Ellery Queen – Cop Out (1969)

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Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: What — Pseudonymous author

Cloak and Dagger Challenge #44
TBR #29
Key Word: Out
Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge #3
Date Finished: April 18, 2018

Two men and a woman rob the payroll from a local factory, killing their inside man in the process. Unable to get out of town due to delays and roadblocks, they take the daughter of a local cop as hostage. The cop, a loner, has to figure out what lines he’ll cross and how to rely on others to help get his daughter back.

This novel was supposedly written by the real Ellery Queen duo of Manfred Lee and Frederic Dannay, after a long line of ghostwriters used their pseudonym for very similar 1960s-style thriller mysteries. This one reads much more like those ghostwritten works than any sort of intellectual, fair-play whodunit. In that thriller vein, it isn’t terrible, but it certainly is not up to the standards that the cousins had established over 40 years of writing. They also use a stream-of-consciousness style of writing that is an odd switch. Although it ends with the cop becoming part of the community, the change of character feels tacked on after the independence he has stressed throughout the vast majority of the story.

I finished the other half of this double novel as a teenager back in November 1984. This half, not featuring the Ellery Queen character, has been on the shelf since then.

Just the Facts Silver Card 2018-04-182018 Monthly Key Words 2018-04-18

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Louis Trimble – The Surfside Caper (1961)

SurfsideCaper-PrologueSurfsideCaper-Ace

Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: How — At least two deaths with different means

Cloak and Dagger Challenge #43
Date Finished: April 16, 2018

A corporate hotel man arrives at a California coast-side resort hotel to help the wife of a deceased friend. A corporate competitor, a former creep and criminal, who is looking to buy the hotel has also tried to hire him to help with threats he has been receiving. On the winding mountain road he is almost forced from the road by a truck which later crashes. The driver is later found with a broken neck not obtained in the crash. The police begin investigating our man for this, as well as for the murder of a local landowner and fiance of the hotel owner, who has been shot after a confrontation with our hotel man. Most of the detecting takes place during the night at the hotel grounds as he avoids the police and tries to get the truth out of various characters.

A short, fast-moving little action mystery this could have done with a bit more development of the various characters. The motivation of the female hotel owner and the corporate competitor are not fully developed as the page count limits the interactions we have with each. Entertaining, but this could have been helped with another 50 pages.

Just the Facts Silver Card 2018-04-16

Earl Derr Biggers – The Black Camel (1929)

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Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: Who — Patriarch of family

Cloak and Dagger Challenge #42
TBR #28
Date Finished: April 15, 2018

Charlie Chan returns to Honolulu after various mysteries abroad to investigate the murder of a movie star. She had been returning to Hollywood from shooting a film in Tahiti and had collected various characters around her, including her shipboard romance, her ex-husband, and her psychic. Somehow this murder connects with another a few years before in Hollywood.

This fourth Charlie Chan novel is the last of the original Earl Derr Biggers’ ones I’ve read, and somehow it took over 30 years to do so. Perhaps it was the layout of this omnibus version, which also seems to have kept me from picking it up regularly this last week. It really had nothing to do with the story, which is a well told mystery. The Chan character is interesting and complex, much more so than the movie versions, while the secondary characters are at least memorable enough to keep straight. Unlike the movies, Chan’s children appear only briefly, but they are very interested here in the Hollywood stars and his involvement with this mystery. Perhaps it missed the suspense or urgency to motivate continued reading. The Honolulu setting of the 1920s is not quite as completely drawn as The House Without a Key, but it is a much better setting for Chan than his California mysteries. I’ve been watching quite a few Hawaiian Eye episodes before Warner Archive disappears, so in my imagination Hawaii looks a lot like the Warners backlot.

Just the Facts Golden Card 2018-04-15

April TBR updates

Comedians

The Comedians by Kliph Nesteroff
TBR #26
Date finished: April 7, 2018

Rather than do individual blog posts on non-mysteries, I thought I’d do a round-up here as the month progresses.

The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy is a history of comedy from vaudeville to the 21st century. I’ve enjoyed Kliph’s interviews with comedians on the WFMU Beware of the Blog and Classic Television Showbiz, and this history incorporates many of those stories and provides a good survey of various comedy trends. Some of the immediacy of those interviews is lost, however, and there are fewer stories of thieves and scoundrels than were likely present during those showbiz years. Still, a very entertaining history.

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Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse volume 2, Trapped on Treasure Island
by Floyd Gottfredson
TBR #27
Date finished: April 7, 2018

Another volume in the very nice quality Fantagraphics series reprinting the Floyd Gottfredson Mickey Mouse daily comic strips. This volume includes strips from January 11, 1932 to January 9, 1934 and features classic adventures such as Blaggard Castle and the Mail Pilot. Very entertaining and very nice reproduction.

Mount TBR: Checkpoint #1

Mount TBR 2018

Time for a quarterly check-in on the Mount TBR project.

1. Tell us how many miles you’ve made it up your mountain (# of books read).  If you’re really ambitious, you can do some intricate math and figure out how the number of books you’ve read correlates to actual miles up Pike’s Peak, Mt. Ararat, etc. And feel free to tell us about any particularly exciting adventures you’ve had along the way.

I finished book #25 just before the end of the month, so am exactly one quarter of the way through one quarter of the year. Right on pace.

Complete ONE (or more if you like) of the following:
 A. Post a picture of your favorite cover so far.
WrongMurder
These early Popular Library covers are great, even though the artist may have drawn a New York IRT subway entrance rather than the Chicago CTA, though that wasn’t created yet. This paperback was published in 1945, so the first Chicago subway had just opened on State Street in 1943, though it is not mentioned, of course, in the 1940 story. A more appropriate cover would have the shadowy figure running up the “L” steps.
 D. Title Scrabble: See if you can spell a word using the first letter of the first word in the titles of some/all of the books you have read so far. Feel free to consider “A,” “An,” or “The” as the first word or not as it helps you with your word hunt.
Baptised (no Z to give this the correct American spelling)
Bluffer’s Luck by W.C. Tuttle
And the Town Took Off by Richard Wilson
Pattern for Murder by Ione Sandberg Shriber
Tragedy of X by Ellery Queen
If Anything Happens to Hester by John Creasey
Spill the Jackpot by A.A. Fair
Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie
Die, Little Goose by David Alexander

G.G. Fickling – This Girl for Hire (1957)

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Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: How — Death by drowning

Cloak and Dagger Challenge #41
Date Finished: March 31, 2018

Honey West is hired by a down-and-out actor after a successful actor has supposedly sent him threats. The washed-up actor is bludgeoned to death before the action even begins. Soon Honey is involved with the television company, as they sail to Catalina island for a shoot. Seven more killings occur in short order, by multiple different methods, including stabbing, shooting, and drowning, and Honey has to find the murderer even as she loses her swimsuit multiple times.

Dedicated to Richard Prather, this is a female imitation of a Shell Scott farce, with the same implausible plotting and leering juvenile sexuality. This series heads downhill after this one, if you can believe it, as the Ficklings had no talent for plotting or for writing. The idea of a female private eye series set in and written in the 1950s is appealing, but this series is not an empowering one. Here there is no time for character development as the eight murders occur so fast that several are offscreen with little or no rhyme or reason.

Just the Facts Golden Card 2018-03-31b

W.C. Tuttle – Bluffer’s Luck (1937)

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Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Wild Wild West Reading Challenge #2
Just the Facts Category: When — A historical crime

Cloak and Dagger Challenge #40
TBR #25
Key Word: Luck
Date Finished: March 31, 2018

I’m going out on a ledge here and counting this both as a historical mystery and a western, as this is more mystery than western. We’ll see if Bev allows it, though someone has been counting golden age mysteries as silver age ones for years and hasn’t been called on it.

BluffersLuck_hillman5

A man returns to his former town after five years in prison, naturally for a crime he didn’t commit. The town expects him to raise trouble with those who sent him to prison, as well as locate the hidden loot from the robberies. Meanwhile, the shady lawyer has arranged for a San Francisco woman to pose as a heiress to a local cattle ranch. When that woman is killed in an accident, her penniless roommate secretly takes her place. Paths cross and trouble ensues. When a man is mysteriously shot to death, Hashknife Hartley and Sleepy Stevens arrive in town to investigate.

The detective duo of Hashknife and Sleepy appeared in many of the 1000s of pulp stories that Tuttle wrote, as well as several novels. This mystery is not terribly complicated, but Tuttle’s writing is very entertaining. The slapstick nature of some of his writing is not as evident here, though elements of humor appear. There are no shoot-outs, cattle drives, or other Western cliches here, just detectives arriving on horseback.

Just the Facts Golden Card 2018-03-31a

2018 Monthly Key Words 2018-03-31