Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, May 13, 2011

FORGOTTEN BOOK: THE MYSTERY COMPANION

The Mystery Companion, edited by A. L. Furman (1943)

My selection for Patti Abbott's Friday's Forgotten Book project this week is the first of four meaty anthologies that A. L. Furman produced between 1943 and 1946.  Not surprisingly, the remaining three volumes were titled Second Mystery Companion, Third Mystery Companion, and The Fourth Mystery Companion.  The titles may be prosaic, but the pulpish qualities of the stories certainly aren't.

     I haven't been able to trace the origins of all 19 stories in The Mystery Companion, but some of the sources were Blue Book Magazine, Black Mask, Detective Story Magazine, Short Stories, and Weird Tales.  The authors, too, have well-established pulp cred:  Richard Sale, Philip Ketchum, Robert Bloch, Allen Vaughan Elston, Dale Clark, Cornell Woolrich, Geoffrey Homes, Fritz Leiber, Frank Owen, and Vincent Starrett, among others.  And since this volume was published in 1943, there is a healthy dose of Nazis, spies, war profiteers, and air wardens -- there's even one nautical tale set in Old California.

     One of the most interesting items is the sole nonfiction piece:  America's Most Famous Murder by George L. Porter (1838-1919).  Porter was the commissioned officer in charge of the interment of John Wilkes Booth and was an official at the hangings of four of the conspirators:  Mrs. Mary Suratt (whose home was used as headquarters for the plot), Lewis Payne (real name Powell, who wounded Secretary of State Seward), David E. Herold (who joined Booth in his flight), and George Atzerodt (who was supposed to kill Vice President Johnson).  [The use of the word "conspirators" is ill-advised; there is some question about Mary Suratt's guilt, although there seems to be no doubt that her son was part of the conspiracy.]  His article covers some interesting points about the days after the assassination.

     All 19 stories in The Mystery Companion had never received book publication before.  Here's the table of contents:

  • Active Duty, by Richard Sale
  • The Body in The Ostrich Cage, by Vincent Starrett
  • The Sword of God, by Hal Hode
  • The Greek Poropulos, by Edgar Wallace
  • Bond of Reunion, by Carl Carmer
  • Believe It or Die, by Philip Ketchum
  • Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper, by Robert Bloch
  • The Street of the Little Candles, by James Francis Cooke
  • The Blackout Murders, by Allan Vaughan Elston
  • "You're Killing Me!", by Dale Clark
  • If the Dead Could Talk, by Cornell Woolrich
  • America's Most Famous Murder, by George L. Porter
  • The Judge Finds a Body, by Geoffrey Homes
  • The Phantom Slayer, by Fritz Leiber, Jr.
  • Tears of the Virgin, by Thomas Grant Springer
  • Me and His Majesty and Trouble, by Joseph C. Stacey
  • Death in a Gray Mist, by Frank Owen
  • A Pair of Gloves, by Carl Carmer
  • The Man in the Cask, by Vincent Starrett

     Only the Bloch story would be familiar to many readers, leaving 18 fresh tales to enjoy -- and the Bloch is enjoyable even after constant re-reading.  All in all, a great collection and a mirror back to the days of pulp when fiction magazines abounded.  Recommended.

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      Blogspot has had a few problems yesterday and today, going offline, eating some Friday's Forgotten Books posts, and delaying others -- all of which is probably giving organizer Patti Abbott the bejeebers.  To find out how she has been handling all this, go to her blog, Pattinase.

5 comments:

  1. I shall have to read "Phantom Slayers" eventually, at very least...that title is ringing no bells...but "Yours Truly" is truly one of the most plagiarized stories of the last century, topped by "The Most Dangerous Game" and not much else, I'd suggest. Interesting that this criminous horror story (and I suspect the Leiber as such as well) should be first in board in a crime-fiction collection...and how as late as the turn of the '60s, true crime still had a place in our better crime-fiction magazines (I'm thinking particularly of the last two Mercury Press items, MERCURY MYSTERY and BESTSELLER MYSTERY), but not so much since, unless there are features of MANHUNT or MSMM or even AHMM and EQMM and THE SAINT I'm forgetting about or have overlooked.

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  2. Or even "The Phantom Slayer"...maybe I need to write "Phantom Slayers" to read it.

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  3. Todd, THE SAINT often carried true crime articles and fillers and I'm pretty sure I have read an occasional article in MANHUNT.

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  4. Yeah, I've picked up fewer SAINTs than I'd like, though I might've picked up most over the years that Avram Davidson contributed to (now, if Davidson wrote true crime for TSMM, that's another reason to double-down in seeking those out).

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  5. Alas, no true crime by Davidson in THE SAINT. His true crime was limited to the men's magazine and much was published as CRIMES AND CHAOS. Davidson, of course, was one of the most ethical persons on the planet; Algis Budrys once noted that Davidson's articles were "true" and well researched, as opposed to just making it up on the fly.

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