Friday, December 25, 2020

Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, October 1969

Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. Volume 14, number 10. Ernest M. Hutter, ed. H.S.D. Publications, Inc. October 1969.

Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine (October 1969) - The Alfred ...AHMM, October 1969 at Goodreads
AHMM, October 1969 at The Alfred Hitchcock wiki

Overall Rating:     7/10

With pics of interior art coming in a day or two... [EDIT: this week I hope.]

Overall, a pretty good issue, with only one story I did not like. The bulk of the stories are forgettable, yet enjoyable enough to read, and many of the selections here managed to find their way into anthologies, including a few in Alfred Hitchcock Presents anthologies. My favourite story is the character-based "The Attitude of Murder," by Nedra Tyre, who I am not familiar with. Other good ones are: "Pardon My Death Ray" by the always enjoyable Jack Ritchie, "Killer in Town" by Max Van Derveer, and "Scream All the Way" by Michael Collins.

My copy is a sad mess. Not only is it overly yellow, but the spine is broken, there is writing on the cover, and a stain on the back. Luckily I paid 0.35 when I picked it up second-hand at NDG Paperback sometime in the mid-80s, probably in a similar condition, only a little less yellow.

Jack B. Daggett's Lament by Frank Sisk     6/10
Narrator Al stops by a small town bar for a drink and something to eat. There he meets patron Jack B. Daggett, who, for the price of a few drinks, recounts his life history. A promising young chemist, he met a corrupt woman who guided him to marry a young and innocent orphaned named Christian, in order to gain access to her sizable inheritance. Of course, things became complicated when Jack fell in love with the woman.

Regular contributor Frank Sisk delivers a somewhat overlong but fairly good story. As most of his short stories, this one is character driven, featuring misconceptions and a small twist. This one tries hard to provide pathos, and with some editing could have easily been improved.

Killer in Town by Max Van Derveer     7/10
Sheriff Billy-Don Joe Glover is anticipating trouble as war hero Matthew Charles McLamp is slated to return to town. The son of the town's wealthiest citizen, years before he had killed a young girl in a traffic collision, and though rumours of his being inebriated behind the wheel pervaded the town, his wealthy father managed to help get him acquitted. Sheriff Glover is concerned that the victim's father would attempt some kind of revenge. While he was away, Matt's new bride Ertha moved into the Big House with his parents, and his dad hired a friend of theirs to chauffeur the lonely girl and keep her company as she awaits her husband's return.

A layered mystery, there is much I like about this one. Pervading the story is a strong sense of despondency, as this successful family lives isolated at home while its ostracized heir is fighting in Vietnam. The family is perpetually punished for both the accident that killed the little girl, yet more so as a result of the acquittal. Beyond the family's experience is the sheriff, offspring of the town's founding fathers, near the end of his career. He knows everyone in town, has a good sense of character, and yet, we discover, misreads each of the players in this complex drama. An AHMM story with more subtle depth than its average feature.

The Waiting Room by Charles W. Runyon     6/10
A trio of thieves and killers on the run hole up in an abandoned service station, surrounded by police. Told through the point of view of Pawley, the leader, he reflects on the current situation and how he has dragged his brother John and his lover Shirley down to this point.

A good read, though I remember liking it more when I was a kid. This was one of the stories that stood out to me from all the back issues I was reading in the 80s. From an adult perspective, it is good, and the existential elements delivered from unlikable and unsympathetic characters is interesting in of itself, yet it is surface only, with no actual depth. Though I suppose this is appropriate since there is no real depth among these characters.

"The Waiting Room" has been reprinted a number of times, including in three AH anthologies: Alfred Hitchcock's Death-Mate (NY: Dell Publishing, May 1973), Alfred Hitchcock's Tales to Make You Quake and Quiver (ed. Cathleen Jordan. N: Davis Publications, 1982), and Portraits of Murder (ed. Eleanor Sullivan. Galahad Books, 1988).

Pardon My Death Ray by Jack Ritchie     7/10
Re-printed in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, mid-December 1991
At a university campus, a man informs two instructors that he is from another planet, and that his people inadvertently launched a death ray at Earth that will kill everyone on the planet at ten after eight that evening.

An amusing short short story that, despite its brevity, manages to toss in a couple of twists. Jack Ritchie was always among my favourite regular AHMM contributors, under this pseudonym or that of Steve O'Connell, and this silly little piece of science fiction is a treat to read. (Though I am left wondering why members from such an advanced species would still carry bits of paper in their pockets.)

The story was among nine reprinted for the magazine's thirty-fifth anniversary (along with seven originals), for mid-December 1991 issue. I don't believe it has been reprinted elsewhere.

A Little Time Off by Stephen Wasylyk     6/10
City detective Dave Malone is on a fishing vacation in the woods, and is wading with his reel when a small fishing boat explodes. He is enticed through guilt by local sheriff Tom Fulton to help investigate the incident, and they learn quickly enough that the boat's engine did not explode, but that instead the boat was blown up. It must be murder!

A decent enough story, quick and wraps up nicely, though the forced humour could have been excised, or at least trimmed.

The Secret Savant by Edward D. Hoch     6/10
Missing persons expert Trainor is hired by a state university to locate esteemed Chemistry professor Ronald Croft, who vanished seemingly without a trace. Yet Croft locates him quite quickly, and learns that the professor is away to conduct an experiment related to his research on the connection between genes, chromosomes and criminal behaviour.

Predictable, and our hero goes from confident investigator to panicky plot trope, but ends on a nice cynical take on the human condition.

Scream All the Way by Michael Collins (Dennis Lynds)     7/10
One-armed detective Dan Fortune is hired to help guard a safe containing $250,000 in cash of bonus pay for the sales staff of a major rug company. Following a burglary attempt, the insurance company demanded that the safe be guarded at all times, and Fortune, along with a partner, must spend the night at The Sussex Towers to ensure the safety of the cash. On that first night, however, there is an unusual amount of traffic on the floor, and Fortune decides to investigate.

A good story, with a surprisingly large cast for a short story, though without getting overcrowded. Dan Fortune is a recurring character, and I quite liked him, attitude and intelligence-wise. Some nice commentary on crime along the way fro our hardened investigator, and I liked the dedication to solving a crime he did not need to even acknowledge, as he would benefit either way. I would seek out more stories of this Dan Fortune.

Both "Scream All the Way" and Charles W. Runyon's "The Waiting Room" were included in Alfred Hitchcock's Tales to Make You Quake and Quiver (Anthology #11) (ed. Cathleen Jordan. NY: Davis Publications, 1982). I recall reading the anthology as a kid, thinking this was lazy editing, but in all honesty, both stories are deserving of the reprint.

Thief in the Night by Carroll Mayers     6/10
Misogynist diamond thief Harry Tyson is vacationing at a sunny resort. On the balcony late one night, he witnesses a beautiful young woman commit what appears to be a robbery next door. When questioned by resort security the next morning, if he'd seen anything, Tyson keeps quiet, and instead searches for the woman so he can blackmail her.

An average story, saved by its brevity. Fairly predictable, and we know that a misogynist such as Tyson will get his just desserts. There's also some detail about our protagonist that's only revealed at the climax, which is always ant-climactic. Nonetheless readable.

Go Ahead and Talk by Liane Keen     5/10
An American visiting London following a long absence runs into an old friend in a pub. The friend, the wealthy recently widowed Peter Carstairs, invites our unnamed narrator to his home, and opens up about the difficulties he had with his beautiful and loving--though incredibly jealous--wife.

Predictable in the worst way; simply in that there was really only one way the story could end. The long lead-up was not interesting enough either, weakened by its conclusion. There is also an uncomfortable scene of physical domestic abuse, discussed as though it were the most natural thing. I wonder if "Liane Keen" is genuinely a woman. This appears to be her only published story... but I did not search too hard.

The Attitude of Murder by Nedra Tyre     7/10
On a beautiful day, the routine walk of retired Alexander Hull is extended, taking him to an unfamiliar neighbourhood. Having lost his hearing, Hall's perception of physical attributes has become heightened, or so he believes, and looking through an upstairs window he is convinced he has witnessed a murder. He is then struck with the dilemma that many an unwitting eyewitness to a possible crime has faced: how to convince the authorities?

This story is focused not primarily on the crime, but on the character of the witness. The plot is mere trope for the development of our protagonist: a lonely widow with limited funds, who has little in life but a small apartment and a tight routine. There is natural empathy toward Mr. Hall (he even reminds me, to a certain degree, of my dad), and the reader believes what he saw while sympathizing with his meagre canned dinners and rising costs of food. There is a great tragedy here, in that Mr. Hall succumbs to being a man with no purpose to serve.

Anthologized in Alfred Hitchcock's Let it All Bleed Out (NY: Dell Publishing, 1973), which also includes another story from this issue, the lesser "The Hand."

Poof! by Syd Hoff     6/10
In the middle of the night, Charles Bergman hears a voice clearly informing him that the world will be coming to an end, and that he will be the sole remaining survivor. He immediately awakens, and kisses his wife goodbye, inadvertently waking her. We are meant to wonder whether Bargman has lost his grip on reality, or if really he is fated to become the last man on Earth. We do not wonder for long, as the story skips quickly to its conclusion.

Very short and overall forgettable, but fun enough while it lasts. Hoff was a popular cartoonist in his day, and had a handful of stories published in the pages of AHMM, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, Charlie Chan Mystery Magazine, and some others. Four of his short stories have been included in AH: Presents anthologies: "A Hundred Times" in Alfred Hitchcock's Hard Day at the Scaffold (NY: Dell Publishing, 1967), "The Human Fly" in Alfred Hitchcock's Death-Mate (NY: Dell Publishing, May 1973), "The Ghost and Mr. Grebner" in Alfred Hitchcock's Behind the Death Ball (NY: Dell Publishing, November 1974), "Older than Springtime" in Alfred Hitchcock's Coffin Break (NY: Dell Publishing, May 1974), and "The Ghost and Mr. Grebner" in Alfred Hitchcock's Behind the Death Ball (NY: Dell Publishing, November 1974.

Hand by William Brittain     6/10
A major traffic jam brings cars to a standstill. Edward Julian is stuck behind a green Chevy, frustrated at the delay, when he notices the vehicle to his left, its suspicious female driver, and a sheet in the back seat which is exposed to reveal a hand with a stream of blood. As with "Attitude of Murder," how does our unwitting eyewitness convince the police that a murder was committed? Particularly when the local homicide detective is overly tired from working two straight shifts?

Predictable, and with an ending that's a bit wonky as it transforms into an unnecessary action sequence. Since it's post denouement, it's just tiring. However, the first part is well done.

Anthologized in Alfred Hitchcock's Let it All Bleed Out (NY: Dell Publishing, 1973), which also includes another story from this issue, the superior "Attitude of Murder."

Doing His Hamlet Thing by Lee Chisholm     6/10
At the Benigno police station, Lieutenant Michael O'Shea is facing his once high school English teacher. As a student, O`Shea had complained to Miss Dawson about Hamlet's methodical, inactive method, and his teacher's response was that Hamlet was taking his time, mulling things over as he tries to unravel the mysteries that abound in the plot. Now, as O'Shea interrogates Miss Dawson about the corpse of a small-time crook that was recently discovered nearby, along with some old clippings found in the dead man's wallet, O'Shea is taking his time piecing together his theory of the motives behind the man's death. He is doing his Hamlet thing.

Another entertaining, brief little story. Predictable, but well laid out and I do like the concept. What I like most is the idea that this teacher, doing her best to educate a disinterested student, may have planted the seed that led to her unravelling; that her guidance that influenced his bright future, uncovered her dark past. Maybe a few Shakespeare references might have made it a little more fun. Or maybe not.

Memory of a Murder by Clark Howard     5/10
Magazine writer Dan Briggs arrives in the small town of Lakeford to write about a thirty year-old murder for a series of unsolved cases. In October 1940, young Jennie Hunt was strangled in the cemetery grounds, and her boyfriend Billy Deever was believed by townsfolk to be the killer. Yet Deever disappeared that night, and has not been found in the twenty-nine years since the crime.

Predictable all around, but decent enough of a story. How he fled Lakeford was pretty cool. I didn't care how the murder was presented, particularly the forced meanness of Jessie, almost presenting Deever as the victim, when clearly it was she.

Clark Howard was a prolific mystery writer, whose work appeared in many issues of AHMM and other magazines. For a list of his numerous short story publications, you can visit the webpage dedicated to his writing at clarkhowardauthor.


Todd Mason said...

Glad as always to see you back at it, Frank!

This is the only Liane Keen story cited in the FictionMags Index, so a good question whether ?she published again. for the issue.

Casual Debris said...

(Thanks Todd. Life has been hectic since my daughter's birth! She turned four & is getting independent so I'm hoping to be more active here.)

I did check the index & other sources, and noticed it appears to be her only published piece. It is possible it's a pseudonym, but since the story is quite weak, even by 1969 standards, I am assuming it is her only published piece.

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