Thursday, October 04, 2007

Mystery Thriller

Originally published 28 May 2007, I'm reposting because I've managed to add five more covers recently, including the mysterious Trail of the Vampire (see comments). The other four are scans from Morgan Wallace (publisher of The Spectre Library) to whom I send my thanks. Here's the original post...

A few days ago, Keith Chapman (aka Black Horse Western writer Chap O'Keefe and editor of Black Horse Extra), dropped in a comment about a series of little booklets I mentioned, the Mystery 4½d Thriller published by Grayling Publishing Co.

This was a series of 32-page booklets that appeared in around 1949-50.

1 Kelso, Jack • Smashing the Drug Ring • nd (c.1949), 32pp, 4½d, [anon].
2 MacRae, Roy • The Black Cat Murder • nd (c.1949), 32pp, 4½d, [anon].
3 Brand, Chris • Trail of the Vampire • nd (c.1949), 32pp, 4½d, [anon].
4 Macrae, Roy • Dangerous Lady • nd (c.1949), 32pp, 4½d, [anon].
5 Kelso, Jack • Brother Strangler • nd (c.1949), 32pp, 4½d, [anon].
6 Greig, Lester • The Woman in Black • nd (c.1949), 32pp, 4½d, [anon].
7 Nicholls, Starr • Death in the Jungle • nd (c.1949), 32pp, 4½d, [anon].
8 Kelso, Jack • The Ghost Skier • nd (c.1949), 32pp, 4½d, [anon].
9 Elliot, W. J. • The Circle of Death • nd (c.1949), 32pp, 4½d, [anon].
10 Campbell, Don • The Murder Trap • nd (c.1949), 32pp, 4½d, [anon].
11 Burke, Michael • Murder on Film • nd (c.1949), 32pp, 4½d, [anon].
12 Kelso, Jack • Diamonds Spell Death • nd (c.1949), 32pp, 4½d, [anon].
13 Duval, Henry • Witch Woman • nd (c.1950), 32pp, 4½d, [anon].
14 Scott, Frank • Murder Will Out • nd (c.1950), 32pp, 4½d, [anon].
15 Lamond, Gaston • Window of Death • nd (c.1950), 32pp, 4½d, [anon].
16 Duval, Henry • Murder in Mayfair • nd (c.1950), 32pp, 4½d, [anon].

Two of these (nos. 9 and 10) we've recently discovered were published back in around 1938 by Publishers Agents Ltd. although the others would appear to be new titles. I say "appear to be" because Keith tells me that one of them (no. 3) is a reprint of an old US pulp magazine story. Below are some scans of the various issues I have. If anyone can add any more cover scans, send 'em along. They'll be very welcome.

Hope these bring back some happy memories, Keith!


  1. Thanks for the follow-up, Steve! The cover for "Trail of the Vampire" by Chris Brand is by the same artist and in the same style as those shown. The story is one of two that originally appeared, March 1932, as by US pulp writer Paul Frederick Ernst in Clayton Magazines Inc's short-lived Strange Tales, which was a competitor to the famous Weird Tales, to which Ernst was also a contributor. The story was then called "The Duel of the Sorcerers". It was reprinted in 1970 in Robert A. W. Lowndes' Magazine of Horror in two parts. The yarn is grand old melodramatic fun:

    Yet the professor was still defiant.
    "It will yet be victory !" he panted. "You -- thief and murderer !"
    "Thief?" Doctor Quoy broke in suavely. "You are still bitter about my acquisition of the lost Cagliostro, I see. Murderer? You know as well as I how I must derive my sustenance. And you know as well as I that the most effective way of divining the future is by reading the signs to be obtained -- only with human sacrifice."
    "You fiend from hell!" grated Tholl.
    Doctor Quoy bowed ironically.

    Naturally, the exchange takes place over the unconscious form of a lovely girl, Priscilla, lying in a coffin, "her cheeks white as snow and her hands folded over her breast in the pose of death" !

    Like others here, I mourn the passing of such silly but robust fiction. Without going over the top, I try to work some of the flavour into my work for the Black Horse Western series, which is about the only market in the UK taking what might be called fiction in a pulp tradition. I'm currently planning my twentieth Chap O'Keefe novel, and the fifth story to feature harum-scarum heroine Misfit Lil -- a throwback if there ever was!

  2. Thanks for the comments, Keith. The other books in the series that I've seen all seem to be British originals with British settings. I wonder if the Paul Ernst story had been sitting around since the 1930s waiting to be reprinted as part of the earlier Mystery Thriller series? It may have been reprinted, for all I know, as there are still holes in that list.



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