A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Bill Crider:

  BRUNO FISCHER – The Silent Dust. Dodd Mead, hardcover, 1950. Signet #892,paperback, 1951.

   Bruno Fischer had a great deal of success in both the hardcover and pulp fields; and when the pulps gradually died out, he went on to sell millions of copies of paperback novels. In Paperback Quarterly (Vol. 1, No. 4) Fischer described his “usual manner” of writing as containing “movement and suspense with very little violence,” and as being about “ordinary people in extraordinary situations.”

   The Silent Dust (one of his hardcover mysteries) is narrated by Fischer’s strongest series character, private detective Ben Helm, one of the few successfully characterized married private eyes in fiction. Helm is not cast in the typical mold of the early Fifties private eyes in other ways, either. He is more intellectual than physical, and the major clues in The Silent Dust are literary ones. The book’s title is an allusion to Gray’s “Elegy,” and in the course of the story, other British poets are prominent.

   There are two offstage murders, one of an author and one of her husband, both motivated by a desire to stop publication of the author’s book, entitled A Handful of Ashes. The author, it seems has a nasty habit of portraying her friends and acquaintances in her works, revealing things about them that they wouId rather not have publicized. The suspects include a former gangster, his wife, a fifteen-year-old genius, a chauffeur with a criminal record, and a matinee idol.

   The writing is literate; Helm is compassionate; the story is tight and well told. And no doubt Fischer had writing the excerpts from the dead author’s book.

   Another good Ben Helm book is More Deaths Than One (1947) in which Fischer does a fine job with the difficult multiple first-person-point-of-view technique.

   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.