Saturday, October 27, 2007


No, I'm not talking about my writing and publishing career, although sometimes I do wonder. No, I'm looking at the small -- very small, although they felt like cement blocks when I was racing through the airport and customs -- stash of books I brought back from Ireland.

I admit I'd hoped to spend more time in bookstores. Not that I'm complaining because it was quite simply the best vacation I've ever had, but I'd hoped to discover a few more literary gems scattered along the way.

STONE COLD DEAD IN THE MARKET by Christopher Landon. Great Pan, 1955.

I'd never heard of Christopher Landon, so I did a little internet search and came up with this:

"Christopher Landon served with the 51st Field Ambulance in North Africa during WWII. After the war he wrote several novels, including A Flag in the City, Stone Cold Dead in the Market, and Hornet's nest. His most famous novel, however, was Ice Cold in Alex, which was made into an internationally famous movie, starring John Mills."

Weeellll, possibly not internationally famous...
From the back cover:
Hubert Greezley -- stockbroker -- has met a death bizarre and horrible.
Lemme guess. Poison?
Post-mortem confirms MURDER -- by strychnine!
They all saw it happen. They all hated him -- and several of them had a motive for the killing.
I hate to say this, but the most bizarre and horrible thing so far is Hubert's name. Murder by poison just doesn't seem that shocking. Or am I just horribly hardened by the crime fiction I've had to endure?
But no one had touched him.
Well, it was in his drink for cryin' out loud! Or his supper! How many killers rub poison into their victims. Come on!
TREWIN had motive to kill his Uncle Hubert, motive so strong that he would stop at nothing...not even murder.
Okay, so it wasn't Trewin.
But TREWIN had a cast-iron alibi.
Why are you yelling at poor Trewin? Are you being saracastic?
This cold-blooded crime defies solution.
Jeez. Don't give up so easily. It's only the back cover.
First line: "When you left the street and passed through the outer lobby, the first thing confronting you was a pair of swing doors."
Ah, second person POV. Don't YOU love it?
THE UNHEEDING STARS by Marjorie Vernon. Hardback, Ward Lock, 1967.
I hadn't heard of Marjorie Vernon either, but the cover -- a nervous-looking woman wearing a headscarf, and standing in a foreign-city-looking dark alley with one of those enigmatic stalwart guys in a trench coat -- reminded me of the novels my mom used to buy by the barrel when I was a tyke.
A quick Internet search didn't turn anything up, but the inside cover lists 29 titles followed by the word "etc." Which seems a bit rude, if you ask me. Granted the titles are things like Tender Tigress, The Impossible Love, etc.
So romance, in other words. Not an alien concept, despite what Mr. Thrilling says.
The back of the cover lists more unheard of Ward Lock novels like...Lantana, Dark Moon of Summer, Night of the Helm Wind. I'm thinking romantic-suspense of the old school, which is hopefully what The Unheeding Stars will turn out to be.
Nicola went to Corsica to visit Jean-Paul, the man she hoped to marry -- only to find he was not there to meet her. Instead she found his brother, the dark domineering Raoul, later described to her as a "ruthless and dangerous man."
By whom? The people at Mills & Boon, because that's what this sounds like.
What was the mystery behind Jean-Paul's disappearance?
Someone has been conducting experiments in the swamp with alligators, I'm telling you!
Why didn't he even write to her?
Have you ever seen an alligator's paw? How would he hold a pen?
Very soon Nicola began to suspect thre was something sinister about it all, especially when she saw Raoul going out stealthily in the midnight hours, and when he lied to her about a wound he received.
What did I tell you? It's a funny-shaped bite mark, isn't it?
It made matters even more difficult for Nicola that Raoul was magnetically attractive. He was her enemy -- she feared he was even his brother's enemy, yet she still felt herself irresistibly drawn to him. However her loyalty was to Jean-Paul. She felt sure he was in need of help, and she must help him.
But how --?
Small, still-warm animals, Nicola. Believe me, kiddo, your attraction to Raoul will simplify things in the end.
First line: "The little bus clattered to a jerky halt on cobblestones, and the fact that its few passengers all gathered together and prepared to descend indicated to Nicola that this was the terminus."
She doesn't miss much, does she?
Well, let's leave Nicola and those funny-shaped footprints in the night....
THERE'S ALWAYS A PAYOFF by Robert P. Hansen. An American Blood Hound mystery from T.V. Boardman & Company, 1960.
A few other titles listed as collectible at Amazon, etc., but no real info on my initial search.
"Ed Shields, commercial diver in a small California fishing town was facing the unpleasant decision of either seeking asylum in the county jail -- with a murder charge that just might stick -- or luring a cold-blooded murderer into the open -- with himself as bait."
Hmmm. Has anyone spoken to Jean-Paul recently?
First line: "The rain was a very light drizzle."
Sounds pretty interesting, actually.
NOREEN AND THE HENRY AFFAIR by Helen Dawson. Children's Book Club, 1964.
This is part of a series about a plucky young female sleuth. This was the fifth book in the series.
Solving the Murder n New Moon Valley. Once again Noreen and her Aunt Joan are their cool, calm and collected selves...
Well, yeah, they're BRITISH.
...with their characteristically complementary virtues as dashing niece and cautious aunt.
I didn't realize dashing niece and cautious aunt were, like, job descriptions.
Noreen takes on the job of nursemaid to an Alsatian dog.
That's different!
She discovers that the animal has been heavily drugged, and subsequently uncovers a number of apparently unrelated incidents, including the hitherto unsolved murder of a gold prospector in the New Moon Valley -- a dark deed that happened years before.
Wow. A teen sleuth who solves a murder? That's different.
First line: "The wind had been blowing since early morning in whipping gusts across the plains from the north."

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Well, it's been quite a while since I posted here. I have to admit I over-extended my blogging capabilities. And, really, how much of me can anyone take? But Girl-Detective is unique in that this is where I blab about vintage mysteries -- books and film -- and so I've decided to try and resume this one. At least in haphazard fashion.

I've actually got quite a number of books to chat about, although maybe I better start slow and build up my strength -- and yours.

I think I may have picked these books up at Bouchercon last year. I'm not sure now. The pickings were mighty slim at all of last year's conferences, and I may eventually have to resort to prowling Ebay again, although I hate to encourage that kind of behavior in myself -- and others.

Today's hoarde includes:

MISS AGATHA DOUBLES FOR DEATH by H.L.V. Fletcher. Bantam, 1948.

Muder woos a lovely heiress!

A lovely heiress named Agatha? How refreshing.

From the back of the book (in 2nd person POV, no less):

You're an heiress! But that doesn't matter much.

(Uh, yes it does. It would to me. I need the dough.)

What's more important, you're lovely to look at, men like you -- they can't resist your easy grace, your deep hazel eyes. And you want to live!

(And you want to use exclamation points with wild abandon! But at least you've got your priorities straight, Agatha!)

You've come all the way from London to see your last surviving female relative, Miss Agatha, in her lavish West Virgina home. Will she believe this is just a social call -- or will she see the mark of fear in your eyes?

(Oh, okay. Agatha is not the beautiful young heiress. She's more likely to be the repressed and ailing spinster heiress. And you, apparently, are her scheming, exclamation point-abusing, only living relative -- with mascara smudges no less.)

Will she help you? Or will she be like another, like Stephen, ready and willing to help you die?

(Who the heck is Stephen? I hope you don't plan on tracking Stephen all over Aunt Aggie's nice clean Aubusson carpets!)

First line: "If the world showed any inclination to add to its original Seven Wonders, the town of Hughesville, Hughes County, state of West Virginia would have no hesitation in putting forward two candidates."

I'm betting one of them is Aunt Agatha, how about you?

But you know, this sounds better than I thought. According to the blurb on the front cover, Ann Hughes (sorry, lovely Ann Hughes -- we can take that for granted, right? -- has run to Aunt Agatha for help, and apparently the old dame has a lot of brilliant ideas). That sounds quite promising.

THE BRIDAL BED MURDERS by A.E. Martin, Dell 1954.

Death goes on a honeymoon...

Ah, young love. How sweet.


(My goodness, apparently Death is selling tickets to his honeymoon.)

See the treacherous Chinese Bridal Bed! In this very bed, the most beautiful maiden in all China was strangled for her infidelities!

(Okay, I'm just trying to keep the furniture straight -- did the most beautiful maiden also commit the infidelities in her bridal bed or was she merely strangled there? "All her infidelities." She does sound like a busy maid -- like someone in a folk song.)

To sleep in this bed is to die! Yet here tonight, you will see a beautiful woman defy the most sinister superstitions of the Orient! Before your very eyes, see the woman in the bed of horror!

(Is that a typo? Should that properly be "bed of whore?" Not sure. Also not sure why honorable I am apparently spending night with this woman. We don't have to sleep together, do we? She doesn't snore, does she?)

It was a carnival barker's dream, a phony Chinese bed and a parcel of fake superstitions. And the suckers were falling for it big.

(Fake superstitions? Versus the real ones?)

Clad in her nightgown, the actress disappeared behind the curtain.

(Hey! I didn't pay no money for no actress to disappear behind no curtain!)

Her scream, piercing the night, was perfect.

There was only one gimmick. She was really dead.

(Now would you call that a "gimmick" or a "problem"? I'm leaning towards "problem," myself.)

First line: "Anna Svensk picked up the spray which always made her think of a bicycle pump and dipped the end in the bucket of diluted Eau-de-Cologne."

Oh dear. Tell me this is not the woman I'm spending the night with!

THE GOLDFISH MURDERS by Will Mitchell, Gold Medal Book, 1950
Meet a cop who can trap a killer or bait a beauty.
Well, I mean I guess those are useful skills for law enforcement.
Chris Lash had seen a lot of corpses in his years as Lieutenant of Dectives in Homicide, but never one as beautiful as the blonde with a goldfish on her chest.
(Interesting. I'm going to assume that we're not talking about a goldfish bowl on her chest of drawers, or her kinky tattoo.)
But that was only the beginning, as more goldfish were found on more corpses.
(So we've got kind of a hardboiled meets wacky amateur-sleuth-type-clues going on here. Interesting.)
And Chris swore that he would solve the murders if it cost him his own life.
(Why's he taking this so personally? Is he a member of PETA or what? What's his stake in the goldfish game?)
It nearly did...
(Well, heck! Give it away why don't you? Now we know Chris is the one that got away.)
First line: "My pop used to say that a good detective remembers to keep the Sabbath day holy -- wholly occupied in using his eyes and ears."
Hmmm. You never know. Very fishy looking blonde on the cover, by the way.

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YOU!

5th Annual Meet the Local Author Program. Author panel: Dorothy Howell, Diana Killian, Lynn Gardner, Edward Mooney, Jr., Elaine Schneider, Dennis Anderson, Bonnie Stone, Ann Vanino, Rynda Thomas, Marilyn Dalrymple, and Pat Arnold.

Come discuss writing & publishing with your favorite authors!

Held On: Sat, 10/20/2007

Time: 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Lancaster Regional Library601 W. Lancaster Blvd.Lancaster, CA 93534-3398

Phone: (661) 948-5029

Contact: Fannie Love

Sponsor: Friends of the Lancaster Library/Walden Books