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.
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?
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 LadiesBeware (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!
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 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…
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.
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.
Published 1949 by Curtis Warren Ltd., Detective Crime Stories collects 1 novella and 2 novelettes. The first is by Lee Dexter (real name, Denis T. Hughes) and, frustratingly enough, it has no working title. The remaining novelettes are supplied by Bevis Winter.
Independent reporter Lee Dexter is asked by an old friend (Danny) to look into the murder of his father; he mentored Lee many years earlier as a cub reporter. Arriving in town, Lee runs across unsavory characters in his quest to unearth the truth. He learns that the old man had been running articles in the paper slandering one of two men running for office. Oddly enough, he had been slandering a seemingly “clean” citizen.
To worsen matters, the murdered man’s son takes over the town newspaper and runs a column citing the other would-be politician (correctly) as the murderer. Said party sends a bunch of hooligans down to the paper and destroys all the apparatuses, and beats up Danny and the employees. Hospitalized, Lee looks in on Danny, and insists he remains there until steady.
While the son is bedridden, Lee has a bunch of parts flown in and gets the paper operational again. With proper adeptness, he adroitly runs off a proper paper, full of allusions and facts, and has enough papers printed to be given to every citizen … for free!!!
This naturally angers the gangster-politician; he kidnaps the rival’s daughter, to whom Danny is in love! Lee and Danny (now out of the hospital) join forces to hunt the missing girl and end up rescuing her in a shack, far away. Witness to her own abduction, she is able to point out the villains and have them arrested.
The story concludes with her father in office, and Danny getting hitched to the girl. This criminal affair cleared up, Lee Dexter returns to New York City.
The above is well-written, if not somewhat erratic, but pleasurable enough to retain the reader’s interest.
The next tale is a novelette by Bevis Winter, entitled The Ghoul. And it sure is an intriguing story. Private investigator Sebastian Riffkin is holed-up during a storm at home, when a short man enters and spiels his recent life problem. He needs Riffkin’s help. See, he got in deep at a gangster’s party, gambling to the tune of $600. Well, he doesn’t have anything close to that. Deciding to end his life by jumping off a skyscraper rather than let the gangster work him over, he is halted by a feminine voice. Turning, he is shocked to see a girl up there with him. She offers to pay off his debt, cash in hand. In return, she wants his soul. (Heh? What kind of a gangster story is this, you ask? Souls go hand-in-hand with the weird and uncanny genres, not crime thrillers, right? Right. I agree. Well, the author has other ideas.) He accepts the offer, pays off the debt. So, Riffkin asks, why is this guy in his place, and what is the new problem? The bloke states that the dame said to meet her and her boyfriend at midnight, at Riffkin’s place! Riffkin is not amused and asks for the name of the boyfriend. Turns out he is none other than “Muscle” Goole, aka, “The Ghoul.” He died a short while ago, and Riffkin is partly held to blame. The pair of ghosts ethereally put in their appearance, and demand the man’s soul, so that the Ghoul can shield himself behind a “cleaner” soul than his own and enter the pearly gates. (Note: Heaven and Hell, etc, are never directly mentioned. Nor is God, etc.) Riffkin tricks the pair out of obtaining the soul, stating that the man sold HIM a second mortgage on his soul. (Can you hear the canned laughter?) Instead, Riffkin sends out an invitation to the man that held the party in which the client is now in debt, because he in reality was directlyresponsible for The Ghoul’s death! He foolishly arrives at Riffkin’s place and the two ghost lovers appear before him and he is led to trip down a long flight of steps and dies. They collect the soul and go UP. It’s not long before they return to Riffkin’s apartment, lamenting those UP there rattled off a list of crimes against the dead man’s soul, making him unfit for The Ghoul to use. Riffkin finds this amusing, that those UP THERE know more about DOWN HERE than the police could ever prove! Realizing that THEY have a better accounting system on Earth life than live humans do, that rules out The Ghoul using the gangster’s soul. Since the pair want to stay together (ah, lovers!) Riffkin suggests the dame use the soul instead, to further tarnish her image, and they both will be then refused and sent packing, together, DOWN THERE. It backfires. The Ghoul is unloaded to go to DOWN THERE, and they are separated. She returns, spitting fire, and crushed, until Riffkin states that there is a swell guy UP THERE already looking for a swell gal, and so she departs to hook up with him! It works.
It’s a goofy, humorously written gangster-ghost story, but nicely handled and entertaining to the very last.
In Pickle Profit, Bevis Winter brings back Sebastian Riffkin to do some dirty work. A lawyer wants him to make sure a young man does not marry until he is 30 years of age, or he will be disinherited out of several millions of dollars. He takes on the task, befriends the young man, and finds the trouble worse than he thought. The young man is a romantic and attaches himself to babes constantly, who in turn try to latch onto the now-wealthy man. The catch in the clause also stipulates that the lawyer, on reading the Will, can not divulge to any party the sub-clause, regarding marriage, etc. Despite this, he divulged it secretly to Riffkin, knowing he could trust him with this assignment. He comes to fail when the man clearly is enamored with a girl and she, him! But, remarkably, she announces that she can’t, won’t, and shall not marry him! Fine for Riffkin, but he smells a rat. Turns out she is on the up-and-up. She was born into a cult that believes in avoiding marriage, due to broken vows, etc, and she is torn between her sect beliefs and her love for the young man. Riffkin to the rescue! I won’t ruin the absurdity of the plot twists, but, they end up married AND retain the millions, without divulging the sub-clause. The ending and coincidences are highly improbable, but hell, you ARE reading a FICTION story!!!
The Indestructible by Rolf Garner (alias of Bryan Berry) was published by Hamilton & Co. as Panther Books #104 (1954) with cover art by John Richards. It appeared in paperback and hardcover editions.
The novel belongs to a trilogy involving the fate of Venus aeons after atomic warfare obliterated much of life on Venus and on Earth. This, the third novel — having followed Resurgent Dust (1953) and The Immortals (1953) — may readily be read as a stand-alone novel.
Various citizens on Venus are “hearing” voices in their head, advising them to not make a voyage. But, most of these citizens have no plans to make any sort of voyage. When a fisherman makes a trip to the city to see a doctor about the voices in his head, he is nonplussed to learn that others have likewise heard the same warning! The doctor calls Lord Kennet, ruler of Venus, and the lord himself makes an appearance to discuss the issue with the citizen.
None of the citizens hearing the voices have anything in common, and it’s not long before we discover that his own wife has also heard the same voices! Later we learn that perhaps the message is to stop Lord Kennet from blasting off from Venus…in a newly-constructed spaceship, built with the intention of visiting Earth. But who is sending the message? And, how? Telepathy? Lord Kennet does not care. Nothing will stand in his way to visit Earth…not even the discovery that two of his own flight crew have likewise received that very same message!
Blasting off from Venus, the voices continue to beat at the two onboard the ship until…they abruptly cease. Both are stymied by the silence. However, they are rapidly approaching Earth and must decide where to land, etc. Kennet decides to land the ship in a remote area, seemingly devoid of life. In fact, no real sign of life was apparent, anywhere, save for some animals.
Dropping the ladder, they are shocked to discover muscular beings headed their way, with flamethrowers and swords. Noting that the humans are using their flamethrowers, Kennet unlimbers his atomic pistol, ,returns fire, and kills some of the approaching men. His efforts are in vain as he and his men find themselves telepathically immobilized! A voice in their head proclaims that they are prisoners and forces them to drop their weapons. Kennet, realizing that someone has invaded their thoughts, forces himself to think of anything…anything…but the fact that he is immortal.
What? Oh yes, I forgot to mention, earlier in the novel, the author rehashes the prior novel’s and notes that another being, an immortal, had passed on to Kennet and his wife immortality and the ability to heal themselves. Kennet is certain that such knowledge in the wrong hands would be devastating. Even the citizens of his own planet are entirely unaware of the “gift” that was bestowed upon the Venusian lords.
The Venusian crew are telepathically forced to march through the marshes and into an elevator shaft. Eventually, they arrive at the villain’s fortress, are jailed, and left to rot in their assorted cells, when, remarkably, another telepathic voice visits Kennet. This new voice must convince Kennet that he is NOT in the employ of the villain’s telepathic crew. He is the last telepath among the rebels. The remnants of the local rebel faction, that is. Most of the rebels were murdered while sending out their warnings across space to Venus, trying to warn them to not make the trip to Earth. The villain’s telepaths picked up the mental transmissions and sent out their killbirds to annihilate the rebels.
The killbirds are large, electronic machines that hover forever above the ground, perhaps by some anti-gravitational means, and are highly weaponized. They also seem to possess some form of intelligence guiding system, and are operated by a remote control device wielded solely by the main villain, simply referred to as the Overlord. From the descriptions of the killbirds, they sound like modern-day killer drones. Apparently, after the atomic wars, these killbirds remained forever in existence, perpetually stationary around the earth, never moving. That is, not until the Overlord’s minions discovered a secret computer room and got everything operational. Discerning their purpose and abilities, the Overlord quickly assumed control of the entire planet. (Side note: why any of the assorted good-or-bad telepaths didn’t simply freeze the Overlord and then take the remote is beyond me.)
Returning to the rebel telepath, whose name is Grant, they work together to effect the Venusian’s escape. Faking having been poisoned by Earth-foods, the guards worry that they may die and bring in the doctor…however, the regular doctor is not who arrives, but someone else. Turns out this is Grant, the telepath. Upon entering the jail, he rapidly immobilizes the jailers, frees the Venusians, and quickly they make their escape, slaying anyone in their way.
Once out of the city, Grant leads them to another secreted rebel, who takes them to a functional submarine. The Venusians are informed that telepathy does not work under the deep depths of water. Grant remains behind, to throw off the Overlord’s minions and confuse the two telepaths. Satisfied that he has pulled off his task, Grant dons diving suit hardware and meets the submarine. There, Kennet and Grant privately devise a means to retaliate, destroy the killbirds, and eliminate the Overlord.
But, how can they pull this off, when the killbirds assassinate everything before humans can get in distance to cause them potential destruction? Returning to the surface, they put their mission into action.
Utilizing his immortality and ability to rapidly heal, Kennet walks boldly out into the open where his spaceship is heavily guarded and proclaims that he is unkillable, because his God (Ata) has gifted him.
They try. They fail.
The killbirds are sent in and shoot him with what must be lasers. Kennet rapidly reconstructs himself. All the while, Grant protects his brain against attempts by the evil telepaths from seizing control of him. While all are shocked and distracted, Kennet whips out his atomic pistol from behind his back and shoots down the pair of killbirds. Then the game is on! Why? When one killbird falls, the next nearest killbird on the planet will abandon its post to investigate and fulfill the prior’s mission, against the commands of the Overlord’s remote control device! Kennet stands his ground time after time as each killbird eventually appears and fires at him. In the end, he is surrounded by great heaping piles of slagged killer machines.
The Overlord himself is dead, having been slain by the rebels; the telepaths are both dead; the army is on the run or slaughtered. Kennet is all for killing everyone in the city, but Grant convinces Lord Kennet that once the city realizes the Overlord and top minions no longer exist to instill fear, that one by one they will be quite elated to throw down their arms and return to peaceful means….
The first half of the novel was sluggish, with a strong desire to build a firm foundation for the rest of the novel’s plot, but, really began to pick up the pace once the Venusians landed on Earth and were captured by the Overlord. Overall, the novel receives a passing grade and I can’t wait to one day go backwards and read the preceding novels in the trilogy.