(This column appeared in the April 26, 1930 edition of the New York Evening Post.)
THE WYCHFORD POISONING CASE. By Anthony Berkeley. Crime
DEATH TRAPS. By Kay Cleaver Strahan. Crime Club. $2.
THROUGH THE EYES OF THE JUDGE. By Bruce Graeme. Lippincott.
WHY MURDER THE JUDGE? By Claude Stuart Hammock. Macmillan. $2.
MARKED "CANCELLED." By Natalie Sumner Lincoln.
WHO MOVED THE STONE? By Frank Morison. Century. $2.50.
MURDER IN THE STATE DEPARTMENT. By "Diplomat."
Cape & Smith. $2.
OF ALL the facetious amateurs—count them yourself—engaged in
solving mysteries that are too much for the police Roger Sheringham is the most
amusing—well, anyhow, the least annoying—to me. His Job in "The Wychford
Poisoning Case" is to learn who gave arsenic to the late John Bentley
There are several people who could, and perhaps would, have done it. You are
not likely to guess the right one, but you can blame the author and not
yourself, for his book runs a brisk, entertaining race to a flabby and
“DEATH TRAPS” would have been a pretty good short story. It
attains book length by dint of a tedious opening, many irrelevancies and the
rambling volubility of the retired Yakima grocer through whom it is told. The
mystery it gets around to after five or six chapters has to do with an attempt
to murder Gerald Dexter in his suburban home and the subsequent deaths of the
Justin Veernegs next door. Familiarity with one of the established technical
devises for leading suspicion away from the guilty person will lead you
straight to him, her or it fairly early in the story. Ever since "The Desert
Moon Mystery" there have been rumors that Mrs. Strahan writes what is sometimes
called graceful English. I have not yet been able to verify these rumors. The
outstanding characteristics of her style seem to be an assortment of rather
acrobatic synonyms for "said" and a waiving of the difference between
transitive and intransitive verbs.
“THROUGH THE EYES OF THE JUDGE" follows the now
familiar court room method of solving a mystery. Patrick Terence Spencer is
being tried for the murder of his cousin George, a murder by which he gained
fifty thousand pounds. The evidence against him is overwhelming, but into Mr.
Justice Raymond's mind certain doubts begin to come, and so. . . . It is difficult to say why this should not be
a better story than it is. Perhaps the trouble is that the judge lacks reality.
IN "Why Murder the Judge?" his Honor is poisoned
in his library while showing a rare book to a group of friends. Then the book
disappears, there is a lot of bocuspocus in a bookshop, people refuse to
account for their actions, there is more hocuspocus in a law office and much
activity only slightly related to the murder. Probus Thorne, another gifted
amateur, is the detective, though his Japanese valet seems to do most of the
work. There is nothing here to excite you.
THE most exciting thing shout "Marked Cancelled"
was the excellent publicity put over for it. The morning before the hook
appeared in bookshops a New York morning paper—by no means the least prominent—gave
space on its front page to an alleged Washington dispatch in which Miss Lincoln
was said to have unearthed, while examining some family relics, an old envelope
bearing a stamp reputed to be worth some $10,000. Now, ladies and gentlemen,
when you consider that she was about to publish a book bearing the present
title and that one of the clues in the book was an out-of-date postage stamp,
well, it is a shame the book was— But here is a sample: "With me, it was
love at first sight. Ah, Claire, dare I hope?"
THE author of "Who Moved the Stone?" applies
detective-story methods to the question of what actually happened to the body
of Jesus Christ between the time it was laid in the tomb after the crucifixion
and the discovery of the empty tomb on Sunday morning. The result bears the same
relation to history that the average detective story bears to criminology
“MURDER IN THE STATE DEPARTMENT," written by a man
known on two continents as diplomat and author, so the blurb says, starts off with
the murder of Harrison Howard, Under Secretary of State, in his office, then
becomes what the jacket calls a "satirical expose of the workings of the
Department of State" and, with the help of much dirty work on the part of
pacifists and bootleggers, lisps its way to an inane end. By
"Diplomat"? By Jove!
I'm a long-time fan of B Westerns. For me, the stand-outs from the 1930s - judged on personality and humor - were Ken Maynard and my father's favorite, Hoot Gibson. So I was pleased to receive a press release from author/artist Darryle Purcell, announcing this series of pulp-style adventures featuring the Hollywood Cowboy Detectives. That press release is jam-packed with information, so I'm going to let you read it yourself. Here goes:
B-western stars ride again
almost-forgotten B-western stars of the past have found work in a new series of
historical fiction westerns.
Maynard, Hoot Gibson, Crash Corrigan, William S. Hart and other film-cowboy
heroes from the 20s through the 50s have returned to battle Nazis, saboteurs
and old-fashioned bad guys in the Hollywood Cowboy Detectives (HCD) series
published by Page Turner’s Buckskin Editions in both Kindle and paperback
Purcell, a long-time Mohave County, Ariz., resident known for his topical
newspaper columns and political cartoons, has reset his editorial sights on historical
grew up enjoying the B-western movies and serials made during the 1930s through
the ’50s,” the former Mohave Valley Daily
News managing editor said. “Many of those films were contemporary to the
years they were produced. Western heroes such as Col. Tim McCoy would board a
train in the metropolitan east of, say, 1936 and arrive in the old west (quite
often Arizona) to battle evil doers. We all remember films where the Three
Mesquiteers fought the Nazis in the early 1940s.”
is writing and illustrating the 1930s-contemporary western series, which embraces
the adventurous world of pulp publishing while also saluting the great western
movie serials of that era. The first publication, Mystery at Movie Ranch, is
comprised of 12 cliffhanger chapters set in the San Fernando Valley area of
southern California during the filming of the 1934 Mascot Pictures serial, Mystery
Mountain, starring Ken Maynard.
do a lot of research on what was being filmed, where, by which studio within a
specific time frame,” he said. “I then carve a window in the time period where
certain people could have come together to deal with an adventure.”
“Curly” Woods, former Los Angeles
Examiner crime beat reporter and current studio flack, is Purcell’s main fictional
character who appears in all HCD publications. In Movie Ranch, Woods’
assignment is to write fluff public relations articles about the serial and its
stars and keep Maynard out of trouble while looking into the possible sabotage
of the Mascot production.
a variety of sources, Ken Maynard was a temperamental alcoholic,” Purcell said.
“Nobody’s perfect. He was still a skilled rodeo, circus and film cowboy
idolized by youth from the 1920s through the ’50s.”
helping Maynard battle his personal demons, Woods discovers real enemies are
not only targeting the western production, but the American way of life. Joined
by western movie star and World Champion Rodeo Cowboy Hoot Gibson, Maynard and
Woods engage in a series of deadly encounters with an army of anti-American
terrorists ruled by a sinister mastermind known only as the Viper. The
Hollywood Cowboy Detectives deal with organized crime, a sniper attack, aerial
combat against an experimental German flying machine, interrogation by a
sadistic enemy scientist in an underground stronghold, an ungodly creature who
is the product of evil experiments, and a variety of battles with those who
would eliminate all who believe in freedom and justice.
Kindle version of the Mystery at Movie Ranch can be purchased on Amazon for
$1.99. But for those who still like books printed in ink on paper, a paperback
version of Mystery at Movie Ranch can be purchased at Amazon.com for $8.99,
which includes the bonus HCD short story, "Mystery of the Murdered Badman." In
that short story, Woods works to save Maynard from being charged with the
murder of a western-movie villain and abduction and possible murder of a former
silent-screen vamp. All HCD publications have color covers and black and white
internal illustrations in the style of pulps and adventure novels of the 1930s.
illustrated Mystery of the Arizona Dragon is also currently available as a
Kindle download from Amazon. In that adventure, Woods is sent to a dude ranch,
not far from where California, Nevada and Arizona meet, to investigate problems
while the cast and crew of Charlie Chan Goes West prepare for filming. Hoot
Gibson, Warner Oland and Keye Luke join the HCD hero as he attempts to track
down the source of a variety of deadly incidents. It is also available as a
paperback with the bonus HCD short story, "Mystery of the Stuntman’s Ghost."
recently published HCD adventure, Mystery of the Matinee Murders is also
available in paperback and on Kindle. In Matinee Murders, Woods, Gibson and
Crash Corrigan are joined by Orson Welles and a radio-theater group on a
studio-funded road trip to entertain children in hospitals and at Saturday matinee
presentations. A mysterious assassin hounds the entertainers, leaving a trail
of victims killed with cobra venom. Following a full-scale military assault,
the Hollywood Cowboy Detectives are captured and taken to an underground
fortress where an enemy power keeps an army of the dead. Cowboy star Ken
Maynard joins the action in a final showdown with a Nazi terrorist who is about
to unleash death and worse upon a theater full of young Saturday matinee
western fans. In the paperback, Matinee Murders is joined by a bonus pulp-style
mystery about a radio detective known as "The Man of the Mist."
newest HCD adventure, Mystery of the Alien Banshee is currently available in
Kindle format. When it is published in paperback, it will be accompanied by the
bonus short story, "Mystery of the Kidnapped Cowboy." All short stories are also
available individually on Kindle.
publisher at Page Turner’s Buckskin Edition Westerns is a real fan of old-time
western and science fiction pulp publications as well as the B-movies of the
same era,” Purcell said. “Buckskin is a perfect fit for my writing and
who was public information director for Mohave County, Ariz., from May 2005
until January 2013, had been managing editor of the Mohave Valley Daily News in Bullhead City, Ariz., for 12 years. The
former editorial cartoonist spent a total of 23 years in daily newspapers as
well as a few years illustrating and art directing educational comic books and
young reader books, drawing gag cartoons for rock and roll and motorcycle
enthusiast publications and working in layout and character design on some
Saturday morning animated cartoons.
reached into my work experiences as well as my time in the military, having
served in the First Cavalry in Vietnam and the 101st and 82nd
Airborne Divisions stateside, to create the characters and attitudes that
appear in the Hollywood Cowboy Detectives series,” Purcell said. “The HCD
series embodies the lessons of the classic B-westerns: Life is hard but good
will triumph over evil.”
may believe that philosophy is out of date. But, according to Purcell, many of
the B-western stars of the 1920s and ’30s not only portrayed the just hero,
they lived by the Code of the West. Most were Great War veterans. Some, like
Tim McCoy served in both world wars. James Stewart, Clark Gable and many other
western stars of later years left their film careers to serve in World War II.
this series, I hope to revive the lessons of the straight shooters while
introducing a new generation to some of the great cowboy heroes of the past.
Besides having served in the First World War, most of them had been working
cowboys on ranches, rodeos and wild-west shows before joining the motion
picture studio system. Often, their movie careers began as stuntmen for other,
less-talented, film stars. The HCD series honors the hard work, amazing action
talents and ethical lessons of the B-western film stars of the past,” Purcell
illustrated book series can be found at Amazon.com
by searching Books for Hollywood Cowboy Detectives.
That's it. End of press release. Yippi-Yi-Yo-Ki-Yay.
Story by Raymond Chandler. Screenplay by Steve Fisher. Deadly dame by Audrey Totter. Together, they make my all-time favorite mystery film. What's Robert Mitchum doing in the YouTube shot below? Beats me. He wouldn't play Marlowe for another 28 years. But never fear, the film is the real thing, and Robert Montgomery makes a better Marlowe, even though we only see him when he looks in the mirror.
Because this movie has a lot of Christmasy stuff, I was tempted to wait until December to post it. But because many films get yanked from YouTube without warning, I didn't want to take the chance. So Merry Christmas to you, four months early.
All of the toy soldiers I've featured to date have been "vintage" plastics, from the 1950s and early '60s. These guys are relatively new. Sometime in the '90s, I believe, an outfit called Barzso Playsets, Inc. started manufacturing all-new playsets and figures in the Marx tradition - aimed not at kids but at collectors. One of those collectors was Cap'n Bob Napier, who gifted me, way back when, with this set of pioneers. Barzso is still making this stuff, and their latest release appears to be a Roman Colosseum, complete with gladiators. You can see that HERE.
It's interesting that these two books about collecting cap guns were published in the same year - 1996 - but are far different animals.
Cap Guns (with values) is sort of a coffee table book, with three to five large color photos to a page. In all, it features somewhere between two and three hundred guns. That may sound like a lot, until you examine Backyard Buckaroo's Collecting Western Toy Guns. The photos are mostly black and white (with a 24-page color section), but feature more than 1300 guns, plus another thousand or so accessories like holsters, boxes, belt buckles, caps, and knives & tomahawks. Both books list suggested ranges of values, now out of date, but useful in determinating relative rarity.
Another difference is that about half of Cap Guns is devoted to cast iron pistols made between 1880 and 1940. This conveys the impression that half the guns in existence were cast iron. Western Toy Guns presents a much truer picture. Cast iron pistols are mixed in with the later diecast (aka pot metal) guns and shown to be an extreme minority. The cowboy shows dominating televison in the '50s and early '60s brought a tidal wave of cap guns to market. And that brings up Western Toy Guns one drawback - it features exclusively western stuff. Though the vast majority of pistols and rifles were western style, there were also military, detective, spy and space weapons, and a few of each make the cut in Cap Guns.
If all this puts you in the mood to see some guns, I invite you to start right here. Over the past year or so I've posted pics of more than fifty guns from my own collection, and there are a lot more on the way. You'll find those photos HERE. You should also pay a visit to nicholscapguns.com, the single greatest source of photos and info on the web.