JOHN C. BOLAND “Marley’s Ghost.” Short story. Charles Marley #1. Published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, January/February 2005. Not yet reprinted or collected.

   For someone who qualifies, I believe, as a Little Known Writer, John C. Boland certainly has been a very prolific one. He has, first of all, several dozen short stories in AHMM as well as EQMM, not only under his own name but also as by Max Gersh and James L. Ross. This plus more than a dozen full-length novels, beginning in 1991, some of them once again as by James L. Ross. (I do not know if he is related the thriller writer John Boland, who wote several dozen novels back between 1955 and 1970.)

   As for Charles Marley, who adventure “Marley’s Ghost” is his first recorded adventure, he is a retired CIA agent who seemingly can’t stay away from people he knows from his past. This includes Oleg Ossovsky, his counterpart in espionage back in the days of the old Soviet Union. The latter is now in New York and working on his memoirs, although Marley assumes he very well may have other irons in his fire.

   What’s really on Oleg’s mind now, however, is a fellow named Vlad Davidovich, whom he keeps bumping into, and whom Marley also remembers as a Russian pianist he was trying at one time to help defect. That the task did not work out was due to Oleg’s intervention, let us say.

   The tale that follows is a tough, complicated one, filled with the moody atmosphere of the Cold War, even at this late date. Besides the fact that he comes out on top in this debut story, sort of, we don’t learn a lot about Marley himself — he’s still somewhat of an enigma — but perhaps that changes over the course of the next eight stories, so far. Summing things up, though, a complete collection is in order, that’s what I say.

       The Charles Marley series —

Marley’s Ghost (ss) Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Jan/Feb 2005
Marley’s Package (ss) Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Mar 2007
Marley’s Woman (ss) Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Sep 2007
Marley’s Havana (ss) Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Mar 2011
Marley’s Revolution (ss) Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Jun 2011 [2012 Edgar Nominee]
Marley’s Rescue (ss) Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Jul/Aug 2012
Marley’s Winter (ss) Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Nov 2012
Marley’s Lover (ss) Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Apr 2015
Marley’s Mistress (ss) Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Jul/Aug 2019