Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, February 28, 2020


Fireside Mystery Book, edited by Frank Owen (1947)

This is the third of three older collections of mystery stories I have read in recent weeks.  More than a  little bit less than the massive doorstop anthologies (The Mystery Book and A Second Century of Creepy Stories), Fireside Mystery Book weighs in at just over 300 pages, compared to the thousand page-plus of the other two.

Owen (1893-1968) published a number of early novels as by "Roswell Williams," leading some to mistake the pseudonym as his real name.  As Owen he is best known for his oriental fantasies, many of which appeared or were reprinted in Weird Tales and have been collected in such books as Pale Pink Porcelain, The Wind That Tramps the World, The Purple Sea, Della Wu. Chinese Courtesan, and The Porcelain Magician.  In addition to Fireside Mystery Book, Owen edited Murder for Millions (1946) and Teen-Age Mystery Stories (1948).

The twenty stories in Fireside Mystery Stories are sourced mainly from the pulps and the slicks of the 1930s and 1940s.  The quality ranges from the very good to the serviceable.  Top marks go to Cornell Woolrich for both "Fountain Pen" and, under his "William Irish" pen name, "Leg Man."  John Collier contributes one of his wild and wonderful tales, "Little Memento".  William MacHarg is present with a minor O'Malley story, "Information Obtained."  Ellery Queen's radio script "The Adventure of the Mouse's Blood" maintains the quality of the radio program.  One of the best pieces in the book is William Roughead's fascinating article about an 1835 murder, "The Melbuie Murder."  The other nonfiction article in the book, Jared van Wagenen, Jr.'s "The Huddleston Murder" is nearly as entertaining.  For the most part, though, the book presents typical and readable mystery and detective tales from a by-gone age.

The stories:

  • Allan Vaughan Elston, "The Belfry" (from Adventure, October 15, 1932) 
  • "William Irish" (Cornell Woolrich), "Leg Man" (from Dime Detective Magazine, August 1943, originally published as by Woolrich)
  • Steve Fisher, "Goodbye, Hannah" (from Double Detective, December 1938)
  • Frederick Skerry, "Chance Observer" (from Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine, May 1944)
  • "Sax Rohmer" (Arthur Sarsfield Ward), "Black Magic" (from Collier's, February 5, 1938; a Bazarada story)
  • Frank Owen, "Pale Pink Porcelain" (from Mystery Magazine, April 1927)
  • Richard Sale, "Figure a Dame" (from Double Detective, November 1937)
  • Jared Van Wagenen, Jr. - "The Huddleston Murder" (from New York Folklore Quarterly, [Month?] 1946; true crime)
  • "Ellery Queen" - "The Adventure of the Mouse's Blood" (from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, September 1942; radio play, first aired May 26, 1940; presumably this episode was written by Frederick Dannay)
  • "Richard Kent" (Frank Owen) - "A Study in Amber" (original to this volume)
  • "Louis Paul" (Leroi Placet) - "The Cruise of the Lola Montez" (from Esquire, December 1940)
  • Norman McGlashan - "The Skull" (original to this volume?)
  • John Collier, "Little Memento" (from The New Yorker, September 17, 1938)
  • William MacHarg, "Information Obtained" (from Collier's, February 21, 1942; an O'Malley story)from 
  • William Roughead, "The Mulbuie Murder" (from Roughead's collection Malice Domestic, 1928; true crime)
  • "David Kent" (possibly Herman Hoffman Birney), "Phi Beta Copper" (original to this volume?)
  • Vincent Starrett, "Holding the Bag" (original to this volume?)
  • Philip Ketchum, "I'll Be Killing You" (from Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine, July 1944)
  • Walter C. Brown, "The Man on the Roof" (from The Blue Book Magazine, September 1945)
  • Cornell Woolrich, "Fountain Pen" (from Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine, April 1945, as "Dipped in Blood")
 Not a major anthology but a pleasant page turner.

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