Love Traffic by Gaston Lamond

CURZON Love Traffic

Love Traffic by Gaston Lamond was published early 1947 by the Curzon Publishing Company as part of their popular Crime and Passion Series. It ran 32 pages, tiny font, and advertised as a complete novel for 6d. In reality, it was a complete novelette of approximately 16,000 to 19,000 words.

The Curzon outfit also issued a sister series, simply the Passion Series (sans crime) but containing plenty of love and mischief.

To slightly confuse matters, the Crime and Passion Series also appears to have been published by Clifford Lewis & Co., in 1945–1946. There is much overlap between the two publishers, which suggests that the proposed dates of publication may be erroneous in several instances. After all, the dates are based on when the British Library (and other national libraries) reportedly received each title. This may not be in fact when they were truly published; merely when they were eventually sent to a library.

To add to the confusion, the British Library admits that during the World War Two years, large batches of books often were received but never accurately recorded until they could get around to them.

However, I’m not here to argue nor debate the inaccuracies of the recording dates of the British Library, etc. Those dates at the least give an idea when a book may have appeared, even if those dates could be way off the mark, as is the case with another publisher, Modern Fiction Ltd., but that discussion will be saved for a future post.

In Love Traffic, a cub reporter is assigned to stick with the river police and confirm whether their crime reporter is the river’s floating corpse or not. It is. The young man, Terry King, is now given the dead man’s job. His first assignment? Locate the killer(s) and solve the dead man’s case. Problem? Of course; the dead man never revealed the nature of his case! Digging through the man’s office, Terry unearths enough data to determine that girls are being abducted through a fraudulent acting-agency via a series of ever-changing ads placed in his own boss’s newspaper! The natural conclusion, due to a lack of developed characters up to this point, is that the boss might be behind the caper.

No, that’s not the case. Terry follows a lead after his girlfriend discovers another ad is placed in their paper (she works as a beauty consultant on the same paper) and she convinces Terry to allow her to go undercover as an actress. Despite his arguments, he fails to dissuade her, and foolishly does not inform the police of their plans.

He is knocked out at home, conked over the head, by a scar-faced assailant. She is chloroformed as soon as she enters a door for her interview. Waking up, she is in a vehicle with other girls who applied; they believe the whole charade is the real deal, and are being driven to a remote mansion, where they are later informed that they will board a plane for their final destination. Escaping her own captivity, Terry’s girlfriend (Miss Hinds, incidentally) breaks into the girl’s room and informs them of the reality. They are part of a sex trafficking racket!

The villains enter and the girls go from dolled-up babes to screaming tigers, baring fangs and claws and jumping onto the backs of the enemies. The young ladies are soon overpowered and their wrists are bound (see the image of the front cover). Soon, the lead villain prepares a series of hypodermics to inject into each girl, effectively knocking them out and enabling his crew to hoist them from the mansion and into a car outside, ready to roll to the airport.

Re-enter Terry, who prior had been knocked over the head. His assailant, the scar-faced man, plans to dump him into a river tunnel to drown to death. Terry breaks loose from his bonds, they fight, and he ends up losing and is dumped into the tunnel to die. Far from it, Terry fights to stay alive and swims a mile out of the narrowing tunnel only to find himself against the pipe’s fenced grate, and, the tide is rising!

Miraculously, he dives under water and discovers the grate does not go fully to the bottom and slithers under it. Breaking the surface for air, he hails a police-boat, is brought aboard, explains the situation, and faints from exhaustion. Awakening hours later, stripped naked of all clothes (and disposed of by the police as unsanitary after swimming in a sewage drain) Terry re-explains the kerfuffle to the police.

Well. You might guess the rest…but not before more pulp blood-and-thunder heroics ensue, including a final fight-scene between he and scar-face in the Underground railway tubes! Terry gets the girl, and the police arrive on the scene to capture the villains.

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Love Traffic by Gaston Lamond

“Love and Dr. Hawkins” by Sidney Gainsley

BROWN WATSON  Love And Dr Hawkins
Love and Dr. Hawkins (Sidney Gainsley)

Love and Dr. Hawkins” by Sidney Gainsley was published in 1945 by Brown Watson Ltd, runs 64-pages, measures 4.75 x 7 inches. At first glance, this booklet appears to be a romance. The cover art (unsigned) depicts a young lady clasping her forehead and looks surprised. At the top, the cover proclaims this publication to be “A Sidney Gainsley Thriller!!”

The novella is narrated by Dr. Hawkins, relaying to Professor Norden a past, strange criminal case that he solved.

(NOTE: these characters originally debut in Gainsley’s Did This Really Happen?weird story collection, with the taleThe Diary which I’ve already been blogged about. Refer to THAT entry for biographical data on the author.)

When Anthony Tidmarsh fails to rise and take his breakfast, the staff worries, and finally, they bring in a strong-man to bash down the door, which takes multiple attempts. They find Tidmarsh very much dead. The police are phoned.

Tidmarsh is found brutally murdered, with a common household kitchen butter knife forcefully thrust into his spinal column. He is found, face forward, his face contorted, upon his desk. Under him is a partially written document to his young brother.

Police are baffled. Who murdered the man? How did they lock the door from outside? All we know is that Mr. Tidmarsh was alive beyond the setting of the house alarm….

Inspector Saltash–as narrated by Dr. Hawkins–takes on the case, and from here on, we are mostly given the story from Saltash’s viewpoint. He interviews the staff (kitchen, yard, garden, etc.) and the household members (his much younger brother and a young lady as their ward, set to inherit a fortune quite shortly). We learn that Tidmarsh was possibly in love with the young lady, however, she repelled his advances and preferred the company of his kindly young brother, who in turn was truly in love with her.

After our author establishes fine grounds for every person to have committed the crime and wondrously provides us with the usual Sherlock Holmes pastiche backdrop, Dr. Hawkins diverts the waning chapters back to his viewpoint, when he is reintroduced to the case. Hawkins, a psychologist, investigates, by asking the inspector to re-enact the position in which Anthony Tidmarsh was found at his desk. Crawling about, Hawkins finds some fine wood powdered particles, and learns that these came from nearby a wood mill.

We learn that the gardener works at that mill in his spare time. He is in love with one of the house staff, who has been holding a deep secret. She had an affair years ago with Tidmarsh and sired a boy. Wanting not to claim the boy as his own, nor wishing to marry the woman, he avoided scandal by keeping her in his employ, but, neither of them informed the child as to his social standing nor parentage. Ergo, both the child’s mother and her suitor have reason to murder Tidmarsh, for being an outright prick.

Hawkins further learns from the accounting books in the safe that someone has been embezzling tens of thousands of pounds from the young lady’s inheritance. The finger points toward the younger brother. Further evidence in the form of a rope and nail that may have been used to secure Tidmarsh’s door are found hidden in his room.

To add to the mystery, Hawkins, after inspecting all the ancient antiquities in the room,  discovers a replica crossbow firmly anchored to the shelf in a position established to murder Tidmarsh from behind. So, who set the device?

Dr. Hawkins reconstructs the scene to prove that Tidmarsh was not murdered, but, rather, he committed suicide, but with the intention of sending his brother to the gallows for the supposed crime!

His facial contortions in death were not from pain, but, immense concentration from realizing that the knife would soon impale him. The note on the desk did contain factual business data, but was written with a slant to be damning evidence against his brother. He hated him because the girl had refused his loving marital attentions. And, he himself was the one embezzling the funds. By marrying the girl, he avoids scandal; she could hardly bring her husband to court without testifying against him, etc.

In conclusion, Hawkins ends by discussing Norden’s “author friend,” and noting that he appears to have written quite a romance around the “Diary” episode. Hawkins inquires if Norden intends to relay this crime tale to the author, and he indeed shall. Hawkins says he has no objection, but, asks for it to be called “Love and Doctor Hawkins.” The author, obviously, is OUR author, Sidney Gainsley, having a little tongue-in-cheek poke at himself.

While my relaying of the plot may seem blasé stuff, I assure you, this novella is well-worth the read.

Currently I am chasing “The Expiator” by this author. This title story originates within his 1943 weird collection. I do not know what other tales appear; the National Library of Wales possesses a copy of this 32-page pamphlet, noted as published by Brown Watson, circa 1945. If anyone owns a copy, and is not firmly attached to it, I would love the opportunity to own and read this item…

“Love and Dr. Hawkins” by Sidney Gainsley

“The Limping Death” by Allan Stapleton – Gnome Publications (UK) 1945

GNOME The Limping Death

The Limping Death” by Allan Stapleton, subtitled “Terror Stalks by Night!” was published 1945 by Gnome Publications (28 Bedfordbury, W.C.2, London). The story begins on page 3 and ends on page 64. The publisher, like many of the wartime period, copied the hugely popular cover design of Penguin Books.

Other known Gnome Publications:

— Muchly Seldom – Stephen Ellison (1944)
— Frippery Tip – Stephen Ellison (1944)
— Death for Love – A. F. Garner (1945)
— Laughter in the Air (1945) cartoons
— Laughs on the Road — Keith Monk (1945) cartoons
— They Cried to Dream – H. G. Jacobsen (1945)

There were also two glamour pin-up saucy booklets entitled Curves and Shadows and Studies in Velvet by Stephen Glass. Another glamour publication includes Memories of Midnight (a 16-page booklet illustrated throughout). No doubt this publisher had further titles, yet to be discovered… Of those listed above, I’ve yet to locate Death for Love.

The Limping Death opens with a tranquil isolated village ripped apart by a sudden, savage murder. A housemaid is found by lantern light, horrifically mutilated. Inspector Small of Scotland Yard is sent to investigate, and hooks up with local police man, Sergeant Tedmarsh.

Another young lady is brutally slain and her boyfriend loses his mind upon finding her body.

We’re next introduced to an asylum and an odd doctor who raves about keeping their lunatic locked up at night, lest he roam the countryside. (By this point, I’m eye-rolling, thinking, please not another story where we blame the “retard” for sexual perversions and murders!) We learn that the mentally-challenged Todd has indeed repeatedly escaped and run into the towns where the murders coincide.

Reverend Shipley’s maid requests to leave early to attend a dance. Given permission, she falls prey to the murderer. Her corpse is found next morning, most of her lower abdominal cavity savaged and pulped.

That’s now three murders in ten pages! This novelette is a real “ripper” fest !!! Can it keep up the onslaught pace? You betcha!

Inspector Small investigates the asylum, following up on rumors. The doctor receives him, but informs him that they don’t have any patients fitting the description of a man with a “limp.” After Small departs, the doctor again reprimands his assistant, to ensure Todd is locked up.

Small is certain that the doctor is lying…

Small goes to the local station, and shares his thoughts with Sergeant Tedmarsh. He suggests they scope out the asylum that night, with reinforcements. While waiting later that night, they catch Todd climbing over the wall. To their astonishment, the locals are also on the scene and ready to slay the hapless ‘tard. The police save Todd and remove him to jail. Sergeant Tedmarsh is left on duty, to protect Todd, in case the townspeople revolt over night (by which time this begins to sound like the townspeople want to burn the Frankenstein monster alive, right?)

Small goes to sleep, but is re-awakened later in the night to learn that the jail is on fire. Once the blaze is eventually controlled and the wreckage sifted, he finds the cinder-corpse by the cell, and the charred remains of Sergeant Tedmarsh’s outfit and badge. Grim with dealing with his death and Todd’s escape, Small heads to the train station to learn if anyone departed. Learning that someone did, he obtains the destination and times. The man can hardly describe the purchaser, since they were hidden in a large ulster with the collar turned up. No recollection of a limp or other identifying features given.

Depressed, Small returns to the inn, to catch some sleep…

Meanwhile, the murderer disembarks the train and establishes himself in Soho. Answering an ad in the local paper, he finds a girl looking for employment as a maid. He has the agency send her to his “sister’s” house…. Receiving notice, the young lady goes to the house by way of train. Another person boards with her and she begins to worry. Her fears are soon realized when he comes toward her, and she faints! While out cold, the slasher tears her to pieces, then departs the train.

Not long after, another maid is set upon in the streets and collapses in a dead fright. However, Small is given his first real clue this time. Remarkably, before passing out, she put up a small fight and ripped away a tuft of hair.

Investigating the agency, he learns from the madame that the cloaked man had ginger hair. Small is slightly elated, as he has conclusive proof the tuft of hair likely came from this man.

Returning to the isolated village, he demands Tedmarsh’s body exhumed and examined. However, that night, while the casketed remains are retrieved and locked away until morning, the murderer sets the building ablaze and incinerates Tedmarsh’s body!

Chiding himself for dereliction of intelligence in failing to assign a guard over the body, Small is now against a wall. He no longer has evidence. Now he must resort to Plan B…set bait to catch the killer! But, how? Nobody knows where the killer is, and when he might strike!

News finally arrives to Scotland Yard. The killer failed in his latest attempt and the maid survived to tell the story. A man heard her muffled scream and came on the scene in time to save her life, while the murderer quickly fled. Asking for a description proves fruitless. She saw nothing but noted his voice sounded country, possibly Welsh.

While canvassing the town with a squad, Small and Sergeant Craddock, assigned to him to cover an area, hear a scream. Galvanized to action, they lumber to the scene and discover a man running away. The girl has survived, clambering to her feet. Small gives chase but the man escapes when an alley cat crosses his path and knocks him to his feet. In returning to Craddock and the girl, he discovers a recently dropped handkerchief,  and notices a laundry mark.

Next day, he hits every laundry location, since the Yard doesn’t know who made the mark. Later in the day he lucks out and the laundress describes the person it belongs to. Given the name and address of Mr. Edwards, he and Craddock spy out the area and climbing the step, ask the landlady to let them in. Knocking on Mr. Edwards’ door, they receive no reply. Small knocks in the door with his shoulder and learns that Edwards flew the coop, literally, out the window….

He discovers the charred remains of a letter in a fire-grate, advising Mr. Edwards to meet a Mr. Tuttle on the wharf, to set sail. Keeping under cover of darkness, Small waits for the arrival of Edwards at the wharf. A man appears, and while trying to detain the mystery man, Edwards knocks Small down and tosses the unconscious Small into the river, then flees the scene.

The dunking revives Small, and he’s eventually found by Craddock, cruising about looking for him. Realizing the murderer is fleeing England for America, the pair rush to the docks, to locate the boat helmed by Captain Tuttle. Finding it, they question Tuttle and learn more about Edwards, and decide to wait for the murderer’s arrival.

Unfortunately for them, the slasher watches them from the shore and realizing a trap is present, stealthily removes himself.

Running out of ideas, Small decides to bait the slasher, by placing an ad for a maid, and sending the lady (that answers the call) with a handgun, for protection. Following her, they watch as she goes inside a home, and then hear the gun go off. Busting in, they save the girl and capture Edwards, alias Sergeant Tedmarsh!

He confesses that he went on the killing spree purely by accident. The first murder was intentional. After the suicide of his son, he decided to murder the young lady (a housemaid) because she had been deceiving his son. She was no better (apparently) than a prostitute. The son had contracted a sexual disease. Coupling her unfaithfulness with the disease, he shot himself dead. Tedmarsh set himself to exact revenge. However, he couldn’t control the impulse to slay every housemaid he could, as they all bore, in his mind, the same taint.

Tedmarsh is led away, shackled, to his cell, to await his eventual fate….

A solid plot, plenty of killings, the bait-and-switch tricking the reader into believing “the-retard-did-it!” and the constant quick-action, made this fast-paced murder-mystery crime thriller wholeheartedly quite enjoyable. I would love to know the actual identity and history of this author. Could this have been their only literary endeavor? It hardly seem feasible.

An “Alan Stapleton” wrote the books “London Lanes,” “London Alleys, Byways and Courts,” and “Leaves from a London Sketch-book” during the 1920s-1930s. And, in a 1930 edition of The Nation and Anthenæum, we are given that the author is “an antiquary of some diligence,” and, that he is a rare breed blending of topographical writer and artist. Is this Alan and our Allan the same man?

 

“The Limping Death” by Allan Stapleton – Gnome Publications (UK) 1945

The Lone Ranger by John Theydon (1948)

CURTIS WARREN The Lone Ranger
It’s been a long while since I read a western by English writer John Theydon. Given that I have fallen behind on tackling the stack of digest-paperback westerns, I picked this one off the top.

THE LONE RANGER was published 1948 by Curtis Warren Ltd., sports a cover illustration by Kingsley Sutton, and the text begins on page 3 and concludes on 64. Priced at 9d, this quick-read kept me plunging headlong throughout. Why did I ever abandon Theydon?

The novel concerns Dave Logan, lawman, assigned to secretly protect a train loaded with gold bullion. The banker is riding West with his gold to deliver to the banks and Dave’s boss wants this shipment seen through. The area is rife with bandits, and while his boss wants that shipment safe, Dave’s real assignment is to track down the bandits, and capture or kill them.

The banker, coming outside for a smoke, finds Dave Logan on the train’s platform, enjoying the air. The banker thinks he is just another cowhand, not aware of the deception. Striking up a conversation, this is cut short when the train comes to an inexplicable stop. Worried that the train is being robbed, Dave drops off to investigate. Yet, there are no shots fired. He is returning to his car when shots are fired and he receives the world crashing in atop his skull….

Waking up much later, he finds the security personnel slaughtered, the safe blown open, and he and his horse the sole survivors. Spotting hoof-prints in the sand, Dave tracks them into the distant mountains, only to be shot at. This he considers a reward, meaning he has partly located the villains. Only one person is holding him down at rifle-point, so he circles the area, and believing to have caught the sniper unawares, is nonplussed to find the shooter’s location abandoned!

He’s suddenly shot at from another direction, and realizing that the shooter knew of his movements, shoots it out in the dark recesses of a cave. The man dies from multiple gunshot wounds. Searching the man’s clothes, he finds a letter from the fellow’s brother, another hoodlum, known to be in lock-up in Santa Fe.

Assuming that person’s identity, he rides into the nearby disreputable town, leaving the dead man to be found, later, by his comrades. Once in town, he nabs a hotel room and on entering the bar, finds a woman has held-up a bunch of unscrupulous-looking scoundrels at a card-table. She’s gorgeous (aren’t they always?) and mean and sure as hell capable of holding her own with a gun. Demanding they fork over misappropriated funds from her father’s late gambling run at a crooked table, Dave watches as one of the gunhands triggers a hideaway into action. Dave draws and blows the gun away. Retrieving the funds, the girl makes her exit while Dave lingers.

Once she’s gone, he explains who he is (in his new guise) and explains away his defending the girl he doesn’t know, but just couldn’t stand aside and watch a girl get hers. Ergo, feigning as a tough who is a sucker for dames. Elaborating that he is looking for his brother, the bartender informs him that he just shot the leader of the local gang who was with his brother.

Realizing he’s in a gritty position, Dave brazenly strikes out, heads to their rooming quarters, and enters. They are stupefied by his entrance. Explaining who he is, they finally cautiously accept him, but to prove his worth, he must steal the funds he just assisted the girl in retrieving. Agreeing to those terms, he departs…

…and returns to his hotel room. The girl has a room there, and enlisting the aid of the clearly honest hotel-keeper, he actually divulges 100% to them who he really is, the crook’s plans, etc. Dave has a plan to infiltrate the band, learn the identity of the real leader, and catch all of them.

The pair agree to get six other honest men, and pooling their funds, match the amount the girl has on hand. Sending one honest messenger to the next nearest town with a bank to pay off her father’s ranch-mortgage (the crook’s, in typical cliche fiction fashion, wanted the mortgage note to expire and the land has oil on it, unbeknownst to the owners…of course). This transpires while Dave returns to the rooms of the crooks. He tosses them the money, they blindfold him, and ride out, far away, to their secret headquarters in the mountains.

Part of the plan involves one of the honest six to trail him, and then they are to ride back and enlist the next town’s sheriff and posse…

Meanwhile, he and the party he rides with finally arrive, hours later, at their destination. Blindfold removed, he sleeps for a while on a bunk until the boss arrives. Brought away sometime later, he is led to another room where the boss is. The door opening, he overhears one of the gang explain who he is, only to hear the boss exclaim that THAT PERSON is in jail in Santa Fe!!! His bluff is exposed! What’s more, he recognizes the voice as the banker from the heisted train! He’s stealing his own gold! No shit, right?

A blazing gun battle ensues and Dave must shoot his way out or be hemmed inside the building and either smoked-out or shot to death. He’s shot once and stumbling about, aware of certain death, when all of a sudden a rifle begins cracking, repeatedly, eliminating his competition. Tossing his body behind cover, he’s shocked to find the shooter is none other than the girl! Unlike other works of fiction, John Theydon has his lovely lady as a resourceful tough girl, and not merely a piece to be admired. Handy with a gun, she continues to reload to punch holes in the competition, and refuses to relinquish her rifle to the wounded Dave, who feels his manly pride in jeopardy. They are soon to be outflanked when the posse arrives.

Surviving members of the gang turn and run, hop on horses, and take off. Bloodied and weak, Dave manages somehow to climb his horse, and in once-more cliche fashion, he has the fastest horse. Determined to get the banker, he ignores other members as they split away. They are peons. Insignificant. One has balls and attempts to stop Dave, but Dave merely shoots at him and rides on by.

The banker is frightened to learn that Dave has eyes only for him, and smartly, riding out of sight, he waits until Dave comes around a corner and pushes a boulder (because in Hollywood, they are all really just styrofoam in reality, right?) from above down at him. His horse shies away and Dave falls from his saddle. Spying the banker escaping once more, Dave commits himself to the one thing he despises: shooting down a horse. Taking sight, he murders the banker’s horse, which collapses and pins the man’s legs. Injured, but not dead, Dave takes him in…

Arriving in town with his man in cuffs, he finally faints from blood loss, wakes up later in bed, and finds the girl in another bunk, bandaged about the head from a gunshot wound grazing her forehead, making eyes at him. Well, we all know how this will end.

Last thoughts: The title of the book should be changed to “Lucky Logan,” given that Dave Logan makes much of family lore and the luck of the Logans, throughout.

The Lone Ranger by John Theydon (1948)

“Murder Mayhem” by Ray Stahl (aka: Bart Carson)

HAMILTON Murder Mayhem

Ray Stahl briefly appeared in the Crime Doesn’t Pay Series in 1953, after backlash from the English government against gangster novels. Prior to 1953, the name that appeared on the front of this particular run was “Bart Carson.” Yeah, that Bart Carson. The newspaper reporter that ditched a career attached to a paying job to run solo as a tough investigative, smart-mouthed reporter.

Both bylines are the work of author William Maconachie, a highly competent writer of American-style gangster novels filled with colorful wit and sarcasm, vicious criminals, and cold-as-ice dames that even give our heroically former reporter, Bart Carson, the frigid treatment.

Married in 1948 to Nellie Betts (born 6 October 1911; died 1980 in Wallasey, Cheshire, England). For Nellie, William was her second husband. She married young in 1933, first to Vivian Osmond Weights (whom she divorced; he died 1978).

Her second husband, our author, was born William John A. Maconachie (20 May 1917) and his death was registered January 1988 in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England.

But, let’s skid off the history lesson and return to the novel…

Bart is fresh off a case in “Murder Mayhem,” having gotten away with some hood’s goods (like that, eh?) and also snatches a pile of maps. Why? Well, back before we had digital bullshit up-our-ass to tell us where to go (and yuh KNOW what I mean! pun intended) you had to KNOW how to read a damn map to get from Point A to Point B. Once upon a time, the United States also did not have an international highway system, either, but that’s another story….

Likes I says, bub, Bart’s got some maps, and he’s fresh from a case. He’s doin’ good, ya know. The big crime boss is outs, but the rackets ain’t stayin’ quiet long. There is a shake-up happening in New York, and someone is moving the chess pieces, ’cause only the winner can take all, see?

Bart’s up to his eyes in bullshit when hoods move in to retrieve one of the maps he unwittingly obtained, which is marked with a series of “X”s and”Y”s. The former denotes businesses purchased by the new proposed crime boss. The latter, future propositions. And when the latter are all gone, there won’t be but “X”s remaining, and they ain’t there to denote romantic kisses.

Bart is beaten, tortured, and taken for a drive to be murdered, but comes out aces every time. How this character never made it to the big old silver screen is beyond me, given that he was the only UK gangster writer to entertain a success in England and appear numerous times in print across The Great Pond in America. Likewise, “Bart Carson” enjoyed translations in foreign countries, too. He should have made a brief Hollywood commodity, to say the least.

But he didn’t, and his English originals remain to this day highly collectible and damnably rare to obtain.

Naturally, Bart solves the riddle behind who the mastermind “Brain” is, when a dying criminal cops to it. Hardly any brilliant deduction there, when he doesn’t have much to do but lean down and catch a dying hood’s last gasp. Remarkably, even saving the life of the chief of police’s daughter doesn’t avail him a hug or kiss from the central dame in the novel, contrary to the workings of most gangster novels of the period.

Give Bart Carson (or Ray Stahl) a try. You won’t be disappointed.

 

“Murder Mayhem” by Ray Stahl (aka: Bart Carson)

Murder Gets Around by Robert Sidney Bowen

Murder Gets Around is the sequel to Make Mine Murder, and once more features detective Gerry Barnes and (less prominently) his girlfriend, Paula Grant.

Murder Gets Around
Full Dust Jacket art

1947 – Crown Publishers (192-pages, 1st edition hardcover in jacket)
1955 – Lindqvist forlag (189-pages)
via the Meteor series, Number 27 (Sweden) as “Diamanter Till Bruden”
1956 – Horisont (142-pages)
via the Meteor series, Number 15 (Denmark) as “Diamanter der dræbte”
1957 – Kotkan kustannus (184-pages)
via the Tiikeri series, Number 14 (Finland) as “Timanttisormus morsiamelle”

The novel never saw a mass market English-language edition, in America, England, or Australia, to my knowledge. However, it was heavily syndicated in American small-town newspapers in late 1948 through 1949.

The murder centers around a love quadrangle. Gerry and Paula are dining and Paula is jealous of Gerry’s flirtations with a blonde while Gerry is angry due to a Frenchman’s interests in Paula. There’s only one way to eliminate the situation.

Murder!

Assuming you read my blog entry on Make Mine Murder, you’ll recollect the dead man in that novel was found on Paula’s bed. Here, we flip the scenario, and place the deceased client literally in Gerry’s office. In his office chair, to be precise. Gerry walks into his office, late, slated to keep an appointment with a Frenchman that served with the Underground resistance against the Nazis during WW2. He met the man at a party, and the man got into fight with another Frenchman.

Having arranged to meet that morning, he is chagrined to find the man at his desk, dead, a knife in his back. On the desk is a check to retain his services.

To make the situation more awkward, the police inspector from the first novel unexpectedly walks in, which perhaps is the worst coincidence in the world, but, truth is, shit happens. Gerry now has a murdered man in his office, and an inspector that isn’t generally pleased to have a new private dick working in his city. And a dead man presenting itself as material evidence to possibly lock Gerry away, to boot. Thankfully, the inspector realizes that Gerry couldn’t possibly have committed the crime (why not?) and logically, certainly wouldn’t have done it in his own office (again, why not?).

Unlike the prior novel, which heavily featured his snappy girlfriend, this one gives her the backseat treatment and Bowen permits his green detective more space to flex his wings. And get beat-up more often.

Gerry stumbles through life and meets various members of The Underground movement, and slowly unravels the plot, but not before being captured, blindfolded, severely beaten to near-death, and dumped unconscious into the river. Remarkably, his body floats to shore and he is rescued. Kind of. He wakes up in a shelter for drunks. They found him battered but reeking of alcohol, and lacking any form of personal identification. Realizing that he ought to be dead and can’t be released, he tells the caretaker to contact the police inspector. This he does, not believing the drunkard to be who he claims.

Naturally, he is nonplussed to have a real police inspector show up, and extract Gerry from his care. Gerry is forced to confess all he knows to the inspector; later, he is  brought home to get cleaned up and get real food into his system. A plan of attack of constructed, and Gerry plays his cards to the hilt, placing himself once again in harm’s way.

In the end, murders in the novel was committed to obtain an illegal trade in stolen diamonds. I won’t ruin the climax of this pulp political thriller by unveiling the identity of the villains, etc. Hence why I have strictly avoided dropping names, other than that of Gerry and his girlfriend. Personally, I enjoyed this novel seismically more than the first, as Bowen digs deeper into a tougher, grittier position than his first effort.

Obtaining a copy of this scarce novel might be a tougher proposition. Currently, there is only one copy on ABE for $45 (plus shipping).

Murder Gets Around by Robert Sidney Bowen

Spider Pete by Claude Stewart

STEWART Spider Pete

Sometime in 1946, Mitre Press published a 32-page (plus wraps) single-stapled booklet containing a selection of short stories by author Claude Stewart. I genuinely doubt that they are original to this publication. Most (if not all) of the Mitre collections of reprinted stories from a variety of sources: magazines, newspapers, journals, pulps, etc.

The cover features a young lady at her dressing table, putting on her facial makeup and screaming in absolute terror as a huge, hairy-legged spider tangles from the ceiling, about to pounce on her, while a creepy fellow lurks in the background.

Intrigued? Well, it was enough to hook me. I wanted to know.

Spider Pete leads off the collection, beginning on page 1 and ending on page 8. The story opens with Charlie Collins, Chief of Police to Wallington City, bored of his occupation and thankful that his contract was for only five years. Sadly, he was on the wrong side of completing those years. Nothing ever happened in Wallington City, nothing spectacularly out of the normal crimes, that is. Then a mysterious death is laid upon him to solve. A woman is found dead, and seems to show all the symptoms of dying from gas, however, her flat has no gas. He discovers an odd yellowish powdery substance near her, and suspects the powder to be the source of the problem. However, their scientific chemicals department hasn’t a clue what the item is. Yet another death occurs, this time a man. The newspapers carry the usual fanfare, that the police are stumped, murders go unsolved, etc. Collins is later in the week invited to a black tie affair, and while present, is shocked to see an old schoolmate, vastly different in appearance, but realizes it is he, for his mannerisms haven’t changed a bit, etc. This fellow is James P. Mullins, and after the party, they hook up. Drink, talk, the usual. He’s obviously the killer or the next to die, right? Ah, he’s the killer. While leaving the Chief alone in the room, Collins, unable to keep his natural instincts from investigating a covered bird-cage, discovers large spiders inside and…that yellowish powder, too. Mullins re-enters, discovers the game-is-up, explains he discovered these poisonous spiders while in Brazil, and brought them home. He trained them to follow orders and they released their poisonous yellow powders on cue, the gas given off kills the person. Mullins then releases one spider to attack the Chief, when, inexplicably, it turns and goes after Mullins…

Lend-Lease Murder spans pages 9 through three-quarters of page 18. Another typical story about irony. Young man rivals his brother, who is better at everything in life. Goes to war, while he himself is denied as inadequate. Brother obtains everything life can offer, while our fellow is dirt poor and can’t get his shit together. But, that aside, he loves and covets the finer things in life, appreciates them, something his brother does not. Fine art, clothing, drinks, lifestyle, etc., but, he can’t have them! So, we find our unlucky fellow working in a stylish nightclub, surrounded by the elite, when in walks a handful of American airmen. They party hard, get all the hot girls, become drunk…the place eventually closes for the night, and he and another worker are cleaning up the joint when he discovers one of airmen left his leather flight-jacket behind by accident. He keeps the jacket for his own. The two begin talking and he learns the other leads an unscrupulous life, working the black market trade. He wants in, so he can have money. The other agrees, they meet the big boss, and are instructed to hit a warehouse… Fast forward, the visit the warehouse, the night watchman stumbles upon our fellow and he bashes him over the head. They discover the warehouse 100% empty and figure they were played for patsies, and depart. Next day, our boy learns the watchman was found clubbed over the head and had died. Now he is freaking out, and nearly penniless. He figures he can’t return to his job, having practically quit, then spots an ad in the paper. A reward for the return of an American’s flight-jacket! He hates to part with it, but the money is too good to be true, so he brings it in, hands it over, receives the reward, goes to leave, and the cuffs are slapped on his wrists! What? Turns out that the jacket, had he gone through the pockets, contained various special papers, and when he knocked the fellow dead, those papers fell out, leaving the incriminating evidence behind. All the police now needed was for him to confess to the crime.

Overall, the best story in this feature is a scientific-crime thriller entitled Pay or Vanish, spanning the bottom quarter of page 18 through half of page 22. Now while I say “best,” I don’t mind any stretch mean that is a good tale. It has holes in the plot so big a semi-truck could roll through without scraping the edges. Our hero is an English secret agent and while checking in at a pay-phone he sees someone has written a message on the wall: “Rixley 3450.” Believing it to be a secret communication, he dials RIX 3450 and a woman answers. Keeping his voice low, he replies and she believes it is her lover. They meet and he shocks her by not being her lover (of course) but explains he understands she is in a predicament and wants to assist her. Uncannily, instead of thinking he a nutter, but fearful for her life, and needing to trust someone, she explains that they worked for a scientist in a secret laboratory. A special science was discovered, by which means the madman intends to blackmail the world for riches. Her boyfriend was supposed to the scientist and destroy everything, but has never returned. So, these two enter the premises, and our agent thinks the whole thing is a joke but discovers otherwise. The scientist is there, and before his eyes, he destroys the girl. Poof. She vanishes. Nothing left but her silver change and jewelry made of silver, which for some reason does not vanish. Another pile on the floor has more silver coins, and we learn that that is all remains of her boyfriend. The agent fires five bullets into him, but, the scientist hurls the substance out a window into the river. To his horror, people continue to disappear. How? Why? Has the madman already sold the secret to various parties? Or did they drink from the river?

Fatty Gives Evidence begins on lower quarter of page 22 and finishes on mid-28. I always despise the British “fatty” stories. They often turn up in young boys periodicals, making fun of fat kids, etc. Where will this one lead me? Fatty is an ex-model who turned to fat. When she was young and beautiful, she was scooped up by a rich millionaire and she got lazy and ate and ate and he told her she looked great until one day he said otherwise and it was too late to turn back. She was large and couldn’t be a model any longer. She assists a younger, lovely model with her wardrobe and makeup (for a living) now and insists the girl cease dating a particular wealthy man or he’ll steer her wrong. Return the gifts, etc or she might end up in a bad spot. She does. Fatty departs and is offered a ride home by another worker, when he stops, and claims he forgot something. Fatty knows that he is infatuated with the model, but says nothing. He comes running back, and begs her to forget that he ever went back in. She agrees. Next day, she discovers the girl was slain in her dressing room. The evidence points to the fellow, but, she turns the evidence to the suitor instead. The police investigate and learn that he did in fact murder the girl! Later, the innocent man asks why Fatty did this. She explains her past history, and that the suitor was actually HER original suitor. When she is finished, he never calls her Fatty again.

The final tale is The House with the Monkey Puzzle Tree, spanning the bottom quarter page 28 and ending on page 33 (inside rear cover). With such a title, I was hoping for a weird tale, but no luck there. It’s a crime story, of sorts. A woman and her child are roomers in a remote house far from town, and they are sneaking away in the night. The woman seems to have lost her marbles, and the child too young and useless, when they finally make it to town and look for help. A woman listens, then believing something is amiss, gets the police involved, but disregard it as the woman comes across as a mental lunatic. The woman still feels something is wrong and gets another cop to accompany her. The only bit of evidence that came through clearly was the near-whereabouts in which she may have roomed and a peculiar tree. They finally locate it at night, break in, find the place empty. The woman and cop split up, the cop disbelieving he is involved in this investigation, until the lady discovers a corpse. She faints and the story unveils that the place was used by black marketeers to move stolen goods, etc. and if the police had acted her the crazy woman’s ramblings earlier in the day, they would have caught all of them in the act. The irony? The first person the crazy lady came across at an intersection was the cop on traffic detail. She had tried to tell him the story but he dismissed her. Now, he realizes the error he made…

Spider Pete by Claude Stewart