Fast on the Draw by Tex Elton (aka: Thomas P. Kelley)

THOMAS P KELLEY Fast On The Draw

Fast on the Draw by Tex Elton was published by Pastime Publications of Toronto, Canada.  This digest-sized paperback carries no copyright date but would be circa 1947 to very early 1948. English publisher Pemberton’s (aka: T. A. & E. Pemberton Ltd., as they are otherwise known) contracted Pastime to publish books on their behalf, due to strict paper rations in effect during and after the war. Hence why the red-circle on the cover sports no cover price. The Canadians didn’t fill it in, leaving it up to the English to do so. This further allowed Pemberton’s to export unsold copies to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

The artwork is signed lower right by Canadian comic, humorous postcard, and magazine artist Wilf. Long; he is scarcely known in name, however, among SF and Fantasy aficionados, readily known for creating the gorgeous cover art to Thomas P. Kelley’s The Face That Launched a Thousand Ships which concerns the most beautiful lady in history, Helen of Troy (as a brunette) and the infamous Trojan War. In this novel, the narrator discusses the search for the burial and entombment of Helen, as rumor holds she was placed under a sleeping spell and…well, I won’t ruin the plot. Every serious collector ought to own a copy of that book, as it was Kelley’s first novel in 1941. Noteworthy fact: The first 4 chapters also appear in the ill-fated pulp Eerie Tales (July 1941) and the cover art depicts Helen of Troy as a slim blonde. Experts argue whether The Face That Launched a Thousand Ships was the first original Canadian-published fantasy novel, or not. The precise release date of the paperback is unknown and perhaps only Canadian fanzines may provide the most conclusive evidence.

Speaking of Thomas P. Kelley, Tex Elton is the alias of that worthy Canadian ex-boxer. He is best remembered in the pulp fiction community for his contributions to the American magazine Weird Tales. As I have already covered Kelley in prior posts (click on his tagged name) I won’t delve further. In fact, I covered another western by Kelley, via this publisher, earlier…the cover artist on THAT COPY was not signed but may be Wilf. Long, too.

This tale involves two Texas cowpunchers: Ham Spaulding is an older cowhand tagging along with recent college law graduate Joe Mondell, who prefers to ride the saddle than practice law. Having a falling out with his father, Joe forks leather and Ham follows him. The pair are penniless after being robbed (Joe) and the other loses his shirt gambling (Ham). Desperate for cash, they accept a job with a farm threshing outfit, not realizing the awful task ahead. Stranded penniless for a couple weeks of hard labor, they demand their earnings at gunpoint and depart. It’s not long before the chase is on and the pair steal a small boat and maroon themselves on a small island midstream. With the river running high, the pair sit tight and take their bearings…but come morning, they discover someone else has been on the island. Boot prints litter a worn path, which leads to a log. Looking in, they discover the looted cash from a recent bank heist. With the law already after them for having their earnings paid by gun, and now discovering the bank heist money in their hands, the duo is rightfully panic-stricken. Should they be found with the loot, nobody will believe they are innocent. Can you say “lynch-mob”?

Thomas P. Kelley expands what would have read as a fun short story into a long novella, filled with his usual expert padding and seemingly mindless dialogue. In the end, after various mishaps, they enlist the aid of the local marshal, who is running for office against the local sheriff (he’s up for re-election). Convincing the marshal of their innocence (actually, he’s certain they are insane, and nearly guns them down) the pair retreat under cover of darkness with the marshal, to the island, and remain hidden, waiting for the real bank robbing McCoys to make their entrance…the rushing heights of the river water is dropping, which means a navigable path by horse from land will be assured. The robbers are likely to make that trek and retrieve the loot.

And so embarks a nightly silence for days until a trio do ride across the river and make for the island. The three then attempt to capture the heist-men alive, but Joe plugs one to death (after the gunner pulls on Joe) and the other pair each run down their men. The marshal is gobsmacked to discover the identities and his run for office is assured.

Now, no proper western novel is complete without some form of lady-interest, and there is one, but she scarcely figures into the novel at all, except as a side distraction.

Fast on the Draw is blurbed as:

The story of two Texans who found themselves stranded and broke in a frontier city where Colts were Kings and each packed a deckful of death on his hip.”

Does this novella hold up to such a bold statement? Not really. I was searching for more gunplay, more dead men, but truly, we only obtain two dead men (a sheriff’s deputy being the actual first murder) but that aside, anyone interested in Kelley literature may wish to try to hunt themselves a copy, as a curiosity, at the least.

Good luck!

Fast on the Draw by Tex Elton (aka: Thomas P. Kelley)

Creasey Mystery Magazine # 2 (September 1956)

I tackled the debut issue of the Creasey Mystery Magazine way back in 2015 (click HERE to re-read that entry first). Four years later, I am returning to the task of revisiting that magazine, with the second issue. This was more of a wake-up reminder than a plan on my part. A recent blog reader asked me a question, and her question prompted this assignment. So, I’m dedicating this blog entry to Pennie.

Creasey Mystery Magazine (v1 n2, September 1956) UK: Dalrow Publishing.
The first three issues sported identical covers (no doubt to save on design costs), but, the one solid color differed per cover. The first featured a light blue cover, while this one has a red cover.

The lead story is Death to Joy by John Creasey. The tale is smoothly written, fairly fast-paced, and feels like a precursor to James Bond. It features his recurring popularly favorite detective Richard Rollison, aka The Toff. The plot takes place in Durban, Africa. Rollison seems always to be coincidentally in the right place(s) to view overlapping cases of good and evil, but hell, that’s fiction for you. Here we have Rollison watching a young teenaged lovely lady laughing it up watching the playful antics of Zulu boy while she and her company, an aged woman, sit upon a rickshaw. Rollison notes that another person is also watching the pair. He’s swarthy, handsome, well-dressed, and his eyes betray his thoughts. Rollison doesn’t like him. Fast-forward, Rollison’s at a special party-affair. Everyone is present there, too. Rollison asks local journalist Jim Crane who the females are. The younger gal is Elizabeth Dunn, slated to inherit a fortune; the older lady is her aunt and guardian. A young man dancing with her is Tony Cornish, money made from real-estate. The evil-looking gentleman and his female companion? Klimmer, dabbles in illegal activities, but never been caught by the police. The woman? Not his wife, but perhaps a lover. Her identity is not known to Crane, nor is it ever truly clarified later in the text. Fast-forward to another day. Miss Dunn visits Rollison at his room, looking for assistance. He pauses her, discovers a snooper at the door, they fight, he knocks him down, someone down the haul pulls a gat and shoots at Rollison. He dodges the iron pill. That would-be killer escapes. He looks like a pan-handler, a character with recurring theme throughout the text. I won’t divulge more on that, as it’s relevant to the story. Rollison assigns George, his “negro” boy, to assist. George is faithful to Rollison from some undisclosed prior assignment. I’m not sure if he shows up in other stories or not, but had he been developed more, he’d have made an interesting character of his own merit. Miss Dunn shies away from Rollison after guns and death are employed, begs off, and leaves without hiring Rollison. Too late. He’s accepted the case, whether she likes it or not. The gist: she saw in the newspaper a man was murdered and Miss Dunn fears that her lover, Tony Cornish, was the killer. Evidence suggests this, especially after an altercation between Dunn and Cornish, in which he calls her a Delilah! Seems he believes she stole papers from his place, especially after blackmailer Klimmer staged the suggestion. How Rollison solves the case and disables each would-be killer makes for a fascinating read and finalizes in the cliché manner. Cornish and Dunn are joined, and Rollison asks Dunn to do him one favor. Rollison’s returning to England, could she give George a job? She accepts, proclaiming “A thousand jobs!” to which Rollison rejoins “He’ll only need one.”

The next tale is The Lernean Hydra by Agatha Christie, continuing her series of tales featuring the obnoxious Hercule Poirot. Originally debuting in America’s magazine This Week, 3 September 1939 as The Invisible Enemy and it soon appeared in England’s The Strand (December 1939). Hercule Poirot returns, hired to squash rumors in a small town. A doctor’s career is near ruin after his wife dies. Rumors spread like wild-fire that he and/or the younger lady he’s suspected of being infatuated with poisoned his invalid wife. Rumors also suggest that while he cared for her, he never loved his wife. Poirot insists from the doctor full disclosure, no matter what. He finally acquiesces that it is true: he never loved his wife, he did care for her during those sick years, he is interested in the younger lady, she likewise is interested in him, they have never professed their love openly nor proposed marriage. No, he did not murder his wife. So, Poirot accepts the assignment and like the many-headed Hydra, must investigate every major talking head to discover the original source of the rumors, and discover whether there is any real truth to the rumors.

The Case of the Thing that Whimpered by Dennis Wheatley is excerpted from his collection Gunmen, Gallants & Ghosts (London: Hutchinson, 1943). It features psychic/paranormal/ghost-hunting investigator Neils Orsen, a Swede with bizarre facial structures and features. No doubt the tale was originally published in a magazine or newspaper, but I’ve yet to trace the original source.

In The Unhappy Piano-Tuner, Julian Symons’ popular detective character Francis Quarles is visited by the titular character who is married to a unfaithful woman. Requesting Quarles aid in fixing his marriage, the detective rejects the assignment, but takes up the “case” as the woman is found dead and the tuner is held on the charge of murder! The evidence? An open bottle of wine…poisoned. Did the distraught husband commit the crime? The room boarder? The milk man? This tale originally appeared in the 20 July 1950 edition of London’s The Evening Standard.

Eric Allen presents Strong-Arm Man, a short story spanning a few pages and culled from London’s The Evening News, 5 January 1953. The body-guard is assigned to escort a jeweled lady from a flight but she inexplicably slips him the envelope containing said jewels while the drifts away briefly. In walks a man insisting that he has already kidnapped said lady, and wishes to offer cash for the jewels, in exchange for the safe return of the lady. The guard decides not to play ball, and slaps a cuff on his wrist and the other’s wrist, when inexplicably the woman re-enters the scene, not kidnapped at all, and claiming to have been looking all over the place for him. He uncuffs himself and attaches the cuff to her and the briber! Appears she isn’t the real McCoy and he knew that before any of this nonsense transpired. An absurd story that could have been better developed as a longer feature.

Driver’s Seat debuted in This Week magazine on 25 March 1951 under the title Lady, You’re Dead!. It features Inspector Queen and his son, Ellery Queen, solving the unbreakable case. Four brothers own a business. Each own an equal cut. One dies. That cut goes to his widow. The three brothers have squandered their earnings and have fancy women. The widow plays her hand at the board meeting. She knows each brother has been quietly selling off a percentage of their stock to finance their foolishness: gambling, cars, women, etc. The original “contract” drafted between the brothers legally states that when one owns a majority of the stocks, they have the right to buy out the remaining stocks. She’s been buying their sold stocks through “dummies.” The boys have one week…and then…they are OUT. Mortified, they consult their lawyers. She’s right. She’s also found murdered on the day they are to receive their buy-out checks. Stabbed. A rain coat is found sodden on the premises. It belongs to the brothers. Which brother? They are all the same size. Wear the same jacket. And each is covering for the actual killer. Ellery enters the scene and informs his father the killer make a grave mistake in leaving the jacket, as one side is more sodden than the other. It belongs to the man that stuck his arm out the right-hand window to make “signals” while driving (yes boys and girls, in the old days, we used arms, not electronic turn signals, just like on bicycles). Well, one of the brothers drives an imported British auto, which obviously has the steering wheel on the right side of the car, not the left. So, he’s clearly the killer. I say…Why?!?!?!? All the jacket proves is that the fool left it behind. It doesn’t prove he did the deed. So, I find a flaw in this decisive conclusion, and so would any lawyer.

Victor Canning’s The Cautious Safe-Cracker is more of a humorous irony tale than a mystery. Originally published 4 July 1954 in This Week magazine, the protagonist is a bad-luck safe-cracker that strives for one last big hurrah. Carefully planned to the last detail, he enters the widower’s home, opens the safe, extracts the jewels…only to discover the man-of-the-house dead. Cause of death was likely a heart attack, on the way down to the floor he smacked his head and bled. The thief is in a predicament. Caught with the jewels, he’ll surely hang for murder. Unable to simply toss the jewels back in the case and pretend he never was there, he steals out into the night, tosses the jewels into an abandoned, long-unused well, walks into town, and does his utmost to establish an alibi. All goes awry. He tosses a brick through a storefront window. Nothing. Enters, steals from the cigar shop. Nothing. The dog doesn’t assault him. The owner doesn’t wake. Good grief. Realizing it’s a botched attempt, he makes to leave. The dog suddenly decides to maul him. Screaming, the owner wakes, and the cops finally make an appearance. He’s arrested, jailed, serves his time, gets out, goes to retrieve the jewels…only to discover the town has filled the well with cement and erected a monument to the memory of the dead man on the well’s site.

Like the preceding tale, this one is meant to be one of irony, and less about mystery. Peter Cheyney’s The Humour of Huang Chen involves two rival Chinamen and their murderous raiding gangs in old 18th century China, always trying to one-up the other. In this case, Huang Chen’s rival (Li-Tok) raids one of his areas, murdering everyone. Some of his loyal men escape, and along for the ride, they have captured an imminent physician. He is blind and without tongue. Huang Chen takes one look at the man, orders him to be isolated in a bamboo cage, then orders his gorgeous daughter brought before him. Arriving, he gives her instructions to go out with a small escort and be captured by his rival. She does, and is. Li-Tok sends a letter courier noting that he has captured Huang Chen’s daughter, and desires a trade. The girl for the physician. Huang Chen naturally agrees. The trade is made, and later, he has a letter sent to Li-Tok, noting he planned the swap, for the imminent physician has the plague. Honestly, a flawed tale. Obviously those that were in immediate contact with the plague-ridden physician of Huang Chen’s men would have been likewise infected. Online sources note the earliest known appearance of this story appears in the Peter Cheyney collection You Can’t Hit a Woman and Other Stories (London: Collins, 1937). According to an Australian newspaper that syndicated the tale mid-1937, it originated in the Birmingham Weekly Post. This likely was in 1936, as I found the tale syndicated in England, very late 1936. Unfortunately, the BWP has not been indexed that far back as yet.

Dorothy L. Sayers’ The Inspiration of Mr. Budd originally was published in the American weekly pulp Detective Story Magazine for the 21st November 1925 issue and next year in the UK via Pearson’s Magazine, March 1926. The tale is not one of mystery. Budd is a down-on-his-luck hair stylist. A series of bad luck and tarnished family has led him to be impoverished and bear a tainted name, so he moves his once successful business to London to disappear. Subsequently, he has aspired to win every sort of lotto, prizes, etc., that turns up from businesses, in newspapers, etc. Just now, he is reading in the local paper that there is a 500 Pound bounty / reward for genuine information leading up to the arrest of a wanted man. Ironically, a man fitting the very description enters his establishment requesting his hair style to be changed, a trim and coloring, claiming his current girlfriend doesn’t like his current look. Budd realizes the man is a fraud, with a fake hair dye already covering the man’s real hair. But, how to confront or capture the man? He doesn’t have the nerve nor the training, and reflecting back on the ad, recalls the reward was for information, not actual detainment. Mixing up a special dye concoction, he finishes the assignment and the man departs. Budd wastes no time in rushing to the authorities and imparting his knowledge, and, just what he did to the man’s hair. That’s the joke! He created a dye concoction that turned the man’s hair absolutely green! Word is rushed to all outlets. The police learn a man matching the description is holed-up on an outbound vessel, and has requested a hair stylist. They bust in and arrest a man with green hair. Budd attains the reward and, suddenly, a rich elitist pays his shop a visit desiring her hair to be turned green so that she can brag to be his first legal customer after the sensationalized arrest of the wanted man.

With A High Tension Lead by Roderic Graeme filling out the remaining allotted fiction pages, I’m direly hoping against all odds for a genuine mystery story. Unfortunately, I do not know where this story originates, as this certainly can’t be the first publication, can it? The son of famed Blackshirt creator Bruce Graeme (whose full name is actually Bruce Graham Montague Jeffries), Roderic Graeme Jeffries presents me with a solid crime story. A young man arrives home to find his aged uncle dead, stabbed in the back. He informs his sister (they both live with the deceased). The vast property and money was mostly willed to the pair, with the rest divvied up among other parties, etc. However, it’s learned the will had been destroyed the day prior. Bizarre… Motive? Was someone written out of the will? Was there an argument? Police swarm the scene, dust for prints, etc. An investigator makes an appearance and begins to interview the sister first, for about an hour. He then moves on to the brother, and asks all sorts of questions and makes unusual comments along the way. The story title concerns that the young man’s car had a problem and he drove it home despite this. The investigator thinks he a fool for doing so, and elaborates why. This brilliant mystery is solved in typical Hercule Poirot fashion by a seemingly obnoxious investigator, and I’m not going to reveal the how and why of it. Bizarrely enough, JRG is only credited with two short stories on FictionMags. When his father tired of authoring Blackshirt novels, the son took up the series, cementing his name in history with his father.

The Creasey Mystery Magazine concludes with a book review section credited to Mr. Creasey (and going so far as to recommend one under his alias of Jeremy York) and an article by Michael Underwood concerning the metropolitan police.

Creasey Mystery Magazine # 2 (September 1956)

Possession by N. Wesley Firth

Possession 1

Possession was published by Grant Hughes Ltd., circa 1948.
The novel carries no byline on the covers, but the interior title page gives the author as Sheila A. Firth; she was the daughter of prolific author Norman Firth. Tragedy haunted the Firth family when Norman inexplicably died at the young age of 29, on 13-Dec-1949; cause of death given then was tuberculosis. He left behind Sheila (age 4) and a young wife (age 22).

Possession was actually issued twice, both with covers by noted English artist H. W. Perl.

The first edition was printed by The Fodhla Printing Co., of Dublin, Ireland. The inside front cover sports a typical Joan the Wad ad. Interior rear cover also features an ad, for Joan the Wad and Jack O’Lantern, etc. This true first edition (featuring likely Margaret Lockwood and Michael Wilding) failed to sell. Remainder stock was returned, covers stripped, and a new cover commissioned.

The second edition was printed and published by Grant Hughes, this time featuring one of Perl’s regular models. It’s unknown how well this edition sold. Both the inside front & rear cover is entirely white, no ads present.

Remarkably, neither edition is held by the British Library nor any other known major English library per COPAC, nor worldwide per WorldCat.

Possession 2

Contrary to the typical romantic plots, our heroine does NOT give up her Hollywood job in favor of love, but she is mixed up in the cliché “eternal triangle” plot…

Andrea Ellis was a nobody until discovered by producer Harry Grant. Pairing her with Steward Tracy for 5 years, the two have made Harry Grant a fortune and Andrea Ellis is now in demand to play the lead in the film version of the same play. Only thing is, she desires a break from acting.

Refusing to inform Harry Grant where she intends to vacation, she foolishly informs her private staff, and Steward Tracy, deeply in love with her, manages to extract the information. Learning she intends to abandon New York in favor of the beaches and playgrounds of Miami, he lets slip that he will vacation with her. Frustrated at the deception, she’s doubly-cross that Steward revealed her plans to Harry Grant.

Grant sees an angle and sends publicity agent Carl Cotton south to set the ball rolling, only that “ball” turns into a wrecking ball.

Arriving in Miami, Steward proposes marriage (he has been proposing numerous times and she has always turned him down). Now, upon the beach, she finally accepts, reluctantly, and he coerces a promise from her to not break the promise. Desiring to keep the engagement secret fails when a cub-reporter for a local paper arrives on the scene. Or was the reporter tipped off, further forcing the marriage?

To further worsen matters, Carl Cotton makes an appearance during the newsboy’s interview, and announces that Andrea Ellis is to be the “prize” date at the Krackly Krispy Krunchies Hour radio show; the winner is selected from a finalist of three men who are to provide the new winning tune for the show. She is not amused. The first two contestants aren’t noteworthy, but the third dazzles her the moment they each set eyes upon one another. It’s literally love at first sight.

With a love triangle forming, Andrea finds herself morally bound to a man she does not wholeheartedly love, and a man she does not know at all but feels inexplicably drawn!

The young man is Jay Niles, a “bum” who lives in the slums of Miami, in a converted railway car. Andrea, fascinated by the musician, convinces Jay to show her where he lives. Believing she is just some snob and wants to look down on the common poor person that can’t make good, they exchange words and she finally proves she is more than just an elitist. After all, she did not dress fancy, did not put on make-up, nor do her hair. She came to the date as a normal-looking girl.

The pair elude Carl Cotton’s appointed paparazzi and spend private hours alone. Andrea is intrigued to learn more about Jay and his musical interests; he seems to be quite talented. He plays an instrumental piece for her; she then asks to have it as a keepsake. Jay doesn’t care. It’s been offered everywhere. Nobody wants that type.

Never to see another again, she returns to her life and, when the producer offers her the next Broadway gig, she learns that the entire play is to be essentially silent, and without music! Discovering that Jay’s piece would fit the play perfectly, she presents it to Harry Grant only to be rebuffed without hearing the musical piece.

She then goes to the author of Harry’s production, and there has the music played. He loves it and tells Harry it is “in.”

Displeased with her move, Harry must accept the author’s decision, and further, realizes Andrea must be in love or infatuated with Jay. He is eager to destroy this relationship as he likes her and Steward Tracy together.

Jay becomes a success along with the play; his wallet grows from dust to greenbacks, etc. All the while, Jay refuses to see Andrea alone, as he does not wish to interfere with her engagement to Steward Tracy, who he personally feels is a swell guy.

But, when Steward accepts an acting job in Hollywood, and is gone for weeks or months, Andrea and Jay can no longer repress their desires and well…you can guess the rest! Still, they must keep their meetings secret lest the press discover the truth; their bosses too, and worse yet would be for Steward Tracy to learn second-hand that she has been unfaithful.

Jay insists she inform Steward in person of her decision to break off the engagement, but before she can, on his return flight to New York, the plane goes down in flames, killing nearly everyone onboard. Miraculously, Steward survives, only to have both legs fully amputated.

Jay convinces her that she must marry Steward as the truth would devastate him. Despite her desires not to, she is eventually guilted into marrying Steward. Jay removes himself entirely from the scene, and vanishes for an entire decade…

Ten years have passed, and Steward’s health has been in continual decline. His body was severely damaged from the plane crash and is succumbing to reality: death. He finally dies a happy man and she is free to pursue Jay. But will he even want her? Is he now married to someone else? Isn’t she visually too old, no longer youthfully desirable?

Well, Harry Grant and Carl Cotton drag her out from retirement and inform her that they have just the right position in a proposed play for her to fill. Arriving at Harry’s home, they meet out on the balcony and discuss the proposal. She is mystified as the role sounds like her real life drama. Harry concludes that they have found the perfect man for the role and in walks Jay, salt-peppered hair, older, but still very much in love with Andrea Ellis after all these years … THE END.

A very pleasant romance story, delightfully written by N. Wesley Firth. I confess that I was surprised he would attach his daughter’s name to such a work, given her young age at the time. Sadly, she passed away some years back, and never had the chance to read any of the works appearing under her name, nor under her mother’s name.

NOTES: Steward Tracy clearly is clearly supposed to resonate with readers as being Hollywood actor Spencer Tracy. Harry Grant came across to me as actor Cary Grant, as I couldn’t think of a producer with a similar name. Not sure who Andrea Ellis is supposed to portray. Nor certain who Carl Cotton or Jay Niles would be. Anyone have ideas?

Possession by N. Wesley Firth

She Was No Lady by Al Bocca

Unlike the previously blogged Al Bocca gangster novel, this story isn’t a gangster novel. Oh, don’t get me wrong…there are gangsters. The plot here revolves around protagonist Al Bocca (yeah, the fictional name of the author) who is a private investigator. More on the plot in a moment.

She Was No Lady

She Was No Lady was published by Scion Ltd. circa July 1950 per Whitaker’s Index under the Al Bocca alias; as previously discussed, this is one of a handful of pseudonyms belonging to Bevis Winter. The digest-sized paperback features cover art signed “Ferrari”. This was one of many aliases used by Philip Mendoza. One glimpse at the cover art (a canary blonde dame with large jugs, bra and scanties disclosed, and long shapely legs, wielding a small handgun) and you know that the Irish censor board were all over it. A quick look at their register proves we are correct. I imagine it was banned by other countries as well.

My copy has a faded “Brown’s Book Exchange” rubber stamped under the author’s name, and I’m grateful to the person that smartly placed it where the artwork itself would remain unmarred. It’s a well-read copy, with a reading crease, and several dog-ear creases to the lower right cover. Otherwise, clean and sound.

The novel opens on page 5 and concludes on page 127. Our protagonist (Al Bocca) is walking the street with his luggage, having just departed the Okeville Station (um, there’s no such place). He eventually enters a bar. Departing, he’s met by a gun-totin’ cretin, and soon joined by another creep. They force him into a taxi and eventually arrive in a disreputable part of California. (I’m not sure by this point what city we are in, but the author claims we are going to the corner of Wellington and Medusa; there’s no such intersection). They push him into a room, and an ape going by the name of Big Nick begins to systematically slap him around. Seems Bocca is suffering maltreatment due to a case of mistaken identity. They want some bloke named Murray. He convinces them to look at his identification. Wrong name, wrong guy, and worse yet, Bocca is a P.I.

Convinced that Bocca isn’t Murray, they apologize and help the messed-over Bocca to his feet. Big Nick instructs the hoods to drive Bocca to his lodgings. They do so, with reluctance. One decides to get smart and follows Bocca to his apartment door. Big mistake. Bocca has recovered his wits and decides to exact vengeance for the beating he suffered. After doing so, Bocca extracts the fellow’s gun, dumps out the cartridges, hands it back, and tosses him out.

Next day, Bocca is hired over the phone by a nameless entity. They meet at his apartment, and Bocca is nonplussed to find himself looking at a man that seems to resemble himself. This clearly is Murray, the guy the hoods were hunting. He’s got a job for Bocca: find a girl. Her name is Mickie. Seems Murray is worried about the girl who has gone missing. And he’s paying Bocca a cool grand in cash to find her.

We later learn from other sources that it’s believed she is holding jewels from a heist pulled off by a bunch of gangsters and her brother. So, the gist is there was a jewelry heist. Something went wrong. The jewels are missing. Some turn up at a pawn shop. The girl’s brother is arrested for passing stolen goods. He serves time. The girl is suspected of hiding the goods. Two rival factions are looking for the goods. Murray is later found dead in Bocca’s pad. Why? Did the killer(s) know he was Murray or think they were bumping off Bocca? Meanwhile, the brother escapes prison. Toss in a two-timing doll-face and you’ve got part of the picture. But let me tell you, Bevis Winter never, ever, makes it that easy. He likes to toss in a twist…somewhere.

Now, I won’t ruin the plot from here, but let me tell you, it’s a fun and wild ride, and reminds me just why I love reading Bevis Winter. His detective novels carry a strong pace, enough tough hard-boiled dialogue and sarcasm to make you smile throughout. The most irritating part of his novels: a lack of attention to regional details. If you are from California, his dropping of locales will bewilder you. Most are fake or so far apart that the distance makes no sense. Where is Bocca based? Hard to say, unless I can trace that very first novel that Bocca debuts. Even then, I’m not confident we will learn the truth.

Until then, I’ll look forward to tackling my next Bevis Winter novel.

She Was No Lady by Al Bocca

Mystery Magazine (UK: William C. Merrett, 1946)

Heritage Auctions on May 20th will go live with a remarkable collection of rare pulps. I decided to finally release this blog I prepared years ago to coincide with the fact that HA also has a copy listed. Their copy sports worn, rubbed covers, creasing to spine, etc., but might be better than my copy, given that mine has a strange blue mark on the cover. I’m not complaining. It’s a rare item, and condition hardly matters. Or, does it?

A copy is indexed on the FictionMags Index site, but whoever sent FMI their data is all kinds of WRONG! Click on the link above and follow my logic.

Foremost, the information states that only ONE STORY is inside this magazine. That’s 100% wrong. Now, you might say that perhaps the other stories were ripped out of the magazine and the original supplier of that data never noticed. Hooey! The start of the second story begins on the back of the concluding first story. Ergo, if they truly thought only one story was present, they should have noticed that the sole indexed tale was also missing the concluding page of text!

Second mistake? It’s recorded as a pulp. That’s not really accurate. True, the stories originated in the American pulp Dime Mystery Magazine, but this isn’t pulp-format. Would you say pulp stories reprinted as a paperback anthology is a pulp? No.

Third mistake? Aside from stating that the Jacobson story isn’t present, that person also failed to mention the THIRD story on the cover. Yeah, that one, at the bottom of the cover in the red banner strip.

So, let’s clear up a lot of misconceptions and get this one right.

MERRETT Mystery Magazine
Mystery Magazine (ca. 1946) Published by William C. Merrett

Mystery Magazine (circa 1946) was published by William C. Merrett (a WCM Publication bubbled-in lower right cover) and priced at 2/-. It measures 5.5 x 8.5 inches, and is a stapled digest-sized magazine. The cover art originates from the 1938 July issue of Dime Mystery Magazine (as do the first two stories) and, lucky YOU, if you enjoy my post, you can READ those first two stories online by clicking HERE but alas, not the third tale; that appeared in the 1939 July edition (a year later from the prior two).

From cover to rear, the magazine represents 36 pages, although the first un-numbered page, Page 1, begins behind the front cover. The rear cover is numbered 35 and contains the conclusion to the final tale. There isn’t a Table of Contents page.

(1-12)   “Goddess of the Half-World Brood” by Henry Treat Sperry
Dime Mystery Magazine, 1938 July

(13-26)  “The Werewolf of Wall Street” by Edith and Ejler Jacobson
Dime Mystery Magazine, 1938 July

(27-35)  “Horror’s Holiday Special” by Wayne Robbins
Dime Mystery Magazine, 1939 July (as by W. Wayne Robbins per FMI site)

GODDESS OF THE HALF-WORLD BROOD
by Henry Treat Sperry

A delightful tale that immediately delivers on the weird vibe. Husband and wife of undisclosed ages are shipwrecked on an island that ought not to exist. Jim and Marion stumble ashore after their private vessel slams onto a coral reef and sinks, thanks to a hurricane. Drenched and exhausted, Marion is oblivious to the dozens of glowing eyes in the dark reaches of the island-jungle, but Jim takes it all in quite gravely. The pair discover a pathway, clearly constructed by humans, and discover a cottage. Knocking on the door while watching those ever-present eyes, Jim hurls his lone weapon (a piece of wood from their wrecked ship) at the shadowy beasts and finds the cottage isn’t locked. Opening the latch, they slip in and find the recently slain remnants of a “Negrito” (hey, the author’s word, not mine) torn all to hell and partially eaten. Marion screams and Jim pushes her into a chair facing away from the grisly mess. Covering it up, he looks up stunned into the barrel of a “large-calibre pistol” held by a “deeply tanned young man of about my own age.” We soon learn that he also shipwrecked upon the island 8 years earlier with an original crew of 12 men, his sister, and the “Negrito” later acquired at a port. We later learn the sister was 16 at the time of their voyage, so now we have an approximate age of all currently alive. The tanned youth’s name is Richard Wanderleigh; his first name is never repeated. The sister soon arrives and is dressed skimpily; the sister calls him “Dick” when she discovers the carcass in the home, instead of outside, where she has purposefully left it. She’s angered at him for dragging the corpse inside, but reason isn’t disclosed, as she makes like a clam upon seeing they have visitors. The tale unwoven is that one by one each of the dozen men mysteriously dies and in their place a strange beast, or, as she calls them, a “shroud” appears. Jim begins to form a theory, as these jackal-like beings seem to sport human-like traits. Is there some strange, mystical powers acting upon these beings? We don’t know, but we do know that the Wanderleigh excursion involved tracking a specific “thing” and that they found it before their untimely accident. Is this unnamed thing responsible for the men’s deaths and subsequent birthing of the shrouds? Another day passes, Jim is exploring the otherwise tiny island, when he locates the sister (Sicily) sunning herself while surrounded by all of the shrouds (one has its head resting on her bare thigh). They rise, sensing his approach, and make to rend him to pieces but abort the attack at her command. Is she partially in control of these beasts? She details that her brother is not to be trusted, and that he has made wild claims that she is a Siren and responsible for all the men’s deaths, that they all coveted her, etc. Meanwhile, the island appears to be disturbed, and it is clear that it is prone to blow itself to smithereens. All hell breaks loose. Jim splits and returns to the cottage in search of his wife, only to find her missing and her clothes ripped to shreds on the floor. Realizing Wanderleigh has her, he goes nuts, not knowing even where to begin his search. Bewilderingly, while running about, one of the shrouds convinces him to follow it in the opposite direction he had chosen to search. It eventually leads him to Sicily who explains she has never known love, practically throws herself upon Jim, but constrains herself and informs him that his wife, Marion, is captive aboard a sea-faring vessel that Wanderleigh built in secret, but Sicily accidentally discovered, while exploring (with her shrouds, no doubt). Jim runs down to the water alcove, finds the vessel, the island is still blowing itself apart and spewing gasses and lava everywhere, the world is shaking in every direction, but he manages. Locating it, he does battle with Wanderleigh, who shoots him once in the fleshy part of the shoulder (cliché, missing the bones) and splits his skull a glancing blow, before Jim grabs the man’s head-hair, and lands a solid knock-out blow. Boarding the vessel, he unties the naked Marion, and discovers the boat is not only ship-worthy, but, submarine-worthy, being entirely turtle-decked and streamlined. After all, when the island blows, in all likelihood the vessel didn’t stand a chance of escaping; it would be dragged down and down and down until the suction released them, if at all. Before battening himself in with Marion, he entreats Sicily to leave the island with them, but she says no. He finally attempts to carry her, only to find the shrouds nipping his heels and must give up. They all depart and Jim watches in pained anguish as Sicily and her brood decide to stay and die. Back aboard, Jim tethers Marion inside (for safety) and while pushing away, watches far in the distance as Sicily and the brood of shrouds rise up against the volcano rim and one by one jump in. With each “death” a lava geyser belches skyward to envelop each being. Jim goes under, seals the hatch, tethers himself in, and prepares for the volcanic ride of a lifetime. Yes, they survive, and an hour later he pops the hatch as they are on the surface once more. The island is gone, but in those final moments, he was certain that he did not see 12 beasts leap into the fiery liquid flames…”it was twelve men…”

THE WEREWOLF OF WALL STREET
by Edith and Ejler Jacobson

Chet Wallace, a Wall Street multi-millionaire, taps his son, a doughnut truck-driver, for an investigative job. Originally, Chet had no intention of simply giving his son the luxury life. He wanted him to earn his living and place in the world by his own means. However, there are strange events transpiring on Wall Street. And he needs an outsider. Enter one Ronald (Ronnie) Wallace. We learn that he wants Ronnie to look into Harry Gaines, one of his partners, to explain his wild buying and selling sprees. Harry inexplicably walks in and begins drawing cold water from the water-cooler in Chet’s office. One gulp, two gulp, three…and keeps going, insatiably. It is hot outside, and inside, but not in Chet’s room, since he’s the top dog, but it shouldn’t be that hot. Harry and Ronnie say hello to each other (they do know one another) and shake and Ronnie discovers the man’s hand is ice-cold and frail-feeling to the touch. He informs father that the man is clearly sick. Chet says “sick or crazy…or both.” Later in the day, Ronnie phones his girlfriend, Terry, to explain he must call off their date, but before he can, she informs him she is standing him up tonight. From her voice he can tell she doesn’t actually want to, and learns she is going over to the Haines’ home to be with Marcia, Harry’s wife. Something is clearly wrong, and Ronnie informs her that if they are to be a couple, they do things together. She accepts, they go over, hear a painful scream, Ronnie batters down the door, leaving Terry in the hallway while he investigates, and discovers the ravaged remains of Marcia, a bloody mess, and barely alive. And outside on the fire escape landing, leering in from the window, a twisted ugly white face that looks like Harry-gone-mad, with purplish eyes and red teeth. He returns to tend to Marcia, only to find her face and throat is mostly gone. Her blood is pouring out of her and while he staunches the flow, he can’t stop the fact that she is dying. Terry is missing (did she see Marcia and run?) and Ronnie is covered in blood, making him out to be the murderer. Fleeing the scene, he makes his way home (after calling for a doctor and police) and runs into Sandra Howard, a woman his father saved from a motor accident and gave a blood transfusion to. Now she apparently lives with them? There’s a lot of odd holes in this story. Anyway…Ronnie gets cleaned up and fresh clothes on. Harry Gaines appears at their home, and asks Sandra to come with him. They argue the point, but she acquiesces, much to Ronnie’s surprise. What hold does Harry have over Sandra? And how could the cold-blooded murderer so calmly dare walk into the Wallace household without batting an eye at Ronnie? Ronnie jumps into his roadster to pursue Harry and Sandra through New York, but loses them. He eventually determines that they were headed for Wall Street. But, at night? That district is closed at night, empty of virtually all night life. He parks, and comes across what appears to be a hooker. She asks if he is interested; he blows her off, and then wonders what she is doing hooking in an area devoid of life. Doesn’t add up; she should be in a higher populated zone. Following her, Ronnie watches her enter his father’s Wall Street building; he runs up and tries the door and WHOOSH! something flies by and splats on the pavement beside him. It was a female. She was either thrown out the window or jumped. Either way, she’s a pancake now. The doors open and a couple of things like Harry Gaines come out and scoops up the carcass and drag it inside. He hears what he believes is Terry’s voice scream for help, but a cop appears. Ronnie explains that people are inside murdering other people (yeah, that sounds sane). Arrested, he’s taken to the station, and released on bail after his father comes and pays. A day has gone by and he’s freaking out. Terry might be dead. And he hasn’t a clue how to proceed. His father has him work at the office that day, to keep an eye on Harry Gaines and all the others that are acting strangely. He receives news from Chet that Terry is okay. Apparently she is with Sandra, who is tending her in an hysterical state. Sandra used to be a nurse, and is caring for her, and states Terry doesn’t want to see Ronnie. Supposedly, Terry thinks she saw Ronnie murder Haines’ wife, Marcia. So Sandra is caring for her, and has her own daughter, Maxie, assisting. Terry is mentally beside himself. He, kill Marcia? Perhaps she saw all the blood on him, then? Midway through the work day, Ronnie, while thinking up a plan, sitting in his father’s office, is surprised by Harry Gaines walking in. He looks like death and accuses Harry of keeping Terry on ice. Threatening to call the police on Harry, the latter states that he lives with his wife and could easily claim he fled when he saw Ronnie murder her. Laughing, he departs and goes back to work. Ronnie soon discovers that Harry is actually buying while the world is selling. Everything he is buying dirt cheap is seemingly worthless…or, is it? Many of those investments would likely rebound in the future. Ronnie quickly sells everything Harry is buying before the hammer of the day concludes. Mortified and whiter than a sheet, Harry staggers in and proclaims he himself is likely a dead man now due to Ronnie’s efforts. Harry states he’ll die of a thirst water can’t slake, and makes for Ronnie. He protects himself and knocks Harry down, and gashes him, but barely a drop of blood comes out. In fact, he hardly has any blood to bleed! Harry eventually expires there on the office floor, leaving Ronnie with only one clue: to be in the Wall Street district again at night. But, where? Which building? Wait! the hooker! Will she be out there again? She is! He approaches her that evening, and she escorts him to a locked investment firm, and miracles, extracts a key! Leading him inside, they drink and he passes out. Waking up, he finds himself tethered to a chair and facing Sandra!!! She’s the mastermind behind everything and explains that when she received her blood transfusion, she learned it wasn’t enough and Chet kept helping until his own doctor advised against it. So, she turned to others and they developed leukemia. Well, she brainwashed them into continuing to help her and signing over their fortunes, too. Her own daughter, about Ronnie’s age, assisted. In fact, under all that hooker makeup is Maxie. Ronnie is appalled and discovers that they appear to have fed off of…him! Will he eventually develop the same sickness as these leukemia-werewolves? She forces him to call Chet over to marry Sandra, so that she can legally obtain an appearance for her sudden wealth, and in exchange, Terry gets to live. After much threats and a showcase of werewolf-like men hovering over the nearly nude Terry, Ronnie acquiesces and phones dad. Chet arrives, and goes in the room where Terry is held, actually knows what is going on, to some degree, when shockingly, in Terry’s room, someone fires a shot. Chet runs in there, more shots are fired, and out comes his dad supporting Terry on one side, and…Maxie on the other side??? She explains her mother had gone too far, and she didn’t want Ronnie hurt because she secretly was in love with him, too; she pulls out a gun and blows her own head off. Ronnie collapses from blood loss, to wake up another day. Terry is there, caring for him, and explains she remembers nothing after Marcia’s body was discovered. She had been drugged the whole time. Ronnie, fearing for Terry’s life, explains he can’t marry her until he knows his own condition. Chet flies in a famous doctor, and tests him. He’s clean! or, is he? They marry, but every night, Ronnie lies there and wonders when he will grow thirsty and rip into the sleeping form at his side….

HORROR’S HOLIDAY SPECIAL
by Wayne Robbins

Generally, I detest a humorous horror story, but Robbins handles the choice wondrously. The scene is a locomotive bound for destination-unknown, but, our narrating protagonist, Steve, is ultimately bound for Colorado, to be locked up in a mental institution. Aboard the train is his fiancée (Connie), business partner (Vance, who is trying to steal Steve’s girl), and Steve’s doctor, who keeps doping Steve to keep him calm, sleeping, and unable to simply think. Certainly a dangerous combination… While dinner is being served, a porter is delivering a meal under a domed tray to a woman diagonal from their seating arrangements. Lifting the dome, Steve describes the decapitated, bloody head that rolls off the tray and thuds upon the ground, rolling about. Everyone is mortified. Steve can’t control his laughter. All assume that he, the resident nut, somehow roamed the train and sliced off the man’s head. Where is the body? That’s soon located, without hands. Where are the hands? Another corpse is discovered dangling outside a window (yes, the train is still moving) and the head inside the sill, barely attached. Opening the window to retrieve the dead man, they lose the body, which is sucked outside and lost forever, while the head remains in their hands. Steve finds the other person’s missing hands in his effects, stuffs them in his own pockets, and decides he must ditch them. Until then, he returns to his seat, exhausted. The drugs are taking their toll. A woman and an annoying whining boy are asleep, a comforter over them both and trailing upon the floor. He crawls under the comforter to sleep! While there, the everyone aboard goes nuts realizing that Steve is missing. Stampeding past his location, he soon realizes the air is suffocating under there, and, blood is pouring down on him from above. The child is dead, and his head soon falls off. He places the head on the woman’s lap and exits. Seeing the crowd far ahead investigating, he tosses them the hands and locks himself in the ladies’ lavatory. The hands land, screams emit, they break down the door, and strap him into a straight-jacket (did all 1930s trains have one???) While constrained to a berth, all go to sleep, and he finally wakes from his drug-induced slumber. Restrained, he swings his tethered legs over the side and knocks out a guard. Then he slices the legs apart on the metal bed, cutting his legs in the process. Now loose, he ambles around and finds Vance murdering other people on the train, one by one. Worse yet, he has Connie, and has temporarily dyed his hair blonde and is speaking like Steve. Connie is convinced. Clearly Vance is the killer and has been placing all these deaths at Steve’s fingers to ensure he is locked away forever, and then he can take over the business. Steve spots the BREAK-IN-CASE-OF-EMERGENCY glass, does so, and rapidly slices his way through the straight-jacket enough to wrench free one arm, then another… (seriously?) Well, we know how this ends. He takes down Vance, saves Connie (Vance had decided to kill her because she had earlier sworn undying devotion to Steve and would never leave him) and must beat a confession from Vance that he is the actual killer before the survivors decide to do something very final about Steve.

Mystery Magazine (UK: William C. Merrett, 1946)

Water Rustlers by Hoyt Merion

THE ELY PRESS Water Rustlers

Featured is Water Rustlers by Hoyt Merion (sic), a side-stapled 64-page booklet, a western novel, published in England by The Ely Press.

When did The Ely Press operate?
What titles did they publish?
I know of only two fiction titles….

No major English libraries (according to COPAC and WorldCat) hold any books published by The Ely Press.

Nor is there a single record that anyone ever existed by the name of Hoyt Merion. However….

The mystery deepens when one realizes that the author also appeared with two “r”s in their surname by a more prominent publisher, Wells Gardner Darton (WGD) spanning 1947-1951.

The English Catalogue of Books from 1948-1951 lists several titles by Hoyt Merrion via WGD. And therein lies any possible clues…but I do not have direct access to those volumes!

The following titles appeared under the Hoyt Merrion name:

  • El Fuego’s Line (1947)
  • Unlucky Win (1947)
  • Valley of Lost Brands (1947)
  • When Chance Horns In (1947)
  • Rustlers of Yellow Dust Valley (1948)
  • Water Rustlers (1949)
  • “Cat” Tracy Keeps His Word (1950)
  • Ride-Along Rafferty Horns In (1951)
  • Ride-Along Rafferty Stops By (1951)

The novel I read via The Ely Press is Water Rustlers, and that title likewise appears above, in 1949. The artwork is signed, however, it is indecipherable, exquisitely tiny, appearing just to the left of the horse’s snout. The printer is listed as Westminster Printing Works, and they definitely operated from 1946-1947. This seems to indicate that The Ely Press may have issued Hoyt Merion (sic) titles prior to WGD, but this is inconclusive. BTW, the other title by Hoyt Merion (sic) via The Ely Press is Dumb Mahoney’s Music. This title apparently was never reprinted by WGD unless it appeared under a new title. I’ll touch upon that tale at a later date.

The plot involves the stereotypical jobless cowboy riding into a new town. Hitching his pinto, Stella, to the saloon post, he enters Clem Rafferty’s saloon (did you notice the saloon owner’s surname? The author’s last two novels feature that name, too) and bears witness to an attempted murder upon rancher Bud Ginty. Lending his guns to protect the rancher finds jobless Tim Raines hired on as a cowhand to a doomed ranch. Drought is upon the ranch, but their neighbor (Galt) has plenty of water from the underground spring. And, he refuses to share unless Bud’s beautiful daughter, Kitty, marries him. Then he will permit Ginty’s thousands of cows to drink. Or they will die.

While out on a ride, Raines hears distant booms and investigating further afield, sneaks onto the Galt ranch lands only to be knocked out. Captured, Raines is bound and tossed in an attic space. He will be murdered after Galt marries Kitty, who has eventually agreed to marriage to save her father’s ranch.

In typical fashion, our hero manages to escape, investigates the source of the explosions, and discovers a secret cave that leads under the earth, and a series of pipes pumping water out from under the Ginty lands! Returning to the ranch, he’s in time to assist Bud Ginty in stopping Kitty from going through with her marital vows. Gathering all the available men, they raid Galt’s ranch and a wonderful gun-battle ensues.

Raines is knocked out, unhorsed, and wakes up to discover a bullet nearly ended his life, but a metal plate on his hat saved his life. Raines announces his intentions to acquire the late Galt’s ranch, and requires a lover to assist in its operation. Naturally, Kitty obliges.

And I must confess that I enjoyed this novel enough to pursue reading the next one. Perhaps if I luck out twice, I may decide to chase the others.

Water Rustlers by Hoyt Merion

Crooks’ Honeymoon by Paul Swift (Brown Watson, 1949)

BROWN WATSON Crooks Honeymoon
Crooks’ Honeymoon Brown Watson, 1949

Paul Swift’s Crooks’ Honeymoon was published in 1949 by Brown Watson Ltd., with unsigned artwork depicting a seemingly enraged maniac about to strangle a cute blonde bombshell with his necktie. The artist looks familiar, but I can’t pin the person down. The British Library holds a copy, and claims that the cover title reads “Trust No Man.” Those words certainly aren’t on my copy.

The rear cover advertises two books as “now available” in this series. The first is Ladies Beware (by Paul Swift, per Oxford University library and Trinity College Dublin library). This book is not held by the British Library.

One further title is advertised: “Dramatic Detective.” Now THAT sounds like a series, and NOT an actual title. No author is provided, however, Oxford and Trinity hold copies, recording the novel as by Winston Parker (who?) and each provide that the title is Women Kill As Well.

The author’s identity is unknown. It must surely be an alias. At least two further novels exist by Paul Swift, those being Sinners at Sea and Studio Love. Despite the romantic titles, both are crime tales.

All four Swift novels are registered 1949, and each run 126 to 128 pages.

But enough on the bibliographic data. Let’s tackle the novel….

Chester Vynes, a man who dreams of becoming the modern-day (post WW2) Raffles, receives an anonymous phone call that his business associate has been murdered. The reader is introduced to Chester as a spineless thief, imagining the horrors that may soon transpire, when yet another phone call occurs. This one has a man instructing Chester to be outside, in ten minutes, if he wants to live.

This, he does.

Getting into a car with a couple of apparent hoodlums, his anxiety gets the best of him and Chester begins flailing and screaming. They knock him out. When he recovers, it is in a basement. A woman’s voice proclaims “About time…” He opens his eyes to espy the most lovely girl ever imagined. And she is part of this gang? He soon learns that they murdered his partner, because he was holding out on them. Further, they are not the master thieves. They too are part of a larger organization, based out of Paris. Basically, they perform the thievery, and the goods are sent to a fence, broken apart, and shipped abroad, rather than attempting to sell the goods locally in any part of England.

After beating Chester into submission and having him confess that his late partner was not sharing proceeds from their last heist, they arrange for he and the girl to partner up and hit a high-society function. Turns out the lady is formerly a part of society, but has maintained the charade since the death of her cheating spouse. Arranging to have the pair masquerade as husband and wife, they dance together to get used to one another.

Immediately Chester realizes he is in love with her and he feels that she is romantically interested in him. Turns out she is aroused by him.

The pair attend the function, perform the thefts, toss the goods to another member that departs in a vehicle, then create holy hell at the mansion, and everyone awakens to discover that they have been robbed.

A detective soon discovers rope fibers on the couple’s window sill, and realizing they are to be caught, they murder the man, and dump his body in shrubs far down the road. Shocked that they have committed a first-hand murder, they keep the crime secret from the syndicate. However, the body is eventually discovered and plastered across the newspapers.

The Paris syndicate learns of the grisly death, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure that Chester and the girl killed the detective. They are each brought across to Paris, separately, to perform yet another robbery, this time, not working together. Chester performs admirably, but the getaway car is spotted and the scene becomes a hectic mess as his muscled assistant murders another man. Blood sprays everywhere and onto Chester’s shirt.

Escaping with their lives, Chester is treated brutally by the head of the syndicate, who Chester fears is lusting after his girlfriend thief. He’s right. He’s soon beaten and battered to a pulp and, tied up, left to rot while she arrives from England. The leader awaits her arrival, they hook up, and he takes her out to dine.

Chester escapes with the dimwitted assistance of the muscled help, on the basis that the ogre obeys commands. Originally paired and assigned to the heist, the leader had instructed the mindless-one to obey Chester’s every command. Learning that that command was still embedded in his skull, he convinces the ape to untie him and assist in his escape. Uncovering some fresh clothes, he soon dresses in proper gentleman’s attire and hastens to the opulent hotel to confront the leader and expose the fraud to his girlfriend.

Chester becomes violently insane and inadvertently murders the leader. Taking it on the proverbial lam, the girl takes his cues (oddly enough, she was a much stronger central character in the first half of the book, and becomes a limp biscuit the remainder) and Chester returns to a building he resided in long ago, when he first learned in Paris how to steal. Re-assuming his old Parisian identity, he informs the landlady that he is engaged, and that they wish for a room. Chester keeps the girl hidden away the whole time because Paris police are looking for an English couple.

Instructing her to change her hair style and color, he brings her a change of clothes and adopts a clothing style he wore originally years ago. He must also obtain fake passports. While in the process, another cretin reading the newspapers discovers that he must be one of the English murderers and commences to extort funds from him. Chester drugs the man, and pushes him into the river to drown. He obliges.

Returning to the hotel, Chester is frightened to discover the police are doing a room-by-room search of his boarding house. He slips the girl a knock-out drug to put her to sleep, then shoots her in the chest, then twice more to ensure her death. Then he turns the gun around and swallows the next bullet.

Ironically, down below, the police had just finished looking at their passports, in the hands of the landlady, and decided the couple were NOT the ones they were hunting!

Crooks’ Honeymoon by Paul Swift (Brown Watson, 1949)

The Long Sleep by Al Bocca

The Long Sleep was published in 1950 by Scion Ltd. and represents the 4th book written by Bevis Winter under the Al Bocca pseudonym. The cover art is signed Ferrari; this is the alias of Philip Mendoza, who also signed as: Garcia, Zero, Gomez, etc.

The novel opens with Rick Morrison walking down the ‘hood, having recently been released from prison for a small-time crime. He’s looking to hook up with his girlfriend (Lola Madigan) only to discover that she has been two-timing him with an Italian “wop” by the name of Matt Corelli.

Disclaimer: Keep in mind that this is a 1950s novel, and we are still fairly fresh from exiting World War Two against the Germans and Italians. Slurs such as “wop” were commonplace terms in “gangster” novels. Any racism in these novels are not necessarily any reflection on the author’s actual personal beliefs.

Disgusted that Lola has been lip-smacking Corelli, Rick decides he will snatch her back from Corelli… But first, he needs money.

Picking up where he left off (criminally) he hooks up with another ex-jail-mate by the name of Lee Ackerman, who has the schematics to a rich old man’s home. He also knows that he and a butler are the only pair in residence, their movements, sleeping patterns, etc. Breaking in proves to be easy, but the whole scene goes haywire when the old man atop the staircase points a firearm down at them.

Rick refuses to shoot the old man. What’s worse, Lee Ackerman finds himself in a tussle on the ground with the butler. Tossing his handgun down to Lee in the darkness, Rick moves to leave when the gun goes off. The butler is done for, and the old man falls down the staircase to his death. Departing the house with the stolen goods, they hook up with their driver (a young female named Sonia) and speed away.

The goods are cached along the way and the trio split up. Rick phones his partner the next day only to discover a voiceless person has answered the phone. Repeating the call again nets the same result. A lifted receiver, but no speaker! Fearing the worst, Rick discovers via the newspaper that the police have arrested Ackerman and Sonia. The former has been charged with murder. Blood and dirt and scrapings are found on his body and clothes. Sonia, being quite young and inexperienced with the law, apparently has coughed up the fact that a third party (Rick) was involved.

Realizing the police are hunting him, Rick enlists the aid of Lola to obtain a fast car, then he races to where he believes the money and jewels are cached, finally discovers the location and the pair make their getaway. Lola isn’t too keen on bugging out on Corelli, as he has long reaches. The man practically owns her, having gifted her with jewels, furs, etc.

Ditching their wheels, the pair stereo-typically hop a railway car and sleep off their fright inside and permit the train to assist in their nocturnal escape. With the train coming to a sudden stop, Rick and Lola jump out before their “car” can be searched. Lola’s having no fun over the expense of having ditched a cozy situation with a repulsive-looking man in the city versus being on the lam with a loser with a pretty face.

They eventually obtain another set of wheels and make their way to San Francisco, and into the joint run by Siegal. Explaining that he is a wanted man out East, and having pulled off a botched jewelry heist, Siegal agrees to help but unwilling to match Rick’s cash demands for the jewels. Figuring the jewels to be too hot, he offers a much lower rate and travel out of the country. But the deal sours when Seigal learns that Rick has a girlfriend along for the ride. Demanding that Rick brings the jewels and the girl along for inspection, Rick finally relents and agrees to the terms.

Arriving at the agreed meeting place proves to be Rick’s undoing. Turns out that back East, Corelli has put out the word that a hood has made off with his girl and wants the girl back…and the man held. Rick is beat and knocked out and left in a houseboat. Waking up sore and bloodied, Rick scours the houseboat for a means of escape. All means are firmly secured. But, discovering he still has matches, he sets door frame ablaze and rapidly begins to suffocate from the flames and smoke. The door frame begins to weaken as he continues to throw his body against it then finally parts.

Making his escape, Rick drops into the water as people ashore notice the boat is on fire. Swimming far from the scene, he drags his body from the water. His suit is a mess, his twisted and battered, but he makes his way into a shady part of town and is met by a prostitute, who takes him up to her apartment to get cleaned up…after he promises to pay her.

While in her pad, we learn her sob story. Her old man died at San Quentin in the gas chamber after a botched job, leaving her a widow, and working her body for cash. Rick and her end up on the bed making out. Next day, he phones a cab and makes to leave, promising to mail her the money. Shockingly, she states she doesn’t want the money, that he can keep it. She’s more interested in skipping town with him, just for him. Not the money. Just goes to show you can’t always judge a book (or a person) by their circumstances. That’s something that turns up in various books I’ve read by Bevis Winter…a moral within a story.

Meanwhile, on that very day of Rick departing the prostitute’s pad, Siegal has Lola bound and gagged in his place. He’s developing a soft spot for her sultry body and decides to rape her before Corelli arrives. In fact, he spouts his intentions to her quite clearly, explains that Corelli would never believe her over him anyway. That Rick has been disposed off on the wharf. You get the gist…and so he removes her gag, she begins calling him all manner of names and other foul things spew forth. Siegal begins to paw her, remove her garments, kiss her all over, which proves to be a fatal mistake. Lola sinks her teeth into his neck and removes a chunk of flesh and he, in a fit of rage, heaves her. Distracted by his less than affectionate amorous intentions, he vaguely hears a scraping sound… The window opens and Rick leaps in, a gun in hand.

Siegal is mortified, and has every right to be. He’s stuck in a room with a vengeful maniac and he himself has foolishly bolted the door from allowing his toughs to enter and save his life while he molested Lola!

Retrieving the jewels from Siegal’s jacket, Lola departs by means of the fire escape, and Rick levels the gun and puts two rounds into Siegal’s gut. Dropping down after Lola, they both make off to his secreted wheels, when another shot in the dark is fired, and two gunmen step out of the darkness. They are Corelli’s men. And Lola is captured. Rick knows he’s bested…

…and now we are formally introduced to Corelli as a fat, flabby, jowl-faced character, with broken English. Corelli and his thugs decide to take Rick out to the rural part of California, find a good canyon, and push Rick in his stolen jalopy off the cliff. Rick doesn’t like this idea one bit and puts up a struggle, only to be knocked over the head; Lola herself is physically shaken like a rag and slapped violently by Corelli a dozen times.

Rolling the clock backwards to Rick and Lola’s escape and immediate capture by Corelli’s hoods, Siegal’s guards break in the door and find their boss dead. Spotting the open window, they look out into the darkness and spot 3 male figures and a dame climbing into a luxury sedan. Certain that Corelli and his 2 hoods have pulled a double-cross (not realizing it is Rick, the girl, and 2 hoods) they gather their own wheels and heavy artillery. Siegal’s smartest guard, Murphy, is the one to utter the oath that whomever killed their boss will receive “the long sleep” treatment. Hence the title of this novel.

Knowing full well where Corelli usually hunkers down, Murphy and the boys locate the rental and decide to rig the rental for a whole different sort of trip. Retreating to their own wheels, Murphy is pumped to follow the rental and see what sort of mayhem ensues…

Tossing Rick into his own stolen wheels, Corelli climbs into the rental, and the pair of cars make for the mountains. Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, the driver of Rick’s wheels looks back in the mirror and in horror watches as his boss’s rental is out of control. The steering, clutch, brakes, all are useless. The car careens out of control on the bridge, over the rails, and plummets over the side, taking Corelli, one guard, and Lola down to certain death. Rick’s driver pulls over and gets out, looking down. There’s no need to look for survivors. His both and partner are dead, the jewels also having gone down with them. Murphy and the boys are enjoying the deadly bedlam.

Cops are immediately on the scene. The driver makes a run for it, pulling his gun. Another cop opens the rear door of the car and finds Rick unconscious, stuffed inside. The guard doesn’t get far before he is shot dead. And so ends this novel…we can only figure that Rick goes to jail as the final loose end, an obvious conclusion as he is a wanted man.

If you are into gangster novels and movies, this one certainly picks up the pace in the last quarter of the novel with all manner of twists and turns in the plot, violence, sex, etc. What it lacks is Bevis Winter’s customary facetiousness. Literally, there is no sarcasm nor wit present, but plenty of subtle irony.

The Long Sleep by Al Bocca

The Living World by Carl Maddox (E. C. Tubb)

The Living World was written by E. C. Tubb under his alias Carl Maddox and published by C. Arthur Pearson (1954) via the Tit-Bits Science Fiction Library series. The cover illustration by Ron Turner features a space-suited man, firing a beam into the planet’s surface while gaping in fright as the very surface expands outward and seems to be reaching up and toward him in a menacing manner. It’s a gorgeous work of art and one I imagine readily gripped potential reader’s with awe.

The tale opens with ship captain Rex Tendris arriving at the planet Deneb IV to attend the Auctions, a flesh-for-sale event. He is disgusted by this but is searching for an old friend, Carl Stanert (a spaceship engineer skilled in the tending of Hyper-Drive engines) whom he knows has been captured and is to be offered for sale at the auction. While on the planet, Rex befriends a young officer (Stef Carson); he invites Rex to share his accommodation.

Attending the Auctions, the engineer he seeks comes up on the auction-block and Rex Tendris gets into a minor bidding war and wins Carl Stanert. He in turn asks Rex if he has any additional funds, to which Rex acknowledges he does. Carl asks Rex access to those funds to purchase a decrepit old wizened man.

Getting into a heated auction with Bronson, an evil space man possessing immense wealth, Bronson relents and permits the pair to win the professor. Rex’s funds are now wholly spent.

Rex Tendris, Carl Stanert, Stef Carson, and Professor Whitney depart the Auctions and Carl explains that the professor has discovered the whereabouts of the Cradle. The Cradle refers to an ancient alien civilization that once colonized the galaxies. The remains of their long-since abandoned worlds have been discovered and explored by humanity. Humans desire to locate the home world of this lost race, along with the preciously rare metal urillium used on those worlds.

Rex is in disbelief, but after they attempt to coax the coordinates from the professor, someone outside the room fires a deadly shot. That shot was meant for Rex, but the professor catches the murderous shot himself. With his last dying breath, the professor writes the coordinates on the ground with his blood.

The information is valuable but useless to Rex Tendris. He hasn’t funds to refuel or rebuild his broken vessel of a ship, but Stef volunteers his own saved funds. He has dreamed of the romantic stars and exploring them. Rex attempts to dissuade him, that the world afar is not just glamor and riches. Stef is undeterred, so Rex accepts and Stef becomes a ready member of the venture, to split the proceeds equally among themselves. Assuming they survive.

Rapidly departing the planet, Rex orders Carl to get the hyper-drive functional. He is certain Bronson will stop at nothing to get the coordinates or blast them out of space; Bronson may well not require the coordinates from them, if he was able to decipher the bloody marks left by the professor on the ground.

Bronson’s ship approaches and opens fire. Rex’s ship only has one turret against Bronson’s trio, and Rex’s turret is inaccurate. Carl manages to get the hyper-drive engines functional and they vanish, leaving behind a very angry Bronson. While he might have professor’s coordinates, that does not mean he knows where Rex will come out. The race is on!

Unfortunately, Rex’s ship was battered by the assault and the engine-room is in ruin. The hyper-drive is vibrating and Carl is certain that the vibrations will worsen to the point of turning them into jelly. Carl with the assistance of young Stef manage to mend the engine-room and make it functional. Setting the coordinates for the approximate location of the Cradle, Rex exits hyper-drive just outside the Coalsack. With the aid of hyper-drive, one may pass through the Coalsack with ease; the real danger occurs once more when they exit. There could be all manner of debris where they return to normal time and space. Plus, the hyper-drive is not functioning properly.

Tense minutes pass when the ship was set to abandon hyper-drive, but Rex personally attends to this and he gazes upon a sinister-looking planet. Better than this is the fact that he discovers a sleek vessel in orbit circling the alien planet! Seemingly abandoned, the trio take it for their own according to space laws. No living bodies are found inside, yet the ship is fully functional. How long has it been there? What of the crew? Are they on the planet? Dead or alive?

Removing the ship from orbit, they fly over the planet and eventually a smaller vessel is spotted on the surface. Realizing it was the landing ship, Rex lands and with Carl, they investigate. Looking inside the ship’s screen Rex sees a wreck of a human in tattered clothes and unkempt hair, gibbering insanely.

Rescuing the figure and returning to the newly acquired ship, Rex coaxes out of the maniac that he was the captain of the doomed venture. He remained within the landing vessel while four others explored the planet. Utilizing a drill, they attempted to mine the surface…then the planet assaulted them. The captain in a fit of fear then dies while reliving the memory.

Instructing Carl and Stef to man the ship’s turrets, Rex repeats the earlier explorer’s mission and with a drill, attacks the planet’s surface. His mind is battered by a painful shriek that assaults him. Carl and Stef fire at the planet’s surface surrounding Rex and he is safely brought back aboard the ship to explain what happened.

The surface is made of liquefied urillium metal, but it is alive, sentient. How is this possible? Rex surmises that they arrived where the Cradle had once been located, but they are five million years too late. The Cradle is no longer there, in space. With proper mathematical computations, they may be able to compute where the Cradle has shifted in space.

So, if this is not the Cradle, what is this planet of living metal?

Rex believes at one time the planet was constructed by the ancient beings using the urillium, perhaps as a self-repairing robot, and then abandoned. The area is highly radioactive and over the millions of years the urillium developed a life of its own.

Donning his space suit once more, Rex exits the ship and lasers off small chunks of urillium waste from the planet. Being a sentient planet, Rex had a mental conversation with it, a bargain that essentially states he departs with some of the rare metal and never returns, nor divulges the location of the planet, otherwise more greedy adventurers will return and murder the living planet for its wealth.

The urillium planet agrees to the terms and Rex and his two companions vacate the living world quite rich, to have more future adventures…

The Living World by Carl Maddox (E. C. Tubb)

“Oh! Miss Green” by Harry Lex (UK: Curtis Warren, 1954)

Oh! Miss Green was published January 1954 by Curtis Warren Ltd., and given on the cover to be by “Harry Lex,” clearly a pseudonym. Sadly, the identity of the author is currently unknown. At least one other novel appeared under this name: Main Drag.

The cover artist is not known, and proclaims at the bottom “Private Eye and Public Dolls.” The rear cover lists a handful of other titles recently released as available in Curtis Warren’s hardcover “Lion Library” series. The Lex title here is given to be a “detective” novel.

It isn’t.

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Oh! Miss Green may well have a detective, but he certainly isn’t solving any crimes. The novel involves American gangsters pursuing Julia Green (the dame on the cover should actually have blonde hair and green eyes), and per the author, a “figure that made Jane Russell look like she’d been on a six months’ slimming course.”

Per the blurb:

Mike Reilly, Private Investigator, was waiting for his first case when in walked the eye-shattering Julia Green — and, brother, was this girl hot! Because she had seen him murder Jerry Saunders in Chicago, Cal Johnson, big-time racketeer, had flown to London in pursuit of Julia and was out to remove her and her evidence to a place where she would no longer be a threat to his own life. To protect Julia, Mike calls in Pete Redowski and his boys; an through the streets of Soho, Chicago hoodlums and Pete’s boys chase each other. To trap Johnson, the D.D.I. Reynolds asks Julia to return to the Diamond Club for a farewell performance. The trap is sprung but Johnson outwits Reynolds and Mike, and Julia is trapped. How they turn the tables on the Chicago racketeer is the highlight of this fast-moving and most exciting first novel by Harry Lex.

The blurb actually reads more like a plot synopsis than anything else, which adequately saves me all the time in the world from having to regurgitate the plot-vomit. Naturally, Reilly is captured and beaten up, and later saves the girl from Cal Johnson, and, also from Morelli, an ape of a “hood” brought over from America who specializes in murdering with his bare hands or a rope. All the typical fanfare of British gangster novels are present in this charming novel, and the stereotypes of American gangland literature naturally made their way in.

Despite the standard fare of gangster-esque literature, this novel held my attention long enough to warrant jumping off a very high cliff. The fact is that the majority of the British gangster novels are complete rubbish. That aside, it is a competently written novel and damnably rare. Given that this was published January 1954, and that Edmund Cooper churned out 3 original novels for Curtis Warren Ltd. during this period, naturally I wonder whose real name lies behind Harry Lex.

“Oh! Miss Green” by Harry Lex (UK: Curtis Warren, 1954)