Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Complete Guide to Manhunt Part 21

by Peter Enfantino

Vol. 3 No. 3   March 1955
160 pages, 35 cents
Cover illustration by Graves

I Didn’t See a Thing by Hal Ellson
(4500 words) **   illo: Lee
            Dip keeps pigeons and deals with the everyday hip lingo of Hal Ellson. It’s a tribute, I guess, to Ellson’s grasp of street language that I had no idea that Dip actually raised pigeons until well into the story. I thought we might be discussing drugs or girls but, no, they’re birds. Ellison’s definitely an acquired taste. He pretty much cornered the market on pigeon noir between this story and “The Pigeons” (from the February 1955 issue).

The Punisher by Jonathan Craig
(5500 words) ***   illo: James Sentz
            Second in the “Police Files” series by Craig is an improvement over the first (in the February 1955 issue). Craig uses a different set of cops to tell the story of a man burned to death in his bed. At first, the thought among the detectives is that the man fell asleep while smoking, but quickly that idea is replaced with homicide. The resolution and identity of the killer is handled well.

First Case by David Alexander
(3500 words) ***   illo: Gussman
            Miss Petty takes an unusual interest in the first case of young attorney Winston Knight, Jr. The interest can be traced back to the affair she had had with Winston, Sr. years before. Though there’s not much to the story, it’s still fairly effective.

Moonshine by Gil Brewer
(3000 words) ****   illo: Richards
            Jim has a particularly adulterous wife and things have gotten a bit out of hand so Jim does what any loving husband would do: he starts eliminating his competitors. “Moonshine” shows the same kind of skewed world view that infested the novels of Gil Brewer. 
            Brewer was one of the fabled Gold Medal authors, writing such classics as A Killer is Loose (1954), The Red Scarf (1958), The Three Way Split (1960), and his biggest seller, 13 French Street (1951). Manhunt readers were fortunate enough to visit Gil Brewer’s hellish world ten times over the course of the magazine’s life.

Welcome Home by G. T. Fleming-Roberts
(15,500 words) **   illo: Roy Houlihan
            Norb Bailey returns to his hometown to get to the bottom of the shooting death of his brother. Well-written but could have been told in half the word count. The high word count is appropriate however since Fleming-Roberts wrote hundreds of novels and short stories for the pulps. He was one of the ghost-writers for such "hero pulps" as Secret Agent X. You can find a plethora of information on the author here. This was his only Manhunt appearance.

The Jury by Kenneth Fearing
(3500 words) **   illo: GHP
            Thorndale knows everything about the syndicate’s business and now he’s to take the stand. That obviously doesn’t sit well with the mob and so they make Thorndale an offer he can’t refuse.

The First Fifty Thousand by Jack Webb
(6000 words) ** ½   illo: Tom O’Sullivan
            Airport cops Mace Prouty and Don Wells have their hands full when a woman enters their office to claim her husband took out a fifty thousand dollar life insurance policy and hopped on a plane with a briefcase rigged to blow. On the same day, a mobster that Prouty had run oout of town is set to get off a plane at Prouty’s airport. Interesting angle to the cop story is soured a bit by that Ring-Ding-Daddy-O lingo that populates most of Frank Kane’s fiction.
            It should be noted that, even to this day, many sources erroneously identify this Jack Webb (1916-?) as the Jack Webb (1920-1983) who created and starred in Dragnet (Allen J. Hubin, in Bibliography of Crime Fiction, gives the author’s birthdate as 1920, which is actually the actor’s birthdate). According to Webb’s bio (published on the inside back cover of V. 2 N. 3), the author is “no relation to the Jack Webb who directs and stars in Dragnet” (in fact, his portrait actually makes him look more like contemporary mystery author Ed Gorman!). Jack Webb, the author, wrote many novels in the 1950s starring the crime-solving team of Catholic priest Father Joseph Shanley and Detective-Sergeant Sammy Golden, including The Broken Doll (1955),The Brass Halo (1957), and The Deadly Sex (1959). The bio in Manhunt also notes that MGM was about to begin filming a series of Shanley/Golden flicks, but I can find no reference to these films being produced. Prouty and Wells return for two more adventures.

Memento by Erskine Caldwell
(2000 words) *** 1/2   illo: James Sentz
            When Nellie Stoddard, a wonderful woman form all accounts, passes away suddenly, her husband, a no-good bastard form all accounts, makes a trip down to the county courtroom to attend to some unfinished business. As I’ve stated before with some of the “high-calibre slick” fiction contributed by Caldwell, there’s not a lick of Manhunt blood in “Memento.” That doesn’t make it a bad read, Quite the contrary, it’s a fabulously written tale, one that would fit nicely in the pages of The Saturday Evening Post.

Sweet Charlie by Henry Kane
(4500 words) *   illo: Roy Houlihan
            Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a beautiful, but troubled, woman comes to Peter Chamber’ office to hire him as a bodyguard. He consoles her, admires her great figure and accepts the job. She goes home and her body is found there later on. She’d paid Peter a ten thousand dollar retainer and he doesn’t believe in free money so he digs into her murder.

Incident in August by G. H. Williams
(2000 words) ** 1/2 illo: Roy Houlihan
            Poor Mal is about to be strung up by country hicks for a crime he didn’t commit. Climax pulls no punches. The Ox-Bow Incident meets Manhunt noir.

This issue’s Mugged & Printed features bios of Erskine Caldwell, Edward D. Radin, Gil Brewer, and Kenneth Fearing.
Also in this issue: What’s Your Verdict? #9: The Domestic Killer, Vincent H. Gaddis’ Crime Cavalcade, and Portrait of a Killer #20: Everett Appelgate by Dan Sontup.
In addition, beginning this issue was Edward D. Radin’s “The Bite,” a non-fiction piece about a murderous barber circa 1935. Radin, according to his Manhunt bio was “renowned as the country’s top fact-crime writer.”

Oh, for the days when page count increases didn't automatically equal price increases. An extra 16 pages beginning this month and nary a reprint among those pages.-PE


Jerry House said...

I don't know about Rabin, Edward D. Radin was certainly one of the top fact crime writers of his time, winning at least one (maybe more, I haven't checked)of the first Edgars for non-fiction. His book Lizzie Borden: The Untold Story was a best-seller and proposed a likely suspect for the Fall River murders.

The supposed likeness between Jack Webb and Ed Gorman is interesting because they are at times thematically linked. Webb is usually an interesting read, while Gorman remains one of the truly great writers working in the field today.

Peter Enfantino said...

Typo fixed. Thanks much! You're right, Gorman is one of the best living writers of crime fiction.

Walker Martin said...

Peter, concerning your comment about pigeons in the Hal Ellson story, I see you definitely have a problem with these birds. That explains your dislike of Robert Howard's "Pigeons From Hell".

Peter Enfantino said...


Just wait until I get to Harlan's contribution to Manhunt!

Jack Seabrook said...

I got a big kick out of Gil Brewer's The Vengeful Virgin, one of my favorite Hard Case Crime books.

Anonymous said...

Love the blog, especially the Manhunt-items. I use the for finding interesting writers. So, please more Manhunt. Thanks, Henk Netherlands

Anonymous said...

Been almost a year now and no new Complete Guide to Manhunt since part 21. Oh, Enfantino, why have you forsaken us!!!

Peter Enfantino said...


Apologies for the drop off the face of the Manhunt planet. Time got the better of me at last and I couldn't keep up with Manhunts, Marvels, and TV shows. Lots of blogs, very little time. I ended up selling the Manhunts in one big shot to a collector. I tried to persuade him to take over the reins of the Complete Guide but to no avail.
Again, my apologies for no explanation after all this time.

Anonymous said...

I'll miss the guide, but I understand there are only so many hours in a day. Good luck in all future projects.

joad said...

I'm trying to put together a bibliography of Evan Hunter's short fiction. Since, You seem to know more about the Manhunt stories than most people, I wonder if you could answer a question for me: In the May 1964 issue there a Hunter "classic" called "The Dying and the Dead" which, I assume is a reprint under a new title. Would you happen to know the original title of that story? For some reason I'm thinking its a Matt Cordell story, maybe "Die Hard".

If you could help me with this, I would be very grateful.

Peter Enfantino said...


You're right, it's a retitling of "Dead Men Don't Dream" from the March 1953 issue.
Years ago, I co-wrote (with Wayne Allan Sallee) a massive overview of McBain's fiction. I'm fairly sure that included his short fiction but sketchy on that. This was written for an "Ed McBain Companion" for Warner Books edited by Ed Gorman. Sadly, the book was never published as it had some very good stuff (at least the stuff I was privy to ) in it. If there's any more help I can give, let me know.

joad said...

Thank you very much.