Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Complete Guide to Manhunt Part 12

by Peter Enfantino

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

Vol. 2 No. 3 May 1954
144 pages, 35 cents

The Blonde in the Bar by Richard Deming
(6700 words) ** illo: Tom O’Sullivan
Sam's far from the most attractive guy so he's, to say the least, a bit surprised when a doll named Jacqueline picks him up in the bar. His suspicions become founded when the dame drops her scam on him post-coitus. She pleads mercy for her sister, who's been arrested on prostitution charges and Sam just happens to be a cop. Sam's new girl promises a payday of $500 if he comes through but this man is made of sterner stuff. When later he finds that the woman is the front for a mafia hood trying to buy local cops, Sam goes to his boss and sets up a sting. Not much in the way of excitement here, Blonde in the Bar is populated by molls in sheer negligees and hoods who talk tough as channeled through a long-winded Oxford professor ("When we have helped into office the officials we want, we'll be in a position to dictate appointments and promotions in the police department" says one Monk Cartelli!). I do have to say I enjoyed this final exchange between Sam and Jacqueline after Sam lowers the boom:
"Sam, you liked me a lot that- that other night. Can't you- isn't there some way you can give me a break?" "Sure, babe, sure...I can give you a break. I'll take you down to the can just the way you are, instead of stopping first to kick your teeth down your throat."

Murder of a Mouse by Fletcher Flora
(4000 words) **
Charles Bruce murders his wife and stages suicide, not knowing that the woman had plans of her own. A dull story, enlivened a bit by its twist.

The Woman on the Bus by R. Van Taylor
(4000 words) *
A man and his young son offer shelter to a very strange woman. Laughable climax.

Broken Doll by Jack Webb
(6000 words) ** illo: Houlihan
An airport cop catches the strangest case of his career: a beautiful corpse, clad only in a coat left aboard a plane. A slow-paced whodunit with a bizarre wrap-up. One year later, Webb wrote a novel with the same title but otherwise no similarity to the MANHUNT tale. One half of the team from the novel, Detective Golden makes a brief appearance in the short story.

...Or Leave It Alone by Evan Hunter
(5000 words) *** illo: Houlihan
Back in 1954, this harrowing tale of Joey the hophead, and the troubles he encounters while trying to recover his stash, would probably be considered cutting edge fiction. Today it’s still good writing (albeit a padded) from the master of dark crime but its impact is obviously lessened by our everyday exposure to the horrors of drug addiction. Would I still recommend the read? Certainly. But it’s not among Hunter’s best and you can tell the man was paid by the word at times.

Lead Ache by Frank Kane
(11,000 words) **
Johnny Liddell is hired by The Dispatch to investigate the murder of their ace reporter Larry Jensen. The writer was working on a story involving dance clubs and white slavery. Liddell is aided by (beautiful) reporter Barbara Lake, who evidentally looks just as good in a skimpy dress as behind a typewriter.

The Right One by Jonathan Craig
(2000 words) *** illo: Houlihan
Bizarre little short-short about a stripper and the man she picks up at her club. A nasty climax that isn’t telegraphed a bit.

The Old Flame by James T. Farrell
(5000 words) * illo: Tom O’Sullivan
Arnold Benton has a tryst with his ex-sister-in-law and spends 4500 words feeling guilty about it. Literally page after page of “It’s nice to see you, isn’t it?” and “Yes, it’s nice to see you too.” I have no idea why this would be considered for publication in MANHUNT as there is not one line of suspense or criminal activity (unless adultery qualifies) whatsoever. James T. Farrell (1904-1979) was the author of the famous STUDS LONIGAN TRILOGY.

A Clear Picture by Sam S. Taylor
(1500 words) *
A man tries to set up his wife and her lover with tickets to a boxing match. An excellent biography of Sam S. Taylor can be found here:

You Know What I Did? by Charles Beckman, Jr.
(3000 words) *** illo: Tom O’Sullivan
Joe Allen comes home from work to find his young son missing. Effective tale of violence and revenge.

Mugged and Printed features James T. Farrell, Richard Deming, Jack Webb, and Frank Kane.

Also in this issue: Vincent H. Gaddis’ Crime Cavalcade and Portrait of a Killer #9: Theodore Durrant by Dan Sontup. The Murder Market’s H. H. Holmes reviews several current crime novels including Nothing in Her Way by Charles Williams. “Footprints” by Fred L. Anderson is a non-fiction piece about the use of footprints by police at crime scenes.

Vol. 2 No. 4 June 1954
144 pages, 35 cents

Skip a Beat by Henry Kane
(16,500 words) *1/2 illo: Tom O’Sullivan
PI Peter Chambers is summoned to the home of famous columnist Adam Woodward and hired on as the writer’s bodyguard. Woodward is about to out someone very famous as a communist and he’s sure that violence may follow. Before the commie rat-bastard can be named though, Woodward is plugged full of holes. Since the corpse is all paid up, Chambers decides to investigate. “Skip a Beat” is yet another PI story that takes way too long (about 16,500 words too long, atcually) to state the obvious. The only saving grace here is a nasty bit of carnage during a fight between Chambers and a hired gun:

I knocked the gun out of his hands, yanked him up, swung from the bottom and it caught him on the mouth. It ripped the skin off my knuckles but it knocked his teeth clean through his upper lip, and he looked like he was smiling some sort of ghastly unearthly smile, the blood all over him, before he went down. I put a finger in his collar and got him up. I garbbed the lip between my thumb and forefinger and grabbed it clear.

Points South by Fletcher Flora
(3500 words) ** illo: Houlihan
After losing thousands in a poker game, Andy Corkin loses his cool and belts a connected man. He’s told he has 24 hours to live so he starts living.

My Enemy, My Father by John M. Sitan
(1500 words) ** illo: Houlihan
A nasty short-short about a teen warring with his domineering father.

The Choice by Richard Deming
(5000 words) ***1/2
Climbing the political ladder, three or four rungs at a time, George Kenneday begins clean and naively believes he remains clean despite “little favors” he grants to the local syndicate. Through the years, those favors become bigger and Kenneday’s excuses become exponentially bigger. A strange, fascinating study of political corruption, with just a bare minimum of dialogue, topped with a slap in the face climax.

Double by Bruno Fischer
(7000 words) **1/2 illo: Tom O’Sullivan
Detective Gus Taylor is a particularly violent cop when he needs to be. Right now he feels the need. He’s convinced that actress Holly Laird killed her producer John Ambler, but can’t get the girl to confess. So he harrasses her, beats her, and when that doesn’t work he goes after her boyfriend. “Double” is a strange case: it goes way out there with its subject matter but then pulls back and softens its stance with its cotton candy climax. Too soft for my tastes.

Butcher by Richard S. Prather
(4000 words) ***
Shell Scott stumbles his way into the serial killer known as “The Butcher” when he’s driving home one night and happens upon a dismembered leg. He then aids the police to find the killer when it’s revealed the limb belonged to a young girl Shell knew. Extremely graphic for its time and tackling a subject that wasn’t addressed much (yet) in the sexual predator/serial killer.

A harder edge than we’re used to seeing in a Shell Scott story and Prather would have never gotten away with his final line in today’s “politically correct” climate.

No Vacancies by Craig Rice
(6000 words) *
John J. Malone, lawyer fro the people, is hired by a man accused of murdering his social butterfly wife. JJ instinctively knows the man is innocent. How does he know? The coffee he drinks? He just knows. I could go on about the telecasted plot devices, the wildy irrational coincidences, the “with-it” hip dialogue, and the obligatory expository, but it would just read like I was rerunning my last review of a John J. Malone story.

Die Like a Dog by David Alexander
(4000 words) **
Skid row bum Jack drinks his days away until he meets an interesting man with a blond old dog and a story about a faded starlet.

There is no Mugged and Printed this issue. Featured are Crime Cavalcade by Vincent H. Gaddis and Dan Sontup’s Portrait of a Killer #10: Rose Palmer. H. H. Holmes’ The Murder Market includes reviews of Richard Powell’s classic Say It With Bullets and Wade Miller’s South of the Sun. “Homicide, Suicide, or Accident?” by Fred L. Anderson is another study of police procedures and crime scene investigations.


Anonymous said...

Funny that this was the Farrell story that was in Manhunt. I read his "Chicago Stories" collection a few years ago and it would all qualify as hardboiled in the Hemingway/Bukowski style. And most of the characters were criminals.

I've only ever read middling praise for Frank Kane but he wrote at least one great book - the only one I read by him- "Dead Weight" in 1951.

Dan Luft

Peter Enfantino said...

Frank Kane is an acquired taste. I've liked his stuff at times. There are fans for everything though, even Craig Rice :>

Todd Mason said...

For some reason, these covers, save the Rice, manage to remind me how desperately folks needed to get laid in the 1950s...even moreso than is suggested by the come-on covers and videos of today