Having stumbled through the maudlin nightmare that was Steeber and Bernstein’s other published novel by Panther Books (previously blogged) I decided to punish myself further by tackling what I hoped would be a better novel. Was it?
One if by Night was published by Panther Books in 1953 and large, spanning over 220 pages of text. Unfortunately, Panther used very thing cover stock and my copy split in half. There currently is a paperback copy for sale on ABE, and two hardcover copies in jacket.
Blonde, dressed in red, smoking a cigarette, while a man with a cig in his mouth leans against a wall listening to her sell him a story. Oh yeah, that dame is selling, selling his soul and a grand or more of his cash, earned from beating dice. But in order to court death and steal his money, you’ve got to have something on him.
Blackmail…sure. She’s working the extortion racket, her and Joey Bernard, the prick that sicced her on him. But this all goes back a ways, back to Los Angeles, where he is planning to murder Lola, his wife. She’s two-timed Rex, our anti-hero protagonist, with every single dick in-and-out-of-town she could place her hands on. He’s had it. She’s certified DEAD. He just has to find her.
A “friend” he knows to be whoring her meets with him and they drink. Rex browbeats the fellow verbally into confessing her whereabouts. She’s at a lousy, cheap hotel. They go there. He goes in, intention: murder. She’s already dead. Someone beat him to it. Only thing is, she’s clearly been battered, beaten, badly done in. Rex is known for knocking her around, spousal abuse.
He freaks, panics, leaves, visits another dame he throws in with whenever he’s down-and-out, she’s too good for him, and maybe really loves him. Gives him her 4-1-1. He pockets it, doesn’t think, doesn’t even look at it. No idea what she wrote. Doesn’t care. Departs again, and crashes his car over the cliff. He’s thrown clear, but his face is an absolute disaster.
Painstakingly, he drags his warm corpse up to the roadway and a trucker stops, pulls him in, and realizes the bloodied mess might be worth something, to someone. Rex is brought to an unscrupulous medico, and while out, gets rid of the trucker but locates the scrap of paper. Phones the number. Gets the girl. She comes out, pays off the medical cretin, takes Rex away, selling her wheels for quick-cash and heads southeast to New Orleans.
Rex can’t control his gambling compulsion and wins $3,700. The house isn’t happy. They know he’s no good, let’s him have the money, but don’t come back. Why should he? He’s got moola again, ready to move on. Only he doesn’t. He and the girl stick to New Orleans. Bad play. Another louse recognizes Rex for who he is, tries to blackmail him. No luck.
Enter the girl on the cover. Rex calls her “Beautiful,” for lack of another name. She blackmails him; he hustles her down by half, but has zero intention of paying her. Why should he? She doesn’t seem to know him, right? She zings him in the end, confessing who he is, she’s in it with Joey Bernard, they got the screw and gonna twist it sharp.
Departing, he’s shocked to be busted by the other girl. How did she know where to find him? He’d left her at the hotel. Turns out Joey phoned her, said he was an old friend, and Rex was two-timing her with a stunning broad. Coughing up the location, she locates Rex and spots the pair framed in the window by the light, close, seemingly intimate. She’s jealous; it’s all she needs to see. Trust is out the window.
They have “it” out in the street, and he can’t clear his name. How can he? Rex slaps her around after she calls him “little” this and that too many times, she runs away and he chases her. Can’t have the world without her. Who writes this crap? Someone that saw one too many Bogart film, perhaps. It reads like a part written for Bogart, anyway.
I won’t go into the sewage that pads out the rest of the novel but will state that Rex’s name is remarkably cleared of all wrong-doing, but a vengeful L.A. detective tracks Rex down in New Orleans and gives him days and days of “treatment.” Rex refuses to break. He didn’t murder Lola. Next chapter, we find Rex asking for his lawyer. Geezus, Steeber and Bernstein sure know how to skip details. Turns out another of Lola’s lovers (Ray) murdered her, or, was accused of it, after he confessed to some intimate details.
The assault and battery of Lola, pre-death, was due to Ray finding her with Rex’s “friend” from the start of the novel. Ray is a beast, and batters the lover to the ground. He’s not getting up. He then savages Lola, then leaves. She swallows a bottle of sleeping pills, liquors it down, and that’s that. Suicide, essentially. Coroner pronounces her dead not from the beating, but self-inflicted. Rex is a free man, only the L.A. copper in New Orleans doesn’t know it yet, for several days…
So, Rex is free, he loses the girl that rescued him. She wants a decent man in her life. The money, the $3,700??? Gone. After being released from his New Orleans beatings, he returned to the hotel. It had been cleaned out. Nothing remains. Rex is back to zero, penniless. The scene fades away with Rex watching a distant boat on the Pacific, wondering where it is going…
Now, I’m sure SOMEONE out there enjoys this sort of story. It’s the stuff noir lovers love to watch on the silver screen. Clearly the two Steeber and Bernstein novels were originally rejected screen-plays. They were then converted into novels but failed to land an American publisher, and eventually landed in England via Panther Books.
The cover entices the reader with the header “SHE made him feel SMALL…CHEAP.” Trust me; well before I finished this book, I felt the same way. Used. The only thing not cheap about this novel of the underworld was the 2/- cover price. I’ll bet back in 1953 the poor slobs that purchased this sewage howled. They wanted their money back. I sure do. However, if you are a completist collector of noir fiction, this one is a must for you.
When this book arrived, I immediately looked forward to reading it.
The lower right corner of the cover states:
A Detective Thriller with an unusual sex interest. “Find Dr. Schultz” turns into a slogan which sweeps the country.
Brief Interlude was published by Grant Hughes, circa late-1946 or early-1947, and features a lovely cover illustration by H. W. Perl. It is 98-pages in length, and written by John Eagle.
This was the alias of William Bird (“eagle,” “bird,” get it?). He also wrote as John Toucan (guy clearly had a sense of humor). Born 3 March 1896 in Croydon, Surrey, William Henry Fleming Bird died in 26 July 1971 in Benfleet, Essex.
The following stories appear in magazines:
As William Bird:
Critical Age (ss) Futuristic Science Stories # 12 (John Spencer, 1953)
As John Eagle:
Act Without Footlights (ss) Crime Shorts # 2 (Gerald G. Swan, 1944)
The Invisible Necklace (ss) Detective Shorts # 2 (Gerald G. Swan, 1946)
As John Toucan:
Genesis (nv) Worlds of Fantasy # 13 (John Spencer, 1954)
Point in Time (ss) Wonders of the Spaceways # 5 (John Spencer, 1952)
Repercussion (ss) Tales of Tomorrow # 8 (John Spencer, 1953)
War Potential (nv) Tales of Tomorrow # 5 (John Spencer, 1952)
He also wrote several novels under house names (list courtesy of the isfdb website):
War of Argos (Curtis Warren, 1952) as Rand Le Page Two Worlds (Curtis Warren, 1952) as Paul Lorraine Operation Orbit (Curtis Warren, 1953) as Kris Luna Cosmic Conquest (Curtis Warren, 1953) as Adrian Blair Third Mutant (Curtis Warren, 1953) as Lee Elliot
And Jets # 7: Blast-off into Space (Jonathan Cape, 1966) was under his own alias, Harry Fleming. Several other novels also appeared under this alias.
At least one further novel appears under the John Eagle alias (also in my collection) and that is Reckless Journey, published by Hamilton & Co., 1947, with again a cover illustration by H. W. Perl (the Bear Alley blog states it was illustrated by Brabbins; perhaps a variant cover exists). I’ll be preparing this title for a future blog post.
A novel in America called THE HOODLUMS
was published in 1953 by Avon Books,
carrying the John Eagle name.
Who actually wrote this???
But, let’s return to Brief Interlude. First and foremost, this novel was painfully difficult to read. The author carried on a dialogue that often left me confused. I may one day make a second pass at the novel (reasons why explained later).
The novel opens with English men and women alike wondering who and where this elusive Dr. Schultz–the person mentioned on the front cover–is. This unknown person has created a question that becomes a running mockery of a slogan and causes inquisitive persons to seek out and find Dr. Schultz, who turns out to be essentially a mad-scientist using mind control messages subliminally hidden in his television ads and assorted films that he forces his clients to watch.
The sex interest turns out to be a young lady who apparently died in a fire. However, her lover is certain she is the nurse at Dr. Schultz’s establishment. The two women, after all, are identical. Realizing she is the same and proving it are two different things. It is soon discovered that the doctor murdered his own nurse, swapped the bodies and regularly uses his mind-altering technology to slowly brainwash the girl into believing she truly is the insane doctor’s nurse. But…why?
Enlisting the assistance of amateur-detective Aubrey St. Clare, this pseudo-science fiction / crime detective-esque novel nearly concludes when he and the girl’s lover commit an act of breaking-and-entering, are caught by the doctor at gun-point, and locked away in the cellar. Thankfully, St. Clare’s crime-fighting female partner (Miss Lennie French, a newspaper reporter) earlier in the tale obtained a job there, and helps them to escape. The police arrive on the scene and the whole messy gobbledygook thankfully comes to its dreadful conclusion, with a villain tossed off the roof to his grisly demise.
As noted, the erratic dialogue and the bizarre plot drove me bonkers but I may well decide to revisit this tale and see it through again.
The Indestructible by Rolf Garner (alias of Bryan Berry) was published by Hamilton & Co. as Panther Books #104 (1954) with cover art by John Richards. It appeared in paperback and hardcover editions.
The novel belongs to a trilogy involving the fate of Venus aeons after atomic warfare obliterated much of life on Venus and on Earth. This, the third novel — having followed Resurgent Dust (1953) and The Immortals (1953) — may readily be read as a stand-alone novel.
Various citizens on Venus are “hearing” voices in their head, advising them to not make a voyage. But, most of these citizens have no plans to make any sort of voyage. When a fisherman makes a trip to the city to see a doctor about the voices in his head, he is nonplussed to learn that others have likewise heard the same warning! The doctor calls Lord Kennet, ruler of Venus, and the lord himself makes an appearance to discuss the issue with the citizen.
None of the citizens hearing the voices have anything in common, and it’s not long before we discover that his own wife has also heard the same voices! Later we learn that perhaps the message is to stop Lord Kennet from blasting off from Venus…in a newly-constructed spaceship, built with the intention of visiting Earth. But who is sending the message? And, how? Telepathy? Lord Kennet does not care. Nothing will stand in his way to visit Earth…not even the discovery that two of his own flight crew have likewise received that very same message!
Blasting off from Venus, the voices continue to beat at the two onboard the ship until…they abruptly cease. Both are stymied by the silence. However, they are rapidly approaching Earth and must decide where to land, etc. Kennet decides to land the ship in a remote area, seemingly devoid of life. In fact, no real sign of life was apparent, anywhere, save for some animals.
Dropping the ladder, they are shocked to discover muscular beings headed their way, with flamethrowers and swords. Noting that the humans are using their flamethrowers, Kennet unlimbers his atomic pistol, ,returns fire, and kills some of the approaching men. His efforts are in vain as he and his men find themselves telepathically immobilized! A voice in their head proclaims that they are prisoners and forces them to drop their weapons. Kennet, realizing that someone has invaded their thoughts, forces himself to think of anything…anything…but the fact that he is immortal.
What? Oh yes, I forgot to mention, earlier in the novel, the author rehashes the prior novel’s and notes that another being, an immortal, had passed on to Kennet and his wife immortality and the ability to heal themselves. Kennet is certain that such knowledge in the wrong hands would be devastating. Even the citizens of his own planet are entirely unaware of the “gift” that was bestowed upon the Venusian lords.
The Venusian crew are telepathically forced to march through the marshes and into an elevator shaft. Eventually, they arrive at the villain’s fortress, are jailed, and left to rot in their assorted cells, when, remarkably, another telepathic voice visits Kennet. This new voice must convince Kennet that he is NOT in the employ of the villain’s telepathic crew. He is the last telepath among the rebels. The remnants of the local rebel faction, that is. Most of the rebels were murdered while sending out their warnings across space to Venus, trying to warn them to not make the trip to Earth. The villain’s telepaths picked up the mental transmissions and sent out their killbirds to annihilate the rebels.
The killbirds are large, electronic machines that hover forever above the ground, perhaps by some anti-gravitational means, and are highly weaponized. They also seem to possess some form of intelligence guiding system, and are operated by a remote control device wielded solely by the main villain, simply referred to as the Overlord. From the descriptions of the killbirds, they sound like modern-day killer drones. Apparently, after the atomic wars, these killbirds remained forever in existence, perpetually stationary around the earth, never moving. That is, not until the Overlord’s minions discovered a secret computer room and got everything operational. Discerning their purpose and abilities, the Overlord quickly assumed control of the entire planet. (Side note: why any of the assorted good-or-bad telepaths didn’t simply freeze the Overlord and then take the remote is beyond me.)
Returning to the rebel telepath, whose name is Grant, they work together to effect the Venusian’s escape. Faking having been poisoned by Earth-foods, the guards worry that they may die and bring in the doctor…however, the regular doctor is not who arrives, but someone else. Turns out this is Grant, the telepath. Upon entering the jail, he rapidly immobilizes the jailers, frees the Venusians, and quickly they make their escape, slaying anyone in their way.
Once out of the city, Grant leads them to another secreted rebel, who takes them to a functional submarine. The Venusians are informed that telepathy does not work under the deep depths of water. Grant remains behind, to throw off the Overlord’s minions and confuse the two telepaths. Satisfied that he has pulled off his task, Grant dons diving suit hardware and meets the submarine. There, Kennet and Grant privately devise a means to retaliate, destroy the killbirds, and eliminate the Overlord.
But, how can they pull this off, when the killbirds assassinate everything before humans can get in distance to cause them potential destruction? Returning to the surface, they put their mission into action.
Utilizing his immortality and ability to rapidly heal, Kennet walks boldly out into the open where his spaceship is heavily guarded and proclaims that he is unkillable, because his God (Ata) has gifted him.
They try. They fail.
The killbirds are sent in and shoot him with what must be lasers. Kennet rapidly reconstructs himself. All the while, Grant protects his brain against attempts by the evil telepaths from seizing control of him. While all are shocked and distracted, Kennet whips out his atomic pistol from behind his back and shoots down the pair of killbirds. Then the game is on! Why? When one killbird falls, the next nearest killbird on the planet will abandon its post to investigate and fulfill the prior’s mission, against the commands of the Overlord’s remote control device! Kennet stands his ground time after time as each killbird eventually appears and fires at him. In the end, he is surrounded by great heaping piles of slagged killer machines.
The Overlord himself is dead, having been slain by the rebels; the telepaths are both dead; the army is on the run or slaughtered. Kennet is all for killing everyone in the city, but Grant convinces Lord Kennet that once the city realizes the Overlord and top minions no longer exist to instill fear, that one by one they will be quite elated to throw down their arms and return to peaceful means….
The first half of the novel was sluggish, with a strong desire to build a firm foundation for the rest of the novel’s plot, but, really began to pick up the pace once the Venusians landed on Earth and were captured by the Overlord. Overall, the novel receives a passing grade and I can’t wait to one day go backwards and read the preceding novels in the trilogy.
In 1953, UK publisher Hamilton & Co., via their mass market paperback line Panther Books, published two books within the same month, co-authored by Max Steeber and Richard Bernstein.
Those books: Same Song, Next Verse – Panther # 91 One If by Night – Panther # 93
Both writers are Americans from the Hollywood film industry, and both books are likely rejected film scripts that they reformatted into novels, which only found an available print market in England.
Richard Bernstein was born August 8, 1922 in Rochester, New York and died October 29, 1983, in North Hollywood, California. During the late 1940s-1970s, he was a screenplay and film writer along with producer on various films.
Max Steeber is the alias of Maximilian Petrus Ribbers; he was born on January 10, 1919 and died on February 22, 2011 in Van Nuys, Los Angeles, California.
The cover art to Same Song, Next Verse is by John Richards, and features an iconic dangerous blonde in yellow attire; in the background, a hulk-like brute. Reading the yellow strip at the top of the cover, you know immediately the brutish fellow with the Three Stooges-esque “Moe” haircut is a boxer.
The story opens with boxer Tony Alvarez mentally drifting back in time over the sequence of events that landed him in a car with two strange fellows: his promoter and a hanger-on, essentially.
Tony only knows how to fight. That’s his occupation, and he means to get to the top of the game and be rich. But he is always in hock to his promoter, throughout the novel. Snatches of his memories flit by quickly and without any real consistency or warning to leave any reader confused. We know in one moment Tony finds his father dying from a knife-wound, and learning the killer’s identity; he finds the slayer and despite knowing he’s up against a professional killer, wades into the knife-man; bloodied, Tony eventually disarms and kills him. The knife-man was already a wanted man for Tony’s father’s murder, and now Tony has added his own name to the role-call of wanted men by the local police. With his promoter’s aid, they flee the city. (Despite later in the novel returning to his hometown, no further mention of this murder is made, nor is he arrested.)
The rest of the novel is a succession of boxing fights, all wins, and his promoter taking a swing at a beloved New York boxer. Tony is supposed to lose, but instead, he wins and they rake in the moola. Naturally, the mob aren’t happy. We all know you don’t mess with the mob.
Through it all, Tony wants this night singer and stripper named Connie (the canary on the book’s front cover) to be his wife. He eventually strong-arms her into marrying him, crushing her hands until they bleed into his own meaty palms. Once the ceremony is complete, she hauls off and slaps him and disappears. He’s deeply angered but his promoter convinces him to ignore her (he can’t) and move along, that she will come back…only things take a turn…
The mob. They want their money. The promoter refuses to have Tony take the fall, because he can’t convince Tony to do any such thing. It’s not in his genetics. So, they beat the promoter viciously (no details given) and suddenly he placates them, that he will find a way.
So, he over-trains Tony, and keeps him drinking too much. Add fuel to the fire, he knows that Connie is sour over the marriage. Visiting her privately, he convinces her to join him in ruining Tony before the big fight. The mob stands to win BIG if Tony falls.
Enter Tony, going to Connie’s pad; she liquors him up and he discovers something wrong with the firewater. When the phone rings, he beats Connie to the phone and hears his promoter’s voice on the other end asking to know if the plan went through without a hitch. Realizing he’s been slipped a mickey, he departs without even dealing Connie any harm! Fast-forward, Tony is in the ring, his promoter missing, and getting out-boxed. He can’t seem to connect, deliver a solid blow, he’s too sluggish, and despite all this, refuses to throw in the towel. Eventually, he is K.O.’d
His fast fall from grace, his promoter fleeing town with his wife, and penniless, he attempts to abandon the squared ring and obtain a normal slob’s job. No go. Every job he takes, he destroys. He can’t even drive a simple route without destroying 3 trucks! Some years pass, he’s absolutely destitute, and makes one last try at the ring. He survives his bout, wins, but the cost is he loses vision in one eye.
Despite his eyesight loss, he determines to head West for another scheduled fight, but plays chicken with an approaching train, which he is certain he can beat. He is speeding recklessly across the terrain. He’s crossing the tracks at an angle in which he can finally turn his good eye along the rails and the bright head-beam of the locomotive obliterates Tony…
Naturally, the heavy-weight champion of the rails wins. It always does.
Dimension of Horror was published in 1953 by Hamilton & Co., being No. 70 in the Panther Books series. The story begins on Page 5 and ends on Page 160. The cover sports an enticing illustration by Richards, featuring a female with green hair. The blurb atop the cover reads:
“ALIEN thought-waves strike FEAR into the heart of Man”
Perhaps so, but Bounds adroitly dodges that assertion by gifting readers initially with what feels like a casual space-adventure novel. Novelist Alexander Black is an undercover secret agent sent from Earth to investigate tensions on Venus. At all costs, war is wished to be avoided. Venus in the end would lose, as the colonists all live under a dome, but for some bizarre reason, Venusians bear evidence of hatred towards the people of Earth.
The story opens with Black in a Venus bar watching a woman with bright green hair. Soon they get to talking together over a drink and he discerns that Sadie Lubinski is a Venus secret agent. She knows too much about who he is…
Worse yet, a brute in the bar is hollering anti-Earth banter and calls Black out in front of the crowd. Black adroitly dodges the confrontation by informing the brute that everything he has said about Earth is 100% accurate. This befuddles the brute. But enough on that…Sadie and Black depart and board a Venus taxi.
Black sees a strange grey-suited pale-featured person watching them from another vehicle. Having the girl wait, he circles the vicinity, to confront the individual, and…discovers the vehicle empty! Where did he go? He couldn’t possibly have disappeared into thin air. Could he?
Black returns to Sadie’s taxi, disturbed, and while riding, they banter; eventually she is deposited at her abode, and she requests he call on her tomorrow. Leaving her, he departs and the Venus driver drops him off in an unsavory part of town, refusing to drive any further for fear of being injured by a growing mob surrounding the vehicle.
Black exits but soon finds himself the deadly focus of an insane mob, bent on murdering him. Running for his life, Black outdistances the unruly maniacs and leaping acrobatically up upon a beam, secretes his body into the shadows while the frenzied, bloody-thirsty mob mindlessly hurries by in pursuit of a person that no longer exists before them.
The next day, Black calls on Sadie, but she is not taking calls. Perhaps she is out. Perhaps she set him up to die and thinks “mission accomplished.” Black is irked by the self-admission that he is very much interested in Sadie, on a romantic level.
Either way, Black isn’t waiting. He decides to explore further afield. Outside the domed zone, he discovers that Venus has prehistoric creatures that are very much alive. Some attack his transport, but his driver has access to powerful weapons that slay every creature… Arriving at a mining facility, he is blocked from accessing the grounds, despite possessing the equivalent of a press pass granting him full access.
Returning to the city, he is brought before a Venusian official and informed that for his own safety he needs to return to Earth. Certainly he can’t accept the forced offer, and declines, taking his own chances. It’s not long after that he is picked up and meets with a Venus agent named Lingstrom who is not what he seems. Black finds the man to be some form of telepath. Lingstrom invades his mind, bent to obtaining Black’s mission, etc. Black attempts to steer his thoughts in other directions. All attempts fail…until Black focuses his attention on the sexy Sadie Lubinski and the love he feels for her. Lingstrom is immediately repulsed by what he sees.
But his mental accomplishment is short-lived as Lingstrom beats him down. Realizing he is mentally doomed, Black removes a secreted special pill from the hollow of one of his teeth. It enables enhanced strength and abilities…for a very short while. Agent Black snaps the cords binding him, punches one captor, takes out another and leaps out a window. The stimulant wears off and…Black takes off, running as quickly as possible. The hunt is on, and the villains are in hot pursuit, when inexplicably, the little grey-suited man pulls alongside and offers Black a lift!
Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Black accepts the ride and the pair speed away, escaping pursuit, enter a hideaway, and descend underground. Herewith we are introduced to Yzz-Five, who turns out to be an alien from another dimension, assuming a nondescript humanoid form. Truth being, his form is so hideous that for humanity to actually see him in his true form would cause instantaneous insanity! Yzz-Five possesses the power of telepathy and the body Black sees is actually fictionally impressed upon his senses, as with anyone else that sees him.
The alien telepathically teleports Sadie to the hideout, and Yzz-Five explains that he (or ‘it’ since it does not represent either ‘sex’) has watched Agent Black and Sadie Lubinski closely. Because of their affinity for each other, and, being from soon-to-be-warring planets, he has chosen them to enlist against the true war: the invasion of their worlds by his Emperor. In his dimension, the Emperor creates chaos on other worlds and dimensions, conquering and bending their will to his. The war between Venus and Earth is actually a mentally-impressed action by the Emperor’s underlings, other beings from Yzz-Five’s world.
Not quite convinced, Black and Lubinski are jointly sent hurling through the dimensional realm to land on Yzz-Five’s world, to be enlightened by other rebels. Unfortunately, the Emperor captures and rapes their minds; thankfully, the rebels rescue the pair and because of their mental exposure to the Emperor, their really isn’t much convincing required. Enlightened of the situation, they are sent back to Yzz-Five to plan a rebellion on Venus against the Emperor’s forces.
All plans go sideways when the Emperor preemptively instructs his forces to release an atomic bomb at the ore mining facility. The destruction is massive, the dome is cracked in places, life is in mass peril. Using their telepathic abilities, they take to the air and inform the Venusians that Earth has launched an assault on Venus and that Earthman Alexander Black, a secret agent under the guise of an author, and Venusian Sadie Lubinski, a traitor, are to be caught and killed.
The finale comes with the realization that the only way to stop the insanity is to fight insanity with more insanity. Yzz-Five and his few local fellow telepaths mentally assault a false general and bombard him until his false image fails. The Venusian’s, unable to comprehend or take in what they are seeing, rip and rend the exposed alien to pieces. The war on Venus is ended before it could begin, but Earth must be stopped from dropping their bombs!
Black is transferred to the radio station and he contacts the Earth fleet, aborts the attack, and the fleet lands to assist the colonists, what small percentage that remains alive and sane.
The villainous aliens remove themselves back to the home planet, now that they have been exposed, and the Emperor’s plot is foiled. Yzz-Five informs Black that he must leave, for the rebels will continue their fight for other worlds in other dimensions.
Black and Lubinski marry on Mercury, but she can’t remain away from her fellow people. Informing Black of this, he realizes he can’t stop her, so the pair jointly return to Venus, to assist and rebuild…
An unusually fun science fiction romp. Personally, I’m not an avid science fiction reader, and have never been properly exposed to one of Bounds longer works. I strongly recommend fans of vintage science fiction to seek out and read Dimension of Horror…
I suspected that such a book might have been reprinted, so I checked with Bounds’ agent, Phil Harbottle. He told me:
“Dimension of Horror was first reprinted as a Wildside POD paperback some 20 years ago. The text was a facsimile of the Panther edition, but they used a new cover (awful minimalist design) and stupidly misspelt the author’s name as ‘Sidney J. Bounds’. Its licence expired after seven years and it was withdrawn and went out of print (leaving me stuck with a pile of copies I’d bought and had signed by the author). It has been reprinted twice since, retitled and revised by me as The Vanishing Man. First as a Linford Mystery Large Print paperback (2010) and by Endeavour (now Lume Books) in their Venture Science Fiction series (2017) in both paperback and eBook.
“It is important to note that as an agent I faced a difficult challenge in selling all my clients’ (Bounds, Fearn, Glasby, Tubb and others) 1950s SF novels to Linford’s editors as MYSTERIES, where they had to be adjudged acceptable to MODERN READERS who would have no experience in reading SF at all. The novels HAD to be tweaked to remove ANYTHING that was flatly impossible or plain wrong, in the light of modern-day knowledge. They had to be set either clearly in the future, or taking place today or in the NEAR future. There could be no alien flora or fauna existing in the solar system. No Martians or Venusians, no breathable air on Mars or Venus, and so on.
“By hard work and careful editing, I managed to sell SCORES of 1950s SF books to Linford as mysteries. Some, because of the authors’ skill and foresight, were virtually unchanged; others varied from very little (e.g. Tubb’s The Stellar Legion) to extensive (Fearn’s Man of Two Worlds) rewrites. I used a range of devices, such as alien protagonists coming from another solar system, or from another dimension. To sell The Vanishing Man, I moved the action from Venus to Mars, where the events takes place under a pressurised dome, and the Martians are colonists descended from Earth. The alien menace from another dimension was able to remain unchanged. I contrived to keep nearly all of Bounds’ wording and actions: Black still left the city is his transporter, but instead of being attacked by dinosaurs in a jungle he was attacked in a desert by a Martian DUST STORM. The action narrative flow and events were unchanged.
“Endeavour’s attractive POD paperback edition is still in print, and an absolute bargain at just £4.99. The earlier Thorpe edition used to be even cheaper when Amazon were offering ex-library copies from a pound or so, plus £2.50 postage, but be warned! These cheapo Thorpe editions (contractually out of print and withdrawn from sale after five years) are rapidly disappearing and being replaced by prices of £20 and up, or simply vanishing altogether. I haven’t checked the status on The Vanishing Man or other books for some time. Your blog readers may need to check Abe and eBay as well as Amazon to find these editions. And with the Linford Mystery series closing down after April this year, the few non-library copies are set to become high-priced collectors’ items—especially the many posthumous titles that are actually world first editions, such as Tubb’s To Dream Again (2011).”
For those interested in acquiring the first revised edition of The Vanishing Man, copies of the Thorpe edition can be found on eBay accompanied by the following blurb:
Popular novelist and secret agent Alec Black is on an undercover mission on Mars. The Martian colonists are preparing for a major offensive against earth and someone is stirring up war-fever. Black must try to prevent it, or the whole system will be engulfed in atomic war. When Black finds himself shadowed by a man who, when confronted, vanishes into thin air, his investigation turns into his strangest case and very soon he’s plunged into a dimension of horror…
Prefer an original, vintage copy from 1953? Two copies currently are available on ABEbooks.com but…the cheaper of the pair is an exlibris hardcover (US $15) and the more expensive copy is the paperback edition (US $30). Both are Good condition and both are likewise only available in Australia! Otherwise, no other editions are currently available for sale online.
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….
Mammoth Man, by Roy Sheldon, was the first in a trio of Prehistoric Series novels published in 1952 by Hamilton & Co., and each written by H. J. Campbell.
The novel opens with Magdah blissfully working with wet clay, painting his shared bachelor man-cave (literally) walls with hunter Garo. In the course of events, they lose their slave, a sloth, and chase it into the jungle, because the daily grind simply intolerable without their sloth to perform the heavy work.
Meanwhile, far away (but not too far) Lena, a young, teenage female, is tired of the slavery she’s been force-fed since childhood by her parents, and realizes that her father is interested in mating with HER !!! (eew, gross, right?) Stealthily, she escapes. But, she’s never been on her own, had to fend for herself, or hunt for food. She eventually stumbles upon Magdah’s and Garo’s missing sloth (whom was mating in the jungle) and follows it to the man-cave.
Immediately Magdah and Lena fall for each other (love at first sight, ya know) and Garo says Lena cannot stay. Magdah insists she does. So, Garo leaves.
Shortly thereafter, a husband, wife and baby, and teenage son, enter Magdah’s lair and do battle with him, with the intent of stealing his cave. Vastly outnumbered, he is tied to a tree (see the cover art) and left to be slain by a jungle beast.
The plan goes awry when a herd of mammoths arrive, and much to Magdah’s surprise, Garo, whom departed, isn’t far away. He creeps over to see what is going on, and rescues Magdah. Together, they do battle with Yak (the leader of the invading family).
When they return to the cave to rescue Lena and face a final fight with the teenager and the hellcat woman (with baby), they find both have had their skulls smashed in by an axe! Realizing that Lena killed them, Magdah is shocked, but elated. Garo welcomes her thus as a fellow hunter-killer, and the three live together….