The Right Sort of Girl (x5 romances) by Isobel Townsend (x2) by Elizabeth Moss

MITRE PRESS The Right Sort Of GirlThe Right Sort of Girl is a collection of short stories by two authors: Isobel Townsend (x5) and Elizabeth Moss (x2). Measuring 4 ¾ x 7 inches, this 32-page side-stapled booklet was published by Fudge & Co., Ltd. (The Mitre Press) on March 1945. The two-color cover art (green and pink on white paper stock) was created by a person who annoying signed their works simply as “Doug” (also as “Douglas”).

While the title page, contents page, and initial story page spell Isobel with an “o,” the cover artist had other ideas, spelling the name with an “a.” Which spelling is correct?

As Isabel Townsend, she appears at least twice via the Mellifont Press Children’s Series, published in Dublin, Ireland. These were 32-pages and contain a multitude of short stories. She leads off one selection with her story The Magic Fairy Cycle and another with Inside the Piano. The British Library only appears to possess the latter booklet. It is conceivable that Townsend appears in other MPCS selections but not as the lead story.

Elizabeth Moss likewise surfaces at least once as the lead in the MPCS series too, with Red Cap. She also had two booklets published by the Mitre Press: Love is for Always and Bride to a Sailor, both in 1945.

Let’s return to what we do know…

3-9 ● The Right Sort of Girl ● Isobel Townsend ● ss
A young man returned from war meets with his deceased friend’s parents. In doing so, he must also perform the task of visiting the man’s girlfriend. He discovers the home, and that the girl, while quite beautiful, is quite dead inside. She has a seductively sexy sister and he falls for her. However, he feel duty-bound to invite the first girl along on their dates, etc. The lively sister uses all her wiles to ensnare the young man, and shockingly, the “dead” girl comes to love the soldier but for the other’s memory, refuses to fight to obtain his love. Lying about her availability, he dates the lovely girl only to find her repulsive and longing for the drab sister. Despondent of never seeing her again, as he is reassigned, he makes one last visit to the dead soldier’s parent’s house…only to find the girl there! Turns out she visits them regularly in memory of her lost love. Natural love takes its course and all are pleasantly happy. (Actually, a splendidly written story worthy of republication).

9-13 ● Return of a Hero ● Isobel Townsend ● ss
A soldier returns to town and dances with another man’s girlfriend. She hopes to make him jealous but instead, he shows no interest, going so far as to permit her to go out on the town with the soldier, to shows and dances and dine, etc. She does, but when his ration book proves to be out-of-date, he suggests the pair return to his pad. Reluctantly, she agrees, only to find herself trapped inside and the intended victim of a rapist! Screaming for help, the door is battered down and in rushes her boyfriend, along with a police force, to arrest the soldier. Turns out he is not a soldier, but illegally impersonating one!

13 ● Spice of Life ● Isobel Townsend ● ss
A young lady, part of a traveling act, becomes pregnant with her partner. While stuck at home, waiting to deliver the baby, her love is abandoned in favor of the young “thing” that replaces her. The showman running the act visits her upon returning to town and distressingly finds himself present as she begins to give birth right there! Running outside, he comically runs into two nurses, sends them up, and phones for a doctor. Waiting in the hall, they show him in, believing he to be the father! Realizing her lover is ensnared by the evil heart of his new partner, he schemes to connect the man to his estranged girlfriend…

19-23 ● The Fiancée Who Vanished ● Isobel Townsend ● ss
One of those odd stories often circulating over the decades of literature, essentially is an armchair story about an unscrupulous man, and another man’s actions to coerce him to forfeit his interests or he will be murdered. He leaves. Fast-forward some years in time, and some mysterious young man is courting a Major’s daughter, but nobody has ever seen the person. The tale is a bit broadly told and ends quite queerly, explaining that the reason nobody has ever seen the man because he is also a woman. To clarify, apparently the young man had been smuggling himself in the house in the guise of a woman, but when he saw the man who threatened his life years earlier at the mansion, he ran away, never to be seen again. Likewise, naturally, the woman also vanishes, as she was a fake entity.

24-27 ● The Punch and Judy ● Isobel Townsend ● ss
Our author’s last story with-a-twist involves a young lady and parents removed from the big city and social life to a remote part of England, the nearest tiny town 3 miles walk away, and an abandoned cottage nearby. But when the cottage finds a new resident in the form of an awkwardly shy government man on the scene doing private research, the young lady and man fall in love at first sight. While showing him about the countryside during a downpour, they reach a waterfall and a dilapidated wooden bridge across the roaring waters. Jumping up and down to show him the bridge is solid against his wishes, one of the planks gives way and she falls partly through. Rushing across, he extracts and rescues the girl from what was not certain death. She merely would have gotten soaked. They proclaim their love, choose not to inform her parents for some months as it would seem absurd, then when the time approaches for their marriage, she breaks it off. She is annoyed that he hasn’t shown any real manly affection for her the entire time! But, when another young man comes hiking up the trail, her eyes light up and she runs out to him, hugs and they kiss each other affectionately…only to have his face knocked in by her fiancée. He takes umbrage to his other man kissing his woman, and she explains that this other man is her brother, just returning from war!

28-30 ● When the Hour Came ● Elizabeth Moss ● vi
A young lady attending church hears the preacher state that everyone has their one moment in life and she wants to know when her one hour of life will come. Shy and unable to utter any real words or defend herself from an abusive father calling her daily a “slut” (twice, in fact) she is stuck inside the village hall when a desperate thief who pillaged the town’s rarities makes an appearance, demanding the keys to a fancy car outside from a wealthy woman. Inexplicably, she is enraged, grabs the gunman’s arm, and hurls him over her shoulder and his head smacks into the car’s fender. She faints, later recovers in a strange bed, hasn’t a clue what happened, hears in the outer chamber that someone heroically saved them from the gunman, and, saddened that the savior wasn’t her, makes her way home to her abusive father, demanding his meal and calling her a “lazy slut.” Good grief!

30-31 ● Love Among the Pigs ● Elizabeth Moss ● vi
A young man sworn off from marriage-life lays his eyes upon a lovely vixen pushing pigs into a pen. Learning the name of the family that moved into the area, he visits and courts the lovely girl. She yearns for city life and finer things but he tells his farming mate that he’s certain she is just saying those things to impress him. With their wedding day having finally arrived, the husband-to-be and best man finally meet the bridesmaid…a comely lovely vixen that is a dead-ringer for the lady that ushered the pigs into the marketplace so long ago! Turns out they are identical sisters and he not only courted the wrong girl under false pretenses, he is now stuck marrying that wrong girl.

It’s been a real pleasure reading these general-fiction romantic war tales, and a thrill to obtain this wartime publication after hunting it for nearly two decades! Perhaps one day someone will contact me with information to further identify either or both of these two authors.

The Right Sort of Girl (x5 romances) by Isobel Townsend (x2) by Elizabeth Moss

“Danger at Midnight” by Frank Griffin

I’ve been chasing Danger at Midnight for perhaps over a decade, without success. So when Zardoz Books turned up a pricey reading copy (a couple years ago now) I wasn’t picky. In fact, regarding books I read, I’m never picky.

The author was born Charles Frank Griffin on 15 Oct 1911 and despite disappearing in the 1950s, he wasn’t dead! He simply retired from writing. He actually lived a nice long life, passing away 5 Feb 1984 in Cornwall. He sired at least 13 children (from 1934-1956, that I’m aware of) and served during the second World War.

His first known crime novelette is Death Takes a Hand (Bear Hudson, 1945). I posted a blog on this novel May 2017.
NOTE: click on author’s tagged name in sidebar to revisit that post.
Griffin wrote at least 14 further crime/gangster novels (both in paperback or hardcover formats) and at least two known westerns. Remarkably, he even cranked out one children’s novelette, via a new alias: Charles Atkin “Black Rock Island.”

Griffin had also written “Women’s Legal Problems,” slated to be released 1942, however, it was completely and utterly destroyed during one of the Nazi’s numerous air raids. Additionally, he reportedly contributed to British propaganda magazine published in Russia. Unless the articles carried his byline, it is impossible to trace and confirm. Griffin also freelanced for numerous British periodicals and newspapers. Again, sans a byline, I’ve been unable to trace any those varied contributions. A further nonfiction effort, My Queen is Dead, has never been traced, was slated to be released by Hutchinson in 1952.

[cough cough] Oh. Right. Let’s return to the book itself….

mellifont-danger-at-midnight
Danger at Midnight” by Frank Griffin (Mellifont) Dublin, Ireland

Danger at Midnight opens with Martin Blake, broke and jobless, walking late one night to a distant town, to attend to a job interview, when he hears a distant scream. Having served in the army, he’s no slouch, and immediately launches into action-mode. Picking is way around the dark recesses of the night-roadway, he finds two cars on the side. Both are abandoned. Further sounds of a tussle, far out in the night. Pushing his way silently through the dense overgrowth, he espies two male figures depositing a young woman into a hole. Rushing among the pair and takes the duo on, fists flying and tackling the cretins. One applies a pressure-point technique to him and then they escape.

Martin unbinds the girl and suggests a call to the police. Bizarrely enough, she feigns ignorance as to the identity of the men and, furthermore, wishes to avoid police involvement.

The story develops that she is the head of a major smuggling syndicate with hundreds of contacts, and a rival start-up gang has decided to move into her territory. Unfortunately, while they have obtained her “book,” they are unable to crack her codes. The novella explores the far-reaches of the vast underworld, greed, lust, and an innocent man’s battle with his love for a desperate villain whom is both sinister and gorgeous and his own personal battle (right vs wrong).

In the end, the story falls apart, relying on the plot cliche that the woman has a younger, equally beautiful sister, who is innocently unaware of her sister’s occupation. She is captured by the rival gang and inadvertently rescued (briefly) by Martin Blake. In that brief encounter, he falls in love with her and realizes that what he felt for the older sister wasn’t love, necessarily.

While on a solo rescue mission, Martin steals the codes and offers them to the rival gang, in exchange for the young girl. Clearly he has made a foolish mistake; remarkably, his ex-lover and gang has located the rival base and raids it. During the ensuing dazzlingly frightful gun-battle, most are slain. She and the rival gang boss die shooting one another, and on her death bed, she begs Martin to take care of her sister…

Honestly, all-around, an excellently written, fast-paced crime novel. If you have the opportunity to locate a copy, and love this sort of genre, I wholeheartedly recommend Frank Griffin’s gangster-esque novella.

 

“Danger at Midnight” by Frank Griffin

The Prison Murder by Rex Dark

MELLIFONT The Prison Murder

The Prison Murder” by Rex Dark was first published by Wright & Brown in 1939, then later released in soft cover, via the Mellifont Press, in 1943. Published as a 96-page digest-paperback, it doesn’t sport a price anywhere on the cover or the spine, nor is one mentioned on the inside.

Looking at the author’s name bubbled onto the cover, I even wonder if the artwork is original to the book or recycled. The illustration certainly has zero to do with the contents.

The identity of Rex Dark has never been ascertained, although guesses abound. Let’s look at who else wrote for Wright & Brown. “Roland Daniel” immediately comes to mind. Same letters, same time period. However, I’ve not read enough of either author’s works to make a definitive statement.

The novel opens with Amelia and her husband, simply referred to by their joint surname of Cressman, discussing the plans to obtain certain papers from another crook. He has a silenced revolver loaded with two bullets. While preparing in an alternate room, Amelia opens the window and fires off both bullets. To her amazement, the muffled retort does not travel to her husband. Unaware that he is proceeding to plan with an empty weapon, he departs with the gun. Amelia was worried that he intended on killing their prey, hence the real reason she fired off the rounds….

Cressman makes his way toward his target, goes inside the man’s abode, and is dumbfounded to find the man already dead, two bullets in him. The door crashes in and the police enter. It’s an open-and-closed case for them. A dead body, two bullets, a killer on the premises, and, his weapon has been recently fired. He is taken away to prison, where he proclaims emphatically he is innocent of the murder, but not the premeditation thereof….

Chapter Three introduces us to private detective Bartholomew Dane and later, to Inspector Thackeray. The inspector has just phoned and is inviting himself over to dinner and a select bottle of wine but foremost, Dane finds himself dealing with a young girl (Miss Virginia Hyam) of fine social standing, whom has received a threat-letter. Deciding that the letter is credible, he and Thackeray stake out a restaurant in which she is to meet the writer. While there, they spot two hoodlums, but they do not seem interested in the girl. After much time has passed, the pair join her table, deciding that the letter-writer either was spooked or is a no-show. Virginia is certain that they are putting on false airs to comfort her, but is convinced that she is ultimately in some form of danger.

While following Virginia home, from a safe distance, they find a rat named The Weasel rifling through the residence trash. Certain that he is part of the plot, he refuses to cop to anything evil and states he is merely searching for scrap metal to sell during the war effort. They have no grounds to detain him, so let him go.

From the girl’s residence, we are introduced to her father, a servant name of Gant, a house female companion name of Mrs. Julian Northmore (whom seems to have affections toward Virginia’s father), the father’s private in-house secretary (Peter Tallack), and a man whom under false-pretenses of wealth is hitting on Virginia (Henry Ransom). Her father, Sir Bernard, having too much money and time in retirement, often pursues human interest cases. His current fad is prison reform.

Tallack, on Sir Bernard’s behalf, schedules all of them to visit the local prison and see what the true conditions are like. While there, they meet Cressman, whom talks privately and in earnest with Sir Bernard. What is whispered between the two, we are never told. A couple hours later, the warden is informed that Cressman has died, from an apparent suicide. However, Tallack remarks that a man on the verge of pointing his finger at the true murderer would hardly kill himself. Furthermore, he notes, that he saw someone pass him a drink, while they were departing. Virginia supports this claim, as she too saw the mug.

It is later ascertained that he indeed consumed poison from the mug. The five (Sir Bernard, daughter Virginia, Mrs. Julian Northmore, Peter Tallack, and Henry Ransom) are immediately under suspicion, as they were within the time-table as suspects to have slipped Cressman the poison.

Throughout the rest of the novel, Tallack acts like an amateur detective, openly theorizing how each of the four (himself excluded, because one does not accuse their own self) could or would have murdered Cressman, what evidence he might have had on each and the outcome. The evidence he creates is spectacularly damning on all counts, and everything remarkably comes to a head when it is learned that Amelia Cressman appears to know who performed the actual murder!

That night, infuriated by the police constantly tracking their every move, Virginia stages an escape for the five to a night club and announces loudly to the driver a different location. The police are lulled into a false security and accidentally permit the car to slip away. No fear; they know which night club they are heading toward, right? Wrong. On arrival, they realize that they were duped.

Private detective Bartholomew Dane and Inspector Thackeray are irked to learn of the deceit, and to further vex the situation, Cressman’s widow is found stabbed to death. Fully realizing the importance that one of these fools is a cunning murderer, they decide to lay a trap for the man or woman, by setting the final climatic scene to lure the killer into the open.

They fool the ill-fated person into believing that Cressman’s wife has actually not only survived the stabbing, but, is coming to the house to finger her would-be killer. As the lady enters and is announced by the butler, the killer, shockingly, turns out to be Peter Tallack, whom in reality is Sir Bernard’s dead nephew!!!

(Earlier in the novel we learn that the nephew, whose real name is not Peter Tallack, of course, got into a fight in America with a New York “tough” by the name of the Bowery Kid, over a girl. Reportedly, on being slain by the Bowery Kid, she told the police that the dead man was actually slain BY THE BOWERY KID, in order to save his life. Now, he and she had shrewdly returned to England and in order to avoid a scandal, had slain others to obtain his own father’s Will, which declared him the initial rights holder to the monies and estate. However, being a murderer, he could never claim to be heir. He’d have been locked up! Hence, the murders and blackmail racket).

Returning to the house, on hearing Cressman’s wife’s name announced by the butler, he draws out his gun and seeks to make good his escape but is thwarted at the open window by the police. He ends his life by blowing out his brains. His girl-friend maintains her silence as to his true identity in order to still obtain the promised blackmail funds and not sully the family name….

The Prison Murder by Rex Dark