“Fat Men Laugh at Murder” by Marc Stephens (1949)

MUIR WATSON Fat Men Laugh At Murder
Fat Men Laugh at Murder

Fat Men Laugh at Murder” by Marc Stephens was published in Glasgow, Scotland by Muir-Watson Books, in 1949. This British digest-paperback novel runs 128-pages.

The strikingly bold and colourful cover illustration was created by Reina M. Bull (Reina Mary Sington was her birth name).
Her illustrated works are quite collectible, including covers for New Worlds, Science-Fantasy, various crime covers, and spicy covers for Utopian Press under her alias, “Janine.” (Side note: I would personally LOVE to own an original by Mrs. Bull.)

Who is (or was) Marc Stephens? The British Library and COPAC show zero holdings for this person. The identity of the writer is unknown. Searching the Internet turns up zilch. Does the name belong to a real person, short for “Marcus” Stephens?

This didn’t turn up anything useful, though I found a clergyman (Marcus James Treacher Stephens) that fit the bill nicely, but, during the years in question, he was stationed in Lebanon. Still, one never knows….

It was then suggested that I look to Hugh M. Stephens as a possibility.

I did.

FictionMags Index site shows Hugh M. Stephens contributed at least three known short stories, from 1943-1945, and one further in the Bonny album in 1949/1950. Ironically, I submitted those Laughitoff issues to the index site a couple years ago, myself! It’s possible that Stephens turns up in other issues. Bear in mind, the novel was released in 1949. This would seem to fit perfectly.

  • This Pantomime Business (ss) Laughitoff # 3 (1943)
  • Swing Date (vi) Laughitoff # 8 (1945)
  • Grammar as She is Spoke (vi) Laughitoff # 9 (1945)
  • Build for Tomorrow (ar) Personality (Feb 1948)
  • (story title unknown) (ss) Bonny Annual 1950

So, who is Hugh M. Stephens?

The only Hugh M. Stephens I could find was born 1920 in the Brentford district. Identity of Hugh’s “M” initial never disclosed on any of the genealogy sites I searched.
Parents were Hugh O. T. G. Stephens and Ragnhild Gaaserud.
One known sibling, Kari B., married 1947 to Thaddeus H. Gebert in the Bedford District. Further research reveals this is Kari Bridget Gebert, born 1916, but died 28 January 2010.

Did he serve during WW2? Could be. I found two Hugh Stephens that might fit. The first has an entirely different middle name. Nix! The second, fits, but, DIED IN 1945!!! Could it be that the Laughitoff contributor died in 1945, and is NOT the same person that contributed to Personality three years later? One may never know. I am direly hoping that a relative might one day write and clear up this matter.

Without further ado, let’s hit the novel itself.

A socialite returning home to England after some years away is holding a large party on an ocean-going vessel. Private detective and Englishman Hugo Van Reine and his new associate, ex-soldier and man-of-action American (Johnny Vernon) are invited to attend. Johnny immediately falls in lust with the extremely beautiful Adele Manners. Hugo watches all the party-attendees, and notes two figures detach from their positions to chase down the gorgeous vixen. Here Hugo is in his element. What does the one young man want with Adele? What interest does the sinister, greasy-looking Italian have with Adele? (and why are Italians always described as greasy?)

Landing in England, they all part ways, but, Adele, for some odd reason, retains Hugo to visit her at her apartments. On arriving, he finds her in a harried state and unable to let him in. Please come back in 20 minutes. Irked, he departs, returns, finds the door open, and Adele, shot dead! A noise at the front door, and Hugo, not wishing to be caught with a corpse, steals down the fire escape.

Entering by the front door is Hugo’s young associate, Johnny. He is looking to re-acquaint himself with this lovely lady, but dismayed to find her equally dead. It is an inopportune moment for a recently-hired detective-in-training to be caught in such a precarious position, too.

And there begins our wonderful world of intrigue.

Who murdered Adele? It is immediately known that she was to inherit a worldly sum. Her murder means that many in her family stand to benefit.

Was is it her mother, whom seems more inclined to fret over the social-standing of the family than the death of her daughter?

Her sensible brother?

Her flirty and bitchy sister?

The brother’s wife?

Maybe the two fellows on the boat?

Or is there a deeper mystery at the root of this heinous crime?

Hugo, using his grey-cells, thinks his way through various situations while setting Johnny to work on the less delicate matters of handling the crooked underworld elements. Johnny is constantly battered and poked and prodded by guns and fists alike in his endeavor to uncloak the mastermind behind Adele’s murder.

But, when a clue appears, Hugo departs for New York City, to chase down the whereabouts of the Italian. Following various leads, he finally opens the door of that man’s home to find a body, tethered to a bed, in a drug-induced state….

Meanwhile, back in England, Johnny is cracking the other side of this racket. A night club owner and his moll (Adele’s brother’s wife!) have plans of their own, and rubbing out Johnny might just be one of them….

The whole matter is wrapped up days later when the police, with Johnny’s aid, arrest all local parties and Hugo, with the finishing touches, enters the offices with…Adele Manners! Turns out the first Adele was a fraud, established purely to obtain the inheritance for the Italian party and his confederates. However, his mission went awry when she was shot and killed by accident. The bullet was meant for her brother, whom was on the scene before anyone else. He didn’t want the brother talking to his faux-sister, since he would eventually learn of the deceit. So, he took a shot at the brother and accidentally murdered the false lady. The real Adele had been hooked up by him on drugs and there (in America) the switch was effected.

Now with the real Adele free, though not clean yet of her daily drug-induced cocktails, she will be able to seek proper claim to her inheritance.

In the closing scenes, Johnny asks, why did the faux-Adele request Hugo’s attentions? Hugo laughs this off, as he simply doesn’t have the answer to everything, and there the novel concludes, leaving us with that one last question….

 

“Fat Men Laugh at Murder” by Marc Stephens (1949)

“The Big Killing” by Nigel Morland

william-foster-the-big-killing
The Big Killing (Nigel Morland) William Foster, 1946

This is Nigel Morland’s gangster thriller “The Big Killing.” Published at 64-pages by William Foster, it boasts an eye-arresting cover rendered by Philip Mendoza featuring an American gangster preparing to smoke a cigarette while casually wielding a Thompson sub-machine gun with the popular “drum” magazine attachment. The cover art is simple, yet gorgeous, in a crude way; being a “NEW” Thriller by crime favorite Nigel Morland, readers were sure to be greeted with some blood-n-thunder action. The book immediately sold out of its June 1946 printing and was rapidly reprinted the following month. (NOTE: My edition is the July 1946 reprint edition, as noted on the copyright page, and that doesn’t make it any less rare than the first).

The behemoth detective-inspector Attila Ark is brought in to solve the brutal slayings of three river patrolmen. Rumor has it that American gangsters have invaded England. Ark is given four days to locate, detain, and eliminate the gang….

With the assistance of various parties (including a petty crook and a parentless newspaper office boy), Ark obtains details about the American underworld activities, involving bribery and blackmail. But when England’s wealthy bankers and stock market controllers begin committing suicide, it’s apparent that all hell is about to break loose.

When Ark learns of a crooked bank institution, a corrupted newspaper outfit, incriminating photos, and a mysterious American amateur criminologist arriving late on the scene, all the jigsaw pieces lead to…the big killing!

This is my first foray into reading literature by Nigel Morland. The heavy nature and murderous undertones of the story that Nigel tries to adequately and precariously portray are ruined by his insertion of repetitious jokes, yet, they play an important role in the novelette’s finale. Ark never has his own pack of cigs or lighter and bums them off fellow policemen and criminals, alike. His constant complaint that someone stole his cigarette pack(s) leads the ultimate killer into dropping his guard and falling for Ark’s routine request…by bending down to supply the captured Ark with a cigarette! Ark unleashes a thunderous fist and knocks him out, then takes on one final hoodlum. The murder mystery carries just enough intrigue to keep the reader plowing doggedly along!

“The Big Killing” by Nigel Morland

Want to Buy old newspapers

I am hunting hundreds of detective pulp fiction magazines.
Please quote me any titles you have available, from the 1920s and 1930s and 1940s.
Condition does not matter. I enjoy reading, and even rough copies can be read!

Also purchasing many assorted newspapers. See my list below !

PLEASE CONTACT ME AT:
morganwallace AT gmail DOT com

Chicago Ledger (1901-1923)
Illustrated Story Weekly (1923-1924)
Weekly Ledger (1924-1925)
Blade and Ledger (1925-1938)

I am interested in the following years.
Quote all issues.
I often buy spare copies as upgrades.

1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1936, 1937, 1938

Also collecting numerous other story newspapers, including the following titles:

Toronto Star Weekly
(Magazine Sections, 1920s-1940s)
Toronto Star Weekly
(Complete Novel, 1920s-1940s)
Montreal Standard
(Complete Novel, 1920s-1940s)
Fiction Magazine
(Saturday or Sunday edition, 1916-1918)
Literary Magazine Section
(weekly: 1909-1910)
The Illustrated Companion (monthly: 1915-1916)

Want to Buy old newspapers

Face Fifty Guns by Robert Moore Williams

ARCHER Face Fifty GunsAfter a bloodied, near-dead stage-coach driver arrives in town and reports an incident to the local law, Deputy Johnny Burke arrives on the scene of a horrific mess. A stage coach is reposing upon its side in a gully, and a man is lying dead on the arid dirt ridge.

Searching the dead man’s pockets, he learns the man was a marshal and finds his badge. Pocketing the badge, he rises only to be given the universal “Hands Up!” demand from a gorgeous (aren’t they all?) young lady, wielding a gun. When he fails to comply, she rips the air with a shot and he soon strips the inexperienced gun-handler of her smoking hardware.

When he learns that she is the lone survivor of the inbound wagon, he is baffled. Why hold-up an inbound coach? Only the outbound wagons were carrying funds from the nearby gold mining operations.

But when a trio of riders approach from town, and he ascertains that they are a marshal and deputies, he advises the girl to hide. Why?

On arriving he instructs the marshal to go blow, and hoists the girl’s long-barrel to enforce his talk, as the trio are out of their jurisdiction. Why are they out there, after all, five miles from the line that they control? Pretty peculiar stuff….

After departing, the girl, whom had been able to view from her tiny peep hole under the carriage one of the trio, positively identifies the big burly bear of a deputy as one of the hold-up men. Gaping, he realizes he’s got to draw a warrant, arrest the bear, and likely go toe-to-toe with a corrupt marshal whom, with his cronies, mysteriously blew into town shortly after gold was discovered.

Burke’s own co-deputy arrives on the scene, and informs him that the local bank confessed that the stage coach was actually secretly bringing in $25,000 cash to dispense to a client. He sends the gal down with him into town. But, on arrival himself, he finds his deputy missing, and so, strikes out alone to arrest the burly-bear. On entering the saloon, the bartender acknowledges the trio are in the back room.

He struts in ready to slap cuffs on and finds the girl in the room laughing it up with the men! She knows the marshal, and from all appearances, is quite intimately acquainted.

What’s going down? Who is the girl really? What’s more, where’s the bank money? Arresting burly-bear, he also slaps cuffs on the gal when he is unable to get her to confess to her charges against the deputy. Covering his departure with revolver upon the two others, he locks the deputy in a cell and tries to coax a confession from her. She clams up.

Then the deputy walks in, caked with road dust and sweat, and proclaims that while bringing in the lady, the marshal and two deputies, whom had been given the “go blow,” they showed up and took his horse and she road it into town, leaving him to rot. Further, while in town, he learns that she is really a dance-hall owner and married to Marshal Kerrigan!!!

The heat is turned up when the deputy is knifed, the pair escape their cells, and Burke has to face the trio and girl, along with a mob of 50 men armed with hardware, ready to kill a lone star deputy. How will he defeat the mob, arrest the trio, and recover the stolen loot?

Burke is one gun against fifty. Those are impossible odds. What he needs is….50 HONEST MEN !!!

A sure-fire, hard-hitting western. Face Fifty Guns by Robert Moore Williams originally was published by MAMMOTH WESTERN (Jan 1948) and here, is reprinted by the Archer Press, in a late 1948 edition. This British edition sports a wonderful action scene likely rendered by Nat Long.

Face Fifty Guns by Robert Moore Williams

Too Soon to Die by Don Wilcox

ARCHER Too Soon To DieAfter finishing an interview with a prospective rancher to sign on as a business partner, Doc Olin begs 24-hours reprieve before deciding. He wants to go into town and ascertain if there is bad blood between the partner and the daughter, whom left home. But when he meets her, a trio of “bad” men burst into the shop’s back door with a bloodied stump of a man.

Doc Olin tends the wounded man while a gigantic behemoth of a beast paws over the girl, calling her his sweetie pie, etc. A jealous rage burns inside the doctor as he realizes that she left the home of a decent man because she was allied with a vicious, murderous, railroad-robbing gang of cut-throats.

After saving the man’s life, he departs, informs the town doctor of his work inside the shop and advises the town doc to find the sheriff. He leaves, and signs his partnership papers.

Time passes. The partners are in a bar, as are the gang, whom taunts the rancher about his daughter being his sweetheart. Having heard enough, he knocks the brute a hard one, and this shuts him up. But, when the rancher accidentally breaks an object purportedly of the girl’s affection toward him, he guns down the rancher.

The gang flees, but not before making a scene that suggests the partner was involved. With the original owner dead and the girl not at home, it appears that he stands to take the ranch for his own. However, the father left his half legally to his daughter.

Distrust is fanned into flames betwixt the pair, and Doc finds that he must play the part of gunslinger for the first time in his life! He must go forth, capture the real killer, and beat a confession out of him.

But, how can a mere doctor compete against a dauntless gang of killers? Will he meet his end, or, is it…TOO SOON TO DIE…

This is one of four simultaneously published 32-page booklets issued in England by the Archer Press in 1948, the cover was illustrated by James E. McConnell. This short novelette originally appeared in the MAMMOTH WESTERN pulp magazine, for December 1947, and was written by Don Wilcox (full name: Cleo Eldon Wilcox)….

Too Soon to Die by Don Wilcox

Outlaw Guns by Robert Moore Williams

ARCHER Outlaw GunsA panic-stricken Ben Ames rides a rough trail into Carter County, in desperate search of a mythical town renown as a haven to outlaws looking to go straight. Wrongly accused of murder, Ben walks fearfully into the office of Sheriff Amos Rockwell, an oldster whom clearly, despite his age, can whip any gunslinger. Amos bids the outlaw to enter, sit, and spill his guts.

Ben does just that, slaps his circular on the desk, and describes his scenario. Sizing him up, the sheriff extracts a worn black book and shows Ben the contents. It is filled with pages of WANTED posters. Each page has annotations by the sheriff in the form of “when arrived,” “details of behavior,” and dates of death and why they died. For, Amos has one rule: walk the straight-and-narrow and if you don’t, he’s gonna shoot you dead. And he legally can hide behind the justification that you ARE, in fact, after all, a WANTED MAN !!!

Trusting in Ben’s wish to do go straight, he offers him a job, as a secret deputy. But then a young lady enters and is also deputized. Ben Ames wonders if Amos has lost his mind. In short minutes, he has done just that, as a Sharps rifle-blast rents the air and blows a hole through the sheriff.

Left in charge of keeping the county civil, he finds that the nearby mining town’s wagon train is robbed, within a day of the sheriff’s death. Realizing now the cause of his death, Ben Ames sets out to find the murderers and bring justice back to Carter County…in a fashion after the hard-hitting stylings of the ex-sheriff.

But when Ben is blackmailed by a cretin wielding the black book, who is also married to the deputized girl, Ben finds his back against the wall, for if he fails to adhere to the demands of this creep, he’ll call the United States Marshal to pick up: Ben Ames: Wanted…for Murder!

Ben is one man alone against a county of villains, or, is he? When ex-outlaws-turned-straight-honest men approach him in the sheriff’s office under the cover of darkness, he learns that these outlaws might be the secret strength needed to back his play to….well, you’ll just have to read the novelette yourself.

Honestly, this is an excellent western, screamingly scrunched into 33-pages using a font type smaller than what you are currently reading here on Facebook!!! Tightly packed and murder on the eyes (grab yourself a magnifying glass) you can count on Robert Moore Williams to supply a highly competent Western yarn in his usual first-rate story-tellin’ style!

Outlaw Guns was published by the Archer Press in 1948. It was originally printed in the USA pulp Mammoth Western (November 1947).

Outlaw Guns by Robert Moore Williams

Guns for the Valley by Russell Storm

ARCHER Guns For The Valley
On returning home to Maikop Valley, 22-year old Tom Crenshaw is back to reclaim his murdered father’s homestead. Five years earlier, Tom, then 17, witnessed Max Hoffman’s riders bullet-riddle his home, murdering his father and burning the home to cinders. With the realization that the Hoffman raiders believed that he was home, too, he lit out for parts unknown, to save his own life. Now, five years later, he sports a six-gun and rides with two tough gun-slinging friends with women of their own, looking for lush lands to settle and cultivate.

Tom only needs to settle a few things: his family land, a blood feud, and claim the hand of Lucy Larkin.

But when he learns that Hoffman has married Lucy and told her that Tom died five years earlier, he’s not the only one looking for answers. Lucy Larkin, fearing for her husband’s life after Tom ghostily re-appears into her life, chambers a six-cylinder into her clothes, slaps leather, and rides out to finish off Tom for keeps, despite the apparent lies that Max Hoffman has told her….

Will Lucy Larkin slay Tom, her ex-romantic childhood flame?
Will Tom and the homesteaders be fanned with hot lead?
Is Max Hoffman truly innocent?
Or, is there something else more sinister afoot?

Guns for the Valley carried Robert Moore Williams’ alias “Russell Storm” on this publication, which was originally printed in MAMMOTH WESTERN (August 1947). This British edition, printed by the Archer Press, appeared circa 1948, is a 33-page pamphlet.

Guns for the Valley by Russell Storm