Lancashire Post Reviews Helen Nielsen’s Borrow the Night and The Fifth Caller

LEP.CO.UK - Borrow the Night and The Fifth Caller By Helen Nielsen: A superior pair of unique tales which richly deserve a revival - book review

“American writer Helen Nielsen – a scriptwriter for episodes of the television dramas Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Perry Mason – was a popular author in the late 1940s and the mid-1970s. Many of Nielsen’s stories appear in the anthologies Best Detective Stories, Alfred Hitchcock’s Hangman’s Dozen, Ellery Queen’s Double Dozen, and Best Legal Stories, and several were adapted for television. Gold Coast Nocturne, her second novel, was made into the 1954 film, Murder by Proxy, starring Dane Clark and Belinda Lee.

Although these and other books by Nielsen – who died in 2002 at the age of 83 – sold well and were critically successful, much of the author’s work is long out of print.

Fortunately, Stark House Press have started a revival of her work, and this new publication of a two-in-one volume features Borrow the Night and The Fifth Caller, a couple of complex and ingenious murder mysteries that first came out in the late 1950s.

In his introduction to the double-novel collection, writer Nicholas Litchfield, who is editor of the popular literary magazine Lowestoft Chronicle, describes Nielsen’s pair of unconventional whodunnits as ‘two exemplary mystery novels that are sure to leave you on edge and breathless and in search of more of her thrilling, intricate, and astutely written tales.’

Litchfield, a keen supporter of Borrow the Night, believes the strength of the novel lies in ‘the exceptionally well-sketched principal characters and the skilful way Nielsen drops hints and revelations and introduces unexpected plot twists to cast doubt on just about everybody.’

The Fifth Caller is an original mystery for the period because of its toughness, pace and invention, and for the measured way Nielsen presents realistic, complex characters in a fast-paced drama.

A superior pair of unique tales which richly deserve a revival…”

Read the full, in-depth book review here.

Litchfield Reviews Fredric Brown’s Madball

LEP.CO.UK - Madball by Fredric Brown

Accomplished American mystery and science fiction author Fredric Brown, who died in 1972 at age 65, penned more than 30 books, 300 short stories and vignettes, and television plays for shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

His novel, Madball, reissued this month as a mass-market paperback by Black Gat Books, was originally published in 1953 by Dell Books and in condensed form, earlier that same year, under the title ‘The Pickled Punks’ in The Saint Detective Magazine.

It was the novel that began the pocket-size paperback revolution by Dell Publications – a project that revolutionized the publishing industry by offering, without a prior hardcover edition, original paperback novels for 25 cents.

According to The Fresno Bee, the author travelled with a carnival to get material for this story. You can tell as much from the carney slang, the interesting titbits of carnival lore, and the vivid descriptions of shooting galleries, fortune wheels, merry-go-rounds, and the strident selling spiel of barkers over p.a. systems.

It’s not surprising that authors like Aryn Rand and Robert Bloch spoke highly of Brown, an ingenious writer with an abundance of bright story ideas. Purportedly, Mickey Spillane named him as his all-time favourite author and Anthony Boucher of The New York Times hailed him as a successor to the late Cornell Woolrich.

Madball is a fun, exciting, and extremely enjoyable screwball story that is full of dark and devious humour and numerous surprising twists. A wise investment in time and money, it’s guaranteed to be a novel you will read multiple times.

My full review of Brown’s terrific novel is published today in the Lancashire Post and syndicated to 20 newspapers in the UK. You can read the review here.

Litchfield Reviews Bernice Carey’s The Man Who Got Away With It and The Three Widows

LEP.CO.UK - The Man Who Got Away With It and The Three Widows by Bernice Carey

“Riveting and astutely written, The Man Who Got Away With It showcases Carey’s remarkable ability to get inside the minds of her many varied characters and convincingly present small-town community conflicts and sentiments of the era.

In contrast, the second novel in this collection, The Three Widows, first published in 1952, is a light, tongue-in-cheek murder mystery that is laughingly farfetched, and yet fun, likable, and thoroughly entertaining.”

Bernice Carey Martin wrote eight critically acclaimed mysteries between 1949 and 1955 using the name Bernice Carey. Despite her success and her unmistakable talent for crafting intelligent, absorbing mysteries filled with authentic townsfolk and credible character development, her literary career fell eerily silent after 1955.

Thankfully, this month two of her long-forgotten novels are back in print.

Nicholas Litchfield’s review of Bernice Carey’s powerful psychological drama The Man Who Got Away With It and tongue-in-cheek whodunit The Three Widows is published today in the Lancashire Post and syndicated to 20 newspapers in the UK. You can read the full book review here.

Litchfield Reviews Ovid Demaris’s The Hoods Take Over

LEP.CO.UK - The Hoods Take Over by Ovid Demaris

“Highly engrossing, briskly paced, and with colourful and convincing characters, The Hoods Take Over is a grisly yet powerful hard-hitting crime story that shocks, fascinates and moves the reader. Those with a predilection for gangster novels should put this at the top of their reading list.”

Ovid E. Desmarais, better known as Ovid Demaris, was an acclaimed American author of historical and biographical works about the Mafia, several of which enjoyed a combined 64 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. He was also successful at writing hardboiled crime fiction. Two of his best-known novels were Candyleg, which was turned into a 1969 Italian film starring John Cassavetes, Britt Ekland and Peter Falk, and The Hoods Take Over, filmed as Gang Wars, featuring Charles Bronson.

Published in June 1957, The Hoods Take Over was Demaris’s second successful published novel in a matter of months. It’s a tautly plotted, gritty tale of gang wars, racketeering, police corruption, and the dangers faced by a murder witness who risks his life to give testimony against powerful mobsters.

Nicholas Litchfield’s review of Ovid Demaris’s excellent ‬The Hoods Take Over is published today in the Lancashire Post and syndicated to 20 newspapers in the UK. You can read the full book review here.

Litchfield Reviews Pirates by Timothy J. Lockhart for the Lancashire Post

LEP.CO.UK - Pirates by Timothy J. Lockhart

Pirates, the latest novel from American author Timothy J. Lockhart, is a modern-day high-seas thriller set in the hazardous rough waters of the Caribbean. As with his suspenseful debut novel, Smith, this explosive action-adventure yarn has the same blend of violence and eroticism, as well as taut prose, exhilarating gun battles, and unforgettable villainy.

At the heart of the story is tough, disfigured Hal Morgan, a former Navy SEAL who now works as a boatman in Puerto Rico.

While returning a charter boat, his lonely life takes an unexpected turn when he comes across a sinking daysailer containing the beautiful mistress of a vicious crime boss and half a million dollars in stolen cash.

What follows is a tense, cat and mouse story with the crime boss and his obedient crew members relentlessly pursuing the girl and the money and brutally dispatching anyone who gets in their way.

With bullets zinging and baddies converging from all sides, it’s anyone’s guess who will make it out alive in Lockhart’s gruesome, exhilarating adventure.

Nicholas Litchfield’s review of the Lockhart’s unpredictable, blood-and-guts page-turner is published today in the Lancashire Post and syndicated to 20 newspapers in the UK. The full, in-depth review can be found here.

Litchfield Reviews No Law Against Angels, Doll for a Big House, and Chorine Makes a Killing by Carter Brown

LEP.CO.UK - No Law Against Angels, Doll for a Big House, and Chorine Makes a Killing by Carter Brown

“This triple dose of Carter Brown mysteries from 1957 finds homicide detective Al Wheeler investigating the deaths of two call girls, tracing a missing girl, and taking a job as a private investigator to clear a lawyer of a murder rap.

No Law Against Angels, Doll for a Big House, and Chorine Makes a Killing are three light and lively entries in British-born Australian pulp writer Alan Geoffrey Yates’ phenomenally successful mystery series which spawned 300 books.

Yates, who emigrated to Australia in his mid-twenties, penned 215 novels and approximately 75 novella-length stories between 1954 to 1984, using the house name Carter Brown. The international appeal of these tongue-in-cheek mysteries was such that they rapidly became Australia’s biggest literary export.

The opening story in this newly released collection, No Law Against Angels, was the first Carter Brown to be published in the United States. The revised US version, with slightly tighter writing and an extra polish, was titled The Body.

Nicholas Litchfield’s review of the third volume of Carter Brown novels to be reissued by Stark House Press is featured today in the Lancashire Post and syndicated to 20 UK newspapers. You can read the review here.

Litchfield Reviews The Made-Up Man by Joseph Scapellato

LEP.CO.UK - The Made-Up Man by Joseph Scapellato

“Absurdist humour and existential noir intermingle in Joseph Scapellato’s playful and intelligent debut novel about a soul-searching archaeology school dropout who finds himself at the centre of a strange and risky performance art project in the Czech Republic.

Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Scapellato, who now lives in Pennsylvania, is an assistant professor of English in the Creative Writing Program at Bucknell University. His previous work, the critically acclaimed story collection Big Lonesome, received high praise from Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and the Lancashire Post, with the New York Times proclaiming: ‘Scapellato’s inventive, hallucinatory prose dazzles.’

His newest work is a wholly original hybrid between a detective story and a subverted examination of oneself, with the narrator, much like a previous character from Scapellato’s story collection, reflecting on his past, trying to make sense of the present, and exploring the myth of the self.”

Nicholas Litchfield’s review of Joseph Scapellato’s notable debut novel, The Made-Up Man, is featured today in the Lancashire Post and syndicated to 20 UK newspapers. You can read the review here.

Litchfield Reviews Lead With Your Left and The Best That Ever Did It by Ed Lacy

LEP.CO.UK - Lead With Your Left and The Best That Ever Did It by Ed Lacy

“Singled out by Edgar and Anthony Award-winning biographer Marvin Lachman as worthy of rediscovery, these two forgotten novels are reprinted this month in a Stark House combined edition.

The first story, initially published in 1956 in Mercury mystery book magazine as ‘Keep an Eye on the Body’ and serialised in newspapers, was expanded and published by Harper & Brothers in January 1957 under the title Lead With Your Left. Engrossing and action-packed, it features a very ‘cocky’ 21-year-old New York police detective named David Wintino who is assigned a homicide case involving a retired policeman shot dead in an alleyway while working as a messenger for a brokerage house.

The second novel, The Best That Ever Did It, published by Harper & Brothers in March 1955 as part of their hardback suspense series, is a lively, fascinating tale about a private eye’s investigation into the apparently motiveless killing of a contest winner and a police detective outside a dive bar in New York City. Again, Lacy presents a three-dimensional, sympathetic narrator who strays from the norm… this time, Barney Harris, a big, tough, 18-stone car mechanic who moonlights as a private investigator.

Famed New York Times book critic and author Anthony Boucher, an avid reader of Lacy’s work, selected The Best That Ever Did It as one of the best books of 1955, describing it as ‘the year’s most original and off-trail variant on the private-eye theme.’ As with Lead With Your Left, it’s certainly a riveting, stimulating novel, with a particularly engaging, likeable protagonist, a sure-footed plot, believable characters, smart dialogue, and hard-hitting prose.”

Nicholas Litchfield’s review of these two exceptional mysteries from Ed Lacy is featured today in the Lancashire Post and syndicated to 20 UK newspapers. You can read the review here.

Litchfield Reviews End of the Line by Bert and Dolores Hitchens

LEP.CO.UK - End of the Line by Bert and Dolores Hitchens

“Born Julia Clara Catherine Dolores Robbins, prolific American novelist and playwright Dolores Hitchens began her career as a hospital nurse, and then a teacher, before becoming a successful professional writer. From 1938 until her death in 1973, she published forty books, utilising four nom-de-plumes. Her suspense novel The Watcher was adapted for the television series Thriller in 1960, and Jean-Luc Godard adapted her novel Fool’s Gold into the 1964 film Band of Outsiders.

End of the Line, first published by Doubleday in 1957 and newly reprinted as a mass market Black Gat Books edition from Stark House, is the third in a series of five novels she co-wrote with her second husband, Hubert Allen ‘Bert’ Hitchens, who was a railroad investigating officer.

All the books in the series feature the special agents of a railroad’s Los Angeles division, including regular character John Farrel, a veteran detective with an alcohol problem. Here, the wizened Farrel, a down-at-heel boozehound who lives in a boarding house, is teamed up with the inexperienced but enthusiastic investigator Calvin Saunders, an athletic, fastidious young man who drives a Chevy convertible. Former railroad bull (guard), now department chief, Ryerson, ‘a bear of a man,’ wants the pair to re-examine the Lobo Tunnel wreck, an unsolved case that resulted in sixteen deaths.

Suspenseful and methodical, End of the Line is a worthwhile mystery with a solid plot that is helped along by the understated rivalry between the two well-defined detectives, both of whom try to best each other throughout the course of their investigation. Pursuing clues to the town of Sagebloom, the place where the crash took place, the pair go undercover as section hands, eventually working together like a well-oiled team and following the intriguing tale to an exciting and satisfying conclusion.”

Nicholas Litchfield’s review of End of the Line, an exciting mystery from Bert and Dolores Hitchens, is featured today in the Lancashire Post. You can read the review here.

Litchfield Reviews So Many Doors by Oakley Hall

LEP.CO.UK - So Many Doors by Oakley Hall

First published by Random House in 1950, So Many Doors is the debut novel by Pulitzer Prize-nominated American writer Oakley Hall, an English professor emeritus at UC Irvine and author of 25 books, who died in 2008.

During his distinguished career, Hall won numerous awards, including the Wrangler Award and the Western Writers of America (WWA) Spur Award for his magazine pieces. His western novel Warlock, a finalist for the 1958 Pulitzer Prize, was made into a film by Twentieth Century-Fox starring Henry Fonda and Anthony Quinn, and his 1963 book, The Downhill Racers, was later filmed by Paramount as Downhill Racer starring Robert Redford and Gene Hackman.

This newly reissued crime novel, which he wrote while studying at Columbia University, was initially overlooked when it came out in hardback, but the paperback went on to become a big seller and received wide critical acclaim. Set in the years following the Great Depression, it is an affecting, murderous tale about two inseparable lovers, consumed with overwhelming desire and corrupting jealousy, and the havoc their relationship causes to those around them. Divided into five sections, each told from the viewpoint of a friend or relative who interacted with the pair, the story spans a period of ten years, beginning in the early 1940s.

Hall’s vivid characters and intense, emotionally charged prose elevate So Many Doors to a compelling, unforgettable story of spurned love, flawed passion and pride, caustic obsession, and distrust and despair.

My review of So Many Doors is featured today in the Lancashire Post and syndicated to 20 newspapers in the UK. The full review can be found at the web link below and elsewhere:

https://www.lep.co.uk/lifestyle/books/so-many-doors-by-oakley-hall-book-review-an-unforgettable-story-of-spurned-love-flawed-passion-and-pride-caustic-obsession-and-distrust-and-despair-1-9456122