Search Results for 'Anthony Gilbert'

Reviewed by MIKE TOONEY:

ANTHONY GILBERT – Sequel to Murder: The Cases of Arthur Crook and Other Mysteries. Edited and with an introduction by John Cooper. Crippen & Landru, hardcover/trade paperback, September 2017. Collection: 18 stories.

   Anthony Gilbert (Lucy Beatrice Malleson, 1899-1973) was a woman who shared with other successful female crime writers a combination of writing talent and clever plotting skills necessary to make it in detective fiction’s Golden Age. Even after the GA’s decline, however, she retained a high profile on the mystery scene for several decades; novels, short stories, original radio plays, and TV adaptations made her a multimedia presence well into the hippie era, and in fact, the tales in this collection date from as early as 1927 and as late as 1972.

   In his informative Introduction, editor John Cooper fills us in on her writing career, including why she chose “Anthony” instead of “Tony” and “Gilbert” for her nom de plume, and her series characters. Arthur Crook wasn’t the only one, although most readers think of the devious barrister when discussing Gilbert’s work:

    “The author’s most famous detective was the suitably named Arthur Crook,” writes Cooper, describing him as “big, red-haired, slow speaking, beer swilling, pot-bellied, middle-aged,” distinguishable by his “great, circular red face and a crafty eye” and who, if necessary, was willing to go “to unprofessional lengths to clear his clients.” Gilbert reserved Crook primarily for her novels (fifty-one of ’em!), but she did write five short works with him; they’re all in this collection, amounting to roughly half of the page count:

(1) “You Can’t Hang Twice” (1946): If you’ve committed a murder and there’s a witness still running around, what better place to dispose of the problem than a thick, nearly impenetrable London fog? Crookism: “Murderers get caught because they’re yellow. The minute they’ve socked their man they start feverishly buildin’ a little tent to hide in, and presently some chap comes along, who might never have noticed them, but gets curious about the little tent.”

(2) “Once Is Once Too Many” (1955): Climbing a mountain is hazardous enough without somebody waiting nearby to give that little shove that unmistakably says I hate you. Crookism: “They get careless and forget murder’s a game two can play.”

(3) “A Nice Little Mare Called Murder” (1964): The gallows loom large for a man whose only alibi just lost a race at the track—and he doesn’t even play the ponies. Crookism: “When a chap’s paying me to act for him he’s always innocent.”

(4) “Give Me a Ring” (1955): A wrong turn in the fog, a mix-up about a Christmas gift, a needle in the arm—Alice never had it like this in Wonderland. Crookism: “Don’t know what they teach ’em at these posh schools.”

(5) “The Black Hat” (1942): A blackmailer gets his in a blackout; there’s universal agreement that he deserved it, but the man they’ve arrested doesn’t. Crookism: “If I thought you were going to have another chance of killing a chap I’d warn you—never re-visit the scene of the crime.”

   The rest of the stories fall into the miscellaneous category, most of them involving blackmail (evidently her favorite theme): Surprising developments at “The Reading of the Will” … A lawyer’s dilemma in “Curtains for Me” … Spinsters in jeopardy in “Point of No Return” … Double murders in a “Cul-De-Sac” … Inspector Field’s eerie tale of the “Following Feet” … “Three Living … and One Dead”—and one’s a murderer … Knifed in a taxi cab by “The Man with the Chestnut Beard” … There’ll be wedding bells “Over My Dead Body” … The king of the beasts attends “The Funeral of Dendy Watt” … To Inspector Field, there’s no such thing as “Horseshoes for Luck” … Life was looking grand until “He Found Out Too Late How Good an Artist Mabel Was” … Spouse killers in love in “A Day of Encounters” … and a newspaper dated the day of a murder becomes a “Sequel to Murder” (which, says our editor, Gilbert considered “as her best short story”).

   Anthony Gilbert’s short fiction is as durable as her novel work, and the stories in Sequel to Murder are well worth spending time with; the author knew how to write and, an important consideration in mysteries, how to plot. Along with Agatha Christie, she had a talent to deceive.


ANTHONY GILBERT – The Woman in Red. Collins Crime Club, UK, hardcover, 1941. Smith & Durrell, US, hardcover, 1943. Digest-sized paperback: Mercury Mystery #91. Also published as The Mystery of the Woman in Red: Handi-Books #29, paperback, 1944. Film: Columbia, 1945, as My Name Is Julia Ross. Film: MGM, 1987, as Dead of Winter.

MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS. Columbia, 1945. Nina Foch, Dame May Whitty, George Macready. Based on the novel The Woman in Red, by Anthony Gilbert. Director: Joseph H. Lewis.

ANTHONY GILBERT My Name is Julia Ross

   I almost gave up on Anthony Gilbert’s The Woman in Red after the first few pages because it seemed like every other paragraph conveyed some form of Had-she-but-known, often more than once. F’rinstance: She was wondering why she should be so convinced that nothing but harm, of danger even, could come of this venture…her whole being shaken by a protest that was instinctive and illogical In her brain, a voice rang like a chiming bell, “Don’t go,” it pealed, “Don’t go, don’t go, don’t go!”

   At which point I damnear went. But I stayed with it and I’m glad I did. Woman in Red isn’t completely successful, but when the characters talk, they slip the surly bonds of Gilbert’s prose and come alive, with entertaining results. This was my introduction to series sleuth Anthony Crook, a delightfully irreverent character and light counterbalance to the turgid and often ridiculous story around him.

   Well, maybe not ridiculous; the tale of Julia Ross, a working girl who takes a position as an old dowager’s secretary, only to find herself whisked off to a remote house in the country where everyone calls her by another name and treats her like she’s crazy has some effective moments and even generates a good deal of suspense.

   But it’s hard to take a story seriously when the would-be killer tricks our heroine into wearing a red dress so as to rouse the deadly ire of a passing bull. And when the basis of the plot turns out to be a nest of foreign spies being coincidentally pursued by Julia’s beau…. Well I’m just glad there were enough bright characters and tricky bits of business to make it all worthwhile and even entertaining.

   Woman in Red was turned into a film called My Name Is Julia Ross (Columbia,1945) and it had the artistic fortune to be adapted by Muriel Roy Bolton and directed by Joseph H. Lewis, a filmmaker who brought artistry to just about everything he touched. Shot in 18 days (as delightfully detailed in Mike Nevin’s Joseph H. Lewis [Scarecrow, 1998]) on a budget that wouldn’t buy catering on most “A” pictures, this emerges as a riveting, atmospheric film, and one to look out for.

   Nina Foch is excellent as the imperiled heroine, set neatly against Dame May Whitty as the dotty-looking but sinister master- (or should it be mistress?) -mind. Even better, there’s George Macready as Whitty’s not-quite-right son. Bolton re-structures the basis of the plot, replacing spies with a background story that George married a wealthy heiress for her money, then inconveniently killed her. Now he and Mom need a replacement who can be passed off as the wife and meet a more acceptable end so he can inherit her fortune and avoid the gallows.

ANTHONY GILBERT My Name is Julia Ross

   It’s fine work from writer Bolton, who also did an intelligent job on something called The Amazing Mr. X, which I must get around to reviewing someday.

   Director Lewis does an outstanding job with all this. His off-beat angles and compositions are never just showy, but always work to establish character or atmosphere. And he creates a nifty tension between the murderous mother and son, with Whitty always trying to take knives and other sharp objects away, and Macready always on the point of rebelling — a nasty prospect from the look of him, and one he would relish. Macready’s career ran the gamut from the preposterous The Monster and the Ape to the prestigious Paths of Glory, but he was never better than right here, playing off Dame May Whitty like an incestuous Lorre and Greenstreet.

ANTHONY GILBERT My Name is Julia Ross

PostScript:   Mike Grost has a lot to say about this film on his website. Check out his long insightful article here. The movie was also reviewed by J. F. Norris on his blog. Here’s the link.

ANTHONY GILBERT – Death Lifts the Latch. Smith & Durrell, US, hardcover, 1946. Detective Book Club, hardcover reprint, 3-in-1 edition, March 1946. Bantam #768, paperback, April 1950. First published in the UK by Collins Crime Club as Don’t Open the Door, hardcover, 1945.

ANTHONY GILBERT Death Lifts the Latch

   Even though the war seems to be over when this Arthur Crook mystery novel takes place, it wasn’t long over; and even so, the tale has a tangible Victorian feel to it, beginning with the Chapter One, as nurse Nora Deane makes her way in the fog to her next assignment, that of a woman bedridden in her home.

   Helping her make her way through the gloom is a man with a friendly voice but a hidden face, who after leaving her at length at the doorstep, asks if he may stop by the next day and take her to lunch. The date is not to be, however, as during the night her patient dies, under strange circumstances, she confesses to the doctor who arrives too late.

   It is the husband, in cases like this, who is the most obvious suspect, an fact which takes Nurse Deane to the dead woman’s brother at the dead woman’s request the night before. I shall do something a reviewer should not do, and state right out that Nurse Deane is correct. The husband did it.

   But where does the story go from here? Well, go it does, and in directions that caught me flatfooted each step of the way. First the body of the husband is found in a deserted quarry, then the brother disappears. The man in the fog – whom we haven’t forgotten about, have we? – does his best to find Nurse Deane, who by this time has disappeared herself. Enter the notorious criminal lawyer Arthur Crook.

   I enjoyed this book. I enjoy being caught flat-footed, and I enjoy clever writing – a combo you don’t always get, even when start reading relics of books like this one. I was caught so flat-footed that what I thought was a serious flaw in the plot itself was a trap (of sorts) deliberately put in place by the author, whom I give full credit to as being more clever than I.

ANTHONY GILBERT Death Lifts the Latch

   And with that, I think I’ll conclude my comments here by quoting liberally from page 200. Nurse Deane’s second patient, a redoubtable Mrs. Trentham, whose son is a reporter who has a sizable role in solving the case (sort of, since Mr. Crook, who has no Mr. Watson to confide in as the case goes along, confides in no one, but who has all the answers) says to the replacement nurse:

   â€œ…the police and that extraordinary Mr. Crook are sitting by her [Miss Deane’s] bed night and day.”

   The new nurse sniffed. “Funny sort of hospital if they allow those goings-on.”

   â€œHe reminds me rather of Bulldog Drummond – Mr. Crook, I mean,” mused Miss Trentham.

   â€œI wouldn’t know,” said the nurse, proceeding on an assumption common to her kind that all people over seventy are senile and should be treated as such. “Before my time.”

   â€œI can’t imagine why you young women are so proud of being born so late,” said Mrs. Trentham sharply. “You missed a great deal.”

   â€œGoing to a better world than yours was,” said the nurse.

   â€œAnd you have us to thank for that….”

William F. Deeck

ANTHONY GILBERT Death in the Blackout

  ANTHONY GILBERT – Death in the Blackout. Smith & Durell, US, hardcover, 1943. Paperback reprint: Bantam #51, 1946. Previously published in the UK as The Case of the Tea-Cosy’s Aunt: Collins Crime Club, hc, 1942; Collins White Circle, pb, 1944.

   It has been twenty years or so since I read an Arthur Crook novel by Anthony Gilbert, and those I had read had been from (I shall use the masculine gender to avoid confusion, though Gilbert was, of course, a female) his later period. The novels were supposed to be amusing, and I seldom found them so. Gilbert apparently did better in his earlier works.

   Death in the Blackout is one of the early cases of Arthur Crook, lawyer. Whether Crook is a solicitor or a barrister, should anyone be curious, is information not provided by the author in this novel. Frankly, I don’t recall his ever appearing in court; he seems to be primarily an investigator.

   Crook’s flat is in a building with several other occupants who are almost as strange as he is. A woman who sees spies in the most improbable disguises occupies the ground floor and basement, while flat No.3 boasts the presence of T. Kersey, whom Crook immediately begins calling “Tea-Cosy” and who is a bit unsteady when it comes to the nature of time. Flat No.2 is unoccupied.

ANTHONY GILBERT Death in the Blackout

   Tea-Cosy asks Crook to help him check out his flat when he finds his key is missing. Therein he and Crook find a hat of sort that could belong only to Tea-Cosy’s aunt, but the aunt is not there. Later on, a young lady checking out the unoccupied flat in the hope of renting it discovers the aunt’s body.

   Tea-Cosy disappears before the body is found. Since Crook has adopted Tea-Cosy as a client, and Crook’s clients are always not guilty even when they are, Crook begins investigating. Even when Tea-Cosy, or someone dressed to look like Tea-Cosy, nearly kills the young lady who comes back to the supposedly unoccupied apartment a second time, Crook knows that Tea-Cozy is innocent.

   And, of course, Crook is right. Since there are only a few suspects, the guilty are rather evident, but it is quite interesting, and occasionally amusing, how Crook works it all out from the author’s fair clues.

– From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 9, No. 5, Sept-Oct 1987.

ANTHONY GILBERT – The Black Stage.

Penguin, UK, paperback reprint, 1955. Hardcover first edition: Collins Crime Club, 1945. US edition: Smith & Durrell, hc, 1946. Also published as: Murder Cheats the Bride, Bantam #138, pb, 1948.


   Between 1936 and 1974 there were, by my count, 50 recorded adventures of a slightly seedy, badly dressed and deliberately vulgar barrister detective named Arthur Crook, of which total this is one. The author, Anthony Gilbert, is described thusly on the back cover of the 1955 British paperback I happen to have:

    “Little is known about the author except that his books are among the most popular stories written today…”

   Of course we know better now, but it’s remarkable that the secret was kept a secret for so long. Anthony Gilbert was in real life a lady named Lucy Beatrice Malleson (1899-1973), and she has a whole string of other novels to her credit, not all criminous, both under this pen name and two or three others.

   The earliest of the Crook stories were never published in the US, but after some point in the early 1940s, all of them seem to have been. Why was he called Crook? What a delightful deceit!

   I’ve not read too many of them, and none recently, but I think The Black Stage fits the general overall pattern. Gilbert allows the events leading the inevitable murder to build up gradually, letting the characters (sans Crook) have full rein over their actions and letting the reader in on all of their possible motives, until at last the deed is done. In The Black Stage, that’s on page 74. (The lights had gone out immediately before, and when they are restored someone is standing with a gun in her hand over a body on the floor.) Crook is not met until page 94 (out of 219 in all), having been hired to represent the interests of Anne Vereker, the young woman being held for trial.

   Which means, to Crook, finding the true guilty party. Perhaps it’s true in other books in the series, but there’s no courtroom theatrics in this book, only – toward the end – a reconstruction of the crime, designed solely to confuse the real killer into identifying him or herself.


   Somewhat earlier, on page 148, Crook confides to his assistant that he knows who the killer is. If this had been an Ellery Queen novel, it would have been a terrific spot to have placed a “Challenge to the Reader.” Which I would have failed, which I almost always do, and in this case, shame on me.

   You might be wondering if the 74 pages of preliminary action were at all boring. No, absolutely not. Not at all.

   Each of the characters in the drama is wonderfully drawn, and with the widow about to marry a man who is so obviously only looking out for himself (and the woman’s diamonds), and not the others living at Four Acres who would be her heirs or who depend so greatly on Tessa Goodier – stop and take a breath, Steve – it is clear almost from the beginning who the victim will be.

   The anticipation only grows and grows, in other words. The ensuing events and the subsequent investigation of the crime is, believe it or not, marginally less interesting – the actions and behavior of the participants less well described. (The author was trying, I believe, to make a relatively simply crime more complex and complicated than it needed to be, but if the middle events were not part of the story, then of course the book would have been, from anyone’s point of view, something less in length than a novel.)

   But I love maps in crime novels (and there is one) and re-creations of crimes (of which I have already mentioned there is one also), so all is not lost, and in fact, much is regained.

   One is only left to wonder in the end, then, whether the RAF officer Anne Vereker met after the war on the train she’s taking back to her home in the English countryside will manage to find her again. Could it be that now that the war is over, that class status will no longer make a difference to them?

   (Not that she may even remember him, but it was he, in the only other part of the story where he comes in again, who recommended Arthur Crook to her cousin to act in her defense. That should count for something, shouldn’t it?)


MICHAEL GILBERT “The Unstoppable Man.” Short story. Inspector Hazelrigg. First US publication in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, February 1954. First published in John Bull, UK, 19 November 1949, as “Amateur in Violence.” First collected in Amateur in Violence (Davis, US, paperback, 1973). Reprinted many times. Film: The Unstoppable Man (Argo, UK, 1960), reviewed here.

   “… never tangle with a wholehearted amateur.”

   Those are the final words of Michael Gilbert’s Inspector Hazelrigg in this tale, and if you have ever read this oft anthologized story, you will have little trouble recalling them. In fact, they likely have the same impact now as you recall them they did when you first read them in one of the best known stories in Gilbert’s long career.

   I suppose there are some who think of Gilbert as primarily a quiet writer, a British solicitor who wrote a certain kind of story, a far cry from his more violent American contemporaries. Of course that isn’t true. The truth is, Gilbert always wrote with a quiet savagery that belied his civilized settings and background. He had a fine eye for the darker, hidden side beneath the civilized soul of his fellow Brits, whether they were spies, solicitors, school masters, actors, prisoners of war, or policemen.

   Gilbert not only produced fine puzzles and character studies, but when he wanted to, he could chill to the bone, producing nerve wracking suspense and high adventure. Think of some of those icy Calder and Behrens stories, some of the adventures of Patrick Petrella, and no few of the novels, that could suddenly go as dark and violent as any of their American cousins.

   This was the first story of Gilbert’s I ever read, and I was a devout follower ever after.

   â€œThe Unstoppable Man” first appeared in this country in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in February 1954 in an issue that touted it contained no reprints. Among the all-new material were an Anthony Boucher story, one by Victor Canning, and others by Roy Vickers, Zelda Popkin, Phyllis Bentley, and Youngman Carter. Even in that company, though, Gilbert’s tale sticks out.

   It’s a simple story. It opens with the Inspector describing the sort of man who would frighten him as a pursuer.

   â€œHe’d be English … Anglo-Saxon anyway, getting on for middle age, and a first class businessman. He would have some former experience of lethal weapons — as an infantry soldier, perhaps in one of the world wars. But definitely an amateur — an amateur in violence.”

   The amateur in question is Mr. Collet, managing director of a shipping firm who son has been kidnapped and wants to know whether or not kidnappers can be trusted to return their victim alive. Mr. Collet is in troublem and the kidnappers have his son.

   The kidnapper is Joe Keller with his gang. Keller is a man who has kidnapped and tortured children before. He is holding Mr. Collet’s son and the police dare not rush the place for fear they will kill the child.

   Mr. Collet has one request of the police, get him and his kit into the bedroom with his son before they rush the house. He will take care of the rest, though he doesn’t let on how, since he doesn’t want a gun. The police agree and get Collet into the room with his son. Their chances are slim as Keller and his gang will go for the child as soon as the police move in. There is no reason for them not to kill father and son at that point.

   All that stands between the child and death is Hazelrigg’s “amateur in violence,” the quiet but strangely assured Mr. Collet.

   I won’t spoil if for you if somehow you have missed this little gem from Mr. Gilbert from his Inspector Hazelrigg series. It’s such a good ending that Gilbert used variations on it in a couple of books, including a crossover novella with Calder, Behrens, and Patrick Petrella, and one of his early novels. I should point out that every time Gilbert delivers the goods, but perhaps never with quite the impact of this version.

   I can only say without giving it away, that the ending is a corker, savage, shocking, and memorable.

   You may never read Michael Gilbert quite the same way again. Whatever else you won’t forget Gilbert’s “amateur in violence.” You may even find you feel a little pity for Joe Keller and his gang … they never had a chance.

IT’S ABOUT CRIME, by Marvin Lachman

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


   Finally, Michael Gilbert is getting the recognition he deserves. In 1987 he received a Grand Master Award from MWA, in 1988 publishers seem to be falling all over themselves to reprint him, and that is good news for American mystery readers.

   Incidentally, Gilbert, who only recently retired as an attorney, did virtually all his writing while commuting by train to London. Yet he had a very active practice and even was Raymond Chandler’s solicitor, writing his will. I am in awe of Gilbert since my own railroad-commuting days were much less productive, limited to reading the newspaper in the morning and napping, despite my best efforts to stay awake, in the evening.


   Penguin has reprinted Smallbone Deceased for $3.95, and there is no better possible introduction to Gilbert than this very early (1950) work. It contains many of the elements of the classic puzzle: the bizarre crime (a body is found in a large deed box at a law office), a diagram of the office, and clever chapter headings which fit in with the legal background of this mystery.

   Gilbert’s sophisticated writing and expert character development make this book very “modern” for its time, since it was written when most puzzle writers used large chunks of cardboard with which they created the people in their books.


   Gilbert is one of the finest short-story writers around, and Carroll and Graf has reprinted his wonderful collection of Calder and Behrens spy stories, Game Without Rules (1967), $3.95. This edition contains the original British titles, though many stories appeared in EQMM under different titles.

   By whatever name, most of the stories In this collection are a perfect antidote for readers who are tired of the cynicism and lack of action in John Le Carre. Gilbert’s adept plotting and wit make each story a joy to read and convince me the short story is the proper length for espionage fiction. Especially recommended are “The Cat Cracker,” “Trembling’s Tours,” and “Hellige Nacht,” three of the very best spy short stories ever.


   Carroll and Graf has also reprinted, for $3.95, Overdrive (1967), a novel which received considerable critical acclaim, though I found the protagonist, Oliver Nugent, too ruthless to permit me to identify with him.

   Allen J. Hubin’s highly favorable review of this book in a Minneapolis newspaper was brought to the attention of the editor of the New York Times Book Review and led to, from 1968 to 1971, his being the first (and far and away the best) replacement for Anthony Boucher.

   From Perennial Library comes The Country-House Burglar (1955), $4.95, and The Crack in the Teacup (1966), $3.95, two village mysteries which stress the charm of the British countryside but crackle with surprise and clever plotting. A bonus is the subtle way Gilbert works choral singing and cricket, respectively, into the stories.


● Smallbone Deceased. Hodder & Stoughton, UK. hardcover. 1950. Harper & Brothers, US, hardcover, 1950.

● Game Without Rules. Hodder & Stoughton, UK, hardcover, 1968. Harper & Row, US, hardcover, 1967.

● Overdrive. Harper & Row, US, hardcover, 1968. First published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton as The Dust and the Heat, hardcover, 1967.

● The Country-House Burglar. Harper & Brothers, US, hardcover, 1955. First published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton as Sky High, hardcover, 1955.

● The Crack in the Teacup. Hodder & Stoughton, UK, hardcover, 1966. Harper & Row, US, hardcover, 1966.

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.


An Annotated Crime Fiction Bibliography of the
Lending Library Publishers: 1936-1967
by William F. Deeck

From the back cover:

    “Murder at 3¢ a Day is the first and only reference volume devoted entirely to the lending-library publishers that flourished from the mid 1930s into the 1960s. More than ten years in compilation, it contains full listings of mystery and detective fiction published under such imprints as Phoenix Press, Hillman-Curl, Mystery House, Gateway, Arcadia House, Dodge, and Caslon.

    “Included are dust jacket blurbs, settings, and leading characters for each title, as well as descriptions of jacket illustrations and names of the artists who designed them. Also included: an article about the lending-library trade written in 1939 by Charles S. Strong, who specialized in this type of novel; a tongue-in-cheek article on Phoenix Press mysteries by Bill Pronzini; brief biographies of many lending library writers; and selected period newspaper reviews of various titles.

    “Readers and aficionados alike will find a wealth of fascinating and often amusing information about this little known variety of crime fiction. Murder at 3¢ a Day is a must for any reference shelf.”


   A supplement to the book can be found at Thanks to the collection of Bill Pronzini and his gracious generosity, this is an online compendium of all of the covers of the books included in Bill Deeck’s book, which was published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box Press in 2006.

   Bill Pronzini is adding to his collection all the time. Here below are the covers added in the past two months, missing from earlier versions of the website. Some covers are still missing. Check through the website. If you can fill in any of the gaps, please let Bill or I know!

CLINTON BESTOR – The Corpse Came Calling (Phoenix Press, 1941)

ADELINE McELFRESH – My Heart Went Dead (Phoenix Press, 1949)

EDGAR WALLACE & ROBERT CURTIS – The Mouthpiece (Dodge, 1936)

GWYN EVANS – Satan Ltd. (Godwin, 1935)

MARK HANSOM – The Shadow on the House (Godwin, 1935)

JACK MANN – Dead Man’s Chest (Godwin, 1935)

DONALD STUART – The White Friar (Godwin, 1935)

ANTHONY GILBERT – She Vanished in the Dawn (Mystery Houise, 1941)

ANNE TEDLOCK BROOKS – Undertow (Arcadia House, 1943)

THEY MET IN THE DARK. General Films, UK, 1943. James Mason, Joyce Howard, Tom Walls, Phyllis Stanley, Edward Rigby, Ronald Ward, David Farrar, Karel Stepanek, Patricia Medina. Based on the novel The Vanished Corpse, by Anthony Gilbert (US title: She Vanished in the Dawn). Director: Carl Lamac.

   A very minor wartime British spy film cum murder mystery that has only a couple of points worthy of notice, in my opinion. The first is that it is based on an Arthur Crook detective novel by Anthony Gilbert, Crook being a low-life London lawyer who had over 50 recorded adventures from the good lady’s pen (or typewriter, as the case may be).

   There is no Mr. Crook in the movie, though, and even though I’m not sure where he would have fit in, I’d have liked to have seen who they might have picked to play him. It wouldn’t have been the utterly handsome but oh so brooding James Mason — the second reason for you to see this movie, should you ever have the opportunity.

   In the film Mason plays a Royal Navy commander who is given his walking papers after allowing the Nazis to blow up a ship under his watch. Knowing he has been given faked orders, he tracks down a manicurist who may have switched them on him first to a bar then to an old deserted house which (of course) is not really deserted. From another direction comes Laura Verity (Joyce Howard) who expects to find her uncles living there but instead finds the manicurist’s dead body.

   Which quickly enough disappears à la the title of Anthony Gilbert’s novel. She suspects the commander, and to clear her name from providing the police false information, she decides to solve the case. He, of course, wishes to clear his name from more serious charges and is constantly annoyed to find the girl’s path continually crossing and interfering with his.

   Which means, of course, they soon find themselves falling in love, all the while eluding the Navy, a gang of Nazi spies, an oh-so-British police inspector, all against a backdrop of a music hall complete with many songs and a harmonica player who is… Well, I shouldn’t tell you, should I?

   The story’s rather a sorry mess, but the two leading players make it fun. Minor league fun, but still fun. But if James Mason hadn’t been in it, it never would have turned up again years later, in of all things, a DVD boxed set of British noir films. But noir? Not on your life.