Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Complete Guide to Manhunt Part 20

by Peter Enfantino

Vol. 3 No. 2  February 1955
144 pages, 35 cents
Cover by Michael

The Revolving Door by Sam Merwin, Jr.
(4000 words) **   illo by “GHP”
            Marty embezzles 50 grand from the mob and has to hide out in a fancy hotel, waiting for a way out of town. Well-written story with a predictable outcome.
            This was Sam Merwin, Jr.’s first Manhunt appearance (with three more to follow). Son of writer Samuel  Merwin, Sam Merwin, Jr (1910-1996) dabbled in both crime and science fiction fiction. His science fiction included The House of Many Worlds (1951) and its followup, Three Faces of Time (1955). Crime novels included Murder in Miniatures (1940), Knife in My Back (1945) The Creeping Shadow (1952), and Killer To Come (1953). In addition, Merwin was omnipresent in the pulps (just a few of the titles he appeared in: Detective Novel, Thrilling Adventure, Fifteen Sports Stories, Phantom Detective). His short story, “The Big Score”(from Manhunt, July 1955) was adapted for Alfred Hitchcock Presents in 1962.

Hot by Evan Hunter
(4500 words) ***   illo by Houlihan
            Life aboard a Naval ship in Guantanamo Bay aint all it’s cracked up to be even if you’re on the good side of the skipper, which Peters definitely is not. His commander has it out for Peters, but Peters is determined to make him pay.

Return Engagement by Frank Kane
(8000 words) *   illo by James Sentz
            Johnny Liddell is hired by Abel Terrell, a man who believes he murdered someone months before. Problem is, the victim’s body turns up and police say the man died within the past few days. Terrell doesn’t know what kind of scam is being played but he’s pretty sure there’s one and he’s been the target. So how did the corpse get a second life (and death)? Johnny know that the answers to all difficult questions are usually found in a nightclub and the answer usually has something to do with a beautiful girl. The weakest of the Liddells thus far is lackluster and lazily written with a lame payoff.

The Pigeons by Hal Ellson
(2000 words) *
            At a home for boys, Hop is constantly picked on by Al. Hop’s only consolation is the pigeon nest next to his window. When Al finds this out, he sabotages Hop’s happiness.

The Competitors by Richard Deming
(4000 words) ***   illo by Houlihan
            Sam and Dave find that business is less than booming at their mortuary. When Dave comes up with the bright idea of buying a combination hearse/ambulance to branch out, things get a little rosier. That is, until their only competitor, Harry Averill, of Averill’s Funeral home, gets the same idea. That’s when Dave comes up with a novel way to drum up more business for the funeral home: murder their riders on the way to the hospital. Dark comedy is absurd at times (well, it would have to be, wouldn’t it?) but ultimately entertains. Would have made a great episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Rendezvous by James T. Farrell
(5000 words) ** ½
            Annabelle lives the good life; nice house, rich husband, no job, everything money can buy. But she’s not happy. She feels she can find happiness in one night stands. To that end, she contacts an old college acquaintance (the boyfriend who never was), now a big shot newspaper writer living in New York and asks him if they can meet and talk about old times. So they meet and talk, and talk, and talk. A nice enough slice of life story but here comes my “this does not belong in a Detective Story Monthly” speech. I’d like to know how readers at the time reacted to stories in Manhunt that had no criminal elements whatsoever (other than imagined adultery).

Self-Defense by Harold Q. Masur
(5000 words) ** 1/2   illo by Dick Shelton
            George Richardson fears his adopted son will be kindnapped in the near future so he hires attorney Scott Jordan to handle the ransom drop if the boy is snatched. Sure enough, his son is taken. Better-than-average Jordan tale (the 8th of 9 to appear in Manhunt) is almost ruined by its Perry Mason-esque wrap-up wherein Scott tells us all about how the kidnapping went down – even though there’s no way he could know this information. Interetsing side note: in the Mugged & Printed column this issue, the editors mistakenly title this story “Dead Issue,” which is actualy the title of the previous Scott Jordan mystery (December 25, 1954).

Classification: Homicide by Jonathan Craig
(17,500 words) **   illo by Gussman
            A woman is found stabbed to death on the top of her brownstone apartment in New York. Detectives Walt Logan and Steve Manning catch the case and eventually get to the bottom of the brutal murder.
            The first of Jonathan Craig’s “Police Files” stories, “Classification: Homicide” tends to get bogged down by Craig’s love of technical terms and police lingo and doesn’t spend enough time developing characters. I can tell there are some good characters sketched in this novel, but unfortunately it’s hinted at rather than fleshed out. The obvious comparison to the “Police Files” series and Craig’s other series, the Pete Selby novels, would be Ed McBain’s long-running 87th Precinct novels (the first novel of which, Cop Hater, would be published in 1956) which also dwells on every move a cop makes and every form he fills out. McBain does it better though.

Mugged and Printed this issue features James T. Farrell, Hal Ellson, Frank Kane, and Jonathon Craig.
Also in this issue:  Crime Cavalcade by Vincent H. Gaddis; You, Detective #3: The Sweet Death by Wilson Harman; What’s Your Verdict #8: The Legal Mind by Sam Ross; and Portrait of a Killer #19: Herbert Mills by Dan Sontup.


Jack Seabrook said...

Did you see that Hard Case Crime has a new publisher and will resume issuing books later this year?

Peter Enfantino said...

Yes, saw that. There are some very interesting books coming out soon, including Christa Faust's second Hard Case. I would have preferred that they were the smaller (read: less expensive) paperbacks but I'll take what I can get. I'd like to see them reprint the remaining Grofield books by Stark/Westlake. Those are near impossible to find cheap.

Heath Lowrance said...

Man, thanks so much for this in-depth look at Manhunt. I've been searching for information for awhile and just stumbled across you here.
I wish to god someone would put out a reprint volume of stories, like the tons that have been done of Black Mask stories... or better yet, bring back Manhunt!

Peter Enfantino said...


Thanks for stopping by. I actually tried to get Martin Greenberg to put out a "Best of Manhunt" book about 15 years ago (back when he was putting out anthos about 10 per month) and he told me there was no market for it. This was just before the flood of "pulp fiction" reprint anthologies! About the closest thing to Manhunt these days is Gary Lovisi's Hardboiled. Give that a try.

Heath Lowrance said...

I'm all over Hardboiled, Peter.
I hope you don't mind that I posted a link to you over at my blog (and on that FB thingie). Keep up the great work, and thanks again!

Peter Enfantino said...

I never mind good folk spreading the word. Thanks very much!

Peter Enfantino said...

By the way, Heath, please post a link to your website.

Heath Lowrance said...

I'm at swing by, I'm gearing up for the release of my first novel!

Tom Stein said...

McBain does it better than Craig? No way this is true. McBain is strictly a lightweight when it comes to crime fiction. It's like he dumbed it down for the masses. Craig had a much more complex and entertaining way of writing.