Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Monday, March 27, 2017
Sunday, March 26, 2017
Friday, March 24, 2017
Otherwise, read on.
I’ve had a book bearing this title (the Avon “Classic Crime” edition of 1961) kicking around the house for years, but resisted reading it. Somehow I had learned it was a revised and toned-down version of the notorious original. I mean, if I’m going to read a book famous for its brutality, why settle for a watered-down version?
A couple of years ago, I got curious again and tried to learn if any of the many reprint editions contained the original 1939 text. And it just got more frustrating. Best I could learn was that it had been officially revised by Chase (aka Rene Brabazon Raymond) in 1942 and again in 1961, with numerous variants published in between. I tried to track down a genuine first edition through InterLibrary Loan, and failed that too.
Was it worth the wait?
Well, it was pretty dang interesting. Back in 1939, it was probably the most violent book ever published, and I can see why it raised a ruckus. By now, I’m sure it’s been surpassed many times, but not by anything I’ve read, or would care to read.
The basic plot is this: Miss Blandish (no name given), daughter of a really rich guy, is kidnapped by a gang of brutal thugs. Almost immediately, she is re-kidnapped by a gang of infinitely more brutal thugs. As you would expect, brutality ensues. This continues until a private detective—relatively brutal himself, but with redeeming senses of humor and honor—is hired to find her.
To give you an idea of the caliber of crook she’s dealing with, her chief tormentor, Slim Grisson, was once caught by his school master “cutting up a new-born kitten with a rusty pair of scissors.” Slim does everything violently, right down to way he picks his nose. Leading the gang is the kitten-cutter’s mother, who has “shoulders like a gorilla,” and flesh hanging “in two loose sacks on either side of her mouth.” On meeting Miss B, Ma says, “You’re going to stay here until your old man comes across” and “If he tries to be smart, I’m going to take you apart in bits, and those bits will be sent to your pa every goddam day until he learns to play ball.” And she ain’t fooling.
P.I. Dave Fenner, who makes his first appearance almost halfway into the book, knows how to deal with such folk. Switching on a portable electric stove, he watches the filaments turn red and says, “I could get a hell of a kick clappin’ this poultice on that’s rat’s mug.” And he ain’t fooling, either. Later he holds a fry pan full of hissing grease over another rat and announces, “You’ll talk or I’ll slop this fat in your mug.” The rat talks.
The story is set in the U.S., and though Chase did pretty well with Americanese, a few British terms and spellings slipped through. Words like kerb, cheque, bell-push, boot (for trunk), grips (for suitcases) and lift (for elevator). At one point Fenner says, “It’s sweet fanny to me who happened to Heinie. That little rat’s got nothin’ to do with me.” Sweet fanny?
The afterword to the Stark House edition, by John Fraser, discusses the novel’s complex publishing history and probable sources. One insight of particular interest to me was the mention of Jonathan Latimer’s The Dead Don’t Care, published in England the year before Orchids. Fraser quotes a passage in which Crane ponders what happens to pretty women at the hands of kidnappers. Crane is pretty sure he knows, but wonders why no one ever talks about it. Fraser thinks this scene may have been in Chase’s mind when he came up with Orchids. According to Fraser, the original 1939 text appears in a 1977 Corgi paperback and and 1961 Robert Hale edition, both published in Great Britain. This new Stark House book (which also contains, you may have noticed, Twelve “Chinamen” and a Woman) appears to the first American printing of the real thing.
P.S. In case you missed it, over the past four days I’ve taken a nosy look at the bookshelf of author Stephen Mertz, featuring books by Cleve F. Adams, Michael Avallone, Robert Leslie Bellem, Carroll John Daly, Lester Dent, Donald Hamilton, Dashiell Hammett, Robert E. Howard, Joe Lansdale, Don Pendleton, Richard S. Prather, Bill Pronzini, Bob Randisi and others. You can view the whole shebang HERE.
Thursday, March 23, 2017
Here we are at the fourth and final row this photo gives us access to. Sad, ain't it? We'll all be up nights wondering what Steve has stashed on Row Five, with authors S thru Z.
In the shadows under Steve's wrist sit two of the Carroll & Graf Spider doubles published in the '90s. Can't see which they are (there were at least eight of them), but in between is a Spider book we can identify.
And this is it. I always planned to get a copy of my own, but never got around to it. Guess it's about time. After a few blurry titles, we roll into the Don Pendleton department . . .
The books Steve is either hiding or calling attention to with his hand are most likely the four sleazy adventures of Stewart Mann, detective, penned by Pendleton in his pre-Executioner days. Steve spilled the beans on these recently on Ben Boulden's blog, and you can read the story HERE.
Next up are a bunch of Executioners. This one is unmistakable, but the others are too tough for me. I yapped about this book recently HERE.
Pendleton's post-Exectioner days are represented by these two hardcovers, and that's likely a Copp paperback sandwiched between them.
And bringing the Pendleton section to a close is one of the many books by Don's wife Linda.
This next section starts with several Shell Scott adventures.
I can see these. Can you see more?
Then it's Pronzini time. I have these two on my shelves, too.
That red/orange hardback between Labyrinth and Bindlestiff looks mighty familiar. I might even have a copy, but it has me baffled.
There are way too many books here I can't make out. Guess I'll have to make the pilgrimage to Tuscon.
I didn't know what a Nick Carter book was doing this late in the alphabet until I figured out it was written by Bob Randisi.
Which explains why, after a couple more titles I can't read, we come to these two. The books that follow are mostly a mystery, though I do see a couple of Harold Robbins, one of which is The Carpetbaggers.
The last two I can be sure of are these, by a guy I'm not familiar with. But if Steve likes him he must be good.
Down near the end of the line is a single Stony Man (Executioner spin-off) book. Who done it?
That's it. That's all I got. But let this be a lesson to you. If you go posting photos of your bookshelves you risk some nosy bozo like me poking around in them!
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Over the past two days, we've seen that Steve has some mighty swell books, and they just keep on a'comin'.
The first books visible on row Three are Donald Hamilton's adventures of Matt Helm. I can't read the titles--the best I can get are impressions. But I'm going out on a limb and say I have the impression two of them might be these . . .
Hm. I've never read a Matt Helm book. That blurb at the top of The Wrecking Crew makes me think I should.
Next up are Hammett's best book (left) and the one other folks think is his best (right). Read these more times than I can count.
After a copy of The Big Knockover and what I suspect is a later book called Nightmare Town, we find the hands-down most (left) and least (right) important Hammett story collections.
And two more less than vital but still interesting collections of artifacts. Among the next nine books is something by Ernie Hemingway (a story collection?) and a couple of Jack Higgins thrillers, including The Eagle Has Landed.
Then we find four REH titles, only two of which I can be sure of. The fourth has the same coloring as Berkley's Son of the White Wolf and Marchers of Valhalla, but the words don't seem to fit.
L. Ron Hubbard is not a name I expected to find here. Surprise, surprise. Following that are several unidentifiable E. Howard Hunt books and a Longmire adventure. It may not be As the Crow Flies, but the coloring is right.
Jumping to the next shelf, there's this one by Wm. Johnstone. Four books later there's another by the same dude, so it's a fair bet those in between are too. Then there are a few Frank Kanes. It almost looks like there's a Henry Kane in there too, but if so he's out of order.
We then encounter a Stephen King or two and a Dean Koontz or two before entering Joe Lansdale territory.
It looks like there are ten Lansdale titles, but I can only be sure of four titles, and pretty sure of three editions. I have no clue as to the addition of The Magic Wagon, third from the top in the stack.
Since this is the last pic in today's post, I'm glad it has a great cover.
Tomorrow: Row Four, and a fond farewell to the Mertz Library. See you then.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Yesterday we took a closer look at the top row of this small portion of the Stephen Mertz Unpublic Library of Tucson, AZ. Today we're moving on to row Two. What wonders will we find? Read on . . .
Way over there on the left, above Steve's shoulder, is a glimpse of the Mertz section. Unlike the others, these are not filed alphabetically by author, but I suppose they're entitled to a place of honor.
The first thing we see are these two Crossroad Press hardcovers. Devil Creek is a reissue, and The Castro Directive is an original.
After another hardcover with the title obscured is the first of the Blaze! books, an indecipherable trade paperback and at least a couple more Blazes! (More about Blaze! HERE, HERE, and HERE.) And that's it. I wish I wish we had a look at the whole Mertz section, because Steve has written at least a couple of bushels of books, but for purposes of this post, what we see is what we get.
Returning to the regular rotation, there are some books I should be able to identify, but can't. I've seen that fat white paperback that starts with a P many times in used bookstores, but can't put a name on it. Same for the salmon colored pb to the right of the Cussler book. Another Cussler? I just can't be sure.
These are the first two I can be sure of. I knew Steve was a Spillane reader, but didn't know about Cussler. (I enjoyed all the books Cussler wrote alone, but haven't delved into the collaborations.)
And now we come to the Dalys, with Snarl, the first Race Williams novel, and The Man in the Shadows, a third-person adventure of Daly's first-person pre-Race private investigator, Two-Gun Terry Mack.
The Hidden Hand is the second Race novel, and Vee Brown was Daly's Dime Detective guy, until Race himself jumped from Black Mask to Dime in 1935. More Vee Brown talk HERE.
Next to Vee Brown there's a black hardcover I don't recognize (what the heck is that, Steve?) followed by the extra-fun Mr. Strang (discussed HERE) and the first collection of unrelated Race novelettes, from 1989.
And right next to that is another of my favorite books, the first novel in the Doan & Carstairs series (described HERE.)
Here's another mystery. On the left here are four Gold Medals, who apparently fall between Davis and Dent. But I can't think of any Gold Medal authors in that range who wrote that many books. Can you?
The Dent books start with a couple of Doc Savages (can't read the titles), then stand tall with Genius Jones, the first book publication of an Argosy serial from 1937. (More about that HERE.) Next to that is a taller book with a white spine. All I can read on that one is DENT, and I want to know more. What is it, Steve?
Several more Savages follow, but the only ones I can name are these.
After that, Dent's first two Crime Club novels. Dead at the Take-Off is discussed HERE.
Lady Afraid was Dent's third and final Crime Club entry (more HERE), and Flight Into Fear was Will Murray's fifth Doc Savage novel, published way back in 1993. There are a couple of Doc Omnibuses nearby. I had hopes of naming those, but there were more than one in each of those colors.
Cry at Dusk (reviewed HERE) was Dent's sleaziest book, and Lady in Peril (HERE) a first edition Ace Double.
Finishing out the Dents is this Hard Case novel, unpublished until 2009. After Honey, there are a few Sherlock Holmes books (grist, no doubt, for Zombies Over London), followed by more titles I wish I could decipher.
The next things I can see, though, are two editions of this western I now want to read. Other Fieldhouse paperbacks follow, which I may be hunting too.
The end of this row brings still another mystery. I see what appear to be three or four Gunsmith books by "J.R. Roberts." If these had been penned by Gunsmith creator Robert Randisi, they'd be down on row four with the other Randisis. So who, with an F or G initial, wrote these babies?
Tomorrow: We move to row Three with more questions than answers. Come back and see which are which.