Hugh Pentecost – Die After Dark (1976)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Any Other Animal
Date Finished: August 14, 2017

Follow the Clues step #72: from Before to After

A politician comes to public relations agent Julian Quist with a problem. A woman he has fallen in love with has been murdered. To prevent his campaign from being derailed, and to prevent his handicapped wife from finding out, he asks Julian to investigate. Julian has to investigate the woman’s past and her ex-husband to find out who she was involved with and who may have murdered her.

Although the public relations angle and Quist’s team of employees is an interesting and unusual angle for a detective story, the slight reasons he gives for investigating, and the complete acceptance by the police, are not realistic. Quist is also portrayed as some sort of golden god, as is his partner Lydia. He also makes a number of assumptions that never seem to go down the wrong path, though he doesn’t discover the rather obvious murderer until he is attacked.

Vintage Silver Scavenger 2017-08-14

Lou Cameron – Before It’s Too Late (1970)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Any Other Weapon
Date Finished: August 13, 2017
TBR #71
Follow the Clues step #71: from Too Late to Too Late

An ex-serviceman returns from Vietnam to his home town, somewhat disabled and looking for work. Now unable to get police work, he takes a job at a collection agency. The first assignment is to repossess a Corvette from a dangerous college thug. He easily repossess the Corvette, but the college kid turns up dead shortly thereafter. The police finger him for the killing, but soon turn him loose for lack of evidence and try to run him out of town. Many others try to do that as well, getting orders from some town bigwig, but he persists in digging around, amid a number of other mysterious deaths.

From the cover, I expected more of a juvenile delinquency/gang thing, but it is much more of a John D. MacDonald-style man vs. corrupt town thriller, such as Death Trap. There are some hippie-type motorcycle-riding college students who do try to rough him up, but there is also Israeli-Arab espionage conflicts that play a much more central role to the plot. The resolution turns out to be rather far fetched, with a very convoluted plot to develop plague bacteria at the local beer factory for use on Israel. Still the writing and the execution turned out to be much better than I expected.

Vintage Silver Scavenger 2017-08-13

James McKimmey – Blue Mascara Tears (1965)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Curtains
Date Finished: August 10, 2017

Follow the Clues step #69: from White to Blue

An honest cop has to fight his own bureaucracy to bring a connected mobster to justice. A gambler with a large amount of money is killed just prior to paying off the mobster. The killer turns out not to be connected to the mobster, but the gambler’s wife soon turns up dead and the mobster and his men are implicated. The cop brings everything down to serve justice.

A good, brutal thriller that moves quickly. I’m very impressed with every McKimmey story I’ve found.

Vintage Silver Scavenger 2017-08-10b

Edward S. Aarons – Assignment White Rajah (1970)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Boat
Date Finished: August 10, 2017
TBR #70
Follow the Clues step #68: from Red to White

Sam Durrell is sent to Malaysia to search for lost U.S. fighter planes, somewhat undercover as a embassy official. He finds a city beset by riots and various political factions, including some connected to the old white ruling class family, one of whom was the original White Rajah. The fighter planes are to be used in the coup attempt and Durrell has to prevent that, while trying to recover the planes and deal with a run-down former mentor who may be a possible double agent. Of course, there are beautiful women, as well.

No new ground is broken here, but a competent espionage novel somewhat grounded in the reality of the Cold War conflicts in Southeast Asia. Diverting.

Vintage Silver Scavenger 2017-08-10

Neil MacNeil – Hot Dam (1960)

MacNeil - Hot Dam GM0964

Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Bottle/Glass for Drinking
Date Finished: August 6, 2017

Follow the Clues step #66: from Cold to Hot

Tony Costaine and Bert McCall are called into the wilds of upstate New York, where a construction crew working on a dam project are being harassed and sabotaged by others opposed to the project. Here they meet a lost clan of McCalls who have druid ceremonies and drink entire bottles of whisky as if it were water. There are also lost loot from 1920s bootleggers, beautiful women, and supposed ghosts.

Hot Dam is the fourth in the Tony Costaine and Bert McCall series, written by Todhunter Ballard under one of his many pseudonyms. This series is a farce on the detective novel in the same manner as Shell Scott. Unfortunately I don’t think it works as well as that series, which may be why it only ran seven novels as opposed to Prather’s 41 Shell Scott mysteries. I also enjoy Ballard’s straight detective novels much more, though I do believe I enjoyed the preceding novel in this series, 2 Guns for Hire, back in 2006. The private eye novel seems to have been running out of steam in the early 1960s, soon to be replaced by the James Bond imitations, and Ballard seems to have been searching for a solid series. This was not it, though I will continue on reading the rest of these.

Vintage Silver Scavenger 2017-08-06

Hank Janson – Cold Dead Coed (1964)

Cold Dead Coed - frontCold Dead Coed - reverse

Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Nurse
Date Finished: August 5, 2017
TBR #68
Follow the Clues step #65: from Cold to Cold

This Hank Janson series seems to be the British equivalent of the Australian Carter Brown series, with various writers giving their impression of an American detective story. Here Hank Janson, the author, places Hank Janson, the character, in a Indiana town, Parma Harbor, near South Bend on the shore of Lake Michigan. Visiting a friend who owns a nightclub, he is invited on a fishing cruise, along with two nightclub performers and a couple of others from the bar. Just before casting off for their day’s fishing, a couple of mobsters, plus a wounded man, take over their cruise and attempt to flee to Canada. The boat runs out of gas in the middle of the lake, as Hank Janson and friends, try to deal with and escape the criminals.

Nothing on this cover has anything to do with the story within, it seems. There is no co-ed in this story, nor any other college students. No women are killed in the story, just four men. The cover blurb says, “Hank’s yearly vacation with two very young and very uninhibited strip tease artists was cut short by murder…” One of the acrobatic performers, not striptease artists, was very inhibited. The back again mentions the strippers, and a shack in the north woods as the focal point of the action, but no shack is mentioned in the story. The story itself is suspenseful enough to be a passable read, with only moderate attempts at Carter Brown-style leering humor. Apparently it was not interesting enough for the publishers to actually read and market, however.

If Hank Janson is really England’s Outstanding Mystery Writing that is a sad state of affairs for England.

The back cover features an add for another novel, Sanitarium of Tears, including a fleeing nurse on that cover image. As this is one of the toughest categories to complete, we’ll count it here.

Vintage Silver Scavenger 2017-08-05

John Creasey – Death in Cold Print (1961)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Bloodstains
Date Finished: August 4, 2017
TBR #67
Follow the Clues step #64: from Death to Death

A middle period Inspector West story, the 28th out of 43, finds West investigating the murder of a night watchman and his mistress at a large printing company in a small town west of London. Various possible suspects include the husband of the dead woman, competing printing firms, or the owners of the firm themselves. Hindering the investigation at times is the insular nature of the small town, including among members of the police force he must work with.

Some of Creasey’s novels have dragged a bit for me, while others worked quite well, so I’m not always sure what to expect. This one was quite enjoyable up until the ending, which seemed to fall flat and was rather anti-climactic. Also, the ridiculous nickname of “Handsome” for West always jars when coming from fellow police officers.

Vintage Silver Scavenger 2017-08-04