Monday, November 27, 2006

And Then There Were Four

I figured I would share four more vintage gems from my ever-growing collection. These were the remainder of the old books I picked up at Bouchercon.

DANGER IN PARADISE by Octavus Roy Cohen. Popular Library, 1944.


So we have an alarmed-looking gentleman cowering behind a girl in a pink bathrobe, both of them facing the business-end of a gun. I'm hoping that the cowering gentleman is not the hero of the piece, Jimmy Drake.

From the back cover: Eight hours after Jimmy Drake welcomed back radio singer Iris Randall, home from a Cuban tour, and renewed his campaign to win her love, they were caught up in a vicious cycle of violence, intrigue and death. It all began with the murder of a nightclub own in Iris's apartment and the puzzling theft of a box of Havana cigars.

First lines: "Six gorgeous girls walked past the door of my office. One of them waved at me and said, "Hi, Jimmy!" and I said, "Hi, beautiful," absent-mindedly.

Smooth setting of scene and character, isn't it?

I have a number of books by Octavus Ray Cohen--I started one once, and was enjoying it, but I got distracted and somehow never picked it back up. Yet. It's funny how that sometimes happens even with books you're enjoying.

Wikipedia has a really incomplete and misleading entry on him. They don't mention his mystery writing, but that's what he's mostly known for. Jon Breen has better info , but as usual the best resource is Michael Grost's A GUIDE TO CLASSIC MYSTERY AND DETECTION.

Next up we have CHALLENGE FOR THREE by David Garth. Popular Library 1948.

"For twenty years Fontaine Shaw, granddaughter of Nathaniel Shaw, railroad and mining tycoon, had lived her life with reckless abandon."

Think about that reckless abandon stuff. Do you think it meant the same thing in 1948 that it means now? Not that anyone really talks much about reckless abandon these days. Maybe we're all living with reckless abandon--think about global warming and Nutrasweet and microwaves. Really doesn't get a lot more reckless than that.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, right. Fontaine Shaw. Fontaine is not a name that you hear much anymore either.

"But her startling exploits (we're talking about Fontaine again) began to catch up with her when she bailed a burlesque dancer out of Night Court and desposited her on the doorstep of Jock Pemberton, a serious young professor of American History at the Brent School."

Oh! This is going to be zany Bringing-Up-Baby madcappery--only, hopefully with violence and bloodshed!

First line: "The usual gay welter that followed the docking of a great transatlantic liner was rampant on the long steel pier--clusters of reunions, porters pirouetting their baggage trucks among the swirls of humanity, white-jacketed stewards streaming down the gangway from the overhanging shipside....zzzzzzzzz...."

Jeez, that's a long line. And still going and going and going...

(Sorry, Dave, you lost me at the pirouetting porters.)

Moving right along we have THE RED HOUSE by George Agnew Chamberlain. Popular Library, 1943.


This I'm looking forward to, having seen the movie years and years ago. It's effectively creepy despite the fact that it's got the look and feel of one of those 1950s high school science films. In fact, the heroine and her love interest are high schoolers. It's got an eerie and poignant vibe to it, and the use of wind is really effective--fingers crossed that the book lives up the film.

Back jacket: "For fifty years fear of the vanishing red house in the Jersey Barrens had warped the lives of Ellen and Pete Yocum. Old Pete swore that the house moved from place to place and that the screams heard within it put a hex on anyone who ventured near. Meg Yarrow, raised by the Yocums since childhood, experienced the same terror until Nathan, the new farmhand, arrived. One day they started on a search for the red house in the Oxhead woods..."

Ooh! Looking forward to this.

First line: "The Pineys used to hog the whole of the lozenge between the Shore Road and the White House Pike."

Hmm. Apparently it's the foreign language version. Not to worry! I'm sure I'll figure it out.

Finally we have THE CAMERA CLUE by George Harmon Coxe, Dell,1947. (A Kent Murdock Mystery).

Murdock is a Boston news cameraman who gets involved in murder after murder. I have most of the series, although this is an especially nice copy. I even have the MRS. MURDOCK TAKES A CASE (courtesy of Mr. Thrilling last Christmas).

An initialed COMPACT...
A used highball GLASS...
A package of indiscreet LETTERS...
A gigantic SANDWICH MAN...

WHAT???? A gigantic WHAT???

Anyhooo, first line: "A strange coat lay untidily across one arm of the divan, as though it had been flung there hurriedly; beside it, one end trailing on the floor, was a blue and white polka dot scarf."

I feel certain in a few sentences we are going to see someone's broken body, but for now, I must wish you a good evening and happy reading!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Autumn Leaves

It's been several months since I posted. I have to admit that trying to keep up with my weekly blogging duties on The Good Girls Kill For Money Club and the Cozy Chicks blog hasn't left a lot of time for my thoughts on books and films here at Girl Detective.

Truth be told, I haven't had a lot of time for reading, but that doesn't stop me from my intention of owning every vintage paperback in the world. I was a tiny bit disappointed with the pickings at Bouchercon this year--more and more the booksellers seem to focus on the latest book of the authors still alive and in attendance OR really expensive editions of Chandler and Hammett.

I did manage to score a few battered paperbacks for a reasonable amount. Reading copy quality, but since I do fully intend to read them, I can live with a few crinkles and watermarks. ON THE BOOKS!!! Not me.

So here are my finds du jour:

MURDERED: ONE BY ONE by Francis Beeding. No date. It says it is a Wartime book, and I'm certain they don't mean Iraq.

"The murder of Valerie Beauchamp, writer of romances, sets in motion a vicious cycle of horror as, one by one, the legatees under her strange will meet violent deaths in this exciting Beeding baffler!"

Even way back then romance writers were not getting any respect from mystery writers.

The New York Herald Tribune blurb reads "speed, complications and general readability," and delivers a "whopping surprise" in the last chapter.

Now that is not easy to do: deliver a whopping surprise in the last chapter, I mean. Especially to experienced mystery readers.

First line: "Valerie Beauchamp, alias Vera Brown--but the alias was carefully concealed from her numerous public--sat back in her chair and tapped her front teeth with the end of her fountain pen."

See? No respect.

One thing I know about Beeding: he (she?) was the author of THE HOUSE OF DR. EDWARDES, which was the basis of the movie SUSPICION, you know, with a very young and vulnerable-looking Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman (who even with bad hair and glasses looked impossibly gorgeous). I always wanted to read that, so this should be interesting.

By the way, it looks like the HOUSE OF DR EDWARDES is available as an ebook all over the net these days.

THE VOICE OF THE CORPSE by Max Murray. Bantam. 1948.

"DEAD OR ALIVE: she talked too much!"

I work with women like that.

"Angela Pewsey collected other peoples lives. She gathered them up in bits and snatches, from scraps of conversation, stolen letters, spying moments."

Ah. A blackmailer. One of the most satisfying victims in crime fiction. I do love it when blackmailers get knocked off. There's something so low about someone trading in other people's secrets.

First line: "Even in death there was something arty and crafty about Angela."

She gets knocked off singing a folk song--which many would say was poetic justice.

And your favorite motive for murder is--?

Murray was an Australian writer and this was his first novel. During WWII he was a scriptwriter and editor for the BBC. Looks like his last novel was 1957.

DEATH IS A LOVELY LADY by Ruth Fenisong. Popular Library, 1944. (Originally published under the title JENNY KISSED ME--not very mystery-sounding, that.)

"A novel with a startling different approach, filled with smart talk, cutting satire and a sound mystery puzzle."

Hmm. Dissing the genre as a sales tactic. Interesting.

"Gwen Mattice combined lush allure with a realistic capacity for getting what she wanted. But despite her many lovers she never lost sight of the great love of her life--herself!"

Okay, we hate her. Kill her.

First line: "This was the room of Gwen Mattice."

Okay, that's not enough.

"The careless testimony of scattered objects--a handbag, a slipper, a corsage ribbon, a reddened cigarette stub, a belt--was not needed to prove it."

Okay, she's messy. Kill her.

DEATH DOWN EAST by Eleanor Blake. Penguin, 1945.

No info whatsoever, I liked the title and the cover. (See, now you know why publishers don't let authors make these important decisions.) And it's set in Maine, which I also like.

First line: It was pretty awful sitting there in front of the fireplace and just waiting."

All of these have good opening lines, and I'm looking forward to the day I actually have an hour or two to read one!

What are you reading these days?