Found Pages: The Remarkable Harold Ernest (“Darcy Glinto”) Kelly, 1899–1969.
Violence, Inc: Part 4, 1946–1954
- Part 1. 1899 to 1928
- Part 2. 1929 to 1939
- Part 3. 1940 to 1945
- Part 4. 1946 to 1954
- Part 5. 1956 to 1975
For the Introduction to Violence, Inc., click here.
1946 to 1954
This is the Kellys’ heyday, with Harold writing with the confident energy that comes when you know that what you write will be published, bought, and read. The new Glintos appear with the Robin Hood Press or with Hector Kelly Ltd. (see Sidebar 7), as do Kelly’s remarkable Westerns, though some of the attributions are speculative. Kelly also publishes a couple of non-thrillers over his own name.
I have only been able to read seven of the thirteen Glinto originals from this period, but my extrapolation from four of them and a Buck Toler is that Kelly is principally dealing with women heroes in them, and with male ones in the Westerns
The energy level of American thriller-writing during these years rises dramatically as veterans return from the War with high hopes for peace, are outraged by corruption when they encounter it, and can draw on their own experience of physical combat or on wartime mind-sets with respect to violence. Writers like Kenneth Millar, John D. MacDonald, Mickey Spillane, John McPartland, Charles Williams, and Donald Hamilton all appear with reputable publishers.
Kelly, unlike James Hadley Chase—and uniquely, so far as I can see, for a writer of his ability—operates almost entirely in the low-prestige area in British publishing that Steve Holland explores in his fascinating The Mushroom Jungle; a History of Postwar Paperback Publishing (illustrated; Zeon, 1993)
But obviously he has opted for freedom, in a non serviam spirit, and is at work heuristically on his own concerns, especially in the Westerns, as well as making a living.
During these years there is a growing concern on both sides of the Atlantic with fictive violences as possible causes of real-life ones, particularly among the young—well, the young of the coarser classes.
My knowledge of Killer on the Run, Mannequin Moll, Straight-up Girl, and Dames Are Deadly derives from photocopied material, including the first three pages of text.
Buck Toler, Killer on the Run, Everybody’s, AJH
Dramatically compressed front-cover image, with a black car smashing through a wooden barricade on a bit of highway right under KILLER ON THE RUN on a black patch with uneven edges occupying most of a sky, with slashes of red projecting upwards like forest fires. No people visible anywhere.
The blurb tells us:
Here is the epic of that greatest of all thrills, the man hunt! The gangster, the killer, the rat without a conscience has been driven into the open.
All the forces of law and society are massing remorselessly against him, but the killer is not alone. With him, sharing the terrors, the doublings and twistings of the panic-stricken run, is a beautiful girl. A strange enigmatic personality, touched with feminine tenderness, yet drawn by a mysterious fascination to the cruelties and murders which have made the killer’s name a by-word in society.
Buck Toler has given us many vivid living pictures of underworld gangster-crime, but in “Killer on the Ruin” he touches new depths of toughness, but also he rises to new heights of that grim, swift-moving excitement which all readers look for and inevitably get in this virile author’s stories.
Sounds like several movies, and the three opening pages don’t suggest otherwise. The author seems to be padding, with his reiterations of the warnings being issued on the radio in a roadside eatery about the deadly gunman on the loose, as the man himself sits listening unperturbedly, finally exiting with a handsome judy who’s just come in, along with word that the Feds are here.
Hank Janson, When Dames Get Tough
Stephen Frances enters the scene to which, with his multiple pseudonyms, but principally as Janson, he will contribute over three hundred titles. With the arrival of Janson the character and Ben Sarto’s Miss Otis, this can be taken, symbolically as well as literally, as the start-up year of the Mushroom Jungle.
For more about the denizens of that jungle, see, Sidebar 12.
Ben Sarto [Frank Dubrez Fawcett], Miss Otis Comes to Piccadilly
This narrative of a hyper-tough American peroxide-blonde bringing her family-type gang to London has so little shape to it and is written in such abominable prose that I found it an ideal bedtime soporific. Five pages and I was gone.
The two following passages show the author at work on sex-and-violence. A longer passage combining the two can be found in Note 11. Sarto’s and Glinto’s names do not deserve to be linked, if quality is what we’re concerned with.
(a) The hand that came out of Dado’s pants pocket was all bunched up, a horrible hard mass of bone and leather. It poised itself for the merest fraction of a second. Then Dado’s body heaved and the fist shot out with all that mountainous weight behind it. O’Kelly hadn’t time even to scream. He was caught squarely in the middle of the face by a thing that might have served as a battering ram. He couldn’t ride the punch because his head was practically touching the wall behind him. Nose, teeth and cheek-bones were crushed in by the mighty fist. The back of O’Kelly’s skull caved in on the wall. The crunching smashing sound and the wet squelch of flying blood was worse than the most hideous nightmare. (Chapter X)
(b) Her teeth closed on the skin of his neck and bit gently. She began to rough him up with her hands and arms. She felt how good it would be if she could kill him gradually. She crushed her mouth to his and kissed him so hard that the blood came on his lips and gums.
This time the tiger responded to his mate’s caresses. Kensett’s mind came clear of fear. Hot passion dawned in his limbs. He lifted her off her feet holding her close with one hand while he beat her with the other, reaching round her body and bringing his hand down on the rounded flesh with all his force.
He felt her body jerk and quiver at each stroke; felt her grasp of him tighten and her sharp teeth seeking places to bite. She dug her finger-nails into him. They were like claws through the cloth of his coat. And all the time she was making queer little moans like a cat in the moonlight. (Ch. X)
“Miss Otis Comes to Picadilly was first published in June 1946. I’m pretty sure that was the first Ben Sarto, followed in August by She Rules with a Rod.” (SHp)
Peter Cheyney, Dark Hero
He can really write when he (all too seldom) wants to.
A well-crafted narrative, part omniscient, part s.p.v., in several sections. We see Rene Berg as an almost dead concentration-camp inmate in 1945; as a man, with health restored, returning to London in 1946 with a score to settle; as a young gunman rising in the quasi-Capone organization in Chicago in 1932 and conned into near-disaster by a couple of women and an ambitious gang lieutenant; in Norway in 1940, helping a couple of Nazi prisoners to escape; in London in 1944 preparing for the mission that lands him in the camp; and in London in 1945 again.
The writing is workmanlike but psychologically simple in the earlier parts, as compared with Kelly’s. But Berg’s character picks up substance incrementally. Violences are more implied than shown, but there’s a feeling of real risks, though, again, not up to Kelly’s level of intensity.
Vernon Sullivan (Boris Vian), J’irai cracher sur vos tombes
Published in Paris as a translation of an American author. A Black who’s ”passing” settles in a Southern town and patiently works towards an atrocious sex-and-violence vengeance for his brother’s lynching. Vian and his publishers end up in court.
I bit down harder. I did my best to get my hand over her mouth, but her screams were enough to give you goose-flesh. (1971 American translation.)
Kenneth Millar (aka John Ross Macdonald, aka Ross Macdonald), Trouble Follows Me (reprinted as Night Train).
Near the end of a narrative drenched in evil, the hero settles scores with a particularly vicious American who has been working for the Axis:
When he got up I hit him again with my left. The lower half of his face was bright with blood. Now a flap came loose over his eye and hung down showing the white bone. I hit him again with my left and he went down moaning. I pulled him to his feel and hit him again with my left. He kicked at me but lost his balance and fell on his back. I helped him to his feet and hit him again. My fist caught him in the center of the throat and broke his larynx. I heard it snap. When he fell down I let him lie. I was very happy. (Part !V, section 13)
The book, Millar’s second, is a good deal more entertaining than most of the Lew Archer every-side-is-seamy mopings, at least those after Millar’s own teenage daughter was abducted and he had to hire a private investigator himself.
Paul Cain, Seven Slayers (short stories from Black Mask)
Two or three of these are mentioned above in their appropriate chronological places.
Joseph T. Shaw, ed, The Hard-Boiled Omnibus: Early Stories from Black Mask —Chandler, Dent, Hammett, Cain, etc.
Ditto with these.
George Orwell, “The Decline of the English Murder”
After contrasting the so-called Cleft-Chin Murder case the previous year (see Sidebar 11) with the “typical” English one (quiet domestic middle-class poisoning), Orwell comments, “Perhaps it is significant that the most talked-of English murder of recent years should have been committed by an American and an English girl who had become partly Americanized.”
Hector and Harold launch their principal publishing operation, Robin Hood Press, with Harold as its “mainstay author” (Steve Holland) and Darcy Glinto resurfacing.
(“Robin Hood was set up in 1946 and published their first title There Were No Asper Ladies in 1947”—Steve Holland, personal letter.)
Writing in 1983, Hector recalls that: “The bulk of the material was published in paperback, but after a year or so, I conceived the idea of binding some of these up for the libraries, and this was quite successful.” (Letter to Steve Holland, quoted in THJ)
In his Austerity Britain, 1945–1951, (2007) David Knyaston quotes an investigator as noting in 1947 how "lately a great wave of cheap, rubbishy stories has invaded the [Welsh] mining villages and at the stalls in any market you can see those booklets in exciting paper covers with glaring titles, changing hands like hot cakes … mostly second-hand and very dirty.
Knyaston then lists the following titles: Dangerous Dames, Moonlight Desire, White Traffic, The Penalty is Death, Corpses Don't Care, The League of the Living Dead.
Corpses Don’t Care (1946) Steve Holland informs me, was by N. Wesley Firth writing as Earl Ellison Dangerous Curves (1947?) he tells me, was also by Firth, and Moonlight Desire (1947) by William Newton.
Darcy Glinto, Curtains for Carrie, Robin Hood, BLIC, LCOC
The first Glinto in six years.
Beautiful 19-year-old Carrie Donovan carries on her father’s coastal rum-running operation when he’s executed after being tricked by greasy, lecherous, would-be big boss Poulos, for whom she and her tough all-black crew make business and life increasingly difficult. Peter O’Donnell must have known this one.
An interesting effect deserves mentioning. We’re told at the outset that she’s shot to death, so after awhile we start wondering, Is this the point where she makes a bad decision leading to her death? Is it this? This?
Darcy Glinto, Blue Blood Flows East, Robin Hood, BLIC (dated 1948 by AJH); reissued as Wild Blood, Moring, 1956 AJH, THJ
Socialite Rosa Van Sennes’ involvement in the dangerous affairs of gangster Garry Banner.
For the plot of this after a point almost unbearably suspenseful narrative, see Note 22.
Buck Toler, Tough On The Wops, Robin Hood, BLIC, LCOC, AJH
Lovely, shy Italian-American Francesca sets out to avenge the gang killing of her restaurant-owner fiancé Angelo. For more details, see Note 23.
Gordon Holt, The Stables to £1,000,000 (Holt), Robin Hood, pb. AJH
Blurb: “Since Nat Gould [ 1857-1919 ] there has been no great story-teller to weave all the stirring elements of the grand game into quick-moving, full-blooded romances .…”
A tycoon plots to win a young gentleman’s whole estate by nobbling his racehorse. The book is knowledgeable about the Turf, the culminating race is gripping, and Dick Francis must have known the book. It also contains a knowledgeably described fist-fight.
Hank Janson, “Scarred Faces,” “Kitty Takes the Rap.”
In “Kitty Takes the Rap,” we’re given the whole whipping that was aborted in Glinto’s No Mortgage on a Coffin.
Michael Gilbert, They Never Looked Inside (aka He Didn’t Mind Danger)
Young, action-oriented, recently demobilized army officer bloodhounds, largely in cooperation with Scotland Yard, along the complicated trail of a robbery-and-two-way-gold-and-jewelry-smuggling operation managed by a middle-aged stockbroker-type sadist and his vicious lieutenants, including two Jews, a Latino, and a Levantine.
A lot more lethal than strong-arm but intelligent East Ender Jack Spot (Jack Comer) who in his Butolph Club in Whitechapel had been orchestrating robberies by teams of specalists and forcing other villains out of the immensely profitable race-course protection racket, and who by 1949, when he took on his future nemesis Billy Hill as a partner, was unquestionably the king of the London underworld.
Gilbert is a master of chapter endings, including the “Had he but known that morning” ploy. The Yard team are likeable-enough professionals coping with an American-type racket beyond their experience, and the service-middle-class flavour of the book, both in the steady “talked” narration and the adaptive problem-solvings by the good guys (nothing goes smoothly) is curiously reassuring...The dangerousness is established early on, apropos of a young undercover cop. The Chief Inspector is speaking:
“Three days later the Deptford police found Pollock’s body in the cellar of a blitzed house. The rats had been at him for about forty-eight hours. But the worst damage had quite clearly taken place before death. You’re probably hardened to beastliness, but I don’t think I’ll tell you what actually had been done to him. However, someone had clearly had a good deal of fun killing him, and they had taken their time over it.” (ch.3)
John Buchan’s Richard Hannay would have been at home with the good guys, but the bad guys are considerably worse than in the pre-1914 days of The Power House.
Gilbert’s seeming assumption, here and in The Doors Open and Fear to Tread that large-scale criminal organizing could only be done by someone who’d gone to an English public school is mildly irritating. But it would have been hard back then creating a plausible working-class Napoleon or Capone of crime.
Mickey Spillane, I, the Jury
The first Mike Hammer novel.
Spillane back then can’t vary the pace of action, build a scene, or create a sense of place other than by providing a few generic references for readers to fill in as “midtown Manhattan,” etc.
The power of the early Hammers comes from the driving tone of anger, a contempt for panty-waist legalisms, some extreme unapologetic violences against scum of various kinds, and the pleasure of operating with virtual legal impunity.
The high yellow was holding his broken wrist in one hand, trying to get to his feet. I helped him. My hand hooked in his collar and dragged him up. I took the side of my free hand and smashed it across his nose. The bone shattered and blood poured out. That guy probably was a lady killer in Harlem, but them days were gone forever. He let out a little moan and slumped to the floor. I let him drop. (Ch. 6)
But, uniquely among serious first-person PI narrators (as distinct from Richard S. Prather’s comedic Shell Scott), Hammer is out front and exposed in his voiced loathing of big powerful criminal organizations—Mafia, Commie spy networks—and his desire to kill and hurt those involved. He and to some degree his author take large risks. The more irritating passages of generalization may partly be functioning like some of Matt Helm’s extra-hardboiled ones as a way of fortifying Hammer’s morale.
The conviction that the legal system (aka crooked hotshot lawyers, bureaucratic hands-tying, and soft-hearted or corrupt judges) favoured the rich, powerful, and wicked obviously resonated with a lot of post-war American readers.
In hindsight, such an attitude doesn’t seem self-evidently inferior to that towards organized crime in The Godfather (novel and movie).
The characteristic Hammer exasperation was obviously heightened by the war in Korea. Ordinary guys had fought their way heroically to victory in Europe (Anzio, D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge) and the dreadful island-hopping Pacific campaign, and had earned the right to peace. And now here the Commies were, refusing to play by the rules and obviously bent on continuing their campaign for their world-transforming victory for as long as it would take.
So ordinary guys are dying once again, unglamorously and unloved, in the snow and shit-stinking fields of an alien country in whose inhabitants they have zero interest. And the Commies have won in China, and are burrowing away elsewhere. Someone must have fouled up in some way.
To recapture the charge that the early Hammers had at the time, one can take the roller-coaster ride of John Flynn’s Steven Seagal movie Out for Justice (1991).
Kenneth Millar, Blue City
Millar’s well-born veteran John Weather, returning to the corrupt city that his dead father used to run, is convincingly tough and angry (“I hadn’t had a fight for a long time, and I was spoiling for one”) and the criminals convincingly unpleasant.
Joe Sault was in a kitchen chair half-facing me, with Kerch in front of him and Rusty behind him holding his arms. His left ear hung down like a red rag, dripping blood rhythmically onto his stylish collar. His mouth was ragged and spongy. His body was naked from the waist down, and his shirt had been rolled up under his armpits. His lean belly, bisected by a line of dark hair, trembled like a beaten dog’s …
Kerch put down the heavy iron spoon that he had been balancing in his hand, and picked up a paring knife that was lying on the table.
Later on, John snaps the two thin wrists of a vicious young gunman across his knee. “I was getting pretty tired of Garland.”
The book, strongly plotted and throbbing with tautly controlled energy, is Millar’s best (Macdonald’s too) and takes its place beside Latimer’s Solomon’s Vineyard as the toughest American thriller. It is fuelled by an uncompromising moral indignation against corruption that declines into mannerism after Millar becomes Macdonald and sets Lew Archer up in private-eye-to-eye competition with Chandler’s attitudinizing Philip Marlow.
Brighton Rock, John Boulting
Unglamorous petty English gangsters, engaging in razor-slashing and even murder, but hopelessly on the margin, unexciting to the police, and losing out to the big boys, of whom we get only a glimpse in suave Mr. Colleoni in the Cosmopolitan Hotel.
Like Conrad’s “Professor” in The Screte Agent, Pinky Brown, as portrayed by Richard Attenborough, preserves his sense of identify and “affect” by staying tensely aloof from the comfortable wash of bar-room humanity and the lures of the flesh (young Rose’s “love” being an especial horror). He and just-married Rose may not be given a room themselves in the Cosmopolitan, but as Catholics they are in touch with far bigger things than the British class system. They, like Greene himself, have the knowledge of Good and Evil—especially Evil.
They Made Me a Fugitive (Cavalcanti) NEW
The most realistic movie glimpse of London gangdom in those blackmarket years—four or five unappealing guys with no clever lines to speak playing cards with their hats on in a scruffy hideaway and doing violences when called upon by their sadistic boss, who’s from a bit higher up the class ladder. A potential squealer is knifed and thrown into the river. A desperately pleading woman will be thrashed with a badges-studded leather belt if she doesn’t tell them what they want to know. Women are socked.
The camera angles, grainy texture, and chiaroscuro lighting fit the moods of ex-officer Trevor Howard, who’s joined the gang out of boredom with civvy life. Framed for a killing by the gang boss after he draws the line at drugs, he escapes from a prison work party and returns to The Smoke, seeking vengeance and the clearing of his name, not particularly efficiently.
The girls aren’t movie-type beauties, and the unposturing, rule-bending inspector, ex-Army himself, is a realistic copper. Trevor Howard on the wrong side of the law takes a bit of getting used to (was it originally a Richard Todd part?), but settles in after a while.
Kiss of Death, Henry Hathaway
Enter the first truly, unforgettably psychopathic gangster as played by Richard Widmark, his smile liable to turn at any moment to intense suspicion, with lethal violence imminent. A wheelchair-bound old lady hurtles down a flight of stairs to her death. His face skull-white in the smoky light from a just-opened basement door, Widmark answers Victor Mature’s query with one leering word: “Perfume.”
Performances in London (query, 1948?) of Sartre’s play Men without Shadows, about the torturing of captured members of the Resistance :
CANORIS: Hear anything:?
FRANÇOIS: What do you think they’re doing to him?
CANORIS: I don’t know. [Pause]. I hope he holds out. If not, he’ll suffer far more.
HENRI: Of course he’ll hold out.
CANORIS: I hope so. It’s much more difficult when you’ve nothing to hide. [Pause.]
HENRI: He hasn’t screamed yet. That’s something.
FRANÇOIS: Perhaps they’re just questioning him.
CANORIS: You think so?
[SORBIER screams. They all jump.]
LUCIE [talking very fast, in an unnatural voice]: Jean must have arrived at Grenoble by now. I’d be very surprised if it took him more than fifteen hours. He must feel very strange; the town is quiet, there are people on the terraces of the cafés, and the Vercors must seem like a dream. [SORBIER’s cries intensify—LUCIE’s voice grows louder.] He’s thinking of us. He hears the radio through an open window, the sun is shining down on the mountains. It’s a lovely summer afternoon [louder cries].
Darcy Glinto, No Come Back From Connie, Robin Hood, BLIC AJH
The leaders of two rival gangs, Connie O’Mara and well-born Pen Lupin, are locked in conflict despite or because of the strong sexual attraction between them. Peter O’Donnell must have known Connie, with her strong spirit of independence, her unpanicked coping with a seemingly hopeless captivity at one point, and her use at another point of a version of the Nailer.
Darcy Glinto, Dainty Was a Jane Robin Hood, AJH, BLIC; reprinted in 1956 as Blonde, Cute and Wicked, Moring, AJH. NEW
A thin piece of work, without a single moment of narrative surprise or psychological insight. Opens with a needlessly long description of a fashionable New York bar which Grif Loder’s gang sticks up, after which there are page-covering characterizations of individual gang members and detailed accounts of the getaway car making their way back to the gang’s HQ. Fifty pages into the book, there is still no plot.
When we learn that gang member Dainty Sabina is in fact a man, we’re given no information about how she comes to be a gangster, or about her background more generally. Nor does s/he feel like a woman. Her little knife only surfaces three or four times, non-lethally. No coiled malignant viper or Slim Grisson she. A handsome, boastful somewhat better-class mobster (a good driver and crack shot) joins the gang, and we learn that he’s yellow in the crunch. Dainty’s emerging protective interest in him (muted for a while by her being ostensibly a man) is the plot, but is underdeveloped, as is her relationship with a sister introduced late in the game. There isn’t the slightest feel of an actual or movie-actual New York.
Kelly was obviously simply covering paper to add another title to the Robin Hood offerings at the start of the Robin Hood operation.
Darcy Glinto, Dame Between Two, Robin Hood, BLIC AJH
“Glinto’s latest on rackets and payoffs” (NCB).
Darcy Glinto, Mannequin Moll, Robin Hood, NCB. Mistitled by AJH as The Mannequin Doll
“How dames run rival gangs” (NCB).
Opens with big, sexy, super-model Queenie, squired by a “big, handsome, dumb, blonde” Ivy-League type in tails, coming into a bar where a couple of dumb small-time crooks are discussing the idea of a snatch-racket in which the victims are returned unharmed—no bumping off after the ransom is paid, no white-slavery.
The narrator is of the milieu himself, knowing the players, especially Queenie, and being dismissive about a libel suit threatened by Madame Fifinella (couturier? brothel madam?). Apparently Queenie is indeed a mannequin, highly visible and presumably highly paid.
At one point there’s a touch of the same defensiveness that Lee Horsley, in The Noir Thriller, detects at the start of Dainty Was a Jane.
All I’m doing is filling in the gaps, dotting the “I’s” and crossing the “t’s.” Maybe you fancy that makes it old stuff; that it isn’t a brand new story. I’m telling the world it is brand new, as new as tomorrow.”
Well, yes, if one happens to have read No Orchids for Miss Blandish, one may indeed have a sensation of déjà vu. Where will the action take us? I’ve no idea. I can’t say I’m particularly curious. Nor do I think that this is to console myself for not having been able to access the whole book. I have just checked the first three pages each of No Come Back from Connie and Curtains for Carries. Much more is being talked about in them—interesting-sounding characters, the history and mechanics of the bootleg business.
Now I see that No Come Back, Dainty, and Mannequin Moll all appeared in the same year, along with Glinto’s Dame Between Two, which I have no sample from, Lance Carson’s Dan Furber, Outlaw and War in Chola Valley, Clinton Wayne’s Nesters on Okara and Tinhorns on the Tilted-K, and Gordon Holt’s The Stables to £1,000,000
I can’t say I’m happy about all that. Kelly would have had to be like Stephen King on speed to get all those written within a twelve-month period. There’s a lot of substance there, too, particularly in the Carson, Wayne, and Holt titles.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Dainty was a Jane and Mannequin were less than inspired.
Lance Carson, Dan Furber—Outlaw Hector Kelly, BLIC
Some irritating spellings—hev’, cain’t, yore, hyar—but definitely Kelly.
New-kid dude Dan Furber tangles with big brutal Jake Cantor and quirts his ass. Paula Brand, daughter of Rancher Brand, attempts to make peace between them. After being fired for a stupid prank, Dan is accused of trying to murder Paula’s father and takes to the hills, following an extended fight with Marshal Peal.
Paula comes to believe him. After a seven-page fight with Dan, Cantor forces her to agree to marry him so that Dan won’t be hunted down and killed. In a candid speech like those of several Glinto women, she agrees, but soon changes her mind.
Things turn out OK. Has there ever been a Western in which they don’t? But what matters is that we feel how easily they might not have done so.
Clinton Wayne, Tinhorns on the Tilted ‘K’, Robin Hood
A fine book. I’m sure it’s a Kelly. It has similar concerns and structure to two or three of the Carsons, the same feeling for bodies in motion, the same problem-solving and off-beat perceptions, and the same textual “signature” (see Note 17.)
James Hadley Chase, The Flesh of the Orchid
Beautiful red-headed nineteen-year-old Carol Blandish, daughter of Miss Blandish and Slim, escapes from a mental hospital where she has been incarcerated with impaired memory and violent episodes, and will inherit six-million bucks if she remains at large for fourteen days. A variety of individuals on both sides of the law pursue or shelter her in a cluttery narrative, the most notable pursuers being Max and Frank Sullivan, vicious professional killers. An early episode with a trucker reads as though Chase were trying to top Glinto in Road Floozie.
For more, see Sidebar 1.
Vernon Sullivan (Boris Vian), I Shall Spit on Your Graves [ first English-language translation ]
The later American translation is better, but even in this one the book feels remarkably true of the Southern rich. For more comments, see the 1946 entry above.
There was apparently also an English edition published as by “Griff.” (Flanagan, p. 72)
Franz Kafka, “In the Penal Colony”
The first English translation of Kafka’s long short story about a penal colony containing an elaborate piece of machinery that tortures condemned men to death over the course of twelve hours (by the end of the sixth they have ceased screaming) in front of crowds of spectators there for the ritualized entertainment. It bears traces of Wilhelm Reinhard’s novel Lenchen im Zuchthause, ca. 1848 (Englished as Nell in Bridewell ), about, and against, flagellation in a woman’s prison.
Imre Hofbauer, ed., George Grosz, introd John Dos Passos. Nicholson and Watson.
Colin Sleeman, ed., Trial of Gozawa Sadaichi and Nine Others, foreword Earl Mountbatten.
Sleeman had been the principal prosecutor in the trial of which this is the complete transcript, remarkable both for the unsensational lucidity of his analysis of the attitudes and value-system that had made the Japanese cruelties of commission and omission appear reasonable to those committing them, and for the fairness of the trial.
No Orchids for Miss Blandish, St.John Clowes
An Anglo-American production, with Jack LaRue as Slim Grisson. Time Out 13 comments:
“ The most sickening exhibition of brutality, perversion, sex and sadism ever to be shown on a cinema screen,” squawked the Monthly Film Bulletin. “Nauseating muck”, “about as fragrant as a cesspool”, “a wicked disgrace to the British film industry” echoed the national press. The film's “hero” — a down-at-heel newspaperman — is indeed a nasty piece of work, and as insensitive as his colleagues in the real world to the fondly passionate relationship between Miss Blandish and her morbidly introverted kidnapper. But the critical hysteria over this confident, well-crafted homage to Hollywood is puzzling. The sets, the acting, the smoothly effective direction are all remarkably good, redolent of a short-lived maturity attained by British cinema in the late '40s. James Hadley Chase's novel was remade in 1971 as The Grissom Gang.
When, please, will we be able to get No Orchids on DVD?
Key Largo, John Huston
So, where do you stand, O cool Bogie, when confined by a hurricane on a stage set with Edward G. Robinson’s fascistic Caponesque gang-boss and his murderous henchmen, arrogantly confident they can all beat the system?
Le Sang des Bêtes (Blood of the Beasts), Georges Franju
A documentary about the principal Paris slaughterhouse, exploring the unsimple ethics of killing and the nature of the killers, agents of a meat-devouring society.
Darcy Glinto, Straight-Up Girl, Robin Hood, BLIC AJH; reprinted by Moring in 1952 as Born to Die.
“The book from Chicago that New York banned,” (NCB) “The most stirring and revealing book yet by this world famous author” (back of The Boss of Kaspar’s Jump).
Blurb, headed “Chastity vs. Vanity”.
It started with pool rooms and the reform school. There were always the “smarties” in the pool rooms who could flash around in swanky striped suits and pointed-toed shoes. It looked swell to Les Meaker, but, it cost dollars and he found that working for hire was no weay of building up a roll of bills. That was why he made his first appearance in a police court and spent a year in a reform school. They hoped he was a “cure.”
Maybe the biggest trouble was Les’s vanity. He had to look as big and as tough as the next guy. That brought him a second and third appearance in the police court. But the third time was different. There was a robber with violence and attempted murder charge.
After that everything might have gone the way it does go in the making of a hoodlum What made a difference was Coral Follett. She was straight-up first, last and all the time. She believed in Les. She had a very special kind of feeling about him. Yet she stayed straight-up even though she killed Inspector McAllen when she fancied he had everything fixed to kill Les Meaker.
The novel begins:
You don’t know Gingell’s Pool Room? Down on Galton Avenue beyond Ninety-third. Well, you don’t have to get any grey about that. Let the wardens of the Refoirm School get it. They go grey because they do know about Gingell’s, not because they don’t/. And why not? Out of every ten delinquents sent back “cured” if they live within a square mile of Gingell’s, nine are in the hands of the police again within one year. Believe it or not some real tough babies have graduated at Gingell’s. But maybe if you don’t know it you’d like to know something about it. That’s easy. (p.3)
So for the rest of the first three pages we hear about the addictive effects of pool, and about how Gingell adds adjuncts to the pool hall, chiefly a dance hall (for the judies) and a Club, for the tougher guys.
I think Kelly is padding. The information here seems to go way beyond the needs of the story as outlined in the blurb.
For more, see Note 62
But I would like to know what aspects of “the book from Chicago that New York banned” (on the front cover) might have (fictively) got it banned. The heroine, Coral Follette, certainly sounds different from Glinto’s other ones.
Darcy Glinto, Lady—Don’t Turn Over, Robin Hood, 1949, pb, 2/-, 192 pp. NEW
An interesting edition that I came upon late, its text midway between the banned 1940 Wells Gardner edition and the sanitized 1952 Robin Hood one.
Here, for purposes of comparison, is a short paragraph from the opening:
[1942 and 1949] “A bit late for keeping your legs private, ain’t it?” he said, and jerked her skirt back. His other hand held a gun. The girl half moved to resist but then went limp again. She remained with about three inches of thigh showing, but she only looked at the gun. Hanson slapped his hand down hard and grabbed the leg nearest him.
 “A bit late for that, ain’t it?” he said. His hand held a gun. The girl half moved but then went limp again. She remained with about three inches of thigh showing. Hanson dropped his hand down hard and grabbed the knee nearest him.
I haven’t tried checking all the way through, but later on, as in the first edition, we have, “He forced his fingers inside her brassiere and dragged her to her feet by it,” instead of 1952’s ‘He dragged her to her feet,” and “he wiped the knife clean on her vest,” instead of “he wiped the knife clean.”
On the other hand, as in 1952, Hanson runs his finger along “the bare flesh showing through the opening of her torn shirtwaist,” rather than 1940’s “through one of the splits in her panties” that had resulted from Min’s flogging with the rubber hose.
And fifteen lines are omitted about what appears to be his impotence and his hope that he can overcome it by sadistic dominance, replaced further on with a couple of pages, as in the 1952 edition, elaborating on his class resentment of her and his being “a little Hitler.”
My take on all this is that Robin Hood was seeing what it could get away with in 1949 (was there also a hardcover edition then?), when the banned 1940 edition had been lost from sight and maybe memory, and that by 1952, the Kellys were picking up enough signs from protesting groups to guess that a clean-up was near, and decided to play it safe.
As I’ve suggested elsewhere, evidently it was the combination of underclothes and flesh, rather than flesh itself, that was perceived as especially arousing.
Lance Carson The Boss of Kaspar’s Jump Robin Hood,
Straight-Up Girl is described on the back as about to appear, so I’ve guessed that they both came out in the same year.
Rancher Pat Riordan has boozing and innocently larcenous cow-hand Max Laver tarred and feathered and ejected from Kaspar’s Jump tied riding backwards on a mule. Forty years later, smooth Max Laver (his son) turns up as the town’s new lawyer and sets out to ruin Pat Riordan’s son (same name) and, as a bonus, acquire his daughter Kitty.
He gets into their confidence, then secretly brings in a band of roughnecks, organizes rustling from Riordan’s herd (two of Riordan’s hands being shot in the process), and sabotages the railroad routine by which Riordan’s stock normally gets to market in good condition.
Kitty is helped by decent but not particularly smart young rancher Kid Burman, whom Kitty really cares for, and whom Laver tries to frame for the rustling.
There is an effective contrast between Riordan’s public persona and his merciless plotting (it takes awhile to realize that he’s in fact a bad guy). At times one wants to exclaim “O no!” such as when one of his toughs beats and hogties a railroad checker as a prelude to the gang’s draining the tanks in which essential water is stored for the penned cattle. This is a novel in which people look ahead and see chains of economic consequences.
The opening shaming of the first Max Laver (“a grotesque helpless figure”), a detailed five-page saloon fight between Laver and a hulking cowpuncher, and a five-page description of Kitty riding, for a wager, Kid Burman’s hitherto un-ridden stallion leave no doubt that this is a Kelly novel and that he was an observant aficionado of Ring and Turf.
The cover-art is hideous and the print so faint in places as to slow down reading. The book deserved better.
Lance Carson, War in Cholla Valley, Robin Hood, BLIC
Lance Carson, Brush Trail Feud, Robin Hood, BLIC
In a long section in the earlier part of the novel, newcomer ranch-hand Tim Marley displays a lot of problem-solving intelligence in recovering from an area of dense brushwood, partly at night, a large herd of cattle that have been driven into it from Ruth Austin’s ranch by Rufe Gourly’s roughnecks after the murder of her father.
Near the end of the novel he succeeds by means of intelligent cool courage in bringing the murderer, roughneck Jake Slater, back to her ranch at night.
This being a community without sheriff or marshal, it is decided, with Ruth’s assent, that he will be informally tried by the ranch-hands and, if found guilty, hanged. The term “lynching” is used, without embarrassment.
The ranch-hands feel a sense of the solemnity of the occasion, and are thoughtful in their discussion of how to proceed. Slater, who has indignantly insisted that they can’t do that to him, doesn’t really believe that they mean to. When he realizes that this is for real, he interrupts, and
What he said did not come out in separate remarks. It was a kind of spate of words that came out of him like the sound from a steam-whistle. And there was something almost like a steam-whistle in the shrill, half screaming way it came.
What he says is curious. Sure, he killed the rancher, because that was what his employer Gourly wanted. And yes, he had subsequently tried to kill Ruth. But surely they must see that he was one of them, a worker (not that he uses the word) killing a boss, who was fair game.
To everyone’s surprise, Ruth turns up, explains that she feels the need to make clear that what they’re doing is proper, and then, before she can be stopped, herself leads off, without looking back, the horse on which Slater is sitting, with the noose now firmly around his nick.
Subsequently Tim figures out what has underlain the troubles. The conversation in which he indicates to Ruth that he doesn’t want to be seen as marrying a potential millionairess and she gets him to acknowledge that yes, when they had kissed earlier, it meant something, is finely done. I’m reminded of the love relationship in that very fine recent movie Open Range.
At the outset of the novel, Tim himself had been accused of the murder and only escaped lynching because Ruth felt the sincerity of his denial.
The cover art, a hombre with drawn pistol on a horse, is hideous.
See Sidebar 9 for a quotation.
Bryn Logan, The Deputy of Squaw Rock
Young Deputy Sheriff Larry Delane and Melanie Franklin, daughter of rancher Paul Franklin, who is having rustler problems, are both fascinated with the magnificent wild stallion, monarch of his herd, that she’s christened “Emperor.” Delane wants to rope and break him for his own use. Melanie wants to protect his freedom. The novel’s bad guy, Haver Brent, wants to add Franklin’s ranch to his domain. A lot of the action takes place on and around the large rock formation of the title
There are a couple of strong unarmed fights., described with the precision that (in my reading of him) Kelly had developed while watching bouts in the Ring, probably in the company of master wrestler George Hackenschmidt. Topological descriptions are also precise and three-dimensional.
The word “nary” is used for “never,” as in “I nary saw him,” which may be a Kelly marker in the Westerns.
There’s a nice Kelleyesque bit of conversation in chapter 8, page 80, where Larry realizes that Melanie is actually worried about the possibility of her having killed the kind of roughneck who, to borrow from the first Modesty Blaise novel, “would be improved by killing.” (See Sidebar 8)..But there’s nothing wimpy about her. Far from it.
There’s also what I’ve come to think of Kelleyesque descriptions of individuals thinking their way through complex three-dimensional problems.
Larry’s struggle with Emperor is well described, and a bit nervous-making, since one doesn’t want him to win but can’t be sure what direction the novel is going in. Melanie’s dealings with Emperor are no less bold, but very different, and lovely.
She saves Larry from a dreadful end, and solves the problem of the missing cattle. The two of them are equals, but this is very much her novel
And the horse’s, magnificently rendered.
At one point, in a brilliant intuitive improvisation in a seemingly hopeless situation, Melanie sings to him—and it relaxes him, the way Modesty releases Willy in Sabre Tooth.!
For quotations, see Sidebar 9.
Harold Kelly and Imre Hobbauer, illus., Monkey Goes Home, Collins
A children’s book in which an intelligent young monkey escapes from a zoo and makes his way, with a combination of ingenuity and good luck, back to what he thinks of as his people in Africa, only to find himself imprisoned and put solemnly on trial as a collaborator with humans and a teller of ridiculous tall tales about his supposed adventures.
See Note 13.
George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four
He had slumped to his knees, almost paralysed, clasping the stricken elbow with his other hand. Everything had exploded into yellow light. Inconceivable, inconceivable that one blow could cause such pain! The light cleared and he could see the other two looking down at him. The guard was laughing at his contortions.
And then there’s that worst-thing-in-the-world rat, which may have originated in Sax Rohmer’s The Return of Dr, Fu-Manchu (1916), or both may have been extrapolations from Octave Mirbeau’s The Torture Garden
Or from actual practices.
I see in Niall Ferguson’s The War of the World (2006) that in the early years of Bolshevik rule, “The Cheka [later OGPU, later NKVD] had unusual ideas about how to rehabilitate prisoners. In Kiev a cage full of starved rats was tied to prisoners’ bodies and heated; the rats devoured the victims’ innards in their struggles to escape.”
Ferguson also reports that “In Kiev [the Cheka] boiled the skin off prisoners’ hands—the so-called ‘glove treatment’” (p. 152).
In Francis Beeding’s thriller The Six Proud Walkers (1928), an Italian doctor who fails to assassinate the head of the Italian state is given that treatment, though we’re spared the technical details, by the clandestine organization to which he belongs.
I am more and more of the impression that the atrocities in thrillers, at least before the ridiculous Bond books, are likely to have a basis in fact.
Michael Gilbert, The Doors Open
Organized financial crime in London, with Russian agents at one end of the scheme and Soho enforcers at the other. The most solid-seeming financial institution can be eviscerated, and Soho at night is dangerous if you don’t know your way around.
White Heat, Raoul Walsh
An older Cagney as a mother-fixated psychopathic gangster with appalling migraines. “Made it, Ma, to the top of the world,
The Set-Up, Robert Wise.
A movie where it helps to know the ending while watching it.
An initially too clean-cut and too little combat-scarred Robert Ryan in too well-fitting a suit for a tank-town loser, is wholly convincing in the ring (he’d boxed heavyweight in college), where we feel the disparity between his enviably fine physique and the lost ability to meet the hammering speed of his younger opponent. Worse, when he does rally from time to time, he is unwittingly going dangerously against the betting expectation, even by his own handlers, that he’ll lose.
The concluding part, after the fight, in which, terror-stricken, he tries unsuccessfully to evade the waiting hoods is the most powerful filmic encapsulation I know of the sheer vileness of bullies, and could stand in for a Jew with Brownshirts, a Black with Klansmen, and other horrible situations.
The pre-fight parts with other boxers displaying their hopes and fears in the changing room are almost too well made, and street-level boxing still awaited John Huston’s Fat City (1972).
But “ordinary” American men back then in the post-war Forties, individually and in groups, were more individuated and unselfconscious —more “theatrical” perhaps—and more confident, some of them, that valour in the service of high expectations was a natural mode and could pay off.
The informed audience, of course, knows what the set-up really is.
Gun Crazy, Joseph H. Lewis
A poignant demonstration of l’amour fou, with weak John Dahl totally in love with Peggy Cummins and pulled along in the wake of her homicidal bank-robbing anger, with no hope of coming out OK at the end. Far superior to the aren’t-we-lovable Sixties self-flattery of beautiful-young-people Bonnie and Clyde.
Border Incident, Anthony Mann
A powerful narrative of an American and a Mexican Immigrant agent (George Murphy, Ricardo Montalban) going underground to get inside a well-organized and ruthless operation smuggling field workers into the States. There’s a constant risk of discovery by very unpleasant characters. The cover stories are fragile. Smiling, rich, cat-and-mousing boss Howard de Silva isn’t fooled. Agent Murphy dies at night under the blades of a field harrow that he watches advancing towards him, powerless to escape because of the wound that has felled him. Agent Montalban watches impotently from a distance, unable to risk trying to reach the attendant rifle-carrying thug, overpower him, and rescue Murphy. Which would have happened in a Thirties-type celebration of gangbusting.
Darcy Glinto, One More Nice White Body, Robin Hood, AJH, BLIC
For a description of this fascinatingly titled novel, see Note 29.
Darcy Glinto, Road Floozie reissued as a slightly bowdlerized hardcover and pb (Glinto), Robin Hood, BLIC
See the 1941 entry for comments.
Darcy Glinto, She Gave Me Hell and …, Robin Hood, BLIC
Starts promisingly. This is the first and possibly only first-person-narrator Glinto. A fresh voice, stimulated perhaps by the predominantly first-person Gold Medal Books now available in Britain, describes experiences and feelings that would never have been in those books.
A hoodlum is attracted by what he assumes to be the mistress of his toad-ugly gang boss, and she alternately lures him on and rejects him when their paths cross in the gang’s headquarters. Finally, after he has got as far as her bed, she turns him in to the boss and suggests that he be beaten and framed, rather than killed. So we have a long passage describing his feelings while being beaten and humiliated, naked, by four of the gang members in a dusty cellar, and the particular shame of it’s being in front of a woman who’s entertained by it.
The frustrations of prison (he does three years after being framed) are described with unusual candor—the sexual deprivation, the physical tension that makes sleep difficult—and after he gets out we hear more about his difficulty coming to term with his shaming. Which confirms my hunch about that being a concern in the first series of Glintos.
But in fact he doesn’t take the terrible vengeance that seems promised by his earlier remarks.
Instead, he compulsively seeks the woman out again, is betrayed by her again, escapes, beats up one of his former tormentors and a guy who’s hot for her, rescues her from the boss (whose virtual captive she is), and guides her to their joint salvation.
This is morally admirable, and may correspond to aspects of Kelly’s own development after the two trials. But the narration is plodding, padded, and at times, for me at least, soporific.
For a quotation from the good part, see Note 11.
The must-read Glinto titles listed on the back cover are “Snow” Vogue, You Took Me—Keep Me, No Mortgage on a Coffin, Lady—Don’t Turn Over, “.…One More Nice White Body,” and Road Floozie. I wonder why Straight-Up Girl, the first of the new series, isn’t included.
Clinton Wayne (?), Hell Driver on Nowhere Trail, Hector Kelly,
An increasingly gripping narrative, with a credibly strong hero and a real feel for the terrains through which the wagon-train makes its difficult way.
The concern with the problems of leadership brings to mind William A. Wellman’s Westward the Women the following year, with Robert Taylor, aging well.
Duke Linton, Crazy to Kill, JF
If this, as alleged by Allen Hubin, is the same text as Wild Blood (1956), and Wild Blood is in fact the same as Glinto’s Blue Blood Flows East (1947), I am puzzled as to why Kelly would let one of his books appear over someone else’s name only three years after first publication.
Lance Carson, Gambler’s Epitaph (undated; I am simply guessing here).
A very pleasant surprise, given the tacky front cover with its professional gambler at the table shooting someone off-screen.
It begins, like Curtains for Carrie, with the protagonist dead, which affects how one is reading towards the end. At the outset, Dave Garnet, on sentry duty one night in the Union Army, allows a Southern woman, Eva Danby, to enable her wounded brother Philip to avoid. Capture. After the war and a spell in hospital, he sets out West to find her again, and passes through episode in which he kills four men, two of them marshals, and becomes involved in an outlaw gang.
We have what I’ve called the Carson textual “signature” (Note 17), also the distinction made elsewhere (such as in Nesters on Okara) between a man’s criminal acts and what he essentially is. Each episode is worked with care, and the prose becomes incandescent towards the end in its rendering of Dave’s semi-conscious ride after being badly wounded. Kelly had to have had experiences of horses himself.
The last three chapters are particularly moving.
For more, see Sidebar 9.
Hank Janson, Some Look Better Dead
The involvement of reporter Janson (character) with a genuinely sadistic man and his genuinely masochistic-dependent wife permits Janson (author) to release some of his darker inner energies, especially in the Grand-Guignolesque flashback account at one point of the jealous husband imprisoning the naked wife for an unrelieved six months in a specially prepared dark closet two feet by three, which seems highly unlikely. So far as I can tell from a handful of books, pain is Stephen Frances querencia, the area in which he is emotionally most at home.
John D. MacDonald, The Brass Cupcake
The first Gold Medal Book by the uncrowned king of American paperback thrillers for three decades.
Insurance-investigator and former cop Cliff Bartells copes with a faked burglary, a questionable will, an interesting woman or two, and police corruption and brutality in a small coastal Florida town. He’s beaten up by two city cops at one point (“Big and heavy and young …Southern storm-troopers”), copes, to their disadvantage, with a couple of bully-boys at another, wins a fight easily because knowing about unarmed combat, and explodes briefly into near-murderous violence close to the end.
It’s evident that MacDonald, who was in the OSS during the war, knows something at first-hand about violences, about dangerous men (particularly of the redneck Southern persuasion), and about the necessity at times of overcoming force with greater and smarter force. So there’s the thrill of danger, and the gratification of seeing the bad guys get theirs, with an improved community and a sexually happy ending, plus a strong feeling for life by the sea in a still undeveloped Florida.
De Rider put the night stick on his lap and carefully rolled it in the big bath towel. He said, “This doesn’t leave any marks, Lootenant. I think you were the guy told me it makes pin-point concussions on the surface of the brain, whatever the hell that means.”
He smiled at me, leaned over and hit me squarely on the top of the head with the padded night stick. The room made one wild dip and steadied. My mouth had that numb feeling that comes when you get close to the edge of consciousness.
The villains in MacDonald novels like Dead Low Tide (1953) and A Bullet for Cinderella (1955) are scary. There would be much nastier violences later in the McGee series, such as The Deep Blue Good-Bye, Bright Orange for the Shroud and One Fearful Yellow Eye. Rape and torture are elements in several McGees.
Paul Bowles, The Delicate Prey and Other Stories.
In one of the stories in this well-received volume, an Arab cuts off the penis of another one whom he has taken captive, pushes it through a slit in his belly, rapes him, and next morning slits his throat with a rusty razor. In another, an American professor is kidnapped by a desert band who cut out his tongue, dress him fantastically, and use him as a money-making clown.
Eugen Kogon, The Theory and Practice of Hell; the German Concentration Camps and the System behind Them, translation (London)
A work remarkable for its clarity, its mass of details, and its objective tone, considering that the first German edition appeared in 1946 and that Kogon himself had been in Buchenwald (though one wouldn’t be able to gather from it that the inmates with the best chance of survival in that camp were members of the Communist network).
There are horrific details in it about punishments and punishers, such as the SS Master Sergeant in the prison block who “would, for example, force the stripped prisoner to immerse his testicles in ice-cold and boiling water in turn, painting them with iodine when the skin came off in strips.”
Jean-Paul Sartre, What Is Literature? (first British edition)
The “we” in the handful of pages about torture, as elsewhere, refers to French intellectuals of Sartre’s generation.
We have been taught to take [Evil] seriously. It is neither our fault nor our merit if we lived in a time when torture was a daily fact. Châteaubriand, Oradour, the Rue des Saussies, Tulle, Dachau, and Auschwitz have all demonstrated to us that Evil is not an appearance, that knowing its cause does not dispel it. …
Obsessed as we were by these tortures, a week did not go by that we did not ask ourselves, “Suppose I were tortured, what would I do? And this question alone carried us to the very frontiers of ourselves and of the human. …
We have undertaken to create a literature of extreme situations.“What Is Literature?” and Other Essays (1988), pp. 178, 180, 182
Night and the City, Jules Dassin
This splendid expressionistic transformation of London by an American director into a place of darkness and terror has almost nothing in common, apart from a few names and some wrestling stuff, with Gerald Kersh’s pseudo-realist, misogynistic/ misanthropic, and depressing novel of that name. In a later interview, the obviously bright and sophisticated Dassin confessed that he made the movie without having read the book, to the author’s annoyance.
Not a downer while you’re watching it, because of the energy of the doing. Sad, though, and quasi-allegorical in effect. Actual American Widmark is virtually playing an Englishman living a fantasy of being American, and all his large “American” gestures, hopes, cravings, ambitions, vision get nowhere, well, lead to disaster, because of the shortage of money, the sluggish “English” malice of nightclub-owner Francis L. Sullivan, and the older European intensities of fight-promoter Herbert Lom and his purist-wrestling Greek father. 1950. Welcome to a decade of low expectations.
The Asphalt Jungle, John Huston.
The first detailed presentation from the criminals’ viewpoint of a safe-cracking caper by a team of professional criminals, all honourable men, unlike the smoothie lawyer who bankrolls them and tries to cheat them of the spoils.
Winchester ’73, Anthony Mann
James Stewart seethes with barely contained rage throughout a movie remarkable for the convincing dangerousness of some of its other characters, and the conveyed impression that a mercy bullet would be much preferable for a woman to her falling into the torturing hands of Indians.
Los Olvidados (The Forgotten Ones), Luis Bunuel
Violent street kids in Mexico City slums.
“Utopian Press, who dealt primarily with nude photos but also published a number of magazines in which to advertise them, were fined £100 in December 1950 over the content of their magazines Fads and Fancies, Flip Flap and Sultry Stories.” (Steve Holland, THJ 89).
William M. Gaines launches Vault of Horror, Tales from the Crypt, and The Haunt of Fear comics, soon followed by Crime Suspense Stories.
Police and magistrates embark on a campaign against “smut”.
“During 1951 there were nineteen successful prosecutions of publishers and booksellers, and watchdog groups such as the Catholic Association kept a keen eye for violations. Suggestions were even put forward to create a Home Office list of banned books, to be enforced by undercover policemen.” (Bloom, p. 70)
“In Willesden, North-West London, a destruction order was issued on 25 January against a variety of books, including a number published in Paris such as The Fleshy Prelude by Robert Sermaine, I Shall Spit On Your Graves by Vernon Sullivan, The Love Orchid by Eric Wensleydale . …” (Steve Holland, THJ, p. 114)
“On 24 April, the Sunday Pictorial published an article under the headline ‘Drop sex, publishers tell authors as Vice Squad goes into action.’
Publishers of lurid Gangster magazines, worried by the clean-up campaign of Scotland Yard’s ‘Vice Squad,’ have sent this confidential directive to their authors: cut out the sadism and sex.” (Holland, THJ p. 113)
Darcy Glinto, Deep South Slave, Robin Hood,
Allen Hubin places it ca 1949, but my copy is dated 1951.
Spirited young Joshua Skellett, the son of humbled Black sharecroppers, has a sexually joyous ongoing affair with white-trash Ella Timmins and, wanting to remain independent, does a year on a chain-gang on a trumped-up charge, having preferred to stand trial rather than take the option of becoming one of Planter Clay’s indentured work force. Towards the end, after he returns to Cracker Shack Town, a lynching looms.
The book feels knowledgeable about the region, the Black speech patterns and attitudes seem plausible, and there’s a genuine-feeling Southern-ness. But there is no record of the book in the Copac online catalogue of British research libraries or the Library of Congress catalogues, online and print. Could Harold and Hector have pirated the book? But from whom?
In any event, the book’s a delight, with far more life and drama and poetry in it than in Lillian Smith’s prestigious1944 novel Strange Fruit, successfully prosecuted for obscenity in Massachusetts.
For more, see Sidebar 4.
Gordon Holt, The Stables to £1,000,000, Hector Kelly, hardcover reissue.
The 1951 edition is dedicated “To Clem, whose knowledge of racing has saved me from many pitfalls, and whose sure instinct for how a book should run, has made this one better than it would have been.”
A Publishers’ Statement at the beginning contains the words:
Hector Kelly, Limited, have decided to adopt for their motto during the whole period of post-war stringency, “Length With Economy.” They mean to live up to that motto. Yet to attain their full ambitions they must have a supplementary motto. Good authors, good stories well told, are not in short supply. Then there must be no austerity so far as quality is concerned
Lance Carson, The Trouble-Kid Quits Hector Kelly, BLIC Copac
A smooth-flowing, largely phoneticizing-free, and obviously very personal narrative.
Boston girl Clara Sefton elopes with charming free-spirited cowhand Dan Roscoe. who’s killed in a saloon fight shortly afterwards, leaving her to bring up the child alone, with whom she becomes an unloving disciplinarian.
When he rebels at age fifteen, she gets the marshal to cane him—at least fifty strokes—while she watches, over his shame-driven protests. When she fetches the marshal over on another day to repeat the dose, Dan forces him to a showdown, puts a bullet through his forehead, robs the store-keeper who had got him into the mess, and leaves forever the mother to whom he no longer speaks, seemingly permanently embittered
Several years later, he gets taken on by rancher Sam Brody, with daughter Jeanne and birth-damaged, mentally retarded twin-brother Dick, sweet-natured but wavering in everything, who becomes attached to Kit and his magnificent horse. After being the victim of a stupid practical joke, Kit kills Phil Bray when the latter draws on him—Jeanne’s fiancé and son of the area’s other major rancher, Phil Bray senior, who now obsessively seeks Kit’s death.
Things build to an extended complex episode in which a mob of Bray’s men and smaller local ranchers who’ve been stirred up by Bray’s insistence that Kit is a gunman-rustler take Kit prisoner, In a flagrantly unfair quasi-trial (very different from the one in Brush Trail Feud ), they prepare to hang Kit, who contemptuously welcomes a release from his seemingly inescapable bad Karma.
The conversations between Kit and Jeanne about killing, and analyses of her mental processes, are more perceptive than the conventional male/female dichotomizing in Donald Hamilton’s Westerns. I wonder if Hamilton read any of the Carson Westerns before embarking on his own.
Kelly and his unnamed partner had had a judgment against them in 1932 of fifty-thousand pounds in the suit that put their paper City Mid-Week out of business for allegedly libeling a large financial organization. Ten years later, Kelly had been heavily fined for publishing two allegedly obscene novels.
Kelly knew what being shamed was like.
The saucer-shaped depression in which Kit’s trial takes place reminds me of the amphitheatre of the money-trial in Monkey Goes Home.
For quotations, see Sidebar 8.
Sarah Prentiss, Ordeal by Shame, Robin Hood, “Darcy Glinto Introduces” on front cover.
A painfully real-feeling account, obviously by a woman and almost certainly pseudonymous, of a decent shorthand-typist, Alison Raines, who becomes pregnant by the feckless young artist Tony (it would be Tony) Raines, a cut or two above her socially, and has to seek an illegal abortion in postwar-austerity, bed-sitter, shilling-in-the-gas-meter London, long before the tolerances of the sexual revolution. A sad book, not in the least risqué
In a prefatory note on the inside cover, Glinto says,
I claim that ‘Ordeal by Shame’ is a great novel which should have been written long ago—if there had been another writer with the gifts and courage to conceive it. It could only have been written by a woman and there are other similar subjects equally in need of a sensitive, potent, female pen.
Hank Janson, Women Hate Till Death
Contains a powerful story-within-a-story account of the imprisonment of two American cousins (young women) in a concentration camp, with one of them experiencing three days of undescribed spirit-breaking torments in the quarters of one of the officers.
Hank Janson, “Double Double-Cross.”
Ends (in a Grand Guignol twist) with an evocation of torments to come (undescribed) that will put someone in hospital for at least nine months.
Geoffrey Household, A Rough Shoot
This and A Time to Kill the following year, with a few of the same characters, may be Household’s most re-readable work, being the least mannered stylistically, the most sociable, and with the least idiosyncratic hero. The two books are his most thoughtful working out of an ethics of violence.
Roger Taine, who made lieutenant-colonel with a fighting battalion during the war, has reverted willingly to a peacetime mode, like Matt Helm before Tina turns up to rearrange his life.. A happily married thirty-four-year-old father of two young children, Taine is the agent for a rural stone-products company. When he accidentally causes the death of a man, as it appears, poaching on the piece of land where he’s rented the shooting rights, he is horrified, and also almightily scared because of what he knows an inevitable verdict of Guilty in a manslaughter trial will do to himself and his family.
So he conceals the body, and we’re off into a thriller plot involving a nascent British fascist organization and interesting comings and goings outside the Law, including some fast driving and train-riding without tickets. Taine acquits himself well, without any violence, in a temporary give-and-take partnership with a romantic aim-the-lances-and-charge former Polish general, and the Law comes back in at the end.
I stress “without violence,” because there is indeed violence in A Time to Kill, a work whose much-used title comes from Ecclesiastes, III, which serves as its epigraph.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal.
When his two young children are kidnapped by Soviet agents to ensure his silence, Taine reverts efficiently to his wartime mode, after some prodding from his tormented wife, and has extra-legal blood on his hands by the end, and a very bad conscience about it.
Fallot insisted that the space was only an old quarry chamber. I twisted his arm till something jumped out of its socket. I—well, I do not look back on that night with any pride. But I think their mother, gentle though she is, would have done much as I if the strength and training had been given her.
With Fallot’s limb revoltingly loose, we got civil answers to questions.
The two books are about a traditional English rural-based mind-set that is consciously under siege in a time of government snoopers enforcing a multitude of governmental regulations with a leveling-down zeal. Household seem to me entirely successful in his distinguishing here between an unsnobbish chivalric mind-set and the fascisms of Right and Left of which Taine is totally an adversary.
Household traveled with less in the way of unexamined social baggage than Michael Gilbert, who could be merely callous, and was more bothered by, and thoughtful about, violence and its various forms and cultures, in works like (of course) Rogue Male (1939), Watcher in the Shadows (1960), The Courtesy of Death, Dance of the Dwarfs (1968), and Rogue Justice (1982)
His Hostage: London (1977) is too mannered to induce the right anxiety about the ticking, hidden nuclear device, but at least he was on to the subject.
Pace Graham Greene, it was Household and not Eric Ambler who was Britain’s best thriller writer for awhile.
Colin Sleeman and S.C. Silkin, eds., Trial of Sumida Haruzo and Twenty Others (The “Double Tenth” Trial) William Hodge.
The complete transcript of the 1946 trial of members of the Japanese equivalent of the Gestapo for monstrous cruelties to residents of Singapore in pursuit of a mythical spy network. Truly, as Sleeman said in his opening statement at the trial, “The keynote of the whole of this case can be epitomized by two words—unspeakable horror.” But there is also extraordinary courage.
This and the subsequent volume from the War Crimes Trials Series are remarkable documents with respect to legal procedures, reasoned argument, and a striving for fairness.
James Jones, From Here to Eternity
We get to visit the U.S. Marines Stockade in 1941 Hawaii that from the outside looks like a country school-house with heavy wire mesh over the windows.
Blues Berry stood against one of the side walls in his GI shorts under the lights, still trying to grin with a mouth that was too swollen to do more than twist. He was barely recognizable. His broken nose had swollen and was still running blood in a stream. Blood was also flowing out of his mouth, whenever he coughed. His eyes were practically closed. Blows from the grub hoe handles had torn the upper half of both ears loose from his head. Blood from his nose and mouth, and the ears which were not bleeding much, had spotted his chest and the white drawers. (Chapter 43)
John D. MacDonald, Murder for the Bride.
The hero, on the trail of a murderous former Nazi, has a very pricey, clandestine, and real-feeling three-page (ca 1200-word) visit to an S/M show in a New Orleans warehouse. You simply could not have had things like this, or like the extreme police corruption and brutality in other MacDonald novels in those year, in British thrillers at that time.
The Enforcer (in England Murder, Inc.), Bretaigne Windust/ Raoul Walsh.
A taut, gritty, fact-based investigation into the workings of a murder-for-money racket, the killings being done, often with ice-picks, by persons with no connection with the victims. People as targets are simply things, like the discovered shoes of the dead. Everett Sloane is a bright-eyed, totally self-possessed master-mind. With Humphrey Bogart as chief investigator, but not a Bogart movie.
“With the restrictions lifted on paper supply, hundreds of new magazines and books began to flood the market.” THJ A number of Robin Hood reissues result.
Authors like John D. MacDonald, Bruno Fischer, Gil Brewer, Edward Ronns. John McPartland, Jim Thompson start appearing in Britain.
Darcy Glinto, Born to Die, Moring, AJH, Reissue of Straight-Up Girl, Robin Hood (1949)
Darcy Glinto, Dames are Deadly, Moring BLIC AJH. Reissued as Dames Are Out, Robin Hood, 1953
There is no blurb, but it would appear from the first three pages that the novel is about the rise of young, blue-collar Chris Langford in the fight game and, I presume, his fall because of a woman or women.
The first three pages are about Chris’s realization around age nineteen that he can really hit. Provoked one time too many, he knocks out his brutal lush of a father to protect the unwell Irish mother who adores him unconditionally and loves a good fight.
He took a deep breath to fluff up his courage, drew back, and socked the booze-soak in the belly. The pile-driver arms dropped to the old man’s side; Chris drew a deep breath and put every last bit of everything he had in him into one sock to the jaw. Then he was more scared than ever. By the book the impossible can’t happen. Right now it was happening there before his eyes. The old man was standing wobbling on his feet with a drooling look on his pan, and then he was canting over, and then he was on the floor between the table and the basket chair, out! (p.4)
Darcy Glinto, Lady—Don’t Turn Over, Robin Hood, hardcover., 160 pp., 6/-, BLIC NEW
Darcy Glinto, You Took Me—Keep Me (reissue), hc Robin Hood, Copac
The blurb inside the front cover includes the statement, “Like the public, Darcy Glinto himself and the present publishers believe that ‘You Took Me, Keep Me’ is the best Darcy Glinto of them all.”
Darcy Glinto, All for a Dame, Alexander Moring
This is the one Glinto title that I haven’t been able to access. Fortunately Benoit Tadié was able to acquire a copy and has provided the description contained in Note 66. I am uncertain, however, as to dates, and hence authorship. The cover illustration for his copy is similar to those for a couple from the later Fifties that were clearly not by Kelly, the Glinto name having been sold to Stephen Frances in 1955. But a number of Glinto titles were reprints.
My guess, judging from the passages that Benoit quotes, and one like the following, taken from a photocopied page that he sent me, is that the book is by Kelly. He could provide action-thin narratives when writing to boil the Robin Hood pot. But the thinness here isn’t a matter of simple skimping. And the description of Hannah Planz is surprisingly good.
I would guess that he mostly wrote fast, without rewriting, and that when in places the prose rose above the general level, he simply let it come and stay. I’m speaking here of the lesser Glintos. A lot of serious attention went into Glintos like Road Floozie and Deep South Slave, and the best Westerns. I’ve no idea who else All for a Dame might have been by. It certainly doesn’t feel like Frances, who obviously wrote very fast.
The way Carol fancied she had to handle this thing was the way she had handled it the night before. To play these two guys off one against the other in a way that would feed her vanity.
“Well, you have to admit, Sloan, it was kind of tough on Ray last night. You don’t have to get me wrong. What happened was a break for me. I was hating it along there in Corbett’s joint, and I was scared. Just the same you have to admit it was tough on him. Just as he fancied everything was fixed, to have the cops come and spoil it all for him.”
“You don’t have to waste any sympathy on me, Carol,” Corbett told her. “If a thing happens to me that looks tough, I mostly do something about it. If I lose something I had a notion I had to have I go get it. You can say I’ve come to get it tonight. You can say you’re going to take a look over the inside of my joint again. This time the cops will not come along to pull you out. They won’t come because Liddy Sloan won’t send them this time.” (p.102)
The sense of entrapment here is certainly Kellyesque.
Lance Carson, The Chronicle of Cheyenne Creek, Hector Kelly, BLIC
At the end of the Civil War, young Milton Varney arrives in a wagon train in bustling, growing Cheyenne Creek, on the river, meets up with its “boss,” big genial-seeming Bill Logan, and Rita Alberry, whose doctor father has vanished mysteriously, and starts a truth-telling newspaper.
Helped out, after a bit, by three Indian-fighter friends of his, he discovers that Logan has a private army of toughs out at his place, is selling guns and liquor to the Indians, and with their assistance is robbing wagon trains.
After Varney’s exposé, the newspaper building is besieged by a mob. Varney, Rita, and the other three end up on the roof with their ammunition running out . …
Definitely a Kelly book, what with the knowledgeable newspaper stuff (including quoted articles), an almost successful attempt by Logan to ship a captive Rita downriver to dreadful white-slavery, and Rita telling Milton that if he and the others are killed she will stand up and blaze away until killed herself.
The typography on the cover is ugly and the art-work (two men grappling) is hideous and has no connection with the contents.
Kelly is comfortably at home in the three-dimensional hilly locale back of the river, knows something about wagon trains, and manages the final siege very well.
Bryn Logan, Trail from Boom Town, Hector Kelly, hc, red. 192pp. NEW
Charming and smooth-flowing. Could have been a short story, but works better like this. The author is totally in and with bright, pretty, sharp-edged young Effie Doone, her career as a bar-girl entertainer in Boom Town terminated by ex-friend gun-slinger Sin(jean) Ross, who thinks her way forward into a new career further West as an itinerant preacher, assisted by the inspired violin of humble gangly adorer Fluther Tripp.
Nice on her reading of local power-systems, her understanding of audiences, her growing mastery of self-presentation. Half way through, trouble starts building in Leadersville as the extraordinary playing of Fluther (an echo here of Paganini?) creates a rumour that he and Effie are witches, Escaping a lynching by the skins of their teeth (and the help of a cowboy admirer) they work their way up again in a new town. Finally Sin Ross re-enters.
This feels to me like a Kelly—the strong woman making her own way, the enjoyable problem-solving, the psychology of lynch mobs, the occasional surges of psychological intensity (Effie and Fluther at one point making just the right moves that enable them to walk unharmed through an angry mob, the three-dimensionality of the movements of bodies in space, the plain-spoken dialogue between Effie and Sin at the end, and the name “Fluther,” also used in Tough on the Wops (1947).
Hank Janson, Accused
A rewrite of The Postman Always Rings Twice, with a strong opening chapter in which the narrator is being tortured (“questioned”) by cops. Powerfully evokes the claustrophic little café whose owner, in contrast to Cain’s, isn’t a lovable naif and where at night the narrator, powerless to intervene, hears his wife “giving little moans, punctuated with sharp gasps of pain” (though we never get details—oh, the power of the unshown), The book goes to pieces after the killing of Friedman, in self-defense, with the wife changing abruptly into a shrew and her body becoming repulsive.
Geoffrey Household, A Time to Kill
See above in 1951.
Margery Allingham, Tiger in the Smoke.
Influenced probably by Michael Gilbert ’s books, one of the Golden Age queens has a go at entangling her salt-of-the-earth detective types with a lower-class gang of physically odd individuals (unhealthy minds in unhealthy bodies, don’t you know?), headed by a beautiful, fallen-angelish wicked man called, appropriately, Havoc. Wincingly dreadful—and admired as More Than Just a Mystery by readers who would no more have opened a Robin Hood book (or, at least, admit to having done so) than they would have worn ready-made bow-ties or eaten peas from a knife.
Mickey Spillane, Kiss Me, Deadly
The opening is unforgettable, and by now one knows that in a Mike Hammer novel those who commit evil at the outset will be paying with an eye and a tooth at the end.
She had no coat on now and her skin had an unholy whiteness about it, splotched with deeper colors. She was sprawled in the chair, her mouth making uncontrollable mewing sounds. The hand with the pliers did something horrible to her and her mouth opened without screaming.
But in fact this is the mildest and most controlled Hammer to date, in part perhaps because coming after the non-Hammer The Long Wait, the year before, in which Spillane sends a more vulnerable hero through a more complicated plot in prose closer to the thriller norm.
Jim Thompson, The Killer Inside Me
A front-runner for the title of Most Disturbing Thriller Ever. Homicidal madness self-presented as intellectual superiority.
“Sure,” I said. “You want to pour your heart out to me.”
And I hit her in the guts as hard as I could.
My fist went back against her spine, and the flesh closed round it to the wrist. I jerked back on it, I had to jerk, and she flopped forward from the waist, like she was hinged.
High Noon, Fred Zinnemann
Four of the most convincingly violent and bent on murder bad guys in any Western. But why doesn’t Marshal Cooper equip himself with a carbine like John Wayne in Rio Bravo? Unsporting, maybe? Also, couldn’t he have spelled out to his prissy new bride that if they were to leave town “sensibly” in their buggy, the baddies would undoubtedly, because traveling lighter, overtake them away from all shelter and kill them, maybe after some interesting preludes.? I remember reading some old-time sheriff recalling how he would run zig-zag towards someone with his carbine and then gut shoot him. I can see why Howard Hawks and John Wayne considered the marshall’s pleas for help from the citizenry unprofessional. But the parts at the station and the brief fight sequences are still splendid.
Horror comics become a flood in the States.
No Mortgage on a Coffin (reissue of 1941 book.)
Elegant front cover. A long-legged blonde, lit from in front, waist-level, with taller shadow behind her, clutches a torn floor-length red robe together at her breast with her right hand, with a pale-blue bra exposed, her left arm extended forward as if pushing something away, presumably the male figure unconscious or dead in bottom left corner.Art Deco sans-serif font for title and author. Below, on a yellow-orange rectangle, “Glinto’s world-famous story of Gangster’s evil passion for lovely kidnapped woman.” Price, 2/-
On the back we have:
The brand for best Westerns.
The Double-Six signifies every time
a new real full-novel-length
Top-hand range-writers include
Lance Carson Clinton Wayne
Don’t miss Bryn Logan’s next great yarn
“The Deputy of Squaw Rock”
Watch this page of all Double-Six books for
details fo forthcoming
titles and authors
[ ? ] and Porter Ltd
All of which suggests that Logan too was a pseudonym of Kelly’s, and strengthens my attribution of The Deputy of Squaw Rock to him.
Darcy Glinto, The Hangman Is a Woman, Robin Hood (ca 1953, AJH)
A great treat, thanks to Jamie Sturgeon, and entirely unexpected, both in its acquisition and its contents. The voice of the dreadful young London thug narrating it—ambitious, envious, brutal, ungrateful, conceited, misogynistic, disloyal—has to have been an extrapolation from an actual voice or voices that Kelly took in with a journalist’s ear in drinking places.
This foreman had got over the dither he’d been in before dinner and there was no bamboozling him now. Besides, though he might look a long drip, he was a pretty big-built swine. I could have dealt with him all right if I had had him somewhere at night in the dark. I’d been getting to know some of the “Hoxton Boys” and I knew about fitting a razor blade into a nice handy little frame and carrying it in your cap just between the peak and the overlap, and about shaping a bit of a handle on a nice little length of rubber cut from an old solid tyre. But it was different here in daylight, and up there on the deck where he was boss.
Linnane remarks of Hoxton, “How [it] has persisted as a stronghold of gangland over the years.” (p.202)
Nothing complicated happens after Les—Les Weldon—moves westward from the Docks, but you know you’re into the real thing, starting out early with what sounds like the Soho club Jack Spot started after the war. Gang-leader Nick may be partly based on Billy Hill, organizer of smash-and-grab raids before the war, and in an uneasy alliance with Jack Spot Comer after it. Maybe there are other figures with echoes here, such as the patiently persistent Detective-Sergeant Dawson.
Les rapes one girl, nice penniless Chrysie, after “considerately” arranging for her to have the bed in Nick’s flat that he has the use of, and breaks her plucky resistance by threatening to “stripe” her face with his razor blade in its little holder. He tries to rape Nick’s girl Flossie and is put painfully out of action by a couple of brisk moves by her. He has no compunction about coshing people hard on the job; wickedly, inexcusably betrays Flossie’s escape plan for the imprisoned Nick; is finally nailed for a murder he happens not to have done.
So why bother with him? I guess, over and above the documentary aspect, it’s the steady credibility of his thought processes, whether in attack or retreat, and the fact that this isn’t a “literary” construction with some kind of point to make about human nature, or the criminal mind, or EVIL. What he does is intelligible, what he wants is intelligible, and so is how he tries to get it. One simply has to give one’s own worst nature an outing.
The first four chapters of Gerald Butler’s Kiss the Blood Off My Hands are the only things I know of in English fiction up to that point to put beside it, but Butler’s sociopath is less solid and Butler can’t sustain him at that pitch for a whole novel.
Darcy Glinto, Curtains for Carrie (reissue, hardcover), 176 pp, Robin Hood
The back of the dust jacket is occupied by an ad for The Realists Book Club, enquiring, “Are you interested in novels and other books dealing faithfully and frankly with crime, and the many other grave social scandals of our time? If so, and if you are over 18 years of age, write for particulars of membership …”
The address is that of the Robin Hood Press.
Darcy Glinto, “Dames are Out,” Robin Hood, hb, 160 pp., BL reissue of 1952, Dames are Deadly
A curiosity, which I’m glad to have acquired.
Working-class Chris Langford, with a remarkable ability to absorb punishment and a pile-driver right, is taken up by trainer Carver Gosse and his nice daughter Lindy. Gosse, who sees him as potential championship material, insists that he not have sex while in training. Predictably, since otherwise there would be no story, he is seduced into an affair by the wife of hard-nosed fight-promoter Moysey Hahn. When he pulls himself together and dumps her, she turns sexy Toots loose on him, and his resultant loss of stamina makes him lose the big fight and his big chance.
The book confirms my hunch, based on the descriptions of fights in the Westerns, that Kelly was interested in the Ring. On page 39 we have this:
While he was rubbing himself down, he saw a tall, lean-faced guy, dark and with blue eyes that had nothing specific about them except that now and then they would go dreamy as if the mind behind them had drifted far away, and at another moment could go very bright with an odd kind of intensity in them. Everything about him was casual, his clothes, the way he lounged against the post of the shower doorway, the tone of his voice, and the things he said.
He’s a newspaper reporter, and his name is—Darcy Glinto! He surfaces ten more times in the course of the novel, commenting on the fight racket and offering Chris advice.
Did Kelly himself look like that at some stage? He doesn’t in the drawing that I’ve surmised is of him. (Note 40) But the prose of an article by “newshawk” Glinto (pp. 34–36) feels as though Kelly could have done some fight reporting himself. And the book is knowledgeable about fight promoters and the kinds of contracts that leave fighters with very little of their winnings, as well as about ring-craft. The best writing is in Chapter 10, about the big fight.
A curious detail. On pp. 144–145 in newshawk Glinto’s postmortem article on the fight, we have:
But believe me, dear reader and dear fight fan, I wouldn’t need a newspaper to tell the story of all the dirt that needs sweeping out from inside of the fight game. I’d need the McGill University or the Congress Library.
References to McGill rather than Harvard would not, I would have thought, been common back in the early Fifties. Putting that together with Timmins, Ontario, as the setting of a Hank Janson novel attributed to Kelly, and Ella Timmins in Deep South Slave, I wonder again whether Kelly mightn’t have spent some time in Canada between the wars, possibly after the disastrous 1932 libel case. It might help explain the curiously unspecific North American cities in other Glinto novels.
At the upbeat end of the novel (another un-“American” feature) Chris is out of the fight game, happily married to Lindy, and on good terms again with Carver.
But as a boxing novel the book is much inferior to James Curtis’s 1937 novel about a working-class youth in the English fight game, There Ain’t No Justice, which has lots of authentic-sounding dialogue, more characters, a more aggressive protagonist, and, as a sub-plot, the unwanted pregnancy of his sister. (My thanks to Benoit Tadié for enabling me to read this.)
Preston Yorke, Space-Time Task Force, Hector Kelly, pb and hardcover, BM
A glacially slow-moving novel about a far-distant future in which the Earth has been divided into two zones, the pleasanter one occupied by a gently sybaritic aristocracy served by large numbers of Syntho-Selectives, humanoid beings specialized for the large variety of high-tech tasks necessary for maintaining the society, the other by the so-called Primitives, meaning normal humans going about things in their messy competitive fashion.
When gnome-like, scale-covered beings with immensely higher metabolic rates and superior technologies arrive to take over the planet, the Primitives are called on to help.
Complicated time-travel stuff, descriptions of vast machines, almost no characterization, not even of the two heroes, Commodore Regan and scientist Fremont.
Essentially the book’s about Regan and Fremont having to figure out the rules of the games when dealing with technologies almost beyond their imaginings, Syntho-Selectives (including scientists) so over-programmed that, like computers, they will answer literally the questions put to them, but cannot sort out complex ones or speculate at all, and also with egotistical and conventional-minded politicians and military men in their own society who cannot credit Regan and Fremont’s account of their experiences or grasp the dangers posed by the invaders.
More copies of this are available through Abebooks than any other Kelly title. Evidently there must have been good expectations for sales.
For more, see Note 16
Clinton Wayne (?), The Grass Killers, Hector Kelly, 1953, 192 pp, hb.
For a fuller description of this than the one in BioBibliographical, see Sidebar 9, “Westerns.”
Michael Gilbert, Fear to Tread
One of Gilbert’s best thrillers, displaying his favourite pattern of service-middle-class types (here a headmaster in a rough part of South London) proving capable, when it comes to the crunch, of coping successfully, by virtue of sturdiness of character and knowing people who know people, with very unpleasant new-style English gangsters and racketeers (here a well-organized ring engaged in stealing food from railway depots and selling it profitably, in a London still in the grip of austerity) to restaurants and cafes..
Here is a character in the book quoted on the dust jacket:
“It’s big business. It’s so big it’s almost respectable. … Have you ever wondered why the restaurant where you have your supper can serve you three rashers—three walloping thick rashers—of bacon whilst your wife and you shared a thin rasher between you for breakfast? Or why there‘s a full sugar bowl on the table? To say nothing of the rows of expensive cakes and pastries in the window, all made of butter and sugar and eggs. Or where your favourite Soho restaurant gets the ingredients for that lovely Steak Toreador? Or why, when you’ve finished eating the steak, you can buy a packet of your favourite cigarettes from the head-waiter? Or why, when your wine-merchant, who’s a man and a friend, and whom you’ve been patronizing for years, can’t get you more than half a bottle of Scotch for Christmas (and that’s a favour) you can drink a good Scotch, to your heart’s content, in the X Club and the Y Club and the Z Club?”
There was apparently a great deal of that going on, as described in the chapter “Off the Back of a Lorry” in Maureen Waller’s marvellous London 1945. Her account is informed, at times amusingly, by her understanding of how exasperated people were to find that, despite Britain’s having been a winner in the war at the cost of great sacrifices on the Home Front, a multitude of restrictions, with attendant snooping and prosecuting, remained in force.
Gilbert has a tin-ear for working-class speech, and one can get a little sick of the probably realistic service-middle-class networking, even though it’s wartime friendships rather than old-school-ties. But he isn’t simply an admirer of the Establishment. His London is a more disquieting one of multiple and partly overlapping power systems—financial, legal, journalistic, police, occasionally political—with the possibility of baddies in all of them.
Lindsay Hardy, Requiem for a Readhead.
This first novel by an Australian was a gripping read in the Fifties because of its highly unpleasant and dangerous London mobsters.
John McPartland, Big Red’s Daughter.
Gripping. Young Buddy Brown, implacably bent on dominating the also young narrator, is genuinely scary.
(See Sidebar 13.)
Ian Fleming, Casino Royale.
Agent Bond has his balls beaten bloody in the first installment of this fakey s-and-v. series which would become runaway-popular with the kinds of people for whom the mere thought of a paperback by someone called Darcy Glinto would be like getting a whiff of bad drains. “Speed … tremendous zest … communicated excitement. Brrh! How wincingly well Mr. Fleming writes.” (Sunday Times)
Le Chiffre spoke.
“That is all, Bond. We will now finish with you. You understand? Not kill you, but finish with you. And then we will have in the girl and see if something can be got out of the remains of the two of you.”
He reached towards the [ carving knife on ] the table.
“Say good-bye to it, Bond.” (Chapter 17.)
Like they say, it’s the thought that counts.
Griff, Bullets for Snoopers, London, Modern Fiction [1953?], pb, 128 pp, 2/-
On the front cover, a man in the left foreground, with a hat and part of a suit jacket visible, shoots from the waist a balding, shortish, paunchy man on the right, bare to the waist, standing beside an unfrightened-looking blonde in a dark blue dress sitting on a dark green couch. Title at top, price lower right. At he bottom, “Daring-Yes. Thrilling-Yes. For weaklings-No.”
The inside front cover is filled with text advertising “the most amazing, thrilling, most HELPFUL book ever published,” The Book of the Zodiac, which will be mailed in “a PLAIN ENVELOPE.” The last two pages of text are also devoted to it, plus the inside of the back cover.
For more, see Note 64
Simone de Beauvoir, Must We Burn De Sade? (English translation).
The first high-pressure intellectual book bringing Sade out of the shadows and making his works seriously discussible.
The Big Heat, Fritz Lang
Glenn Ford perfectly cast as an honest cop looking into city corruption where he shouldn’t, losing his wife to a car bomb, and transformed from an investigator to a burning crusader. Slack-lipped Lee Marvin unforgettably throws scalding coffee into Gloria Graham’s face and later is done by as he did. From a novel by workmanlike William P. McGivern. Irish-American indignation.
Shane, George Stevens.
Insufferably pretentious and slow-moving, and Alan Ladd ridiculous as a brawler (unlike Jack Schaeffer’s print original), but with an unforgettable code-of-the-Western legal murder set in motion, pitilessly, with the arrival of smiling, squashed-nose professional killer Jack Palance, scarily tall in black.
Secure in his expertise, he waits patiently until poor, proud, inept little Elisha Cook, Jr., goaded beyond self-preserving reason by his insults to Southern honour, fumblingly draws his gun, and then smashes him off his feet into the mud with a bullet from a gun whose muzzle looks as big as a bazooka.
A close-to duel that, more than any other, brings home the appalling risks involved in staking one’s life on the question of who, once the irreversible first move is made, will be faster, which is no doubt why there were very few such duels in the actual West.
But why would a professional gunman put on gloves for the occasion, decreasing the sensitivity of his hands and the mobility of the trigger finger?
“Debates through 1952 resulted in the Children’s and Young Person’s (Harmful Publications) Bill of 1953. ‘Indecent literature’ was now anything moral watchdogs deemed it to be—the reading habits of the British entered the Cold War. ‘Depravity’ might mean erotic content, gothic horror storylines or the advocacy of a counter-cultural lifestyle with drugs, according to whether one was at one magistrate’s court or another, in London or the provinces.” (Bloom, p.70)
An Interpol Conference in Oslo concludes that pornography creates crime.
In January, at the Old Bailey, Reg Carter and Julius Reiter of New Fiction Press are found guilty of publishing seven obscene Hank Janson novels, fined a thousand pounds each, and spend six months in jail. It is a peak year in the war against sex-and-violence, the number of successful prosecutions doubling, the fines quintupling. THJ
And it isn’t just “Mushroom” publishers who are being hit. C.H. Rolph speaks of
The 1954 prosecutions that changed the law, the “purge” that alarmed the literary world and convinced everyone that books must be rescued from the Common Law and the Judges, and protected once for all (perennial pipe-dream of the law reformers) by way of a clearly-expressed Act of Parliament. (Books in the Dock, 1969)
Ian Fleming, Live and Let Die.
After his spot of bother on the Riviera, Agent Bond (James, not Jim, and never Jimmy) is shipped across the Atlantic to where charcoal-grilled hamburgers, French fries, and broccoli are “American cooking at its rare best,” a b-a-a-a-d Negro gangster can be taken care of by British know-how (“Bond whipped the gun down hard on the back of the wooly skull. It gave back a dull klonk as if he had hammered on a door…“), retirees enjoying the sun on Florida streets turn your stomach, and Bond and lovely Simone Latrelle end up tied naked face-to-face (some boys have all the luck) in preparation for being towed across a coral reef
She had lain opposite him, her tired blue eyes fixed on him, obedient, trusting, drinking in his face and his words, pliant, loving.
”Don’t worry about me, my darling,” she had said when the men came for them. “I am happy to be with you again. My heart is full of it. For some reason I am not afraid although there is much death very close. Do you love me a little?”
“Yes,” said Bond. “And we shall have our love.” (Chapter 22)
John McPartland The Face of Evil
McPartland’s best thriller and one of the most gripping Gold Medal books. The corrupt narrator, Bill Oxford, is told off to get the dirt on a reformist candidate in a California beach town, runs afoul of the smiling, explosively macho King McCarthy, and faces the retribution of the Organization when, because of a woman, his conscience starts reviving. McPartland himself was a hard-doer who died young and obviously knew first-hand about barroom brawling and mob types.
Gil Brewer, A Killer is Loose
My undated copy, with a hideous front cover wholly unrelated to the contents, was published in England by Moring. On the back cover we’re told, “Don’t miss Gil Brewer’s new titles— A Killer is Loose, Flight to Darkness, Some Must Die.” The narrator is nightmarishly befriended by a well-dressed sociopath who calmly shoots people who annoy him, and whom he must continue humoring while conscious that the cops in the small town are getting into a shoot-to-kill mood with himself as one of the two targets.
Donald Hamilton, Smoky Valley
The excellent best of Hamilton’s five excellent Fifties Western.
Young ex-Captain John Parrish of the Union army comes out West to Logasa to marry, start some modest ranching, and recuperate from a war wound. There he finds himself drawn reluctantly into conflict with big rancher Wilkison, who, as the old saying has it, only wants his own land and the lands adjoining it. He revives his wartime skills, knocks hell out of a Wilkison raiding party in a nighttime ambush that must be one of the best pieces of narrative in any Western, and kills Wilkison’s top gun in an intelligent variant on the classic street duel.
Pauline Réage (Dominique Aury), Histoire d’O
A major transformer by (pseudonymously) a respected French woman-of-letters, doing ideologically for self-abnegating sexual masochism what Sade does for, well, sadism, and what Sacher-Masoch hadn’t done in Venue in Furs. Very well written, psychological as well as kinaesthetically physical, and with a strong Catholic coloration. The book gets in heavy trouble with the French Law. An English translation is published at the same time by the Olympia Press, but the one that matters is the 1957 one in its Traveller’s Companion series. The Wisdom of the Lash, subsequently re-titled Story of O.
Introducing the French edition, the distinguished man-of-letters Jean Paulhan informs the world that:
Here we have it at last: a woman who admits exactly what women have always—and never more so than today—forbidden themselves to admit. Exactly what men have always accusingly said was true about them: that they never cease slavishly to obey their blood and temper; that in them, everything, even their minds, even their souls, is dominated by their sex. That they have got incessantly to be fed, incessantly washed and burdened, incessantly beaten. That they have but one requirement, and that is simply of a good master who takes good care to keep his goodness in check and to be wary of it. … That, in a word, one must have a whip in hand when one goes to visit them.
Yes, well …
Lord Russell of Liverpool, The Scourge of the Swastike; a Short History of Nazi War Crimes
A lucid, non-sensational detailing of Nazi doings with respect to the camps, slave labour, the mass killing of hostages, and so forth. Apparently there was such pressure on him not to publish it that he had to resign from a governmental legal post in order to do so, and the book was a bestseller. Which would seem to suggest that despite the trials in the Forties, a lot of what we now assume to be common knowledge was still not common knowledge then. According to Clive Bloom, there were “calls to have it destroyed, much of the hysteria being aroused by local library committees.” (p.71)
Fredric Wertham, Seduction of the Innocent
Psychiatrist Wertham’s financially profitable ascription of all the crimes of the delinquent young to the baleful influence of horror comics. Contains the kinds of illustrations that help sell books. Works with a simple stimulus/response model, in which a violence is a violence is a violence, entirely ignoring genre conventions and the ability of young readers to distinguish between fact and fiction.
Very influential. Elicited an important rebuttal from the movie critic and Partisan Review intellectual Robert Warshow, “Paul, the Horror Comics, and Dr. Wertham.”
Contributed, as an irritant, to my own Violence in the Arts (Cambridge University Press, 1974), the paperback edition of which also contains illustrations, though without several that I particularly wanted.
On the Waterfront, Elia Kazan
Brando at his body-English reactive greatest. A brave movie that renders vividly, in the persons of some very physical actors, the brutality and corruption of gang power, and the extreme difficulty of taking an individual stand against the ostensibly collective ethos of the “union.”
Behind it, as we know, lies the stand taken by Kazan and others against Stalinists in Hollywood, but it deserves to be viewed reflectively by academics convinced that they would not have gone along with the crowd in Hitler’s Germany, or Stalin’s Russia, or what we now know about Mao’s China.
In a testimony to the persistence of the I.R.A. tradition, the reviewer for Time Out objects to “the embarrassing special pleading on behalf of informers,” as if speaking up against wickedness rather than respecting group “solidarity” were innately wrong. Presumably Terry Molloy should have done what everyone else did and allow Johnny Friendly’s gang of hoods to continue looting the treasury and cowing the actual working stiffs, dependent on job assignments, into ineffectual muttering resentment.
Bad Day at Black Rock, John Sturges
One-armed, unaggressive war-veteran Spencer Tracy is confronted by the seemingly unbeatable fascistic power of rancher Robert Ryan and his henchmen in this tiny nowhere Western town with a racist murder buried out in the hills. Deeply satisfying when he finally, after resisting provocations, decks glarey-eyed Ernest Borgnine and loose-lipped essence-of-odiousness Lee Marvin in the little eatery.
Influenced by Wertham’s campaign, Senator Estes Kefauver’s Committee on Interstate Crime and Commerce looks into horror and crime comic books. The Comics Code is established and the g(l)ory departs but is fondly remembered by more than one generation and goes on exerting an influence.
- 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
- Sidebar 12. Jungle Books
- Sidebar 13. Bodily Harms
- Sidebar 14. Belgium 1914