Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, October 14, 2016

FORGOTTEN BOOK: ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S 14 SUSPENSE STORIES TO PLAY RUSSIAN ROULETTE BY

                 Alfred Hitchcock's 14 Suspense Stories to Play Russian Roulette By 
                                                   edited by Alfred Hitchcock (1964)

The legacy of Alfred Hitchcock in mystery fiction lies in the use of his name.  For more than 60 years it has been emblazoned on the masthead of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine (currently Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine) and, for over seventy years, far over one hundred anthologies, as well as a a highly popular series of juvenile mysteries by Robert Arthur, "William Arden" (Dennis Lynds), and others.  In 1960, the Mystery Writers of America honored Hitchcock with a Raven Award "for his contributions to the mystery genre" and in 1973 they named him a Grand Master.

Not bad for someone who hadn't written a thing that we know of.

Hitchcock's contribution to the mystery field lays in the films he directed and in the various incarnations of a television anthology show that bore his name (and his well-known introductions).  Knowing the value of publicity and marketing, Hitchcock also licensed the use of his name to both anthologies, the magazine, and the television show.

The first time Hitchcock's name appeared as an "author" was in the introduction to Lee Wright's The Pocket Book of Great Detectives (1941, Pocket Books); whether Hitchcock actually wrote the introduction is unknown.  The first time he was credited as a book editor was with Suspense Stories (1945, Dell, "selected by Alfred Hitchcock").  The actual editor is unknown, although my money is on Don Ward, a free-lance editor and writer with a history with Dell publications.  Ward is generally credited with editing the second Hitchcock anthology, Bar the Doors! ( 1946. also Dell).

Suspense Stories contained 14 stories, as follows:

  • Carl Stephenson, "Leiningen Versus the Ants"
  • Phyllis Bottome, "The Liqueur Glass"
  • A. D. Divine, "Flood on the Goodwins"
  • Hanson Baldwin, "R.M.S. Titanic"
  • Wilbur Daniel Steele, "Blue Murder"
  • "Ralph Milne Farley (Roger Sherman Hoar), "The House of Ecstasy"
  • Capt. William Outerson, "Fire in the Galley Stove"
  • Frank Stockton, "The Lady or the Tiger"
  • Ambrose Bierce, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"
  • Margery Sharp, 'The Second Step"
  • Albert Payson Terhune, " The Blue Paper"
  • James M. Cain, 'The Baby in the Icebox"
  • Ralph Straus, "The Room on the Fourth Floor"
  • Stephen Vincent Benet, "Elementals"
The Stephenson, Stockton, and Bierce are recognizable classics.  The Steel and the Cain are among those authors best-known stories.  Bottome, Sharp, Terhune and Benet were well-respected authors in their time.  Farley was best known for his science fiction writings.  I'm afraid I know little about the remaining four authors, although the Straus story has been reprinted a few times.

Third Alfred Hitchcock anthology (and the first hardbound collection) was Alfred Hitchcock's Fireside Book of Suspense Stories (1947, Simon and Schuster).  It contained 27 stories -- eleven of which were cannibalized from Suspense Stories, omitting the Steele, Stockton, and Bierce stories.
The remaining sixteen stories are:
  • Perceval Gibbon, 'The Second-Class Passenger"
  • Grahame Greene, "The News in English"
  • Edwin Corle, "If You Don't Get Excited"
  • Donald Henderson, 'The Alarm Bell"
  • Ross Santee, "With Baited Breath"
  • Sidney Herschel Small, "Sunset"
  • John Dickson Carr, "The Hangman Won't Wait"
  • "William Irish" (Cornell Woolrich), "After-Dinner Story"
  • John Metcalfe, "The Tunnel"
  • Allan Vaughan Elston, "Triggers in Leash"
  • Harold Lamb, "The Three Good Witnesses"
  • T. P. Beechcroft, "The Ringed World"
  • Robert Bloch, "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper"
  • Lord Dunsany, "The Two Bottles of Relish"
  • "Ex-Private X" (A. M. Burrage), "Smee"
  • W. W. Jacobs, "His Brother's Keeper"
Again, we have recognizable classics (Bloch, Dunsany), authors well-known today (Greene, Carr, Irish), and well-known authors of the time (Gibbon, Santee, Metcalfe, Elston, Lamb, Jacobs).  The Burrage and the Beechcroft stories have been reprinted several times.  Corle, Henderson, and Small are authors I'm not familiar with.

So, at last we come to Alfred Hitchcock's 14 Suspense Stories to Play Russian Roulette By, which is a 1965 Dell Reprint of Suspense Stories, dropping the Stephenson story and adding C. B. Gilford's
"Never Kill for Love", a tale from the April 1960 issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.

It's interesting to note that although Hitchcock's movies and television show filmed works by a number of the 31 authors listed above, only two of the stories listed were adapted for Alfred Hitchcock Presents:  Allan Vaughan Elston's "Triggers in Leash" (aired October 16, 1955) and Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" (aired December 20, 1959)

All three books are available from the usual suspects.  Any of the three are worth your time.

5 comments:

  1. The Dell books are perhaps the greatest source of confusion among Hitchock volumes...those that are "X Stories from [title]" are usually two-volume reprints, but not always exact reprints, of the hardcover anthologies in the ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS: series and occasionally earlier anthologies (such as the one you cite), while those title ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S [punning phrase, usually], such as ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S NOOSE REPORT or A HANGMAN'S DOZEN are best-ofs from ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE (still the official title, despite the dropping of the 'S from the covers and spines of both AHMM and ELLERY QUEEN'S MM).
    The Robert Arthur and Harold Q. Masur anthologies are better, on average, than the AHMM selections, but the latter aren't too shabby either.
    Hitchcock's Shamley Productions actually produced the run of AH PRESENTS: and THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR, hence he didn't actually license himself to the productions...though his heirs in one form or another allowed the re-use of his intro segments on the 1980s revival of AH PRESENTS: on television.
    Always glad when someone else tries to help untangle this mess...

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  2. I've been picking up more of these old ALFRED HITCHCOCK anthologies. They used to be everywhere but now they're getting scarce. I don't have ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S 14 SUSPENSE STORIES TO PLAY RUSSIAN ROULETTE BY but I'll be looking for it. Nice review!

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