Saturday, January 31, 2015

Toy Soldier Saturday: MARX GIs (Part 2)

About a coon's age ago I posted three guys from this set of Marx 54mm GIs. They're HERE. Here at last are a few more, and there will be many more to come. Heck, WWII was a big war and it took a lot of guys to fight it, even in the Marx world. 

More Toy Soldiers HERE.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Forgotten Books: THE EVIL STAR by John Spain (Cleve F. Adams)

I've featured a lot of Cleve F. Adams novels here, and this won't be the last. As I've said before, there's something very appealing about his slightly wacky wit and the distinctive rhythm of his prose. And The Evil Star, first published in 1944, is even wackier than usual.

Though this book was published under Adams' pseudonym of John Spain, "author of Dig Me a Grave and Death is Like That," it has no connection to the other Spain books. Those two feature political fixit man Bill Rye, a character inspired by Ned Beaumont of The Glass Key.

Our protagonist here is police Lieutenant Stephen McCord, a typical Adams hero and virtual twin of police Lieutenant Stephen McCloud, star of The Private Eye. But unlike McCloud, and Rex McBride, and their Adams brethren, he does not have a too-good-for-him girlfriend with a rich father. Instead, he has three beautiful triplets to contend with, and finds himself falling for whichever he's in closest proximity to.

This book is also unusual in that the first character we meet, a funny, likeable cop (and friend of McCord's) gets himself murdered in Chapter 3. Adams books always have a murder or three, but the victims are rarely likeable, and often dead before we know the story begins.

I'm pleased to report that Mr. Chad Calkins, through some astute detective work of his own, has discovered that The Evil Star was based on the story "Triple Threat," published under Adams own name in the April 1940 issue of Detective Story Magazine. Though much shorter, that tale follows the same basic plot. The main difference is that the story triplets are named Constance, Hope and Valour, while in the novel they're rechristened Faith, Hope and Charity.

This week's FFB links are at IN REFERENCE TO MURDER.
Next week, they'll be right here on the Almanack.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Overlooked Films: THE WESTLAND CASE (1937)

Last Friday's Forgotten Book was Jonathan Latimer's 1935 novel Headed for a Hearse (HERE). The book seemed custom made for a film, and Hollywood must have agreed, because two years later Universal released it as The Westland Case. Sad as sad can be, this is one of those films I've yet to see, and I've been waiting dang near thirty years (ditto with the other Bill Crane film, The Lady in the Morgue). Is it any good? Maybe, maybe not. Does it live up to the book? Unlikely. That would be a tall order, because it's a damn good book.

Here's a teaser from YouTube:

This page appeared in the Sun Dial "Photoplay" edition of the book.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Cap Gun Monday: Hubley OFFICIAL "38"

Among the dozens (hundreds?) of great cowboy cap guns, there were dang few detective pistols. This 5 1/2" snub nose .38 from Hubley was one of the best. Cap'n Bob Napier has one of these in a factory-installed cardboard holster that's still attached to the gun. That's probably for the best, or he might take it out and rob a liquor store.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Toy Soldier Saturday: MARX 60mm Town Cowboys

These 60mm fellers (and the lady) populated such Marx playsets as Roy Rogers Mineral City, and, except for the owlhoots, were pals with Roy, Dale, Pat Brady and the ranch hands that have appeared here within the past few weeks. 

More Toy Soldiers HERE.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Forgotten Books: HEADED FOR A HEARSE by Jonathan Latimer (1935)

My only excuse for calling this mystery classic "forgotten" is that I forgot it myself.

When I decided to re-read and review the Bill Crane series a couple of years ago, I started with The Lady in the Morgue (HERE) and moved on to Murder in the Madhouse (HERE), somehow oblivious to the fact that Headed for a Hearse was actually the second book, followed by Lady in the Morgue. That was pretty dumb. 

Not surprisingly, I found this to be an outstanding mystery novel. In terms of plot, and pacing, and suspense, and good old fashioned crimesolving, I'd rate it superior to the other two mentioned. The difference is that taking the Bill Crane series as a whole (including the final two novels, The Dead Don't Care and Red Gardenias), Headed for a Hearse is sort of an odd duck.

While the other four books are clearly centered around Crane and his hard-drinking detective pals, this one begins as a locked room mystery in which the protagonist initially appears to be convicted murdered Robert Westland. Crane makes his first appearance on page 42, amid a roomful of other colorful characters, and it takes awhile for him to assume the leading role. And even after he does, point of view continues to shift back to Westland and his last-minute attempt to escape electrocution.

While the rest of the cast (excluding Crane's fellow-detective Doc Williams) are the sort of serious-minded folk inhabiting other mysteries of the time, Crane emerges as the cockeyed outsider who cares as much about having fun (i.e. getting drunk and chasing women) as he does about solving the case.

The plot itself is a ticking clock. Westland has only six days to live when he decides to challenge the verdict, and finding evidence to clear him becomes a group effort. Crane does his share of the detecting, but so do others. It's just that he has a lot more fun doing it.

The novel seems made-to-order as a film story, so it's no surprise it was filmed two years later as The Westland Case. We'll talk a little about that next Tuesday in Overlooked Films.