Murder and Sudden Death (Mitre Press – 1944)

Murder And Sudden Death

Murder and Sudden Death is a 32-page side-stapled booklet, published 1944 (per the British Library) by the Mitre Press. There are only 5 stories present, and not a single one of them was droll. As with all Mitre Press and Everybody’s Books story collections, most of the tales are reprints from earlier sources (newspapers, magazines, etc.)

The artwork appears to be rendered by “Douglas” — he also signed as “Doug” — is responsible for several other covers via this publisher. I know nothing about “Doug” (if anyone can supply information on this artist, I’d love to now).

This eye-catching lovely arrested my attention and cried “Read me!” As long-time readers of this blog know, I love British wartime-published fiction booklets.

  • All Details Supplied! – Michael Hervey (pages 1-7)
    A nondescript male boards a train and enlists the other riders to assist him in coming up with an original means to commit murder. He explains that he is a short story writer and has run out of fresh material. With the riders’ assistance, they eventually supply the author all the necessary details to commit the perfect crime. While we, the reader, is convinced that this is a standard story in which the “author” intends to simply murder his wife, we learn that he is actually a serial killer; the next day uses the details to generate 4 identical crimes!
  • The Eye Witness – Sydney Denham (pages 8-14)
    Philip awakens in a hospital with a case of amnesia to find the police interested in his whereabouts that night and if he can assist in identifying a killer. He is entirely stupefied by the encounter. The police are angered that he won’t cooperate. We are left to wonder if he is entirely innocent or if he is the murderer. The doctor releases the patient, and Philip departs, as “bait.” It’s not long before the murderer accosts him and demands to know if he coughed up the details to the police. Shocked by the sudden encounter, his memory immediately returns, just as the man intends to murder him!
  • Suspicion – Michael Hervey (pages 15-18)
    In this brilliant tale without-a-conclusion, the reader is adequately bated. A doctor is married to a much younger beauty who has been cheating on her husband. Answering a call, he departs and ends up at the residence of “the other man.” Said man is given to be dead-on-arrival, having consumed poison. The doctor returns home and informs her that Mr. Grant died. She feigns disinterest, and “they sat there silently, staring into each other’s eyes–wondering–wondering how much the other knew–“
  • Grounds for Appeal – Frank Bardon (pages 19-24)
    Mr. Justice Farncombe is an aging judge. A prisoner is brought in, someone who has recently moved to the locale, and, it appears, committed a crime. Much to the judge’s surprise, he recognizes in the middle-aged male the facial features of his long-missing son! Dedicated to the position, he can’t give his son any leeway, yet he feels partially responsible for how he may have ended up. Meanwhile, for a long time now, rumors locally in the judicial system had been circulating that the judge might not be on the top of his game and need retire. Working off this premise, he essentially creates a mistrial, thereby allowing his son’s lawyer to file grounds for appeal, and perhaps, a better planned case to save himself…
  • The Experiment – Michael Hervey (pages 25-32)
    Remarkably, this is actually more of a mad-scientist weird tale than a clear-cut murder story! A man commits suicide after his wife has a miscarriage; he awakens to find that his brain, which survived the demolishing of his body, has been successfully transferred into the body of a dog! Hervey creates the blunder of not explaining how the canine can possibly speak as a human, rather than via a series of barks or growls. That aside, it’s an amusing tale, and ends with the traditionally “mad” scientist playing with powers he can’t control, and the dog, in the closing lines, slowly, ever-so-slowly, moving in for the kill…
Murder and Sudden Death (Mitre Press – 1944)

“Love and Dr. Hawkins” by Sidney Gainsley

BROWN WATSON  Love And Dr Hawkins
Love and Dr. Hawkins (Sidney Gainsley)

Love and Dr. Hawkins” by Sidney Gainsley was published in 1945 by Brown Watson Ltd, runs 64-pages, measures 4.75 x 7 inches. At first glance, this booklet appears to be a romance. The cover art (unsigned) depicts a young lady clasping her forehead and looks surprised. At the top, the cover proclaims this publication to be “A Sidney Gainsley Thriller!!”

The novella is narrated by Dr. Hawkins, relaying to Professor Norden a past, strange criminal case that he solved.

(NOTE: these characters originally debut in Gainsley’s Did This Really Happen?weird story collection, with the taleThe Diary which I’ve already been blogged about. Refer to THAT entry for biographical data on the author.)

When Anthony Tidmarsh fails to rise and take his breakfast, the staff worries, and finally, they bring in a strong-man to bash down the door, which takes multiple attempts. They find Tidmarsh very much dead. The police are phoned.

Tidmarsh is found brutally murdered, with a common household kitchen butter knife forcefully thrust into his spinal column. He is found, face forward, his face contorted, upon his desk. Under him is a partially written document to his young brother.

Police are baffled. Who murdered the man? How did they lock the door from outside? All we know is that Mr. Tidmarsh was alive beyond the setting of the house alarm….

Inspector Saltash–as narrated by Dr. Hawkins–takes on the case, and from here on, we are mostly given the story from Saltash’s viewpoint. He interviews the staff (kitchen, yard, garden, etc.) and the household members (his much younger brother and a young lady as their ward, set to inherit a fortune quite shortly). We learn that Tidmarsh was possibly in love with the young lady, however, she repelled his advances and preferred the company of his kindly young brother, who in turn was truly in love with her.

After our author establishes fine grounds for every person to have committed the crime and wondrously provides us with the usual Sherlock Holmes pastiche backdrop, Dr. Hawkins diverts the waning chapters back to his viewpoint, when he is reintroduced to the case. Hawkins, a psychologist, investigates, by asking the inspector to re-enact the position in which Anthony Tidmarsh was found at his desk. Crawling about, Hawkins finds some fine wood powdered particles, and learns that these came from nearby a wood mill.

We learn that the gardener works at that mill in his spare time. He is in love with one of the house staff, who has been holding a deep secret. She had an affair years ago with Tidmarsh and sired a boy. Wanting not to claim the boy as his own, nor wishing to marry the woman, he avoided scandal by keeping her in his employ, but, neither of them informed the child as to his social standing nor parentage. Ergo, both the child’s mother and her suitor have reason to murder Tidmarsh, for being an outright prick.

Hawkins further learns from the accounting books in the safe that someone has been embezzling tens of thousands of pounds from the young lady’s inheritance. The finger points toward the younger brother. Further evidence in the form of a rope and nail that may have been used to secure Tidmarsh’s door are found hidden in his room.

To add to the mystery, Hawkins, after inspecting all the ancient antiquities in the room,  discovers a replica crossbow firmly anchored to the shelf in a position established to murder Tidmarsh from behind. So, who set the device?

Dr. Hawkins reconstructs the scene to prove that Tidmarsh was not murdered, but, rather, he committed suicide, but with the intention of sending his brother to the gallows for the supposed crime!

His facial contortions in death were not from pain, but, immense concentration from realizing that the knife would soon impale him. The note on the desk did contain factual business data, but was written with a slant to be damning evidence against his brother. He hated him because the girl had refused his loving marital attentions. And, he himself was the one embezzling the funds. By marrying the girl, he avoids scandal; she could hardly bring her husband to court without testifying against him, etc.

In conclusion, Hawkins ends by discussing Norden’s “author friend,” and noting that he appears to have written quite a romance around the “Diary” episode. Hawkins inquires if Norden intends to relay this crime tale to the author, and he indeed shall. Hawkins says he has no objection, but, asks for it to be called “Love and Doctor Hawkins.” The author, obviously, is OUR author, Sidney Gainsley, having a little tongue-in-cheek poke at himself.

While my relaying of the plot may seem blasé stuff, I assure you, this novella is well-worth the read.

Currently I am chasing “The Expiator” by this author. This title story originates within his 1943 weird collection. I do not know what other tales appear; the National Library of Wales possesses a copy of this 32-page pamphlet, noted as published by Brown Watson, circa 1945. If anyone owns a copy, and is not firmly attached to it, I would love the opportunity to own and read this item…

“Love and Dr. Hawkins” by Sidney Gainsley

“The Limping Death” by Allan Stapleton – Gnome Publications (UK) 1945

GNOME The Limping Death

The Limping Death” by Allan Stapleton, subtitled “Terror Stalks by Night!” was published 1945 by Gnome Publications (28 Bedfordbury, W.C.2, London). The story begins on page 3 and ends on page 64. The publisher, like many of the wartime period, copied the hugely popular cover design of Penguin Books.

Other known Gnome Publications:

— Muchly Seldom – Stephen Ellison (1944)
— Frippery Tip – Stephen Ellison (1944)
— Death for Love – A. F. Garner (1945)
— Laughter in the Air (1945) cartoons
— Laughs on the Road — Keith Monk (1945) cartoons
— They Cried to Dream – H. G. Jacobsen (1945)

There were also two glamour pin-up saucy booklets entitled Curves and Shadows and Studies in Velvet by Stephen Glass. Another glamour publication includes Memories of Midnight (a 16-page booklet illustrated throughout). No doubt this publisher had further titles, yet to be discovered… Of those listed above, I’ve yet to locate Death for Love.

The Limping Death opens with a tranquil isolated village ripped apart by a sudden, savage murder. A housemaid is found by lantern light, horrifically mutilated. Inspector Small of Scotland Yard is sent to investigate, and hooks up with local police man, Sergeant Tedmarsh.

Another young lady is brutally slain and her boyfriend loses his mind upon finding her body.

We’re next introduced to an asylum and an odd doctor who raves about keeping their lunatic locked up at night, lest he roam the countryside. (By this point, I’m eye-rolling, thinking, please not another story where we blame the “retard” for sexual perversions and murders!) We learn that the mentally-challenged Todd has indeed repeatedly escaped and run into the towns where the murders coincide.

Reverend Shipley’s maid requests to leave early to attend a dance. Given permission, she falls prey to the murderer. Her corpse is found next morning, most of her lower abdominal cavity savaged and pulped.

That’s now three murders in ten pages! This novelette is a real “ripper” fest !!! Can it keep up the onslaught pace? You betcha!

Inspector Small investigates the asylum, following up on rumors. The doctor receives him, but informs him that they don’t have any patients fitting the description of a man with a “limp.” After Small departs, the doctor again reprimands his assistant, to ensure Todd is locked up.

Small is certain that the doctor is lying…

Small goes to the local station, and shares his thoughts with Sergeant Tedmarsh. He suggests they scope out the asylum that night, with reinforcements. While waiting later that night, they catch Todd climbing over the wall. To their astonishment, the locals are also on the scene and ready to slay the hapless ‘tard. The police save Todd and remove him to jail. Sergeant Tedmarsh is left on duty, to protect Todd, in case the townspeople revolt over night (by which time this begins to sound like the townspeople want to burn the Frankenstein monster alive, right?)

Small goes to sleep, but is re-awakened later in the night to learn that the jail is on fire. Once the blaze is eventually controlled and the wreckage sifted, he finds the cinder-corpse by the cell, and the charred remains of Sergeant Tedmarsh’s outfit and badge. Grim with dealing with his death and Todd’s escape, Small heads to the train station to learn if anyone departed. Learning that someone did, he obtains the destination and times. The man can hardly describe the purchaser, since they were hidden in a large ulster with the collar turned up. No recollection of a limp or other identifying features given.

Depressed, Small returns to the inn, to catch some sleep…

Meanwhile, the murderer disembarks the train and establishes himself in Soho. Answering an ad in the local paper, he finds a girl looking for employment as a maid. He has the agency send her to his “sister’s” house…. Receiving notice, the young lady goes to the house by way of train. Another person boards with her and she begins to worry. Her fears are soon realized when he comes toward her, and she faints! While out cold, the slasher tears her to pieces, then departs the train.

Not long after, another maid is set upon in the streets and collapses in a dead fright. However, Small is given his first real clue this time. Remarkably, before passing out, she put up a small fight and ripped away a tuft of hair.

Investigating the agency, he learns from the madame that the cloaked man had ginger hair. Small is slightly elated, as he has conclusive proof the tuft of hair likely came from this man.

Returning to the isolated village, he demands Tedmarsh’s body exhumed and examined. However, that night, while the casketed remains are retrieved and locked away until morning, the murderer sets the building ablaze and incinerates Tedmarsh’s body!

Chiding himself for dereliction of intelligence in failing to assign a guard over the body, Small is now against a wall. He no longer has evidence. Now he must resort to Plan B…set bait to catch the killer! But, how? Nobody knows where the killer is, and when he might strike!

News finally arrives to Scotland Yard. The killer failed in his latest attempt and the maid survived to tell the story. A man heard her muffled scream and came on the scene in time to save her life, while the murderer quickly fled. Asking for a description proves fruitless. She saw nothing but noted his voice sounded country, possibly Welsh.

While canvassing the town with a squad, Small and Sergeant Craddock, assigned to him to cover an area, hear a scream. Galvanized to action, they lumber to the scene and discover a man running away. The girl has survived, clambering to her feet. Small gives chase but the man escapes when an alley cat crosses his path and knocks him to his feet. In returning to Craddock and the girl, he discovers a recently dropped handkerchief,  and notices a laundry mark.

Next day, he hits every laundry location, since the Yard doesn’t know who made the mark. Later in the day he lucks out and the laundress describes the person it belongs to. Given the name and address of Mr. Edwards, he and Craddock spy out the area and climbing the step, ask the landlady to let them in. Knocking on Mr. Edwards’ door, they receive no reply. Small knocks in the door with his shoulder and learns that Edwards flew the coop, literally, out the window….

He discovers the charred remains of a letter in a fire-grate, advising Mr. Edwards to meet a Mr. Tuttle on the wharf, to set sail. Keeping under cover of darkness, Small waits for the arrival of Edwards at the wharf. A man appears, and while trying to detain the mystery man, Edwards knocks Small down and tosses the unconscious Small into the river, then flees the scene.

The dunking revives Small, and he’s eventually found by Craddock, cruising about looking for him. Realizing the murderer is fleeing England for America, the pair rush to the docks, to locate the boat helmed by Captain Tuttle. Finding it, they question Tuttle and learn more about Edwards, and decide to wait for the murderer’s arrival.

Unfortunately for them, the slasher watches them from the shore and realizing a trap is present, stealthily removes himself.

Running out of ideas, Small decides to bait the slasher, by placing an ad for a maid, and sending the lady (that answers the call) with a handgun, for protection. Following her, they watch as she goes inside a home, and then hear the gun go off. Busting in, they save the girl and capture Edwards, alias Sergeant Tedmarsh!

He confesses that he went on the killing spree purely by accident. The first murder was intentional. After the suicide of his son, he decided to murder the young lady (a housemaid) because she had been deceiving his son. She was no better (apparently) than a prostitute. The son had contracted a sexual disease. Coupling her unfaithfulness with the disease, he shot himself dead. Tedmarsh set himself to exact revenge. However, he couldn’t control the impulse to slay every housemaid he could, as they all bore, in his mind, the same taint.

Tedmarsh is led away, shackled, to his cell, to await his eventual fate….

A solid plot, plenty of killings, the bait-and-switch tricking the reader into believing “the-retard-did-it!” and the constant quick-action, made this fast-paced murder-mystery crime thriller wholeheartedly quite enjoyable. I would love to know the actual identity and history of this author. Could this have been their only literary endeavor? It hardly seem feasible.

An “Alan Stapleton” wrote the books “London Lanes,” “London Alleys, Byways and Courts,” and “Leaves from a London Sketch-book” during the 1920s-1930s. And, in a 1930 edition of The Nation and Anthenæum, we are given that the author is “an antiquary of some diligence,” and, that he is a rare breed blending of topographical writer and artist. Is this Alan and our Allan the same man?

 

“The Limping Death” by Allan Stapleton – Gnome Publications (UK) 1945

The Finger of Death by Henry Keyworth

Henry Keyworth’s The Finger of Death was published by Kangaroo Books, owned and operated by David Lynn (aka: David McClelland, formerly of New Zealand) around 1944. The story text begins on page 3 and ends on 72.

The rear cover advertises Frippery Tip, an English satire by Stephen Ellison. The library at the Oxford University received that title in 1944.

kangaroo the finger of death

Henry Keyworth is also responsible for at least four other titles.

Black Market Murders
Death in Gelley Wood
Killer by Night
Murder at the Grange

The featured cover is not held by any major British library, whereas the other four are held. My copy clearly has a cover defect. While it may appear that the left margin (nearly a full inch) was exposed to light and faded as a result, this is not the case. One may clearly see that the bold-faced words running into those discolored areas are NOT affected. An unusual printer’s defect.

The Finger of Death is dedicated to “J.Y.C.” for “successfully combining domestic and literary art.”

The story involves a room full of business investors discussing the ill-fated venture of Atlett’s Investment Company, Ltd., and the fact that most of the locals that they represent will be financially in ruin while they, themselves, are rich and have their millions in numerous business investments, so their portfolios are perfectly sound (save for one investor, who has to face the music as he also invested his family money and lost all of it).

Shortly thereafter, Sir Allan Vale receives an ominous note:

“Dear Sir Allan, The Moving Finger Writes—writes your name off the list of the living. You are a thief, unpunishable by any law but my own. Prepare to die!”

Later that night, he awoke to a noise in his bedroom, and found a man leaping towards him with a gleaming blade rushing down upon him…

That morning, Superintendent Cleveland, of Scotland Yard, is assigned to the murder and visits the business Sir Allan worked at. He learns that their investment company is bankrupt, and discovers that another person has received the same notice. Worried about the safety of each investor, he requests the personal addresses of each directorate with the intention of removing them from the city to a remote location. There, he can keep an eye on each person until the case is solved.

Sadly, good intentions and well-thought-out plans move too slowly in this novel. Another directorate is murdered in his bedroom while a policeman is on the premises acting as guard! We learn the killer leapt the outside garden wall, climbed in the window and assaulted his second victim.

And so the onslaught of murders go, one by one eliminating each directorate, until it is not the Cleveland the solves the case, but one local Detective Sergeant Rogers. With three murders already attained, and a fourth now in the isolated safe-house, Rogers quickly flees the scene, leaving many to speculate that he either is in hot pursuit of the killer, he himself is the killer, or, the killer murdered Rogers and removed his body.

Not so fast! Pages are rapidly running out and Rogers, removed from the scene, in fact has reported back to Scotland Yard and the police with the intention of requesting aid to arrest the least likely murderer of all…Superintendent Cleveland, of Scotland Yard…???

Realizing time is short, Cleveland adroitly manipulates the placement of his guards in the house and the directors and one by one quickly slays two more in mere minutes! He then quickly moves in to kill the last director, knowing full-well that Rogers must have departed to request the arrest of Cleveland. Somewhere along the line, he must have slipped-up and revealed his hand!

The police are too late to save the life of the final director, however, his overly-protective mother isn’t. Not trusting the police to protect her son, after watching and learning of each director’s death, she situates herself to watch over her son. Spotting Cleveland stealthily moving into her son’ room, she creeps behind and discovers Cleveland with an upraised blade, bloodied, preparing to kill her son. She shoots Cleveland dead.

This was a fun British pulpish pot-boiler of a thriller, with the identity of the killer adequately veiled until nearly the concluding pages.

The Finger of Death by Henry Keyworth

Three Miles from Murder by Frederick C. Davis

SHARMAN ELLIS 03In the late 1930s, English publisher Sharman Ellis Ltd. acquired the right to reprint several of Frederick C. Davis’s pulp stories.  It’s unclear whether those rights were obtained via the author, or the original publishers, or, his agent (if he had one).

The cover art is simply signed as “LB.”

None of the booklets in the series carry a copyright notice. They were published prior to World War Two, perhaps late 1936 or early 1937. The rear cover quotes the first four titles in the “Mystery Thrillers” series (of which this is #3) and that they are to be issued monthly. The featured read here contains two stories, and runs a total of 64 pages.

In Three Miles from Murder, Nicholas Bansak, a slot-machine racketeer, is shot to death in his home. There is no evidence as to who the shooter is. The maid hears the shot, finds his corpse, and quite naturally, phones the police. Arriving are Detective Lieutenant Frank Cooper. He is described as: “alert, muscular tension of a race horse.” His counterpart is lethargic Detective Sergeant Otto Schellhaus, and Cooper has zero respect for his partner, whom later remarks that he is no Sherlock Holmes (note, however, that S. H. figures in Otto’s surname). The pair are given 24-hours to solve the mystery or lose their jobs. To worsen the predicament, the body disappears! No body, no incriminating bullet, no murder! Right? Wrong. The maid saw the body, and the pair saw the body just before it pulled a Houdini. Crime has been running rampant in the city, and their only clue as a possible culprit to the murder, is one Ed Fox, whom now is the sole operator of slot-machines. The rash Cooper is convinced that Fox has fled the city upon calling at his home and finding he has not returned home overnight. The city is cordoned off, calls are placed, etc. Otto has other ideas, but Cooper isn’t interested. So, he nonchalantly follows up on them himself. He discovers that Fox has not fled, but, rather, is simply at work. Fox threatens to sue for slander and false-arrest. He is released, despite Cooper’s attempts to detain him. While Cooper is chasing up various angles like a rabid attack dog, Otto decides to investigate if it were indeed possible for Ed Fox to commit the crime. He learns that Fox’s home isn’t far from Bansak’s home, and, tallies off the mileage. While illegally snooping in Fox’s auto, he discovers a receipt noting that the car was recently worked on. Going to the shop, he obtains the mileage on the car. With this information, he maps out the mileage home, to the murder, etc. While driving all over town trying to discover just where a missing 3 miles may have led Fox (if he committed the crime) he discovers one circuitous route: the cemetery. And that very morning, the Chief of Police had a member of his family buried! Convinced that Fox slipped in and stole the body while they were distracted, Otto illegally convinces the caretaker to unearth the casket and crack it open. Scarily enough, only the body that is supposed to be present is accounted for. Worse than that, Cooper arrives on the scene and is mortified that find that Otto has dug up the Chief’s family. While being reprimanded, Otto freaks out and grabs Cooper into the car, and speeds all around the city like a raving lunatic the mileage per destination and insists the body has to be at the cemetery. They then strike upon the idea that the body IS at the cemetery, UNDER the casket. Returning to the scene, they lift the casket out of the ground and dig further. They haven’t got far to go before they find Bansak’s corpse and ultimately, prove that the bullet belongs to Fox’s gun.

Three Miles from Murder (via his alias Clark Aiken) was originally published under his own name in Detective Fiction Weekly (17 June 1933) and copped that edition’s cover (erroneously as “Three Miles to Murder”).

In the concluding story, Marmon speeds to the home of the Hartleys. The family has a legacy of being buried alive via freak accidents. Worse, Marmon’s fiancee is afraid of being buried alive. Her father was deemed dead, and to their horror, rose from the dead, only later to die in a mine cave-in. She informs Marmon that she suffers from the same malady that her father had, and that while she may appear dead, with no pulse, breath, etc., she is actually in a trance-like state. After her brother is shot fatally while chasing a grave-robber, Bernice faints and is presumed dead. The embalmers are brought in and Marmon chases them out. Eventually he resorts to violence, and carries a gun. Much time passes and someone breaks into her room. Hearing the noise, and bashes in the door and shoots the perpetrator whom is about to ram a knife into her chest. They tussle and someone bashes him over the head. The villain(s) depart down a trellis and escape. Marmon discovers the knife was left behind and realizes it belongs to the armory downstairs. Two others live in the house, and Marmon accuses them of attempted murder, the only logical option. While remaining once more on guard, they bring him food and tea and he staggers and passes out. His drink was drugged! Waking, he discovers Bernice removed and they couple acknowledge that they did dope his drink with sleeping tablets, because he was acting irrational. Speeding off to the embalmers, he bursts in as they are about to drain Bernice of her fluids. Pulling his gun, he locks them in a closet and takes her away to a secret location. Eventually, he thinks he hears her call faintly for water…. Or is it all really in his mind? The police are certain that he was the one that murdered Bernice’s brother, and that is why she fainted dead. Marmon discovers a letter with notes about the mother and jewels and following a lead, digs up the mother and learns that her necklace is fake! Only one person could have had access and the time to effect a swap: the embalmers. Calling the pair back to his house to claim the body, and to finally give up, the police instead appear first. Marmon begs them off and states the real murderer(s) are due. The couple, the cops, Marmon, and finally the embalmers are present. He reveals the fake necklace and lays the claim before the embalmers, whom stridently deny the accusations. There is no evidence. Or is there? Didn’t Bernice perchance see her brother’s killers? She did. She walks in and everyone is stunned. The conclusion is evident, as she points out who the killers are….

The Embalmers carries no byline. The story was originally published under his alias Garry Grant in Dime Mystery Magazine (March 1936).

Both stories are fun, entrancingly interesting reads. I look forward to obtaining and reading further stories by Frederick C. Davis in the near future. Stay tuned !!!

Three Miles from Murder by Frederick C. Davis

Gerald Kersh – The Battle of the Singing Men, and selected stories (1944)

STAPLES The Battle Of The Singing MenIt’s a rare opportunity to read such an obscure publication and enjoy it. Such was the high level of expectation.

Gerald Kersh hardly needs any introduction. You can readily GOOGLE his name in quotations marks, and find zillions of sites, mostly copycats of each other, happy to cough up information on the author. Ironically, most of the sites plagiarized data from each other (as the same wrong data appears on every site).

In a brief note, Gerald Kersh is English-born, Jewish, his autobiographical novel Jews without Jehovah was published 1934 and the novel was suppressed as libelous by his family (for failure to conceal their identities) and is subsequently quite rare, obtained broader fame with Night and the City in 1938 which led to two films, and if his death should have led to becoming an obscure footnote in literary history, author Harlan Ellison has noted that Kersh is his favorite author. This has inspired a whole new plethora of readers and created new fans of his material.

Kersh lives!

His older, earliest stories often deal with the lower echelons of humanity and, quite realistic portrayals they are; no doubt ripped from real-life experiences and as a result, fictionalized on some level. I’ve never actually read a collection of his works. A story here or there in various publications, over time, certainly.

The cover title states The Battle of the Singing Men and Selected Stories. Inside, the title page merely states Selected Stories. It was published by Staples and Staples in 1944. This yellowish-orange colored booklet contains only 9 stories.
The original publications are noted after each title, below:

7 – The Battle of the Singing MenJohn o’ London’s Weekly, December 8, 1939
13 – Will to PowerThe Star, November 5, 1938
17 – DudelsackJohn o’ London’s Weekly, October 9, 1942
20 – The Musicians
* First publication unknown
31 – The UndefeatedIllustrated, Sept 27, 1941
41 – The StoneJohn o’ London’s Weekly, June 20, 1941
47 – The Drunk and the BlindPenguin Parade #4, 1938
54 – Prometheus Evening Standard, June 23 1938
57 – The Extraordinarily Horrible DummyPenguin Parade #6, 1939

The last tale is the only “fantastic” or supernatural story present, and, fails to touch upon any new territory. Like many of its predecessors, the tale involves a ventriloquist’s dummy that has an evil spirit. That spirit turns out to be his asshole father. Earlier versions of this sort of tale often involve artists creating models from clay, marble, etc, and the form evilly coming to life and either leading the person to insanity or eventual death.

STAPLES Selected StoriesThis edition was originally preceded by a thicker digest-paperback edition, same publishers, under the title Selected Stories, being No. 2 in their Modern Reading Library (1943). This edition actually saw at least two editions, both identical, save for the copyright notice. The book also contains an acknowledgement, courtesy of Mr. Kersh, dated, November 1942. The pages are bound in “hard” paper covers, and contains 23 stories.

Confused? Perhaps not, but for collectors, or more accurately, completists, most do not know about the orange “cheap edition.” It’s not properly indexed anywhere online, this (the Internet) being universally the first place most look to for their information.

Hence my note that many (most?) online sources are plagiarists! The orange edition is often cited as having been published by Everybody’s Books! And, to further that comment, I suspect I know how that attribution came to pass. See, Everybody’s Books was also a bookstore, and often took in battered books during the war years, and gave them a new life. As you know, the war years were tough on publishers and printers, due to strict paper-rationing. So, what better way to make money than stripping off the damaged covers and re-issuing a fresh one? They did just that, and for those not in the “know,” they assume the book is a rare variant published by Everybody’s Books. But if you look closely at the covers, it clearly states “Everybody’s Re-Bound” edition. These re-bound editions are largely ignored and recorded, as thus, in error.

It is perhaps important to further note that both of these editions published by Staples and Staples predate the mid-1944 release of The Horrible Dummy and Other Stories published in England by William Heinemann.

Gerald Kersh – The Battle of the Singing Men, and selected stories (1944)

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

weird-and-occult-library-3

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)