Monthly Archives: July 2017

Galaxy Novel #23

gn23Murder in Space by David V. Reed is the twenty-third Galaxy Novel, published in 1954 with a cover by Ed Emshwiller. The story first appeared in Amazing Stories May 1944.

Here’s the opening paragraph:
“It was one of those afternoons with which the colonial planet Mirabello is so often blessed. Its twin golden suns blazed merrily from the sky of flawless blue, and little puffs of breezes chased each other through poplars and willows, and the tall grass at the edge of the stream where Terwilliger Ames sat fishing was cool and fresh. If there was a word for such an afternoon, it was lazy—and if there was a word for Ames, well, that was lazy, too.”

Art Taylor’s Ithica 37

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EQMM S/O 2013 with Art Taylor’s “Ithica 37”

“Ithica 37” marks the seventh appearance of a short story by Art Taylor, in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, the Sept/Oct 2013 double issue. A relatively simple young man, whose life seems absorbed in movies, subscribes to a morass of righteous principles and feels it’s his duty to protect his younger sister from life’s darker influences after their only remaining parent’s death.

We interviewed Art about his writing and many of his individual stories in The Digest Enthusiast #4 in June 2016.

Morris Cooper’s Pattern for Dying

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Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine Oct. 1966 with Morris Cooper’s “Nine Isn’t Eleven”

Stories from Suspense Magazine #3 Fall 1951: “Pattern for Dying” by Morris Cooper

A revenge story—at least perceived revenge—in which an ex-con returns to his victim, whom he blames for his crime and his subsequent conviction. Cooper’s 20-year writing career includes work in numerous pulp magazines and occasional appearances in the digests like: EQMM, London Mystery, Edgar Wallace, and The Saint.

Image from Galactic Central.

Sir Arthur T. Quiller-Couch’s The Seventh Man

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Mystery and Detection #1 1934

Stories from Suspense Magazine #3 Fall 1951: “The Seventh Man” by Sir Arthur T. Quiller-Couch

This beautifully written story features a team of six men trapped in an Arctic winter, trying to maintain order and sanity while they await the sun and its associated rescue. Quiller-Couch (1863–1944) was an English author, poet, anthologist, and literary critic, also known as simply “Q.” He held several public offices and advocated for reform of the English school system. He was Knighted in 1910.

“Seventh Man” previously appeared in Mystery and Detection #1 in 1934. Image from Galactic Central.

Suspense Novel #3: Carl G. Hodges

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Suspense Novel #3 Naked Villainy by Carl G. Hodges

Of all the digests in Farrell’s Suspense series, Naked Villainy by Carl G. Hodges is the most provocative. The story’s first victim is shown on the cover in a sheer bra and panties—exactly what she’s wearing in the opening chapter.

“The light was weak, but good enough so that the black panties held no mystery.”

And later: “She had whirled to face me, one hand jerking up from the front of the black bra and tearing the flimsy cloth. A nipple pointed at me, the color of a pecan on top of a cup cake.” Steamy prose for 1951.

Hodges’ reverence for the Midwest MWA provides a wonderful surprise mid-novel when Lieutenant Davis visits one of the chapter’s meetings. Chapter president Bill Brannon is on hand, a journalist and crime fiction writer with reportedly over 5,000 stories and articles to his credit. His biography of con man Joseph Weil, Yellow Kid Weil, is mentioned, but Brannon wrote several other books as well as stories for Coronet, Reader’s Digest, Omnibook, Saga, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and many others. He used his middle name, Tibbetts, to write as William Tibbetts, one of more than a half-dozen pseudonyms he used. Known as “The Dean of Crime Writers,” Brannon was nominated for the Edgar Award in 1951.

In 1976, MWA produced the Mystery Writer’s Handbook, under the guidance of Lawrence Treat. Each chapter tackles an element of the craft, written by a veritable who’s who of the industry. William T. Brannon is onboard with a chapter on how to write true crime. According to Treat: “After reading it, all you need is to go out and do it.”

Back at the fictitious MWA meeting, Lennie Hilts had just sold From Jennys to Jets. As it turned out the book was published in 1951, as The Airmail Jennies to Jets as told to Leonard Finley Hilts.

Milton Ozaki, who apparently coiffed hair by day, and had a “police dog” named Sacre Bleu, receives a quarter page tribute. His novels, A Fiend in Need, The Cuckoo Clock and Too Many Women are mentioned—as is his pseudonym, Robert O. Saber.

Another MWA member, Allen Pruitt, identified by his pseudonym “because he was Commissioner of Public Welfare of the City of Chicago and I guess he figured it would be better to use a pen name for his excursions into the mystery writing field.” This was actually Alvin Emanuel Rose, a Chicago journalist in the 1920s and 1930s before becoming Commissioner. He wrote two novels as Alan Pruitt, The Restless Corpse (1947), which Hodges mentions, and Typed For a Corpse, in 1954.

The final attendee was Paul Fairman, author of The Glass Ladder, Harlequin #139. Fairman’s work appeared most often in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, but he also sold to The Saint, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mike Shayne, Shell Scott—and earlier in pulps like Black Mask, FBI Detective Stories, and Mammoth Detective. He also wrote as Paul Daniels.

Getting back to Hodges, Naked Villainy is an excellent digest original that can leave you searching for more of his work. One of his short stories, “Murder Throws a Ringer” from Thrilling Detective (Dec. 1947), is included in The Noir Mystery Megapack from Wildside Press.

Spaceway Science Fiction April 1955

spaceway4_1955Criswell made the cover of Spaceway again in April 1955 with the ominous prediction “The Dying Planet.” Inside we learn he’s not talking about our planet, but Bellarion, a planet remarkably similar to Earth. Criswell predicts the alien planet’s fate will collide with ours as Bellarion leaves orbit, shooting across the depths of space only to arrive in our solar system where it will explode.

A second piece, attributed to Charles Wireman, provides a short biography of the famed psychic.

Perhaps Criswell’s greatest Spaceway triumph will follow, when he shares the cover with Mae West, on the final issue of Spaceway’s first run in June 1955. Stay tuned to this blog for future details!

POD or EPUB?

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Pulp Literature #15

The digital digest editors/publishers we spoke to prefer printed copies, but a healthy portion of their readers prefer to read on-screen. Jennifer Landels reports Pulp Literature leverages every sales channel. “Along with print, we make html, PDF, EPUB and mobi versions, all of which are available when you buy the digital issue,” says Landels. “It took us a while to find the right eBook formatter, so the EPUB and mobi versions of issues 1–3 are not quite what we wanted. However, by issue 4 we found Booknook.biz and they are absolutely fabulous: fast, accurate, and great people to work with. They use the InDesign files supplied by our designer and the ebooks look as close to the print version as possible given the format. However, I still feel that to appreciate the graphics, e-subscribers would do well to check out the html or PDF versions as well as downloading the ebooks for their readers.”

Pulp Literature #15 is available now.

The above excerpt, from “Digital Digest Magazines” interviews with the editors, appears in TDE4.

Charles H. Gesner’s How Can You Be Reading This?

amazing_stories_194703Stories from Suspense Magazine #3 Fall 1951: “How Can You Be Reading This?” by Charles H. Gesner


A story built around a wacky job function—expungers—those tasked with erasing anyone they’re sent to call on. Perhaps it was prophetic as this appears to be Gesner’s only published work besides a letter of comment published in Amazing Stories (March 1947).

Image from Galactic Central.

Galaxy Novel #19

gn19Jack of Eagles by James Blish is the nineteenth Galaxy Novel, published in 1953, cover by Ed Emshwiller.

Synopsis: Danny Caiden’s on the run—from the FBI, the SEC, the Justice Department, and the Mob. Only recently, Danny had been an average New York copywriter, until he suddenly found he had ESP. His knowledge of the future is astonishing, and the rest of Danny’s powers are just beginning. But someone else wants him too: an evil group of preternatural men bent on world domination. They’ll stop at nothing until they capture Danny . . . or destroy him. Why? Because only Danny has the power to sabotage their diabolic tyranny. In the final, frenzied battle, Danny must summon all his powers, or sacrifice himself—and all mankind—to satanic slavery forever.

Bulldog Drummond by Sapper

bulldog_drummond“Enormous physical strength is a great asset, but it carries with it certain natural disadvantages. In the first place, its possessor is frequently clumsy: Hugh had practised in France till he could move over ground without a single blade of grass rustling.”

Early in the 20th century it was not permitted for officers serving the British Army to publish under their proper names. Thus, Herman Cyril McNeile was given the pen name “Sapper” by the owner of the Daily Mail, Lord Northcliffe.

Sapper’s Bulldog Drummond began as a policeman in his first appearance in a short story published in The Strand Magazine, but McNeile transformed the character into a gentleman adventurer for the first novel, published in 1920.

The language used in the book reflects its era, nationality, and commonly accepted prejudices, which call attention to themselves at least once every few pages. A humorous example; as Drummond and his pals recover from being drugged the Captain quips, “However, while you go and put your nuts in the river, I’ll go up and make certain.” In this case “nuts” means “heads.” Another convention of the times is the inclusion of the chapter number in its title: “Chapter one in which he takes tea at the Carlton and is surprised.”

The British edition shown here is Hodder and Stoughton’s soft cover from 1953. The first of 19 in the series, ten of which were penned by McNeile and continued by his friend Gerard Fairlie after McNeile’s death in 1937. It might be considered a paperback, but its dimensions and overall feel align with Fleetway’s Suspense magazine, so I will treat it as the first of a digest series.

The quality production values and heavy-weight cover stock of this 1953 edition, made the volume easier to hold and handle than a typical 60-year-old digest. If only more publishers had followed suit.

As the story opens it’s December 1918, just a month after the end of the first great war, at the Hotel National in Berne. Count Comte de Guy gathers a trio of wealthy businessmen, Mr. Hocking, an American, and two Germans, Herr Steinemann and Herr von Gratz, to finance his scheme to mount the defeat of England. “. . . a defeat more utter and complete than if she had lost the war . . . .”

They agree on the condition that de Guy convince another wealthy American, Hiram Potts, to join them and reduce each man’s investment to a quarter, rather than a third of the total required. Meanwhile, Captain Hugh Drummond, late of the Royal Loamshires, reviews responses to his blind box newspaper ad seeking adventure. From the stack of letters, one catches his eye and leads to a meeting with Phyllis Benton, and coincidentally Henry Lakington, whom she later confides is “the second most dangerous man in England.”

Of course, this begs the question, who is number one? A man named Carl Peterson, whom Lakington reports to. It seems Phyllis’ father has somehow been unwillingly drawn into a conspiracy hatched by Peterson, and Miss Benton hopes Drummond is just the man to set things right.

Like most classic pulp heroes Drummond is wealthy, extraordinarily fit, remarkably adept at numerous fighting skills, a born leader and irresistible. (In Drummond’s case “his best friend would not have called him good-looking,” but his smile is devastating. “He smiled, and no woman yet born could see Hugh Drummond smile without smiling too.”)

His archetype is always freed from conventional problems and concerns, apparently so all of their energies can be focused on their altruistic missions—none of the normal baggage and responsibilities of life to weight them down. Unfortunately, all this damned perfection can also make them boring. Sapper was a fine writer, but his efforts to continuously ensure readers understand the remarkable character and humility of his hero is at times tedious.

At the other extreme, Drummond is transformed to near absurdity in the presence of the love of his life, Miss Benton. His normal heroic ability is reduced to the level of an awkward teenager when they’re alone on the page.

My first encounter with Bulldog Drummond, from the old time radio program, was very favorable. I was preconditioned to enjoy this novel, and if I’d read it alongside the exploits of David Innes and Curt Newton, back in high school, I may well have loved every minute of it. But coming at it fresh, nearly a century after it was written, I found it more difficult to enjoy.

After an excellent prologue sets up the impending crisis, the meandering plot takes a hundred pages or more to bring the threat back into the story’s primary focus. There are moments of excitement—paralyzing gas, a gorilla at large and an insidious chemical bath, to mention a few—but nearly every scene is mired in a verbose narrative that sucks the momentum and urgency from the action.

Bulldog Drummond was a bestselling series for thirty years. The first novel was adapted for the stage, where it ran for 428 performances. Popular radio and movie series were based on the hero’s exploits. The character inspired Ian Fleming’s James Bond. Drummond’s place in the halls of adventure fiction fame is unequivocal.

It would be ridiculous to deny the quality of the prose or the popularity of the character. It’s a classic. Just be aware it’s firmly rooted in the style and sensibilities of its era, which for me overshadowed its many merits.