Monday, December 11, 2017

"Like I Said, Les Is Desperate, and a Murderer Ain’t Like Other People"

"Home for Christmas."
By Larry Holden (Lorenz Heller, c1911-?).
First appearance: Thrilling Detective, December 1947.
Reprinted in Thrilling Detective (U.K.), October 1948.
Short story (11 pages).
Online at Pulpgen (HERE).

"His convict brother's escape from jail plunges stolid, law-abiding Sam Murtagh into a confusing murder mix-up!"
Sam is sure Les didn't murder their father, but proving who did just might be beyond his abilities . . .

Comment: Deeper characterization than usual, with even minor characters getting small but agreeable authorial highlights: "She followed him, twittering, her eyes bright"; "cold cheek"; "born on an iceberg, sired by a glacier"; "The voice was weak, but it needed no strength"; "his thick eyebrows overhung his eyes as if he and sleep had been at one another’s throats the night long"; "The plugs went in and her flurried voice whispered the open sesame"; "his creased monkey face even more creased in a grin of welcome"; "dark deacon in banker’s gray"; "the two plainclothesmen with the cold, vigilant eyes"; "a thin, gray, unrewarded spinster"; "a few economical dabs with her fingers to lay the hair over the worn spots of the fur collar"; "as the hours stretched into the silent night, feeling for the dawn, his eyes closed and his head turned sideways on the pillow, looking haunted even in sleep"; "His fingers knotted, meshed." Because of the shallow suspect pool, however, the big reveal isn't much
of a surprise.
- The FictionMags index shows that Larry Holden produced several dozen pulp tales in the sports or crime fiction genres from 1946 to 1959. His only series character, Dinny Keogh ("fat and forty"), appeared in seven issues of Mammoth Mystery (1946-47); you can find a Keogh story, one that compresses a typical Raymond Chandler novel into ten pages ("Start with a Corpse"), at (HERE; Adobe Flash Player needed).
- When he wrote for TV, Holden/Heller used the name Burt Sims (HERE); he's not to be confused with the late actor (HERE).
- Christmas mayhem courtesy of the incomparable Edward D. Hoch was covered on Steve Lewis's Mystery*File (HERE).

Friday, December 8, 2017

"In a Game Like the One I’m Playin’, Kid, Yuh Don’t Forget Things Like That, If Yuh Want to Live"

"Ranger Santa Claus."
By Johnston McCulley (1883-1958).
Genre: Western.
First appearance: Texas Rangers, December 1947.
Short story (12 pages).
Online at Pulpgen (HERE).

"Christmas finds Ranger Renbolt following the tricky trail of a tricky killer, in order to rescue young Harry Burley!"
If he's going to make it back to Gray Mesa in time for the Yuletide festivities, Jim Renbolt will have to collar or kill one of the orneriest varmints ever to plague those sleepy little towns that hug the Border . . .

Comment: The author makes the mistake of having his characters talk out their motivations too much; understatement would have been more effective.

Nice instance of personification: "A gun flamed and cracked, and two bullets sang and struck rocks and whined away in spiteful ricochet."

Typo: "Billy's voice" ["Bully's"].

- Just the other day we were talking about another of Johnston McCulley's saddle-sore Santas: "Merry Christmas, Ranger!" (HERE). You might remember that we noted how McCulley reused titles; in "Ranger Santa Claus" he also recycles a few plot elements,
as a comparative reading of the two stories will show.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

"Unless I Miss My Guess, This Is No Diamond Bracelet but Is the Kind of Thing a Copper Might Flash on Occasion"

"The Light Fingered Santa."
By Richard E. Glendinning (1917-88).
First appearance: Short Stories, October 10, 1946.
Short short story (7 pages).
Online at Pulpgen (HERE).

"Santa Claus Just Has to Keep Out of the Police Lineup"
It just so happens that Charlie Malone, an amiable dip, chooses this time of year to grow a big, bushy beard that makes him a dead ringer for Youknowwho, but he has no idea about how doing that's going to put him squarely in the middle of a blackmail plot . . .

Comoedia personae:
~ Charlie Malone:
  "Now hold it just a minute, boys. You got me all wrong. I’ve been behavin’ myself."

~ Pat Rosen:
  "All I got to say is you picked a fine time of da year to put on a beaver for a disguise."

~ Mrs. J. Anthony Abernathy Dinkler:
  "Nobody who looks so much like jolly Santa could be dishonest."

~ Lou McGuire:
  "Well, lady, it’s your funeral. If you wake up tomorrow morning and find everything

but the plumbing gone, don’t be surprised."
~ Mr. J. Anthony Abernathy Dinkler:
  "What happened to my wife’s diamond bracelet?"

~ J. Anthony Abernathy Dinkler, Jr.:
  "Santa, are you sure there wasn’t a Junior Detective set in your bag for me?"

~ Mr. Tom Neil:
  "I don't believe in Santa Claus."

"He was wearing white pyjamas with built-in feet and if he had a candle he would have looked just like an ad for a tire."
Comment: Light-hearted Runyonesque caper of high society rubbing against low life:
  "There are many things associated with the Christmas spirit that a man such as me
cannot understand."
Typo: "arc old stuff"

- "Runyonesque": It's in the dictionary (HERE); one of Damon Runyon's most famous characters was "The Lemon Drop Kid" (HERE); and Runyon's influence is still being
felt in fiction today (HERE).
- A criminous Christmas-themed anthology that has stood the test of time is Thomas Godfrey's Murder for Christmas, featured on ONTOS (HERE).

The bottom line:

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

"Dishes Rattle and the Log Roof Bounces and the Lamp Goes Out"

"Gunman's Christmas."
By Caddo Cameron (Charles Richard Beeler, 1888-1961?).
Genre: Western.
First appearance: Short Stories, December 25, 1946.
Reprinted in West (U.K.), December 1951 and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine (AHMM), January 1994.
Short story (12 pages).
Online at Pulpgen (HERE).

"Christmas Was Just Four Days Away, and for All the Fugitive Knew, the Guns of the Law Were Even Closer"
By the time this Christmas is over, our nameless narrator will come to see what a real life saver it is to have company for Christmas; as he says, "a powerful fine idea"—and we're serious about that life saver bit . . .
Typos: "I Injun down"; "Nobody taken up"; "there saddle stock"; "on the room."
- Pulp Flakes has a substantial article about our much-traveled Western author, Caddo Cameron (HERE).

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

"If It’s a Twister Case, We’ve Got to Crack It Wide Open Before Morning, Even If We Have to Beat the Truth Out of Somebody"

"Death Plays Santa Claus."
By Johnston McCulley (1883-1958).
First appearance: Popular Detective, December 1945.
Short story (10 pages).
Online at Pulpgen (HERE).

"Lieutenant Mike O'Hara of homicide makes short work of a murder case—so that he can spend his Christmas at home!"
If there's one kind of case O'Hara hates most, it's a twister, where there isn't an easy and straightforward solution to a murder and figuring it out could take a long, long time . . .
and wouldn't you know it, the death of a wealthy benefactor on Christmas Eve turns into
one, particularly when the prime suspect, Santa himself, also goes toes up . . .

Pleasing phrase: ". . . an old residential part of the city where imposing mansions sat far
back from the street in groves of trees, and expressed the grandeur of an earlier era."

Comment: It looks as if, twelve years later, Rex Stout borrowed a plot element from our story for one of his own (HERE); McCulley did some borrowing, too, lifting the same element from an Agatha Christie novel from seven years prior. (Three guesses as to which book.)
Typos: "Hara asked"; "the side of to"; "I suppose hasn’t been changed" [missing a subject]; "Penny and Bob Blodger and gave gasps."

- Another instance of urban Yuletide mayhem is John D. MacDonald's "Dead on Christmas Street," which we highlighted along with "Who's the Blonde?" in our twofer posting, "A MacDonald Duo" (HERE).

Monday, December 4, 2017

"My Last Two Crimes, Copper—Packin’ an Illegal Gun and Burglary"

AS ANY GOOD WRITER will tell you, never waste anything that can be reused later; we surmise from the stories below that Johnston McCulley obviously felt that applied to
titles as well. A quick perusal of his FictionMags listing also shows that McCulley set a proportionately large number of his stories on and around Christmas and New Year's.

   "He did not want to kill unless it was necessary—he wanted to take one or both of them in to swing."

"Merry Christmas, Ranger!"
By Johnston McCulley (1883-1958).
Genre: Western.
First appearance: Texas Rangers, December 1945.
Reprinted in Jim Hatfield Magazine, Winter 1960.
Short story (11 pages).
Online at Pulpgen (HERE).

"Jim Stearn’s holiday gift was to be trapped by a pair of outlaws—but he brought his enemies to a showdown!"
If two murderous brush poppers think they can humiliate Santa Claus (in the person of a generous, candy-dispensing Texas Ranger) and get away with it, then they don't know
their Texas Rangers . . .

Comment: We can't recall who said it first, but there's much merit in characterizing the Western as crime fiction with big hats; consequently, we're including a few oaters like
this one in our continuing criminous Christmas binge.

~ ~ ~

   "He hoped it would be a quiet night."

"Merry Christmas, Copper!"
By Johnston McCulley (1883-1958).
First appearance: G-Men Detective, December 1945 (Winter 1946).
Reprinted in Thrilling Detective (U.K.), September 1954.
Novelette (11 pages).
Online at Pulpgen (HERE).

"It was Christmas Eve and all was cheer and gayety, but in a dark alley along Patrolman Asher’s beat lurked grim murder!"
Being a respected beat cop does have its rewards, especially around Christmas time, but there's one gift this flatfoot should never have accepted—a pair of socks that would certainly get him a long stretch in the pen . . .

Comment: Too much repetition; some streamlining would have helped.
Typo: "fine girl I you've got" ["see" is probably the missing word]; "look unside down."

- We just recently featured our author in a Thanksgiving mood (HERE).

Friday, December 1, 2017

"A Cop Killing Would Make the Rap No Worse"

"Murder on Santa Claus Lane."
By William G. Bogart (1903-77).
First appearance: G-Men Detective, January 1943.
Reprinted in X Is for Xmas (2011).
Short story (10 pages).
Online at Pulpgen (HERE).

"With a Blackout in Hollywood, Rookie Patrol Car Cop Johnny Regan Does Some  X-Ray Work to See Through Crime!"
There may be a world war going on overseas, but there's also another kind of war underway on the homefront, and a fresh recruit in the battle is about to find out how a guy can get killed, even on Christmas Eve . . .

The usual suspects:
~ "Big Ben" Slattery:
  "For six months now, ever since getting on the force, Regan had been riding the bus
with Big Ben. Slattery was a big truckhorse of a guy, jovial and easy-going. He was well established on the Force, and he had shown Regan the ropes. They got along."
~ Johnny Regan:
  "Come on. Look at things. No lights. Dimouts! Maybe even a blackout tomorrow night.
And they used to call this Santa Claus Lane!"
~ The woman:
  "She was the kind who could take your mind off Christmas, and the fact that tomorrow
night you had to work."
~ Pete Kelsey:
  "But try—get them—three men—guns—"
~ Lieutenant Anderson:
  "That’s the way he said it, quietly, but Regan knew what Lieutenant Anderson was
thinking. A couple of patrol cops on the job and crooks had slipped right through
their fingers."
~ The landlady:
  "So many people are always coming in and out to look at rooms. Why, that hussy
even kept the key to my front door, and she must have known I was going out last
~ The air raid warden:
  "So I saw these lights and hurried over here to complain to the night watchman,
and . . ."
- As far as we know, our author was not related to Humphrey. As a journeyman pulpster, Bogart wrote in all genres and was responsible for 14 Doc Savage adventures, as well
as a trilogy of novels featuring his own P.I. Johnny Saxon; see J. F. Norris's Pretty
Sinister Books weblog (HERE) for more.
- Much additional author info is available in Duane Spurlock's mini-bio at Hidalgo Trading (HERE), Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).
Santa Claus Lane, Hollywood Boulevard, in the 1940s when there was no blackout on.
- For background about "Poverty Row" movie studios, see Wikipedia (HERE); concerning Santa Claus Lane and the annual Christmas parade, consult Wikipedia (HERE):

  "The Parade was suspended from 1942 to 1944 due to World War II, but reopened in 1945 with record attendance."