“Easy Curves” by Nick Baroni

Easy Curves by Nick Baroni was published circa 1950 by Curtis Warren Ltd.; it begins on page 3 and concludes on 128. The front cover illustration is by H. W. Perl, appearing to be one of his customary painted (colorized) photos of a model or actress. Sadly, my copy is in complete ruin: the front cover is severely ripped and torn. A chunk of the lower cover along the spine is missing. However, these are incredibly difficult to obtain, so I won’t complain.

CURTIS WARREN Easy Curves

The novel was one of many penned by Albert Edward Garrett (born 1917) since the 1940s, a career that spanned a few decades.

He frequently under the alias “Edgar Garrett,” this appearing first on “Headline Holiday” (John Crowther, 1944) and later resuscitated for his Western novels of the 1950s and 1960s.

For the mushroom publishers, he wrote under a slew of identified books, and no doubt, many more yet to be confirmed. Below are two examples of his crime titles:

Bart Banarto – The Big Panic – Edwin Self, circa 1953
Johnny Cello – Corruption’s Tutor – Scion, 1953

It’s not the focus of this article, however, to delve into this author’s literary career, for which there are many other sites already admirably suited, so let’s return to Easy Curves for a moment. This novel embraces all that is hard-boiled and sleaze. Loads of violence, bloodshed, tons of unscrupulous sex and rapes, etc.

Gangster boss Joey Grindle and his boys are in a tight spot straight into the novel. A rival gang has moved in and are blissfully mowing down their competition. Joey is a survivor, and while convincing a couple of his boys to give up and head out front, he blasts his way out the back and escapes. Joey captures a rival gangster and beats the hell out of him to learn who squealed. When he learns that his younger brother’s “steady” spilled the beans, he busts in his brother and the girl. Relating the misadventures and the extinction of the Grindle gang, his brother is nonplussed and quickly angered to find that his girl sold them out. Trying to worm her way out of death, she attempts to seduce Joey, during an act of misinterpreting him. He catapults her into another world with a single shot through the heart.

Brothers Joey and Eddie take it on the lam and lay low for several weeks. Instructing Eddie to avoid female attachments in future, they hook up with one-night-stands to sate their urges. Joey, however, becomes infatuated with a girl that gives him the works and dumps him the next day. He doesn’t mind doing that to any girl, but no girl is gonna give him the one-night treatment. Possessed, he stalks her, but lands one of her friends, instead. They hook up and while on a drive to a cottage, they are intercepted by her aged wealthy husband and his hired hoodlums. They beat the living tar out of Joey and leave him for dead on a tombstone with a cement angel looking down on him, wings spread.

Something in him has cracked, severely. Mentally unstable, he is tended by a mob doctor and nursed back to health. But he doesn’t wait long to drag Eddie and some fresh cohorts into an assignment to kill everyone at the mansion that beat him to death. The doll-baby is happy that they are all dead and she is free. Convincing her to stay away from him until the news dies down, she plays her part admirably to the newshounds and law.

Time passes, they hook up, take a drive, and another group of hoods pull them over. Beaten severely and captured, he awakens to find his girlfriend on a bed and raped by a man he let take the rap for him years earlier. He had escaped prison and was hunting Joey the entire time. Having located Joey earlier in the novel, he followed him to the mansion and realized there was the opportunity for a monetary rake-off, a la bribery. He convinces an apish ogre to join his ranks, and others. After raping the girl, the ape is given his turn. Rapidly unhinging, Joey struggles free, grabs a gun, and shoots her dead. The ape dims is lights quickly.

He reawakens in a basement, bound and chained to a wall, battered and beaten to death. His brother and help break him out, but it’s clear to all present that his mental stability is rapidly waning. He’s dangerously close to losing touch with reality.

Fearing that everyone is out to get him, Joey begins a one-man war against his own gang, thinking that they are taking over the gang. He kills everyone, often mistaking his guards as long-dead rival gang members. In the final scene, he has it out with his brother Eddie, and top lieutenant, whom he is certain intends to take over the gang. Eddie, realizing that Joey is indeed too far gone, pulls his gun. The lieutenant pulls his and shoots the gun out of Eddie’s hand (he’s still loyal after all) and Joey shoots him.

Joey, not wounded, last man standing, gloats, and while Eddie is slowly bleeding out to death, the lieutenant, shot himself a couple fatal times, shoot Joey dead, realizing many innocent parties will continue to die if he doesn’t. He is the last to eventually die in that office, with the final thought that none of this should ever have happened….

 

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“Easy Curves” by Nick Baroni

“The Seeing Knife” by Crawley Fenton

CW The Seeing Knife

Bearing a copyright notice of November 1954 is “The Seeing Knife” by Crawley Fenton. This book has the distinction of being the last scientific novel published by Curtis Warren Ltd., and is given to be the sequel to Miles Casson’s “The Time Drug,” issued months earlier. It is unclear whether both books were written by the same author or not, as the identity of each novel’s authorship has never been solidified.

The Seeing Knife” is a medical soap-opera that unrolls the fragile re-entry of Dr. Alan Heritage, after his time-traveling exploits in the prior novel. He is mentally wrought with regret after having left two others in the medical profession on the wrong side of Time. He vows with himself to continue researching the drug he created and find a way to return the Russian doctor Credij and Marilyn to his timeline.

However, that is all background material, which remotely reminds readers that this book is a sequel, and perhaps in a clever way, indicating that if you have not done so, perhaps you ought to contact your local book dealer and purchase a copy of “The Time Drug,” too.

Here, we have Dr. Michael Armoury have succeeded in constructing an electronic device that permits him to–with the use of knobs and various visual controls–electronically execute surgery from a remote position via non-physical human interaction. This machine may even be the “cure” to cancer! As it turns out, his medical marvel is accidentally released to the Press and the newspapers globally go mad with the exciting details. Newsmen hound him at the hospital. However, there is one hiccup.

He refuses to use the device.

Remarkably, refusing to succumb to greed, Michael Armoury maintains a good level head, desiring to research the full ramifications before using the machine for the good of humanity. However, when a fellow practitioner brings news that his father has terminal cancer, he finds himself in a deep quandary.

In the end, his father asks to be his first patient (which, in fact, makes him literally the “guinea pig” trial that Michael requires after working on a dog in the opening novel’s pages). Further, in the closing final page of the novel, Dr. Alan Heritage has succeeded in narrowing down the scope of his time-travel serum and we are briefly re-introduced to the lost-in-time Dr. Credij and Marilyn.

The novel has many more social relationships of a soap opera nature in the background, too. However, there is one noteworthy item to the author’s credit: the author assaults social stereotypes regarding foreigners.

Many postwar novels feature a foreigner, the central figure to intrigue, deceit, and the focal point for our hatred. Our author introduces us to the sultry Spaniard lady doctor-in-training Margherita Maravilla, and uses her as a platform for debunking all these postwar preconceived notions.

When Margherita is introduced to another nurse, she instantly dislikes the woman. As readers, we know (or believe) that something sinister is afoot. What guise shall this villain assume? She appears to be a spy of sorts, perhaps, trying to seductively insert herself into the lives of various single doctors, learn secrets, etc. However, more than three-quarters into the novel, the author rationalizes her aloof interactions: a brutal earlier life experience has led her into the medical field.  It ends with Margherita falling in love with another embittered doctor that is equally misunderstood, and their union frees their innermost tensions.

In all, this excursion relays the message that not all foreigners are evil, that they may simply not be understood in our own life-sphere, and that science, if properly handled, while it may be do harm, can also be used for the good of humanity.

It is a noble sentiment.

“The Seeing Knife” by Crawley Fenton

Betrayed by David Essex (Curtis Warren Ltd., 1948)

CURTIS WARREN Betrayed by David Essex

Betrayed” by David Essex was published in 1948 by Curtis Warren Ltd., and sports a mediocre illustration by H. W. Perl.

I don’t know a damn thing about David Essex, save that he wrote one novel a year later,  “Retribution,” also for Curtis Warren Ltd. Additionally, he crops up at least twice in 1948, appearing with snippets in Stag Magazine (edited by Bevis Winter).

We are introduced to detective Al Rankin (a name I am sure I have read elsewhere prior but can’t place). He’s a scruffy fellow that has little room for nonsense. He gives orders and expects them to be followed. He is currently employed by a large business magnate, paid to keep his employer out of trouble. The trouble? A competitor, whom he fears will stop at nothing to derail his future business designs.

So when Rankin is rudely barged in upon by his employer, one Mr. King, he’s hardly in the mood to be nice. King isn’t in any position to be polite either; there’s a dead beauty at his flat, and he claims to be innocent.

Taking King’s wheels out to the flat, they enter and are nonplussed to find…nothing! No body! Just a blood stain where a body should be. And the police are also now on the scene, expecting a body. They give King and Rankin a hard time, but without a body, they can’t detain either one (apparently). The pair depart and Rankin suggests a quieter location, perhaps another home that King might own. King acknowledges he has another. They arrive and King discovers the corpse in the back of the car.

Rankin now has his first look at the dame, and boy, she’s simply gorgeous. Or, was. Whatever. Thinking quickly on his feet, Rankin devises both a plan to rid themselves of the body while also delivering the body into the hands of the police.

Hiring a crony, they trick the chief investigating officer to pursue the crony out into the middle of nowhere. Then he runs on foot into the woods. While the officers chase him, Rankin drives down to the abandoned police cruiser, dumps the stiffened corpse into their backseat, takes off down the road, picks up his crony, and they speed off.

Unloading his helper, he informs King that the body is unloaded. That stiff off their minds, Rankin settles down to trying to unravel the case. He soon discovers the identity of the corpse.

He soon learns that King secretly has a dame holed up in a suite (King is married). He pays her a visit. Doesn’t like her one bit. Gives her the low-down. Turns out the recently deceased is this floozie’s younger sister. He departs, and waits around the block.

He waits a long time, but, is finally rewarded. The sister takes a cab and he follows them far and away. Rankin watches as she enters a building, and notes the other two vehicles that are present. Not only is King’s rival present, but so is King’s own operations manager! Sneaking in through the cliché “open-window,” he listens in and learns most of the case.

Leaving the way he entered, he waits again in his car. The woman’s cab is long gone. The girl exits and walks away. He waits until she approaches, nabs and convinces her to get in. Rankin bounces all the evidence off her and she comes undone.

The plot dissolves in the usual manner: Rankin takes care of the creeps, the girl gets a free pass, King ceases to play naughty with his innocent wife, and Rankin takes his pay and decides to see a gal out of town.

The literature is cheap, disgusting and not worthy of reading. It’s only worth the effort of collecting for those that are interested in post-war gangster fiction or good girl art.

You have been warned!

Betrayed by David Essex (Curtis Warren Ltd., 1948)

“Make Mine Murder” by Bevis Winter

CW Make Mine Murder

Published 1949 by Curtis Warren Ltd., Make Mine Murder was written by Bevis Winter, and is 192-pages.

The artwork has nothing to do with the plot of the story.

The author was born Bevis Peter Winter on 27 August 1918 in Birmingham, England, and died 1985 at Haywards Heath, Sussex, England.

He married twice.

First, to Rose Brodie, in 1943.
They sired one child: David F. Winter, born 1945, in Birmingham.

Divorcing, he married Deirdre Clifton (born 1928) in 1949. Residing in Hove, they sired three children: Penny S. (1951), Stephen C. (1954), and Alayne K. (1956). Deirdre worked as an archivist at Dean Wilson Solicitors, Brighton, and died 27 December 2011, at Haywards Heath.

And now, onto the novel…

Released from the English army, ex-Corporal Philip Denton is disheartened. He’s returning home to his cottage, where he was hoping to start a new life with his wife. However, while at war, he receives a letter stating that she is leaving him and hooking up with an American soldier. On arrival, he finds the key under the mat, lets himself in, and is soon greeted by a young lady from a neighboring farm, taking pity on him. She helps to set the cottage right and, in going down to the cellar for supplies, suddenly screams. Philip darts down and beholds the emaciated, very decomposed body of his wife. She’d been likely down there for many, many months.

The local small-town police are useless. Philip hires the services of one of his ex-army mates, whom he recalls was returning back to civilization as a private investigator.

Enter: Major Martin Myers, and his secretarial sidekick, Olivia.

They take the case but he sees little in it. Especially via financial means. Philip isn’t worth much. But, while in the army, he had jokingly noted that if anyone needed his help as a P.I., he’d lend a hand. Now, he’s in it.

Meanwhile, back in London, another murder occurs, shortly after the grisly discovery of Philip’s wife. The two do not seem to coincide. It happens like this:

Author and playwright — Hackle — is holding one of his usual festive parties, when he gets into an argument over a murder scene. Wanting to prove his case, he has a gun loaded with blanks from an unopened case of blank cartridges, and has his party-goers enact the scene. Dismayed by the results, he swaps places with the guying playing the murderer, and takes the gun himself, and directs the scene. He fires and a fellow drops dead.

The police think the man that originally loaded the gun (not Hackle) was responsible, and had slipped a real “live” cartridge in. However, the department discovers that while he admitted to loading the gun, the blanks in the gun sport no fingerprints! They are entirely clean. Ergo, this can NOT be the same gun. Someone switched guns.

Now the police are secretly investigating Hackle, as he is the only other person known to have handled the gun. Clearly, there is a duplicate gun, somewhere. However, when they raid his house, with an arrest warrant, they find Hackle shot dead, lying across his desk.

Meanwhile, back at the cottage town, investigator Myers has learned that Hackle many years earlier had been a teacher in this community, and left shortly after a 9-year old girl had been found slain and brutally, sexually assaulted. It later comes about the recluse gynecologist has an imbecile son, and Myers is certain that he raped the child.

Confronting the doctor, he admits the truth, and that Hackle had been blackmailing him for years. As to the young man shot at the house party, turns out he was a newspaperman in London, but years earlier, had been a cub-reporter in the cottage town, and he, in turn, had begun to blackmail Hackle, thinking HE was the one responsible for the child’s demise, because, in one of his bestselling sensational novels, he describes the murder scene of the child and a bonnet she had on. That bonnet never made it into the local circulars, and he had known about via interviewing the parents. Naturally, only the murderer would know about it. Or, so he wrongly surmised. He never realized that the doctor had also been on the scene.

In learning all this, the detective and the police investigator team up to arrest the imbecile and take him into medical custody, only to learn that the brute has coincidentally escaped his “cage” and is running loose through the countryside. Drawing guns, they run in pursuit and finally locate him, in the ravenous act of raping Olivia (how convenient).

The whole plot wraps up nicely with Myers hooking up with Olivia, but, on the whole, while I enjoyed reading this early novel effort by Bevis Winter, it is ruined by the tasteless “imbecile” plot. For its few faults, Make Mine Murder is a damn fine read, overall, and I highly recommend it to anyone.

I should like to read more of Bevis Winter’s later efforts (again), as his quality of writing developed admirably over the ensuing years, after some years practice working on hardboiled gangster novels.

“Make Mine Murder” by Bevis Winter

“The Black Phoenix” by Martin Lester (Curtis Warren Ltd., 1954)

“The Black Phoenix,” by Martin Lester, is in fact a spy thriller (a la James Bond-esque) written by Edmund Cooper. It was published by Curtis Warren Ltd. (February 1954) and represents Cooper’s second printed title.

British special agent Peter Mars, after infiltrating and demolishing a nefarious Russian plot early in the novel with the aid of an American special agent (actually, Peter lapses into amnesia throughout the entire episode after being bopped over the head) returns home to England for rest and relaxation.

However, in the espionage business, there is no such thing as snatching a little R & R, eh?

Peter Mars is immediately drafted to replace the recently deceased English counterfeiter Hildebrand, whom was knocked dead by a lorry. (On his deathbed, Hildebrand had mumbled incoherently some future arrangements). Thus assuming the role, Mars travels to Iceland and is immediately met with unpredictable complications: a driver that picks him up but presumably doesn’t speak English, and a young lady at the hotel accosts him under the guise of being Hildebrand’s wife!

Clearly the girl can blow his cover, but, incredibly, she doesn’t. She is there to locate her father, a Nazi officer, that she has not seen since the Second World War, and coerces Mars to bring her along with him.

With a note slipped under his hotel room door at night, he reads and readies himself for his ordeal. The pair are driven far away from civilization, then take a helicopter out to a remote island, seemingly uninhabitable, when a platform rises out of the surface. They land and the platform drops beneath the island to an underground facility, like something right out of an Ian Fleming thriller. (Mind you, Mr. Fleming’s first Bond book was “Casino Royale,” in 1953, so I’m not entirely certain what Cooper modeled his concepts after).

Having arrived, he is greeted as Hildebrand, since the girl does not betray his trust. Further, we learn she is the daughter one of the top brass Nazis. Point of fact, the entire underground base is a secret Nazi regime waiting to bring the world to its knees! And their deepest guarded secret: a young teen-aged boy that reportedly is . . . the son of Adolph Hitler!

Without revealing further details, I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the well-thought-out initial Peter Mars tale of espionage and intrigue against the Russians, but, Edmund Cooper truly shines in this complicated tale of Nazism surviving years beyond the war, secretly plotting to undermine the world economic system. The entire “son of Adolph Hitler” could have been eradicated from the novel, as it lent absolutely nothing to the plot.  The fight scenes are intrinsic and elaborate, drawing the reader deeper into the chaos that ultimately ensues.

Cooper, sir … you’ve done a damn fine job entertaining me this week with your first two (of three) novel achievements.

“The Black Phoenix” by Martin Lester (Curtis Warren Ltd., 1954)

“They Shall Not Die” by Broderick Quain (Curtis Warren Ltd., 1954)

Nearly a decade has passed since I first acquired They Shall Not Die, a crime thriller written by Edmund Cooper, under the pseudonym of Broderick Quain. It was published by Curtis Warren Ltd. (March 1954) and represented Cooper’s third printed title.CW They Shall Not Die

Richard Sinclair, a psychiatrist, is visited by a 20-year-old lovely lady by the name of Maxime Barry. She confides that she has [in the past] murdered a man and he continues to haunt her. Nobody sees him; nobody believes her. Assured of her insanity, she seeks out Sinclair’s aid to prove her sanity or, lock her up in a padded cell.

Confident that Maxime Barry is in fact sane, Sinclair advises her to stay calm, etc. No sooner does she depart than Antoinette Barry enters. She is essentially her step-mother. She insists that Sinclair abort his sessions with Maxime; that she is in fact insane; and his intervention may prove to be quite dangerous. She then attempts to bribe him.

As soon as he removes her from his offices, he ‘phones his old mate, Dennis Byrd, an Inspector with the Cambridge C.I.D., to set up a joint venture into the countryside for a week of rest and relaxation. Whilst driving to East Cotton, Sinclair asks Byrd if he’s had any peculiar, unaccounted for deaths. Byrd realizes something is afoot, for Sinclair never shows such an interest in Byrd’s morbid work. He obtains from Sinclair, off-the-record, a report on his psychiatric activities.

Arriving in East Cotton and taking up residence, go for a walk, and, after hearing a gun discharge, the pair stumble across Maxime Barry! [While the author makes poor use of an impossible coincidence, Cooper adroitly handles the mysterious conspiracy that follows].

Sinclair and Byrd are confident that Maxime is purposefully being driven insane before she becomes heir to a small fortune upon her 21st birthday, and further, that the villains in the case are using an Occult Research Society as a front for the distribution of drugs.

Unable to prove their theories, they are forced to solve the “crime” themselves, or, die trying.

Now, I had initially put off reading They Shall Not Die for ten years because Cooper reportedly had less than savory words for women. I was afraid that his own viewpoints might make themselves quite evidently present within his earlier novels. Finally, taking this into account, I charged forward, realizing these elements might be present, but accepted them. While Cooper does in fact make some slight off-remarks, on the whole, I felt the novel to be adventurously a pleasing read; while the villains themselves were obvious from the start, their motives were somewhat opaque. And while Maxime Barry begins as a weak feminine entry, she turns out to be all the stronger by the end of the novel, a complete 180 in her status, clearly indicating that Cooper was firmly aware to avoid the conventional play-up-the-weaker-sex angle that most authors tended to adhere to in their stories. I applaud Mr. Cooper for the unconventional.

“They Shall Not Die” by Broderick Quain (Curtis Warren Ltd., 1954)