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)

Jeff Cook, illustrator / artist

Over two decades ago, I made a conscious effort to shift from American publications to British, with a focus on wartime and postwar mushroom publishers.

While visiting the house, or, more precisely, the attic of Howard Devore, I purchased a few wartime efforts by the Mitre Press. One was “The Man Who Tilted the Earth” by Justin Atholl. The copy appeared to me desperately distressed, with worn covers and fraying, well-thumbed edges. However, this title is not the point of this article. The point is, I love the crudely executed artwork that burped into existence seemingly only during those war years.

ATHOLL The Oasis Of Sleep

The Atholl cover was not signed, but, I had read the story and began hunting further Atholl books. My next title was “The Oasis of Sleep.” This was signed by illustrator Jeff Cook, and the vibrantly bold style caught my eye immediately. I wanted more by this guy. But, what other books had he illustrated? The Internet was still young back then, I was still on dial-up, and I was on the wrong side of The Great Pond to pursue a research endeavor at the British Library. So, I did it the hard way, and learned that Jeff Cook did not simply appear during the war years.

He began much earlier….

The earliest illustrated effort by Jeff Cook appears to be actually not with books, but, on sheet music covers! His artwork can be found on pieces released by Lawrence Wright Music Company (as early as 1929), B. Feldman & Co., Gilbert & Nicholls, and Cecil Lennox Ltd., etc. The last known piece that I have traced appears in 1935, with perhaps one further in 1940. For the most part, none of the covers are exciting. So, how did he hop from sheet music to book covers? I haven’t the foggiest, but, I hold out hope that someone from his family may one day find this article and fill in the blanks.

Moving along, the earliest known book illustration occurs in 1933, with children’s books for the publishers Art & Humour Publishing:

  • Elfin Adventures
  • Woodland Fairies

He next appears handling a handful of dust jackets for Wells, Gardner & Co., illustrating the covers of the following books:

  • Alice A. Methley “Summer Hours and Summer Flowers” (1937)
  • Alice A. Methley “Winter Days and Winter Ways” (1937)
  • William Rainey “Admiral Rodney’s Bantam Clock” (1938)
  • Harold Bindloss “The Boys of Wildcat Ranch” (1938)
  • Daniel DeFoe “Robinson Crusoe in Short Words” (?)
    cover art by Gordon Robinson, with interiors by GR and Cook

From 1939 to 1941, I have found no evidence of his output. Could be I simply haven’t located them yet, or, perhaps, he enlisted. Cook resurfaces, illustrating several covers for Everybody’s Books and Mitre Press, from 1942-1944.

He then turned his hand to children’s books, illustrating covers and supplying interior art for the Walker Toy Book ‘Dinky Series’ published by Renwick of Otley, with such titles as:

  • Kitchen Capers” (#75)
  • The Old Chimney Corner” (#80)
  • The Old Mill” (#83)
  • Scarum Sam” (#87)
  • Tea Time Tale“(#91)

Also for the same publishers, “Our Boys’ Tip Top” was an omnibus loaded with tales by F. W. Gumley and others. The frontispiece was by Jeff Cook, and internally, he supplied illustrations to tales by Arthur Groom and L. E. Shorter.

Additionally, he supplied art to at least one postcard, for “The White Horse Hotel, Bampton, Devon.”

So, who is Jeff Cook?  With his earliest known piece appearing circa 1930, I wanted to believe that he got into illustrating at a fairly young age, perhaps out of high school or college. With that purely as my basis, this, below, I believe to me by man. If anyone has any further information about Jeff Cook, please contact me.

Jeffrey Cook (11 Feb 1907, died 13 Oct 1979)
son to Frederick COOK and Kate Annie ROWLAND (married 1894)
Gladys (10 May 1900; died 1982)
Clifford (Dec 1905)
Bernard (19 Feb 1908; died 1990)
Kate (3 Feb 1910; died 1998)
Elizabeth (20 Dec 1914; died 1999)
It’s also possible he had two earlier sibs, names of Donald and Hilda.


Jeff Cook, illustrator / artist

2015 September 3: “Death on Priority 1” by Preston Yorke

I read this booklet many years ago, but it was nice to freshen up on it as I had just recently posted another title, “The Gamma Ray Murders,” which features the very same protagonist.

YORKE Death On Priority 1 (Orange Cover)

“Death on Priority 1” by Preston Yorke is in fact penned by the famous Darcy Glinto writer, Harold Ernest Kelly, and published by Everybody’s Books (1945) shortly after the second world war. However, it is clear, from the story-line, that it was written during the war.

Inspector Bevis is sent to investigate the hijackings of freighting trucks across England. With his partner, they eventually spot a group of criminals making off with a truck, but, the criminal mastermind behind it all was prepared for this eventuality, and has a souped-up heavy car broadside their lightweight vehicle into flipping over. Bevis’ partner dies in the crash, flying through the windshield. Bevis is seriously injured.

Bevis convinces his chief to give him one last “go” at the affair, going undercover as a trucker. Bevis makes a name for himself, making deliveries in record time and rumors get around that he won’t take no shit from anyone, even the cops, to get his goods from Point A to Point B.

As weeks and months go by, Bevis, operating as “Mad” Yorky, is met by a crook whom offers him the side job of losing his truck of goods for a hundred pounds. He accepts, but then confides that he’s looking for an “in” with the bosses and wishes to earn more money while the war is ongoing. Once the war ends, so does the trafficking, etc.

The story is slightly reminiscent of another Kelly story, written under the alias of Buck Toler….

Anyhow, Bevis spots his hijacked truck passing through the dockside town and realizes that the goods MUST be transported and unloaded nearby, rather than stolen and driven far away. He sneaks into several warehoused areas before striking lucky. That is, until he is caught unawares by a pair of hoodlums that cave in his skull and toss his butt into confinement.

How he escapes and the escapades that follow to the point of busting the gang will remain a secret, for those that entertain the notion of obtaining a copy for themselves.

Having been a collector of British wartime fiction booklets for over 20 years, I’ve managed to hoard and secure 3 copies of this elusive title…. Why? Because they are variants. After the first run sold out, Kelly issued further copies to be printed. And yes, there are noticeable differences, starting with the rear cover ads.

So, what am I reading next? A mystery magazine chock full o’ short stories, so, you might not see a post here for close-on a week. Where magazines are concerned, chug along mighty slow on the tales.

2015 September 3: “Death on Priority 1” by Preston Yorke

2015 August 31: “The Trackless Thing” by Justin Atholl

“The Trackless Thing” by Justin Atholl was published in 1943 by Everybody’s Books, a short-lived wartime outfit operated by the Kelly brothers. The cover art, unsigned, was used on a handful of titles by this publisher, and also by their partner, the Mitre Press.

ATHOLL The Trackless Thing 2

Superintendent Lakin must investigate the sudden is plagued by a series of crimes perpetuated by an unknown criminal, whom appears only interested in ransacking homes, tossing papers about, killing house pets (brutally), and apparently not stealing anything. At least nothing of worth.

Months go by, and the “Trackless Thing” has vanished, when suddenly, the town is struck by a pair of murders! And, in both cases, no visible means of forced entry is present.

Can Lakin solve the murders before another occurs, sending the town into a panicked tizzy? Who, or, what, is the Trackless Thing? Is it even human?

2015 August 31: “The Trackless Thing” by Justin Atholl

2015 August 31: “The Case of the Strangled Seven” by Preston Yorke

“The Case of the Strangled Seven” by Preston Yorke (cover art by Jeff Cook)
(aka: Harold Ernest Kelly, of alias Darcy Glinto fame, etc)

YORKE The Case Of The Strangled Seven

NOTE: I read this book years ago and reported upon it to John Fraser, an avid Kelly researcher.  I decided to freshen up on it, and copy the plot herewith as I wrote it up all those years ago.

A beat-weary constable stumbles upon a pair of strangled drug-gang distributors. He requests time off to investigate the area on his own. A lone member of the nefarious gang captures and binds him, and later sets fire to the hideout, with the intention of burning the constable. He escapes, with severe burns.

Meanwhile, our wonderful author abandons any pretext of surprising the reader about who the strangler is. A somewhat well-to-do businessman has lost his daughter to drugs, and has lost his grip on reality. He and some reliable professionals systematically hunt down the seven top members of the gang and strangle them to death.

His secretary learns the truth, so, he kidnaps her.

The constable continues to track the s.o.b.s who tried to snuff him. In the traditional climax he attempts to arrest both the businessman and leader of the outfit, (the former operates under the name of “Optimus One”). “Optimus,” who bizarrely has a sac of poison attached to one of his teeth, bites the businessman and dies a paralyzing death before the constable’s eyes. The businessman announces that there are notes in his office that will clear up the entire case, and then, he too promptly dies.

2015 August 31: “The Case of the Strangled Seven” by Preston Yorke

2015 August 28: “It’s Only Saps That Die” by Buck Toler

Having recently finished reading Buck Toler’s “Killer on the Run,” I was less than thrilled with myself for having decided to chug through yet another Buck Toler title.

TOLER It's Only Saps That Die

And, so, we trudge along to the next thriller, “It’s Only Saps that Die.”

This was published by Everybody’s Books (1944) and features a wonderfully gruesome illustrated cover by Jeff Cook, showcasing a woman being ground to death between two large gears, and, while her blood spews out and her body is broken and twisted in half, a man is seen reaching down (too late) to try and save her life.

Let me spare you the details by stating that no such scene occurs inside….
Disappointed? Don’t be.

Unlike the prior read, which delved exclusively into the mind of a “killer on the run,”this novel is pure gangster-stuff with a Federal Agent thrown into the mix.

The investigation: how is it that while the war is going on, that, in America, with the huge beef rations, that certain companies appear to be functioning well above federal guidelines?

With the newspapers carrying stories of old-fashioned frontier cattle rustling, and beef companies filing cases that their refrigerated trucks are being hijacked by killers, special agent Captain Delane of the FBI is sent by Hoover to investigate, infiltrate, and smash the crooks.

He assumes the fictitious identity of Tex Radnor, a hoodlum looking for employment in Chicago. While there he crosses paths violently with a vicious ex-drug smuggler. He is caught and beaten mercilessly and left for dead; he is rescued by one of the hoodlum’s molls. Instead of fleeing, he waits in the smuggler’s office and beats two thugs [gleefully] into unconsciousness and delivers and impromptu beating onto the lead thug, until he gets the answers he wants.

Now set up to work with a big-time beef distributor, he starts small by driving their rigs. After weeks of inactivity goes by, Delane approaches the lower-level managerial thug-in-charge and presents himself as a thug-for-hire. The guy moves him up to thievery and thus begins the real action, as Delane (Tex Radnor) aids in the hijacking of beef trucks.

But when the head honcho himself learns of Tex, he is immediately suspicious of this young man, and has his boys bring Tex to his office. They torture him, attempting to beat the truth out of him. The boss, Rimmer, is keenly aware that Tex is an alias, and likely a Fed. They beat him near to death, toss him into river-boat sort of structure full of filth and hundreds of hungry rats, and leave him to his fate.

Will Captain Delane live? How will he escape? Will the rats nibble hungrily on all 21 of his digits? Will Delane be able to save face? Is there any sexual interest between he and the moll that saved him? How in hell will you get the answers to these questions unless you read the book?

This is Harold Ernest Kelly (aka: Buck Toler, aka Darcy Glinto, etc) at his very best.

“It’s Only Saps that Die” is gruesome, brutal, unforgiving, and harsh in Kelly’s visual depictions of America in the grips of gangsters willing to die for what they believe in: CASH.

2015 August 28: “It’s Only Saps That Die” by Buck Toler

2015 August 25: “Killer on the Run” by Buck Toler

I’ve been both dreaming and dreading reading this book, after years of experience reading other stories by him, under other aliases….

“Killer on the Run” was published under the alias ‘Buck Toler’ by Everybody’s Books (1944).
Cover art is attributed to what appears to read “Church.” However, glancing through the FreeBMD website shows nobody born, married, or died with such a surname.
Thus, an illustrator I know zilch about…. (Do you?)

TOLER Killer On The Run

The alias was utilized by Harold Ernest Kelly, one of two brothers operating the outfit.
Kelly had paid severely a couple years earlier for writing obscene books, under the alias of Darcy Glinto. The name failed to reappear until after World War Two ended. In the meantime, Kelly created several new aliases in which to freely operate.

Only three other books were published under the Buck Toler pseudonym:

  • The Bronsville Massacre (Mitre Press, 1943)
  • It’s Only Saps That Die (Everybody’s Books, 1944)
  • Tough on the Wops (Everybody’s Books, 1944-1945)

The hideout of Rudolph Max Kling, otherwise referred throughout the novel as Killer Kling,
is raided by the police and his entire outfit is busted. Kling escaped and is at a roadhouse
listening to the news over the radio, when his moll, Varia Rader, struts in, and informs Kling that they need to scram. The Feds are outside set to raid the joint, which, they do. Chaos ensues as they seek to escape the clutches of the law. By the third page Kling has already snapped a bullet into the belly of one agent and pistol-whips another two pages later.

They escape by jumping in the backseat of a customer’s car. Giving the innocent bystanders the OK to leave, the owner of the car clambers in and receives the cold steel welcome of a hollow barrel kissing his nape hungrily clamoring for blood. The feller doesn’t argue and taking instructions like a sap, drives the pair of hoodlums to safety. His reward? Yeah, page 9, read it, ya mug! His Colt revolver pumps a slug into the man’s gut. They make merry with his set of wheels until the auto becomes too hot to handle. They skip across the country, attempting numerous escape routes along the way: other autos, a train, a plane, etc. You get the idea.

Kling is mostly led (or, rather, influenced) by the intelligent and gorgeously stunning Varia Rader. She boasts more than just looks. She is pure evil, going so far as to coldly walking up to a cop and punching a hole through his skull in a hotel room to save Kling. Remorse? Nah. She flits throughout the book with a psychotically sinister smile and knows how to turn on the sensual juices when necessary.

If you pervs wants some sex, this isn’t the book for you. It’s pure, hardcore, unadulterated blood-and-thunder killer shit for you. What’s more, there are no page breaks, no chapter, nothing to give you relief. Kelly pounds Kling and Rader mercilessly upon you, until the very end, when they finally meet their match near the Mexican border in a Federal agent that uses his brain more than any other agent or back-town wayward law-preaching hick had thus far.

But boy, do they get their man (and woman) ???

I’m not tellin’!!!

2015 August 25: “Killer on the Run” by Buck Toler

2015 July 19: Preston Yorke “Gamma Ray Murders”

“Gamma Ray Murders” by Preston Yorke, was published 1943 (UK: Everybody’s Books), with cover art by Jeff Cook. The digest paperback is 128-pages, and a gangster / scientific thriller novel.

YORKE Gamma Ray Murders

The Plot: a scientist is murdered and the plans for his secret “gamma ray” are stolen and turned on London. Inspector Bevis is on the trail and with the aid of a girl, they thwart the heinous plans of “X,” the Master Menace!

Preston Yorke was just one of several pseudonyms utilized by Harold Ernest Kelly.
From the 1940s-1950s, he wrote as Buck Toler (gangsters), Preston Yorke (science-fiction and detection), Eugene Ascher (supernatural and detection), John Parsons (non-fictional social comment), and, marginally, himself. Subsequently he also appeared as Gordon Holt (racing, crime, detection), Lance Carson (westerns), Duke Linton (gangsters), etc. Between 1961 and 1964, he wrote several Hank Janson gangster novels, after the name was farmed out, due to the original writer being sued. Kelly and some other authors then began writing the hard-hitting gangster novels before this fad expired.

2015 July 19: Preston Yorke “Gamma Ray Murders”