Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, November 11, 2021


The Saint's Choice of Hollywood Crime, edited by Leslie Charteris (1946)

This is the sixth (of seven) volume in "The Saint's Choice..." published by Saint Enterprises under the Bonded/Chartered/Charteris imprint.  Each was a thin digest-sized paperback.  Each had a story by Charteris; the third in the series, The Saint's Choice of True Crime, included a non-fiction article by Charteris which I believe has never been reprinted.  And, as far as I know, none of the volumes were ever reprinted.  A complete of the seven will set you back over $200.

There is a question whether Charteris actually edited these books.  At one time there was a rumor that Theodore Sturgeon edited the fifth volume, The Saint's Choice of Impossible Crime, but that has been debunked; the true editor perhaps being Oscar J. Friend.  Who knows?

Hollywood Crimes packs five short stories in its 128 pages:

  • Anthony Boucher, "Mystery for Christmas" (from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, January 1943)  A Hollywood jewel theft is solved by Metropolitan Pictures writer Mr. Quilter -- with the halp of a rather famous mouse.
  • Frank Gruber, "Funny Man" (from Black Mask, May 1939)  Oliver Quade, "The Human Encyclopedia" and his pal Charlie Boston have hit hard times, as usual.  While pitching his talent on a Hollywood sidewalk, he is overheard by a movie producer and is summoned to his office.  It turns out that Quade's voice is perfect for the of Desmond Dogg, the animateed cartoon character.  The regular voice talent is sick with the flu and the feature must be finished within a few days.  Soon there is blackmail and a murder and Quade, who always manages to end up in these situations, must solve the crime.
  • Robert Leslie Bellem, "The Phantom Bullet" (from Hollywood Detective, December 1945, as "The Case of the Phantom Bullet")  Dan Turner, Bellem's most popular creation, originated in the lurid pages of Spicy Detective,  Movie stuntmaan /Ben McBride has fallen afoul of director Sammy Krakowski ("a dyspeptic little sourball") who pines for a toothsome actress who has opted for McBride over Krakowski.  Krakowski insists that McBride reshoot dangerous stunts.  The stuntman is killed when a prop gun was loaded with real bullets.  (Sounds sadly familiar.)  There is a problem:  the bullet that killed McBride has disappeared.  Dan Turner happened to be on the set and sets about to solve the crime, with his usual tortured pulp P.I. jargon and his basically indestructable hard head.
  • Steve Fisher, "I Want To Be Like Gable" (from Detective Fiction Weekly, November 26, 1938)   Todd and Mabel both had big dreams for Hollywood, but a studio big-wig named Walter Linstrom has blackballed.  Linstrom also forces Mabel onto the casting couch.  Then Linstrom is killed and Todd is on the run, his one ambition is not to ruin Mabel's chances in Hollywood.  It ends badly.
  • Leslie Charteris, "The Saint in Hollywood" (from The American Magazine, October 1936: has also appeared as "The Wicked Cousin")  In his introduction to this story Charteris casts a bas canard:  that he wrote the story sometime in 1941, according to his records; the book also lists the story's first appearance to be in the 1942 collection The Saint Goes West.  I'm not sure why he did that.  This is the longest story in the book, taaking up well over a third of the volume.  An up and coming Hollywood producer was the hire the 'Robin Hood of Crime" to portry himself in a film.  Producers of course have no scruples and they usually end up dead in detective stories.  Byron Ufferlitz was no exception.  The Saint has to solve the crime and avpid arrest himself.  Can he do it?  Oh, you know he can.

As with the other volumes of "The Saint's Choice..." that I have read, the stories tend to be good, but not outstanding.  A Boucher story is always interesting.  Oliver Quade and Charlie Boston were Gruber's first popular series detectives, prototypes for the later Johnny Fletcher and Sam Cragg.  Bellem's Dan Turner stories are an acquired taste and I find a little goes a long way.  Fisher was a very taalented writer but I felt that his gritty story was a bit out of place in this volume.  As for Charteris and The Saint, I went through those books over fifty years ago, devouring them as fast as I could read them, stopping after Harry Harrison's ghost-written 1964 novel Vendetta for the Saint.  I've been leery of rereading the stories ever since, but I found "The Saint in Hollywood" to still be interesting, although tarnished from my memory in re-reading.

For the curious, here's a list of "The Saint's Choice..." anthologies:

Volume 1:  The Saint's Choice of British Detectives
Volume 2:  The Saint's Choice of American Detectives
Volume 3:  The Saint's Choice of True Crime
Volume 4:  The Saint's Choice of Humorous Crime
Volume 5:  The Saint's Choice of Impossible Crime
Volume 6:  The Saint's Choice of Hollywood Crime
Volume 7:  The Saint's Choice of Radio Thrillers

All were pubished in 1945 and 1946.

1 comment:

  1. Another author I have never tried. I am infinitely better read with mainstream novels despite reading thousands of mysteries. Genre writers write so much it is hard to keep up.