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

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

Frank Kane – Red Hot Ice (1955)


Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Date Finished: August 8, 2017
TBR #69
Follow the Clues step #67: from Hot to Hot

A drunken actress tries to hire Johnny Liddell to protect her while paying often a gambler with a stash of diamonds. Johnny passes the job off to an associate, who winds up dead, as does the actress. Some blame Johnny for the killings and theft of diamonds, but he hunts for the killer among gamblers and mobsters, an estranged husband, a husband’s new mistress, and others.

Fairly typical private eye stuff, but solid and action packed. Coming early enough in the Johnny Liddell series, it still has some freshness about it, with much involvement by newspaper reporter Muggsy Kiely.

For once we’ll have to skip the scavenger hunt card, as we’ve used up all the categories this might have qualified for.


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

Alfred Hitchcock’s Death Can Be Beautiful (1972)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Graveyard
Date Finished: August 1, 2017
TBR #66
Follow the Clues step #63: from Death to Death

Another very good collection of suspenseful short stories, all first appearing between 1958 and 1968. Authors include Donald Westlake, Fletcher Flora, Ed Lacy, and Jack Webb (the mystery author, not the Dragnet star). The only one that seems out of place is a Solar Pons story by August Derleth, which while good, does not match the 1960s setting or feel of the other stories. It is often easy to set aside short story collections and not finish them quickly, but this one kept my interest enough to finish quickly. It also worked well for the short reading snippets of time I had available at my conference in Portland and on the train.

Vintage Silver Scavenger 2017-08-01

Ngaio Marsh – Death at the Bar (1940)


Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Any Other Weapon
Date Finished: July 30, 2017
TBR #65
Follow the Clues step #62: from Death to Death

A gathering at a Devon inn in a small fishing village leads to death, as a somewhat obnoxious lawyer is poisoned amid a darts contest in the pub. The key to finding the murderer is to determine the manner of delivering the poison, but there are several possibilities, including a poisoned dart pictured above, and a number of suspicious characters.

I found this one to be much better than the preceding several Marsh novels, likely as it was concerned with the several characters at the inn, rather than some high society thing or Alleyn’s snooty background. Perhaps it is also due to the emphasis of the puzzle plot over the social aspects. A good read for the plane ride back from Portland.

Vintage Golden Scavenger 2017-07-30