NEXT STOP, THE MORGUE by Bevis Winter (the fourth Steve Craig thriller)

Next Stop–The Morgue is the fourth (of 9) Steve Craig private-eye thriller, published by Herbert Jenkins Ltd. in 1956.

The blurb on the jacket reads:

Craig is hired by an uncommunicative character to keep an eye on his daughter.
The girl turns out not to be the man’s daughter, but she certainly bears watching.
Then Craig’s client dies in peculiar circumstances.
It looks like murder to Craig, and from half a dozen suspects with
ready-made motives he begins to comb the facts. But it is not all hard graft.
The girls in the case are shapely and disposed to be clinging; and Steve,
ever-ready to mix business with pleasure, does little to discourage them.
Kitty, knowing the symptoms, first purrs warningly and then shows her
manicured claws. Money, vice and scandal spice this story which starts
with the suspected murder of a mystery-man and ends with
the death of an alluring nymphomaniac
.”

Well, that blurb isn’t entirely accurate. Kitty certainly doesn’t sharpen her claws on any competition. She scarcely shows sexual interest in Craig. And I’d hardly call the alluring girl a nympho, though she certainly utilizes her feminine abilities to get her way. The rest of the blurb concisely gives you the low-down, but leaves out a whole bunch at the same time. And I plan on doing the same, in case someone plans on obtaining a copy to read. But who cares when they are drooling over that luscious red-head doll-baby on the dustjacket? Without further ado, let’s provide some additional plot-fodder.

NEXT STOP THE MORGUE cover

The story opens with an exhausted Steve Craig at home, tired and hungry. The doorbell rings. He opens it. An older gentleman (Daneston) enters, and hires Steve Craig to follow his daughter (Constance) discreetly. Steve accepts the assignment for $500 cash. Departing, Daneston enters the elevator and a young, lovely lady steps onto Steve’s floor. She seems to be searching for the right door, when Steve offers assistance. He’s convinced she is looking for someone named Dickerson (must be a neighbor, introduced in a prior novel) but she wants him!

Seems she has a problem with some guy blackmailing her, and she wants a strong man to make sure he leaves her alone after she pays. Steve ends up hijacked by Marcia Van Bergen and driven to her house-party. There is no blackmailer. Firing his ire further is the discovery that his own secretary (Kitty) aided in the deceit. Irritated, tired, and still hungry, Kitty placates his mood by insisting he stay for the party and enjoy the complimentary food.

Steve relents, and eventually is introduced to the younger sister (Betty) for whom the party is hosted. Left alone with her for a moment, he makes small-talk and offers to dance with her, only to rebuffed. Thinking she is a snob, he is later informed that she is actually paralyzed from the waist down.

Embarrassed, Steve seeks to apologize for his ignorance, only to stumble upon her outside in the dark, talking to a strong man named Marcus. Calling to her in the dark, he finds himself physically assaulted by this behemoth of a brute and knocked unconscious. Waking ten minutes later, he borrows a Caddy and returns home, to sleep and recuperate.

The next day, Steve assumes his role trailing Daneston’s daughter (Constance) all over town. She eventually leads him to a young man (Mike Larkman) involved in an aquatic job, something along the line of the famous Billy Rose’s Aquacade, which involves swimming, music, and dance. He’s young, fit, and good-looking.

Departing, her vehicular meanderings finally lands him at a remote, rural barn. He abandons his wheels and hikes on foot. Entering stealthily, he hears voices on the next level. Climbing a ladder, he sees Constance stroking and caressing a huge beast of a man. He appears to be an imbecile (and, yes, he is). To his disgust he watches as she kisses him. Ironically, he notices she is equally repulsed. She appears to be gearing him up for something awful, trying to increase his anger at someone. But who? Why? To what purpose? He slowly eases himself back down the ladder when it becomes apparent that Constance intends to leave, but Steve makes too much noise. They hear him and he hauls butt, only to be pursued by the behemoth, who turns out to be Marcus, the same man who assaulted him at the party!

Having lost track of his car in the dark, he’s overtaken but manages to escape. Next day, he goes to report to Daneston and finds him arguing with a young man wielding a gun. Entering, he breaks up the confrontation and goes so far as to disarm the hoodlum, who appears to be blackmailing Daneston to the tune of thousands of dollars.

Getting rid of him, Steve tells Daneston that Constance isn’t his daughter, that she’s actually Daneston’s much, much, MUCH younger wife! She’s 34 years younger. And was formerly his secretary for a good while. Not divulging his knowledge up to then of Constance’s moves, he stays on the job and follows her the next day to a remote cabin and finds Constance and aqua-boy Larkman having sex. Disgusted, Steve realizes the case is essentially done. He detests divorce case investigations. He wants out.

Next day, he calls Daneston, deciding to hand back what remains of the unspent $500 and quit the assignment, only to learn Daneston swan-dived off his balcony and went splat. Visiting the apartment, he walks in and speaks with the police and family doctor. Steve’s convinced that someone tossed Daneston over the balcony, and that while Daneston’s medication does make him drowsy, wasn’t sufficient for the mishap. Plus, Constance, the widow, is feigning to be distraught; Steve walks into her bedroom and finds her on the bed, with the doctor leaning over her, making out! That’s now her ex-husband, Larkman, Marcus, and the “good” family doctor she’s locked lips with. Good grief.

More things don’t add up (would hardly be a detective novel if they did) and he wants to know more about Marcus, the imbecile. Constance was winding Marcus up for something. Murder? He could have tossed Daneston over the balcony. But, why? Clearly Constance inherits, plus life insurance, etc.  But what does Marcus get out it? Her? Maybe he thinks so, but no way in hell is she keeping that date!

Next day, Steve decides to visit Betty, the paralyzed girl. He learns that Betty and Marcus scarcely know each other. Marcus works at a farm run by an elderly couple. She, being crippled, tries to relate to the introverted, quiet Marcus. Eventually they hit it off, and Steve learns that Marcus has taken Betty for rides in his beat-up delivery truck, etc. Nothing more, nothing less. Betty insists that Marcus is not capable of violence, except in a protective manner. Then why assault Steve that night at the party? Betty informs him that her sister does not approve of Betty mixing with Marcus, and he was worried Steve had seen too much.

Not convinced, Steve trips out to the barn at night, to discover a corpse tossed against a fence. Turning on his flashlight, he gazes upon the beaten and throttled Constance. Looks like Marcus lost control and strangled her to death after learning she wouldn’t keep her promise. Steve hears a scream and finds Marcus hauling another woman into the barn. Steve recognizes his own secretary, Kitty, as the victim! She came out there not wanting Steve to handle the beast alone, and, against his orders, she made the drive, but instead came upon Marcus in the dark. Steve eventually gets Kitty free of Marcus and ties him up to the sturdy ladder. Then he phones the police from the elderly couple’s home.

Betty learns of the arrest and arrives at the police station with a lawyer. They talk to the jailed Marcus and eventually gather that Marcus, just like Steve, accidentally came upon the corpse of Constance. In fear, he retreated, then heard a noise, and saw Kitty approaching. Fearing for her life, he grabbed her, smothered her mouth, and was secreting her into the barn for her own safety, fearing the murderer was still on the premises, especially since he saw Steve’s flashlight beam and believed Steve to be the culprit.

The police chief releases Marcus with the aid of additional facts. Constance had flesh under her nails from clawing her assailant. Marcus was scratch-free. Steve is annoyed at the embarrassment of having accused an innocent man of murder. We learn that Marcus was Daneston’s imbecile son, from his first marriage. That wife went insane and died in an asylum. Not wanting the son, he gave the boy to his late wife’s parents! Hence the elderly couple at the farm raising him.

There remains one last mission. Arrest the person that murdered Constance. That leaves only one person with a motive: aqua-boy Mike Larkman.

Steve revisits that isolated decrepit cabin and finds Larkman inside sitting against the wall, with not a care in the world. He confesses that his jealousy of Constance’s constant flirting with men incensed him. He even went so far as to catch her smooching Marcus! Confronting her outside the barn, the fiery Constance sent him into an insane frenzy. By the time they were finished arguing and pushing one another around, she was dead. Mortified at what he had done, he vacated.

Steve discovers that Larkman has overdosed on the late Daneston’s medication. Larkman is rapidly going from drowsy to unconscious. Lifting the dead-weight upon his shoulders, Steve hauls him out of the cabin and carries him to his car, then speeds to a ward six miles away. Instructing the doc what med the man overdosed on, they get to work pumping his stomach…so that he may live to die, properly, by execution.

A fun novel from start to finish, one I scarcely had the ability to set aside. Each concluding chapter begged me to read the next, and given that I tend to read at night, you can bet I lost hours of sleep each night. But, hey! how about a little bit of background on the author…

Following the conclusion of World War Two, Bevis Winter found work editing and publishing Stag, a humorous magazine, from 1946-1948. Between those years, he contributed articles and short stories to Stag and other publications, honing his literary skills. Following the publication in 1947 of Sad Laughter, a collection containing some of his humorous short stories, Bevis sold in 1948 his first thriller Redheads Are Poison, followed in 1949 with his second thriller, Make Mine Murder (blogged back in 2016).

An avalanche of novels flowed from his typewriter from 1950-1954, mostly under his alias: Al Bocca. With the mushroom-publishers going out of business due to harsh English fines, censorship, bannings, and jail sentences, Winter rapidly found work writing under his own name for the respectable publisher Herbert Jenkins, supplying them with nine Steve Craig thrillers. These have been translated worldwide into a variety of foreign languages. And much to my own personal delight, the late 2022 issue of Paperback Parade published by crime-collecting afficionado Gary Lovisi features a bibliography on Bevis Winter! And if you wish to read this novel, good luck! Some lucky person(s) purchased the few copies that were on ABE. Maybe they had an inside track to the Winter bibliography.

NEXT STOP, THE MORGUE by Bevis Winter (the fourth Steve Craig thriller)

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)

STAG : Man’s Own Magazine (Spring 1946)

The second world war is over. And out of those ashes arose a plethora of new publications, borne from the minds of civilians and veterans alike. STAG: Man’s Own Magazine (Vol 1 # 1, Spring [March] 1946) was edited by Bevis Winter, and claimed to be exclusively for “men.” The opening pages are written and signed by the editor, welcoming readers out of the hell of war to the progress of tomorrow.

Stag 1

It’s also littered with stock-photos of Hollywood actresses in various poses.

  • Page 2 – Cyd Charisse
  • Page 27 – Jean Kent
  • Page 28 – Margaret Lockwood
  • Page 32 – Marilyn Maxwell
  • Page 37 – Phyllis Calvert
  • Page 41 – Ava Gardner
  • Page 42 – Frances Rafferty
  • Page 67 – Patricia Roc

An assortment of articles aimed at men include historical male figures, sports, men’s dress code, household, automobiles, etc. Then there are the usual cartoon and comic joke-snippets interspersed by artists such as “Merlin,” Geoffrey Wadlow, and a pair of others.

The real gems are the fiction stories, most of which are supplied by quality writers.

  • Ralph L. Finn – A Dame with a Difference (pages 7-11)
    A man jaded on women finds the woman of his dreams and they romance each other to pieces but he bails out on her when marriage is brought into the equation.
  • Hervey Elliot Scott – He Shot a Fat Lady (pages 16-20)
    A humorous circus murder story, involving the presumed murder of the Four Ton Florrie by the India-rubber Man. The police try him for murder, he is convicted, but, when they attempt to exact vengeance in the name of the law, bullets bounce off him, hanging him only stretches his neck, electrocution fails, etc. You get the idea. We then are informed that the Fat Lady is not dead! She merely was in a coma due to the folds of her fat, where the bullet had lodged.
  • Dennis Wynne – And the Blood Coursed Freely (pages 21-26)
    The story involves a man reliving his youthful days through a variety of action-filled silly scenarios; finding a beautiful woman, fighting and losing her. Purely a humorous tale.
  • Denys Val Baker – Water (pages 49-51)
    Baker delves deep into the sinister fascination a hydrophobic deals with on a regular, daily basis, in all forms and fears.
  • Gerald Kersh – Vision of a Lost Child (pages 55-58)
    A man grows up re-living a nightmarish tragedy from childhood in his dreams and each time he sleeps, he sinks deeper and deeper in mud. Believing that when the mud succeeds in creeping over him that he will die, he puts off sleep for over a week and seeks the aid of a psychologist. In the end, he falls asleep, and the mud wins. A deep, dark story by a clever writer of weird stories.
  • Brett Ogilvie – The Abnormal Talent (pages 62-66)
    A painter’s works-of-art come to life upon completion, only, he desires to exit the business lest he go insane. When asked by a friend to draw a gun, he performs the task. It is used against him. Thus dying, all his creations-come-to-life immediately vanish. However, the dead artist returns to life, sans his former ability! A entrancingly humorous fantasy.
STAG : Man’s Own Magazine (Spring 1946)

Betrayed by David Essex (Curtis Warren Ltd., 1948)

CURTIS WARREN Betrayed by David Essex

Betrayed” by David Essex was published in 1948 by Curtis Warren Ltd. and sports a mediocre illustration by H. W. Perl.

David Essex wrote one novel a year later: Retribution (Curtis Warren Ltd.). Additionally, he crops up twice in 1948 with snippets in Stag Magazine (edited by Bevis Winter).

We are introduced to detective Al Rankin. He’s a scruffy fellow that has little room for nonsense. He gives orders and expects them to be followed. He is currently employed by a large business magnate, paid to keep his employer out of trouble. The trouble? A competitor who he fears will stop at nothing to derail his future business designs.

So, when Rankin is rudely barged in upon by his employer, one Mr. King, he’s hardly in the mood to be nice. King isn’t in any position to be polite either; there’s a dead beauty at his flat, and he claims to be innocent.

Taking King’s wheels out to the flat, they enter and are nonplussed to find…nothing! No body! Just a blood stain where a body should be. And the police are also now on the scene, expecting a body. They give King and Rankin a hard time, but without a body, they can’t detain either one. The pair depart and Rankin suggests a quieter location, perhaps another home that King might own. King acknowledges he has another. They discover the corpse in the back of the car.

Rankin now has his first look at the dame. She’s gorgeous. Or was. Thinking quickly on his feet, Rankin devises a plan to rid themselves of the body while also delivering the body into the hands of the police.

Hiring a crony, they trick the chief investigating officer to pursue the crony out into the middle of nowhere. Then he runs on foot into the woods. While the officers chase him, Rankin drives down to the abandoned police cruiser, dumps the stiffened corpse into their backseat, takes off down the road, picks up his crony, and they speed off.

Unloading his helper, he informs King that the body is unloaded. That stiff off their minds, Rankin settles down to trying to unravel the case. He discovers the identity of the corpse. He soon learns that King secretly has a dame holed up in a suite (King is married). He pays her a visit. Doesn’t like her one bit. Gives her the low-down. Turns out the recently-deceased is this floozie’s younger sister. He departs and waits around the block.

He waits a long time but is finally rewarded. The sister takes a cab, and he follows them. Rankin watches as she enters a building and notes the other two vehicles that are present. Not only is King’s rival present, but so is King’s own operations manager! Sneaking in through the cliché “open-window,” he listens in and learns most of the case.

Leaving the way he entered, he waits again in his car. The woman’s cab is long gone. The girl exits and walks away. He waits until she approaches, nabs and convinces her to get in. Rankin bounces all the evidence off her and she comes undone.

Rankin takes care of the creeps, the girl gets a free pass, and King ceases to play naughty with his innocent wife. Rankin concludes by taking his pay and decides to see a gal out of town.

Betrayed by David Essex (Curtis Warren Ltd., 1948)