“Dark Curtain” by Lee Dale

Here we have Lee Dale’s “Dark Curtain,” published by Paget Publications, circa late 1949. The cover art is by Oliver Brabbins, signing far left as “Brab.” It is a 96-page thriller.

PAGET Dark CurtainI recently picked up this rarity and was thrilled to have the opportunity to read it. The actual identity of the writer is unclear to me.

“Dark Curtain” is a simple crime tale involving detective Rex Brant taking holiday. He is headed south to Florida aboard a train when he spots a gorgeous young blonde reading a reference book on psychology. It seems heavy reading for a young lady of her type (he thinks).

Despite his vacation status, he watches her, picks up on the fact that she seems ill-at-ease, prefers the company of passengers, and does not interact with a single soul aboard.

Unable to avoid his hunch, Brant finally attempts to strike up a conversation with the girl, whom does her damnedest to get him to bugger off. Rex assures her that he is not a “wolf,” a term she clearly does not understand. He elaborates and she realizes he means something along the lines of a “masher.” He’s nonplussed, shocked that she seems oblivious of “wolf” and other modern slang among her generation, but using archaic terms instead. He later discovers she has never seen a movie nor familiar with modern music.

While once more trying to steer the conversation around to her problems, the girl clams up and obstinately informs Rex to leave her be or just keep her company. He finally cracks up himself, unable to control his impulses and kisses the girl. She struggles at first and then returns the kiss, before breaking it and flustered, informs him that she ought not have done that, and horrible things might happen as a result.

She latter confesses that she suffers from a family mental illness, and might kill at any time. She fears for other’s safety, as her dangerous acts are all enacted while she is asleep. She is tortured by her dreams.

So, why was she in New York City, for two weeks, if she suffers from insane thoughts of murder and mayhem? She wanted to break from the family farmstead, where she has been detained all her life, after having seen some magazines. Two weeks into the adventure, she had troubles sleeping and became more and more in fear of a tragedy. Afraid for others, she boarded the train back to Georgia.

Afraid for the girl’s safety, and naturally, interested in her himself, he asks her to not disembark without informing him. She consents, but, when the train stops, he discovers that she has attempted to give him the slip. Unbeknownst to her, he read her luggage case and memorized the home address. Giving her a head start, he lugs off his own case full of clothes and a general stock of detective paraphernalia, and asks a porter to point him to a hotel. Registering for the week, the sultry desk clerk attempts to give him a good time, but he gives her offer the cold-shoulder treatment.

While in town, he purchases a pair of ladies gloves, and has them worn out in no time. The purpose? As a ruse.

Taking  a cab out to the farm at night, he walks up to the dilapidated farm. Sneaking up, he spies upon the people and hears enough to suspect that something is afoot. Rex even overhears the girl’s own brother being a prick, tormenting her, suggesting openly to her that she might have murdered someone in the Big City while sleepwalking! Annoyed by this, Rex finds himself fortunate to deliver a knock-out blow to the man, whom comes out onto the porch. Rex plants his fist squarely upon the man’s nose, busting it and knocking him down….

Come morning, he returns to the farm. Knocking, he is eventually met by an elder woman, the girl’s aunt. She informs Rex that he may most emphatically NOT see the girl, she is asleep and if he understood any of the information provided about the girl, that he would never return, as that is best for the girl. Rex refuses to leave until he has delivered the faux-gloves, to which the aunt admits that the gloves do indeed belong to the girl. She takes the gloves and goes upstairs and eventually returns, stating the girl now has the gloves but does not wish to see him.

Rex then confesses that the gloves are a fraud and that the aunt, as thus, a liar. She then has her nephew, the drunken louse, try to throw Rex out. He re-introduces him to a busted nose (and performs this brutal treatment throughout the novel).

Remarkably, the sleeping beauty awakens after hearing the scuffle and arguments below. She spots Rex and greets him cordially enough and extends an invitation to lunch. The aunt bawls that he may not come, that the serving staff are limited as are food rations.  Despite this, Rex twists the words around and invites himself in to lunch, to the aunt’s dismay and outrage.

We eventually meet the aunt’s husband, the uncle’s own aged and decrepit mother, and a pair of doctors, whom have diagnosed the girl as insane. Rex later stays the night at the house, after insisting the girl can be cured and the uncle relents, giving Rex the opportunity to prove them and the family doctor wrong.

Everyone goes to bed and later, they hear a fracas at night, and find the girl sleepwalking, having entered her brother’s room, and is poised above him, about to strike with a large kitchen knife! Rex snaps into play and retrieves the knife, and tells the sleeping girl to go to bed.

The next morning, he overhears the brother inform the girl that her dreams came true and that he in fact did awaken to the fact that she intended to murder him. Distraught, she runs from the room and the boy is once more introduced to Rex’s wrath.

Suspecting that the family are not actually working toward improving the girl’s health, he sets up some listening apparatus, stringing it from the device in his room, under the carpeted areas and rugs, into the aunt and uncle’s bedroom, and at night, overhears part of a conversation, inferring that Brant is to be murdered tonight!

Ready for the worst to come, he stays up all night in bed, pretending to be asleep. Fearing for their safety, she is often locked in her room and they all lock their own doors. Her brother’s near-assault was written off to the fact that he was too drunk to remember to lock his own door. But, how did she get out, then? Her own door is always locked, too. Rex Brant’s door is locked, and despite this, he sees the girl now in his room, raising the glittering knife, ready to kill him. Then we have a thunderous pounding at his door by the uncle, pretending to save his life, trying to awaken him before she commits murder.

Rex calmly gets up, takes the knife from the girl, opens the door and steers her back to her room. He then proclaims that they are all a bunch of frauds, and the entire scene was set-up to scare him. How did she get in? Turns out she climbed the ledge in her sleep and came in through the window. He announces he will have her seen by his own psychologist, brought in from New York. They threaten to simply have her processed to the local asylum, and how will he thwart that?

I’ll marry her!

Realizing the full threat to their situation, they try to mollify him by agreeing to his terms, extend his stay, and that they won’t try again to sway his judgment. But, when he learns that the family doctor never practiced nor has a degree, he and the girl confront him. Realizing that the game is busted, the fraudulent doctor pulls a gat. Rex is to die, and the girl will be returned and eventually processed. However, unbeknownst to him, Rex had dropped one of the girl’s pills in his julep, and it is fast taking him down and putting him into a suggestive sleeplike state! Drooping and snoring, Rex takes the gun and then tells the doctor to confess all.

This he does, and the girl hears the whole mad plot, which is the typical game. She was to inherit all from her father, home and fortune, when she came of age. The aunt and uncle were to care for her and the evil brother, whom was to receive an allowance and nothing more, as the father did not trust nor like the boy. However, if the family illness ever surfaced in the girl, she was to be admitted to State care and the house sold off to care for her, etc.

Well, the estate today is bust, after the uncle spent the entire fortune on gambling, etc., but there is still enough remaining to keep up pretenses.

Returning to the farm, the uncle pulls a gun of his own. He intends to kill Rex and get away not only with murder, but keeping the game going. What about the doctor, then? The uncle asserts that Rex and the doctor will be found dead, both with guns planted in their hands, having shot it out at the doc’s home. Remarkably, to his surprise, Rex watches the withered remains of the uncle’s ancient mother pull herself out of the rocking chair, whom moments earlier seemed asleep, extract a very long sewing needle, and fighting to a standing position, rams it home into her son’s back!!! Granny has been an innocent spectator and planning her own revenge, all these years, upon all parties, herself! Prepared for her rear attack, Rex leaps into action, trying to wrest the gun from the uncle, and he himself is assaulted from behind, when the aunt leaps upon him and attempts to strangle him. The whole thing ends when the girl picks up a gun and threatens to shoot….

Flash-forward, the New York doctor has arrived and spends several hours isolated with the girl, performing tests. In end, she is given a clean bill of mental health and proclaimed normal. Rex and the girl end the book by landing in each other’s arms and kissing.

The book is cleanly written, although a little bit jumbled at times. The unknown author works hard toward providing a solid plot and loads of character development throughout. However, the backdrop is flimsily handled and could take place anywhere, not just Georgia, although the writer does what they perceive to be their best to insert racial remarks such as calling the maid “Aunt Jemima” and other absurdities, but, it is in keeping with the South’s treatment of the “blacks” in the 1940s, so while we may find the dialogue at times distasteful, we must continue to realize that blacks in America were still being ill-treated and poorly portrayed to the British audience through American movies as inferior, ignorant, and without a shred of intelligence. Other than the crudeness at times, the book has a decent flow that keeps the reader coming back for more.

“Dark Curtain” by Lee Dale

Summer Crime Parade (circa 1947)

Crime ParadeThis is one of those “odd” publications that baffles me. It is undated, unnumbered, and, it is not clear whether the title is simply Crime Parade or Summer Crime Parade. One would traditionally believe that Summer simply denotes when it was released or set forth to be displayed on the book racks.

So, I also scanned the Table of Contents page, which is full of useful data. Again, the title appears to be Summer Crime Parade. More interesting, we are given the names of the editors: E. L. Childs and A. J. Saunders.

Besides being listed as editors, Edmund L. Childs and Andree J. Saunders were married in England, mid-1947 in Westminster district. Edmund was born in 1916, Pontefract district. Not sure about the lady. I could not locate any children, nor death records on either one. However, looking at the contents page, one will note that the lady is credited with one of the “Fact” articles.

The book was distributed by Todd Publishing.  Knowing their marriage date and whom distributed this odd publication, you can safely estimate this digest magazine to having appeared sometime between 1947 and 1948. There are only 3 advertisements present (one for Afrikander pipe tobacco, Peek Frean and Company [biscuit makers], and a Ferguson Radio ad covers the rear cover. With this latter ad, I found an exact copy in an English newspaper, dated October 1947 with the slogan “Fine Sets These Ferguson’s”

There are only four short stories present in this volume.
Murder on the Metro” – Francis Grierson
Thursday is My Unlucky Day” – Michael Hervey
Justice Isn’t So Blind” – Allan K. Taylor
Maudie Gets Her Own Back” – William Norman

Crime Parade ToCsThe remaining titles present are articles labeled as “Fact.” There are some additional features NOT quoted on the contents page.

Murder on the Metro” by Francis (D.) Grierson takes place in Paris. A woman is murdered on the metro. The famous detectives Patras and Latour are on the case, and seeking someone disguised as a nun, having discovered a dislodged crucifix belonging to a rosary at the scene of the crime. After interviewing various suspects, the whole case unravels all too easily, leaving me quite disappointed.

Michael Hervey, once regarded in the Book of World Records as having the most published short stories, supplies “Thursday is My Unlucky Day.” The story recounts a forger whom has partnered with a safe cracksman. The forger investigates a target, so that the cracksman may later break in and out and nobody will be the wiser. All that the forger requires is that some blank checks be stolen, each time. This he does, and the forger goes to the local bank to cash a check. On entering, he notes the bank desk calendar says: Thursday. Immediately he decides to cancel out on the deception. All of his worst life experiences occurred on Thursdays. Today was cursed! And today is no different. He finally works up the courage to cash the forged check, when, to his dismay, the banker notices the large but irregular amount. The forger claims that he completed a deal with the man that morning, but the banker calmly proclaims that perhaps the forger should have read the local newspaper. If he had, he’d know the man was died “yesterday morning” in a car wreck.

Allan K. Taylor supplies “Justice Isn’t So Blind.” A simple tale of a criminal foolishly copping to a break-in, asserting that he knew he was busted when a young child caught him in the act. He was dumbfounded by this, since it was the middle of the night, and being a cat burglar, he was super quiet. In confessing to the crime, we learn that the girl’s hearing is indeed quite astute, in fact, heightened beyond the norm, for, she is blind!

In “Maudie Gets Her Own Back,” William Norman details one man’s greed. While in an unsavory joint, a dame approaches him, looking for a favour. Can he get her a decent pearl necklace, for a cheap price? Able to procure stolen goods from various “sources,” he accepts the challenge and lucks eventually into a criminal looking to unload a pearl necklace. After a failed haggle, he finally pays the top price to the seller and returns to offer it to the girl. She isn’t amused; this pearl necklace happens to be the very same that was stolen recently from her!!! Worse yet, she assumes that HE stole it from HER !!!

 

Summer Crime Parade (circa 1947)

“Murder’s a Must” by John Russell Fearn


A wealthy miserable bitch of a woman is hunted and ruthlessly murdered, her back (just below her shoulder blades) revealing a tattoo. Too many people had reasons to murder the woman, and their alibis are weak. When another woman dies with a tattoo on her back, in the same location, the two murders become a real mystery.

MUIR WATSON Murders A Must

Murder’s a Must” by John Russell Fearn was published by Muir-Watson Ltd., Glasgow (1949). It is a 128-page digest-paperback with excellent cover art. The illustration is rendered by Reina Sington.

In this splendidly-written crime thriller, Scotland Yard’s Inspector Handcock (yes, you read that accurately) arrogantly accepts an unsolvable murder from a Divisional Inspector, whom is at his wit’s end. Handcock soon confesses to his partner Sergeant Grimshaw that he may have accepted a tough assignment. He’s right.

The case begins with the murder of Vera Bradmore. Her assailant lithely had climbed a wall, inserted their self through a window, then smothered Vera to death with a pillow. Prior to the murder, the killer extracts the whereabouts of two other persons. Adding insult to injury, the murderer exposes her back and reveals a tattooed name: MARY.

Handcock has his hands full (no pun intended) when another murder occurs. Far to the north, one Elsie Jackson is smothered to death, found face down in the sands of a lonely beach. Her husband discovers her corpse. The news reaches the ears of our desperate Inspector. The girl would otherwise remain unmentioned, save for the fact that her back is equally tattooed with a name: IAN.

The third person murdered wraps up the entire plot, as we learn the trio are sisters, triplicates, in fact. Their father decades ago was part of a famous jewel heist. His mask failing to protect his identity, he escaped and secreted the diamonds and then tattooed clues onto the backs of his young daughters (a painful memento; gee, thanks dad!). The police catch up to him and while hopping over rooftops, he plummets to his death.

Or was escape impossible and the splat a suicide?

Who cares.

The children were left in the care of another family, whom had a daughter one year their senior. This family-man was believed to be the triplicate’s father’s accomplice during the heist. It was never spoken of, even to his own family. Years pass, and, when the trio reach 16 years of age, they inexplicably vanish. They sealed a pact among themselves to part ways, never contact one another, change their identities and disappear, for better or for worse.

Meanwhile, the caretakers also move, departing England. Our highly resourceful inspector learns that they sailed for South Africa. Contacting authorities, he learns that the entire family died in a fire. Or, did they? He suspects the daughter in fact did not die. Furthermore, he speculates the father at some point did disclose the jewel heist to his family.

During the ensuing investigation, a figure from his past returns; an old friend (Cavendish) wishes to renew their friendship. Baffled by this sudden jack-in-the-box surfacing during a murder investigation, Handcock juggles the idea that Cavendish might be somehow tied up with the murders. When he is inexplicably invited to Cavendish’s home to meet his wife, an American that was born in London, his guts churn with a new conviction.

We eventually learn that it is Mr. Cavendish’s wife that is the murderer, whom was the daughter of the other jewel heist man! She did not die in the fire; a friend of the family died instead, and was mistakenly identified. She is captured after having killed the final sister.

With all three clues at her disposal, at night, she investigates the combined clues (I won’t reveal the final 3-word name) down a dark street. The police pounce, apprehend, and bring her to Inspector Handcock. Here, she finally confesses the entire plot and catches Handcock and Grimshaw off-guard by sucking on a seemingly innocent lozenge which in fact contains half a grain of atropine, a deadly poison. She dies and Inspector Handcock is left the grisly task of informing Mr. Cavendish that not only has his loving wife died, but, she is also the murderer, three-times over. Good luck, bub!

If this book sounds right up your alley, guess what!!!
You may readily find it reprinted as “The Tattoo Murders.”

 

“Murder’s a Must” by John Russell Fearn

Weird and Occult Library # 3 (Gerald G. Swan)

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It’s been a real pleasure reading all three of these lost gems. That Gerald G. Swan decided to unearth his trove of unpublished manuscripts, acquired back in the 1940s, and publish them during the 1960-61 era, is phenomenal.

The contents for this issue:

(1-5) The Incredible Awakening by Norman C. Pallant
(5-15) Black-Man’s Magic by Frank C. Brooke
(15-25) Labyrinth of Zekor by S. G. J. Ouseley
(26-34) Silvester’s Oasis by Henry Rawle
(34) The Hill of Worms by A. S. Quilter Palmer(35-43) As White as Snow by Ian Mercer
(43-47) A Guest of Vanderdecken by Ernest L. McKeag
(48-52) The Last Word by A. E. Crawley
(52-57) The Yellow Mask by John Body
(57-62) Corner Cottage by A. M. Burridge (sic, Burrage)
(63-64) A Lot of Gammon (uncredited)

The first story is of a dreaming man slowly waking up. While the dreamer awakens, worlds within the realm of his mind come crashing down and entities vanish in the blink of an eye. The Incredible Awakening may represent our own existence being but a dream. It’s unclear, bizarre, and unusual, and I like it all the more!

The author, Norman C. Pallant, has written a handful of
other weird stories and science fiction tales.

In Black Man’s Magic, the story reads like something L. Patrick Greene might have written for his African adventure pulp stories. Captain Ferguson saves the life an African’s child, and in return, grants him a vision into the future, one to solve a crime, and the other, a noise from the wand of African man from earlier in the story, to save his life! Only he can hear the noise and save his life it does, for the villain pulls a gun. Following the rest of the vision, he goes directly to the hidden false identity gear, a stowed gun, and then, elsewhere, to stashed cash that nobody could possibly normally locate. This even baffles the local police. When asked how did he solve the mysterious crime, was it “black magic” he replies, that no, it was “black-man’s magic.”

Frank C. Brooke is no stranger to selling stories
to Gerald G. Swan. Typically he can be found as the
writer of juvenile stories for boys and girls.

Lybyrinth of Zekor…titles like that are always interesting. You KNOW you are about to read some weird and unusual story. At the least, the title infers something out of the ordinary. A vacationing couple are duped into hiring a local and visiting the sunken ruins of an immense building. While underground, they discover it is a lost cult, and other vacationers are lured below, capture and murdered. They escape and the lost city inexplicably explodes and sinks further, killing all inhabitants.

Ouseley has contributed other weird stories
to this genre field, with equal ability. Some are
of the purely outlandish variety but many simply
are concluded with irrational endings.

Silvester’s Oasis is typical deliriousness in a desert. While dehydrated and near death, he is rescued by a man of the desert whom takes him home and Silvester finds himself transported back through time, hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. He is mistaken for another person, and he becomes romantically involved with a lady, whom all males are forbidden to contact. Taken before the supreme ruler, he learns of his fate but times inexplicably change and he is back in the present. A weak conclusion that left me wondering why the author went to the trouble to write an otherwise interesting story.

Henry Rawle is no virgin to the weird genre.
Click on his name in the side-bar to read more about
from another of my earlier posts.

The Hill of Worms is a half-page vignette. Dead guy buried in cottage, murdered, year later comes back to haunt the murderer. The locals find him dead and in the corner, instead of a dead decomposed man, a dead adder.

Initially I thought As White as Snow was going to turn out to be a Romeo and Juliet spoof. Don’t ask me why; I simply believed that to be the case. It was, close enough. Our Romeo is romantically involved with working with the church when he is introduced to an intoxicating young beauty. They fall in love, kiss, then she breaks off mortified, and confesses that they can never be together. She has leprosy, and then runs off a cliff. Our Romeo is found at the drinking establishment, and our narrator runs to him to save their lives, after learning that the guy does NOT have leprosy. He learns of her demise too late, and is thankful that Romeo hasn’t done anything foolish. But, he has. The drink is drugged. He dies. So, a twist on an old story. While he isn’t named Romeo, she IS named Julia.

Despite fearing that A Guest of Vanderdecken would be typical fluff, I plunged into McKeag’s version of the ill-fated voyage of the Flying Dutchman. When a man is lost at sea and deliriously near death, a storm saves his life, providing much-needed drinkable water. Spying a ship, he and his small boat are pulled aboard and he is revived. On securing his health, he is mortified to find those on board are wearing antiquated outfits from hundreds years ago, and the ship of the ancient seafaring sort. But when he learns the identity of the ship’s captain, and that they are nearing the Cape, he loses his grip on sanity, realizing that if they get past the Cape, the ship and all her crew are doomed to repeat their adventure until the end of time, and that somehow, in this time loop, he has joined their crew! As the crew hurrahs! at passing the Cape, their bodies rapidly age and disintegrate, as does the ship. Just before it crumbles out of the present to rejoin the ghostly past, our narrator dives into his own boat and lands safely in the water, to be picked and saved.

Although the impression given was that all the stories
present are lost, unpublished stories, fact is, this story
actually was published, by Gerald G. Swan, in the
May 1949 issue of Cute Fun. Perhaps they needed
further filler material for this volume or lost their own
records indicating it had been published.

In The Last Word, an old man and nurse at an infirmary heatedly dislike one another. The “why” of it is entirely unclear. Perhaps it is purely a matter of personality. The old man one night is having an attack, and the nurse, happening to be on duty, takes her time in giving him his meds. Taking too long, he dies, but sets his sights on her, in death, to haunt her. Time passes…. His favorite wheel chair is constantly avoided. Anyone trying to use it leap out of it immediately, as if pushed, prodded, poked, etc. The wheelchair one night is found out of place and the head nurse reprimands the killer-nurse. She takes umbrage to the charge, and after it occurs again, begins to keep an hourly watch on that chair. It happens again. Finally on the third night, she tries to put it back, but finds the chair evading and pursuing her about the infirmary. Everyone is asleep, save for the narrator, whom watches as the chair steers her to the balcony and shoves her over the edge.

The Yellow Mask is given to have been the cause for many a strange death and insanity. A pair of men decided to investigate the ancient dilapidated remains of an opium establishment, where their buddy was last known to have visited, prior to succumbing to insanity. They find indeed that something sinister and supernatural is present.

John Body is the alias of John Brody. He wrote other short
tales for Gerald G. Swan. He also had a brief career writing
science fiction for New Worlds magazine.

Corner Cottage by A. M. Burrage (erroneously spelled here as Burridge) is typical campfire stuff. Family takes up residence in a cottage that annually is abandoned due to a curse. An entire family died there. The current residence–and artist and his wife and son–move in and disregard local gossip. But when events and noises rattle them for weeks and months, the climax comes on the very annual night the dead family, er, well, DIED. Coming home from the pub, the artist walks in on his wife and two very dead visitors, with bullet wounds in their heads, from a double-suicide. Their son is upstairs screaming and bawling that a dead girl is in his room. They move out the next day, and later read that the cottage caught fire and burned to the ground. The artist prefers to believe that the dead scared them away to save their lives. Did they?

A. M. Burrage prolifically wrote for at least three full decades.

The vignette A Lot of Gammon is purely tongue-in-cheek humor poking fun at small village lore surrounding ghosts and the like. Amusingly enough, the local tells informs the outsider that he was told how to invoke curses and use witchcraft, but states it’s a lot of gammon, or bunk. As a jest, he grabs the broom, sits upon it, and recounts the words he was to use to fly. Shockingly, the broom lifts and takes off, with the man screaming BLIMEY into the night….

 

Weird and Occult Library # 3 (Gerald G. Swan)

Weird and Occult 1/- Library # 2 (Gerald G. Swan)

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…let’s now continue the second of three blogs on Weird and Occult 1/- Library, as published by Gerald G. Swan, my favorite wartime British publisher. As noted, Swan had acquired and filed numerous short stories during and shortly after the war years. Come 1960, they re-opened their files and compiled three 64-page books, with original cover art.

The contents:

  • (1-12) The Voice of Amalzzar by Henry Rawle
  • (12-13) Skulls That Cannot Be Shifted by A. C. Bailey (article)
  • (14-18) His Second Chance by A. C. Bailey
  • (19) The Cat and the Occult by F. Thomas (article)
  • (20-29) Death Mates by Hugh J. Gallagher
  • (30-37) Come Brother, Come! by Dallas Kirby
  • (37) A Court Martialled Ghost by A. C. Bailey (article)
  • (38-43) “Where That Dark Water Is…” by Chas. H. Bradford
  • (44-52) Beneath the Mountain by Christine Gittings
  • (53-63) Judgment Bell by John Russell Fearn
  • (63-64) Made of Sand by M. E. Orman

The Voice of Amalzzar begins in the usual introductory fashion. Chums haven’t met in many years and the one suffering with weird situations requests the assistance of their old friend, writes him, and he, like a good buddy, appears on the scene, to record the event for the reader. In this one, a mummy’s essence is tapped and they bring back its entire life story. Thankfully, the mummy speaks perfect English (or, rather, the scientist’s mechanism does). One of the electron tubes suddenly blow as the orator begins foretelling the future. A stale, well-dated tale.

His Second Chance is somewhat amusing, if cliché. A man is struck by a bus, dead, and his ghost wanders about eventually learning the truth and that the world will get by just fine without him. The ghost also learns that his wife had been having an affair, his daughter now intends to pursue her own interests against his wishes, his job and friends found him a scoundrel, and only his dog seems aware of his presence after he whistles. He eventually imposes the shell of his soul upon a newborn baby….

Death Mates is an adventure tale. Not weird. Perhaps gruesome, in its time? A wealthy man in the jungles of South America over the years places ads around the globe for certain sorts of female employees. The current boat-load arrives and they are sent to their rooms. The self-proclaimed trapeze artist manipulates her room’s window to access and enter another girl’s room at night and reveals that she is in fact a man, in disguise. He’s secretly on a mission to discover the whereabouts of his missing sister. While talking, the pair sneak out and discover that the resident is a madman whom enjoys hunting “skilled” women. His trophy room consists of their heads! The trapeze artist does battle with the man and his weekend-warriors (killers) and blows up the mansion. A fun tale, but ill-placed to this volume.

Come Brother, Come is another of those cliché tales, in which a fisherman whom murdered his brother long ago is drawn again out to sea during a tumultuous storm, rowing for his life, as his rotting corpse of a brother pulls himself out of the ocean and drags his killer down with him….

“Where that Dark Water Is…” is from poet Walter de la Mare. It is aptly re-utilized here, involving deadly sea sirens. A lighthouse is investigated, only to discover a knife in the back of one man, and another tethered, equally dead, by a pool of water.

Beneath the Mountain involves a typical discovery of a lost sea monster, being tended to by a zoologist, of sorts. The trapped cave-dwelling beast kills the man feeding it, and the narrator leads others to the location, but the beast has already escaped.

Now, this next story, by John Russell Fearn, is well-worth the purchase of this book, alone. Judgment Bell, while yet another typical story of its sort tackling a well-worn plot, is so adroitly told that it kept me plodding along wondering just how this particular version would end. Two lovers picnicking are caught in an uncanny storm and take shelter in a church in which her uncle, a dozen years earlier, had died, from a bizarre lightning strike. The lady is strong-willed, independent and intelligent, to the point that she does not believe in the occult. However, when she finds a variant of her surname in the monk’s books, retelling an old local legend, the eerie setting rattles her nerves and shakes her to the core. Legend holds that an ancestor [of hers] assassinated the church’s monk, but he set a curse upon the family, to hold through the centuries until each could be drawn to this very church and vengeance exacted upon each one. Realizing that she may be victim to an unknown family curse, she frantically seeks to escape, but the storm keeps them inside. Losing sanity, she “sees” the ghostly monk, loses her mind, and is struck by a bolt of lightning, charring half her body. Her lover is maddened and discovers a real live monk on the premises, and is certain he is the man she saw. The monk explains the old tale, and that he is aware of who [in family name] she is, and then shows that the legendary “Judgment Bell” that they both heard, in fact, does not exist!

The digest wraps up with a bizarre short, in the form of Made of Sand. An odd child builds a figure out of beach sand and that night, it takes form on the beach and the girl wakes up and dies. A worthless little tale….

Weird and Occult 1/- Library # 2 (Gerald G. Swan)

Weird and Occult 1/- Library # 1 (Gerald G. Swan)

w-and-o-1

In the 1940s, Gerald G. Swan purchased the rights to tons of stories, paying on acceptance. His files were loaded with unused material that languished throughout the 1950s. Come 1960-1961, the outfit finally issued much of this languishing material in a variety of genre-specific editions. Here, I will be dealing exclusively with the first issue of the Weird and Occult 1/- Library digest-sized paperbacks (and in January 2017, two more blog entries will follow, covering the other two issues).

The books are 64-pages each, measure 5 x 7 inches, and are stapled with glued wraps.

The contents:

  • (1-13) Vashtarin by Kay Hammond
  • (14-15) Twenty-five Years by Herbert J. Brandon
  • (16-22) Cause or Effect by Maurice Grove
  • (22-30) Dr. Kranzer’s Masterpiece by S. G. J. Ousley (sic)
  • (30-39) The Horsehair Chair by Winifred M. Carnegie
  • (40-46) The Case of Eva Gardiner by A. M. Burrage
  • (46-49) In the Dark Temple by Noman C. Jallant (sic)
  • (49-56) Green Eyes for Evil by Leslie Bussey
  • (56-58) Scuttled by Christine Douglas
  • (59-63) The Sins of the Fathers by Tom Lawrence
  • (63-64) So Near – So Far by Philip Glyde

Quite easily this lead story by Kay Hammond-Davies is the best out of the whole lot. Equally so, Vashtarin is the only story within the whole volume worth reading. Taking place during World War Two, the Royal Air Force are interested in investigating a downed plane in the Himalayas. Rumor has it that the valley holds a lost race. The scene switches, and the lost race is given to us in typical Oriental-fiction style, complete with the evil leader possessing magical abilities. Complete with a virgin that falls for the downed airman, we are introduced to a wonderfully exotic lost realm, a pilot whom is struck down after his flights of fancy, and a magically-enhanced world is bombed out of existence by the RAF in retaliation. A story that is more Oriental adventure than weird, with slightly fantastic tones throughout. If only the rest of the stories retained such interest….

Herbert J. Brandon doesn’t break new ground in Twenty-five Years. A few college chums going their own way after graduation vow to meet 25 years hence. Usual snap ending, they all arrive, sans one, whom at the midnight hour, arrives, as a ghostly form, then vanishes, and one of the other older lads notes that he hung that very morning, for a crime!

In Maurice Grove’s Cause or Effect, a wife is convinced that her husband is causing the untimely deaths of people that they once knew or famous persons that haven’t made the news in a while. However, she’s informed she is interpreting his proclamations wrongly. He is attuned to the occult and picking up on their death vibrations, which suddenly makes him call out their name, etc. Convincing her to return to her estranged husband, he later learns that she has died, while attempting to return home. Ironically, only that very day, the husband, whom had long since given up on her returning home, and just uttered that her name, making the doctor wonder…was he wrong?

In Dr. Kranzer’s Masterpiece, S. G. J. Ouseley writes a truly weird tale. Kranzer has gone missing, and Dr. Arnold is brought in to investigate matters. He eventually discovers a secret chamber underground and the doctor, dead, with an uncanny thing, a creation of his own doing, that led, ultimately, to his own undoing!

Winifred M. Carnegie delivers a creepy tale when a dead man bequeaths The Horsehair Chair to a non-believer in the occult. However, when a friend visits and stays the night, reading by the fire, he ends up sitting in the chair (while his friend is drawn away for the night). He’s soon unable to extricate himself from the chair, and is visited by a frightening thing. A demon? The next night, his friend returns and the pair retire to the same room and he takes to the seat. Unable to warn him without being scoffed at, his friend soon suffers the same fate. They later break apart the chair, find a note within, from the original owner, noting that he had murdered another person in that very chair….

A. M. Burrage handles the murder of a young girl in The Case of Eva Gardiner. The police have their man but no evidence. Angered that the murderer has escaped Justice, Mr. Ransome, an older gentleman bachelor nightly coerces himself to focus mentally on the girl, whom was a regular visitor at his home. One night, she ethereally visits while he dreams, and discloses the identity of her killer, and other details. Unable to obtain the police’s assistance in his arrest, Mr. Ransome obtains a gun and shoots the killer dead, turns himself over to the police.

In the Dark Temple, by Norman C. Pallant (erroneously credited as “Jallant” on the page), a man is in the jungle seeking a lost temple. Securing its whereabouts, he alone enters and steals a rare gem off a temple gods face. Despite the gleaming stones removal, he hears a ferociously evil roar from the god and a baleful, evilly bright gleaming eye glares down at him. Scared out of his wits, he is assaulted by some being. Whipping out his knife, he fights for his life…. Mentally deranged, the locals find the treasure hunter, with the gem, and it is learned that a locally infamous one-eyed tiger assaulted him.

Leslie Bussey delivers a somewhat chilling account in Green Eyes for Evil. Alan is fixated on his brother’s fiance, and proclaims his love to her. Failing to secure her affections, he gives her a green stone ring. Time passes, and he receives a letter to meet his brother. In reaching the home, he learns that the brother murdered his wife, after discovering the bejeweled ring. He knows the gem was stolen from a specific location, and intends to exact his revenge upon his deceitful brother. His plans misfire, and Alan murders his brother in  quasi-self-defense. Fearing that, if caught, he’ll hang for murder, he cleans the scene of his presence, and slips the dead man his gun. His brother gets the last laugh…his finger contracts and drills Alan, dead.

Christine Douglas delivers a weakly constructed tale in Scuttled. The protagonist annually plans various luxurious vacations, but in fact, never leaves his home. On returning from his “vacation,” he boasts about how enjoyable it was and provides relevant details to enhance the experience, by reading up on each locale. His plans go vastly awry, when on returning to work this time, his workmates leave a newspaper on his desk noting that HIS SHIP NEVER MADE IT to its final destination.

In The Sins of the Fathers, Tom Lawrence writes a typically dated weird tale in which a dead man visits a young man as a ghost in his dreams, and informs him that he shall die for the sins of his father. While a young boy, his father had caught the dead man stealing from the cash drawer. In protecting his property, he inadvertently strikes the man a death blow and sent to the penitentiary, where, he himself dies, succumbing to an illness. Feeling cheated, the ghost is determined to take the son’s life, instead. If only he can stay away long enough to escape the ghost’s intentions….

In Philip Glyde’s So Near – So Far, a romantic couple are hiking up a mountain when he accidentally slips, knocking their pack off the edge, and damaging his watch. Continuing the ascent, they are met by a thickening mist. Realizing they may become stranded, they begin a rapid, but cautious descent. The mist becomes impenetrably dangerous. Realizing further efforts may result in their death(s), the pair hole-up for the night. On awakening, they find that, in looking over the edge, they were only three feet from completing their downward journey. (NOTE: This is not a weird story in the least)

Weird and Occult 1/- Library # 1 (Gerald G. Swan)