Friday, November 26, 2010

The Complete Guide to Manhunt Part 10

by Peter Enfantino

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

Vol. 1 No. 12 December 1953
144 pages, 35 cents
cover by Uppwall

Black Pudding by David Goodis
(8000 wds) ** illo: Houlihan
After serving ten years in prison for boss-man Riker, all that Ken wants to do is forget. Forget that he served the time, forget that Riker set him up, and forget that the boss stole Ken’s wife, Hilda. Unfortunately, Riker and his boys didn’t forget Ken and they hound him until Ken is forced to strike back. Not a great story, “Black Pudding” does work up a few exciting moments in its climax. Certainly doesn’t stand with Goodis’ best work. The third and last of Goodis’ Manhunt stories, “Black Pudding” was reprinted (as “Sweet Taste”) in Vol. 13 No. 1. Dramatized on the short-lived USA Network series, The Edge, in 1989, starring Patricia Arquette.

Switch Ending by Richard Marsten
(4000 wds) ****
Danny does time for big man Nick. When he’s released, he goes to Nick to collect the fifty grand Nick had promised to pay for Danny’s silence. When Danny gets there, he finds, to his dismay, that Nick’s new bodyguard is Danny’s JD son. Just as Donald E. Westlake saves his nastiest stuff for his Richard Stark psuedonym, it would seem that Evan Hunter allows his dark alter ego Richard Marsten to drain the brake lines. Hunter’s most violent, no-holds-barred, novel in my opinion is Big Man, written under the Marsten name. Big Man (Perma, 1959) has a mob storyline much like “Switch Ending” and an ending just as downbeat.

Killing on Seventh Street by Charles Beckman, Jr.
(2000 wds) *
Stereotypical pantywaist Charles Leighton murders a mugger who’s attempting to rape Charles’ wife. Suddenly, weak-kneed Charles is the town hero. Only problem is, he needs to fantasize the murder to keep impotence at bay. This escalates to more murder.

Murder Marches On! by Craig Rice
(4000 wds) **
The inimitable John J. Malone must infiltrate a marching band of funeral workers to receive a list of names and a grand. Murder and yawns follow. This is 1950s cookie cutter: the tough protagonist (PI, lawyer, cop, etc.) who’s thinking about the stacked beauty he’s meeting that night (blonde, brunette, redhead, etc.), who happens into danger and then gets put under suspicion by the chief detective on the case (who really knows the protagonist is innocent but busts his balls anyway). Heard enough?

Sucker by Hunt Collins
(2000 wds) ****
Harley is accused of raping and murdering his kids’ babysitter, so he gets the best lawyer he can find: his best friend Dave. Hot shot lawyer Dave is convinced his friend is innocent and defends him in court. After Harley is found innocent, Dave is startled to realize that he did the wrong thing. “Sucker” precedes by a couple of decades the Matthew Hope series of novels Hunt Collins aka Evan Hunter wrote under the Ed McBain name. “Sucker” very much reminds me of the Hope series. By the end of 1953, Manhunt had become a McBain story factory.

The Wife of Riley by Evan Hunter
(7500 wds) ** illo: Tom O'Sullivan
Mr. and Mrs. Steve Riley just want a room to crash in after a long, grueling road trip. Unfortunately, they happen onto a dangerous bordello masquerading as a roadside motel. The proprietor has just murdered his prize redhead and, lucky for him, Mrs. Riley is a dead ringer for the corpse.

Richest Man in the Morgue by Harold Q. Masur
(4500 wds) *
Scott Jordan opens his door to find a man in a hindu costume with a knife in his back. What did the man want with Jordan? The intrepid lawyer, who never seems to practice law, puts on his cape and tights and becomes Scott Jordan, Private Op to find out. I’ve often wondered while reading these Jordan stories, why Masur went to the trouble of making Jordan’s profession law (other than for the gimmick, that is) when the rest of the tired plotlines contain all the trappings found in PI stories: the attractive but troubled girl who falls instantly for our hero; the blunt object used (often repeatedly) on our hero’s titanium steel skull; the police detective pal who’s always giving our hero a hard time but in a jovial way; and, of course, the two page expository used to tie up all the loose ends we hadn’t guessed at.

The Quiet Room by Jonathan Craig
(3000 wds) ****
Bad cop Streeter and his partner have a great thing going: they roust prostitutes, get lists of their johns, and then blackmail the men. Darkest, bleakest 1950s noir you can find, “The Quiet Room” is capped by the one of the most downbeat finales you’re likely to read. Craig would have fit in well with the dark crime writers of today. Obviously, the producers of the Showtime TV anthology, Fallen Angels, agreed. “The Quiet Room” was very effectively and faithfully adapted in 1993 by director Steven (Out of Sight, Ocean's Eleven) Soderbergh, starring Joe Mantegna as Streeter and Bonnie Bedelia, deliciously evil as his sadistic partner. The episode was released on vhs as Fallen Angels Volume 2. Criminally, a legitimate dvd release has yet to happen though bootlegs can be found here and there. “The Quiet Room” evokes the equally bleak “Services Rendered” by Craig from the May 1953 issue.

The Coyote by David Chandler
(2000 wds) *
A sadistic father forces his son to shoot a coyote. Cliched story with predictable outcome. “The Coyote” does have an opening line that might bring a leer: “Mama told me to see Beaver...”. Though he only wrote one story for Manhunt (“The Coyote” was reprinted under the title "Killer Instinct" in the August/ September 1966 issue), David Chandler also saw stories published in Collier's during the 1950s.

Wife Beater by Roy Carroll
(3000 wds) *** illo: Tom O'Sullivan
Patrolman Tom Rivas and his partner answer a domestic dispute call to find a huge man beating his wife Cherry. Having a history with wife beaters (his mother was brutally murdered by his father when Tom was a child), Tom reacts violently before arresting the man. When Cherry refuses to press charges against her husband, Rivas takes the law into his own hands and guns down the brute. Tom then tries to change Cherry’s life from bad to good but discovers it’s not all that easy. Perhaps ahead of its time in its treatment of a very controversial subject (the idea that some women can’t find sexual satisfaction without being abused), “Wife Beater” is a tough read.

The Icepick Artists by Frank Kane
(5500 wds) ***
PI Johnny Liddell is hired by the Seway Indemnity Company, a firm losing a lot of money through fraud on the piers. Their main investigator has just turned up minus eyeballs, courtesy of the titular madman. Liddell’s job is to find out who’s behind the murder and further the mastermind behind the fraud. Well-paced, humorous, and gory as all hell:
The thin man aimed for the right eye, jabbed. The blade sank almost to the handle. Shields’ body jerked as the icepick bit into his brain, slumped back. The thin man held the body erect, sank the blade into its chest a dozen times.

Pretty graphic stuff for 1953. Interesting note: folllowing the story there’s a note from the editor informing readers that author Frank Kane deliberately ended the story with many questions unanswered as the sequel to “The Icepick Artists” would be appearing the following month.

The Insecure by R. Van Taylor
(2000 wds) ** illo: Houlihan
Kay panics when her husband doesn’t come home from work. Panic turns to terror when she finds her son is missing as well. Seems rushed but 2000 words doesn’t leave a lot of room for the characterization this sort of psychological suspense needs.

This issue's "Mugged and Printed" features Frank Kane, Harold Q. Masur, David Goodis, and David Chandler.

Alos featured are Vincent H. Gaddis' "Crime Cavalcade" and "Portrait of a Killer: Tillie Gburek" by Dan Sontup.


1 The Collector Comes After Payday – Fletcher Flora (August)
2 The Quiet Room – Jonathan Craig (December)
3 Throwback – Donald Hamilton (August)
4 Switch Ending – Richard Marsten (December)
5 Services Rendered – Jonathan Craig (May)
6 Sucker – Hunt Collins (December)
7 I’m Getting Out – Elliot West (July)
8 As I Lie Dead – Fletcher Flora (February)
9 Kid Kill – Evan Hunter (April)
10 The Professional Man – David Goodis (October)


Jocko said...

I've noticed a best of Black Mask stories book came out earlier this year. Any word on a best of Manhunt anthology?

Jerry House said...

The Best from Manhunt was published by Pocket Books in 1958and has 13 stories. It should be available from on-line dealers. I do agree that a major retrospective/best-of anthology is long overdue.

Jocko said...

Thanx Jerry House, I'll try looking that up. Even though I likes the stories in Black Mask, Manhunt's content seemed slightly more adult, modern, and violent. Even though they were written years ago, the tales hold up just as well today.

Peter Enfantino said...

About twenty years ago, I tried to interest Martin Greenberg (Mr. Anthology) in a Best of Manhunt but he said the market wasn't good for that sort of thing. I think it would be tough today to put one out because there were so many top-drawer authors and you'd want to include them all. A lot of these guys come at a high price (I'm thinking Spillane, McBain, etc.). Many of the anthos that are published today rely on public domain. I've got to believe that's how Otto Penzler was able to put out not one but two mega-collections in the last couple years. I'd love to hear from someone who has actually read the whole Black Mask book!

The Best from Manhunt collection form 58 is a solid representation edited by Scott Meredith.

Jocko said...

That makes sense when you put it that way Peter. By the way, you really came through with that "Razored Saddles" recommendation you gave me the other month.

What would you recommend for an overall horror anthology? I don't know if you saw my earlier post where I mentioned how big of a fan I was of the anthology hard-boiled, but I'm looking for something similar to that format with various tales of horror featuring different authors preferably spanning decades. Any suggestions?

Peter Enfantino said...


I did finally respond to your Hard-Boiled comment. You can see that back at that posting. Sorry for the delay.

As far as a "Best of Horror Over the Decades" type collection, that's tough. David Hartwell did one years ago (can't remember the title-- Dark Descent?) but it was, to me, just a multi-pound doorstop. There are a lot of collections out there that are worth picking up, most published in the 60s and 70s. Alden Norton, Vic Ghidalia, Peter Haining, and Sam Moskowitz are names to look for. Your question may give me a kick in the pants to list my favorite ten horror collections. Keep tuned.

Jocko said...

10-4 Pete, thanks for the response and look forward to that article if you decide to do it.

Peter Enfantino said...

Back in The Scream Factory #7 (Summer 1991), I picked the following in my top tens of the 1980s:

Ten Best Original Collections
1 Silver Scream, editor David J Schow
2 Night Visions 4
3 Stalkers, editor Ed Gorman
4 Book of the Dead, editors Skipp/Spector
5 Books of Blood 1-3, Clive Barker
6 Night Visions 2
7 Dark Forces, editor Kirby McCauley
8 Masques, editor JN Williamson
9 Masques II, editor Williamson
10 Night Visions 6

Ten Best Reprint Volumes
1 By Bizarre Hands, Joe R Lansdale
2 Collected Stories, Richard Matheson
3 Collected Short Stories, Robert Bloch
4 Charles Beaumont: Selected Stories, editor Roger Anker
5 Terrors, editor Charles L Grant
6 Blue World, Robert R McCammon
7 The Best Horror Stories from the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, editor Ferman
8 Black Lizard Anthology of Crime Fiction Volume 1, editor Ed Gorman
9 Weird Tales 31 Unearthed, editors Dziemianowicz, et al.
10 Why Not You and I, Karl Edward Wagner

I was so enamored of Dark Harvest's "Night Visions" series, that I had a separate category for Ten Best Night Visions stories. I also picked the decade's 75 "Best" (IMO) horror stories (but you'll have to buy the issue to read that massive list!).