Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, December 27, 2019


Some Things Dark and Dangerous, edited by Joan Kahn (1970)

Legendary editor Joan Kahn (1914-1994) was known as "publishing's grand dame of detective stories," thanks largely to her 34-year stint as an editor at Harper & Brothers/Harper & Row, where she oversaw the "Harper Novel of Suspense" line and eventually had her own imprint.  Among the authors she edited were John Creasey, Patricia Highsmith, Dick Francis, Tony Hillerman, Julian Symons, John Dickson Carr, Helen Eustis, "Nicholas Blake," Andrew Garve, Michael Gilbert, John Ball, Nicholas Freeling...the list goes on.  For her contributions to the mystery genre Kahn received both the Ellery Queen Award and a special Edgar Award.  From 1967 to 1987, she edited eleven highly respected mystery anthologies, of which Some Things Dark and Dangerous was the third.

In reviewing this book, Gahan Wilson had only one genuine gripe:  "The only angle that puts me off it, and puts me off by God it does,  is that the thing is supposed to be aimed at children.  Now why this particular group of shockers should have 'Age 12 and up' on its flyleaf and a forward by Miss Kahn which makes you feel as if you were being patted on the top of your head by the town librarian, I cannot say."  (The copy I have is the 1982 Avon Flare edition -- also marketed for youth.)  Wilson's complaint is somewhat valid in that the marketing strategy may have limited the book's reception on the adult market; this complaint, he admits, does nothing to limit the quality of the content.

Here we have 16 entries, some fiction and some nonfiction, covering a wide range of suspense, mystery, horror, and ever-so-gentle grue:

  • "Mr. Loveday's Little Outing," by Evelyn Waugh (from Harper's Bazaar, March 1935, under the title "Mr Crutwell's Little Outing")
  • The White Cat of Drumgunniol," by J. Sheridan Le Fanu (from All the Year Round, April 1870; reprinted in Le Fanu's Madame Crowl's Ghost and Other Tales of Mystery [1923], and others)
  • "The Murder of Dr. Burdell" by Edmund Pearson (from The New Yorker, December 21, 1935; a true crime article)
  • "The Destruction of Smith" by Algernon Blackwell (from Blackwood's Pan's Garden:  A volume of Nature Stories, 1912, and others)
  • "Wet Saturday" by John Collier (from The New Yorker, July 16, 1938; reprinted in A Touch of Nutmeg and More Unlikely Stories, 1943, and others)
  • "The Fantastic Horror of the Cat in The Bag" by Dorothy L. Sayers (a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery from The 20-Story Magazine, May 1926, as "The Adventure of the Cat in the Bag;" reprinted in Sayers' Lord Peter Views the Body, 1928, and others)
  • "Fatal Visit of the Inca to Pizarro and His Followers in the City of Caxamalca" by William H. Prescott (An except from Prescott's History of the Conquest of Peru, 1847)
  • "Man Overboard" by F. Marion Crawford (from Man Overboard!, 1903, an independently published story)
  • "Portrait of a Murderer" by "Q. Patrick" (Richard Wilson Webb & Hugh Callingham Wheeler) (from Harper's Magazine, April 1942; reprinted in The Ordeal of Mrs. Snow and Others Stories as by "Patrick Quentin," 1961; the story has also been published as "Kisses of Judas")
  • "The Dead Finger" by Howard Pyle (from Harper's Monthly Magazine, September 1911 )
  • "Boy Hunt" by John Barlow Martin (from Harper's Magazine, December 1944; nonfiction)
  • "Calling All Stars (Intercepted Radio Message Broadcast from the Planet Cybernetica)" by Leo Szilard (from Szilard's The Voice of the Dolphins, and Other Stories, 1961; evidently written in 1949)
  • " 'These Terrible Men, The Harpes!' " by Robert M. Coates (from Coates' The Outlaw Years:  The History of the Land Pirates of the Natchez, 1930; nonfiction)
  • "When the Bough Breaks" by "Lewis Padgett" (Henry Kuttner & C. L. Moore) (from Astounding Science Fiction, November 1944; reprinted in Line to Tomorrow by "Lewis Padgett," 1954)
  • "A Musical Enigma" by Rev. C. P. Cranch (from Putnam's Monthly Magazine of Literature. Science, Art , and National Interests, May, 1870, as "A Musical Mystery")
  • "The Sinking Ship" by Robert Louis Stevenson (from Longman's Magazine, August 1895; reprinted in Stevenson's Fables, 1896)

A good collection of varied reading, perhaps both familiar and not so familiar.  there's sure to be something here to please every taste.


  1. For some reason, I remember this one almost exclusively for being where I first read "Wet Saturday" as a kid...liked the cover design, as well...

  2. Nope, in terms of the cover, I'm thinking of another Kahn book, probably...all the covers of SOME I'm seeing are pretty direly crude, hardcover (which I read) or paperback.

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