It is always a treat to read a vintage crime magazine, and there are literally thousands to choose from. Thankfully, I neither have thousands, nor do I possess a hundred, since I am not a collector of crime stories, necessarily, though they, in part, mysteriously, manage to convey their presence into my household….
It all began over 15 years ago, when, 20 years ago, I began to collect the Dalrow published PHANTOM magazines (1957-1958). There were 16 issues, and the cover art was rendered by R.W.S., whom, at the time, was a complete unknown entity to me. The art was crude, to say the least, but, got better and more interesting. That said, I decided to collect the Creasey Mystery Magazine issued by Dalrow, too.
The first three issues of CMM do not feature artwork, sadly enough. The remaining 9 issues do, and, much to my dismay, after I had completed the set, I found that # 13, under the new publishers, featured a commissioned R.W.S. cover left over from the Dalrow outfit. Well, shit, I just HAD to have THAT issue, right? So, yes, I have the first 13 issues of this rare publication.
Bizarrely enough, the original index on this magazine showed that half the stories were reprints, and the remainder likely reprints or originals, but, nobody knew. So I took the 13 under my wing and worked toward indexing them proper for FictionMags Index site, many years ago. That was good fun. But, I still had not read the damn magazines!!!
Recently enough, I did read the first issue and posted my thoughts on Facebook, but, it didn’t elicit much reaction. Why? Well, I found it rather irksome, to say the least. Naturally, it dawned on me that most people had not read these stories, and the market is simply very niche. Bleh!
Well. Screw it. I have finally got around to reading a second issue, because I found it on the shelf after unpacking a box, to be a spare copy! Took a peak, and the author contents, as usual, were made of solid stuff. So, without further ado…
The least story is a novelette by Creasey himself, “The Toff Beside the Sea.” It’s unclear whether the story is a new or reprint, since Creasey had been known to supply fresh material. The Toff is at Bournemouth, on an insurance assignment, when he spots murderer Slick Orde nab a beautiful young lady. He pursues them, only to be tossed over the side of a bridge. He survives by clutching at a rope and local police arrest the man, given to be one Henry Orde. Nothing further is given to us on Henry, insofar as relationship to Slick. As the tale progresses, we learn that the girl is in the influence of Slick via blackmail, and that he is working an illegal trade in diamonds. An irremarkable tale, to say the least.
Reprinted is “The Stymphalian Birds,” by Agatha Christie. Original source unknown, but reprinted in America’s This Week magazine (Sep 1939). The The Labors of Hercules stories were aired in 1938, clearly indicated this and the other Hercules Poirot stories were published much earlier. In fact, the earliest I can trace, is 1923. Here, Poirot enters the story late to wrap up a plot involving blackmail and a pair of birdlike Polish women that seem sinister to the eye.
“Matter of Habit” by Peter Cheyney is a Jeremy Jones tale, involving the theft of a gem. Jones enters the police department and earns himself a modest reward for discovering the location of the stolen gem. Simple story of theft and deceit. Original source of publication unknown, however, it has been found syndicated as early as 1940.
“Sense of Occasion” by Hugh Maxwell Lowe is a tale of love and the traitorous relationship between two old friends, ruined by an absurd escape.
In “Budding Sleuth,” Herbert Harris has the protagonist at a dance club (likely a “gentleman’s” club) waiting to hook up with his gal, another dancer, when a theft is performed. His lady is caught in the cross-hairs of accusation when the police arrive to investigate. But our nameless hero has other ideas, in a 3-page vignette that originally was published in The (London) Evening Standard, 28 July 1954.
Victor Bridges’ “White Violets” is an excellently contrived story full of fun, light suspense, and action. The story, whilst very much dated (it appeared five decades earlier in Harmsworth Red Magazine, 15 Jun 1915) holds up excellently, as it is a simply told tale of two friends, the need for one to raise funds for an “idea,” and the other, Jimmy is a doctor. While discussing means to raise funds, Jimmy teases his friend into solving a cipher printed in the newspaper. In unraveling the cipher, their curiosity is peaked to the point of following the instructions to the countryside, following a stranger, and uncovering a nefarious plot involving a father and his lovely daughter.
“Purple Postcards” by Stuart Palmer. It was actually this story that coerced me into reading this particular issue. Several years ago I was approached by another fan asking me to scan the story so that they could reprint it, and yes, I did. I never heard from them again. The story possibly originated in 1939, source unknown, and stars Miss Hildegarde Withers to the rescue. Unfortunately for her, she needs rescuing herself, when she unwittingly walks in on the killer….
Bruce Graeme supplies “Negative Clue” in one of his thieving Blackshirt tales. When Blackshirt, burglar extraordinaire, slips into the home of a rich citizen (whom is away) he finds that his information was erroneous. The owner of the house his home, but far from alive, and the killer just took a photo of Blackshirt kneeling over the corpse…
“Lady at Bay” by John Marsh is a simple tale of a fellow spotting a crying girl and like a sap, he follows her and inadvertently spares her the agony of paying blackmail money to hoodlums threatening to reveal her inappropriate ex-marital affair that actually never came to fruition. Thankfully, our hero is literate and remarkably keeps abreast of current events in the newspaper, revealing that her husband died earlier while she was out and about trying to get the required funds together, freeing her of her obligations to pay the creeps. And, our hero thinks, potentially allowing him to one day ask her out, on a date….
Happy Killing !!!