Robert Colby – In a Vanishing Room (1961)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: Who — An amateur detective
Cloak and Dagger Challenge #94
Date Finished: July 1, 2018

A businessman, heading to New York to take a new job, witnesses some shenanigans in the Miami airport, leading him to be the unknown carrier of a claim check for a crate being shipped via van line. A redhead seemingly meets him by accident at Idlewild, romances him, drugs him, steals his luggage, and eventually turns up dead. Meanwhile, he loses out on his job, gets hired by the executive tied in with this crate, goes with the executive’s beautiful secretary to California, supposedly in search of this crate, but really in order to be bumped off. The crate meanwhile is not heading to California, but was stolen in North Carolina, then turns up in California, as does the executive and his killers. Convoluted.

Although I like a good short novel, the shortness works against this one as it is a bit too complicated to be dealt with in 109 pages. The death of the first woman and the replacement by the second doesn’t allow a lot of development of either character, while the logic behind the involvement of the businessman is too faulty.

Just the Facts Silver Card 2018-07-01


Triple Western – Summer 1954


Vintage Western Pulp
Wild Wild West Reading Challenge #5
TBR #65
Date Finished: June 30, 2018

This issue features three novelette-length stories, as did most in this series and other similar Triple publications, plus two short stories. One was almost always a reprint, with the one here being “Green Rawhide” by Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, which first appeared in Popular Western in April 1948. Wheeler-Nicholson was a man of adventure and pulp writer, who is now known for being highly involved in the creation of comic books, and particularly DC Comics, publishing the first comic book with all-new material, New Fun #1, in 1935. “Green Rawhide” tells of a young cavalry officer arriving in the West and becoming immediately involved with the fight against the Apaches, turning into a hardened, unbreakable man, hence the allusion to green rawhide, which toughens from flexible material into an unbreakable material under the sun.

The lead story, “Border Spawn,” is by Dean Owen, aka Owen Dudley and Dudley Dean, really Dudley Dean McGaughy, who wrote mysteries and western paperbacks after his pulp career, and eventually adult paperbacks, never achieving greatness. “Border Spawn” tells of a Texas rancher who returns home from working in Kansas stockyards to find his ranch and business partner connected with rustlers and crooks, for which the whole town now blames him. He does his best to fight the crooks and get over the woman who has done him wrong. Exciting but some fairly standard plot lines here.

The middle novel, “The Gun Tyrant” by A. Kenneth Brent, is the story of a man sent from Wyoming to New Mexico to take back control of a ranch for its owner after a tough crowd has taken over the running of it. Laying low, he works his way onto the ranch, then does some fighting, and wins a girl. I didn’t mind it on the first read, but have trouble remembering any distinctive details about the story now four days later.

The other two stories, “Payoff” by David Dawson and “The Last Bullet” by C.S. Park are both short and entertaining.

Overall this was an good, fun issue, worth the $2 paid for it at Windy City Pulp and Paper.

Harry Kemelman – Sunday the Rabbi Stayed Home (1969)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: When — Time/Date/etc in Title
Cloak and Dagger Challenge #93
TBR #64
Date Finished: June 30, 2018

The rabbi faces dissension in his temple, with the older members looking at purchasing an old home and converting it into a competing synagogue. The college-age youth of the congregation hold a party at the same location, with one of them turning up dead. Was the motive his racism toward a black kid or was it his drug dealing?

The first hundred-plus pages concentrate on the temple politics, interspersed only with the rabbi’s pedantic explanations of all things Jewish. Once something actually happens, the temple politics continue to play a large role, with the rabbi only lightly involved in the mystery, which is soon wrapped up. Incredibly boring and badly plotted.

Just the Facts Silver Card 2018-06-30

Brett Halliday – The Corpse That Never Was (1963)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: How — Death by poison
Cloak and Dagger Challenge #92
Date Finished: June 27, 2018

Having just finished a meal at Lucy Hamilton’s apartment, Mike Shayne and Lucy hear a gunshot from the floor above. Rushing up there, Mike breaks down the locked door and finds two dead bodies in an apparent double suicide, with the woman taking poison and the man, according to the note, chickening out at first and then killing himself with a shotgun. The police believe the suicide angle, but the woman’s father doesn’t buy the story, hates his son-in-law, and can’t believe his daughter would use this love nest with her unknown boyfriend. Mike investigates and finds more murders and disappearances.

A short, ghostwritten Shayne novel, that moves along fairly well, until the ending in which everything is wrapped up with incredible haste. Not much characterization and interactions with the one prime suspect is limited, nor do we get a very clear picture of the dead woman. Still, did I mention that it is short?

Just the Facts Silver Card 2018-06-29

Ray Hogan – Conger’s Woman (1973)


Wild Wild West Reading Challenge #5
TBR #63
Date Finished: June 27, 2018

A broke cowhand, thrown in jail for punching the deputy, meets a beautiful young woman about to be hung for murdering her husband. He quickly falls for her, helps her to break jail, and they flee from Kansas to Mexico, where he thinks she’ll be able to clear her name. Pursuing them is a posse headed by her husband’s brother, who won’t stop until she is captured or dead.

An exciting chase novel, with quite a lot of suspense and action. Unlike more modern novels, the sex aspect is almost completely avoided. Other than the method of travel, this could easily have been a suspense thriller set in the mid-twentieth century. It doesn’t break much new ground, plot-wise, but it is still a fun read.

Michael Innes – Appleby and Honeybath (1983)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: Where — In a locked room
Cloak and Dagger Challenge #91
Date Finished: June 26, 2018

When Charles Honeybath visits a country house in order to paint the portrait of its owner, accompanied by Sir John and Lady Appleby for no discernible reason, he complicates things by finding a dead body in the seldom-used library. Complicating things even more is that the body disappears from a locked room before he is able to show the body to anybody else. Various guests at the house may have had a motive in exploring the library, but was Honeybath just imaging the body?

The locked room business is quickly explained away, despite that being the one interesting thing about this mystery, in which even the death turns out to have been a natural one. If you thought Appleby was boring before, he is even more so in retirement. Honeybath had his own brief mystery series by Innes, but he is virtually indistinguishable from Appleby. In the end Appleby just declares who did it, with no supporting clues.

Just the Facts Silver Card 2018-06-26b

Max Allan Collins – The Baby Blue Rip-Off (1983)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: Who — A Journalist/Writer
Cloak and Dagger Challenge #90
Date Finished: June 26, 2018

While delivering meals-on-wheels to several senior citizens, Mallory, part-time mystery author, bumps into a robbery/murder taking place at the home of one of them. Despite being beaten up by them, he begins investigating, working somewhat with the sheriff’s department, while also getting romantically involved with a former junior high flame.

A rather simple mystery solved through rather simple investigation, this work is filled with much extraneous material, with a number of clunky passages and dialogue. The dialogue may have seemed especially clunky due to experiencing in the audiobook version. The version is well done, though the narrator’s voice when doing the female parts does not make them seem believably attractive. The first half of the book moved along nicely, but then it bogged down in the middle, as the junior high past of the characters is overly examined, and then was resolved through various poor choices that Mallory makes. I’d never listened to a complete audiobook before, but will consider more on the commute if they are near this four-hour length.

Just the Facts Silver Card 2018-06-26