Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, August 10, 2012


Tales for a Rainy Night edited by David Alexander (1962)

Not much time to post something for today's Forgotten Books.  We just rescued an eight-year-old Black Lab from the animal shelter and most of our time will be spent getting to know one another.  It seems to be working out and he is a sweet dog, but for today's post, I'm going to reach back in memory to pluck out a book I read years ago.

     David Alexander (1907-1973) published fifteen mystery novel from 1951 to 1962, many of which were reprinted by Bantam Books during those two decades.  One non-series novel, The Madhouse in Washington Square (1958), was nominated for an Edgar award.  Alexander is best known for his series of eight novels featuring Broadway columnist Bret Hardin; other series characters were Tommy Twotoes and Terry Rooke (Twotoes was a penguin fancier, Rooke a private detective), Marty Land (a Broadway lawyer), and Lieutenant Romano (who was usually featured with Bret Hardin but soloed in one book).  Alexander also produced a respected collection of short stories, Hangman's Dozen (1961).  In his later years, Alexander returned to his first love as a horse racing as a columnist and nonfiction author.

    Alexander's plots were unusual (murder in a flea circus, a mad ventriloquist, a card-carrying homicidal maniac, etc.) so it's no wonder that this anthology is crammed with eighteen unusual crime stories covering the gamut from detection to humor to horror.

     The Mystery Writers of America used to issue an annual anthology edited by a different member each year and containing short stories by active members; each editor seems to have been given complete autonomy over the volume, its theme (if any), and its tone.  (The MWA anthologies still continue, I believe, but not on an annual basis.  [Please let me know if I'm wrong about this.])  Tales for a Rainy Night was the fourteenth in the series.

     Check out the table of contents.  I'veincluded the original publication information, when known.
  • Robert by Stanley Ellin (Sleuth Mystery Magazine, October 1958)
  • The Human Chair by Edogawa Rampo, the influential Japanese mystery author (originally published in 1925 in Japan -- a classic)
  • Pressure by Morris Hershman (Manhunt, February 1958, as by "Arnold English")
  • The Murder of George Washington by Richard M. Gordon (originally published in 1959, in EQMM, if I recall correctly)
  • The Widow of Ephesus by Margaret Manners (originally published in 1958)
  • Lost Leader by Michael Gilbert (Argosy [UK], November 1957, as "The Merry Band")
  • Doctor's Orders by John F. Suter (EQMM, May 1959)
  • Walking Alone by Miriam Allen deFord (EQMM, October 1957)
  • The Twenty Friends of William Shaw by Raymond E. Banks (Mike Shayne's Mystery Magazine, March 1960)
  • Inspector's Lunch by Donald A. Yates (originally published in Britain in 1955; The Saint Mystery Magazine, May 1959)
  • Reflection on Murder by Nedra Tyre (originally published in 1958)
  • West Riding in Maryland by Maurice Procter (originally published in 1956)
  • The Pink Caterpillar by Anthony Boucher (Adventure Magazine, February 1945)
  • Flash Attachment by "Dell Shannon" (Elizabeth Linington) (original publication?)
  • Death and the Compass by Jorge Luis Borges (English translation [by Donald A. Yates?] original to this volume?)
  • Have You Lost Your Head? by Joseph Commings (original publication?)
  • The Child Watcher by Ernest Harrison (EQMM, October 1958)
  • View From the Terrace by Mike Marmer (Cosmopolitan, December 1960)
     Some of the above authors are familiar to today's reader (Boucher, Borges, Ellin), many more should be (Commings, Shannon, Proctor, Tyre).  Hershman is (thankfully) still with us.  Yates is a well-known scholar and translator.   Gilbert was one of England's brightest detection writers.  Some of Commings' pulp stories were recently collected by Crippen & Landru.  Gordon published a baker's dozen of ingenious stories and poems in EQMM that I still remember fondly.  Suter may be best remembered for his series of "Uncle Abner" detective pastiches.  DeFord is not best known for her Dr. Sam:Johnson stories, because she didn't write them; Lillian de la Torre did.  (I had a brain fart when I wrote that mistake)  DeFord wrote mysteries, SF, and true crime (winning an Edgar in that last catagory); she was also once an assistant to Charles Fort, investigating "impossible" occurances.  Banks was also a popular writer of SF and mysteries.  Marmer I keep confusing with Arnold Marmor.  Manners wrote a number of notable short stories in the field.  I don't know anything about Harrison.

     What I do know is the each story in this book is a tiny gem -- I remember wishing this book were much longer.  Alexander did a fantastic job on his sole etitorial stint.  Copies are readily and cheaply available from on-line sellers.  Recommended.


      For more of today's Friday's Forgotten Books, go to where Patti Abbott will have more reviews and the links.


  1. I believe that you are correct about the anthologies no longer being annual, but I think the biggest change is that the stories aren't reprints now; they are all original to the anthologies. I've never read Tales for a Rainy Night but it certainly looks like it would be worth tracking down.

    One minor note - the Dr. Sam: Johnson stories were by Lillian de la Torre. DeFord certainly was a successful mystery writer but I think she was better known for her science fiction.

    1. I knew that, Steve, but at the time neither my brain nor my fingers realized that I did. Corrected now. Thanks for the eagle eyes.