Carter Brown – The White Bikini (1963)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: How — Death by Drowning
TBR #75 (48e, 27p)
Date Finished: June 28, 2019

Hollywood troubleshooter Rick Holman is called in by a movie studio mogul to investigate the last two years of his daughter’s life. She was disowned by him after marrying a gigolo and now has turned up dead, drowned off the coast of Malibu. Rick tracks back through her life to see what she has been up to, and incidentally find the murderer.

A surprisingly somber, or at least more somber than usual, story, largely due to starting with an already dead victim. The slapstick and smirking is largely missing, thankfully, as the mystery is relatively straightforward and interesting, though somewhat lightweight. Could be worse.

Just the Facts Silver 2019-06-28


Peter Rabe – Murder Me For Nickels (1960)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
TBR #74 (47e, 27p)
Date Finished: June 26, 2019

The assistant to the head of a Jukebox franchise in a mid-sized town runs into trouble when a competing firm with mob connections comes to town. The assistant also has invested in a local record company, which eventually puts him at odds with his own boss.

A surprisingly funny story of the rackets with interesting characters and unusual plotting. Very well done.

Amazing Stories – December 1936


Vintage Science Fiction Pulp
TBR #73 (46e, 27p)
Date Finished: June 25, 2019

This issue finishes the second part of John W. Campbell, Jr.’s “Uncertainty.” The rest of the issue includes the following:

“Time Control” by Philip Jacques Bartel
Time traveling Soviets dealing with bureaucracy. Confusing.

“The Space Marines and the Slavers” by Bob Olsen
Good setting of space marines on secret mission to Mars to rescue slaves marred mainly by dialogue explaining basic stuff of Mars, such as the moons and their names, to junior officer who should know this by now.

“Devolution” by Edmond Hamilton
Men discover aliens who are seeking descendants of the original interstellar settlers of earth, finding all has devolved. Human can’t take it. Much lecturing, little action.

“Death Creeps the Moon” by Wede
Humorously crotchety professor participates with discovery of prehistoric termite civilization. Their writings are easily translated into English with the vast majority of the story then relating boring bug history from the point of view of moon men they defeated.

“When the Earth Stood Still” by Arlyn H. Vance
Odd story of renegade scientist exiled for warning world of impending doom. When the earth stops rotating, gravity, sound, and light inexplicably also stop working. Scientist works to save world  then quits and they live happily ever after on stationary planet, despite all previous reason why that wouldn’t work. Strange, almost if intended ending was cut and all wrapped up differently in a page.

Science fiction remains not my thing, other than Fredric Brown, but perhaps that is because I’m reading 1936 science fiction.

Frank Kane – Hearse Class Male (1963)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: Where — At a Theatre/Circus/other place of performance
TBR #72 (45e, 27p)
Date Finished: June 25, 2019

An undercover private detective, working for a pharmaceutical company that is about to come out with a new wonder drug, is killed in a Times Square movie theater. His agency asks Johnny Liddell to go undercover, investigate the death, and prevent the theft of the wonder drug. Meanwhile, the mob is enticing the lead scientist to leak the drug out to benefit the poor of Cuba, or so she is told.

The mob must have hated Johnny Liddell as he seems to have taken them on at every novel opportunity. Here it is limited with a couple of thugs from out of town that beat up Johnny’s secretary and then depart. Others take care of each other once Johnny foils their plot. The initial extensive set up of the research laboratories at the drug company are largely abandoned once Johnny arrives, with his cover blown immediately, leading to a strange disconnect between halves of the story. The charm or distinctiveness of Johnny Liddell is also largely missing here, as the series peters out, with nine more novels to go over the next four years.

Just the Facts Silver 2019-06-25

Dan Temple – The Man From Idaho (1956)


Vintage Western
Monthly Key Word: Man
TBR #71 (45e, 26p)
Date Finished: June 23, 2019

A gunman from Idaho arrives in a valley to find the rancher who hired him has been killed and his daughter and an Eastern businessman have taken over the ranch that dominates the valley. The remaining ranchers have been gathered together by an ambitious schemer and are causing trouble by tearing down fencing, burning buildings, and stampeding cattle. The gunman is caught between the two factions, refusing to leave town when told to do so, and eventually working for both sides before figuring out where his loyalties lie.

A rather stock situation with stock characters and action, this story is competently told by D.B. Newton, written under one of his pen names. It is enlivened mainly by the descriptions of the environment, painting effective pictures of the West.

2019 Monthly Key Words 2019-06-23

Frances and Richard Lockridge – Death Takes a Bow (1943)


Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: Where — At a Theatre/Circus/other place of performance
TBR #70 (45e, 25p)
Date Finished: June 19, 2019

Jerry North has to introduce a noted author prior to a speech. Just as the introduction is finished, however, the author slumps over dead, poisoned by morphine. Lt. Weigand soon arrives, the only homicide detective in New York, it seems, as he gets to deal with all of the North’s murders. The author’s love life, time in Paris, or youth in Iowa may be motives behind the killing.

Jerry North takes some of the early action here, but soon disappears from the story as Pam gets to demonstrate her incomplete sentences to her visiting nieces and her cats. Pam and her logic are much more featured than they were in Death on the Aisle, just two books previous. Not many suspects with any viable motives or reasonable opportunities are present, nor is much time spent investigating them. Pam decides upon a prime suspect, which is fairly obvious to the reader, and of course goes off to confront them on her own, as the North formula indicates. That conflict is stifled quickly by Weigand before any real suspense can be built. A mediocre entry in this series.

Just the Facts Golden 2019-06-19

Richard S. Prather – The Meandering Corpse (1965)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: What — Comic/Humorous novel
TBR #69 (44e, 25p)
Date Finished: June 16, 2019

Shell Scott has a big date with a belly dancer, but the daughter of a mobster gets him involved with a fight between two rival factions. Fights, murders, bombings, helicopter rides, and beautiful women abound, but Shell sorts it all out and breaks up two mobs.

The usual Shell Scott silliness seems toned down here to start, but then breaks loose with a ridiculous chase through the cemetery with Shell carrying a bomb-filled corpse. That’s not even the climax. Luckily Prather leaves out his repugnant politics here, but the series is running low on originality and steam.

Just the Facts Silver 2019-06-16