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….

Strange Hunger by Michael Hervey (Hamilton & Co.)

NICK CARTER and the “Empire of Crime”

In a fit of boredom, I decided to tap an American digest-pulp. Blindly extracting a book from the shelf, I found my fingers on a Nick Carter title. It wasn’t the first in the four-book series, so I moved my digits two to the left and extracted Empire of Crime by Nick Carter.

Granted, the world knows that Nick Carter (Nicholas Carter of dime novels) is an alias for a host of various authors, spanning several decades. I’m not interested in discussing them. There are plenty of other sites out there that have done just that, and to trod along those lines with something fresh and delightful…no. Just not doing it.

However, because there were only four issued by this publisher, Vital Publications, shortly after World War Two, this seems like an option. They were each reprinted by arrangement with Street & Smith, the magazine publishers of the Nick Carter pulps. As online records proclaim, the first 17 novellas were written by Richard Wormser, beginning in 1933.

Empire of Crime originally debuted as “Crooks’ Empire” in Nick Carter Magazine (April 1933). It was Wormser’s second Carter story. According to the FictionMags website, that was also his first fiction story. It seems incredible that the editors and bigwigs at Street & Smith should turn over a once-lucrative dime novel hero to a fledgling, untried author. And yet, that apparently is just what they did.

Or, did they?

Born in 1908, Wormser would have been 25 by this time. We know that from his memoirs he was already writing plenty by this time, but certainly he must have churned out some fiction prior to the Nick Carter stories. No?

In truth, his first sales were all to The Shadow magazine in 1932, under about a dozen different pseudonyms. Only the alias Conrad Gerson has been attributed to Wormser. Heaven knows what the others are. According to his own memoir (How To Become a Complete Nonentity), some issues had four stories by him, under four different aliases. I’m very tempted to take a stab at identifying those stories, but that is not the point of this post….

In this tale, special detective Nick Carter is hired by the New York City commissioner to track down a nationwide crime syndicate and destroy them. In gangster-era 1930s America, this novella was right at home with readers. If you are a Jason Bourne fan, you may wish to take special notice of this novel, because I would be splendidly shocked if the script writers hadn’t read this one themselves, including an amazingly daring elevator scene that, slightly altered, finds its way in the closing moments of the first Bourne movie (when Jason throws a dead body over the stairway and rides it to the bottom to cushion his fall).

But, I’m getting way ahead of myself….

Receiving a threatening death letter, Nick ignores the syndicates demands that he refuse the assignment. Hardly disposed to listening to the demands of criminals, Nick plunges into work, and is immediately attacked and captured. There ensues a crazy blood-and-thunder shooting scene in which Nick kills every assailant but one, and then doctors up his own appearance to match that of a criminal’s visage.

The pair arrested are brought before the commissioner for questioning. In his private quarters, Nick reveals his true identity.  With the commissioner’s sworn secrecy, Nick assumes the identity of one of the slain scar-faced criminals and is sent to prison. That prison being too soft for him, he is sent up the river to a tough-elements prison. There, he escapes and makes his way to a contact point on the outside. Said information was obtained from a prison-mate.

He eventually is led to a secret hideout. Nick is flabbergasted to learn that he is at the renown Kalgara’s Cover, a location that has been raided in the past, but turned up no evidence. Apparently the crooks in charge had outsmarted the police. Led down various tunnels, he is brought before the leaders and forced to explain how he came to escape, etc. They are upset over the demise of Nick Carter (whom is presumed dead, after the commissioner released info to the newspapers to run a circular about his death). The syndicate had grand plans for Nick Carter.

Nick, in the guise of the escaped criminal, is given the assignment of kidnapping a young wealthy heiress, for ransom. He refuses. Not in his line. After being roughed up a bit, he acquiesces, and a few thugs are sent to keep him in line.

He breaks in, gets away from the thugs, warns the girl, and phones the police. Hanging up the phone, her bedroom door opens with all 3 thugs in the house! A shootout occurs, and he is knocked senseless. The police arrive on the scene and Nick awakens. The girl is about to reveal that he is innocent but he motions for her silence, which, remarkably, she does just that. Led away from the scene as a criminal, he is cuffed. While distracted, Nick quickly slaps the other cuff on the girl’s arm, to force her to come with him. He knows that in all likelihood that there is another gang of hoodlums outside in a fast-car ready to mow him down with Tommy-gun fire. The syndicate doesn’t permit their kind to be captured. To be captured means loose lips, and those must be silenced.

Nick breaks away and tosses the girl over his shoulder and makes a run for it, while surrounded by New York’s finest. It’s all good fun, but, really, the author makes complete jokes out of the police nonstop throughout the novel. He escapes while carrying the girl (is he Hercules now?) and getting into a taxi (he’s already picked the cuff’s lock) they speed off to his own residence. Here, he squirrels her away in his abode in the care of his man servant. We never see nor hear of her again.

Sneaking off again, he makes his way back to Kalgara’s Cover, and explains how he escaped, once again. They are annoyed by his second failure and proclaim the death sentence. Nick smartly outwits the death decree by demanding a crooks’ fair trial, a rule that the syndicate does adhere to !!! Sadly, the sole remaining thug that broke into the girl’s home arrives and explains what actually happened, revealing that Nick Carter phoned the police. Sentenced again to die, he lucks out when the police decide once more to raid the place.

Death postponed, the lights are knocked out, and bedlam ensues. Shots are fired, and the door opens. Nick gets out with the assistance of another criminal, a mastermind high in the chain of command. Nick thinks that this other person is an investigator like himself, whom has snuck in and obtained the crooks’ trust, but in fact, he is a criminal. Foolishly revealing his identity to the man, he is nearly murdered.

While the police are actively raiding the building, Nick Carter finds Kalgara himself, hiding. Believing Kalgara to be a mere stooge, cashing in on the crooks using his facility, he helps Kalgara to escape, freely.

Escaping death once more, Nick Carter, wounded and battered, keeps moving. He soon tracks the New York communications to a radio tower, and breaking in, finds the man that last tried to murder him. Taking him down, Nick wipes out just about everyone present. He obtains diamonds that are meant to be transferred to Chicago. Taking these, he heads West to Chicago to crack that syndicate, too. While the novella constantly asserts that the syndicate is nationwide, it is clear that it is predominantly ruled by New York and Chicago interests.

Getting in contact with Chicago crooks, Nick is taken to another base. Here, he demands $100,000 for the diamonds. Learning that he is in front of the head crook here, he pulls his guns and we are gifted to another blood-and-thunder scene, on the top floor of a high-rise building. A Jason Bourne-esque moment occurs when Nick Carter must get from the top floor to the bottom, and kill everyone in his path. Unfortunately, the fastest route is the elevator, with all the dead men he has slain, piled up inside. He has cut off the power to the elevator, ruining the fuses. Using his gun, he shoots the elevator’s wires and the car drops. He jumps down and catches up in time (with the elevator) to smash at the bottom and he crashes into the corpses. Thrown and tossed about like a sack of potatoes, the beaten Nick Carter rises like the proverbial fucking Energizer bunny and, opening the elevator doors, (which ought to be a crumpled mess) exits, and shoots a bunch of baddies in the back, whom are shooting through holes in the walls at the police.

Suffering from numerous gunshot wounds, he is led away from the building after the police teargas bomb the place. Inside an ambulance, an attendant injects him, and freshly juiced-up, Nick escapes the ambulance, lands on the ground, and runs back to the scene of carnage. Going back up to the top of the high-rise, he breaks open a radio communication system, extracts TNT (the crooks blow themselves up rather than be captured, but Nick had cut off the power source, earlier), and rewires the radio so that he can track the frequency to the crooks’ lair.

Flying overhead, he finds the lair, and disabling his aircraft, crash-lands it among the fields of an apparent farm. He is captured by two thugs, whom, assuming he is legitimately a downed pilot, never frisk him. Led to a barn house, Nick Carter immediately takes the offensive, taking all concerned off-guard. Killing one thug, he breaks into the house and heads up the stairs only to be met by another assailant. Diving aside, the gunner shoots and kills the second thug that breaks into the room behind Nick Carter. Returning the favor, Nick kills the stairway man, and is met by a machine gunner.

Lobbing a grenade up, he eventually makes his way up the stairs and kills the gunner. The wall reinforced, Nick tosses in two more grenades and the wall comes down. He finds himself facing only two more crooks. One is a major head, but the other is Kalgara himself, no longer the cowering drunkard he appeared to be. Nick realizes he goofed and shoots the first man dead so that he can get at Kalgara. Getting too close, Kalgara gets his large ham-fist hands on Nick and goes to swing him about but misjudges his position and ends up throwing his own body out a window and down to his untimely death, in what must be one of the most eye-rolling scenes I read overall.

The book ends with Nick in bed at another nearby farm and he passes out…after reading a newspaper that announces big budget cut-backs in New York, which means he will only receive half the original proposed fee that the commissioner promised him.

NICK CARTER and the “Empire of Crime”

“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

WANT TO BUY: Chicago Ledger newspapers

I am hunting hundreds of issues of a newspaper
that changed names a few times in the 1920s.

Chicago Ledger (1901-1923)
Illustrated Story Weekly (1923-1924)
Weekly Ledger (1924-1925)
Blade and Ledger(1925-1938)

I am interested in the following years.
Quote all issues.
I often buy spare copies as upgrades.

1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909,
1910, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919,
1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928,
1929, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1936, 1937, 1938

This illustrated story paper predominantly reprinted fiction
from popular novels, magazines, and other newspapers.
It was distributed all across the United States and in Canada.

Please feel free to contact me anytime at:
These are permanent wants I’ve been collecting for many years.

WANT TO BUY: Chicago Ledger newspapers

FIREBRATS # 1: The Burning Land by Barbara Siegel & Scott Siegel

FIREBRATS 1I’m going to veer off my vintage reads and tap something a bit more modern. Please forgive me.

Way back in junior high, I had a strong dislike for reading. My entire family were readers. Every time we moved to another town, city, state, we found that local library (or, in some cases, numerous county libraries) and they spent a good hour or two there, sifting through various fiction genres, or mom through the cookbook section. It was miserable. They tried so hard to get me into reading.

Fact is, I couldn’t stand the crap they (or the schools) wanted me to read. So, in the 5th Grade, we hit the local library and I tried out one of those Choose Your Own Adventure paperbacks. That turned out to be a success (prior failures included the Bobbsey Twins and the Hardy Boys series).

After moving from the South to the North, I found myself in the same rut again for nearly two years. To worsen matters, the 8th Grade English teacher assigned our class to choose a book to read (that he must “OK”) and submit a report.

So, in 1990, while rummaging through dozens of paperbacks, I stumbled across an unusual cover. It featured two teenagers frightened out of their wits: the male wielding a broken bat, the girl staring at the reader in horror, and a sinister-looking landscape. Yes, I had judged a book by its cover. I liked what I saw, was intrigued, read the blurb. Then read it again. Was this for real? A post apocalyptic war novel for teenagers?

I devoured this “easy read” and instantly attempted to locate the rest of the series. The library was able to fill in the remainder, and to my dismay, after finishing the fourth novel, I learned that there wasn’t a fifth novel. How was this possible? It was extremely clear to me, and any other person, that if the series came to an abrupt end, it would be with the fifth novel !!! This was absurd. I felt as though I had been robbed.

At that age, it never crossed my mind to write a letter to the publishers, to be forwarded on as fan mail to the authors.

So, 27 years later, I am writing you now.

They’ll likely never see this….

I want you (Barbara Siegel and Scott Siegel) to know that, 27 years ago, that not only did I thoroughly enjoy reading your 4 novel series, FIREBRATS, but they were instrumental in creating a reader. You were also instrumental in helping me to locate a genre that interested me: post-apocalyptic fiction. I would soon turn to collecting and reading David Robbins’ ENDWORLD and his BLADE spin-off series (the first author I ever wrote a fan letter to and received a reply), the DEATHLANDS series by alias James Axler (I have a fan letter from Laurence James, right before he died), C.A.D.S, DOOMSDAY WARRIOR, the ASHES series, and so many more. Sadly, given that era, all of these assorted series came to an abrupt end in 1991. The Berlin Wall was down, Russia in economic collapse, the Cold War was over. There simply was no reason to continue publishing the genre (although DEATHLANDS continued to be published on a regular basis, no doubt the publishers realizing that they had a steady, loyal readership, and no competition).

So, some years ago, a seller on eBay began unloading his vastly hoarded collection of vintage paperbacks. Among the selection were the first 3 titles in the FIREBRATS series. Nothing impressive about that, except, they were all literally unread. Immaculate. Fresh and crisp as the day they were printed. I had an “in” with a friend of a friend, and nabbed them dirt cheap (versus what online sellers are trying to obtain for shoddy reading grade copies). I have them still, bagged and sealed. Sadly, I have yet to locate a perfect copy of the final novel (a copy is listed, however, it is mercilessly overpriced and the dealer “claims” it is fine, but it is not).

That said, fast forward to 2017. I want to read them, but you can bet your ass that I am NOT opening these 3 beauties. So, like anyone else, I hunted around. No luck. Couldn’t find a cheap copy of any issues. Remarkably, of the few surviving used bookshops in the Central Florida area, one had a battered copy of the second book, for $2 + tax.

There was no hesitation; (I also nabbed a solid Vg+ copy of ENDWORLD # 1 for $4).

With such great savings, I decided to plunk down on a $15 copy (plus shipping) listed on The seller claimed it to be a Near Fine unread copy.


Inside, the first page, aside from penciled numbers from the dealer and the price, a prior owner had inked “JG.” Other than that, yes, the internal pages are gorgeous. The cover, and spine, however, are rubbed, blemished, reading creased, cracked spine, and the laminate faded and dull and crackling all along the edges. This is NOT a near fine book.

Still, $20 for that and $2 and tax for the other, divide by two, and the price isn’t bad. Now, if only I can become as lucky with the final two novels… Not likely, however, I am a very patient person.

On the other hand, I doubt that I will ever locate a mint copy of that final novel to pair up with the other three. Now, if I could obtain the original Les Edwards paintings, that would be icing on the cake! (Let me have my dreams).

So, in a matter of hours, I again devoured the first book. Perhaps not as quickly as my younger self. Why? I’m older. I wanted badly to recapture that old feeling. To some degree, I did, but my youth and innocence have long since been buried.

What I did immediately notice, on reading, is that why the Siegel’s certainly used the Cold War conflict as the reason for nuclear warfare, it all came back to me in a rush that this series never once has Russia invading our soil. We never really deal with the politics of the war ever again. The story, at its heart, is all about the survival of two teenagers (Matthew “Matt” Chandler and Danielle “Dani” Cortland). Matt is a high school athlete (not a talented one) and Dani (the name abbreviated by Matt, initially much to her anger)  is an aspiring actress.

When they first meet, Matt is alone in a theater, setting up for an event that night. Left alone for hours, he is interrupted by a banging outside. Opening up, he meets a heavily make-upped Danielle, dolled up, and while agreeably pretty, Matt is certainly she could be a few years older than he (we later learn she is perhaps six months older than 16 year old Matt). Despite being in the same grade, she attends a prep school, while he is at a public school. They instantly have an intense dislike for one another.

While jamming to his Walkman, his rock-station is broken into by a screechingly high-pitched whining noise. Losing his rock, he spins the dial and finds a public broadcast stating that Russia has launched all their nuclear bombs. Find food, water, and shelter, that the bombs are slated to hit in mere minutes. Talks are off.

Looking outside, he watches bedlam ensue. After briefly attempting to convince Danielle, he begins scooping up all the food and beverages and running them down to the subterranean basement. Meanwhile, she has finally gazed outside and is convinced that the world has indeed gone all to hell. She wants to go home. It’s too far. Persuading her to join him below for safety, they lock themselves in and…BOOM!!!


And now, the real guts of the novel begin. Their first tests not only discovering how to light a candle in the dark, but learning to cope with each other, cabin fever, properly portioning out their meals to last, creating a space to go to the bathroom (no mention of stench is ever discussed in the novel…okay, it IS a juvenile publication, so no doubt the authors were limited), etc. When Danielle hears scraping outside, she joyfully unlocks the door and rushes out…into the waiting claws and dripping teeth of snarling, infected dogs, looking for food.

Espying this warm, two-legged morsel, they attack the dainty delicacy. She leaps into a nearby closet and Matt locks himself in the room again. It soon dawns on him that he must save her life. Making an improvised flaming rag and wielding a chair like a lion-tamer, he ventures out and forces the insane mongrels back, back, back, until he frees Danielle. She escapes back into their room, but Matt falls down and is attacked. Remarkably, rather than selfishly saving herself, she tosses out a chocolate candy bar, unwrapped. The dogs abandon Matt to investigate the candy bar. Diving back into the room, he slips into shock, and Danielle treats his lacerated leg wound with soda.

Time passes, he gets well, and an earthquake hits. The region has never had earthquakes but they are certain it is the result of the nuclear bombs, despite weeks having passed. Running for their lives, they decide to dig their way up and out of their burial, before the complex totally collapses.

Danielle is the first to create an opening to the outside world (never mind the fact their only “fresh” air was via a vent, which was contaminated, and while they earlier did suffer from the affects, nothing further is mentioned about the air quality) and see firsthand the destruction. Nearly every landmark has been obliterated.

Vacating their month-long self-made “home,” they go to her home first to check on her mother. Naturally, she is dead, but Danielle the dreamer had dreamt otherwise. Matt, meanwhile, is waiting outside, allowing her the private time to grieve, when inexplicably, Danielle gives vent to a terrified scream. Matt runs in with his lead pipe and barges into the room. She is standing there, calmer, faced by two men and a woman. They are showing effects of radiation poisoning. Loss of hair, puss, sores, etc. They explain that they heard noise in the house (seriously, a whole town, and they happen to be in the area? and what, climbed a window or rear entrance?) and entering the home, they went to investigate.

Investigate WHAT?!?!?!

They were checking to see if a gang of hoodlums, escapees from a prison, were inside. The rationale seems off. What were these three going to legitimately do even if they did find prisoners? Sing them to sleep? (Sorry Siegels, but I’m older now). Lullaby or not, they convince Matt and Danielle (yes, she is still Danielle, not Dani yet) that they are good guys, and to join their group. They are headed West, to California. Word is that California wasn’t hit as bad as the East coast. Seriously? Word from whom?

They join the motley assortment of survivors, and while out and walking out of town, they are attacked by the prisoners. Several beaten down to death, they steal the food and capture Danielle in the process. Matt falls backwards down into a crater while attempting to save his own life. At the bottom, he splashed into muck and is instantly assaulted once more, this time by ravenous rats.

Kicking and screaming in fright, he manages to escape and climb out of the crater (a bombed-out hole from a gasoline station’s underground tanks blowing up). The survivors say to hell with the girl and attempt to convince that Matt needs to forget her and move on. He can’t. He has to save her or die trying. Shaking the survivors off with disgust, he jogs after Danielle’s captors and learns that they intend to turn her over to their leader, a man sentenced to life-in-prison for rape.

Upon learning that their destination is the hospital, he returns to their month-long lair, and dressing himself up in costumes and make-up and a wig, he then tears all apart to make himself look horrible and ugly, just like them. At night, who will know?

With that singular thought, he indeed infiltrates their base, successfully succeeds in convincing one person that he is one of them, but, unknown to him, it backfires. That man talks to the leader about one of their number being heavily infected, and that they ought to just kill him now rather than waste good food on this person. Meanwhile, Matt locates Danielle stuffed in a dumpster and guarded by two creeps. He pulls a “prop” gun and tricks them into back up. Letting her out, he tells her to run. Giving her a good lead, he points the gun at the rest of the mob and tells them to stay.

However, one of their number has lost his hearing and keeps coming at Matt. He abandons the faux gun and runs after Danielle. Making good their escape via a pipe in the ground, they slowly worm their way through muck in hopes of eventually escaping out the other side. Unfortunately, the cretins discover the pipe and discover where it ends.

Thankfully, or, rather, conveniently, Matt and Danielle see a hole in the pipe. Matt chooses to ignore it, lest they give away their position. Tempted, she takes a peek, against his instructions, and is mortified to see all of the prisoners waiting for them, at the end of the (pipe) line. He pops up out of the hole, first, and while extracting Danielle, one of the prisoners spots her climbing out. Spotted, Matt lunges upright and yanks her out of the hole. They run to his house and while trying to find the basement, she falls through the debris. Thankfully, she neither breaks a leg or her neck. Did she literally fall into the basement or down the steps? It’s not fully clear. Either way, Matt disguises the hole with more debris and they hide below while the thugs search for them.

Managing to dig into the secondary subterraneous basement on their property, Matt and Danielle locate food (mostly spoiled, but some salvageable). Loading up, they unveil his older brother’s motorbike, fill it with a small bit of discovered gas, and effect their escape.

There’s more to final pages and escape but I rather not divulge any more of the plot than absolutely necessary. Let it be noted, that yes, I can’t wait to pick up and read the second novel, simply titled “Survivors.”

FIREBRATS # 1: The Burning Land by Barbara Siegel & Scott Siegel

“Quinton Clyde: Private Investigator” by Trent McCoy


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)