Friday, October 15, 2010

The Complete Guide to Manhunt Part 4

by Peter Enfantino

Continuing an issue by issue examination of the greatest crime digest of all time.
Volume 1 Number 3 March 1953

The Sleeper Caper by Richard S. Prather
(7500 words) **
Our man Shell Scott investigates the murder of a jockey in Mexico. Seems some local Mexican mafia boys are fixing horse races and this jockey won’t play their game.

Dead Men Don’t Dream by Evan Hunter
(4500 words) **1/2
Matt Cordell is invited to the funeral of an old friend. At the funeral, he’s approached by a young woman who tells Cordell that his friend was murdered by a shakedown crew and the next victim is her father. That doesn’t sit well with Cordell, who puts his bottle down long enough to bust up the ring pronto.

As usual, Evan Hunter loves to play with the usual conventions of the PI story. In most stories, the private dick would be surrounded by hot and cold running dames. In “Dead Men Don’t Dream,” Cordell hits rock bottom when he rapes a prostitute. No sympathetic characters here.

Stop Him! by Bruno Fischer
(4500 words) *1/2
Roy Kester breaks out of jail to find his wife, who has remarried while Roy does his time. Roy finds and terrorizes the woman and her new husband. Nothing here you haven’t read time and time again. The “shock ending” is telegraphed pages before. Certainly doesn’t clue you into why Bruno Fischer (1908-1992) is such a respected noir writer. Fischer wrote over 20 crime novels, seemingly always tagged with a title torn from the pulps: The Bleeding Scissors (1948), The Restless Hands (1949), House of Flesh (1950), and So Wicked My Love (1954) among them.

Fischer also wrote dozens of stories with equally provocative titles for the pulps: "I’ll Slay You in My Dreams" (Dime Detective), "The Lady Grooms a Corpse" (Black Mask), "Silent as a Shiv" (Detective Tales), and "The Hour of the Rat" (Dime Mystery).

Triple-Cross by Robert Patrick Wilmot
(3500 words) **
A P.I. and his assistant are hired by a hussie to frame her husband. At one point, according to a blurb in the February 1953 issue of Manhunt, The New York Times called Robert Patrick Wilmot “the best in the tough tradition since Raymond Chandler.” Their estimation came before this fairly lackluster tale was published.

The Loaded Tourist by Leslie Charteris
(6000 words) *
Simon Templar aka The Saint is vacationing (or whatever he does) in France when he witnesses a mugging. The victim is a shoe salesman carrying a suspicious suitcase. The case is recovered by The Saint and inside is revealed a selection of rare stamps and jewelry. Why was the shoe salesman carrying such a heavy load? Why were bad guys ready for him? Why was The Saint so popular?

Of course, Charteris’ character became famous after hitting it big on the small screen, making Roger Moore, if not a household name, at least a name on the lips of mystery followers. It was a direct result of Moore’s success as The Saint that led to James Bond after Sean Connery stepped down. I never saw the attraction in either fiction or TV show.

Payoff by Frank Kane
(5000 words) **
Johnny Liddell is contacted by a nightclub owner who’s convinced he’ll be murdered that evening at midnight. He’s absolutely on the money and, right before Liddell’s eyes, the man buys the farm. Losing a client never sits well with Liddell and he sets out to find the bad guy (or in this case, the bad girl). Tough guy Johnny knows how to handle the hardware and the women...
He stood there looking at the beauty of her face, counted off the men whose deaths already lay at her door. He raised his hand, hit her across the cheek with the flat of his palm, knocked her sprawling. She lay there quietly, a thin trickle of blood on her chin, while he phoned the police.
The Tears of Evil by Craig Rice
(3500 words)***
Super lawyer John J. Malone is invited to a shindig at pals George and Kathy Weston’s pad. Before the party can begin to swing, Kathy is found dead, her neck broken. Malone knows that the murderer must be one of the partygoers, but he can’t convince George of that. Craig Rice’s John J. Malone starred in 11 short stories published in Manhunt, and nearly a dozen novels published from 1942 up to Rice’s death in 1957. The novels co-starred The Justuses, Jake and Helene, a married couple who always seem to find trouble and look to Malone to get them unstuck. Malone was also featured in short-lived radio and TV programs. Craig Rice was born Georgiana Ann Randolph, made the cover of Time magazine (January 28, 1946), and wrote scripts for radio and movies. Her final novel, The April Robin Murders, unfinished at the time of her death, was later released as a collaboration with Ed McBain. Many of the Malone short stories can be found in two collections, The Name is Malone (1957) and Murder, Money and Malone (2002).

The Mourning After by Harold Q. Masur
(4000 words) **
Scott Jordan, another lawyer who never seems to spend time in a courtroom, is asked by a jewelry store owner to track down the 1950s version of Winona Ryder. When Jordan confronts the jewel thief, she tells a long and sordid tale of multiple marriages and deceit. Jordan would appear seven more times in Manhunt. According to his Manhunt bio, Masur was a “successful lawyer until he decided he’d rather present case histories in stories than in court.”

Everybody’s Watching Me by Mickey Spillane
(Part 3 of 4) (see Volume 1 Number 1 for details)

Teaser by William Lindsay Gresham
(4000 words) ***
The short life of Gerry Massingham, a woman who has divided herself up into two seperate identities - Warm Gerry and Cold Gerry. Warm Gerry loves to lead the men to the precipice and the Cold Gerry takes over to shatter the men’s dreams. Then the two of them meet Joe McCallister. The shifts between Cold and Warm Gerrys can be annoying, but the vicious payoff is worth the wait.

Prognosis Negative by Floyd Mahannah
(4000 words) *
PI Jim Makin tries to save sexy senorita Revita Rosales from the paws of mobster Ernie Fidako and his main goon Big Sam Cannon. Revita and her husband were smuggled over the border by Fidako, but the deal turned sour and Revita is on the run. Another PI with a gimmick: Makin is dying and wants to make his last days count for something, so he does good deeds.

Against the Middle by Richard Marsten
(1500 words) **1/2
Charlie and Gene are being played for saps by the vivacious Dierdle, who believes in not spreading herself too thin. Just before dueling, the boys come to their senses and dole out some manly justice to the wanton hussie. Richard Marsten was yet another psuedonym for the prolific (let’s get this right) Salvatore Lombino/ Evan Hunter/ Ed McBain/ Hunt Collins/ Richard Marsten/ Curt Cannon/ Ezra Hannon/ John Abbott. (1) Under the Marsten name, McBain wrote the crime novels,Runaway Black (Gold Medal 1954), Murder in the Navy (1955), So Nude, So Dead (Crest 1956), The Spiked Heel (Crest 1957), Vanishing Ladies (Perma 1957), Even the Wicked (Perma 1958), and Big Man (Perma 1959). Also as by Marsten, the two scarce juvenile science fiction novels, Rocket to Luna and Danger Dinosaurs!, both published in 1953 by John Winston. Big Man is on my list of the twenty best crime novels I’ve read.

This issue's "Mugged and Printed" features bios on Mickey Spillane, Leslie Charteris, Craig Rice, Bruno Fischer, Harold Q. Masur, and Robert Patrick Wilmot.

(1) The author was born Salvatore Lombino and actually wrote a handful of science fiction stories under the Lombino byline for such sf digests as Worlds of If, Vortex, and Future. McBain also wrote, under the Hunt Collins pseudonym, the futuristic drug novel Tomorrow and Tomorrow (Pyramid pb, 1961).

Further reading:


Anonymous said...

These Manhunt posts are amazing. I recently bought McBain's "Learning to Kill" collection that is largely made up of Manhunt stories. Were there any anthologies composed entirely of stories from the magazine? I really can't afford the time or money to go looking for old issues.

Dan Luft

Peter Enfantino said...


There were several single author collections made up of (mostly) Manhunt stories (Frank Kane, John Ross MacDonald, and Richard Prather come to mind) but only one collection is identified as being "all Manhunt, all the time" and that's Scott Meredith's The Best From Manhunt. Should be easy to find and affordable on abebooks. I'll be doing a column soon (within the next month) on just that topic: reprints from Manhunt. I do advise strongly though that you pick up a couple of the originals. They're popping up on ebay and abe all the time. Most are pretty cheap.

Anonymous said...

I agree -- BIG MAN is a terrific read. Not sure I'd put it on the 20 Best list, but it's well worth seeking out. I think his Marsten books are among the best book Hunter/McBain/et al produced (though I'm not quite as keen on MURDER IN THE NAVY, but otherwise...).

~ Ron C.

Peter Enfantino said...


If you liked Big Man, I'd recommend you seek out The Judas Cross by Jeffrey Wallmann. Very similar styles, both have jolting finishes. I think what I liked so much about Big Man is that it's so unlike any of McBain's other novels (and I love the 87th, if that's not been evident) nor is it anything like any of his other work.

Anonymous said...

The ones that came to my mind as I was reading BIG MAN were McCoy's KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE and Perry's PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG MAN DROWNING. Each are different from the other, to be sure, but do share a thematic similarity.
Ron C.

Walker Martin said...

Another excellent post on MANHUNT. Thanks for the link to Mike Ashley's essay on MANHUNT. I had not seen this before.