Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Complete Guide to Manhunt Part 14

A note to our faithful readers: By now you've noticed a few hiccups in our regularly scheduled programming. No Matheson last Sunday, No Health Knowledge on Wednesday, and the following, a one-issue Guide to Manhunt. Work, Holidays, and Life have all intruded this last week and probably will do so next week. We hope to return you to our regular slate after New Year's. (Because then all we'll have to do is a daily Outer Limits review. Oh wait—  JS) Thanks for being patient and big thanks from John and I to Jack Seabrook and Larry Rapchak for providing some entertainment whilst we take a breather.

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

by Peter Enfantino

Vol. 2 No. 7 September 1954
144 pages, 35 cents
Cover by Michael

The Witness by John Sabin
(3000 words) ** illo: Houlihan
Mark Hagan begins to question the merits of being a good samaritan. He witnesses the murderous Earl Splade gun down a man in cold blood and reports it to the police. Now, it seems the police can’t protect Mark from the murderer, who’s back on the streets in no time. Abrupt but satisfying climax. This was Sabin’s only appearance in Manhunt or any crime magazine for that matter.

Bedbug by Evan Hunter
(1000 words) *
A paranoid husband interrogates his mad wife. Or is it the other way around? When does a 1200 word short story feel like a 120,000 word novel? When it’s filled with dreadful dialogue and a story that is going nowhere. This story and “Association Test” (from V. 2 N. 5) prove that Evan Hunter needs a few more words to get his groove going.

State Line by Sam S. Taylor
(6500 words) *** illo: Houlihan
Linoleum salesman rolls into Vegas and is immediately smitten with a rich beauty. Like most Manhunt dames, this one’s got something up her sleeve. She’s got an old hubby who’s become a burden and now she’s searching for a way to become a rich widow. What seems to be heading down the path of a Fred MacMurray film veers down a dirt road to something completely different. This would have made a nice episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (it is slightly reminiscent of the classic “One More Mile to Go” from the second season of AHP).

Night Watch by Jonathan Craig
(4500 words) ** illo: Dick Francis
Sergeants Sharber and Curran, Homicide, 9th Precinct, catch a strange case: the man’s been shot in the head and when they dig further they find kiddy porn and heroin. Luckily for the detectives, the murderer falls right into their hands and confesses. This must have the most abrupt ending I’ve ever come across. I literally searched the magazine for a “Continued from page 42” but my copy is lacking any such closure.

Tin Can by B. Traven
(4000 words) ***1/2 Illo: Tom O’Sullivan
Natalio Salvatorres is looking for a wife and finds her in Filomena Gallardo, a young peasant whose father is only too happy to sell her for a new pair of pants and a few bottles of tequila. Moving to a mining town to find work, Natalio is happy in his new life until one day he finds his wife has run off with another man. Seeking revenge, Natalio crafts an explosive in a tin can and heads for the hut where his wife is attending a party. Unfortunately for Natalio, the only person killed in the blast is a friend of Filomena’s:
The occupants of the hut saw the bomb and jumped out of the hut without even taking the time for a shout of horror. This took them less than half a second. At once a terrific explosion followed, sending the hut up a hundred feet in the air. Of the six people who had been inside, five escaped without so much as a scratch. The sixth, the young woman of the couple that owned the hut, was not so fortunate. This woman had, at the very moment the bomb made its appearance at the party, been busy making fresh coffee in the corner of the hut farthest from the door. She had neither seen the bomb nor noted the rapid and speechless departure of her guests. Consequently she accompanied the hut on its trip upward. And since she had been unable in so short a time to decide which part of the hut she would like best to travel with, she landed at twenty different places in the vicinity.
As you can tell from that passage, this is a dark comedy. “Tin Can” gets even wittier when Natalio faces trial for his crime.

B. Traven was the author of Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1927), The Rebellion of the Hanged (1936), and several other acclaimed novels. His life and identity were something of a mystery. According to his Manhunt bio, not even his agent knew his true identity.

Ambition by Patrick Madden
(1500 words) ***
The cops have a cold-blooded killer dead to rights but the murderer seems almost happy they do. For such a short story, this is an effective commentary on what someone will do to achieve that “15 minutes.”

A Moment’s Notice by Jerome Weidman
(9000 words) **** illo: Houlihan
Dr. Holcomb, eighty years old, realizes he hasn’t much time left but before he goes he must atone for a sin his son committed ten years earlier, an evil act Dr. Holcomb helped cover up for fear of scandal. When a similar situation rears its ugly head and his son is again the villain, the doctor finds a way to make peace with himself. Or does he?

Though I have problems with the logic the doctor shows in solving his problem at the climax, this is a riveting story. Too often, I’ve found when a big name drops in to the Manhunt headquarters, they seldom deliver. Here’s a case of the big name delivering and then some. A passage, referring to Holcomb’s son, Robert, might well be prescient of today’s celebrities and their various foibles:
How did one deal with the wicked who were ignorant of the meaning of wickedness, with the sinner who had no conception of sin? The only occasion on which Robert seemed to be aware that he had done anything the world condemned came at the moments when he was caught.
Jerome Weidman (1913-1998) is best known for his Great Depression novel, I Can Get It for You Wholesale (1937) and for co-writing the Joan Crawford vehicle, The Damned Don’t Cry (1950).

Every Morning by Richard Marsten
(1500 words) ** illo: Houlihan
A governess plays cruel games with her hired help every morning until he can take it no more and violence ensues.

Some Things Never Change by Robert Patrick Wilmot
(2500 words) * illo: Tom O’Sullivan
Kerrigan flies back to England to reclaim the love he lost during the Second World War. She’s got other plans for the sap. But is he a sap? A first: 500 words of set-up, 2000 words of expository. Outrageous and clunky expository to boot!

The Empty Fort by Basil Heatter
(14,500 words) *** illo: Houlihan
Flake, captain of the Jezebel, is hired by Mangio to haul in tons of shrimp. Flake is the best at his business, he knows it, and demands a larger cut from Mangio. Not one to take insubordination, Mangio hires shipmate Cutter to kill Flake and make it look like an accident. Cutter knocks Flake overboard during a nasty storm but the captain is from the “die hard” school and survives long enough to be rescued by a passing boat. Exciting sea adventure, reminiscent of Charles Williams’ novels, with a violent finale at the titular structure.

The son of radio broadcaster Gabriel Heatter, Basil Heatter was the author of several novels including The Dim View (Signet, 1948), Sailor’s Luck (Lion, 1953), The Mutilators (GM, 1962), Virgin Cay (Gold Medal, 1963), Harry and the Bikini Bandits (GM, 1971) and two adventures of Tim Devlin, marine insurance man, The Golden Stag and Devlin’s Triangle (both Pinnacle, 1976). Mugged and Printed mentions an upcoming Lion novel called Powder Snow. This was retitled Act of Violence for publication in 1954. Heatter’s novels accentuated the adventure whether it be icy mountain tops (Act of Violence), ships wrecked (Virgin Cay), or gun smuggling in Europe (The Mutilators).

The Promise by Richard Welles
(1000 words) *
Nothing more than the outline for a short story about a cop who goes after his brother, wanted for murder.

Mugged and Printed features Jerome Weidman, Basil Heatter, B. Traven, and Sam S. Taylor.
Also this issue: Vincent H. Gaddis’ Crime Cavalcade, Dan Sontup’s Portrait of a Killer #13: Leon Peltzer, and What’s Your Veridict #2 by Sam Ross (The Uncooperative Wife).

Further reading:

1 comment:

Todd Mason said...

So, two bad vignettes (including the Marsten) by the guy who stopped being Salvatore Lombino and started legally being Evan Hunter (as a quarter-Italian guy mamed Todd Earl Mason from birth in the mid-'60s, I can only speculate on the anti-Italian bigotry that haunted the eventual Hunter throughout his adult life). I've yet to read a fully satisfying story by Hunter under any of his names.