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

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