By now, everyone knows the history of publisher Gerald G. Swan. His savvy decision to purchase and hoard warehouses full of paper leading into World War Two is almost legendary. And when one of the warehouses was destroyed, it didn’t slow Swan down in the least.
Someone within the Swan organization in the late 1950s discovered files filled with unpublished manuscripts dating back to the 1940s. Who precisely unearthed the trove, is unknown (to me) but, the publishers immediately compiled the assorted miscellaneous shorts, and issued the following publications, circa 1960-1961:
- Weird and Occult Library (3 issues)
complete short stories and articles
- Science Fiction Library (3 issues)
complete short stories and articles
- Detective Thriller Library (2 issues)
complete short stories
- Schoolgirls Library (not seen by me)
- Schoolboys Library (2 issues)
one novelette and one short story
- Romances (not seen by me)
Initially, I collected the W&O and the SF series.
Then, I began to chase the third series on the list.
The Detective Thriller Library series eluded me for nearly twenty years, until finally, I got lucky. Naturally, one must read these 64-page booklets.
Murder in Jail by C. G. Wimhurst (see the cover) is the lead novelette. George Stephens is found dead suspended high up in the air, on a hook, on the prison wall. While the reader is keenly aware who precisely murdered Stephens, Wimhurst adroitly offers us various alternate opportunities, going so far as to suggest another prison guard, whom was having an affair with Stephens’ wife–Stephens’ much-much-much younger wife. In the end, the detective realizes that the prisoner held above the suspended dead man was a rope expert. Have lassoed Stephens, he wrenched him up and strangled the man to death. Having successfully murdered the man, he went to drop the body to earth. However, he was not aware of the oddly placed hook below his window (which the author fails to explain the presence of).
Water-Hyacinth by Keats Hill is a short story of greed and murder and cunning. When Durgham’s partner becomes entangled and drowns, he returns to the dead man’s hut to find a strangely alluring, beautiful young man already ahead of him, with a manservant. She claims to be the dead man’s wife. Durgham never knew of a wife, and she declares calmly that they were newly wed. Suspicious of her, he explains the circumstances for her husband’s death, and that he is there looking for business plans. She adroitly convinces him to drag her along, so that she can locate, too, the missing plans. She is actually not wed to the lately deceased, but a hired thug sent to retrieve those plans for another party.
Brown Dust by Frederick Purves involves a man trudging along and entering a pub, only to find a man there, dead, blood all about. Kneeling to inspect the body, a young lady enters the pub and naturally assumes he to be the murderer. He defends his position, and they agree that neither of them are the killer. They vacate quickly, in fear that the killer is still nearby or may return. Ironically, they return to the scene of the crime, and he enters without her. Shockingly, he finds body gone, all traces of blood removed, and the bar open for business! He plays it cool and tricks the cold-blooded killer into revealing himself and it turns out the pub owner found the corpse first and hid the body, too, in the hopes of discerning who murdered the man.
Strange Things Happen by John Theydon introduces us to Mr. Herbert Josser, special agent to the Foreign Office. Sent on a mission of extreme importance, and at all costs not to reveal his own identity, he is nonplussed to find himself the pivotal focus of a murder aboard a train. Can Josser solve the mystery before finding himself imprisoned and failing in finishing his assignment? Despite being written during the 1940s, it very much has the feel of several 1910s pre-Great War tales of espionage that I have read….
The Missing Key by Iris Weigh is tiresomely painful to read, after all the disappointing tales before it. A murder is committed and the door is locked. The detectives learn that a second key exists, and, furthermore, that the murdered lady actually committed suicide and tossed the spare key out the window into the bushes, in the hopes of her suicide being labeled a murder and sending a man to his own death. An overly recycled plot device.
Murder in Mayfair by G. M. Byrne features Jackson Laramee, investigating and safeguarding the priceless pearl necklace of Mrs. Woodchurch. Her husband believes that the famous thief Four Fingered Harry is present to woo her, and then snatch the pearls. Laramee has brought in some friends to watch everyone, but his plans go awry, when she is found murdered, after Harry walked in, but never walked out. Who murdered Mrs. Woodchurch? Where is Harry? And what happened to the pearl necklace? Perhaps the best-written tale in this neat volume, for offering the reader multiple plot complications, and just enough of an edge to keep you guessing.
Music Lesson by Douglas Haig introduces us to Inspector Seal, whom is musically inclined to know that the murdered man, in dying, played notes on the piano to indicate his killer’s identity and location.