2015 August 31: “The Trackless Thing” by Justin Atholl

“The Trackless Thing” by Justin Atholl was published in 1943 by Everybody’s Books, a short-lived wartime outfit operated by the Kelly brothers. The cover art, unsigned, was used on a handful of titles by this publisher, and also by their partner, the Mitre Press.

ATHOLL The Trackless Thing 2

Superintendent Lakin must investigate the sudden is plagued by a series of crimes perpetuated by an unknown criminal, whom appears only interested in ransacking homes, tossing papers about, killing house pets (brutally), and apparently not stealing anything. At least nothing of worth.

Months go by, and the “Trackless Thing” has vanished, when suddenly, the town is struck by a pair of murders! And, in both cases, no visible means of forced entry is present.

Can Lakin solve the murders before another occurs, sending the town into a panicked tizzy? Who, or, what, is the Trackless Thing? Is it even human?

2015 August 31: “The Trackless Thing” by Justin Atholl

2015 August 31: “The Case of the Strangled Seven” by Preston Yorke

“The Case of the Strangled Seven” by Preston Yorke (cover art by Jeff Cook)
(aka: Harold Ernest Kelly, of alias Darcy Glinto fame, etc)

YORKE The Case Of The Strangled Seven

NOTE: I read this book years ago and reported upon it to John Fraser, an avid Kelly researcher.  I decided to freshen up on it, and copy the plot herewith as I wrote it up all those years ago.

A beat-weary constable stumbles upon a pair of strangled drug-gang distributors. He requests time off to investigate the area on his own. A lone member of the nefarious gang captures and binds him, and later sets fire to the hideout, with the intention of burning the constable. He escapes, with severe burns.

Meanwhile, our wonderful author abandons any pretext of surprising the reader about who the strangler is. A somewhat well-to-do businessman has lost his daughter to drugs, and has lost his grip on reality. He and some reliable professionals systematically hunt down the seven top members of the gang and strangle them to death.

His secretary learns the truth, so, he kidnaps her.

The constable continues to track the s.o.b.s who tried to snuff him. In the traditional climax he attempts to arrest both the businessman and leader of the outfit, (the former operates under the name of “Optimus One”). “Optimus,” who bizarrely has a sac of poison attached to one of his teeth, bites the businessman and dies a paralyzing death before the constable’s eyes. The businessman announces that there are notes in his office that will clear up the entire case, and then, he too promptly dies.

2015 August 31: “The Case of the Strangled Seven” by Preston Yorke

2015 August 31: “Killer’s Breed” by Bruff Curfew

Killer's Breed

This pseudonym is reputed to be the alias of N. Wesley Firth, but I sincerely doubt that Firth concocted the absurdities within. (At least, I hope that he wasn’t the only person utilizing this alias).

When Len Lannigan’s father, Jake, is maliciously stabbed to death with a Bowie, he discovers his father’s hoard of cash missing. Upon cleaning the blade and hilt, he finds an engraved name, and thus begins a ridiculous trek all over tarnation, following lead upon lead. Essentially, the blade changed hands through deaths and card games, etc., and it eventually comes down to that Jake’s friend, Breezy, whom keeps Len company throughout the entire hunt, is the murderer, which was entirely clear from the get-go. An awful plot-line that lends no credit to the action-packed cover art of a roped man with two revolvers in hand.

If all Bruff Curfew titles are by Firth, well, this is the worst example of all his Western output.

2015 August 31: “Killer’s Breed” by Bruff Curfew

2015 August 28: “It’s Only Saps That Die” by Buck Toler

Having recently finished reading Buck Toler’s “Killer on the Run,” I was less than thrilled with myself for having decided to chug through yet another Buck Toler title.

TOLER It's Only Saps That Die

And, so, we trudge along to the next thriller, “It’s Only Saps that Die.”

This was published by Everybody’s Books (1944) and features a wonderfully gruesome illustrated cover by Jeff Cook, showcasing a woman being ground to death between two large gears, and, while her blood spews out and her body is broken and twisted in half, a man is seen reaching down (too late) to try and save her life.

Let me spare you the details by stating that no such scene occurs inside….
Disappointed? Don’t be.

Unlike the prior read, which delved exclusively into the mind of a “killer on the run,”this novel is pure gangster-stuff with a Federal Agent thrown into the mix.

The investigation: how is it that while the war is going on, that, in America, with the huge beef rations, that certain companies appear to be functioning well above federal guidelines?

With the newspapers carrying stories of old-fashioned frontier cattle rustling, and beef companies filing cases that their refrigerated trucks are being hijacked by killers, special agent Captain Delane of the FBI is sent by Hoover to investigate, infiltrate, and smash the crooks.

He assumes the fictitious identity of Tex Radnor, a hoodlum looking for employment in Chicago. While there he crosses paths violently with a vicious ex-drug smuggler. He is caught and beaten mercilessly and left for dead; he is rescued by one of the hoodlum’s molls. Instead of fleeing, he waits in the smuggler’s office and beats two thugs [gleefully] into unconsciousness and delivers and impromptu beating onto the lead thug, until he gets the answers he wants.

Now set up to work with a big-time beef distributor, he starts small by driving their rigs. After weeks of inactivity goes by, Delane approaches the lower-level managerial thug-in-charge and presents himself as a thug-for-hire. The guy moves him up to thievery and thus begins the real action, as Delane (Tex Radnor) aids in the hijacking of beef trucks.

But when the head honcho himself learns of Tex, he is immediately suspicious of this young man, and has his boys bring Tex to his office. They torture him, attempting to beat the truth out of him. The boss, Rimmer, is keenly aware that Tex is an alias, and likely a Fed. They beat him near to death, toss him into river-boat sort of structure full of filth and hundreds of hungry rats, and leave him to his fate.

Will Captain Delane live? How will he escape? Will the rats nibble hungrily on all 21 of his digits? Will Delane be able to save face? Is there any sexual interest between he and the moll that saved him? How in hell will you get the answers to these questions unless you read the book?

This is Harold Ernest Kelly (aka: Buck Toler, aka Darcy Glinto, etc) at his very best.

“It’s Only Saps that Die” is gruesome, brutal, unforgiving, and harsh in Kelly’s visual depictions of America in the grips of gangsters willing to die for what they believe in: CASH.

2015 August 28: “It’s Only Saps That Die” by Buck Toler

2015 August 25: “Killer on the Run” by Buck Toler

I’ve been both dreaming and dreading reading this book, after years of experience reading other stories by him, under other aliases….

“Killer on the Run” was published under the alias ‘Buck Toler’ by Everybody’s Books (1944).
Cover art is attributed to what appears to read “Church.” However, glancing through the FreeBMD website shows nobody born, married, or died with such a surname.
Thus, an illustrator I know zilch about…. (Do you?)

TOLER Killer On The Run

The alias was utilized by Harold Ernest Kelly, one of two brothers operating the outfit.
Kelly had paid severely a couple years earlier for writing obscene books, under the alias of Darcy Glinto. The name failed to reappear until after World War Two ended. In the meantime, Kelly created several new aliases in which to freely operate.

Only three other books were published under the Buck Toler pseudonym:

  • The Bronsville Massacre (Mitre Press, 1943)
  • It’s Only Saps That Die (Everybody’s Books, 1944)
  • Tough on the Wops (Everybody’s Books, 1944-1945)

The hideout of Rudolph Max Kling, otherwise referred throughout the novel as Killer Kling,
is raided by the police and his entire outfit is busted. Kling escaped and is at a roadhouse
listening to the news over the radio, when his moll, Varia Rader, struts in, and informs Kling that they need to scram. The Feds are outside set to raid the joint, which, they do. Chaos ensues as they seek to escape the clutches of the law. By the third page Kling has already snapped a bullet into the belly of one agent and pistol-whips another two pages later.

They escape by jumping in the backseat of a customer’s car. Giving the innocent bystanders the OK to leave, the owner of the car clambers in and receives the cold steel welcome of a hollow barrel kissing his nape hungrily clamoring for blood. The feller doesn’t argue and taking instructions like a sap, drives the pair of hoodlums to safety. His reward? Yeah, page 9, read it, ya mug! His Colt revolver pumps a slug into the man’s gut. They make merry with his set of wheels until the auto becomes too hot to handle. They skip across the country, attempting numerous escape routes along the way: other autos, a train, a plane, etc. You get the idea.

Kling is mostly led (or, rather, influenced) by the intelligent and gorgeously stunning Varia Rader. She boasts more than just looks. She is pure evil, going so far as to coldly walking up to a cop and punching a hole through his skull in a hotel room to save Kling. Remorse? Nah. She flits throughout the book with a psychotically sinister smile and knows how to turn on the sensual juices when necessary.

If you pervs wants some sex, this isn’t the book for you. It’s pure, hardcore, unadulterated blood-and-thunder killer shit for you. What’s more, there are no page breaks, no chapter, nothing to give you relief. Kelly pounds Kling and Rader mercilessly upon you, until the very end, when they finally meet their match near the Mexican border in a Federal agent that uses his brain more than any other agent or back-town wayward law-preaching hick had thus far.

But boy, do they get their man (and woman) ???

I’m not tellin’!!!

2015 August 25: “Killer on the Run” by Buck Toler

2015 August 21: “They Don’t Always Hang Murderers” by Benson Herbert

After reading a Nazi thriller, I decided to “blitz” through this next book.

Benson Herbert’s “They Don’t Always Hang Murderers” was published by Lloyd Cole, originally released in boards, in February 1943. Copies sold out and it was re-issued April 1943. These, too, apparently sold out, for the publishers finally issued a “Cheap Edition” soft cover, the one featured below, a their Third Impression, on October 1943.

LLOYD COLE They Don't Always Hang Murderers

It features a lovely cover illustration by H. W. Perl, and is a 144-page digest paperback.
It’s unclear who the Golden Amazon (thank you, John Russell Fearn) lass featured is supposed to be within the novel, but, I suspect she is the secretary; but, I digress….(nice legs, though)….

The story involves Henry Wilcox’s addiction toward uncovering the mysterious whereabouts of a man whom he was best friends before the First World War. They both served together along with Henry’s brother, Clive. The friend, one Tracey Gooth (what a name!) is wounded in the leg and forever more, vanishes without a trace. Henry, likewise, is injured.

Returning from the war, Henry finds that his wife is missing. Try as he might, he can not locate her. Likewise, Gooth is missing, and his sweetheart, Joan, ends up marrying Henry, since they have something in common. There is no real love between them. She has money of her own (by which means is never honestly divulged, so, it must be inherited family funds) and she stakes Henry to business and pushes him to be successful, for which, he largely is.

Flash forward a couple decades. No clear year is given, but, let us assume that 25 years has passed since 1918, landing us upon the year this book is released. Sound good? Great.

Henry’s son, Arthur, has been having an affair and she sneaks out to his country estate to blackmail the family. Arthur, finally convinces her [Clara] to depart the estate for fear of upsetting the family. She leaves, but it is clear that she will return and continue the blackmail. She eventually is found dead, later in the novel, and it is presumed by Clara’s mother, that Arthur murdered her and that leads to another blackmail attempt, this time, on Henry and his business.

Enter Henry and his wife, Joan. He is easy-going while she appears to be the family “matriarch” in the iron-fist sense. She controls Henry and Arthur through fear. Henry submits to her wishes because he is ill and requires a medication to control it while Arthur is weak-minded and is simply afraid of her. Not to mention, Arthur works for his father.

The tale mostly revolves around the disappearance and sudden re-appearance of Tracey Gooth into their lives, and Henry’s brother, Clive, trying to substantiate the fact that Tracey, once a decent sort, has fallen on hard times since his debilitating wartime injury left him with a permanent limp, is now there purely to blackmail the family.

I’ll ruin part of the plot by announcing that facts arise that Tracey was not simply engaged to Joan prior to the war. They had in fact, secretly married, and, to top that off, Arthur is their son!!! Right as this information is ultimately divulged [at the end of the novel] in walks Clive, to proclaim that Henry is dead and that Tracey murdered him by supplying the carefully locked-up meds, which led to an overdose.

Do they believe him? Or, is there another person present that ultimately committed the crime? Sadly, what begins in earnest as an interesting novel of crime, attempted murder, a slanderous affair or two, etc., essentially collapses in the end with the most ridiculous soap opera endings. I recommend the book to anyone, but, ask only that they stop short of discovering the identity of the killer and the ultimate fate of that person in a quasi-“Fall of the House of Usher” like moment.

2015 August 21: “They Don’t Always Hang Murderers” by Benson Herbert

“The Black Phoenix” by Martin Lester (Curtis Warren Ltd., 1954)

“The Black Phoenix,” by Martin Lester, is in fact a spy thriller (a la James Bond-esque) written by Edmund Cooper. It was published by Curtis Warren Ltd. (February 1954) and represents Cooper’s second printed title.

British special agent Peter Mars, after infiltrating and demolishing a nefarious Russian plot early in the novel with the aid of an American special agent (actually, Peter lapses into amnesia throughout the entire episode after being bopped over the head) returns home to England for rest and relaxation.

However, in the espionage business, there is no such thing as snatching a little R & R, eh?

Peter Mars is immediately drafted to replace the recently deceased English counterfeiter Hildebrand, whom was knocked dead by a lorry. (On his deathbed, Hildebrand had mumbled incoherently some future arrangements). Thus assuming the role, Mars travels to Iceland and is immediately met with unpredictable complications: a driver that picks him up but presumably doesn’t speak English, and a young lady at the hotel accosts him under the guise of being Hildebrand’s wife!

Clearly the girl can blow his cover, but, incredibly, she doesn’t. She is there to locate her father, a Nazi officer, that she has not seen since the Second World War, and coerces Mars to bring her along with him.

With a note slipped under his hotel room door at night, he reads and readies himself for his ordeal. The pair are driven far away from civilization, then take a helicopter out to a remote island, seemingly uninhabitable, when a platform rises out of the surface. They land and the platform drops beneath the island to an underground facility, like something right out of an Ian Fleming thriller. (Mind you, Mr. Fleming’s first Bond book was “Casino Royale,” in 1953, so I’m not entirely certain what Cooper modeled his concepts after).

Having arrived, he is greeted as Hildebrand, since the girl does not betray his trust. Further, we learn she is the daughter one of the top brass Nazis. Point of fact, the entire underground base is a secret Nazi regime waiting to bring the world to its knees! And their deepest guarded secret: a young teen-aged boy that reportedly is . . . the son of Adolph Hitler!

Without revealing further details, I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the well-thought-out initial Peter Mars tale of espionage and intrigue against the Russians, but, Edmund Cooper truly shines in this complicated tale of Nazism surviving years beyond the war, secretly plotting to undermine the world economic system. The entire “son of Adolph Hitler” could have been eradicated from the novel, as it lent absolutely nothing to the plot.  The fight scenes are intrinsic and elaborate, drawing the reader deeper into the chaos that ultimately ensues.

Cooper, sir … you’ve done a damn fine job entertaining me this week with your first two (of three) novel achievements.

“The Black Phoenix” by Martin Lester (Curtis Warren Ltd., 1954)

“They Shall Not Die” by Broderick Quain (Curtis Warren Ltd., 1954)

Nearly a decade has passed since I first acquired They Shall Not Die, a crime thriller written by Edmund Cooper, under the pseudonym of Broderick Quain. It was published by Curtis Warren Ltd. (March 1954) and represented Cooper’s third printed title.CW They Shall Not Die

Richard Sinclair, a psychiatrist, is visited by a 20-year-old lovely lady by the name of Maxime Barry. She confides that she has [in the past] murdered a man and he continues to haunt her. Nobody sees him; nobody believes her. Assured of her insanity, she seeks out Sinclair’s aid to prove her sanity or, lock her up in a padded cell.

Confident that Maxime Barry is in fact sane, Sinclair advises her to stay calm, etc. No sooner does she depart than Antoinette Barry enters. She is essentially her step-mother. She insists that Sinclair abort his sessions with Maxime; that she is in fact insane; and his intervention may prove to be quite dangerous. She then attempts to bribe him.

As soon as he removes her from his offices, he ‘phones his old mate, Dennis Byrd, an Inspector with the Cambridge C.I.D., to set up a joint venture into the countryside for a week of rest and relaxation. Whilst driving to East Cotton, Sinclair asks Byrd if he’s had any peculiar, unaccounted for deaths. Byrd realizes something is afoot, for Sinclair never shows such an interest in Byrd’s morbid work. He obtains from Sinclair, off-the-record, a report on his psychiatric activities.

Arriving in East Cotton and taking up residence, go for a walk, and, after hearing a gun discharge, the pair stumble across Maxime Barry! [While the author makes poor use of an impossible coincidence, Cooper adroitly handles the mysterious conspiracy that follows].

Sinclair and Byrd are confident that Maxime is purposefully being driven insane before she becomes heir to a small fortune upon her 21st birthday, and further, that the villains in the case are using an Occult Research Society as a front for the distribution of drugs.

Unable to prove their theories, they are forced to solve the “crime” themselves, or, die trying.

Now, I had initially put off reading They Shall Not Die for ten years because Cooper reportedly had less than savory words for women. I was afraid that his own viewpoints might make themselves quite evidently present within his earlier novels. Finally, taking this into account, I charged forward, realizing these elements might be present, but accepted them. While Cooper does in fact make some slight off-remarks, on the whole, I felt the novel to be adventurously a pleasing read; while the villains themselves were obvious from the start, their motives were somewhat opaque. And while Maxime Barry begins as a weak feminine entry, she turns out to be all the stronger by the end of the novel, a complete 180 in her status, clearly indicating that Cooper was firmly aware to avoid the conventional play-up-the-weaker-sex angle that most authors tended to adhere to in their stories. I applaud Mr. Cooper for the unconventional.

“They Shall Not Die” by Broderick Quain (Curtis Warren Ltd., 1954)

2015 August 11: “Kazan the Killer” by Shaun O’Hara (Hamilton & Co., 1951)

After reading Stephen D. Frances’ “Stories for All Moods,” I myself needed a change of mood and ripped into an action novel of the Frozen North, a genre I wholeheartedly enjoy.

Written under the house-name Shaun O’Hara, “Kazan the Killer,” published in 1951 by Hamilton & Co., is a ripping good yarn. The author behind this title is Thomas H. Martin. The illustrator is the incomparable James McConnell.

HAMILTON Kazan The Killer

Rod Lanchester, having discovered a cache of gold, beats it to civilization, and while out in the frozen wasteland, realizes that he is being tracked by killers. Slowly, his dogs are captured or killed and the lead dog, Kazan, escapes, and becomes the leader of a wolf pack. Rod is left to fend for himself, and eventually, freezes to death… However, prior to his ultimate demise out in the wastes, he mails a letter to his family back home!

Months pass, and his brother, Kurt Lanchester, having received the letter, charters a private plane to drop him at Dogleg Bend. Kurt is bent on retrieving the Siberian and meting out vengeance against those whom killed his brother. He finds a chilly reception; nobody is willing to sell him dogs, sled, provisions, etc. When he learns that the local bully and his henchmen are the root cause, he’s certain that he has found his brother’s killer(s). On the way, our hero meets a girl, whom thankfully is not entirely reduced to fulfilling the weak-woman clichés.

Unfortunately, word has gotten around that our hero has flown up with the specific task of retrieving the now murderous Kazan. Realizing Kazan has more value dead than alive, the killers will stop at nothing to rub out Kurt and snatch Kazan, along with whatever secret is on the four-footed Siberian, for they are certain that the secret of the gold’s whereabouts were secreted on that very dog, shortly before Rod’s untimely death!

2015 August 11: “Kazan the Killer” by Shaun O’Hara (Hamilton & Co., 1951)

2015 August 8: “Stories for All Moods” edited by Stephen D. Frances (UK: Pendulum Publications, 1945)

On 22 July 2015, a dealer on ABEbooks.com made an egregious listing error….
That error led to shelled-out funds, and a surreal, unique pleasure.
It arrived from the UK in a tiny padded envelope.
I giddily ripped the flesh of the packaging to shreds on the 31st of July.

Grab some tea and scones. Use the toilet, while you have the chance. AND please, leave me your comments on this blog. I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions on the stories below, or, whatever else you might like for me to cover in the future….

Published in 1945 by Pendulum Publications (UK), “Stories for All Moods,” noted as “No. 1,” hence suggesting on the merit of this edition that future volumes might one day exist, is edited by Stephen D. Frances, widely recognized in name as the man behind the widely popular Hank Janson gangster fiction novels. This collection also boasts what well may be the first ever fiction story by S. D. F.

Anyone familiar with the small pocket books of Pendulum will readily appreciate this publication. Unlike their soft cover counterparts, this edition was perfect bound in red boards and splashed with black. The spine has the text “STORIES FOR ALL MOODS NO. 1 * FRANCES ED.” all in caps, in gold, backed upon a black strip. Indeed, a very simple, innocuous-looking volume.

IMG_0859                     IMG_0860

My copy lacks a dust jacket and sports all the hallmarks of being an ex-libris edition, as far as the library card and lending slips attached. Otherwise, it is a remarkably clean copy, with no other odd marks left by dealers or handling! This 170-page neat volume (stories begin on page 8) is brimming with 30 mixed-genre stories of varying length and 2 poems.

Frances introduces the volume briefly, but the intro is hardly memorable. Let’s skip that, shall we? The book is a mixture of reprinted American tales from quality publications, some British veteran writers, but mostly new or young talent, peers that the editor rubbed shoulders with along the way in life.

The first is a long tale, “The Spider and the Fly,” by Stephen Fleming.  Mr. Twigg, a chemist, years ago served on a jury, and found that one Ferdinand Simpson, was to be found guilty of murder, however, the jury was advised that due to a technicality, he should be set free. The burden lifted, Mr. Simpson was set free and never heard from again. Many years pass, and Twigg’s life crosses paths with that of Mr. Simpson, however, under the new surname of “Everard.” The latter fails to recognize Twigg as one of the jurors, and upon closing shop, runs to the mayor’s house to tell his tale. He fears that Simpson may murder again, that the local police should be informed, but the mayor calmly informs him that Ferdinand was found innocent, and can no longer be judged by a past crime. Months pass, and Ferdinand comes to be engaged with the local wealthy widow, Mrs. Holmes. Time again passes and Ferdinand enters his shop requesting weed-killer, the very stuff he’d reportedly used to kill his last victim! Running back to the mayor yet again, he is again rebuffed, and the mayor begs him to wait five days, then do as he pleases. While both are walking together, they later learn that there has been a death and immediately assume the newly made Mrs. Everard is dead. However, it was the Mister that died, not she! The mayor later explains that he grew up in this town since a child and attended school with Mrs. Holmes, whom is NOW a three-time widower, and suggests off-hand that she actually murdered all three of her husbands for THEIR money! It is a simple crime story told with a closing twist.

There really is little for me to say about Reginald Moore’s “A Bad Investment.” It is a short story spanning no more than four pages, a war story, and quite quaintly English. By the time I finished, I felt the title aptly defined the time I had spent in [suffering through] reading it.

Letter at Dawn” by Captain J. E. Morpurgo is confidently written and entrancing. I kept expecting an uncanny finale, but, no, we simply have a case of a soldier that went on a blind date, fell in love, engaged, marriage begged off (by her) until after the war, and he goes on to serve (thus far) for four years, globetrotting various battles. The entire length of the Morpurgo’s story is a letter written by our soldier, currently on a destroyer, awaiting landfall to attack the enemy stronghold. He writes what is likely to be his last letter to a lover that has begun and eventually does fail to continue to write him on a regular basis, which leads him to mentally lose hold on sanity and begin to imagine that she has taken up with a stable man of good financial standing and zero chance of becoming a soldier. Our “hero,” if I may be so bold, goes on to describe this fantastic usurper of his love and closes that he now knows what he looks like and will kill him upon landing.

The identity of the author means nothing to me, a Yank, however, on research,
I found him to be quite interesting, and famous in his own right.
Proper name is Jack Eric Morpurgo. He was born 26 April 1918, schooled at
Christ’s Hospital, attended the University of North Brunswick and fled (via transfer)
to the College of William Mary (Williamsburg). There, in 1938, he became the first
Brit to graduate since the American Revolution. Enlisted 1939 in the war effort for
four years (in India, the Middle East, and Italy), and in by 1946, joined Penguin Books
as editor until 1967. For the next two years he worked with the National Book League.
1969, Jack became a professor (of American Literature, no less) at Leeds University.
He died at age 82, and was blind the last 15 years of his life.
The above tale is NOT his first story, but a damn fine tale indeed.

Is Your Journey Really Necessary?” by Ann Gordon is a two-pager describing briefly a woman’s attempts towards getting to an appointment the next day and all the things that do invariably go wrong trying to grab a train. She finally defeats all that can-and-will-go-wrong and begins the upward spiral of thankfulness as things settle in, only to arrive at her final destination and learn that the business arrangement was cancelled and that they had attempted to contact her back at the hotel only to have missed her by five minutes.

Episode (To B.)” by Muriel Harris is a poem. Some of the authors in this volume have short biographical snippets appended to the end of their entry, and she is one of those. Born 1922, came to London during the Blitz, currently employed by the B.B.C. staff but finds works with the Features and Drama Dept. “limiting.” Well!!! Her poem sure did not inspire much with THIS reader, either! (NOTE: She was the editor’s personal secretary)

Disappointed with the last two entries, I was spiritually lifted by the romantic war entry supplied by Joseph Anthony. “The Colonel Apologises” involves a young Czechoslovakian recruit by the name of Victor Novotny, whom is literacy-challenged in all ways, but is sharp in the street-wise department, apparently. When his troop is sent out (at Camp Crandall) to head North to a rendezvous point, he notes by reading the position of the stars that they are heading East. When he informs his immediate supervisor, he is chastised and informed to keep formation and that he, the Sergeant, has a compass. Novotny begins to lag behind, and then, inexplicably, vanishes. Some hours later, he is the only one to emerge from the mission at the predetermined rendezvous point. The rest of the troop were listed as casualties; Novotny was given a stripe, promoted to first-class private. He went on to wear that single stripe proudly. Time passes, and we find our simple Czech-man lumbering eight miles to civilization on a day of leave. Arriving in Cooperstown, he enters a Czech restaurant (what ARE the odds of that, eh?), drinks a beer, and plays his accordion. He then sees the Lieutenant that promoted him at a lone table with a lovely young lady, ambles over, asks if his music is annoying them. The girl finds his music charming, but must insist the Lt. to encourage him to play-on! He acquiesces, annoyed to have been approached by a lower ranking member in such a fashion. True told, he is annoyed because the girl’s mother won’t have him marrying her, the original descendant of Cooperstown, Miss Cooper. The Lieutenant informs her of this, and they go their way. Weeks later, Novotny enters the Lt.’s office and asks him to write a love letter to his girlfriend in Pittsburgh in appeal of marriage. Asked WHY?, the Czech notes that he can’t write. The Lt. grudgingly agrees, but, when the Colonel enters, quickly adjusts his manner to protocol and demands explanation for Novotny asking such an imposition, to which he replies: “If I need love letter, I go to man that is in love himself.” The Lt. informs him that if he knew HOW to read, he’d have seen in the local newspaper that she is to be wed shortly to another man, and, educates the Czech, that here in America, just because a man sits down and dines with a girl, doesn’t mean they are in love. Chastised, and banned by the Colonel to never enter the offices again, he departs, crestfallen…only to return later that evening! He barrels through a staff sergeant and delivers a letter to the Lt., with the Colonel as spectator. Opening it, they both read that it is from Miss  Cooper, accepting the Lt.’s offer of marriage! Novotny never posted the intended letter to his own girlfriend, but, adjusting to the matter-at-hand, delivered the letter to Miss Cooper! The Colonel, as the title suggests, apologizes, shakes his hand, and notes “there are times when I think that literacy is an over-rated institution.” Unsure of his situational standing, the Czech scratches his head, and begs of the Colonel “Can I scr-ram now?

There is no biographical data supplied, however, it is safe to assume that
this Joseph Anthony is the American playwright, born 24 May 1912 and
died 20 January 1993. He was born Joseph Deuster in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
He served enlisted and served from 1942-1946. He became a regular
contributor to The Saturday Evening Post throughout the 1930s.
For more information, check out his Wiki-stub.

The Wager” by George Watkins, begins with two morons betting another at night to walk, without aid of matches, etc., into a sealed cemetery vault, and pound a six-inch nail into the tomb. Easy, right? The story creeps of the weird and fantastic, but ends with our wager-accepting hero merely dying of fright.

According to a tiny biog at the end of the tale notes the author writes
for Free Expression, a monthly political journal (that began in 1939),
and this is the first-ever story written by George Watkins.

 A self-imposed reading assignment is particularly painful when reading a story that simply does not hold your interest, from the start, through to the finish. Even worse when the whole story is dull you and you couldn’t give a shit about the denouement. Such is the case with Elizabeth Williams’ “La Maison Stabel.” Two young unmarried girls, one perhaps corpulent to a degree and infatuated with stuffing her face with chocolates, the other moderately pretty, are sent to Switzerland and reside with Mademoiselle Lambert. It’s not entirely clear WHY they there, however, Lambert refuses to allow the ladies to accept the gracious offer to tea with Madame Stabel, on account of rumors concerning Mr. Stabel, the hairdresser. However, she reluctantly permits the girls to accept after a written formal letter arrives. The pair walk down and into the shop, and are invited upstairs to their room, where Madame Stabel, and English lady, has prepared the tea. We quickly learn that she is lonely for fellow English-persons, how she met her husband, and that she is ill and can not bear children. Mr. Stabel then makes his appearance, gets the prettier girl isolated, despite all being in the same room, and begins rubbing ankles with the girl. She jumps up, practically grabs her sister and excuses them. They’ve learned a hard life-lesson.

The snippet biog gives that Elizabeth Williams was born in 1908, London
attended a Swiss university, and visited Germany in the 1930s.

A Hair of the Dog” is brilliant work by the writer, David Boyce. Bible-thumping Joe Parker is mercilessly taunted about his religious ways and his untrained, smelly, thieving, ill-looking mongrel terrier, Hodge.  His fellow miners maliciously hurl rocks at the dog, but Joe turns the other cheek and forgives them. He preaches sermons at the tiny local church, and the ladies adore him, despite his shabby appearance, but equally, like the men, dislike that nasty dog. Time passes. The men all climb into the cage to lower into the mining shaft, to swap shifts with 80 men below. Hodge, whom usually calmly waits for his master’s return by the pit-head, runs into the cage and havoc ensues. In order to get the animal out, Joe tries to trick him with his meat sandwich. Hodge grabs it and adroitly dodges Joe’s hands, and leads Joe on a chase out of the metal cage. While running out, a metal cable snaps and the cage quickly descends, descends, descends…. The dog KNEW that something was wrong with that cage, and Joe? He was saved, just barely, by….(yes, the title).

David Boyce was born 1916, employed writing commercial-radio scripts.
He’s had stories printed in Modern Reading, Seven, Challenge, Male Magazine,
A Basinful of Fun,

One Man’s Honeymoon” by Fraser Wilson concerns two children, Duncan Ward and Ginny Hammond. Their lives, like anyone else’s, seem pretty much determined. Ginny is blonde, gorgeous, blue-eyed, an upturned nose…you remember the type? (Sure you do. I found her pretty, myself, but secretly I hated her guts). And our boy Duncan? Yeah, he was the organizer. He had everything planned, everybody’s chores planned, and when you got to be teenagers and the gang went out for a jaunt, he’d have the eateries all lined up to the exact time and each stop mapped out and you DID what he said, because he was that kind of a guy. And these two were inseparable as youths, dated, and hardly a surprise that they became engaged. But the surprises just kept on coming and the bubble popped when the row at the engagement party started. Ginny was flaming pissed that he had an itinerary, even for their honeymoon, down to exact driving times, where they were going, how long they were staying, and the final stop, his birth town! So, when she blew town and it was later learned that she had gotten married, nobody was LESS surprised than Duncan to begin receiving postcards from Ginny, each posted on the dates corresponding to when he had planned for their trip to coincide with each town-stop. But when that last postcard never arrived from Fall City, his birth town, the only person not surprised was me, because, you see, I’m the chap that married Ginny!

The vignette was originally published in the American magazine,
Liberty (1943 May 22). No information could be located on this author,
nor any further stories. It is possible that he served during World War Two
and never made it home alive. Any information would be wonderful.

Foreboding” by Glyn Bevan is the story of a man whom awakens to the purring sound of his alarm clock and from a bizarre set of nightmares. A man whom takes stock in dreams, he can’t help but think HE will have a foreboding that day! Nearly everything goes wrong, from nearly killing a child on a bus, the lift-operator on the mining elevator suffers a stroke and nearly kills all on board via drowning, a runaway mining cart nearly runs into him, etc. Then he comes home to find the lights are out and he panics, thinking something terrible has happened to wife and children. He enters, the lights flick on, and…his family is there, with a cake, celebrating their tenth anniversary.

The author is given to be 25 years old, born in Aberdare, South Wales,
and leader of an International Voluntary Service for Peace agricultural unit
at Clows Top. Wrote a review that won a prize in the New Statesman.

Next is a semi-weird tale by Pamela Whitby. “The Man Who Saw Too Much” involves a man whom has survived a bomb blast only to awaken in a medical ward and learn that wherever he lays his eyes, he hears everything perfectly. No conversation escapes his vision! He decides to keep the news to himself, rather than end up an experiment…. He soon learns to take advantage of his supernatural ability, earn money on the side, and then ditches his bank clerk job and build up a nest of millions! In the end, we find that he is delusional and still reposing in that same medical ward. A fun story.

Sarge” is a story of pure World War Two stuff, but with heart. After their plane crashes somewhere in the Alaskan wilderness, the Lt. awakens to hear the gruff commands of the Sarge bellowing for the release of a dog from the wreckage of the plane. The Doc on board retrieves the dying, bleeding, nearly lifeless husky, then moves to provide a transfusion of his own blood to the fading-fast Sarge. But, Sarge has other ideas and orders the Doc to give the Doc’s blood instead to the dog. The dog comes first, because even if the others survive, they all will die. Only the dog can find its way out of the frozen wastes and lead them to their final destination, Caribou Creek, a remote meteorological station monitoring Pacific weather before it affects war zones.

The above story first appeared in the 19 March 1944 of This Week,
a newspaper magazine supplement, is by American pulp fiction writer
Frank Richardson Pierce, born 21 October 1881 in Massachusetts, and
died 7 January 1966 in Seattle, Washington. He wrote hundreds of Westerns
and frozen north tales that took place primarily in Alaska.

Art-Tralala” is categorically pure nonsense. Authored by Hugh Fraser and John Martin, whom take part in this story-narrative entirely themselves, bicker about the art of writing and breaking away from the norm. ‘Nuff said, the better….

Creation” by Marjorie Stace deals with a young man agonizing over two things. Foremost, his wife giving birth, and the sort of future it will have. And two, solving the riddle of getting that damn experimental aircraft up into the air so that it can menace the enemy. The author has our bedeviled man inexplicably come up with the solution to the plane’s dilemma, without expounding on where the idea was birthed from. Then he presents the idea to his boss, and caves in and calls the ward to learn the baby was born. He then enters a revolutionary state of hyper-awareness, realizing that he, like all men, friend and enemy alike, share what it is like to suddenly become a parent. And then the pit of his stomach collapses as he realizes the destruction his plane will cause to the parents of the children, the enemy….

I am not sure who Marjorie Stace is or was, however, I found that the name
is the alias of Marjorie Enid Wood. Searching that name didn’t lead me far.
The only direct match was an obituary in November 2013 edition of the Guardian.
It features a black lady, and notes her birth date as 29 June 1925, and death
as 14 November 2013. Could this indeed truly be the correct person?

And now enters the editor, Stephen D. Frances, with his short story, “No Lady!” Dan Leaman, a soldier, enters the home of Doris Carter, in the hopes of getting her to not abandon his war-mate, Tony, whom is an amputee. He ascertains that Doris called “it off” because nobody wants to be with a person that is maimed, out of pity. He hauls off and slaps her full in the face, and says she ain’t a lady, and departs. Once he leaves, she reaches under the table, for a wooden crutch… It wasn’t Tony being an amputee she was worried about; it was Tony wanting HER for losing a leg after being “bombed” out during the blitz.

Stephen D. Frances really needs no introduction to anyone
that is savvy with his history. He attained the initial footprint of fame
in 1946, a year after this tale, was printed, with his landmark alias
“Hank Janson,” constructed as a hard-hitting gangster-writing author.

Tragedy” by Muriel Harris. Earlier in this collection, she had a poem. Now Stephen D. Frances’ personal secretary has a one-page vignette focusing on a man’s heartbreak at the lady of his life being dead. She sung in beautiful harmony along with the piano that he stroked. And she was dead, he was going to bury her, and it was because of that damn cat that his feathered friend was gone, forever.

Ann Gordon, whom preceded Muriel Harris with a story in this collection, now chases the above with “Romantic,” a short poem.

Top Hat for Sale” is a ludicrous title for a story that does not involve the sale of a top hat. Written by the pseudonymous Victor Holdstock, we have an old man wearing a red-white-and-blue top hat and handing out flyers to anyone for several years, in the hopes that someone will take on his legal case. Finally, he lucks out, and a lawyer takes him on and wins the case. Really an irredeemable tale hardly worthy of publication.

The tiny biog notes that Victor Holdstock “hides the identity of a Civil Servant.”
This is his first fiction story published. The only other evidence of printed
fiction by this person is a tale three years later, entitled “The Vanishing Men,”
in Scramble, a small publication put out by Gerald G. Swan.

Quality returns with Michael Williams writing “Appointment in Belgravia.” Fielder, recently released for serving time, decides to serve up payback to a fellow crook that walked away cleanly with all the cash and upgrades his lifestyle from hoodlum to high-class citizen. After doing away with the impudent s.o.b., he coolly steps out into traffic and disposes of himself!

Born in 1915 and educated at Christ’s Hospital, he was employed at the
Bank of England, before war broke out. He has contributed to numerous
publications, including Everyman, Picture Post, Modern Reading, etc.

The Lincoln Penny” involves a young lady whom is broke, stranded in New York City, and starving. With only a penny to her name, she walks the streets, and decides to try feminine wiles to obtain food. She lucks out when a kind and prosperous-looking fellow comes along and takes her to dinner. While eating, he begs to know why she is such a predicament. She confesses her life, and notes the penny. He notes that the penny is rare and pays a handsome sum for it, and they come to gaze into each other’s eyes and all that nonsense.

I had hoped that this short by Dorothy Quick would be a strange story,
given that she has written for Weird Tales magazine. No such luck….
Born Dorothy Gertrude Mayer, she befriend Mark Twain. He was largely
instrumental in inspiring her to write due to their friendly relationship.
(NOTE: It is unknown to me where this story was first printed).

Aled Vaughan offers up a war story in “God, the World is Wonderful!” which sounds like the title to a movie script, right? Ronnie, a fighter pilot, downs two “junkers” and begins to suffer from black spots in his eyes. Quickly ascertained he has two detached retinas. They fly him back to England; he has his eyes operated on, and now he’s lying helplessly in the ward, bandaged, blind, his back itching from a rash, and his arms tied down. Then the real excitement begins! The Nazis are bombing the medical camp and he’s experiencing first-hand what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a bombing raid.

Born in Wales, 1920, Aled exited school at 13, worked a variety of jobs,
was invalided out of the R.A.F. in January 1944, and since then, became
an Assistant Editor on a Fleet Street journal. He has sold stories to Blighty,
John o’ London’s, and is editor of “Celtic Story” published 1946,
by Pendulum Publications, which is a collections of short stories
written exclusively by Welsh writers. Aled also contributed a tale.

Paul’s Present” is a romantic written juvenile piece featuring a boy that has been bedridden for eleven months, in a cast (no reason divulged) and today is his birthday. His mother had written a radio station to broadcast her son’s birthday and the courage with which he has faced his condition. Unbeknownst to her, the station wrote a return letter informing her that they no longer will be performing such tasks. Worst yet, Paul opened the letter, since it was addressed to “P. Hackett.” (His mother shares his first initial). He keeps the letter a secret, shamefacedly. Thankfully, she has a habit of falling asleep listening to the radio, so he saves face by waking her after the final night’s broadcast to inform her of the birthday message (that never was) and she believes it happened!

Published as by Kurt Steel, the author is actually Rudolf Kagey,
a short-lived American fiction writer born 5 September 1904
and dead 13 May 1946. He is remembered for writing a
detective series in the style of Dashiell Hammett.
“Paul’s Present” originated in Collier’s Weekly (12 February 1944).

Smythe is running maneuvers in Europe during WW2, preparing his men for an eventual actual mission. He and his men sneak up on an unsuspecting farmstead, and he notes something burning in the distance, a farm hand running. He then orders his men to surround the farm. Upon rising he is inexplicably fatally shot, and realizes then that the burning item is a downed German plane, and the shooter is likely the pilot, stationed in the farm. All this blasts through his mind in Antony Irving’s tale as Smythe’s last words are that needs send “A Message to the Colonel.” Those might well be his last words…..

Denys Val Baker is no stranger to the fiction field. In “The Way of the Healer,” Manson heals the body, mind, and spirit of individuals that seek him out. Bizarrely, a young woman of exotic beauty and body, a dancer, impresses herself upon him, and convinces him to work on her. He’s never worked on a body like hers, so young, supple, sexy, irresistible. She plays with him mentally, torturing him, comes to increase her visits, and breaks down his human barriers. In the end, he finds his way again and breaks free of her evil shackles.

Baker was born 24 October 1917 and died 6 July 1984. He has edited
numerous publications, both fiction and poetry, created The Opus Press
during the war, and has had his short stories printed and/or collected
in numerous publications, such as Seven, Tribune, English Story, The Citizen,
American Aphrodite, London Mystery Magazine, etc.

Brendan Gill writes of a woman whom had to give up her daughter to an older woman in America to care for during the war in England. Mrs. Herbert is an elderly woman, and has perhaps exaggerated her limits of care to the point that she does not wish to relinquish the child back into her mother’s care. She goes so far as to try and keep them apart by sending the child to bed before her mother arrives! However, the child, not asleep, takes to crying upstairs, and Mrs. Herbert goes upstairs to calm the child, but slyly insists the mother not go, as she must be SO TIRED from her trip over. The child refuses to calm down until HER mother comes upstairs to kiss her goodnight! The mother realizes then that the child still wants her, and that Mrs. Herbert, despite all her years of intentions, has failed to keep them apart. Feeling sad for Mrs. Herbert, she acquiesces and states that she will go upstairs, but wouldn’t mind if they went up “Together.”

This story originally appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, 1941 Aug 9 edition.

Lawrence Ward offers “Conquest by Surprise.” Here, we have Mr. Reeves, owner of a fire extinguisher firm, receiving by special mail six perfectly formed, clean brown eggs. We are never really informed WHY Mr. Reeves should give a bloody damn about eggs, but, there you have it. The sender, a Lewis Fletcher, finally meets with him and drives him out to a factory. While outside, they both light up cigarettes and Lewis tosses his onto a pile of garbage soaked in paraffin. Reeves is aghast by the flames while Lewis calmly extracts a foreign extinguisher and puts out the flames, quite easily. Reeves is impressed and realizes the eggs were a sham to illustrate this new extinguisher, which is far superior to his own brand, possibly. He also discovers the young man is actually looking for a job. In the end, we learn the extinguisher is painted over, disguising the fact it is actually one of Reeves’ own.

Per the biog, Ward is given to be a Sergeant in the Air Force, and
stationed in India. This is his first published story. He had the habit
of writing humorous short stories to his family, and, at their insistence,
finally relented and agreed to try to get them published.

The Long Day” by Elizabeth Warner illustrates that despite how boring a story can be, and how eye-rolling the plot, and the fact that an author might deviate from the point, the conclusion can still be interesting … if you don’t mind the near decapitation of a cat via a scythe.

This story originated in the 26 June 1943 of The New Yorker magazine.
She had two other stories also appear in this magazine, in 1943 and 1944.

W. S. Meadmore supplies that “Strangers Knocked at the Door” of this unnamed first-person’s narrated tale. Content to live in his English home, which sports a hole in the roof of one room from a shell that failed to detonate, he receives a pair of visitors one day, looking to rent a room. Truth is, only the ONE person is looking to rent; the other is merely there to assist in placing the other fellow. Turns out he is was in Hamburg and displaced because his views differed from that of the Nazis (no kidding) so he fled until he ended up in England. An artist by trade, all he wanted to do was paint. However, by the story’s end, he is drafted into the English army and our narrator is once again alone.

William Sutton Meadmore was born in 1892 and died 1964.
During the 1920s, he was also associated with open-air theatre in
Florence before the first World War.  As a writer, he has
appeared in The Passing Show and The Grand Magazine.
He also co-authored a biographical text on Buffalo Bill.

Thirty Dollar Shoes” by Lew Dietz is one of those high-quality tales that deserves to be read again. Having escaped his poor upbringing in a small Eastern town, Parker landed in Hollywood and became a funnyman script writer. With the advent of the second world war, he finds himself presenting a movie concept, but, no script. Drawing heavily on a massive brain-fart, he’s sent packing from Hollywood to his hometown to draw upon some inspiration. Unfortunately, he is haunted by memories and a young blonde that had a crush on him as a child.

This tale originated in The Family Circle, 1943 Jun 18.
Lew was born in 22 May 1907 and died 27 April 1997.
He wrote for popular magazines such as Pictorial Review,
The Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s, The American Magazine,
and Argosy.
For more information, check out his Wiki entry:

Victor E. Richford’s “The Collaborationist” is a wonderfully crafted tale, delicately woven tale. Henri Piermont’s daughter, Angela, has fallen in love with a Nazi soldier, and they are married by Father Rollani, whom is not against their union. Henri isn’t against the union, either, and attends the wedding. Thereafter, Henri receives threats with his morning newspaper and jar of milk. These escalate to the point of death threats and he brings them to the attention of Father Rollani, whom shuffles with dust on his clothes. He appears to be dirty from crawling on the ground. The letters insinuate a lot, call Henri a traitor, etc. Finally, the town is bombarded and the townspeople grab Henri, strip him down and tie him up. They beat him mercilessly and finally blow his brains out, all under the hidden yet watchful eyes of Father Rollani, from a safe distance. There is a lot of meat to this story, innuendos, that I simply will avoid discussing, for I desire not to ruin a future reader’s experience.

The biog notes that the author is a pharmacist and only recently
took up the call to write, and enjoys expressing himself best via
the short story. He has appeared in the anthology
“Saturday Saga: A Collection of Contemporary Short Stories” as
edited by William Glynne-Jones (UK: Progress, 1946), and the
magazine Writers of the Midlands (No. 2)

Young Emmy” is a vignette that seems to involve a man picking up a girl from the roadway and bringing her home. It’s unclear just WHAT he wants, but, a modern reader would suspect rape would be the end result. One thing is clear: he was very surprised to find her to be 16, and not at least 22….

Maurice was born 15 March 1910 and died 7 January 1993.
He is buried at Dolphins Barn Cemetery, Dublin, Ireland.
He published under his own Dublin, Ireland press
a series entitled “Selected Stories” during the 1940s,
and continued printing through the late 1950s.

2015 August 8: “Stories for All Moods” edited by Stephen D. Frances (UK: Pendulum Publications, 1945)