Strange Hunger by Michael Hervey (Hamilton & Co.)

 

HAMILTON Strange Hunger
STRANGE HUNGER – Michael Hervey (U.K.: Hamilton & Co,. 1948) Illustration by H. W. Perl

Strange Hunger was published by Hamilton & Co. (Stafford) Ltd., London, and per the Oxford University library (the British Library lacks a copy) received by them in 1948. The novel runs from pages 3 to 128, and the font is tiny.

A long time ago, back in the 1990s, legend held that this book had two different covers in existence. I’ve since determined that was pure fantasy and that the only cover that exists is this one by H. W. Perl. He often used local models or painted cut-outs of movie stars and starlets for his covers. This cover has absolutely zero to do with the contents of this book. If a cover variant does exist, which is entirely possible, as Hamilton & Co. has created such thing, I should definitely like to know!

I’ve read many works of fiction by Michael Hervey over the years. He was a fiction factory whom specialized in short stories. Reporting sales in the several thousands, he supplied his details to Guinness Book of World Records and would go uncontested for decades. Because so many of his sales were to obscure wartime and postwar publications (booklets and magazines) as well as regional and city newspapers (yet to be digitized), indexing his works is very obnoxious. I made a minimal effort, and notched over 400 entries. That excludes reprints and retitled stories, for which he had hundreds. Leaving his English homeland for Australia during the early 1950s didn’t help this situation any, as he continued to sell in all manner of locations. Thankfully, unlike many of his contemporaries, he apparently did not utilize aliases. Further, I also possess a letter, dated 1948, detailing many of the magazines and newspapers that he sold fiction to, globally! Perhaps, one day, in the far-flung future, those distant countries may make their collections digitally available….

Neither here or there, I was blindly reaching out to the bookcase, probing for my next throne-room read, when my fingers chose the smoked-spine copy of Strange Hunger. Smoked, because it was stocked at a railway station and the smoke from the trains ruined the exposed spine of the book, along with the top and side edges of the pages. The bottom edges were not exposed, and are, as thus, quite clean. Too, the interior pages are spotless.

In fact, I was entirely surprised by the plot. Well, it isn’t really so much of a plot, as it is a social-political utopian novel, outlining Hervey’s personal beliefs. Here, we have proletarian writer Michael Hervey (which, incidentally, is not his real birth name, either) ghosting himself as the young, wealthy, world renown genius Paul Richardson.

Paul has contrived to invite the greatest minds living (just after WW2) to his home with the purpose of inviting them to abandon their homes, their countries, etc., and join him on a pilgrimage, to create the perfect society. He has purchased, with his unlimited millions, a large set of islands, isolated from the world, and there he has grand plans to be self-supporting, and, allow time for all brains to focus their energies on research and development, without global interruptions, or, as Paul puts it:

“a miniature State, ideal in as far as man can make it ideal.
One free from Want, Misery, Ignorance, Suppression, Greed,
Cruelty, Intolerance, Persecution, Exploitation, Illness, and Disease.”

His only real foil is found in the aged genius mind of Staines, whom apparently fosters an intense dislike for Richardson. Staines vocalizes his disdain repeatedly for every idea and concept that Richardson contrives. However, our author, Hervey, limits his discord to minute outbursts, a few short lines, while allowing Richardson a paragraph, two, sometimes a page or more, to blabber incessantly. Any noted genius will be more than capable of parrying Richardson with an equal amount of verbal riposte, and yet, not once do we see this carried out.

Eventually, all parties present agree to join Richardson, including Staines. But why? Even on the isolated islands, Staines continues to be the agitator. Along for the romantic ride is his less-than-intelligent girlfriend, Valerie. She’s not stupid, and she puts up with his eccentricities. It’s initially unclear what her contribution will be to the novel, unless he and she will be a futuristic version of Adam and Eve (Oh hell, I hope not; I hate those sort of stories).

Eventually, a warship arrives, and disembarking are Slavs. They wish to purchase the island for military purposes, to protect themselves, etc. Name any price! Nope. The brains are not interested in selling. Fine, we’ll come back and take your island by force!

They depart, and a different country’s representative arrives, wishing to double the Slavs’ offer, whatever it was, but they are surprised and elated to learn that the islanders already rejected the offer. Pleased, they present one of their own and are equally rebuffed. Angered, they depart, leaving behind the same threats as the Slavs.

Next day, the Slavonese government sends their air assault team out, and the island geeks are shaking in their…boots? I’m not sure what they are or aren’t wearing. Honestly, they are free to wear whatever they like. That aside, how are the geeks to repel a military invasion, whether by land, air, or sea?

Miraculously, Hervey  divulges that Richardson had created a “death ray,” but scrapped the project long ago. However, he eventually learned how to bend those cosmic rays and created an amnesia ray. Hervey even goes so far as to explain that the rays, prior to his altering them to being harmless, were originally every bit as deadly as those proposed by fiction writers! Situated high up in a towering laboratory, Richardson sends out his cosmic rays in a dome around the island, and when outsiders cross the rays, they become confused. Their training and instinct cause them to return to base (so he claims. No doubt in reality some would panic and hit the eject button, or crash, or keep going).

And what if a country finds a way to counter those cosmic rays, asks Staines. Nonsense. Richardson (Hervey) assures the populace that the rays can’t be bypassed. Simply impossible. The Slavs make repeated attempts to bypass the rays, with failure. Finally, they trick the islanders to come out and meet them. Here, they capture 50 youngsters. Richardson, annoyed, increases the wattage and knocks every Slav aboard, including the youngster, unconscious. Boarding their vessel, they recover their own people and depart. The Slavs return home, and eventually give up their offer to buy or assault the island. Now, they wish to buy the secrets of the ray. No dice.

Midway through the novel, Richardson and Valerie ship out with others to retrieve tons of parentless children in a war occurring in South America. Sailing to Buenos Aires, we are once more tossed into a verbal battle between Richardson and the sailors regarding social and political viewpoints. Docking, he is met by a local contact person, and driven to a hotel. Here, he leaves Valerie, in the hotel room, and is met by another contact person.

Believing this to be a further contact, he innocently accepts the offer, and is captured by…Slavonese soldiers! Wow, the plot is running really bare by this time, indeed. Richardson chuckles it off as bad scenes he often read about in penny dreadfuls. They threaten to hold him hostage until he coughs up the death ray schematics. He refuses. Ah, but they can be very persuasive. He chuckles, and there ensues the usual worldly discussions about conquest.

They lock him in an unknown room, and leave him alone. The windows are firmly barred. There is no other escape route. He wishes he had read more crime stories. Well, he always professes brains over brawn, so he must think his way out of this one. Time passes, and the Slav representatives and local thugs walk in and finally give him “the treatment.” Yes, he is beaten and battered and tortured in classic hard-boiled fashion, mercilessly. He is beaten in and out of consciousness. Eventually, he awakens, bloodied and bruised, his eyes gummy and closed shut. Bombs are going off in the distance. The revolution or war or whatever, has made its way into the interior. The building takes a near direct hit, and finally he is freed from his captivity. Sort of. Now he is drowning in water. And bombs are still falling. The Slavs and thugs are missing. Maybe they died in the bombing? He doesn’t know, nor care. He must escape. And what became of his girlfriend, Valerie? They had confessed to her capture….

Or, had they? Come the next chapter, we learn that she actually is still at the hotel in Buenos Aires, with the real contact person that initially met them at the docks. He despairs to learn from Valerie that Richardson was picked up, but he had not detailed anyone to do so. Worried, he is prepared to search for Richardson, but an aerial raid on Buenos Aires occurs, and they must all seek shelter. They and the rescued children hasten to the docks and board the ship.

Meantime, Richardson is crawling and stumbling through the bombed streets and reaches the docks, unscathed. With waning, ebbing strength, he subconsciously manages to attain the ship and drag his near-fainting body aboard. Those below hear a disturbance topside and the contact man goes above and discovers Richardson. Jointly, he and Valerie drag the bloodied body below and minister to his wounds. He later wakes up, the ship bobbing along out at sea, returning to the island.

To his innate horror, although he refuses to admit it, he learns that Valerie has fallen in love with a doctor that they brought along from Buenos Aires, one Stephen Kenyon. Richardson and Valerie break into a dissertation on intelligence versus hormones, essentially. She doesn’t wish to be loved for her brains, but also valued for herself, her beauty, etc. They have a falling out, and she confesses that she loved Richardson once, but it was his mind, his intelligence, but not himself. He professes his love and learns that he must vie for her attentions. He has been so into himself that he has largely ignored her own wants and needs. And, so the story goes…

While Paul Richardson had mentally prepared for everything, that was the second failure he met with. The first, his capture, beating, and inability to bring his brains to his rescue. The second, the likely loss of Valerie’s affections and sole companionship. The third rose in the form of a hurricane, something that region of the sea had never really suffered from. A freak storm of nature rose up and battered the islanders, destroying buildings and causing some deaths.

In the midst of the storm’s aftermath, Stephen Kenyon is given the podium and announces many medical plans, including abolishing “pain,” and altering DNA, etc. Staines and he enter in large arguments, of course, and then Richardson and he verbally dual. In the end, Richardson divulges that he received a letter (real or otherwise, is unclear) claiming that the residence are tired of Staines and wish him removed. Calling on the islanders to prove the letter a fraud, Staines is shocked to find nobody stand or support him. Ousted, he departs by boat and returns to the mainland. Here, he is interviewed by newsman and military and political powers alike. Infuriated, he informs all that Richardson and those on the island are fanatics bent on destroying the world, and, the only way to bypass the cosmic rays is to have someone on the island destroy the apparatus.

The interview is broadcast via wireless, and Richardson and all listen to his spiel. Discouraged by his views, Richardson still wishes Staines was present, as he is the top physicist in the field.  Valerie proclaims that they received a letter of request from another physicist, asking to be allowed on the island. Accepting this, the fellow, by name of Drayton, eventually arrives. He is shown his room, and Richardson assigns Valerie to give him the guided tour. She initially refuses, proclaiming that he is potentially more detestable than Staines. Laughing this off, Richardson assures her that he is merely tired from his long plane ride.

Showing him around the cosmic ray apparatus room, Valerie notes that Drayton accidentally drops a fountain pen, which rolls under the devices. While endeavoring to retrieve it for him, he grabs her, and yanks her out of the complex. Sound-proofed the building(s) may all be, the island is still greatly aware of the demolishing boom that annihilates the laboratory. Drayton escapes, and Valerie survives, left to explain the cause.

The islanders panic, the cosmic ray field is down, and they are sure to be invaded. Don’t worry; Richardson had constructed a duplicate device in his spare time! All they must do is take it out of storage and help him lug it up the mountainside and install it. While setting up the replacement, they hear an armada of plains approaching. Bombs began dropping, and in timely fictional fashion, Richardson’s rays are turned on and the planes repelled as the fly-boys all suffered sudden cases of amnesia.

Drayton is captured, and we learn that the real Drayton refused to cooperate with the invasion. His real name is Bailey, and his assignment was strictly to infiltrate the island demolish the equipment so that the Federation could invade and send reps to talk with the leaders. They scorn him for this, but he disclaims all knowledge of the aerial assault, assures them (honestly) that he was not privy to the planned, wanton murders.

Richardson, displeased with the plans, decides to convert Bailey and puts him to work in the hydrophonic fields. Weeks pass, and the fields are attacked by millions of insects. To worsen matters, an unstoppable assault by birds occurs, eating all the crops. Richardson is frustrated that the greatest minds in the world have not come up with a simple plan to repel the very casual act(s) of nature.

Pages more develop with he and Stephen Kenyon discussing medicines, altering DNA, etc. It ends with Richardson confessing that he is certain that he has made progress with Bailey, whom recently suggested planting medicinal herbs, when all of a sudden, over the wireless airwaves, the radio blurts out that the Federated States and the Slavs are at war! The last and final chapter of this novel purely deals with the 2-year war that ensues, and the closing chapters reveal that the armies finally lay down their arms and refuse to fight any longer. Richardson and the islanders celebrate and it is decided that once more, they must show the world their way of living beats the world’s way, with peace, love, and harmony….

Advertisements
Strange Hunger by Michael Hervey (Hamilton & Co.)

“Tapestry Triangle” by Thomas P. Kelley

Tapestry Triangle

During and after the war years (that’s World War 2, in this case) England was suffering from immense paper rations, and smaller upstart publishing houses were printing on anything available, including tissue paper, colored paper stock (literally of ANY color), cardboard, etc. You name it, they printed on it.

In this instance, the publishers, Pemberton’s of Manchester, contracted Canadian publisher Associated Weekly Newspapers to print some titles and ship them across.

Here we have Thomas P. Kelley (Kelly, in error, on the cover, but correct on the interior title page) writing a supernatural Oriental quasi-detective novel entitled Tapestry Triangle. It was printed under Manchester’s “A Peveril Novel” series, in 1946.

Researchers might be interested to know that the printers really screwed up this project. The story begins on Page 15 (page 13 is the title and copyright page; page 14 is an advertisement) and ends on Page 138. page 139 is blank. Page 140 sports a Cadbury ad.

You do the math….

The cover illustrates what should be an Oriental smoking a cigarette. He hardly looks Oriental. The cheaply constructed cover, author surname misspelled, and the hundreds of spelling errors inside (and a few lines of missing text!) greatly hinder the quality of this novel. It also likely lends a load of credibility to just WHY this book is so infernally rare!!! No doubt readers were put off by the hundreds of spelling mistakes and tossed the book in the bin. They would hardly have known the name was wrong or cared much about the cover art. Another thing missing from the cover? The price. The bubble is present, but, the publishers or printers failed to insert the customary 9d price!!! Or, perhaps, in England, the someone was supposed to slap a label on? Who knows!

Dare I even read the book and provide a synopsis? Of course I dare.

Mr. Wu is an immortal Oriental, whom has lived since before Christ was born. His longevity is due to having drank from the Elixir of Life, a chemical composition only known to him and forgotten throughout the ages.

Working hard upon the heels of Amazonian murderers, Wu must keep Thalia, leader of the Amazonian tribe, from obtaining three separated pieces of a tapestry, that when placed together, provide a map to the burial of Genghis Khan, and, the infamously valuable loot that he gathered. Using pure ingenuity, wits, a sword cane, and flawless jujitsu, Wu works his away adroitly through dives, dens, and alleyways of terror, dodging death and would-be assassins with consummate ease.

Wu eventually eliminates all opposition, Thalia dies of her own hand rather than be arrested and jailed for countless murders, and Wu obtains from her the missing two portions of the tapestry. The third? He’s had it hidden all along with a friend in Toronto.

Returning to Canada, he has all three pieces now combined, and hands them over to Lotus Wing, a young lady that was brought up under the guise of being the daughter to the now-dead Sun Wing. Learning from Wu that she was adopted, she is further shocked to learn she is a direct descendant to the Khan lineage.

Wu hands her the tapestry map to do with as she will. Realizing that many more lives will be at stake, so long as those maps exist, she surrenders the fragile bits to a candle’s flame, and in moments, they become ashes….

But what of Thalia’s and the Amazon’s historical hatred for the ancient Wu? He provides an in-depth history of his early life, his capture by pirates, a battle that leads to his escape, and eventual meeting with the then head Amazonian, several hundreds of years earlier, and how he escaped their clutches after freeing some captives and also eluding their clutches, much to their humiliation.

Want to know more…? Tough luck.

“Tapestry Triangle” by Thomas P. Kelley

“Quinton Clyde: Private Investigator” by Trent McCoy

STANLEY BAKER Quinton Clyde PI

Published 1952 by Stanley Baker Publications Ltd., “Quinton Clyde, Private Investigator” was written by Trent McCoy, alias of David Boyce.

The novel, as indicated, is a humorous detective thriller, and they aren’t joking.

The protagonist (not depicted on the cover) is a copper-headed, out-of-town, nosey ‘dick’ investigating the murder of one gangster, formerly answering to the name of ‘Muscles.’

Certain that a local lower-tier gangster (O’Brane) was behind the assassination, Clyde is up against the following henchmen:
1. Sammy Stetson (a cowboy turned gunman)
2. Larry the Louse (a petty crook with a penchant for drunkenness and being nearly blind)
3. Brent Brewer (a behind-the-scenes whom we never officially meet)

Throw in a strip-tease dame operating under the name Jade Kavan (a name more at home in a Tarzan novel, no less), a seemingly useless police captain as Simon J. Stride (whom takes everything according to his surname and is more fond of never leaving his seat and listening to flute music), and the captain’s young, capable lieutenant, Champion (seriously), and you truly have an unusual crime story (or, at the least, an unusual mix of characters).

The crimes taking place in the isolated city of Gorryville are home to a multitude of underworld denizens, waiting to whack the competitor. The police are either corrupt or don’t seem to give a damn. Clyde is fed-up with the local police department and the inadequate attention to the murderous situation. And what’s with the moll that seems drawn to both gangsters? Throw in a bank robbery, a pharmaceutical theft of cocaine and other assorted drugs, a lunatic asylum, and you enter your own realms of insanity, wondering what possessed me to read this book, let alone, asking yourself, why are YOU still reading the plot synopsis?

Clyde eventually manhandles the cowboy, provides liquid courage to Larry the Louse, is delivered a final death sentence by O’Brane, Brewer is jacked up with enough poison by the lunatics in his asylum to eventually kill him but he escapes and Larry sets Brewer’s own starving hounds loose and they rip him to pieces. Larry also rescues Clyde, fatally wounding O’Brane once in the spine and gut, despite being now 100% blind.

The cops finally prove that they are not bystanders, but covertly working on a secret operation. Jade Kovan turns out to be in cahoots with the police force but in the end retires to pursue an acting career in Hollywood. And Clyde doesn’t get the girl? Don’t be too sure. He insinuates that he’ll relocate to Los Angeles, and pursue his career there….

The name “Trent McCoy” is home to numerous mushroom jungle-era publications.

1951 – Wake Not the Sleeping Wolf (Hamilton & Co.)
1952 – Order a Coffin, Now! (Hamilton & Co.)
1952 – I’ll Come Quietly (Cooper Books)
1953 – Lady, What Now! (Cooper Books)
1952 – Quinton Clyde, Private Investigator (Stanley Baker)
1953 – Treasure of the Yukon (Stanley Baker)
1955 – Railroad Renegade (Fiction House)
1955 – Justice of the Canyon (Fiction House)
1956 – Outlaws of the Range (Fiction House)
1958 – Stagecoach to Santa Fe (Fiction House)
???? – Dynamite Trail (Fiction House)

“Quinton Clyde: Private Investigator” by Trent McCoy

STAG: Man’s Own Magazine (Summer 1946)

Earlier, I had read and reported on the first issue of Stag. Now, we return, to learn that the magazine is here to stay, this time additionally filled-out with advertisements. What? oh yes, the last issue (that being the premier edition) featured NO ADS!!!

STAG: Man’s Own Magazine (Vol 1 # 2, Summer 1946) was published by Winter Bros. Press Ltd., and proclaims now to be published quarterly.

  • Bevis Winter (Editorial Manager)
  • Brett Ogilvie (Associate Editor)
  • J. Robert Breen (American Editor)

Stag 2

Again, it is jam-packed with stock-photos of Hollywood actresses in various poses.

  • Page 13 – unidentified lady
  • Page 33 – Marie McDonald
  • Page 34 – Vivian Austin
  • Page 35 – Leslie Brooks
  • Page 36 – Evelyn Keyes
  • Page 43 – Jane Russell
  • Page 44 – Paulette Goddard
  • Page 66 – Rita Hayworth

Once more, it is filled with an assortment of masculine articles dealing in sports, men’s dress code, household, automobiles, etc., along with cartoons and joke-snippets interspersed by artists such as Arthur Potts (3 ), John J. Walter, and others.

The quality of the writers and fiction drops off in this issue (the former contained heavy-hitters Gerald Kersh and Denys Val Baker). This edition features:

  • Ralph L. Finn – What the Butler Saw (pages 8-11)
    The late Judge Mannering died falling down a staircase. Nobody really laments his passing. Mannering was hard on local drunkards, stamping them with hefty fines or imprisonment. But, when the butler learns that Mannering is a hypocrite, he pushes the intoxicated judge down the steps…to his death!
  • Michael Hervey – Grandstand Charlie (pages 17-20)
    Charlie does nothing without an audience. But when he takes one audience endeavor on too many… Let’s just say that he witnesses a person drowning in the ocean and while diving in, he breaks his own neck. Why dive in? He believed the water deeper than it was. The person drowning? A midget, in two feet of water.
  • Sylvester McNeil – Strained Relations (pages 24-25)
    A odd story involving a penniless man applying to marry a rich man’s daughter, whom he claims, quite honestly, to love. The father laughs off the whole matter. It’s unclear to me just what is implied, unless he is not the first man to approach the father for her hand in marriage, before going into the Air Force.
  • Dennis Wynne – Love Me, Love My Juke-Box (pages 41-42)
    A young man in love pushes his piano through town and under the window of the young lady he loves, in order to satisfy her desire to be musically serenaded. Sadly, she despises pianists!
  • Brett Ogilvie – Keep Your Hair On (pages 45-50)
    A slightly weird tale involving a man’s desire to grow hair on his head. After various quack treatments, oils, salve, lotions, etc., he discusses the issue with his friend. Said friend learns of a doctor (of sorts) claiming to have discovered a sensational cure. However, he hasn’t had anyone to 100% try it on. Applying it to the hairless-one, the next day, he becomes covered head-to-toe in hair. Despite shaving it throughout the day, it keeps quickly re-growing. Eventually, they re-approach the “doctor,” whom sprays weed-killer all over the man! The next morning the pair return, and he is again covered in hair! The spray failed. The friend slowly rolls up his sleeves, and suggests, at the very least, a full refund….
STAG: Man’s Own Magazine (Summer 1946)

Mammoth Man by Roy Sheldon (1952)

HAMILTON Mammoth ManMammoth Man, by Roy Sheldon, was the first in a trio of Prehistoric Series novels published in 1952 by Hamilton & Co., and each written by H. J. Campbell.

The novel opens with Magdah blissfully working with wet clay, painting his shared bachelor man-cave (literally) walls with hunter Garo. In the course of events, they lose their slave, a sloth, and chase it into the jungle, because the daily grind simply intolerable without their sloth to perform the heavy work.

Meanwhile, far away (but not too far) Lena, a young, teenage female, is tired of the slavery she’s been force-fed since childhood by her parents, and realizes that her father is interested in mating with HER !!!  (eew, gross, right?) Stealthily, she escapes. But, she’s never been on her own, had to fend for herself, or hunt for food. She eventually stumbles upon Magdah’s and Garo’s missing sloth (whom was mating in the jungle) and follows it to the man-cave.

Immediately Magdah and Lena fall for each other (love at first sight, ya know) and Garo says Lena cannot stay. Magdah insists she does. So, Garo leaves.

Shortly thereafter, a husband, wife and baby, and teenage son, enter Magdah’s lair and do battle with him, with the intent of stealing his cave. Vastly outnumbered, he is tied to a tree (see the cover art) and left to be slain by a jungle beast.

The plan goes awry when a herd of mammoths arrive, and much to Magdah’s surprise, Garo, whom departed, isn’t far away. He creeps over to see what is going on, and rescues Magdah. Together, they do battle with Yak (the leader of the invading family).

When they return to the cave to rescue Lena and face a final fight with the teenager and the hellcat woman (with baby), they find both have had their skulls smashed in by an axe! Realizing that Lena killed them, Magdah is shocked, but elated. Garo welcomes her thus as a fellow hunter-killer, and the three live together….

Mammoth Man by Roy Sheldon (1952)

“Fat Men Laugh at Murder” by Marc Stephens (1949)

MUIR WATSON Fat Men Laugh At Murder
Fat Men Laugh at Murder

Fat Men Laugh at Murder” by Marc Stephens was published in Glasgow, Scotland by Muir-Watson Books, in 1949. This British digest-paperback novel runs 128-pages.

The strikingly bold and colourful cover illustration was created by Reina M. Bull (Reina Mary Sington was her birth name).
Her illustrated works are quite collectible, including covers for New Worlds, Science-Fantasy, various crime covers, and spicy covers for Utopian Press under her alias, “Janine.” (Side note: I would personally LOVE to own an original by Mrs. Bull.)

Who is (or was) Marc Stephens? The British Library and COPAC show zero holdings for this person. The identity of the writer is unknown. Searching the Internet turns up zilch. Does the name belong to a real person, short for “Marcus” Stephens?

This didn’t turn up anything useful, though I found a clergyman (Marcus James Treacher Stephens) that fit the bill nicely, but, during the years in question, he was stationed in Lebanon. Still, one never knows….

It was then suggested that I look to Hugh M. Stephens as a possibility.

I did.

FictionMags Index site shows Hugh M. Stephens contributed at least three known short stories, from 1943-1945, and one further in the Bonny album in 1949/1950. Ironically, I submitted those Laughitoff issues to the index site a couple years ago, myself! It’s possible that Stephens turns up in other issues. Bear in mind, the novel was released in 1949. This would seem to fit perfectly.

  • This Pantomime Business (ss) Laughitoff # 3 (1943)
  • Swing Date (vi) Laughitoff # 8 (1945)
  • Grammar as She is Spoke (vi) Laughitoff # 9 (1945)
  • Build for Tomorrow (ar) Personality (Feb 1948)
  • (story title unknown) (ss) Bonny Annual 1950

So, who is Hugh M. Stephens?

The only Hugh M. Stephens I could find was born 1920 in the Brentford district. Identity of Hugh’s “M” initial never disclosed on any of the genealogy sites I searched.
Parents were Hugh O. T. G. Stephens and Ragnhild Gaaserud.
One known sibling, Kari B., married 1947 to Thaddeus H. Gebert in the Bedford District. Further research reveals this is Kari Bridget Gebert, born 1916, but died 28 January 2010.

Did he serve during WW2? Could be. I found two Hugh Stephens that might fit. The first has an entirely different middle name. Nix! The second, fits, but, DIED IN 1945!!! Could it be that the Laughitoff contributor died in 1945, and is NOT the same person that contributed to Personality three years later? One may never know. I am direly hoping that a relative might one day write and clear up this matter.

Without further ado, let’s hit the novel itself.

A socialite returning home to England after some years away is holding a large party on an ocean-going vessel. Private detective and Englishman Hugo Van Reine and his new associate, ex-soldier and man-of-action American (Johnny Vernon) are invited to attend. Johnny immediately falls in lust with the extremely beautiful Adele Manners. Hugo watches all the party-attendees, and notes two figures detach from their positions to chase down the gorgeous vixen. Here Hugo is in his element. What does the one young man want with Adele? What interest does the sinister, greasy-looking Italian have with Adele? (and why are Italians always described as greasy?)

Landing in England, they all part ways, but, Adele, for some odd reason, retains Hugo to visit her at her apartments. On arriving, he finds her in a harried state and unable to let him in. Please come back in 20 minutes. Irked, he departs, returns, finds the door open, and Adele, shot dead! A noise at the front door, and Hugo, not wishing to be caught with a corpse, steals down the fire escape.

Entering by the front door is Hugo’s young associate, Johnny. He is looking to re-acquaint himself with this lovely lady, but dismayed to find her equally dead. It is an inopportune moment for a recently-hired detective-in-training to be caught in such a precarious position, too.

And there begins our wonderful world of intrigue.

Who murdered Adele? It is immediately known that she was to inherit a worldly sum. Her murder means that many in her family stand to benefit.

Was is it her mother, whom seems more inclined to fret over the social-standing of the family than the death of her daughter?

Her sensible brother?

Her flirty and bitchy sister?

The brother’s wife?

Maybe the two fellows on the boat?

Or is there a deeper mystery at the root of this heinous crime?

Hugo, using his grey-cells, thinks his way through various situations while setting Johnny to work on the less delicate matters of handling the crooked underworld elements. Johnny is constantly battered and poked and prodded by guns and fists alike in his endeavor to uncloak the mastermind behind Adele’s murder.

But, when a clue appears, Hugo departs for New York City, to chase down the whereabouts of the Italian. Following various leads, he finally opens the door of that man’s home to find a body, tethered to a bed, in a drug-induced state….

Meanwhile, back in England, Johnny is cracking the other side of this racket. A night club owner and his moll (Adele’s brother’s wife!) have plans of their own, and rubbing out Johnny might just be one of them….

The whole matter is wrapped up days later when the police, with Johnny’s aid, arrest all local parties and Hugo, with the finishing touches, enters the offices with…Adele Manners! Turns out the first Adele was a fraud, established purely to obtain the inheritance for the Italian party and his confederates. However, his mission went awry when she was shot and killed by accident. The bullet was meant for her brother, whom was on the scene before anyone else. He didn’t want the brother talking to his faux-sister, since he would eventually learn of the deceit. So, he took a shot at the brother and accidentally murdered the false lady. The real Adele had been hooked up by him on drugs and there (in America) the switch was effected.

Now with the real Adele free, though not clean yet of her daily drug-induced cocktails, she will be able to seek proper claim to her inheritance.

In the closing scenes, Johnny asks, why did the faux-Adele request Hugo’s attentions? Hugo laughs this off, as he simply doesn’t have the answer to everything, and there the novel concludes, leaving us with that one last question….

 

“Fat Men Laugh at Murder” by Marc Stephens (1949)

“The Big Killing” by Nigel Morland

william-foster-the-big-killing
The Big Killing (Nigel Morland) William Foster, 1946

This is Nigel Morland’s gangster thriller “The Big Killing.” Published at 64-pages by William Foster, it boasts an eye-arresting cover rendered by Philip Mendoza featuring an American gangster preparing to smoke a cigarette while casually wielding a Thompson sub-machine gun with the popular “drum” magazine attachment. The cover art is simple, yet gorgeous, in a crude way; being a “NEW” Thriller by crime favorite Nigel Morland, readers were sure to be greeted with some blood-n-thunder action. The book immediately sold out of its June 1946 printing and was rapidly reprinted the following month. (NOTE: My edition is the July 1946 reprint edition, as noted on the copyright page, and that doesn’t make it any less rare than the first).

The behemoth detective-inspector Attila Ark is brought in to solve the brutal slayings of three river patrolmen. Rumor has it that American gangsters have invaded England. Ark is given four days to locate, detain, and eliminate the gang….

With the assistance of various parties (including a petty crook and a parentless newspaper office boy), Ark obtains details about the American underworld activities, involving bribery and blackmail. But when England’s wealthy bankers and stock market controllers begin committing suicide, it’s apparent that all hell is about to break loose.

When Ark learns of a crooked bank institution, a corrupted newspaper outfit, incriminating photos, and a mysterious American amateur criminologist arriving late on the scene, all the jigsaw pieces lead to…the big killing!

This is my first foray into reading literature by Nigel Morland. The heavy nature and murderous undertones of the story that Nigel tries to adequately and precariously portray are ruined by his insertion of repetitious jokes, yet, they play an important role in the novelette’s finale. Ark never has his own pack of cigs or lighter and bums them off fellow policemen and criminals, alike. His constant complaint that someone stole his cigarette pack(s) leads the ultimate killer into dropping his guard and falling for Ark’s routine request…by bending down to supply the captured Ark with a cigarette! Ark unleashes a thunderous fist and knocks him out, then takes on one final hoodlum. The murder mystery carries just enough intrigue to keep the reader plowing doggedly along!

“The Big Killing” by Nigel Morland