Found Pages: The Remarkable Harold Ernest (“Darcy Glinto”) Kelly, 1899–1969.
Violence, Inc: Part 3, 1940–1945
- Part 1. 1899 to 1928
- Part 2. 1929 to 1939
- Part 3. 1940 to 1945
- Part 4. 1946 to 1955
- Part 5. 1956 to 1975
For the Introduction to Violence, Inc., click here.
Kelly pseudonyms (with attributions):
Eugene ASCHER, (4 books); AJH, NGC, ESF
Lance CARSON (14), THJ, NGC, BLIC, LC
Darcy GLINTO (19), AJH, NGC, BLIC, LC
Gordon HOLT (1), AJH, BSF, BLIC, LC
Hank JANSON (13), ESF, RW/SH, THJ
In The Trials of Hank Janson (2004), Steve Holland’s attributions to Kelly are absolute. In the Janson bibliography that he and Richard Williams did in 2001, the attributions are almost all tentative, as are several of Allen Hubin’s. Steve tells me that the omission of the question marks was accidental.
Chuck LARSEN, THJ
Duke LINTON (1), JF
Bryn LOGAN (4), JF
Wenda MALLESON (?), SHp
John PARSONS (2), NYP, LC
Buck TOLER (4), AJH, NGC, ECB, BLIC, LC
Clinton WAYNE (6), BSF, THJ
Preston YORKE (5), NGC, BSF, ESF
There is also a Harold C. Kelly out there who published on horology and a Harold Kelly who was the Art Editor of a Fawcett How To book on photography.
AJH—Allen J. Hubin, Crime Fiction II; a Comprehensive Bibliography, 1749-1990, rev. ed. 1994
BCNC—Steve Holland, “A British Crime Noir Chronology 1927-1947”
BLIC— British Library Integrated Catalogue (online)
BM—British Museum General Catalogue of Printed Books to 1955, 1962
BM68—British Museum General Catalogue, Ten-Year Supplement,1956-1965, 1968
BM72—British Museum General Catalogue, Five-Year Supplement 1966-1970, 1972
BSF—Philip Harbottle and Stephen Holland, British Science Fiction Paperbacks and Magazines, 1949-1956, rev. ed.
Copac (consolidated online British university and national research libraries)
ECB—English Catalogue of Books issued in Great Britain and Ireland (series)
ESF—Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (Steve Holland)
HK/LC—Harold Kelly, London Cameos (1951).
LC—Library of Congress print catalogue.
LCOC—Library of Congress Online Catalog.
LH—Lee Horsley. The Noir Thriller (2001)
MF—Maurice Flanagan, British Gangster and Exploitation Paperbacks of the Postwar Years (1997)
MJ—Steve Holland, The Mushroom Jungle; a history of postwar paperback publishing (1993)
MWp—Morgan Wallace, personal communication.
NCB—Darcy Glinto, No Come Back from Connie, back cover
NGC—New General Catalog of Old Books and Authors http://www.kingkong.demon.co.uk/ngcoba/ke.htm
NUC—Library of Congress—National Union Catalogue (print)
NYP—New York Public Library online (CATNYP).
PC—“Publishers committed for trial on pornography charge,” Bookseller, April 23, 1942, front page.
PPP—Paperbacks & Pulps & Pamphlets Page/ Want List
RW/SH—Richard Williams and Stephen Holland, Hank Janson Books: a Checklist (2001)
SH/BGE—Steve Holland, introduction to Maurice Flanagan’s British Gangster and Exploitation Paperbacks
SHp—Steve Holland, personal communications.
SFE—SF Encyclopedia Updates http://www.dcs.gla.ac.uk/SF-Archives/Misc/sfec_i2l.html
THJ—Steve Holland, The Trials of Hank Janson, (2004)
AEP—Art and Educational Publishers
Ro—Roberts and Vintner
WGD—Wells Gardner, Darton
I have listed all, or virtually all, Glinto and Toler titles, but only such reprints of them as seem significant, and only such Westerns as I have read. For would-be completeness, see “BioBibliographical.”
In Parts 3, 4, and 5 I have discontinued adding public events to the chronology, other than ones with a direct bearing on books and publishing.
- Part 1. 1899 to 1928
- Part 2. 1929 to 1939
- Part 3. 1940 to 1945
- Part 4. 1946 to 1955
- Part 5. 1956 to 1975
From 1940 to 1955 is the major period of Kelly’s work, both in quality and in quantity.
1940 to 1945
In 1940, Harold Ernest Kelly regains his voice.
Eight years earlier, the weekly that he and a collaborator had started was stomped at the Old Bailey. There’s no excitement like editorial excitement, and City Mid-Week was a financial success and a political player. The abrupt loss of momentum must have been horrible. (For more about the case, see City Mid-Week libel case in Supplementary. For more about the paper itself, see Sidebar 10.)
Six Darcy Glinto novels appear in little more than twelve months. The line is terminated (plus ça change?) by the 1942 Old Bailey trial of Lady—Don’t Turn Over and Road Floozie. The following year, brother Hector starts the first of his and Harold’s publishing ventures and Harold stays afloat during the War as Buck Toler (gangsters in the two that I’ve read), Eugene Ascher (vampirism and detection in the one that I’ve read,) and Preston Yorke (science fiction, ditto).
From 1942 to 1945, there appears to be next to nothing by other British writers of any strong criminal sex-and-violence interest.
The energies out of which violence issues are now primarily in the service of the war effort, in movies and books—desert warfare, commando attacks, bombing raids, prisoner-of-war escapes, the Resistance, espionage, counter-espionage, and so on.
The ethos is chivalric and often chivalrous. The largely young men on our side who are obliged to kill people are decent human beings. The enemy, particularly of the SS and Gestapo persuasion, are not.
In 1945-46, Kelly is probably stockpiling MSS in preparation for the launching of his and Hector’s Robin Hood Press in 1947.
The warehouses of twenty-seven publishers around St. Paul’s Cathedral are destroyed during the Blitz. Millions of books and acres of stock go up in flames. Wood pulp is no longer coming from German-ccupied Norway. Publishers and newspapers are assigned paper quotas.
American pulp magazines like Black Mask and Dime Mystery are no longer imported.
Darcy Glinto, Lady - Don't Turn Over, Wells Gardner (December, ECB) BLIC ; re-issued in 1949 by Robin Hood in a slightly bowdlerized edition.
A reworking and intensifying of major elements of No Orchids for Miss Blandish
Claire Holding, the daughter of the Assistant Chief of the Federal Investigation Bureau, is kidnapped by Dill Slitson’s white-slavery-and-blackmail gang
Lynx Hanson, Slitson’s rival and a former member of the gang, teams up with gold-digging fan-dancer Cora Bilt, who’s out to get the maximum from her senescent sugar-daddy, millionaire John P. Halmar.
Grover Holding and his assistant Glyn Alder, on temporary leave-of-absence, are trying to get Clare back.
Rubber-hose flogging, rape, police torture (third- degree), strip-teasing, Tommy guns, knife murders.
In 1945, George Ryley Scott, not the most squeamish of readers, remarks of Lady that “It would be difficult to pack into 192 pages of largish type more stark unreserved brutality than is here presented.”
James Hadley Chase, Twelve Chinks and a Woman, (August, ECB)
The Maltese Falcon segues into Red Harvest, sort of.
The title is a come-on, but in the first edition there is some unforced nudity and a reassuring bit of lovemaking by private-eye Dave Fenner that are missing in subsequent editions. Some of the violences are toned down, too, and the dozen or more cuts Disneyfy a well-made book.
Raymond Marshall (Raymond/Chase), Lady … Here’s Your Wreath
Raymond has earlier adapted the title-pattern of Jonathan Latimer’s The Dead Don’t Care as The Dead Stay Dumb
Gerald Butler, Kiss the Blood Off My Hands
The first four chapters are a gripping ur-Jack-Carter first-person narrative by an explosively violent small-time crook. After that, as he softens because of a decent girl and troubles mount, the novel loses the uncompromising consistency of a voice unique up to that point, and for a number of years to come, in British crime fiction. (See Sidebar 6)
Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls
Twenty-six page episode of the People in a small town sending the “better elements” through a gauntlet to a cliff’s edge or disposing of them with revolutionary fervour in other ways.
“And I saw the priest with his skirts tucked up scrambling over a bench and those after him were chopping at him with the sickles and the reaping hooks and then some one had hold of his robe and there was another scream and another scream and I saw the men chopping into his back with sickles while a third man held the skirt of his robe and the priest’s arms were up and he was clinging to the back of a chair … ”
Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely.
His most entertaining novel, or at least the one with the most action—Moose Molloy wreaking havoc in a bar, Marlow escaping from a crooked private sanitarium, his visit to the offshore gambling ship, etc. But Chandler’s dialogue doesn’t wear well.
Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon
An explanation in psychological-political terms of the Moscow Trials confessions of the highly sophisticated and articulate Nikolai Bukharin, at one time the political equal of Stalin, via the imprisoned composite figure of Nicolas Rubashov, who takes Communist torture and machiavellianism in pursuit of “good” ends for granted. The pressures applied by the NKVD to most of the accused and their families in the Purges, as was discovered later, had usually been considerably more physical. As it is, we remember Rubashov holding the stub of a cigarette to the back of his hand to test his ability to endure torture, the throbbing of his untreated abscessed tooth, and the blinding lamp during Gletkin’s implacably persistent interrogation of him.
George Ryley Scott, The History of Torture throughout the Ages,illustrated
Scott explores the psychology of torturing and its religious components, as well as providing far more details of particular cases than many people would admit to wanting.
He observes that, “The moment an attempt is made to justify any form of torture, whatever the circumstances may be, there arises the possibility of creating a dangerous precedent.”
He animadverts against justifications of “Negro lynchings, of Bolshevik atrocities, of ‘Black-and-Tan’ outrages, or brutal floggings, of ’third degree’ methods,” but, oddly, doesn’t mention the Nazis. He comments:
The decrease in brutality which has been so marked a feature of the past half century must not blind one to the potentialities for evil which are ever present and which may conceivably exhibit, should the occasion arise, a new ruthlessness in keeping with the competent mechanistic age in which we live. …
The history of the past decade has smashed the contention that the horrible cruelties of the past are of no interest or significance to the present generation because “they can’t happen here” or “they can’t happen now.”
In the ghost-written 1955 memoirs of just-retired gangster Billy Hill, Boss of Britain’s Underworld, we learn that in the first year of the war,
It seemed that London had got over the first shock of the war and had now adjusted itself to a new and strange existence. To a great extent the black-out and a depleted police force increased the opportunity for crime. So did the loose money which was flying about the country. The result was that the West End became a roaring square mile of bustling prosperity and activity. Women flocked from all over to walk the streets and haunt the hotel lobbies, bars and clubs. Good-time girls became brazen tarts, ordinary wives became good-time girls. Small-time tealeaves turned into well-to-do operators. In the netherworld of pubs and clubs, of speilers [gambling dens] and dumps, you were assessed by two things, the amount of money in your pocket and your connections on the black market. As you know, a pair of nylons could buy a woman’s body, a diamond ring could buy her for life or as long as you wanted. (p. 76)
Darcy Glinto, No Mortgage on a Coffin, Wells Gardner, pb. BLIC
Gang-boss Sam Lemberg has problems with three women, especially fiery Rita, after removing the daughter of a Jewish anti-Nazi crusader from the torture-chamber clutches of German-American Fifth Columnists for whom his gang is doing a spot of sabotage while America is still neutral.
For more, see Sidebar 3.
Darcy Glinto, “Snow” Vogue, Wells Gardner, pb. BLIC/ Copac
Free-lance gangster Dario tries to get control of a dope racket and has to cope with a corrupt city machine and a devious Chinese supplier. A flavour of Hammett has been stirred into the mix.
For more, see Sidebar 3.
Darcy Glinto, You Took Me—Keep Me, Wells Gardner, BLIC
After being raped by him in a roadside shelter, intelligent, level-headed young Edda Garfe helps thick unfaithful roughneck Max Broler to rise in the liquor racket.
For more, see Sidebar 3.
Darcy Glinto, Yours Truly—Hoodlum, Wells Gardner; reissued in 1953 by Robin Hood. AJH.
According to the 1953 blurb, slum-rat Lugs Cortesi is able to satisfy “his worst urges” working for big-time crook Albery. Here is the beginning of the blurb.
When Lugs Cortesi saw that crazy car-crash, saw the gangster’s moll sail head first out of the car, to lie broken-necked and exposed on the sidewalk, while the gunman, unhurt, shot it out to the death with cops, he was not shocked but thrilled. The gunman was a hero and the judy—well, Lugs had a special urge about judies after that, and a special ambition about his life.
Darcy Glinto, Road Floozie, Wells Gardner, BLIC Copac
Young, independent-spirited Eilleen Rourke quits an exploitative garment workshop job for the open road, drifts into truck-stop sex-for-pay in order to survive, and starts killing truckers after being viciously raped by a pair of them.. An “existential” novel a year before Camus’ L’Etranger, but there are human decencies and real-feeling relationships, and it’s not bleak or bitter.
In the blurb on the 1950 Robin Hood Press reissue we read, “She suffered the worst humiliations, the crudest brutalities. It soured her, but with her Irish blood she had to fight back. She lost—yet perhaps in one sense, she won.” Is Harold Kelly, the loser in two trials, speaking here?
It has also struck me, on reading of the newspaper campaign against “smut” that resulted in the 1942 trial, that Kelly may have been conscious of approaching constrictions on freedom when he celebrated one variety of it.
The only copy of the original edition listed in Copac was in Trinity College, Dublin, but it has gone missing, leaving me unable to check for cuts in the later reissue.
But George Ryley Scott, who is good at describing the course of events in novels, reports in 1945 that “in Chapter VII there is a particularly unpleasant and unnecessarily drawn-out description of an assault by a trucker named Jake Greiner and a Negro, while a bum looks on …,” which is where it had seemed to me that there had been a cut.
[I have now had the great good fortune to acquire a photocopy of the 1941 edition. The rape episode in Chapter VII is substantially cut in the reprint. There are small cuts elsewhere, mostly involving undergarments.]
For more, see Sidebar 3.
James Hadley Chase, Miss Callaghan Comes to Grief, May, EC
Withdrawn from circulation in Britain but available still in French as Méfiez-vous, fillettes, (Gallimard)
It is the novel that, as Orwell puts it in “Raffles and Miss Blandish” (1944), “brought Mr. Chase’s books to the attention of the authorities.”
Cold-blooded sadistic Raven (yes, same name as Graham Greene’s killer in A Gun for Sale ) seizes control of the St. Louis vice racket and develops a large-scale brothel network. Sadie Perminger, after witnessing him leaving the apartment of vice-boss Mendetta whom he has just murdered, is incarcerated in a brothel and subsequently made his instant-obedience mistress.
The details we’re given about the art and craft of breaking a woman’s spirit go horrifyingly beyond those in Lady—Don’t Turn Over. Kelly outdid Raymond with Lady. Now Raymond outdoes Kelly.
The interwoven narrative of reporter Jay Ellenger’s blood-hounding lacks tension, because we already know the facts that he’s seeking.
But the action really kicks ass in the last eleven short chapters, with brothel inmates taking a savage vengeance on two of their male oppressors, a gunfight when Raven and his three brutish henchmen retrieve the loot from his apartment as the roof falls in on his operation, and Raven on the run, accompanied by a woman he’s picked up as cover, with a memorable episode of nudity, and a gas-chamber finale.
The body of a murdered prostitute identified as Julie Callaghan makes an appearance in the prologue, an inferior reprise of the opening of Latimer’s Lady in the Morgue.
Orwell (see his correspondence) initially thought that it was Lady—Don’t Turn Over, rather than Miss Callaghan, that landed Chase in court.
For more about the novel, see Sidebar 3.
It would be filmed in 1957 by Yves Allegret as Méfiez-vous, Fillettes, with Robert Hossein well cast as Raven. Apparently it was released in the States as Young Girls Beware.
[Benoit Tadie reports recently finding in a bookstore a copy of an English-language reprint, the Scherz Phoenix edition published in Berne/Paris, 1947,"not to be introduced into the British Empire or the USA," and has provided me with Chase’s own texts of the two passages that I translated. See Sidebar 8.]
James Hadley Chase, The Dead Stay Dumb (Jan., EC)
The title is a tip of the Chase hat, well, a flick of fingers to his RAF officer’s cap, to Latimer’s The Dead Don’t Care.
Chase (Raymond) publishes seven or eight novels during the war. I shall not list any more of them.
James Hadley Chase, Get a Load of This.
This is some kind of theatrical piece, with no connection with the 1988 collection of stories by Chase with the same title.
Don Tracy, How Sleeps the Beast
A reprinting by Wells Gardner, in their shilling paperback series, of Tracy’s 1937 lynching novel (see above). It appears in the same curious format as Glinto’s No Mortgage on a Coffin and “Snow” Vogue—stiffer paper covers with a dust-jacket on top.
The reference in the blurb to “Don Tracy’s story of the lynching with its appalling torture” is one of those hooks or come-ons that are likely to make readers proceed through the earlier pages faster than usual.
Jonathan Latimer, Solomon’s Vineyard (reissued in 1950 in the States, slightly bowdlerized, as The Fifth Grave)
The toughest thriller up to this point, and one of the toughest still.
I stepped closer and punched his face, using both hands. It was like a work-out with a punching bag. I beat his face to a pulp. At last he slid down on the cement, his head still sticking out the bars. Blood began to pool under one cheek.
I kicked his head a few times, but it wasn’t worth while. He was out cold.
In 1939, No Orchids for Miss Blandish. In 1940, Lady—Don’t Turn Over. In 1941, Solomon’s Vineyard—and the arrival of the feared and expected second Great War.
Had Latimer been stimulated by the success of No Orchids, I wonder? Solomon’s Vineyard was first published in England, by Methuen, and wasn’t published in the States in its complete form until 1988.
Why isn’t it too prosecuted the following year along with the titles by Chase and Glinto? Has the print run been too small to make an impact? Is there no point to making an example of an American?
In a trial at the Old Bailey on May 19th, Pilot Officer (Admin.) René Raymond (Chase) and his publishers, Jarrolds, are heavily fined for Miss Callaghan Comes to Grief, and Harold Ernest Kelly (Glinto) and Wells Gardner, Darton, his publishers, are heavily fined for Lady— Don’t Turn Over and Road Floozie, which are withdrawn from distribution.
In the words of a News Chronicle report, Kelly is “ordered to remain in custody until the money [ is ] paid.” To judge from an online computation system, a hundred pounds back then, which is what he is fined, would have been the equivalent of about four thousand pounds now. (See Note 8)
It is a trial by jury, the prosecutor being Mr. Christmas Humphrey, who twelve years later will be counsel for the defence in the Hank Janson trial. According to George Ryley Scott, “One unique feature of this prosecution was that in addition to the publishers being summoned for issuing obscene books, the authors were also charged with causing the books to be published.” (p. 124)
The Daily Telegrahph has reported a couple of months before the trial that:
The prosecution is being instigated by the Director of Public Prosecutions following protests from all parts of the country against the growing tendency to publish books of an indecent nature. … The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow, the most Rev. Donald Mackintosh, recently appealed for the suppression of certain types of novels described as foul and corrupting and a menace to the well-being of young minds. Complaints have also been received from chaplains to the Forces.
As reported in The Bookseller of April 23, the prosecution asserts of Miss Callaghan that
It was a new type of obscenity, so far as the courts were concerned. In nearly every case where books had been the subject of proceedings, they had dealt frankly with, or expressed too freely, normal sex relationships. Although they had been undesirable, they appealed to a natural instinct. The book in question described acts of debased sexual perverts, and the appeal was to sadism. There were descriptions of the stripping, torturing and raping of young women.
Twelve passages are read out to the jury, who are also given copies to take home to read, returning with a verdict of Guilty the next day. (GRS)
In a letter to the journalist C.H. Rolph in 1954, the respectable publisher A.S. Freer says
The curious thing about that Old Bailey dock is the feeling of overwhelming forces being ranged against you. . . .The only touch of human sympathy you encounter is from a cheerful little cockney jailer. The packed court gives you a curious feeling of inexorable censure. To a man—and woman—the jury look as if they will mercilessly run true to their own low standards. Awfully easy to be smitten by that most potent of human fears, being alone in the face of danger. (Quoted in C.H. Rolph’s Books in the Dock, 1969.).
Kelly is described as residing in Navestock, which is about five miles from Romford, which is about sixteen miles north-east of central London.
In London’s Underworld (2003), Fergus Linnane says of the wartime years
Market towns around London—Romford was the center of the black market—saw a huge rise in business as traders from London arrived to swap their goods for agricultural produce. There was also a brisk trade in stolen clothing coupons and ration books.
To judge from David Thomas’s An Underworld at War; Spivs, Deserters, Racketeers and Civilians in the Second World War (2003), in which we learn that “Among open-air markets outside London, Romford still boasted the greatest notoriety” (p.150), this state of affairs began early in the war after stringent rationing and food control were imposed.
According to Wensley Carson in his biography of Jack Spot, who a few years later would be the dominant figure in British gangland, “Spot and numerous other villains centred their activities in the once-quiet London suburb of Romford … “ (p. 55)
So, when Kelly writes the six pre-trial Glintos, he is close to a buzz of criminality of which, as a professional journalist with a muckraker’s nose, he would be well aware. The Romford pub scene would be interesting.
Piquant to think that he and Spot might have bought one another a whisky or two, and that Spot’s confident energy might have helped sustain him in his own slightly disreputable enterprise. The Kelly of the portrait that I talk about in Note 40, the friend (in my hypothesis) of the great wrestler George Hackenschmidt, would not have been out of his element there. And how did he come to be living in those parts in the first place?
But it is about America that he writes, and there is no Spot-like figure in those of his books that I have read.
Rine Gadhart, Too Tough to Die, Gerald G. Swan, hc, 128 pp.
An unpretentious, efficient, fairly violent, and reasonably well paced thriller, first-person-narrated in pseudo-American prose, indebted to Cheyney, Glinto, and Chase, but without pastiche and better than Cheyney.
Implausibly named Barry Saunders witnesses the nightclub snatch of rich-daughter Vivienne Pentee, and is hired by her father to get her back. He doesn’t do everything right, gets knocked on the head, and at one point, having been tied up, comments that he doesn’t have in his pocket any of those convenient bits of broken glass that you have in the storybooks. Along the way we have a sadistic gangster with a private torture chamber and murals displaying “the most horrible cruelties,” a sadistic mysterious boss communicating only as a voice, a girl spread-eagled in a vertical frame and whipped (the details not dwelt on), and two young helpers of Saunders’, male and female, trussed in preparation for the Death of a Thousand Cuts.
But there is no nudity that I can recall, not even during the whipping, and while this is obviously a book about the kinds of things that sell books, the violences are mostly plot-and-character-related, being what is done by the evil people whom the good guys are dangerously challenging.
At one point a dame tells the narrator and his young helper Wellman:
“I expect you know that the gang runs the biggest White Slave organization in all America. The chief controls the whole thing. He has joints in nearly every important city in the States and several in South America. They range from four-bit houses to the most exclusive and expensive establishments. Actually the ritzy joints bring in more money from the blackmail racket which is run on the side, than from the slave trade itself. There’s other sidelines, too—coke and pornographic publications. The boss has attorneys working for him: they blackmail the customers of the expensive houses, they arrange protection for the low-grade joints. The new recruits are ‘gone over’ and sent to suitable joints. Usually the pretty ones start at the most exclusive clubs and end in the four-bit houses catering for shines and wops. Some of them, that is. Some end in the river or are taken a one-way ride. Others end up in the Argentine.” (pp.95-96)
Who, I wonder, was Rine Gadhart?
William J. Elliott, Snatched Dame, Gerald G. Swan, 1942, reprinted 1948, hb, 224 pp.
The Scottish-born narrator, who seems to be Elliott’s Lemmy Caution (at the end he too turns out to be Law), masquerades as tough-crook “English Ed” Gunning, and is assigned by fat crime boss Hickey Doran to get close to Tessie Denker, daughter of millionaire Simeon P. Denker to smooth the way for a snatch. He is also commissioned by daddy to protect her. Most of the action consists of her getting into scrapes, he rescuing her, and she veering between gratitude and, when he gets fresh with her, treating him as a low cur. Itemized, the violences are nasty, and this must have been hot stuff at the time, but the British narrative voice blunts them a bit.
See Note 63
William J Elliott, Freak Racket, Gerald G. Swan, pb. 2/6d.
A curious collage of first-person gangster narrative (he’s working for the FBI but, unlike Lemmy Caution, “English Ed” Gunning is an actual gangster), cop-organization narrative (sympathetic), and, towards the end, horror ‘zine. Opens with unabashed appropriations from the opening of Lady—Don’t Turn Over. Brief strong violences are less disturbing in context, at least now, than when quoted.
Steve Holland dates this 1942 in his invaluable “A British Crime Noir Bibliography,” My 1950 copy dates the first edition 1941, but 1942 feels the more probable.
I pulled a bowie out, and yanked him out of bed. I got my hand in his crimped hair and pulled his head back He startled to yell, but it turned to a choke as the knife went home. It made a sort of plunking noise as it perforated the taut skin. Then I gave it a twist and cut like a butcher. By the time I’d done there was as much blood about as there’d been with Susie …
The victim here had been responsible for Susie’s death in the same manner.
For more about Freak Racket, see Note 42.
The two Gunning novels Triggers are Trumps (Swan, 1942) and Gunning in England (Swan, 1946) contain no violences worth mentioning. The 1942 trial evidently did some chilling.
George Ryley Scott, Voluptuous Inquisitor
The chief Inquisitor in Lima (Portugal) becomes infatuated with a girl of good family whom he holds under sentence of a horrible death in the prison of the Inquisition, where he has a harem of young women prisoners, and seeks to bend her to his will by letting her see tortures going on.
The plot, including the efforts of her English sea-captain lover and his men to find and free her, is essentially a pretext for showing in action the horrors described in Scott’s 1940 History of Torture. The point is in the pain, and the novel feels unclean. Stephen Frances knew it, I’m sure, and made something more serious of his own out of a hint in it, in In the Hands of the Inquisition (1971).
Albert Camus, L’Etranger / The Stranger
The French-Algerian narrator gratuitously kills a working-class Algerian who is a stranger to him. After starting out with a flat effective style more concerned with actions than with feelings, Camus has to change conventions when he needs more subtle and/or philosophical comments.
Alec Craig, Above All Liberties
Against censorship. No mention of the Old Bailey case. The introduction is dated 1941.
The Glass Key (Stuart Heisler)
Brian Donlevy, Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, William Bendix. Hammett’s novel adapted by Jonathan Latimer, who also wrote an unfilmed script for Red Harvest. Hard-boiled. Invigorating.
Buck Toler, The Bronsville Massacre, Mitre pb (June, EC), AJH, BLIC
According to the blurb,
This is Tough! This tremendous thriller issued for the first time in Great Britain possesses a breath-taking fury and intensity rarely found in books published on this side of the water….written in streamlined, sizzling Americanism…not for those who prefer milk and water to strong drink
Mike Harrigan’s six-man New York gang moves in on Tinplate Inc and its union in Michigan City, Indiana. The action starts slowly with unreal-feeling gang talk, improves somewhat with the stirring up of strike action, and picks up momentum with Harrigan’s manipulation of union officials, a knife-cut-knife bargaining session between Harrigan and Elmer P. Dallas, owner of Tin Plate, and a brawl between the hoodlums and union toughs.
The union boss is brought to heel by being taken for a ride and doused with gasoline. With incineration imminent, he calls off the strike, an outcome that nets the gange $25,000. The ploys for conning the rank-and-file into believing that they’ve won are mildly amusing. Subsequently another company is struck at Bronsville.
A curious book, without a woman in it anywhere. The logistics and physical manoeuvrings of the Bronsville strike —terrain, fences, buses, scabs, the three hundred “rubber sticks” with which strikers have been armed, etc—are described attentively, as is the combat-thinking of the parties involved, including an earlier gathering of the bosses of several companies. Hard to believe that British readers would find this thrilling. The promise of the title is misleading.
What are the politics of the book? Certainly neither pro-labour nor pro-capitalist, and no moral indignation. Toler/Kelly is more interested in the how than the what—how the players here work to win, rather than the merits of the cases.
“Buck” as in “Buck Ryan”?—a Daily Mirror crime comic strip, begun in 1937
Harold Kelly, “Confession by Jury,” pp. 5-9, Tales of Mystery and Surprise, along with tales by Richard Westlake, Arthur Armstrong, Sydney Denham, Kent Barnett, and Sidney [sic] Denham, Everybody’s Books, 32 pp., 6 1/2 x 4” JF
This is one of only four occasions that I know of after 1940 when Kelly’s own name appears on a work. The subject was obviously of personal interest to him.
The previous year, in a jury trial at the Old Bailey, Kelly was fined the equivalent of about four thousand present-day pounds for publishing two allegedly obscene novels.
In the story a jury is deadlocked eleven-to-one in a murder case that’s based entirely on circumstantial evidence. The lone member holding out against a guilty verdict finally agrees to go along—and then announces that it was he who actually did the murder. So much for amorphous criteria and the wisdom of juries.
Arthur Koestler, Arrival and Departure, translated (London)
Contains a ten-page description of being interrogated by the Gestapo.
The first three strokes seemed to split his body into two; he had never imagined that flesh could experience such mortal pain and yet survive to feel it, and feel it repeated once more, and again; that narrow consciousness could suddenly expand into space and find room in itself for such monstrous sensations. (Part Three, section 9)
The book also contains a ten-page description of the beginnings of the Final Solution, when the killings are still being done by means of sealed vans into which carbon-monoxide-laden exhaust is injected.
The Ox-Bow Incident, William Wellman.
A Group Theatrical morality play about the mob mentality and America’s capacity for wickedness. The weaker-willled go along with the three or four strong-willed characters, especially the cruel, authoritarian, and bogus would-be Southern aristocrat bent on a hanging, their arguments about law and order overlaying nastier desires.
The presence of the three patently innocent accused men around the same fire as their killers-to-be during the cold night hours brings out the dreadfulness of decent young rancher Dana Andrews knowing that all the ongoing satisfaction of his family life, and its promise for the years to come, is going, despite anything he can do or say, to be blanked out for ever. Reportedly the movie was made in 1941, before Pearl Harbour. What would its politics have looked like then, I wonder?
Buck Toler, It's Only Saps That Die (Feb, ECB), AJH, BLIC
On an expressionistic front cover, a blonde in an evening gown is in the process of being crushed between two gigantic blood-streaked rotating cog-wheels, while a man of indeterminate age tries in vain to reach her. Below the title at the top we have, “Buck Toler at his toughest and roughest.” Price 2/-
Inside is an ad in which Everybody’s Books, in the Charing Cross Road, offers to buy used books, presumably so that it can get credit in paper stock when they are pulped.
All that I can tell from the first three pages is that it’s about Hank Rimmer, cynical-ruthless mastermind of a major American black-market operation.
He was tall, wore a stoop, a long, pale face, and plenty hair-fix. But there was something about his eyes—a fish-oil wetness. And his mouth—it curled too easily.
He is originally from the Bowery.
In the three opening pages, after a brief overview of his operation, we cut to a confrontation in his office with a stuffy Eastern blue-blood who was conned into giving Rimmer a business start, and now, on learning how crooked the operation is, declares his intention to denounce it to the authorities and socks Rimmer on the jaw. After which Rimmer shoots him four times.
Whalen snapped his mouth like a dog catching flies. Then he started bowing like he was meeting one of his high-up Boston dames. But he kept on bowing until he wheeled over and lay kicking and gurgling on the floor. That was like Rimmer, too. Killing wasn’t enough. He had to hurt. (p.3)
Eugene Ascher, There Were No Asper Ladies; a New and Strange Kind of Thriller, Mitre; reprinted in 1949 as To Kill a Corpse, Everybody’s, AJH, BLIC
I only have To Kill a Corpse but presume that the texts are the same.
Archaeologist and researcher into the paranormal Lucian Carolus, during his investigation of an odd phenomenon in the country house of an aristocratic friend, visits her hyper-cultured (and in fact vampiric) neighbour Hilary Asper, who favours him with a rare vision-inducing wine and introduces him to his “museum of suffering,” a collection of torture implements and pictorials.
Looking at the rack, Lucian “heard a long groan beginning with a sharp hissing intake of breath, rising to a crescendo and dropping in a slow, gurgling diminuendo into a harsh ‘Ah-h-ach’ that sounded as if it had been wrenched from the vocal chords in a final contortion of unendurable pain,” and vivid images of actual torturings start coming.
“Think of the victim’s mind as he entered such a place as this,” Asper went on, “the fear, the sense of impotence, and humiliation; the terror-stricken waiting for the pain to begin, and then the paroxym—or is it an ecstacy?—as the agony tears at the nerves.” (Chapter 5, To Kill a Corpse)
In the account of his flogging by Turkish soldiers in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom (trade edition 1936, Sidebar 10), T.E. Lawrence describes the warm, almost sexual glow of contentment that had come upon him at one point.
For more about Ascher, see Note 14.
Lillian Smith, Strange Fruit.
Best-seller with miscegenation and a lynching. Dull.
George Orwell, “Raffles and Miss Blandish”
A famous comparison of the ethos of E.W. Hornung’s late-nineteenth/ early twentieth-century stories about gentleman-thief and cricketer A.J. Raffles and that of No Orchids for Miss Blandish.
Now for a header into the cesspool. … The book contains eight full-dress murders, an unassessable number of casual killings and woundings, an exhumation (with a careful reminder of the stench), the flogging of Miss Blandish, the torture of another woman with red-hot cigarette ends, a strip-tease act, a third-degree scene of unheard-of cruelty and much else of the same kind. It assumes great sexual sophistication in its readers (there is a scene, for instance, in which a gangster, presumably of masochistic tendency, has an orgasm in the moment of being knifed), and it takes for granted the most complete corruption and self-seeking as the norm of human behaviour. … Ultimately only one motive is at work throughout the whole story: the pursuit of power. … Several people, after reading No Orchids, have remarked to me, ‘It’s pure Fascism.’ This is a correct description, although the book has not the smallest connection with politics and very little with social or economic problems. … In his imagined world of gangsters Chase is presenting, as it were, a distilled version of the modern political scene.
That last sentence nails it.
For some reservations about Orwell’s indictment, see Sidebar 1.
Raymond Chandler, “The Simple Art of Murder,” Atlantic Monthly.
A famous manifesto (late by a dozen or more years), against so-called Classic Puzzlers. Sentimentalizes the shamus in a way guaranteed to create identification in the bosom of every literary-minded academic seeing himself as nobly seeking The Truth in a philistine world.
Murder, My Sweet (Edward Dmytryk)
Farewell My Lovely filmed straight, with Dick Powell escaping successfully from his principal-boy musical-comedy roles, and Chandler’s oh-so-clever prose treated as if it could actually emanate from human mouths.
George Ryley Scott, Into Whose Hands; an Examination of Obscene Libel in Its Legal, Sociological and Literary Aspects.
Contains five pages about the 1942 trial of Chase and Glinto as a major episode in ”The Great ‘Purity Drive’ of 1942,” a unique feature of which was that “in addition to the publishers being summoned for issuing obscene books, the authors were also charged with causing the books to be published.” The plot summaries are full and accurate.
George Orwell, “Notes on Nationalism”
Contains the following admirable passage:
The majority of pacifists either belong to obscure religious sects or are simply humanitarians who object to taking life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point. But there is a minority of intellectual pacifists whose real though unadmitted motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration for totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other; but if one looks closely at the writings of the younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States. Moreover, they do not as a rule condemn violence as such, but only violence used as a defence of the western countries. The Russians, unlike the British, are not blamed for defending themselves by warlike means, and indeed all pacifist propaganda of this type avoids mention of Russia or China. It is not claimed, again, that the Indians should abjure violence in their struggle against the British. Pacifist literature abounds with equivocal remarks which, if they mean anything, appear to mean that statesmen of the type of Hitler are preferable to those of the type of Churchill, and that violence is perhaps excusable if it is violent enough. After the fall of France, the French pacifists, faced by a real choice which their English colleagues have not had to make, mostly went over to the Nazis, and in England there appears to have been some small overlap of membership between the Peace Pledge Union and the Blackshirts. Pacifist writers have written in praise of Carlyle, one of the intellectual fathers of Fascism. All in all it is difficult not to feel that pacifism, as it appears among a section of the intelligentsia, is secretly inspired by an admiration for power and successful cruelty. The mistake was made of pinning this emotion to Hitler, but it could easily be retransferred.(Quoted on the web by Oliver Kamm)
Open City, Roberto Rosselini
A lovable priest is executed by a German firing squad, Anna Magnani is killed in the street by a squirt from a soldier’s submachine-gun, and a Resistance leader is fatally interrogated by two torturers with blowtorches in a sound-proof room in the headquarters of a German commander. The movie very effectively establishes, or accepts, every stereotype connected with the German occupation of conquered countries.
Sidebar 1. Some Orchids
Sidebar 2. Chase and Glinto
Sidebar 3. The Pre-trial Glintos
Sidebar 4. Deep South Slavery
Sidebar 5. Darcy Janson
Sidebar 6. Rogues’ Gallery
Sidebar 7. Kelly Brothers
Sidebar 8. Scandal
Sidebar 9. Westerns
Sidebar 10. City Mid-Week
Sidebar 11. Gangdom NEW
Sidebar 12. Jungle Books NEW
Sidebar 13. Bodily Harms NEW
Sidebar 14. Propaganda? NEW