Strange Hunger by Michael Hervey (Hamilton & Co.)

 

HAMILTON Strange Hunger
STRANGE HUNGER – Michael Hervey (U.K.: Hamilton & Co,. 1948) Illustration by H. W. Perl

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….

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Strange Hunger by Michael Hervey (Hamilton & Co.)

STAG: Man’s Own Magazine (Summer 1946)

Earlier, I had read and reported on the first issue of Stag. Now, we return, to learn that the magazine is here to stay, this time additionally filled-out with advertisements. What? oh yes, the last issue (that being the premier edition) featured NO ADS!!!

STAG: Man’s Own Magazine (Vol 1 # 2, Summer 1946) was published by Winter Bros. Press Ltd., and proclaims now to be published quarterly.

  • Bevis Winter (Editorial Manager)
  • Brett Ogilvie (Associate Editor)
  • J. Robert Breen (American Editor)

Stag 2

Again, it is jam-packed with stock-photos of Hollywood actresses in various poses.

  • Page 13 – unidentified lady
  • Page 33 – Marie McDonald
  • Page 34 – Vivian Austin
  • Page 35 – Leslie Brooks
  • Page 36 – Evelyn Keyes
  • Page 43 – Jane Russell
  • Page 44 – Paulette Goddard
  • Page 66 – Rita Hayworth

Once more, it is filled with an assortment of masculine articles dealing in sports, men’s dress code, household, automobiles, etc., along with cartoons and joke-snippets interspersed by artists such as Arthur Potts (3 ), John J. Walter, and others.

The quality of the writers and fiction drops off in this issue (the former contained heavy-hitters Gerald Kersh and Denys Val Baker). This edition features:

  • Ralph L. Finn – What the Butler Saw (pages 8-11)
    The late Judge Mannering died falling down a staircase. Nobody really laments his passing. Mannering was hard on local drunkards, stamping them with hefty fines or imprisonment. But, when the butler learns that Mannering is a hypocrite, he pushes the intoxicated judge down the steps…to his death!
  • Michael Hervey – Grandstand Charlie (pages 17-20)
    Charlie does nothing without an audience. But when he takes one audience endeavor on too many… Let’s just say that he witnesses a person drowning in the ocean and while diving in, he breaks his own neck. Why dive in? He believed the water deeper than it was. The person drowning? A midget, in two feet of water.
  • Sylvester McNeil – Strained Relations (pages 24-25)
    A odd story involving a penniless man applying to marry a rich man’s daughter, whom he claims, quite honestly, to love. The father laughs off the whole matter. It’s unclear to me just what is implied, unless he is not the first man to approach the father for her hand in marriage, before going into the Air Force.
  • Dennis Wynne – Love Me, Love My Juke-Box (pages 41-42)
    A young man in love pushes his piano through town and under the window of the young lady he loves, in order to satisfy her desire to be musically serenaded. Sadly, she despises pianists!
  • Brett Ogilvie – Keep Your Hair On (pages 45-50)
    A slightly weird tale involving a man’s desire to grow hair on his head. After various quack treatments, oils, salve, lotions, etc., he discusses the issue with his friend. Said friend learns of a doctor (of sorts) claiming to have discovered a sensational cure. However, he hasn’t had anyone to 100% try it on. Applying it to the hairless-one, the next day, he becomes covered head-to-toe in hair. Despite shaving it throughout the day, it keeps quickly re-growing. Eventually, they re-approach the “doctor,” whom sprays weed-killer all over the man! The next morning the pair return, and he is again covered in hair! The spray failed. The friend slowly rolls up his sleeves, and suggests, at the very least, a full refund….
STAG: Man’s Own Magazine (Summer 1946)

Summer Crime Parade (circa 1947)

Crime ParadeThis is one of those “odd” publications that baffles me. It is undated, unnumbered, and, it is not clear whether the title is simply Crime Parade or Summer Crime Parade. One would traditionally believe that Summer simply denotes when it was released or set forth to be displayed on the book racks.

So, I also scanned the Table of Contents page, which is full of useful data. Again, the title appears to be Summer Crime Parade. More interesting, we are given the names of the editors: E. L. Childs and A. J. Saunders.

Besides being listed as editors, Edmund L. Childs and Andree J. Saunders were married in England, mid-1947 in Westminster district. Edmund was born in 1916, Pontefract district. Not sure about the lady. I could not locate any children, nor death records on either one. However, looking at the contents page, one will note that the lady is credited with one of the “Fact” articles.

The book was distributed by Todd Publishing.  Knowing their marriage date and whom distributed this odd publication, you can safely estimate this digest magazine to having appeared sometime between 1947 and 1948. There are only 3 advertisements present (one for Afrikander pipe tobacco, Peek Frean and Company [biscuit makers], and a Ferguson Radio ad covers the rear cover. With this latter ad, I found an exact copy in an English newspaper, dated October 1947 with the slogan “Fine Sets These Ferguson’s”

There are only four short stories present in this volume.
Murder on the Metro” – Francis Grierson
Thursday is My Unlucky Day” – Michael Hervey
Justice Isn’t So Blind” – Allan K. Taylor
Maudie Gets Her Own Back” – William Norman

Crime Parade ToCsThe remaining titles present are articles labeled as “Fact.” There are some additional features NOT quoted on the contents page.

Murder on the Metro” by Francis (D.) Grierson takes place in Paris. A woman is murdered on the metro. The famous detectives Patras and Latour are on the case, and seeking someone disguised as a nun, having discovered a dislodged crucifix belonging to a rosary at the scene of the crime. After interviewing various suspects, the whole case unravels all too easily, leaving me quite disappointed.

Michael Hervey, once regarded in the Book of World Records as having the most published short stories, supplies “Thursday is My Unlucky Day.” The story recounts a forger whom has partnered with a safe cracksman. The forger investigates a target, so that the cracksman may later break in and out and nobody will be the wiser. All that the forger requires is that some blank checks be stolen, each time. This he does, and the forger goes to the local bank to cash a check. On entering, he notes the bank desk calendar says: Thursday. Immediately he decides to cancel out on the deception. All of his worst life experiences occurred on Thursdays. Today was cursed! And today is no different. He finally works up the courage to cash the forged check, when, to his dismay, the banker notices the large but irregular amount. The forger claims that he completed a deal with the man that morning, but the banker calmly proclaims that perhaps the forger should have read the local newspaper. If he had, he’d know the man was died “yesterday morning” in a car wreck.

Allan K. Taylor supplies “Justice Isn’t So Blind.” A simple tale of a criminal foolishly copping to a break-in, asserting that he knew he was busted when a young child caught him in the act. He was dumbfounded by this, since it was the middle of the night, and being a cat burglar, he was super quiet. In confessing to the crime, we learn that the girl’s hearing is indeed quite astute, in fact, heightened beyond the norm, for, she is blind!

In “Maudie Gets Her Own Back,” William Norman details one man’s greed. While in an unsavory joint, a dame approaches him, looking for a favour. Can he get her a decent pearl necklace, for a cheap price? Able to procure stolen goods from various “sources,” he accepts the challenge and lucks eventually into a criminal looking to unload a pearl necklace. After a failed haggle, he finally pays the top price to the seller and returns to offer it to the girl. She isn’t amused; this pearl necklace happens to be the very same that was stolen recently from her!!! Worse yet, she assumes that HE stole it from HER !!!

 

Summer Crime Parade (circa 1947)