, Sheriff (1941).”   [According to Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin, he died in 1981.]