Jonathan Press J28 is not a short story collection, the original intent of the series. It’s a novel, Jethro Hammer by Michael Venning, a pseudonym used by Craig Rice. J28 was a reprint of the hardcover of the same name published in 1944.
Jonathan Press J27 (1947) contains two Nero Wolfe novellas by Rex Stout, “Not Quite Dead Enough” (1942), the cover story, and “Booby Trap” (1944).
Unlike previous issues of the unpredictable Ellery Queen Selects series, Jonathan Press J25 featured a novel instead of a collection of short stories. John Dickson Carr’s It Walks by Night was the writer’s first novel, written at age 24, starring French detective Henri Bencolin, and had previously been published and reprinted at least a half dozen times by Pocket Books beginning in 1941.
The November Reader’s Digest is out, and besides “The 10 Nicest Places in America” check out page 32. Yup, it’s another cartoon from the prolific Bob Vojtko, the working-class cartoonist and long-suffering Cleveland Browns observer.
The grand plans for the Ellery Queen Selects series began in 1947. Jonathan Press J26, Stuart Palmer’s “The Riddles of Hildegarde Withers,” was numerically the second in the series.
The excerpt from Frederic Dannay’s introduction to J26 below refers to “First Edition Mysteries.” This was apparently an inside, working title, as the digests replaced it with “Ellery Queen Selects” displayed across the top of the covers.
“[W]e preserve in our noble experiment, our colossal publishing venture, and bring you the next in our series [starting with the Hammett collections] of First Edition Mysteries—“The Riddles Of Hildegarde Withers” by Stuart Palmer. Coming soon—watch for them!—will be John Dickson Carr’s never-previously-published book of short stories titled “Dr. Fell, Detective and Other Stories;” Roy Vickers’s never-previously-published “The Department Of Dead Ends;” and Margery Allingham’s “The Case Book Of Mr. Campion;” and unquestionably there will be additional First Edition Mysteries to follow.”
The final entry in the anthology of Dashiell Hammett shorts, Jonathan Press Mystery J48, “The Creeping Siamese,” is “This King Business.” Here’s the opening paragraph:
“The train from Belgrade set me down in Stefania, capital of Muravia, in early afternoon—a rotten afternoon. Cold wind blew cold rain in my face and down my neck as I left the square granite barn of a railroad station to climb into a taxicab.”
Terry Zobeck tracked down a copy of Mystery Stories, January 1928 where the story originally appeared and documented Frederic Dannay’s edits for Don Herron’s Up and Down these Mean Streets. (Image from Galactic Central.)
At the moment, copies of “The Creeping Siamese,” a collection of stories by Dashiell Hammett, part of the Jonathan Press Mystery series, J48, are offered for sale on AbeBooks.com from $25 to $75 in Very Good condition. The second to last story inside is “Tom, Dick or Harry,” which also happens to be the last Continental Op story in the volume. Here are the opening lines:
“I don’t know whether Frank Toplin was tall or short. All of him I ever got a look at was his round head—naked scalp and wrinkled face, both of them the color and texture of Manila paper—propped up on white pillows in a big four-poster bed. The rest of him was buried under a thick pile of bedding.”
The story originally appeared under the title “Mike, Alec or Rufus?” in Black Mask January 1925.
Image from Galactic Central.
“But, good God, Eloise, I love you!”
“But, good God, Dudley, I hate you!”
So opens “The Joke on Eloise Morey” by Dashiell Hammett, the fourth story in Jonathan Press Mystery J48, reprinted from Brief Stories June 1923. Much later, the story was also included in Dashiell Hammett: Lost Stories edited by Vince Emery, 2005.
In other news The Digest Enthusiast book five is in the proofreading stage and should be out early next month. I’ll finalize the print version first and then begin work on the Kindle version so they can be released simultaneously. Lynda.com offers a “fixed layout” course for Kindle which I plan to study next week in hopes the Kindle version will more closely resemble the print version this edition.
“I was experiencing, as one will, difficulty with the eighth line of a rondeau when Papa’s firm and not to be mistaken tread sounded outside my door. Now I did not like deception, no matter how mild, but neither did I like having Papa quarrel with me, and more forcible, if not actually greater, than my abhorrence of duplicity was Papa’s antipathy to my poetry, a prejudice which, I may be excused for believing, owed much of its vigor to the fact that he had never read, so far as I knew, a single line of my work.”
Image from Galactic Central.
Ellery Queen’s introduction to The Creeping Siamese collection by Dashiell Hammett in Jonathan Press Mystery J48 highlights “…what others in the field—critics, connoisseurs, and craftsmen—think of Hammett.” The others include Howard Haycraft, Vincent Starrett, Erle Stanley Gardner, Anthony Boucher, Lee Wright, Andre Gide, Marie R. Rodell, Dorothy Parker and Raymond Chandler.
Here’s what Anthony Boucher wrote in his review of “Nightmare Town”: “No writer has suffered more from his imitators than Hammett. The pygmies have aped his tough terseness without realizing that Hammett told stories of character—that the key scenes in Hammett are not the spectacular bloodlettings, but the quiet tense interplays of characters in dialogue.”
The second story in J48 is “The Man Who Killed Dan Odams,” reprinted from Black Mask January 15, 1924. Here’s the opening paragraph:
“When the light that came through the barred square foot of the cell’s one high window had dwindled until he could no longer clearly make out the symbols and initials his predecessors had scratched and penciled on the opposite wall, the man who had killed Dan Odams got up from the cot and went to the steel-slatted door.”
Image shown is the UK edition from Galactic Central.
“The Creeping Siamese” is the feature story of Jonathan Press Mystery J48, a digest anthology of Dashiell Hammett’s stories introduced and edited by Ellery Queen, and published in 1950. The lead story stars the Continental Op. reprint from Black Mask March 1926. Here’s the opening:
“Standing beside the casher’s desk in the front office of the Continental Detective Agency’s San Francisco branch, I was watching Porter check up my expense account when the man came in. He was a tall man, raw-boned, hard-faced. Grey clothes bagged loosely from his wide shoulders. In the late afternoon sunlight that came through partially drawn blinds, his skin showed the color of new tan shoes.”