Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: What — Book published under more than one title
Cloak and Dagger Challenge #21
Date Finished: February 11, 2018
Deal Me In Challenge 2018
Q♦️ “Flight to Nowhere,” from Manhunt, September 1955 and The Mammoth Book of Pulp Fiction.
A deep sea diver is hired for obviously fake purposes by a beautiful blonde woman. She is testing him out to see if he’ll take her and her husband across the Gulf of Mexico to find a submerged plane, which happens to have a cache of diamonds aboard. Oh, and the mob is after them. Locating the husband, the mob kills him, believing that the wife can take them to the plane’s location. Two mobsters, the wife, and the diver, who is now in love with the wife, take a sailboat across the Gulf, with the diver looking for a way to escape or survive this journey.
Originally published in 1955 as Scorpion Reef, this novel was cut down to novella-size for the September 1955 issue of Manhunt, which was then reprinted in The Mammoth Book of Pulp Fiction. Cheating a bit in my short story challenge, I read the full-length version, while comparing it with the shorter version. Much of the later action and dialogue is the same, but most of the earlier dialogue is only summarized, rather than related in full. A later failed attempt to escape the sailboat and swim for shore, prior to the final climax, is also condensed and abbreviated in the novella, ending somewhat abruptly. Both contain excellent writing by Williams and a very suspenseful plot, but reading only the shortened version would have been a disservice to Williams’ craft and narrative pacing.