Ad Gordon’s Two Little Bullets

Splashpage from Justice #2

The sixth story from Justice Amazing Detective Mysteries #2, July 1955:

A beautiful, brilliant nuclear physicist is selling secrets to the Russians, with her husband as unwitting courier. She’s also a co-conspirator to murder and adultery. Elsewhere, a slippery career criminal has just snatched $200Gs from a bookie syndicate. By pure coincidence the two plots collide in Ad Gordon’s “Two Little Bullets,” and miraculously justice prevails, with hapless hubby saved from certain death, $200Gs to the good.

The story’s implausible plot is improved by Gordon’s writing: “He was a mild-mannered man, thin and round-shouldered, and his eyes, hair and clothes were all a tired gray. Still, he managed a mild curse as he climbed the three flights of stone steps in the apartment house building. Outside, the rain pelted the Washington, D.C. pavements.”

Galactic Central lists only two stories for Ad Gordon, this one and an earlier effort, “Justice is Blind,” that appeared in Justice #1 in May 1955.

D.J. Mencer’s The Dead Planet

Stories from Worlds of Fantasy #4 (John Spencer and Company 1951)

“The Dead Planet” by D.J. Mencer opens with deadpan incitement: “Jem Carson stood on the bridge of the Space Patrol ship, XK573, and his square jawline was grimly set, for Jem well knew that this wasn’t any routine check flight. This was the real thing. Trouble. With a capital T.”

The trouble is a distress call from Lira K, where Vasso Stornaway was reassigned to lead a Development Project after he was asked to resign from the prestigious Space Commission for “something [that] cropped up.”

Lira K is a rocky orb, devoid of plant life, located beyond the Barrier, and its native inhabitants, the Lizardmen, “aren’t too friendly.” During the flight, communications with the Project is cut off, triggering unvoiced conjecture from Jem and second officer Drex Gar, a Martian.

After a dangerous landing on a narrow strip surrounded by jagged rocks, Jem orders Drex to stay aboard while he and a crew investigate the development base, which is strangely quiet. When they reach the nearest building, a storehouse, they find it has been ransacked. They move on to what looks like barracks and find: “Torn, mangled bodies . . . ripped and clawed, as if animals had been at work.”

They move on only to find similar horrors in the communications centre and administrative building, with no one left alive. But as their survey nears its end they find a lone surviver hidden away in a small metecrete structure, Vasso Stornaway’s assistant, Franz Heschel.

He may sound innocent in their first exchange, and the massacre may seem like the work of
the hideous Lizardmen, but this yarn was penned in 1951 England, and Franz Heschel is German. Jem soon pieces together a plot between Heschel, the very much alive and bitter Stornaway, and the “flabby, bloated Venusians,” who have hidden a massive deposit of Duronium from the Space Commission, and are stealing it for themselves.

Suffice to say, Jem, Drex and crew soon obliterate the savage Venusians and the traitorous Earthmen and make a full report to Lunar Control: Trouble expunged!

Worlds of Fantasy #4 cover
Worlds of Fantasy #4 1951

Herbert D. Kastle’s Drifter

A story from Justice Amazing Detective Mysteries #2, July 1955: “Drifter” by Herbert D. Kastle.

“Sure, she was pretty, and a guy nearing forty didn’t get them that young—not unless he had a big office and she was his secretary or some kid out for the green stuff. But this wasn’t anything like that.”

It was much darker. Sid Tropp owned Jen and most of Ammerville. Sid set Jen up at Lady Sylvia’s, working off the debt he claimed she owed him. That’s where Jerry met her, where something clicked between them, and where they both got the bright idea that things could go somewhere other than south.

“Drifter” is a rock-solid noir that ends as it should, badly.

Herbert D. Kastle (1924–1987) wrote crime fiction for digest magazines like Manhunt, Trapped, and Sure-Fire. He also wrote for television and drew on this experience in the novels The Movie-Maker, Sunset People, and Cross Country. He also wrote some science fiction and served as the editor for the final two issues of Startling Stories.

Science Marvels circa 1951

As featured in Marvel Science Stories May 1951:

A special feature called “Amazing Science Adventures” includes three short articles. “The Problem of Atomic Waste” by H.R. Jamison presents two ideal solutions. Encase the stuff in a block of concrete and drop it into the ocean; or turn a certain type of bacteria loose on it and they will absorb it. “The result is nullified radioactivity, and once again man is safe.”

“Simple Simon: Newest Mechanical Brain” by Milton Williams informs readers, “. . . Simon and his fellows will relieve mankind of the drudgery of applying his science. Man will be able to explore, to theorize, to ponder, to develop—Simon and company will do the rest!”

Better yet, with “Stimulation for the Brain” by William L. Taylor, a simple bath in Kappa radiation “. . . would stimulate the mind in such a way that any sensory data registered deep within the tissues of the brain can be brought to the surface.” Quick and easy, problems solved!

Nostalgia Digest Winter 2018

Hello, Out There in Radioland! by Steve Darnall
“A Few Moments with . . . Peggy King” (uncredited)
“The Human Touch” How Jack Benny became the first true radio comedian by Kathryn Fuller-Seeley (cover story)
“CELEBio: Paulette Goddard” issued by Paramount Pictures in 1948
“Hawaii Calling” by Christopher Lynch
“Lights . . . Camera . . . Terror!” Remembering when Hollywood visited . . . The Inner Sanctum by Michael Cole
“Come Fly With Me! Memories of taking to the air (in more ways than one) with Uncle Ned’s Squadron by Wayne Klatt
“It’s Good to be King” Remembering the 1933 movie that drove audiences ape by Matthew C. Hoffman
“The Smart Set” Would you believe . . . a television show that made a joke out of the spy genre? by Walter Scannell
“The Best Man” From battlefield to ball field to the night beat—Frank Lovejoy did it all by Mike Griffith
Mail Call

Plus, the Radio Program Guide for Those Were the Days and WGN Radio Theatre

Editor: Steve Darnall
Nostalgia Digest Winter 2018
5.5” x 8.5” 64 pages, b&w interior
$4.50 on newsstands
Four-issue subscription $17
Eight-issue subscription $30
Nostalgia Digest website

Spinetingler Magazine Fall 2017

I’m new to Spinetingler, but I understand it began as a downloadable free magazine and now—with the help of Down & Out Books—is in print. Editor Sandra Ruttan notes: “I would like to thank Jack Getze for financing this venture so that the writers could be offered a small payment.”

The first print edition is loaded with short stories and features, making it especially easy to zip ahead even when you only have five minutes to spare. The features include brief interviews, authors’ reading lists, and a review. Overall, a novel method to expand the contributor list and give up-and-comers some extra ink. The subjects of these interviews and reader lists include Leo W. Banks, James Oswald, Laura Ellen Scott, Con Lehane, Rusty Barnes, Jason Ridler, Angel Luis Colón, Mindy Tarquini, Robb White, and Eryk Pruitt. Plus, Rusty Barnes provides a review of Hank Early’s novel Heaven’s Crooked Finger.

When I first encountered this magazine, it’s title evoked visions of horror stories, but this edition of Spinetingler is a crime book. Among its nine short stories are tales of revenge, bizarro fantasy, and vigilante justice, with entries from Tracy Falenwolfe, Nick Kolakowski , B.V. Lawson, Brandon McNulty, Karin Montin, Bern Sy Moss, David Rachels, Jennifer Soosar, and S.B. Watson. All criminally good fiction, but the standout is the novelette, “Illusions” by Albert Tucher, which manages to combine the feel of a 1950’s classic with a contemporary, spartan style—it is simply terrific.

Publisher: Down & Out Books
Editor: Sandra Ruttan
Contributing Editor: Jack Getze
Cover design: Lance Wright
150 pages, 5.5” x 8.5”
$10.99 POD, $5.99 Kindle ($1.99 with print version)
Spinetingler Magazine website

The Coyote Connection by Bill Crider & Jack Davis

Nick Carter, aka N3, aka Killmaster, was an agent of an organization so secret even the government denied its existence. Nick’s assignments for AXE were reported in a series of well over 200 novels from 1964 to 1990 published by Award, Ace, and Jove.

The books are first-person accounts by Nick Carter himself, a pseudonym for a long list of uncredited writers that includes Bill Crider and Jack Davis.

“I was in a writers’ group in Brownwood, Texas, where I was teaching at Howard Payne University, and one of the women in the group couldn’t see to drive at night,” says Crider. “She had her husband drive her, and he sat in on the meetings. One night he suggested that he and I collaborate on a Nick Carter novel. The short version of the story is that we did, and we sold the book. The title is The Coyote Connection [Ace Charter, 1981]. My collaborator was Jack Davis, the brother of Jada Davis, whose One for Hell is a noir classic.”

Nick Carter is cut from the same cloth as other spies that starred in men’s adventure stories and tales of espionage from his era. He’s impossibly smart, able to handle any situation regardless how badly outnumbered, and impossibly irresistible, bedding any woman who crosses his path. So Carter’s milieu is dated—laughably or sadly, depending on your perspective.

Still, there is vicarious adventure to be had in The Coyote Connection, and the novel remains entertaining, fun, and engaging.

When you consider its authors, it’s not surprising the story is set on the border of Mexico and Texas. Coyotes are smugglers hired to transport people into the US without all the red tape. AXE gets wind four terrorists are coming over. “Their mission is to seek out and assassinate certain key members of Congress.” Carter’s mission is to find and take out the four assassins before they can strike. Considering he gets nothing further from AXE, the mission seems hopeless. But this is Nick Carter, one of only four Killmasters, and the best of the lot at that. Crider and Davis manage to make the impossible seem plausible—or at least enticing enough to plunge readers forward rather than pause to ponder Carter’s remarkable luck or the bane of coincidence.

Allowing for the series’ prerequisites—review Carter’s prowess with weapons, espionage, and seduction from time to time—Crider and Davis give us a solid spy adventure novel well worth reading then and now.