Friday, October 9, 2015

Forgotten Books: MURDER AT MIDNIGHT by Richard Sale (1950)

Like Richard Sale's earlier Popular Library entry, Home is the Hangman (reviewed HERE), Murder at Midnight is two long novelettes (or maybe novellas) disguised as a novel. Not that there's anything wrong with that. 

Sale was a great storyteller, and everything he cranked out is a pleasure to read. It's just that the work in these two volumes, designed for slick mags like the Saturday Evening Post, are less pleasurable than his novels or pulp stories. The novels are richer in theme and character, the pulp mysteries are funnier, and the pulp historicals are more intriguing.

"Murder at Midnight," filling the first 70 pages of the book, is solid mystery/thriller about a couple with a young adopted daughter. True to the title, there's a murder in it, and the mystery revolves around the identity of the adoptee's birth mother and the duplicitous relatitives and associates of the victim. I don't know if the story appeared in the Post or not, but it's just the sort of thing that would have rocked its readers' boats.

"Cape Spectre," at 84 pages, comprises the rest. Several pages into this one, I had the feeling I'd read it before, but I was wrong. Sort of. Like the story "Beam to Brazil," in Home is the Hangman," this one takes place after the start of WWII, but before the USA enters the fray, and stars a radio operator sent to take over a troubled station in the South Seas. The similarity, it turned out, was deliberate, because both stories feature the same minor (but vital) supporting character - British agent Dudleigh Peighton. And in this tale, Peighton tells the hero he reminds him of a certain Mike Heywood, the hero of "Beam to Brazil" This is the same technique Sale employed in the mystery novels Lazarus #7 (HERE) and Passing Strange (HERE), in which different protagonists are assisted by the same police detective, Daniel Webster. Other than that, though, "Cape Spectre" is a whole 'nother story. Really.

In searching for the links to those other reviews, I discovered this is the 32nd post I've tagged with the name "Richard Sale." And it won't be the last. Jeez, I must really like the guy.


Rick Robinson said...

To be clear: these novelettes are mashed together into one tale, or separated into two stories in one set of covers? Sounds good, either way.

Oscar Case said...

Interesting cover. Meeting in the night.

Evan Lewis said...

From front and back, this looks like a novel. But Pop Lib wasn't being too sneaky. Inside there's a table of contents showing two stories, and page headers show the two titles. These days they'd probably be sneakier, but in 1950 folks were not yet overly prejudiced against novelettes.

Mathew Paust said...

Haven't looked to see if any of his work is available in ebook format yet, but if so my fingers are itching to do some downloads.