Friday, November 21, 2014

Forgotten Books: HOME IS THE HANGMAN by Richard Sale (1949)

Richard Sale, the "Dumas of the Pulps" and the creator of Daffy Dill, authored ten novels, but this wasn't one of them. What is it is is a collection of two long magazine stories that have absolutely nothing to do with HOME and dang near nothing to do with a HANGMAN. Still, because Sale was such a great storyteller, I enjoyed this more than many novels written by lesser humans. 
The lead story, occupying 96 of the 160 pages, appeared in the August 31, 1940 issue of The Saturday Evening Post under the title "Sailor Take Warning." Near as I can tell, it was published under that title in Great Britain (and probably Australia) in paperback in 1942. For this Popular Library edition, though, the story was retitled "Home is the Hangman," and (I suspect) was given a slight makeover to update the text. It was also given a cover by the talented Rudy Belarski, no doubt recycled from one of the many Popular Publications pulps.
The story involves an American sent to Haiti to man a weather station after his predecessor is murdered. As you'd expect in a Sale story, he's caught up with a lot of weird and mysterious characters, and as you'd expect in the Saturday Evening Post, he has a little romance along the way. Much of the intrigue revolves around a sunken Nazi submarine, apparently the means by which a war criminal known as "The Hangman of Dachau" (not the historical Hangman, Emil Mahl, but a fictional one called Veilsen Reinhardt) escaped justice. And that's where the updating comes in. The story was originally published in 1940, but now takes place several years after the war, presumably 1949. One of these days I'll have hunt down that issue of the Post and confirm (or obliterate) my suspicions.
The rest of the book is a novelette called "Beam to Brazil," first published as a serial in the February, March and April 1943 issues of Country Gentleman. This one is firmly set during wartime, and features a radio operator sent to Peurto Rico to get a transmitting station up and running in time to direct an air convoy to Brazil, and then on to Africa. It's another crackling good yarn, and marginally more fun than the first, because the hero displays a touch of Daffy Dill-type attitude.

This week's other Forgotten Books are featured at pattinase. Next week, while Patti takes a well-deserved break, I'll be hosting the links right here.


George said...

I've had a copy of HOME IS THE HANGMAN for decades. Now I want to read it!

Rick Robinson said...

So it's not a mash-up of the two stories, just the two separate in the book? Hmm. Still, sounds like a lot of fun. I'm not surprised George has a copy, seems like he has everything.

jhegenbe said...

Okay. I'm sold. I just ran off and bought a copy from ABEbooks. Thanks for the review.