Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Roundup of Vintage Covers

A Roundup of Vintage Covers

As I stated in a comment to an article by John Norris, here's a group of vintage covers of novels from my own collection.

A few notes to better understand when described

the number in Roman numerals appearing sometimes in Italian editions, before the date of publication, is about the year of the Fascist Era.
I Libri Gialli Mondadori with jacket, are quite rare in Italy. The Books Salani, had no jacket, but the covers had very beautiful illustrations and they have a fair value in the collectors' market.

The Crime Novels in Italy are told "Gialli" (Yellow Books), by the colour yellow of the Jacket of book. The first books with yellow jacket were "I Libri Gialli Mondadori", the oldest collection of mystery books(  from 1929) after Editions Le Masque (in France, instead they began to publish novels from 1928) in Europe.

The books of Editions Gallimard, France, are quite rare. Among
the rarest and most expensive in the collectors' market of the novels of  '30, are the novels by Letailleur and Vindry

Edouard Letailleur - Danse De Mort - Edition Gallimard - Collection Detective, 1935, Paris, pagg. 253 

Letailleur, Edouard
[February 2, 1897, Oye-Plage - August 11
1976, Corbeil]. French. The son of a doctor, but little desire to continue the career of his father, becomes aviator military, pig farmer, hotelier
From 1932 to 1937 he published at Editions Gallimard ten mystery novels put in aristocratic and bourgeois universe, characterized by a strong psychological introspection, and atmosphere of anguish and terror. Shadows, coffins, skeletons, monsters, and real murderers.

Newton Gayle - La Casa nel Ciclone ( Murder at 28:10, 1936)  - trad. Alfredo Pitta - I Libri Gialli No.196 - Mondadori, Verona - XVI, October 1938, pagg.241


Eugène Wyl, pseud. Eugene de Lejarre; Michel Herbert.

Michael Wally (Michel Herbert - Eugene Wyl) : La Casa Vietata (La Maison Interdite, 1932) - G.E.M. (Gialli Economici Mondadori) N.188, Milano -  May 8, 1941

In contrast to Boileau and Vindry, Messrs. Herbert and Wyl were not prolific, but their “La Maison Interdite (The Forbidden House)” is a minor classic.  A mysterious stranger who has been threatening the owner of an isolated mansion appears on the threshold one dark and stormy night.  The staff, hiding in fear, hear words exchanged, shots ringing out, and the door clanging shut in the face of one of the estate watchmen.  Their master is subsequently found dead but his assailant has vanished under their noses.  I selected this book because it has without question the finest court-room denouement I have ever read, but one only made possible by the French judicial system.  One of the defence witnesses is allowed by the three-judge tribunal (a characteristic of the French system) to build a case which exonerates the accused and reveals a solution which is a total surprise but an inevitable one in hindsight, all while the judges sit passively by and let him talk.  It could never happen in the UK or the US 
(John Pugmire, ).

One of the best Locked Rooms I read

FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT - Le due vite di Giacomo Blake ( The President's Mystery Story,1935) - Il Romanzo Mensile, Milano, Anno XXXV, N.3 - May, 1937.

R.A.Knox - L'Assente ritorna (Still Dead, 1934) - G.E.M. 
(Gialli Economici Mondadori) N.195, Milano - August 23, 1941

Henry Holt - Il Pugnale Malese (The Mayfair Mystery, 1929) - I Romanzi della Sfinge N.20 - Salani, Firenze, 1936, pagg.134

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Anthony Abbot: About the Murder of Geraldine Foster, 1930

Among the novels Charles Fulton Oursler alias Anthony Abbot wrote, About the Murder or Geraldine Foster, is the first.
It 's the first novel that imposed the characters by Anthony Abbot, as a major novelist of the early thirties, not very prolific (a bit as Charles Daly King) but developer of plots of the highest qualità, as one of the first great novel, in which we can say  4 major subjects in all history: Thatcher Colt, the investigator, Dr. Maskell, the prime suspect (but there are at least three other suspects); Geraldine Foster the victim, X, the murderer.
This is the plot.
Betty Caldwell, December 27, complains to the police the missing from the three days of her roommate, Geraldine Foster. Geraldine is the secretary of Dr. Maskell, known internist in New York. Has anyone heard a discussion for high voice between Maskell and her, before her missing.
Thatcher Colt, Police Commissioner of New York, is interested in the story. He, at the home of Caldwell and Foster, rummaging in the drawers, founds a fragment of the letter, in which Geraldine blackmails someone for a sum of $ 4000: the handwriting is recognized by Betty. However Colt realizes that the message is written in a different ink from that used in the house. Why is that? In addition, in a jacket in the closet, is found a large key that nobody knows what to open. Later we learn that Geraldine if she needed money she would have been able to easily get from his father, the well-off condition. The boyfriend is cut short because he and Geraldine would marry, after a short fight.
Thatcher Colt goes to the doctor's house, which makes him a revelation: at Christmas Eve, a mysterious woman, with the collar turned up, went to look at his studio Geraldine Foster, then with an apology had been in the store and then had run away by taxi. The thing is fishy to Colt who then finds in a closet, fur and handbag that Gerardine Foster had in the day of her missing. The doctor denies knowing that they were there as he denies knowing more about Geraldine.
The days go by and Geraldine Foster is not. It is revealed in the meantime by the family that the girl had, a year earlier, an association with a so-called Ephraim (which turns out to be a woman in disguise) had revealed the Geraldine’s noble origins.
Meanwhile, Betty, January 3rd, calls the police and announces that she has found other fragments of the letter blackmail, in which it speaks of a house in Peddler's Road. Thatcher instructs Abbot to go, but Abbot instead of going there alone he carries the beautiful Betty of which he has been infatuated: found the place, a small two-storey (thanks to the advice of a boy who is penetrated and says to have seen a ghost of a naked woman covered in blood), they notice how it looks abandoned; moreover, on the ground, are seven pigeons dead, for quite some time, whose feathers on the front look dirty with blood.
Seized with foreboding, Abbot realizes that the door is not locked, and when he enters witnesses a terrible spectacle: there is blood everywhere, on the ground, on walls, on furniture, on curtains, a puddle on the floor, even blood in the fireplace, but the body .. no trace. He finds instead Thatcher Colt and the police. Colt is furious because Abbot was put to flirt instead of following the track: he has already found upstairs other traces of blood, also in the bathroom, in which hangs a curious scent of pine, along with dirty towels in red (blood and lipstick), found in the tub a ladies watch, stopped at 5.10 P.M..
Thatcher says he found a broken window and there near a dead pigeon, and fingerprints of a child.
An agent founds in a small clearing nearby, the newly turned earth: in the light of torches, is found Geraldine Foster, literally to pieces and mutilated. Were noticed three strange things: the body is naked, wet and on is face was put a pillowcase. The body shows no signs of decomposition. The coroner shall determine the death to 36 hours and not more than 48, even if the pigeons seem dead for the longest time.
The same agent fills a bottle with a strange liquid that has collected around the body but that is not blood; two bottles similar to one found in the doctor's office Maskell are also found. Someone said they saw a woman leave with Geraldine, the study of Maskell, in the afternoon of 24 December, carrying two bottles, of three that had been delivered, even if the doctor has denied knowing about.
The key found at the home of Foster opens the door of the house, which they will know be owned by Dr. Maskell, and then it will be assumed that he was being blackmailed. In addition, the personal effects found in his study induce the prosecutors, including the District Attorney Merle Dougherty, to accuse the doctor of murder caused by a fit: the gun found in the house, a double-bladed ax covered in blood, ill-suited to a murder premeditated. However, this is the hypothesis is working Colt, but along another track.
In fact, the doctor to the time of death has an airtight alibi but it will crumble on the basis of a direct reconstruction made ​​by Colt, when the autopsy will reveal that the girl's death took place ten days before. In addition, it is found that the mysterious liquid is tannic acid, extracted from the bark of pine trees, which has the property of delaying the decomposition.
Little by little we understand that Maskell does not want a certain woman becomes involved in the investigation and for her he'll do anything, even to risk his life. Who is she? But more it will be and you will understand: because Geraldine was stripped after death; who was the woman that was touted as an expert on family background and because she had used a false name; who had purchased the tannic acid; what had happened to the other pillowcase unpaired; who had bought those pillowcases; and finally who had the motive, the opportunity and ability to commit the murder, woman or man that he/she was. The final will be overwhelming and unexpected.
The criticism commonly tells that Abbot was a vandinian writer: what evidence would show it?
Abbot as Van Dine (or Ellery Queen) is a fictional character and at the same time a writer of fiction; Abbot as well as being a character of the story, is (as in Philo Vance Van Dine is the) the loyal assistant of Thatcher Colt, Commissioner Police; in the novel there must be an amateur detective and in this novel the investigator is just Colt whose role should not mislead: in America, the Commissioner has not operational functions that instead are purely administrative and he is the connection between the Mayor and the Chief of Police. So Thatcher Colt, being a Commissioner should not have investigative functions of fact: the fact that he has them, marks him as a person who carries out operational functions improperly: he can be treated as an amateur detective.
Finally, if Abbot was vandinian, his investigator should, as Philo Vance have encyclopedic knowledge, and the Thatcher Colt has it, in several areas: scientific and technical (he recognizes at first glance what type it is an ink, and he knows bleaching a human hair; he applies various techniques of scientific investigation: as the examination of two different types of lipstick and the examination of the substances found under the victim's fingernails; the examination of different types of hair; the application of experimental techniques to possible suspects, as the polygraph, which records blood pressure and heart rate based on the emotional state of the subject ;or the truth serum based on scopolamine, which attenuates all of one's senses except the hearing), he is a student Literature and he writes poetry.
Beyond this, the Abbot of propensity to use often in his novels, scientific wizardry is the daughter of his time and is derived from the use which had made such authors as Cleveland L. Moffett, Crofts, Freeman or Connington; in several of his novels, the victims are women, but he is not a writer of the old school, which tends to eliminate "the fairer sex" as a suspect; his novels are typical Procedurals, where investigations are not carried out by a detective, but by the police.
What is peculiar, however, to the highest degree, in this novel, is that of a single crime is based around the castle for clues and evidence: he has no need of another crime to revitalize the attention and the voltage of the reader. Abbot does not hide nor even silent certain truths, then turned out  be important: the solution agrees with all the questions in the course of the novel. Abbot, in a way anticipates Carr and Rawson, diverting the reader's attention from the right direction and turning it in the wrong direction.
It is also to say the same quality as the investigation is of a type vandinian: Colt combines quality survey acutely psychological to techniques of examination purely circumstantial, type sherlockian: so for example explains why the body of Geraldine was completely naked after the child claims to have seen a ghost in the house of a woman covered in blood and naked and after finding fibers woven into the wounds.
The novel also lends itself to another kind of criticism, social criticism:
vandinian detectives are inherently leaders dell'intelleghentia Haute Bourgeoisie, and all the stories in which they are engaged, concerning crimes that accrue only in the most exclusive of the great metropolis, as if the murder more convoluted and more complex could not reside in degraded environment and low class, but instead in a very high.
In this novel, there is a number of examples of this: the High Commissioner is responsible for a crime that involves one of the most well-known professionals in the city, whose brother and sister in law are also among the most brilliant lawyers New York hole. One would expect, therefore, that Abbot parses the most peculiar aspects of this social area. Instead, he shows great disenchantment with the daily life and expectations of small and medium bourgeoisie, dreams shattered by the Great Depression of 1929 and the illusions of social redemption through unexpected inheritance or noble origins. The size of the fiction writer, in my opinion, is better represented than anything else, from the description of a detail of the corpse: "the diamond in an engagement ring around a little finger”. At the horror of the mutilated and buried human remains, what does the ring mean ? At least two things: the wickedness of someone who has denied a dream come true to a girl; the indifference of murderer for that object.
The indifference of the ring with a diamond could mean that social extraction by the murderer or murderess was greater than that of Geraldine Foster, and it means for that a small diamond ring of the type engagement represented a little thing. For this reason, it may have been scorned and left in the bare earth. Instead, if the murderer had been at the same or lower class than the girl , perhaps the value of the diamond would have taken on his/her greed.
The novel, as we see, is a real beauty: an unforgettable novel in its dramatic force, the fine texture of the plot, in the evocative power of writing, in the versatility of the situations, in the multiplicity of false trails that lead the reader to follow of the prerequisites whereas investigative action is directed towards another.
In this way, the ending is fantastic, by rare beauty: it is expected that the murderer is X and instead is Y.

Pietro De Palma

Friday, February 15, 2013

The first birthday

A year has passed since February 15, 2012, the day when for the first time I opened this blog. 
The first article was Death of Jezebel by Christianna Brand, a novel that is particularly dear to me, as for the solution of the Locked Room, one of the most imaginative I've ever read, as because it was written by Christianna Brand, a writer who I love as much as Ngaio Marsh.
Since then a lot of authors and novels have been examined, and despite I open to all, without distinction, equal attention and introspection, the preference of readers to read specific articles instead of others, gave me the measure of the expectations of my audience of readers mainly U.S., and then Indonesian, Italian British, Russian, French, Dutch, German, Ukrainian, Canada.
Articles beds have mainly dealt first authors of area not so purely English as belonging to the Commonwealth (Brand, Marsh) authors or little known to the general public or have not been published for a long time (Abbot, Antheil, Farjeon, Connington, Aveline, Berrow, Ranpo). The norm instead of the great authors, also covered in other blogs: Carr, Queen, Derek Smith.
French authors, for example Steeman, have not been widely read as a sign of decadence (in my opinion undeserved) of French crime fiction to the general public.
Anyway I will try to expand the offer, presenting other authors yet. 

The near future will be reserved for another novel by Abbot. 
I thank all those who follow me and preferentially friends and acquaintances: 
John Norris, Sergio Angelini, Curtis Evans, Mauro Boncompagni. 

Pietro De Palma

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The homage of Edward D. Hoch to Mary Shelley and Agatha Christie

Edward Dentiger Hoch : The Frankenstein Factory, 1975

Edward Dentiger Hoch (writer well versed in classic whodunit, who wrote nearly a thousand stories, including many Locked Rooms), who had previously written four other novels, two mystery (The Shattered Raven, 1969, The Blue Movie Murders, 1972 with the name of Ellery Queen) and two science fiction disguised (The Transvection Machine, 1971; The Fellowship of the Hand, 1972), wrote The Frankenstein Factory, 1975, which would seem to derive directly from Mary Shelley's masterpiece, Frankenstein.
The novel tells about an island where capsules of hibernation are stored, where many people have ordered that their bodies are kept waiting for breakthroughs in medicine make it possible to treat with surgical techniques and drugs still unknown. Dr. Frankenstein of the situation, here called Lawrence Hobbes, tries an unprecedented surgical intervention: in a man’s body about thirty, died of a brain tumor), he will try to implant the brain, heart, the kidneys and liver of other human beings. The operation is somewhat secret, because the scientist "use" some bodies just to pick up bodies, bodies thus unusable or almost .
The novel is in some ways quite similar to one of Steeman which has also been discussed in this blog space: there is also a doctor who tries a never attempted thing before, that to revive a body  no longer alive through electricity , after having inserted into the skull another brain. In both cases, surgical intervention is on a criminal: criminal for love, at novel by Hoch (before he killed himself jumping under a train, he had killed his wife, who had cancer) but in this case the brain of a murderer is placed in a body of a boy who died of a brain tumor; at Steeman’s novel, the killer is criminal rather pure state: into him, the brain of a normal person should be transplanted into the skull of a murderer.

Both have obvious points of contact with Shelley's novel, but even more Hoch inserts a quote that clears any doubt, in the second chapter of his novel : he refers to the Factory of Frankenstein, as does Dr. Armstrong to tell he and his colleagues are the equivalent of Dr. Frankenstein, because as was Dr. Frankenstein in Mary Shelley's novel, he and his colleagues would put the brain and organ in the body and would create a new individual.
If it’s a detective story, there must be a detective. And in fact a detective there is: Earl Jazine, the same detective at "The Transvection Machine" and at "The Fellowship of the Hand." It is an agent by Computer Investigation Bureau, a secret section that reports directly to the President of the United States.
What is Earl doing here? He works undercover: he apparently is a video engineer in charge to take back the audio and video phase of a revolutionary to be held in secret island, but in fact he should investigate cryogenics research and its funding, not all under the light of the sun . Exits coverage when Vera Morgan, a chemical researcher, reveals the true identity of Earl. And this happens when disappears Emily Watson, a philanthropist who lives in the center and that subsidizes with his money and when is killed Dr. MacKenzie, one of the surgeons of the team, strangled. Also disappears "the Creature", and then it is expected he is the murderer. Then are killed all except Vera Morgan, Dr. Armstrong and Earl: Tony Cooper (lover of Vera), Freddy O'Connor, Lawrence Hobbes, Philip Whalen, Emily Watson.
There is a battle in the halls of the capsules between Earl and the Creature (called Freddy from them), and then again there is an ambush on the beach: the surgical intervention failed  and so the brain had a trauma. The creature does not speak, has his left arm is not working but the other, as a whole being, has superhuman strength. Yet succumb opposed to the three survivors: Jazine, Armstrong and Vera.
Was he who killed the scientists? Or he has nothing to do, and the choice is between Armstrong and Morgan? Jazine will select and will provide the solution, after drinking a cup of coffee, which could be poisoned if his trainer was indeed the murderer.
The fact that the location chosen for the operation and then .. for the murders in the novel is an island, and that several people agreed there for the completion of surgery all die, calls to mind the novel by Agatha Christie , And Then There Were None: an island turned into a trap. A similarity blatant, so brazen, you have here the person believed dead, who she is not; and what's more, a character present among those of the christian novel, which is also present here among scientists on the island. There is also a person with a double identity, and a voltage not indifferent, that Hoch established with wisdom, misrepresenting readers with red herrings: the first, that of the missing person, and the second, that of the Creature, and the third, that of the true murderer.
"This situation reminded me of a novel by British writer Agatha Christie, a work of seventy years ago. He spoke of ten people who have to stay on an island are killed one by one, just like here ... In the end it turns out that one of the alleged victims is still alive "(Edward D. Hoch, chapter 14).
Needless to say, the culprit here, as in Christie's novel, is one of these, but if in the original work of Christie was one previously considered dead, here he is not so: the novel by Hoch has an identity and a change, interesting. There is who is supposed to be dead by virtue of blood found in his bed but she is not, but that really she dies, then.
Even in the solution Agatha Christie enters by force, because it learns that the killer was inspired by her novel. However, the similarities end there: in fact, the ending is not cathartic, do not die all at the deserted island; and while at Christie’s novel we ask: "Who is the murderer?" tick here one of those who was thought to be dead, who was not dead and had killed the other.
The ending of the novel Hoch, is reminiscent of the final of René Clair's "Ten Little Indians": two of the defendants (but one is here the investigator) are able to escape and take out the murderer.

Pietro De Palma