“Spawn of the Vampire” by N. Wesley Firth (published 1946 in Britain by Bear Hudson Ltd.) is a semi-silly / crime tale involving newlyweds on their honeymoon, in the Old Country.
The cover art is by H. W. Perl.
While there, they meet an actress, and a man; the latter is researching claims that a vampire exists in the vicinity. He learns firsthand the truth; the vampire hypnotizes and mentally forces him to run off a cliff. Splat!
The newlywed husband is mortified by the local happenings and superstitions, but, when his own wife goes missing, all fingers point to the supposed vampire.
Firth concludes this horror tale in stereotypical fashion: eliminate the villain and then they flee the area, only to arrive in ANOTHER haunted town facing their OWN vampire crisis!!!
An amusing thriller and sought-after by hardcore vampire collectors.
Personally, I enjoy Firth’s writing style, and if anyone has a Firth short story or novel, I am interested in reading more of his works. Besides writing for all genres under N. Wesley Firth, he supplied westerns as “Joel Johnson” and “Bert Forde,” etc., and crime stories as “Earl Ellison” and “Leslie Halward” (among several other pseudonyms he used during his brief writing career).
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.
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….
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….
When I first read “The Crater of Kala” by Joseph Montague, I honestly did not realize that this alias belonged to pulp fiction legend J. Allan Dunn. A quarter into the story, I began to wonder about the identity of the author whom had written such a quality sea adventure. Now, there is already plenty of information about Dunn readily available to anyone reading this article, so I won’t even bother to touch upon his life. Anyone interested in pursuing that route should click on his name.
The story was first printed in the American pulp People’s (1922 Dec 10) issue, running from pages 1 through 86, under his own name, J. Allan Dunn. Sadly, the lengthy novella did not cop the cover, so I won’t feature it in this article.
Oddly enough, it was bound by Chelsea House in 1925 under the alias, Joseph Montague. Perhaps some enlightened biographer will have access to Dunn’s letters and fill in the reasoning.
The jacket illustration depicts a young man and woman frightened-out-of-their-wits while a dark-skinned fellow appears to fend off some unseen terror with a shield and spear. The man is wearing a hat and shirt and apparently a tie.
While the artwork has zero to do with this story, the illustration does originally appear on the cover of the pulp People’s (v41 #4, 1923 March 1st) for J. Allan Dun’s novella, “Drums of Doom.”
“The Crater of Kala” was subsequently released in England twice, by the publishers F. M. Mowl. The first edition was released in 1934, priced at 9d net. Under the byline, the publisher notes: Never hitherto been published in this form.
The cover art depicts a hunched-over man, carrying a woman wearing (of all things) high-heels. Their clothes are ripped and torn. Plus, she appears to have fainted. In the background we have the suggestion of some exotic locale. The artwork is skillfully rendered by H. W. Perl, a relative newcomer (at the time) to illustrating covers. Sadly, the illustration hardly does the novel justice. At no time does this scene occur in the novel. Our heroine is a tough, no-nonsense woman, and certainly not given to wearing high-heels or a skimpily sexy suggestive outfit.
The next edition, a cheap edition priced at 3d, appeared either later 1934 or early 1935, and was also released by the publishers, F. M. Mowl. The artwork this time is classy or perhaps, respectably more serious in nature, depicting a man in white attire comforting a woman while a volcano is erupting in the background. I can’t quite make out who the illustrator is. The initials (bottom left) appear to be “N. C. W.” or “J. C. W.” with a long line striking down through the middle initial and splitting the date 1934 in half. It is this edition I possess and have read the following novel. The text runs from pages 1-125.
The story opens with Jim Waring playing cards and cheated by two others: Chalmers and Fowler. Waring is certain that he lost his entire fortune to some sneaky play on their part, but can’t call their game, so departs nearly broke. Aboard ship we are introduced to a professor and his daughter, whom is entirely cold toward Waring, focused purely on her father’s exploration and researches. Waring, being a young man, is naturally inclined to notice her but realizes that she isn’t remotely interested in him.
Fate intervenes: the ship inexplicably strikes a derelict and the Southern Cross begins to sink. Everyone survives and makes for the lifeboats. Waring assists the professor (Gideon Lang) and daughter (Dorcas Lang) with their research bags and paraphernalia, into a lifeboat, abandoning all chances of saving any of his own possessions. A slight mutiny nearly occurs among the survivors on their vessel, after a storm separates the lifeboats and the mate is found dead, having suffered a cracked skull, during the sinking of the ship. Tossing him overboard, Waring finds himself cracking the proverbial whip as the professor takes charge and gets the crew shipshape and rowing toward salvation.
They eventually are rescued and land at Papeete (French Polynesia). Waring is penniless but treated fairly by one of the locals as a war hero, having served during The Great War alongside one of their own people, whom died. Worshiped and congratulated upon his bravery and success both at war and upon the sea, he languishes upon the island and refuses free board to ship back to America. He refuses to give up on his dreams, and is determined to somehow make good.
He later learns that the Langs have chartered a recently docked vessel. The captain is given to be an insane maniac, and the crew…not trustworthy. He is advised by his French-friend to apply for a job aboard. Cleaning up and shaving, he is presented with fresh clothes, all white (as depicted on my edition) and applies to the professor for a job aboard the Ahimanu.
The professor has not forgotten Waring’s fight aboard the lifeboat to preserve their lives, and for kindly saving all his gear. He immediately accepts Waring’s proposal, however, he must board the Ahimanu and discuss the matter with the captain.
Rowing out to the vessel, he overhears angry voices, and watches as two bodies are thrown overboard. They turn out to be cardsharps Chalmers and Fowler. The captain caught them at their game and, tossing them overboard, has kept all the money they possessed! That includes the monies stolen from Waring (not that he may lay claim to it from the captain). Presenting himself aboard in a position of supercargo on behalf of the professor, the captain, Johnson, is bemused, as he had already semi-promised the position to ‘Slop’ Beamish.
Rather than make a professional decision, he decides to let the pair battle it out, physically. The fight is long and drawn out, well-described blood and thunder stuff, no rules applied, save for those applied sparingly by the captain.
Waring eventually wins, and Beamish is demoted. Despite all that, Waring smells a rat and realizes that his position aboard is mere courtesy. He’s certain that Johnson intends to play foul by the Langs. Remarkably, the Langs are hardly novices to this sly game, realizing entirely that Johnson is leading them astray at sea. The professor, among other things, is quite a competent seafarer and able to read a compass. Upon challenging the captain, the entire scene turns chaotic as the entire ship’s nefarious crew turns out and tackles or restrains our trio.
In typical fashion, they are released and told to behave themselves and the captain will go easy on them. In real life, Waring has no value and would have been killed. Instead, Johnson relays that he intends to hold the professor hostage for $100,000. After landing, Waring is to go into town, and following instructions, have the money wired to the local bank, or some-such nonsense.
Meanwhile, before this all occurs, Johnson ships into a wayward island of Kalaiki, where he intends to hold the Langs hostage. It is an abandoned island, suffering from violent volcanic eruptions, and was once long ago inhabited by some unknown lost race. The Langs and Waring make for a cave and live there for a time while Johnson and his men party it up big-time on their schooner.
While in the cave, they discover an old relic by the lost tribe: a large stone statue. Professor Lang is confident that it has a secret opening leading into a passageway not visible to them, behind the statue, and that will enable them to escape from the villains. They eventually make a timely discovery of the access-point and pry it open. Unable to discern on the inside how to close the contraption, they rapidly flee down the passage while Johnson and his enraged crew stumble into a seemingly empty cave. The rage only boils over when they discover the opening in the statue. To further Johnson’s ire, the two crew-members he brought along are too superstitious to proceed further and scamper away. Johnson, in a fit of insane rage, pursues the trio down the passage.
During this entire confrontation between Johnson and his men, Waring and the Langs are halted at the edge of a deep pit. Looking down, they espy a dark syrupy liquid. A rotten wood beam is found to cross the expanse. Risking life and limb, Waring crosses and assists the professor across. Making her way over, the beam crumbles and disintegrates. Dorcas lunges forward and falls short of safety. Simultaneously, Waring tosses his life aside and dives out, too. He snatches the girl from certain death, only likely to join her in that dark expanse of hell far below. Thankfully, the professor lands on Waring’s legs and keeps him topside, permitting the girl to climb up Waring’s body.
All three safely across, the beam gone, Johnson stumbles in and is irate at discovering the trio missing. He can’t see them on the far side of the opening! Shockingly, a long tendril climbs out of the dark wet mass below and wraps itself around Johnson’s leg, and begins to haul on him. Frightened to death, and realizing his predicament, Johnson whips out a knife and begins hacking at the arms of the octopus. He eventually loses and is drawn down to peril, to become food. Waring snaps off a shot and Johnson and the octopus are devoured in the Stygian depths below. Johnson has met his fate.
Reconciled with being stranded on the wrong side of the pit, they eventually discover an exit and an Eden on the inside of the crater! Sadly, weeks later, they realize that there is no escape. The professor makes notes about his discovery and plans to leave them secreted on the island, to be discovered long after their death(s). However, in typical fictional fashion, Fate again intervenes. The volcano rocks the island with numerous tremors, the crater is ripped apart, and a chasm appears. The three immediately climb the walls and run through the chasm, realizing time is short before it may close upon them, crushing the trio to death. As if that was not enough, chasing them is a boiling cauldron of scalding liquid hell, pushing up from the depths of the island. They must escape the inferno or be disintegrated in that acid bath!
They escape through the chasm and the hot water cascades out after them. Realizing the island’s predicament, they escape to the beach and discover that the schooner is still anchored. The two superstitious killers took a smaller boat and departed in that, unable to manager the bigger vessel with their limited, unintelligent skill-set.
Remarkably, the three handle the ship, adroitly dodging sunken reefs and make for the open sea. Dorcas Lang and Jim Waring fall in love, after their harrowing ordeal escaping the island, and the professor is shocked to learn of their attachment, but pleased, all the same, leaving us, the reader, with a happy ending!
I heartily recommend “The Crater of Kala” to anyone fond of sea-adventure stories. It is cumbersome and well-padded in places, but, made for a damn fun read.
Published 1945 by Bear, Hudson, Ltd., “Death Takes a Hand” by Frank Griffin represents the publisher’s 25th printed title, and is printed on some form of flimsy cardboard stock paper. The 40-page pamphlet features a mediocre cover illustrated by H. W. Perl (which recycles a Hollywood film cut-out in the background). This is “reportedly” the author’s first fiction novel.
Born 15 October 1911, Charles Frank Griffin married Kathleen Cawood and sired many children. He served during the war for a number of years. Released from service, Griffin began to churn out gangster novels, and a few Westerns, from 1945 through 1951. And then, inexplicably, he vanished. Why precisely he abandoned the lucrative writing market when his fiction writing prowess had developed admirably, is beyond my ken.
However, if I had began by first reading “Death Takes a Hand,” I probably should never have read another Griffin book again. I’m not saying that it is horrible, mind you, but, well, it is not up to the higher level of quality that Griffin later came to represent. I’m not entirely sure this is Griffin’s fault or if the publishers excised a ton of text to make it run faster. The blurb runs: “…the tough, exciting, and streamlined story…” It’s certainly tough in places. Exciting is a stretch. Streamlined? Hardly.
If you have come this far, perhaps you are beginning to wonder what the plot of this novelette is? Okay.
Mart is running an illegal petrol / coupon business (along with other illegal activities) during the war. While discussing business with a fat man, he brings in a piece of fluff. She’s terrified of Mart and the fat man notices that she has been brutally beaten, perhaps by whippings. He threatens Mart and departs. Under normal circumstances, such a person is immediately murdered. Mart simply laughs, indicating confidence and perhaps, that he is slightly, mentally unstable.
After an illegal mission, Mart sends one of his henchmen to hire a replacement driver. They pick on recently discharged Dick Moxton, and pushing him into a drunken stupor, he meets two unsavory molls, Flo and Chinky. Here, the novel pushes into pure racism. Flo is short for Florence, and while drunk, Moxton is baffled why her hands her black while his are white. Chinky is Chinese. The girls are more than just fluff; they are tough, mean characters.
While on a driving assignment, Moxton spots a young lady trying to hitch a ride. He stops, and inadvertently rescues the young lady that Mart had terrorized and whipped. She somehow has escaped from captivity. We are given to understand she somehow escaped via the ineptitude of Mart’s servant, and that is all. Moxton inexplicably falls in love with the girl, whom is a refugee, puts her up somewhere safe and we never hear from her again except as a closing side-note at the conclusion.
That aside, Inspector Kemp is soon on the case when Moxton is brought to a hospital with his head bloodied. Seems that, while at Mart’s home, where a party was held at night, he walked out and heard a fight. Mart was assaulted by an unknown assailant, and robbed. Seeing the skirmish, Moxton, quite tipsy, attempted to intervene, but was bludgeoned. Bizarrely, Mart had Moxton brought to the hospital, and thus enters Kemp, after Doctor Raven pays him a visit, explaining the odd circumstances of his admittance and the wound. Kemp interviews Moxton, whom feigns memory loss, but Kemp isn’t falling.
Smelling trouble, he investigates Mart, learns of the illegal petrol dealings. Flo goes missing, is brutally beaten to death by Mart, and then buried with the help of another villain. Flo’s bloodied rags go missing from the room, Mart panics that someone is aware of the murder; he is later blackmailed for 10,000 pounds, and the person arriving to claim the funds is the original fat man from the beginning. We also learn that he was the man that assaulted and robbed Mart. Failing to secure the funds from Mart, the two tussle, the fat man tries to escape but ends up running upstairs into an inescapable room and Mart beats in his face…literally beats it in. Blood is everywhere by the time the servant finally arrives on the scene.
Seemingly the next day, Moxton enters, demands his back-pay, and Mart demands to know the location of the refugee. Moxton decks him, robs him, takes his safe key, and finds his own wallet (which was missing after HE was hospitalized) in the safe, and, he ruthlessly stomps his foot into Mart’s face and teeth.
Mart’s world continues to crumble when a house of ill-repute ten miles away inexplicably burns to the ground, taking all his henchmen with it (no reason is given for the fire) and Kemp and crew locate the buried remains of Flo in the garden. With a warrant, he approaches Mart’s home, alone, and the pair get into it.
Mart flees the scene, runs to his semi-secret air raid shelter, and enters a secret room. Failing to seal it, Kemp comes down the stairs to confront him. Foolishly, Mart fires and plugs Kemp twice, whom keeps coming for his man. A third shot nails a petrol container (apparently) and the whole place explodes. Kemp is propelled up the stairs, alive, and functional. While the air raid shelter consumes itself in flames, Kemp escapes. They later extract the charred body of Mart, and, the fat man of the inverted face.
Time passes, Kemp is in his office, dismayed by how the incident finalized. It closes with Kemp lamenting that he was cheated “once more” out of a big case. Again? Did Griffin write another tale with Inspector Kemp that we are unaware of…?
There are too many bizarre holes in this story to be taken at face value. Clearly much of the text was cut. And Moxton in the end has secured Mart’s “slave” again and marries her, in what is yes, a traditional happy ending, but an eye-rolling one.
If you have the desire to read Frank Griffin’s literature, you may wish to skip this one entirely, however, if you are like me, go ahead and read it, simply to see just how much his abilities improved with each publication.
“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.
Published by The Kaner Publishing Co., “Dames Out of the Ring” is told by fictional boxing trainer Aloysius to author Hamilton Enterkin. British Library shows that they received this undated booklet in 1948. Was the author a real person or the alias of the publisher? There was one Hamilton Enterkin born during The Great War and died 1996 in Plymouth, England.
This was essentially a vanity press, in that he (Hyman Kaner) published his own stories. He eventually released publications with various other authors.
The cover art, while unsigned, would appear to be the work of H. W. Perl.
This 64-page stapled booklet contains 9 short boxing stories:
03 – No Fury
10 – More Deadly Than the Male
17 – Mother’s Boy
24 – Golden Girl
31 – Witchcraft
38 – The Trimmer
45 – Error of Judgment
53 – The Greatest Charity
60 – The Ghost of Conway Hall
I wish that at least one of these stories was decent enough to report upon, but the fact is, and despite the ‘weird’ sounding titles to a couple, which certainly had my hopes up in the ‘weird’ genre direction, they are all truly general fiction tales.
“No Fury” involves a boxer spurning the attentions of a girl whom is dead-set on marrying him. She brings in a man whom bested him in college and he clubs him through all the rounds purposely without knocking him, delivering a severe beating. Finally, she gives the OK to knock him off his heels. They end up marrying.
“More Deadly than the Male” could easily have been the prior story (in title only). In this, a Parisian young lady makes like she is in love with the champion. They hook up; then, a man finally puts in an appearance and demands hush money or a fight to the death. Our champion is given time to learn the art of fencing, and, shockingly, he is quite adept at the art. He takes down his challenger, and they vacate Paris.
“Mother’s Boy” is unique. It appears to be yet another ‘shake-down’ tale like the one above. A fictitious mother is created for the young boxer whom grew up in an orphanage, so that the trainers can keep the girls off him. At the end of each match or interview, he peels himself away, stating he has to get home to mother. Disembarking a ship from some foreign bouts, he walks ashore to the flashbulbs of the press and a woman rushes up claiming to be his mother! And it’s no real shake-down; she literally just wants to be taken in. Feeling the pressure, and realizing she can call the bluff, they let her tend house and she turns out to be just as good as her word! Her world comes crashing down when a villain from her past comes to blackmail the champion and recognizes her. Overnight, she packs all evidences of her living with the champion, and murders the villain! They go to set her free from jail but she claims to never have seen them before. In my opinion, this heartfelt story was the best in the booklet, and is worthy of being collected elsewhere, one day.
“Golden Girl” involves a female moving up in the world to Hollywood and suddenly will have nothing to do with a lowly boxer. After some failed Hollywood romances, she tries to reinstate herself with the boxer, but he’s onto her and gives her the goodbye. Irate, she sets him against a tough, but the boxer knocks him down. Years pass, and the offended “tough” learns how to box and moves up in the world. Our boy has retired, and, Aloysius, our narrator, is confronted by the offended party from years’ past. He has a chronic condition, looks weak, and asks for a bout with the ex-champ, so he can get some money. They finally agree, and the deceit is learned, that the man is faking. He’s in excellent shape, while the ex-champ hasn’t trained in years! However, all the training in the world doesn’t prepare him for the fact that the champ is still a contender….
“Witchcraft” involves a champion whom is, well, unbeatable. However, he meets his match in a contender whom should stand no chance in beating him. He becomes worried, informing Aloysius that the guy is weird and keeps staring at him. It comes about that he is a hypnotist, and while the champ is under, he is cleanly knocked out.
“The Trimmer” involves a rail of a man entering the boxing world. His reps are taking in most of the proceeds, leaving him with barely 10%. He trims them by setting up dozens of fictitious names and playing the gambling odds under these assorted names. In the end, he cleans up to the tune of several tens of thousands of pounds. He ‘clipped the bookies!’
“Error of Judgment” has a preacher placing a young man into Aloysius’ hands. He believes he can be freed from liquor, drugs, and the gangster rackets, by removing him from the city and putting him onto an honest career in boxing. It works for a time; he marries a very decent girl, but, he ends up firing his crew and Aloysius returns to the church and lies about the kid’s condition. Eventually, the wife approaches them with a black eye and the pair go to the rescue, only to learn that the kid is beyond redemption.
“The Greatest is Charity” involves a champ going the rounds and due to lose, but his wife spikes the contenders sponge with chloroform, and our hero knocks him out. A simple, boring tale.
“The Ghost of Conway Hall” is merely two jerks playing a practical joke on a boxer, digging up the ancient family curse of a haunted portion of the building. Unable to avoid the call of being called a ‘chicken,’ he gamely accepts the challenge to stay the night in the haunted room, in which a death reportedly in the past, has occurred….