Friday, October 22, 2010

The Complete Guide to Manhunt Part 5

by Peter Enfantino

Continuing an issue by issue examination of the greatest crime digest of all time.

Vol. 1 No. 4 April 1953

One Little Bullet by Henry Kane
(11,500 words) *1/2
Peter Chambers, PI, finds trouble in the Long-Malamed Cocktail Lounge. More deadly but desirable dames, seedy bars, damaged noggins, shady men with guns, and expositories worthy of a few yawns.

Henry Kane’s version of Mike Shayne, Peter Chambers appeared in nearly 30 novels (including Hang By Your Neck (1949), Death of a Hooker (1961), and Kill For the Millions (1972)), and even his own short-lived radio show, Crime and Peter Chambers. Chambers also starred in several short stories, 6 of which appeared in Manhunt.

Kane also adapted Ed McBain’s first 87th Precinct novel, Cop Hater, for the screen in 1958, starring Robert Loggia as McBain’s Detective Steve Carella.

Big Talk by Kris Neville
(2500 words) **1/2
Two newspapermen, working the night crime beat, check in on a battered woman at a hospital. Gritty little short-short is somewhat diminished by a predictable (and rushed) finale.

Be My Guest by Robert Turner
(3000 words) ***
Punch-drunk ex-boxer Rocky and his beautiful wife Janie retire to the hills of Maine after Rocky’s last fight. Trouble,, in the form of mobster Mr. Calligy comes calling. Seems Rocky was supposed to take a fall during his last bout but it didn’t work out that way. Calligy has come to take out his lost 50gs on Rocky and Jainie. Nicely done. Author Robert Turner gets us into the deteriorating brain of Rocky much like Jim Thompson did with Collie in After Dark, My Sweet.

Robert Turner was a prolific writer in several genres. He wrote three crime novels (The Tobacco Auction Murders (1954), The Girl in the Cop's Pocket (1956), and The Night is For Screaming (1960)), wrote for pulps such as The Spider, scripted comic books, and sold stories to TV (including “Hooked” to Alfred Hitchcock Presents, from the February 1958 issue of Manhunt). In 1970, Powell paperbacks published Shroud 9, a collection of short Robert Turner/Ray Carroll stories that includes 11 culled from Manhunt. For a comprehensive overview of Turner’s comic book career, see “Robert Turner in the Four-Color Forest by Will Murray (Comic Book Marketplace #85, September 2001).

Fan Club by Richard Ellington
(3000 words) *
Private dick Steve Drake only got to meet the lovely but bitchy Evelyn Lanier a short time before she was murdered. The prime suspect will be Evelyn’s ex Charley Boxer, an old friend of Drake’s, unless the PI can find the real killers before the cops get wind of her untimely death. Rest assured, Drake saves the day. One of the most abrupt endings I’ve ever read, but that’s not a bad thing since I don’t think I could have stayed awake more than a couple more pages. In the Hall of Fame of PIs, Steve Drake doesn’t merit much discussion. The creation of Richard Ellington (who supplemented his writing career with stints in Radio (The Fat Man) and TV (Man Against Crime)) Drake starred in five novels (It's a Crime (1948); Shoot the Works (1948); Stone Cold Dead (1950); Exit for a Dame (1951); and Just Killing Time (1953)) and two more short stories (both in Manhunt) before disappearing into obscurity. This character should not be confused with Earl Drake, the tough guy of Dan J. Marlowe’s long-running Gold Medal series.

Shakedown by Roy Carroll
(3000 words) ***
When his beautiful girlfriend Vera tells him she’ll be gaining a little weight over the next nine months, eternal bachelor Van tells her he’s not the kind to bounce a Van Jr. on his knee. Smelling some free big money, Van talks Vera into sidling up to their rich boss, Mr. Harry Owen. The plan is to get Owen to bed Vera, pin the pregnancy on him, and make Vera Mrs. Owen. When Vera follows through with the plan, the boss snaps, kills Vera, and buries her body in the woods. Unfortunately for Owen, he does all this while Van is keeping an eye on him. Van sees the murder as nothing more than an even bigger payday. Good twist ending when Mr. Owen shows Van a thing or two about villainy. Roy Carroll was a pseudonym of Robert Turner.

The G-Notes by Robert Patrick Wilmot
(7500 words) **
Bad guy Joe Carlin botches a jewelry job, irritating his employer very much. His boss pays him his cut in two one-thousand dollar bills, making it very difficult to make change. Overlong, “The G-Notes” meanders almost as much as Joe Carlin.

Mugger Murder by Richard Deming
(3000 words) ***
A cop suspects that a man who has killed a mugger in self-defense may actually be a thrill-killer, baiting potential muggers. A fascinating look at a coroner’s investigation. An ancestor of Brian Garfield’s novel Death Wish.

Kid Kill by Evan Hunter
(2500 words) ***1/2
Two cops investigate an accidental shooting involving two young brothers. One cop is convinced the shooting was no accident and that a ten year old boy is a cold-blooded murderer. Chilling short-short with the usual Evan Hunter touches. As an interesting sidenote, because Manhunt published two similar-themed stories back to back (“Mugger Murder” and “Kid Kill” in which the murderers escape justice) in the same issue, the editor had Shepherd Cole “of the prominent law firm of Kole and Kole” write an afterward on the feasibility of “getting away with murder.”

The Blue Sweetheart by David Goodis
(6500 words) **
Clayton wants his old flame Alma back from mobster Hagen but it may cost him more than the massive sapphire he’s been flaunting around town. Warmed-up Casablanca. Hard to believe this came from the pen that wrote Shoot the Piano Player and Street of No Return.

Everybody’s Watching Me by Mickey Spillane
(Part 4 of 4) (see Volume 1 Number 1 for details)

This issue's "Mugged and Printed" features bios of Mickey Spillane, Robert Patrick Wilmot, Richard Ellington, David Goodis, Richard Deming, and Henry Kane.


Anonymous said...

Does anyone have anything nice to say about Henry Kane?? I've had a couple of his early Dell paperbacks on my shelf for years that I never read, I'm wondering if I should ditch them. Armchair to Hell, A Halo for Nobody and a book of short stories. Nice covers regardless.

Dan Luft

Walker Martin said...

Concerning Robert Turner, do you have the book he wrote about the writing business, SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE WRITERS, BUT I WOULDN'T WANT MY DAUGHTER TO MARRY ONE! He talks about even after writing hundreds of stories for over 10 years, he still was having trouble earning a decent living. It's full of great information on the pulps, TV, and the digests. One chapter is titled "Manhunt-the Life and Death of a Magazine".

Peter Enfantino said...

I've not read any of Kane's novels. I'll give you a peek behind the curtain and tell you that, of the 10 Manhunt stories Kane wrote, I've read half and liked one. That one, "Finish the Job" in the January 1954 issue, had an uncharacteristically nasty (for Kane/Chambers) climax that redeemed it.
I've got that short story collection if it's The Name is Chambers.

Peter Enfantino said...

I don't have that book but you better believe it's on my want list now! Sounds great.

Joad said...

Wasn't "Finish the Job" a Johnny Liddell story by Frank Kane