Forgotten Film: Phantom Lady (1944)

Cornell Woolrich's Phantom Lady is an engaging mystery film, just not a great one.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 155th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

I really love the novels of Cornell Woolrich, whether writing under that name or William Irish or George Hopley. For a while, I had a very nice collection of first editions of his work including a beautiful copy of Phantom Lady. But I took the money and ran a long time ago.

Woolrich was a master of suspense and tension, particularly in his novels, though some also comes through in his films. Check out my review of Jacques Tourneau’s The Leopard Man which was based on Woolrich’s novel Black Alibi. It features one of the most terrifying scenes ever put on screen and that scene is straight out of the novel.

But, let’s talk about Phantom Lady. Scott Henderson (Alan Curtis) is a successful engineer in a bad marriage. On his anniversary he and his wife have a fight and he storms out of the apartment. He goes to a local bar where he meets a lonely woman with a gaudy hat. They make small talk and he invites her to go to a show. When he asks her name, she demurs, saying that they should enjoy the night with no names and no history. They take a cab to the show where a drummer tries to get her attention and the headliner Monteiro (Aurora) is seen wearing the same hat. Monteiro is obviously furious.

Henderson returns home to find police Inspector Burgess (Thomas Gomez) waiting. Henderson’s wife has been strangled with one of his neckties. Henderson isn’t worried about being arrested for the crime because he didn’t do it. But when the police question the bartender (Andrew Tombes) he says Henderson was alone. So does the cab driver. And when Monteiro is questioned, she remembers nothing about the Henderson’s companion and the hat the argued about isn’t even among her costumes.

Henderson finds himself on trial for murder and, with no alibi, he is quickly convicted and sentenced to die. The only one convinced he’s innocent is his secretary, Carol “Kansas” Richmond (Ella Raines), who is in love with him. She cannot find any other way to help him, so she shadows the bartender. When he makes a casual slip about being paid, he tries to attack her and ends up getting killed in traffic. At that point, Carol suspects she is on the right trail.

She begins to track down the drummer (Elisha Cook, Jr.) who admits that he was paid $500 to forget what he saw. Carol calls Burgess, but by the time he gets there the drummer is dead. At this point, the film gives away the identity of the real killer, something which was not disclosed in the book until the very end.

Scott’s friend, Jack Marlow (Franchot Tone) has been in South America and when he returns he agrees to help Carol solve Scott’s problem. Together they find the Phantom Lady and the hat, but the murderer is still about and Carol is in deep trouble.

This was a good film, just not the great film which might have been made from the book. In glorious black and white, it has many of the features of a good noir film but somehow falls flat. The tense moments just don’t quite come across that way, until the point at which Carol confronts the killer. Part of the problem is the source material. Woolrich novels sometimes rely on coincidence and, as in this case, you have to buy that people are willing to let a man die after being paid to forget something. Somehow I tend to have a better opinion of people than that. Of the four, one should have broken down.

When reading the books, the breakneck pacing gets you through. With the film, that pacing isn’t there and the flaws emerge.

I still like this film, though, and I still love the work of Woolrich. I’m hoping you do to. TCM runs this film fairly regularly and you should check it out when you can. It’s not Out of the Past or Double Indemnity, but it’s still worthwhile.

Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 

FORGOTTEN BOOK: Run from the Hunter by Keith Grantland (Charles Beaumont and John Tomerlin), 1957

The "wrong man" suspense novel Run from the Hunter takes place around Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama, which makes it a fun, fast read for this time of year.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 176th in my series of Forgotten Books.

As I write this, Mardi Gras is being celebrated across the country and in New Orleans with fine gusto. I have never been to the various parades and such since I dislike large crowds and drunken revelries as a general rule. But I have friends who are there right now collecting beads, listening to blues and jazz and eating some mighty fine food.

So I decided to celebrate Mardi Gras in a different way by reading a mystery set during Mardi Gras, though in Mobile, Alabama. In Run from the Hunter, Chris Adams is a former columnist for the Mobile Messenger who has been convicted of killing his former girlfriend Steffany Fontaine. There seems to be a motive, since she was running around on him. Adams is innocent and a bartender should have provided the alibi, but, for some reason, the bartender lied and now Adams is on his way to prison via railroad.

Mobster Frank Giogio is on the same train with the same destination intended. But he confides in Adams that the train will be derailed in four minutes. Adams tries to alert the police who do not believe anything he says. They should have listened.

Giorgio is killed when the bridge over the swamp is blown up, as are several policemen. But Adams survives and manages to get the handcuff key and escape into the dark and the bayou. The police are definitely going to be following him.

In the darkness, he manages to find a run-down house and takes shelter. But he is soon surprised by a young woman with a rifle. His case is now well known and the young woman, Loni Gaillard, recognizes him. And so does her mother. Adams tells his story and Mrs. Gaillard believes him. Besides, the rifle has no bullets.

Adams is allowed to sleep the night before he’s sent to see Jericho, an old man who agrees to help him. Jericho has an old Deusenberg that they use to go back to Mobile. Meanwhile, tracking Adams is Lieutenant Carr, the police homicide detective who built the case against him. Turns out, Carr was also one of Steffany’s suitors. He took her death pretty badly and has vowed to track Adams down.

Since it’s Mardi Gras and Adams is afraid of being recognized, he and Jericho stop for costumes, a pirate costume for Adams and a skeleton for Jericho. Adams contacts his former boss, Sheridan “Sherry” Paige, for help. They track down the bartender to question him about his perjury, only to find him dead. Things seem to be progressing poorly for Adams as the police keep getting closer and closer.

Run from the Hunter is a pretty nice suspense and mystery novel, which Beaumont began but turned over to his friend Tomerlin to finish. The duo worked together on the final draft and polish. The original edition was published by Gold Medal under the Keith Grantland name, which Tomerlin says in his introduction to the Centipede Press edition was from the middle names of each of their sons. There were two printings from Gold Medal and a hardback edition in the UK from Boardman. I’ve had both the Gold Medal printings, which had different covers, and I recently acquired the Centipede Press edition, which is very nice and contains a decent short story, “Moon in Gemini,” by the pair.

I have read a lot of Beaumont’s short fiction. I’ve got his solo novel The Intruder, which was filmed in the early 60’s with William Shatner in the lead. I haven’t read it yet, though it has a good reputation. The quality of Beaumont’s short work gives me hope for it. The film version was made by Roger Corman and is one of the few Corman films to not make a profit. IMDB shows a 7.8 out of ten rating for the film. Apparently Beaumont, William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson all have bit parts in it.

Centipede Press also did a recent edition of that novel, which is the edition I have. They make very nice books. They are expensive but the quality that goes into the finished product is always worthwhile.

So enjoy your Mardi Gras and have a wonderful weekend. Check out Run from the Hunter if you get the chance. It’s a worthy novel that deserves a larger audience.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 

Forgotten Book: Night of the Jabberwock by Fredric Brown (1950)

Nick of the Jabberwok is fast, fun and full of surprises.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 171st in my series of Forgotten Books.

As I mentioned in the last Forgotten Book column, I recently discovered a cache of old Unicorn Mystery Book Club books at the local Half Price. I bought six volumes while I was there. The Memoirs of Solar Pons was in one of the volumes. But the one that really pushed me over the edge was Night of the Jabberwock by Fredric Brown — not that it took much of a push.

There was a time when I had a very nice collection of Fredric Brown’s work. I had hardback firsts of all his science fiction, including a nice, signed Space on My Hands and much of his mystery work. I believe I had all the mystery novels and most of the short stories. I did not have The Case of the Dancing Sandwiches, but I did have the original pulp that the story had appeared in. And I had read most of his work. Somewhere along the way, I did an article about Ed and Am Hunter that appeared in a non-fiction work about 100 great detectives, and I had read all those novels.

At his worst, Brown was always worth reading. And at his best, he was fantastic. Here, in Night of the Jabberwock, he was at the top of his form.

It’s a novel with a lot of stuff going on. The hero is Doc Stoeger, the editor and publisher of a small town weekly newspaper. He has a PhD and his dissertation was on Lewis Carroll. He is nuts for Lewis Carroll. But no one in the town really cares. He has one or two friends he can play chess with, but no one to really discuss the things he loves most. And after 23 years running the paper, he is down. Just once, he would love something to happen on Thursday night so that when the paper came out on Friday morning it would have real news.

Well, Doc soon discovers you should be careful what you wish for. In the course of one night, he has many adventures. There’s a messy divorce case, the bank is broken into, several men are murdered, Doc and his friend Smiley are kidnapped by gangsters, there’s an explosion in the Roman candle department of the local fireworks factory, there’s an escapee from the local loony bin. Oh, and Doc is the prime suspect in two of the murders and is involved in a manhunt in his small town. Doc sees and witnesses all of these and yet, he cannot write about them.

The series of events begins with a man named Yehudi Smith who asks about the Vorpal Blades, a Lewis Carroll appreciation society. That society wants Doc to meet them at a nearby haunted house to discuss the possibility that Lewis Carroll was writing about real worlds in the Alice books.

This is fast paced like a Cornell Woolrich novel and, at times, just as unbelievable. But the prose is lean and clean, and the reader has the adventure of a lifetime.

I read this book many years ago and had forgotten most of it, so it was wonderful to sit back in my reading chair and renew my friendship. I ran across a passage that I loved on the original reading and again last night:

“Two walls of my living room are lined with them (books) and they overflow the bookcases in my bedroom and I even have a shelf of them in the bathroom. What do I mean, even? I think a bathroom without a bookshelf is as incomplete as would be one without a toilet.”

Can I get an “Amen”?

It’s a quick and wonderful read and, while it used to be impossible to find when I first started looking, there are plenty of editions and copies around online or in eBooks now. You have no excuse. Go forth and slay the jubjub bird and have some fun.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 

Cocktail Hour: Guest bartender Mark Finn serves up the Blood and Thunder

The Blood and Thunder cocktail and its literary inspiration.

Mark Finn is many things: author, actor, essayist, playwright and renown Robert E. Howard scholar — his Howard biography, Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard, was nominated for a World Fantasy award in 2007. And I learned at the 2011 Armadillocon that Mark Finn also is one hell of a bartender. He took his role of toastmaster literally that year, shaking up signature cocktails during one of the room parties while wearing his signature fez.

As such, it only seemed natural for Mark to serve as my first Cocktail Hour guest bartender. Here, he pours us a bacon-spiked cocktail called the Blood and Thunder, inspired by Marly Youman’s recent novel Maze of Blood. Bottoms up!

Conall Weaver is tired. His mother is terminally ill, and he’s the only one who can care for her. His father, Doc Weaver, is one of several doctors living and working in Cross Plains, and he’s always making house call, delivering babies, tending to oil field injuries, and so on. So Conall has spent his adult life, scant as it is, tending to his mother’s needs as tuberculosis eats her away from the inside out. When she’s better, he can relax a bit. He can write. See, Conall Weaver is one of the greatest pulp writers of all time. His stories have appeared in Weird Tales and…oh, wait, you’ve heard this before, huh?

Well, think again. In Marly Youman’s Maze of Blood, we find the somewhat familiar life and times of Texas writer Robert E. Howard borrowed heavily from to prop up Youman’s magical realism novel, a dense and rich prose poem mash-up that reads fast and stays with you afterward.

If you don’t know anything about the life of Robert E. Howard (1906-1936), that’s okay. I wrote a book, and you can check it out here. For those of you who do know something about how one of Texas’ greatest writers spent his days in Cross Plains, this will feel oddly familiar to you. Youmans didn’t so much as borrow from Howard’s life and times as she simply filed off the serial numbers. This may only have been a problem for me, and I acknowledge that fully.

For fans of Conan, Bran Mak Morn, and the rest of Howard’s body of work, you’ll find no new insights here. Instead, you’ll see a man struggling with creative exhaustion, with his mother’s impending death, with rejection, and the grind of day-to-day living in a small Texas town as its sole creative artist. Divorced from Howard’s biography, Youmans has leave to explore some uncomfortable truths about those final days in a way that would be anathema to any die-hard Howard fan. But these are human truths, grounded in sweat and blood.

Youmans’ language is exquisite. She is clearly and obviously a poet, and her skill at choosing simple words to evoke complex pictures is well-served here. And, if I may be so bold, she knows a lot about Howard’s life, as well. I’m not sure if she’s a closet fan or an avid researcher. I’d like to find out what drew her to the subject matter. But Max of Blood is a transformative work, as each even in Conall’s life is given resonance and stories told to him are filtered through his experience and retold on the printed page. That’s the essence of understanding Robert E. Howard, and Marly Youmans gets it.

It was also nice to see her treating the delicate subject matter of Howard’s suicide with respect and gravitas. Her Conall Weaver isn’t so much like Robert E. Howard as the book goes on. Some of the more outlandish myths around Howard serve the fiction better than the man.

In the end, Maze of Blood is a book I would tentatively recommend to less-sensitive Robert E. Howard fans, and unreservedly recommend to lovers of magical realism and stories about writers telling stories. There’s a lot of layers in Maze of Blood, but it’s that complication that makes the novel so rewarding.

In Honor of Maze of Blood, I’m calling this twist on the Old Fashioned a Blood and Thunder. It uses bacon and more bacon. I shouldn’t have to explain to any of you why that’s wonderful.

BLOOD AND THUNDER

2 ounces bacon-infused bourbon (See recipe below)
1/4 ounce Grade B maple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
A twist of orange
Optional cherry for garnish
Optional bacon slice for garnish

In a shaker, add 2 ounces bacon-infused bourbon, maple syrup, and bitters with ice. Shake for 30 seconds. Strain into a glass filled with ice. Squeeze the orange for a touch of acid, and garnish with the cherry and bacon.

BACON-INFUSED BOURBON

4 slices of bacon, thick cut (I use Wright’s Applewood Smoked Bacon)
1 bottle of bourbon (common wisdom says buy a cheap bottle, like Four Roses, but I think a Texas brand is appropriate for this. Pick Something you like.

Cook your bacon in a skillet and reserve rendered fat. When bacon fat has cooled a bit, pour off the fan into a non-porous container, like a glass bowl. Pour the whole bottle of bourbon into a non-porous container. Don’t worry if you have some bits of bacon in there. You can even add a cooked piece of bacon to this mix. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it hang out overnight at room temperature, at least 6 hours. Put the bowl in the freezer for at least 24 hours. I like 72 the best. Very bacon-y. Strain the fat off of the bourbon and run the bourbon through some cheesecloth to catch the globs and bits. When the bourbon is clean and free of debris, put it back in the bottle and be sure to label it with a “B” for bacon on the cap, or you will get a surprise if you’re not careful!

 

 

Forgotten Book: Spicy Adventures by Robert E. Howard (2011)

Tame by today's standards, but enough to get you in trouble in the Bible Belt of the 1930s.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 161st in my series of Forgotten Books.

I love the work of Robert E. Howard. The man from Cross Plains is one of my literary heroes along with Jack London, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Neal Barrett, Jr. And this year I made my second trek to Cross Plains for Howard Days, where he is celebrated in the manner he should be.

I first discovered his work in the mid-1960s with the various Lancer, Ace and Dell editions, particularly the Conan and Kull stories. Then, in the 1970s, the Donald Grant hardcovers along with the Zebra paperbacks brought him deep into my grasp. I managed to get an Arkham House Skullface and Others from the university library. But I had to give it back. Later I got the Neville Spearman hardcover from the UK. When I sold my books I was sorry to see it go, so I was ecstatic when Half Price Books put it into their clearance for $3 about a month later. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

I was also pleased to co-edit Cross Plains Universe: Texas Writers Celebrate Robert E. Howard for the 2006 World Fantasy Convention, where we honored Howard’s centenary. It’s one of the best things I have ever done and I remain inordinately proud of the book.

So, this year, when I went to Howard Days, I got to revisit the Howard house and look at where the magic happened. I took my wife with me since she had never been. It was a great weekend.

And while I was there, I bought some books from the Robert E. Howard Foundation, including this week’s offering, Spicy Adventures. I have a fondness for old pulp stories, particularly the Spicy pulps. I blame Steve Mertz who introduced me to Robert Leslie Bellem and his skewed stories back in the early ’80s. Between him and John Wooley, I read a lot of those things.

By today’s standards, the Spicies are pretty tame. But in the ’30s, you could get in some trouble in the Bible belt if you were seen with one. The Spicies frequently had women in scanty clothing, sometimes ripped or missing. Sex was implied but never seen. And REH wrote several stories for them.

Here we have the five tales that Spicy Adventures bought from Howard, as well as three others written for the market but not purchased. And you also get four synopses and two earlier draft versions of a story as well as an informative introductory essay by fabulous Howard scholar and all around good guy, Patrice Louinet.

The stories are pure pulp adventure, fueled with adrenaline. “The Girl on the Hell Ship,” which has previously been the title story in a paperback collection called She Devil is the first offering. This one was written at the urging of E. Hoffman Price (the only man known to have shaken the hands of both Howard and H. P. Lovecraft, which got him many beers at conventions). Price was regularly selling to Spicy Adventures and found it to be easy money. (For a taste of Price’s work, a wonderful e-book titled The E. Hoffman Price Spicy Adventure Megapack from Wildside Press makes a wonderful experience for your Kindle).

“The Girl on the Hell Ship” features Wild Bill Clanton, who finds young maiden Raquel trying to flee from two brutes from the ship Saucy Wench on a South Pacific island. Things get wild and Clanton eventually assumes command of the ship with the prize of his passion. “Ship in Mutiny” finds Clanton and Raquel displaced from the ship by mutineers who inadvertently kill the only person other than Clanton who can steer the vessel. Unfortunately, the local man-hungry queen of the natives has her eyes on him.

Other fun stories include “The Purple Heart of Erlik,” which Roy Thomas made into a Conan comic (if I recall correctly and I may not) that features a young female grifter trying to escape from the Far East and trapped into a scheme doomed to failure. And then there’s “The Dragon of Kao Tsu” with more Eastern adventure.

Wild Bill Clanton appears in several stories. He is kind of fun.

The book is relatively short, a mere 211 pages. But it has a great cover from premier Howard artists Jim and Ruth Kreegan. It’s a little pricy, but the sales benefit the Robert E. Howard Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving and presenting the works of REH as he wrote them. If you read the deCamp Howard collections, you did not get the full, real Robert E. Howard. So buy books from the foundation.

I picked up 7 books while I was at Howard Days. I didn’t want to spend that much money, but I really, really, really wanted the titles. This particular book is limited to 250 copies. If you are interested, do not hesitate. Check out their website to see all the various volumes available.

Also, if you’re a Howard fan, check out Project Pride, the lovely locals in cross Plains who maintain the Howard House and help host Howard Days.

It’s all worthwhile. And may Crom ignore you when you need it.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 

Forgotten Book: The Whispering Gorilla (1940) and Return of the Whispering Gorilla (1943)

Don't expect to use your logic muscles when you read the "Whispering Gorilla."

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 157th in my series of Forgotten Books.

My love of the gorilla in prose and film has been well documented in the various Forgotten reviews that I have done. So, when Bill Crider reviewed The Whispering Gorilla a few months ago, I was intrigued. Particularly since the novel and its sequel were both readily available from armchair Press for a mere $12.95 with covers on both sides of the trade paperback, much like an old Ace Double, except the second novel and cover were not printed upside down.

Ace reporter, Steve Carpenter, is stepping on toes and receiving death threats. He is investigating the rackets and their possible ties to Nazis! Carpenter is sent by his boss to Africa to hide out and continue writing his stories. But the mob has a hit man who takes his job seriously and he manages to track down Carpenter in Africa.

Carpenter has found a refuge next door to scientist Dr. Devoli who is working on getting a gorilla to speak by modifying the voice box. The gorilla, Plumbutter, is responsive to the surgery. However, when Carpenter is killed, Dr. Devoli decides to go one further and transplants Carpenter’s brain into Plumbutter’s body.

The transplant works and now Carpenter wants to return back to the U.S. to continue writing his expose. To do this, he convinces a Broadway promoter to star him in a play as the most amazing gorilla actor ever. Everyone knows that he must be someone in a gorilla suit, because gorillas cannot talk. He never appears out of the “suit” which creates publicity and gets on the radio under the pseudonym “W.G.” Clever.

He fights the gangsters and the mob on the air and in the paper. He is once again a target but he is the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Gradually, he finds the transplant has some problems and Plumbutter’s body begins to invade his consciousness. With Devoli’s help, they manage to stop the Nazi threat.

This sequel and its predecessor offer simian pulp fun.

This first “novel” was written by Don Wilcox under the editorship of David V. Reed who worked hard with Wilcox in its construction. Later, Reed would write the sequel.

Carpenter is still fighting his gorilla nature. He and Devoli are working in Africa. However, the drugs necessary to keep Carpenter in control are becoming harder to obtain because the World War is going on and the sanity doses are becoming less frequent. Carpenter is in communication with the local gorillas, whom he can understand. He is called Ologwa the Strange One and he tries to teach the gorillas how to control fire and other human traits.

Since the World War features in here, we’ve got to have Nazis! And they show up with a beautiful girl in tow. They want Devoli to provide trained gorillas to pilot suicide mini-subs to throttle the Allies’ fleets.

Ologwa is having trouble with hisz reasoning abilities and starts to work with the Nazis, but he fools them at the same time.

This is pure pulp fiction. Logic is not going to work hard here, but I had fun. This has B movie written all over it and I am surprised one wasn’t made. It would have been great fun for America’s youth and the war effort.

You are not going to confuse these books with anything written later than 1945, but if you’re in the mood for some wild gorilla action, they fill the bill. Check it out.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 

Forgotten Book: The Sinister Shadow by Kenneth Robeson (Will Murray) (2015)

Two pulp heroes square off in Doc Savage: The Sinister Shadow.

Review by Scott A. Cupp

This is the 154th in my series of Forgotten Books.

I was hooked as soon as I saw the cover – Doc Savage versus The Shadow. I have been a fan of both since the mid 1960’s, encountering The Shadow first in the Belmont series written by Dennis Lynds and Doc Savage when Bantam began it reprints. I found the Walter Gibson Shadow novels when Bantam (and later Pyramid) began the reprints of those early pulp classics.

So, when Bill Crider offered me his copy of this fine book, I knew I would be reading it straight away. I was familiar with Will Murray’s Doc Savage adaptations (reviewing Skull Island a few years ago, where Doc Savage and his father ran into King Kong). The Murray work was great, building on the style established by Lester Dent (the real-life name of Kenneth Robeson, for 159 of the 181 novels in the original pulp series run). In this novel, Murray tries to capture the style of both Dent and of Gibson (who did at least 282 of the 325 The Shadow novels, published as by Maxwell Grant) as the viewpoints change throughout the novel.

I started that evening. It was compulsive reading. Murray was familiar with much of the minutiae of each character, throwing the casual Shadow fan for a loop with the early kidnapping of Lamont Cranston and Doc Savage’s aide Theodore “Ham” Brooks. Lamont Cranston was a real New York millionaire that The Shadow had coerced into taking long vacations so that The Shadow could use his connections and identity. In this novel, the real Cranston is back and The Shadow is masquerading as George Clarendon. Cranston and Brooks are kidnapped as they try to reach Doc Savage. Cranston’s lawyer Sidney Palmer-Letts is killed outside of George Clarendon’s hotel room. Everything revolves around a mysterious blackmail note received by Cranston requiring $250,000 be paid or else he face dire consequences.

Rich people around New York are dying of unexpected heart attacks. Doc Savage is convinced something sinister is going on. He and Monk Mayfair are the only ones of his crew in town and they are after this mysterious Shadow who may be behind the whole blackmail thing.

Meanwhile, an evil villain known as The Funeral Director is plotting more. Twice he has evaded The Shadow and wants nothing more than his nemesis’ death.

The action is fast and furious as The Shadow must avoid a hero as swift and brilliant as he is while trying to rescue Cranston and others. Sidemen such as Harry Vincent, Burbank and Clyde Burke assist The Shadow while Monk and Ham assist Doc Savage. The Shadow radio show appears as part of the plot, as does Doc Savage’s criminal rehabilitation facility where criminal tendencies are excised from the brain via surgery. Margo Lane (a radio creation not originally part of The Shadow’s team) is not seen in the book, which I thought was too bad.

I loved this book, even though it was long (over 470 pages), which equates to between three or four Shadow or Doc Savage novels. When I finished, I was sorry it was done and wanted to be there for another 100 or more pages.

If you like either of the two characters, you will love the book. Murray also has a recent Tarzan novel RETURN TO PAL-UL-DON, a sequel to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ TARZAN THE TERRIBLE. Both books are from Altus Press, a wonderful small publisher devoted to the pulps with reprints of great stories, histories of the magazines and writers, and some new work in the pulp tradition. You will probably have to order the book yourself as most bookstores are unlikely to have it on the shelves. If you can get your local bookstore to carry the publisher, you will be richly rewarded with some wonderful reading in all their publications. (This has been an unpaid, heartfelt endorsement from a reader who loves this stuff.)

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 

Forgotten Book: Slaves of Sleep by L. Ron Hubbard (1939)

Review by Scott A. Cupp

This is the 152nd in my series of Forgotten Books.

There was a time when Ron Hubbard was considered a very good writer of science fiction, fantasy, western, adventure and other types of pulp fiction. Then came the Dianetics and Scientology works and he entered into the religious field. Regardless of your opinions of his later efforts, his early writings contain some fine work.

I first read SLAVES OF SLEEP about 20 years ago and enjoyed it quite a bit. The other day I was looking for a new Forgotten Book and this one jumped up and said “ME! ME! ME!”

Never being one to refuse a book screaming to be read, I picked it up again. Instantly, I was back in its thrall. Jan Palmer is a young man who has a problem. He’s the head of a transportation company worth a lot of money and he has no interest in it at all. The business is run by his lawyer and business manager. Jan likes his books, boats and other stuff. He lives with his Aunt Ethel who respects the local mutts more than Jan.

When visited by Professor Frobish, Jan finds himself with a problem. Frobish recognizes a large brass jar in Jan’s home as a sealed bottle containing an Ifrit, a type of genii. Jan refuses to let Frobish examine the bottle, so Frobish breaks into Jan’s home at night and breaks the seal on the bottle, releasing the Ifrit, one Zongri. Zongri has been imprisoned for many thousands of years. At first, he promised himself that he would reward anyone who released him with incalculable riches. Then he promises revenge on the human race. Zongri kills Professor Frobish and curses Jan to a life of eternal wakefulness. When the police arrive, Jan’s story is met with derision and he finds himself facing murder charges. Unwilling to lie, he is universally despised.

The problems really escalate when he tries to sleep. Suddenly, Jan finds himself in a fantasy world where Ifrits flourish and he is known as a sailor named Tiger. He is in trouble in both worlds, facing certain death in either one. People from his Earth world seem to be prevalent in some form in the fantasy world. Living in both worlds, he gets no rest and is running ragged in both.

It’s not a great novel or an important one, but it is fun. Some of the characters are stereotypes but I found I could not stop reading and enjoying it. The paperback I was reading reprinted some of Edd Cartier’s illustrations from UNKNOWN magazine which are quite fun.

If this sounds like fun, check it out. There was a hardcover edition from Shasta Publications with a striking Hannes Bok cover. There is also a sequel MASTERS OF SLEEP which I have not read and cannot comment on. SLAVES has had several paperback editions, some in combination with the sequel.  You might also check out THE ASTOUNDING, THE AMAZING, AND THE UNKNOWN by Paul Malmont which features Hubbard in a World War II adventure with Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and L. Sprague de Camp.  It was quite a bit of fun, too.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.