UNLOCKING THE MYSTERIES OF SATURN SCIENCE FICTION/WEB DETECTIVE/WEB TERROR.
Part Two: The Annotated Index to Web Detective Stories
by Peter Enfantino
Of all the crime digests I've collected, the one title that gave me the most trouble was WEB DETECTIVE (WD). It's not just that WD suffered from lousy distribution and rack placement (as did most of the lesser crime digests of the early 60s), but it also has the distinction of being one of the most confusing digests of all time.
WD was born SATURN, THE MAGAZINE OF SCIENCE FICTION (Candar Publishing) in March 1957. The editor was the respected Donald A. Wollheim, editor of Ace Books (later to found DAW Books), and the contents varied from non-fiction to reprints to fiction by such genre mainstays as Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg. Not able to distinguish itself from the dozens of other sf digests of the late 1950s, SATURN soon found itself facing extinction. For some unknown reason, the publisher chose to simply change its title to SATURN WEB DETECTIVE STORIES after only five issues, rather than kill SATURN SF and start up a crime digest (I'm assuming that the publisher, in his infinite wisdom, decided that the crime waters weren't as crowded as the SF sea). This contributes to some of the mass confusion surrounding WD. If it weren't for scholars and historians like Bill Pronzini and Mike Ashley, youngsters such as myself would still be searching the internet for those illusive first five issues of WEB DETECTIVE. Add to the confusion the fact that there are actually two issues labeled Volume Two/Number Three, and that some issues are dated differently on their covers and contents page (presenting the dealer with a dilemma: which date do I list in my catalog?), and you understand why this run is such a collecting nightmare.
So what constitutes WD, and is it worth plunking down from 20 to 30 bucks an issue? I think so, but then I'm a crazed crime digest collector. Obviously not many others side with my opinion since I've yet to see a WD story anthologized, even though there are at least two dozen (out of 148 stories) that are worthy of a second look.
Much of the time, the titles of the WEB DETECTIVE stories made little, if any, sense, and related to the story even less. For instance, "A Skeleton For Her Bed" from Volume 3/#1 not only omits the skeleton, but also the bed. The story could have and should have been titled "Woman in Chains." The formula for a WEB title might just have been something resembling a "Mad Lib," a substitute word game -
"The (place noun here) Was a (place noun here) for the Mob!" orTry it, it'll work.
"She (place adjective) Me For My (place noun here)!"
After 14 issues, Candar decided that maybe the money wasn't in crime stories, so they folded WD and jumped into the profitable waters of bondage horror stories. In our third (and final) installment of THE TANGLED WEB next issue, we'll see just how profitable those waters really were.
Vol. 1/#6 August 1958
Night of Discovery! by Art Serra ** (4100 wds)
Two juvenile delinquents break into the house of fiftyish Hugh Davy and his (much) younger wife Nan and threaten the woman with assault. Much to the husband's surprise, Nan seems up to the occasion. In fact, she welcomes becoming the object of molten desire after "being the good little wife for eight months." Seething with rage, Hugh manages to get the two youths stone drunk, offs his adulterating bitch of a wife, and successfully pins the murder on the two boys.
Blood Bath For the General! by Bill Ryder **½ (4600 wds)
The narrator owns a cover bar (lots of illegal activities flourish in the back rooms) frequented by "the general," a big bruiser who's usually bombed and spouting stories about women he bedded during WW II. Enter Cora, an enterprising young dame who decides to cut herself in on the bar's action through blackmail. This doesn't sit well with our storyteller, so he rapes and murders Cora and attempts to frame the General. After murdering the General, he strips the body in anticipation of the arrival of the police. Our amazed, but not amused, protagonist then discovers why the General never bragged about his conquests after World War II!
Too Hot to Handle! by Art Crockett *½ (3800 wds)
Barry does some dumb gambling and ends up owing a bundle to big-time shark Matteo Fink. Fink gives Barry two days to cough up the dough, but on the way to pay, Barry gets rolled by luscious Leslie. The beautiful redhead, however, cops a tude, insisting she had nothing to do with the rip-off. Enraged, Barry brings Leslie to Fink (aka "The Mad Dog Lover") as "collateral" until the green shows up. After the mad Dog begins pawing Leslie's ripe vitals, Barry develops a sudden fondness for Leslie and stomps the big man. He flees with the nubile nymph and begins life of love (albeit on the run).
Jealous Husband! by Leslie G. Sabo * (2100 wds)
Matt and Lila don't have what you'd call an ideal marriage: he drinks and she's an adulteress. When Matt swears to kill all of Lila's lovers, Lila pulls a fast one and cons her dopey husband into killing his own brother in a fit of jealous rage. She plans to hold this over Matt's head: she'll go the cops if he won't let her play the field. Matt agrees, but as the phone rings once again for his wife the lush, we see the thought balloon rise over Matt's head, warning us he'll kill again.
Cal Johnson's life has never been the same since he turned squealer on his partner. Now he's opened himself for beatings from everyone on the street, including our man of the moment, Slim. Our story opens with Slim doing the squealer stomp on poor Cal on his way to meet up with partner-in-crime, Fats (not to be confused with Abbott and Costello). The two are caught by a shotgun-toting farmer while lifting watermelons. Fats gets away but Slim goes right to jail without passing GO. To avoid severe beatings from the sheriff and his sadistic deputy, Slim gives up Fats on the condition that no one on the street is to find out exactly who gave up Fats. But the sheriff isn't known for his honesty and Slim becomes "open game" on the streets just like his old friend Cal. Not Harlan Ellison, but still an enjoyable j.d. tale.
Aggie decides to turn in her vicious mob boss Big Mike after she witnesses the brutal murder of her friend, Jerry. The DA promises protection for Aggie if she'll testify against the Big Man, and she's whisked away to a remote cabin. There to greet her is Big Mike, who we learn has bought the services of the DA.
PI Calvin Dugan has been hired by Mrs. Lloyd Harrison to keep watch over her daughter Carol, who's joined a female gang dubbed the Brazen Beauties. Having dabbled in the horrors of cigarettes, alcohol, and dope, the BBs turn their attention to hot sex. Carol is to be initiated, by losing her virginity, when Dugan breaks up the gang and saves the day. Turns out that Carol is the mastermind behind the gang and had plotted to blackmail her socialite mother to keep the details quiet.
Francine, a teasing alley cat, is found murdered and the suspect list includes many former lovers.
Pete Brennan is conned by a lush into killing her rich old man, a stock investor. Every night the old man goes for a walk across San Francisco's Bay Bridge, so Pete plans the attack on the span. After shooting the man and watching the body hit the water far below, Pete is confronted by the police, who patrol the bridge for potential suicides. While fleeing, Brennan is shot and hangs from bridge, awaiting death. He overhears the cops discuss how ironic the case is after they find a suicide note in the old man's coat pocket. He had just lost his fortune on the stock market and, rather than face his wife with the failure, decided to cash in his chips.
Nasty short-short about a bank robber who kidnaps and rapes a passing motorist. The girl is so humiliated and shamed she ends up offing both of them by wrecking her car. "Come Die With Me" is one of the best illustrations of just how violent, dark, and downright vile some of these late 1950s crime stories could be.
The musings of a sexually-driven serial killer. Below average chiller does have a neat twist ending to elevate it above total sludge.
Harvey Muller exits the slammer with only two objectives: find his remarried ex-wife and get back the fifty thousand in stolen loot she's got stashed for him. His plans quickly fall apart when he's followed by cops right up to the ex's doorstep. "Journey's climax is proof that even nasty WEB villains can have a "happily ever after."
Vol. 2/#1 October 1958
The Lady Was No Angel! by Al James * (3400 wds)
Ex-con Mike Brent loses his job and wife and is contemplating re-entering the safe cracking business when he has an afternoon fling with Mrs. Kessler, a neighbor down the hall. Mrs. Kessler confides in Brent that Mr. Kessler hasn't exactly been raising the pole lately. That same night, Brent returns to his apartment to find the police. Mr. Kesler has been murdered and the Mrs. is claiming Mike raped her and offed her hubby.
Life is Worth Dying! by Marvin Gray *½ (3400 wds)
Steve McGann rescues Marcy from drowning, an attempted suicide. In a bizarre twist, McGann had come to murder the girl to avenge the death of his brother, who had fallen in love with Marcy and turned to crime to maintain a rich lifestyle. McGann nurses Marcy back to health (she has TB) and happiness, only to reveal that his intention is to carry out her murder once she attained that happiness.
For Sale - Death! by Pete McCann *½ (4600 wds)
A drug pusher named Fang enjoys the immense power he holds over his customers. After a bad beating from a cokehead, Fang decides to restrict his clientele to women. At the same time, he decides that money isn't everything and puts the moves on a new druggie named Sylvia. Fang gets his just desserts in the end when it turns out that Sylvia is actually the wife of a former customer who was killed in a liquor store holdup, trying to get bucks for his drugs.
Murder's Icy Finger! by Bill Ryder * (4250 wds)
Dan and Sylvia plot to steal an old woman's jewels by torturing her, but the cops show up in the middle of their fun. Cynthia escapes with the jewels and Dan is thrown in the big house for seven long years. When he's released, you guessed it, he tracks Cynthia down and threatens to kill her if she doesn't fork over the jewels. But Cynthia has a contingency plan all worked out for the thug and, before long, Dan is no longer a problem.
Johnny Santos is hired by adulteress Grace Brandon to off a blackmailer. Santos does the hit and then finds he's been suckered into murdering Mr. Brandon. Grace stands to inherit a mountain of green, and makes the mistake of attempting a stiff on Johnny. Not a wise move.
Flash Floran and his assistant Mona take dirty pictures of married men and then sell them to the wives to use in divorce cases. Flash becomes infatuated with one of his wealthy clients and reels her in. Mona, in a jealous rage, uses some of Flash's own tricks on him to bring him back to earth.
Tracey, attending a real estate convention, decides to hire some female companionship and gets the voluptuous Marcia. Fearing that one of the other agents might tip-off his wife, Tracey suggests that he and Marcia should head off to a different spot. Marcia steers him towards a park bench, where the two are accosted by thugs who snap photos of Tracey in unpuritan poses with Marcia. The crooks threaten to send the photos home to the little lady. The joke's on the crooks though, as Tracey reveals that it they who have been set up. Seems one of his buddies fell prey in the past to Marcia and her camera-boys and committed suicide. Now Tracey and a batch of buddies, who soon arrive on the scene, exact a nasty revenge.
Card shark Johnny Morgan rolls into town and joins in a game with the respectable, and quite wealthy, Lou Shero. Morgan takes Shero for every penny he's worth, which doesn't sit well with the big man. Morgan is set up as fall guy for a rape charge by one of Shero's "girls" and is hauled away. Last line is a hoot.
Unintentionally (I assume) hilarious story of Larry Fenton, whose only goal in life, it would seem, is to continually top his worst crime. In the course of this story, he smokes marijuana, drinks to excess, beats the whores he pimps for, and, oh yes, kills women and fondles the stockings he removes from their corpses. Fenton leads the good life until he picks up a hooker who turns out to be a serial killer as well.
Pete Strand is the only man on a jury panel who votes to hang a transient accused of murdering a well-known local named Quincy in Strand's barn. The other men are curious about Pete's behavior since it's widely known that Quincy had an affair with Strand's wife. Wouldn't Strand be happy to let loose the man who killed his wife's lover? Pete makes a convincing argument that, revenge be damned, there is just too much physical evidence to let the guy go (Quincy's body was never found but the barn was splattered with his blood). Strand finally gets his way and a guilty verdict is handed down. He drives home and takes a badly wounded Quincy out of a closet and puts a bullet in him, musing that a jury couldn't convict him of the murder now because Quincy has been ruled dead. A very average story that raises a couple amusing red flags. How could Strand serve on a jury at a trial that so obviously affects him and his judgment? Most importantly, how the heck did Strand manage to keep the mortally wounded Quincy alive all during the judicial process?
Undercover cop Don Cassidy's new hush-hush assignment is to roust prostitutes. This isn't sitting well with Don's conscience nor, it turns out, with his wife. Seems Don is so ashamed of busting call girls that he avoids notifying his wife, who, noticing the lipstick on Don's collars, follows him to one of his busts. She spills his guts before he can. "A Long, Violent Night" is a wildly bad story, one of those "so bad it's good" tales that usually populates the Mike Avallone universe. With priceless prose like:
"Somebody put another slug in the jukebox and the scratchy record came to life again. A girl's plaintive, whining voice told of wax heartbreak. Cassidy hated the song. He hated the cheap bar. He detested being there in the first place. But most of all he bathed (sic) himself tonight."and:
"He saw the weazened man's yellow teeth glaring nakedly and obscenely from behind the leering smirk which creased the death's head skull."
Vol. 2/#2 February 1959 (inside cover indicates V.2/#1)
Scream the Night Through! by Don Unatin ** (3050 wds)
MaryLou is savagely raped in an alleyway but doesn't report it to the police because her husband wouldn't emotionally be able to handle the violation. What author Unatin lets us in on towards the climax is that hubby Charlie is "too much of a gentleman" and MaryLou could no longer "deny her instincts schooled through the ages-of wanting to be over-powered and mastered." Something that Charlie could never give her. Misogynist, yes, but a curio that tells a lot about the climate in the 1950s. MaryLou dresses up sexily and gets what she deserves, but judging from the last line, it's also what she wants.
Hell's Deadly Lover! by Al James * (4200 wds)
Steve Donovan, sadistic cop from hell, plays every angle he can to make extra dough, including muscling business owners. He happens onto a woman in a bar, goes to her place, beds hers, and then finds out she's a bank robber by stumbling onto her money sacks. "Hell's Deadly Lover" is a dopey read, filled to the brim with wild and unbelievable coincidences. This kind of story (bad cop on the take) was done to death in the 1950s by writers much more esteemed than Al James.
Terror Has No Face! by Jim Arthur *** (3200 wds)
The Daggers are sick and tired of patrolman Dan Vinton busting up their action, so they take their complaint to his wife. They string her up, torture her, and warn her that, if hubby don't lay off, next time's fer keeps! The cop disappears and the Daggers are convinced that their troubles are over until their members start showing up dead, until the Dagger become THE Dagger. Vinton and the Mrs. have returned.
Marvin, a decorated war hero, and his wife Donna are closing up the diner they own for the night when two thugs enter. The men beat Marvin and rape Donna repeatedly, all in the name of chuckles. A pointless, nasty exercise in torture and degradation. Brian De Palma would probably want to take out an option on this one.
A typically no-brains bad-luck WEB crook flees from a botched supermarket heist and kidnaps a woman and her child. Well, the dimwit assumes it's the woman's kid until he's captured and the police inform him that they were actually after the woman, who had kidnapped the kid!
After a bad real estate deal, Al Draper owes Tony Tibbett five big ones, and Tony, understandably, wants his money right now. Al doesn't have the moola but it turns out that Dot Draper, Al's vixen wife, has found a way to pay in full. No WEB mystery or detective in this one, just plain boring adultery.
The horrors perpetrated by the killer known only as Doug are seen through the eyes of our narrator, who is forced to participate in Doug's reign of terror. Doug robs and murders women with obvious glee and our tour guide describes each and every painful detail. A fairly routine WEBber, but the obvious question (who is the narrator?), is averted by our storyteller, who avoids any personal details until the all-important last paragraph. Hey, McCann fooled me.
Jack Hogan makes a jailbreak and heads right for Terry Martin, a beautiful dame (with a nice set of headlights, of course!) who's been hiding Jack's stolen booty of 50gs in her fireplace for him. Little does Hogan know that Terry has married a cop while he's been in the big house and now the cop wants to keep Terry and the green, but erase Hogan from the picture.
Successful Broadway producer Matt Landers knows he owes 100% of his good luck to his secretary (and play reader) Ann Small. Landers can have any of the young chippies who try out for his productions, but still he lusts for the older, yet still vivacious, Ann, who, until recently, has spurned all of Landers' advances. Together the two mine gold on Broadway and they hope to continue that streak by producing a play by an young eccentric unknown playwright/dwarf hunchback named Oswald Upham. What is the startling secret from Ann's past that ties her to the misshapen Oswald? Why is the dwarf hunchback having such a hard time completing Act 3 of the smashing play? Will Matt finally get to lay his hands on Ann's hooters? These questions and more are answered in the story's startling climax. A wildly goofy story, "Lust" harkens back to the Spicy pulp days and is an indicator of the direction that WEB would follow soon. A guilty pleasure.
Brad Sterne strikes up a deal with Lydia Winthrop: he'll steal her skinflint hubby's millions in diamonds from their wall safe, off the old dude, and split the loot with Lydia. All she has to do is revel in the pleasures of the flesh with Brad. But alas, like most of the WEB Black Widows, Lydia doesn't like to share in the end.
It's David and Goliath time as mousy alcoholic Marc Taylor takes on his new garbage collector, the sadistic youth known only as "Chin" (but better known to Marc's wife as "Big Chin"). Marc stumbles onto an attempted rape by the big man on one of Marc's lovely, nubile neighbors (who gets stripped down to her pink panties) and does the Thunderbird Two-Step on Chin's cranium, becoming a hero in the process.
Boxing manager Sandy Michaels spots the surest thing he's ever laid eyes on: Mugsy Thomas. With no money, Michaels has to go to bone-breaking loan shark Whitie Malone for the bucks to train Mugsy. In the meantime, the big lug falls for Greta, a (hold the phones) busty, curvy knockout. The bimbo lures the fighter away from Sandy with promises of lust-filled nights and diamond-studded dog collars. All the walls seem to be coming down on Sandy Michaels at the same time and the nice guy is definitely finishing last. A really good sports/mob thriller that's about as close to a short Gold Medal novel as you're going to get in WEB. It's no secret that Sylvester Stallone devoured every issue of WEB when he was a little pug, and the influence of "Sure Bet on Death!" (in particular, in his screenplay for ROCKY V) is evident in his fine body of work.
Vol. 2/#3 April 1959
Look Death in the Eye! by Lawrence Block * (2700 wds)
A beautiful nameless woman frequents bars, picks up "hungry" mean, and murders them. A very early story from the author who would later go on to author the highly-acclaimed "Matt Scudder" novels. The only worthwhile passage is its' final paragraph (reprinted elsewhere in this article).
I'd Die For Her! by Art Crockett **½ (3450 wds)
Pete is being held in the rape/murder of his girlfriend, Angela. He asks the sheriff if he can attend her funeral, where things get out of hand and Pete's strung up with a noose. He's saved at the last minute though when he averts the crowd's attention to Angela's boyfriend, whom Pete claims is the real murderer. The frenzied mob strings up the ex, while Pete (the actual killer, by the way) looks on in amusement. The prose equivalent of one of those great EC Comics ShockSuspenstories (the rapist is really the sheriff, the murdering bigot learns that he's half-Jewish, etc.).
Lady From Hell! by Don Unatin *½ (4625 wds)
The wife of a prominent attorney (who longs to be on the school board!) is being blackmailed by a scummy little man known as "Old Gardiner." Seems the lady used to be a dominatrix at the local cathouse before becoming a wealthy socialite. Joke's on Gardiner though, when he finds out that not only does the attorney know about his wife's vixenish past, he helps her keep in practice.
The Lonely Doom! by Al James ** (2950 wds)
A mafia hitman wipes out a former gofer who ran off with a hundred grand, then beds the dead man's wife. After he kills her, he finds out she was a leper and now he's infected. Seriously sick, goofy little fable. Here's one you can read out loud at a dinner party.
Murder Wins the Jackpot! by Zack Steele *½ (4625 wds)
Taxi driver Charlie has the worst luck in the world until he wins an English cruise and meets a beautiful French babe onboard. As usual though, the odds are against him when Charlie finds out that the woman is a smuggler and has been using him. Outrageous climax has Charlie narrating his own death ala those creaky old horror stories wherein the writer ends his journal with "...it's breaking down the door...it's strangling me...aaaaahhhh...!"
Danny Russo, "rehabilitated jd", comes into the employ of kindly Mr. Milner. But, of course, as with most WEB jd stories, there's the bad dame just itching to off her wealthy old husband. Danny falls for beautiful Stella Milner and helps Mr. Milner descend his basement steps at an accelerated rate. All kinds of sexual innuendo only leads to a one-plus-one-equals-three finish.
A violent gang with the moniker of The Pythons moves into town and immediately starts to shake everything up and everyone down. A rival gang, newly crowned The Mongooses, decides to do something about it. Decent JD tale with a nice surprise climax.
Big mean casino owner Steve Peck has a way with the ladies, including his secretary, Kate. For reasons known only to the writers and editors, beautiful Kate falls madly in love with the big lardass despite the fact that he continuously uses her as a punching bag. Convinced that she's actually a plant fro the D.A., he murders her and eventually offs himself in a spectacular gore-soaked finale.
"Gunther had that fearful ache. The girl could ease it. It all added up to murder."
Goofball Gunther stalks tantalizing Toni, all the while musing about all the violence he'll do to her when he gets her alone. Could Gunther be the Tyler City Strangler? Will Toni be the next victim? Well, no. In an unconvincing and (hopefully intentionally) hilarious twist finale, it's revealed that, surprise, Toni is actually an escaped mental patient aka The Tyler City Strangler. So who is Gunther? Don't ask me.
God's gift to the serial killer novelist, the abused child, grows up to be an abusing psychopath who stalks a lovers' lane, torturing couples for kicks. Bottom of the barrel, this could possibly be the worst story to appear in WEB DETECTIVE.
Vol. 2/#3 June 1959 (this was the second issue to be labeled Vol.2/#3)
Satan Thumbs a Ride! by Al James **½ (2800 wds)
Dopey thief steals a car, kills its owner. On the run, he picks up a babe, who turns out to be on the run as well. She steals the car and is later picked up by the cops, who suspect her of killing the car's original owner. Nice ironic twist.
Murder's Lovely Stand-in! by Art Crockett ** (2700 wds)
While enduring a third degree from some tough bulls, Harry Ross dishes all the dirt he knows on his boss Raymond, and now the mobster is understandably peeved. Being the scum bag that he is, Harry heads to his girlfriend's pad and uses her as a decoy to ensure his escape.
Tide of Evil! by Richard Hardwick ** (4700 wds)
After serving a few years in the stir, Gus Leach runs into his old partner Marta one day and discovers she's in the middle of a big con. Marta's about to become Mrs. Walter Telfair and Gus wants a piece of the action or he'll let ol' Walter know what his fiancé was up to before he gave her a ring.
One Foot in Hell! by Bill Ryder ** (3400 wds)
Roger Townshend intends to take the big dive off a 22nd story ledge unless his estranged girlfriend is brought to him. The woman turns out to be the wife of the cop who's trying to talk Roger down. Ryder (showing unusual restraint in his writing here) cheats all the way from the beginning of the story to mask the identity of the woman until the big 'surprise' climax. This has been done before, and better.
Burger and Jim bust out of prison by kidnapping the warden's wife and stealing her car. They head off into the swamps where they run into some nasty swamp critters, but all's well that ends well for the captive woman because it turns out that the real reason Jim broke out was to get away from the bullying Burger. Once Burger is dispatched, Jim gives himself up and goes back to peace in the prison.
Very short and very stark, "Hate Goes Courting" (yet another stupid title) tells the story of two brothers, John and Brad, and John's fiancé Margie, a girl with a questionable past. Brad knows about that past and continually taunts his brother until the man finally bursts out in rage:
When you're up close a shotgun makes a big messy hole, big as a man's fist, but when I squeezed that trigger the shell went through him like a sword through a piece of silk, like the wind blowing outside. He let out a moan and sat down slowly. His eyes were staring like he couldn't believe it happened.
Much more indicative of Block's future work than the previous issue's "Look Death in the Eye!"
Sandy's a starving artist and now he's hooked on junk. Once he runs out of daddy's dough he turns to a life of crime to get his daily fix. Not a bad story, but a bit uninspiring in its delivery.
Try to follow me closely: Don is keeping time with Lila, whose brother Archie is a j.d. thug. When Archie plays like Lila's pimp and demands bucks for her time, Don puts the kid on the ground. Later, driving home from work, Don thinks he hits a man in the street. Turns out Archie has just pulled a robbery and been shot. He's the man Don has run over! Archie dies naming Don as his accomplice and Don heads for a nice cell. The king of Ripley's Believe It Or Nots. If I gave out zeroes, Sultry Sister would earn one.
Monk Donzeg is mad as hell after being a fall guy and goes after the cop who framed him.
Frank, not at all pleased about spending ten years in the pen for a job he did with Claude Sanders (who got away), goes looking for the fifty grand that was to be his cut. When he finally finds Claude, his former partner has been given a third eye by his wife, who quickly frames Frank. Entry two in this issue's Ripley's sweepstakes.
Mousy Henry Wiggins blurts out to the police that he witnessed the murder of his lovely neighbor, the latest victim of a serial lust killer, and gives a false description of the fiend. Problem is, Harry saw nothing because he was busy cowering in his apartment at the time of the murder. Obsessed with his new found fame and morose over the soon-fleeting aforementioned fame, Wiggins decides the best way to stay on top is to become a lust killer himself. Of course, the woman he stalks turns out to be the latest target of the real killer and Ripley see three strikes and he's out.
Vol. 2/#4 September 1959
Murders Flashes Dark Eye! by Grover Brinkman ***½ (4600 wds)
(Note: Title given is the one on the actual title page. The contents page reads: "Murder Flashes Dark Eyes," which makes a little more sense.) Ollie and Clint pull off a bank heist but it gets messy and two end up dead. They hightail it over the river into Mexico, only to find themselves wanted by scavengers more deadly than the police. Excellent tale ends dark when Ollie's back is to the wall and there's only one way out.
Love Nest in Hell! by Flip Lyons * (3950 wds)
Escaped con takes honeymooners hostage in snowbound cabin. A complete and total snoozer, right up to its' laughable expository climax.
Her Knife Carved "Love"! by Jay Folb * (5200 wds)
Dreamboat Ernie Scorr decides that Shirley Diamond must die. To accomplish this he enlists Maria, who's madly in love with him and will do anything he says. Or so he thinks.
Slaughter Will Find You! by Luke Hogan *** (3900 wds)
With that title, you're probably expecting something like one of those 70s blaxploitation flicks, but what you get is a real good gripper. Syl Myers has been dreading the inevitable day when his brother Pete would come calling, after spending fifteen years in prison. Pete wants Syl to be the driver in another stickup, but Syl just wants to be left alone to his good life and home. Unfortunately, Pete is well-versed in the art of coercion.
Ex-stripper Tina Bondi hasn't gotten over being dumped by mobman Lennie Rogers and spends her waking hours in the bottom of a glass of booze. She's decided that before she drinks herself to death, she'll tell the world all about the dirty life of Lennie Rogers.
Because of Carol's strict upbringing, sex has always been something evil to her. No man ever gets to second base with Carol until the serial-rapist "The Cat" comes knocking on her door and Carol finds out what it's like to be a fulfilled woman. Another in the WEB sub-genre of stories where the female protagonist "had it coming to her and when she finally got it...she liked it!"
Poor Theodore Reese is tortured by the other boys in his cabin at summer camp. They make up derogatory nicknames, dump buckets of water on his head, pants him, and generally make life for him a living hell. Then comes the night of the dance, when one of the most beautiful girls in camp asks Theodore to accompany her. The unwitting boy doesn't know it's a set-up, and when he finds out, he explodes in a fit of violence. An above-average revenge saga. I'd make a joke about Stephen King reading WEB in his early days, but he has a lot of lawyers.
Pickpocket Benny runs into fellow hoodlum Angie at the track one day. Benny's just served ten years for a job he pulled with Angie. Now Angie's got a great pickpocket scheme all worked out and, in the end, suspicion will fall on Benny. The joke's on Angie though when, after the cops converge on the two men, it's learned that Benny couldn't be the culprit because his hands have become gnarled from arthritis.
Joe Barton might be the world's stupidest murderer. Barton and his wife Janet despise each other but, for some reason, stay together. Joe's spineless ways irk Janet, and he just can't stand her nagging. Joe finally decides to off her but can't come up with a plan 'til one day in a bar when an old man stumbles in, claiming he watched his family drown in a ferry accident. The light bulb goes on over Joe's head. He races home, offs the ol' ball and chain, and dumps her body in the bay. Only later does he find out that the old man had lost his family years before.
Nick Norris believes he's committed the perfect crime while he sits on death row, hours away from execution. He kills his boss, robs him of half a million bucks, and pays another crook to use Nick's gun in a similar crime while he's rotting in a cell. This way, Norris is convinced the cops will listen to his pleas of innocence. The hired crook gets ideas of his own though in a neat twist.
Racy S&M/bondage fairy tale about Hilda Queen, little girl lost, who must turn to the kinkier side of prostitution to pay off gambling debts, only to find out that the ringleader of the bondage gang (and her prospective lover) is none other than her dear old dad, a wealthy, influential man of the community. Real sleazy stuff, bordering on softcore porn (though very tame compared to today's stuff).
Vol. 2/#5 December 1959
Come Home to Hell! by Al James * (3900 wds)
Prison life is rough on Phil, but parole finally comes and his loving wife Mira (celibate for five years, Phil thinks in awe) is there to help him to pick up the pieces. One of those pieces is the box of embezzled loot Phil has hidden on their property. Problem is, Mira hasn't been as faithful as Phil had hoped. Out of left field wrap up expository doesn't help at all.
Dumb Blondes are Murder! by Don Unatin **½ (5200 wds)
Tony and his number-one hooker, Nikki, have been running con games on married business executives. Tony plays the murderous husband who walks in on his wife in the act of adultery and, hopefully, the John pays in spades. Unfortunately for the goofy couple, this particular John doesn't act as he should and ends up with a big black smoking hole in his head compliments of Tony's rifle. Things get real wild when the two fugitives make their escape into the woods. After beating the hell out of Nikki, Tony manages to get himself caught in a bear trap and then eaten by the trap's intended victim! A gruesome (but nevertheless funny) climax makes up for a ho-hum build-up. Probably the best short story in history with "Dumb Blondes" in the title.
Author tires of the couple upstairs exchanging blows. When he falls in love with the unfortunate female, he realizes the only out is... boredom.
Tod is a mugger who keeps several women company throughout the city. A weak tale devoid of anything resembling suspense or logic.
After a steamy rendezvous, Rod Baxter learns to his chagrin that the town vixen is actually an "innocent teen." To add to his troubles, the townsfolk don't cotton to their innocents being deflowered by total strangers, and drag Rod out to the woods to string him up. Good twist at the conclusion as we learn that the town might just suspect the truth after all.
William Leighton seems to be a bit of a split personality: by day, dapper, well-to-do war hero; by night, rapist and murderer. So-so story builds to a peak of nastiness and gore, wildly so. Entertaining, but the first-person narrative loses any of its surprise by the second page. You'll know who's really telling Leighton's story.
Detective Ben Sommers has a security problem since bringing down mob boss Maxie Grant. Every shadow could be an armed mobster. Every move could be his last. When he's approached by Grant's moll, Carrie Powell, he naturally suspects the worst of her. Turns out though that Powell has been running a double cross on her beau and wants nothing more than to see him burn. As with most of the really effective WEB stories, "Gang Girl's Revenge" has a nice twist ending.
Yearning for the good life that his prosperous brother leads, Howie Potter borrows his brother's caddy and drives down to Florida for a little vaca. Along the way, he picks up a dame, stacked to the nines, who falls for Howie's line that he's an oil magnate. Of course, the woman has set up Howie for a shakedown (in a scene that screams "quite illogical") and finds himself regretting his new fantasy life.
Myra Nolan loves living high on the hog, thanks to her husband the hit man, but she just hates to hear him brag about his job.
Ray Miller plans to off his mistress before his rich wife finds out about his adulterous ways and cuts him out of her fortune.
Connie Sorrel thinks she's finally found happiness after years spent in a woman's prison manned by sadistic guards. Her happiness comes in the form of her parole officer, who she falls in love with. In a twist that comes as a surprise only to the dim-witted Connie, her new found love also happens to be involved in the same S&M racket as the guards. "Women in Chains" done WEB-style. Misogynistic and vile, with not a trace of the goofball charm found in the "Women Prisoner" movies of the 1970s.
Vol. 2/#6 March 1960
The Framing Frail! by Al James *½ (4300 wds)
Cynthia thinks she's found the perfect dweeb in Albert Franklin to pin her husband's murder on. Little does she know that Franklin is the notorious Albert Franklin, the sex killer who's just murdered his wife. Coincidence? You be the judge.
Gang Job! by Zack Steele **** (3050 wds)
No, that's not a typo--4 stars! A beat cop has to bring in a retarded boy who has been tricked into murdering his own brother by a street gang. Not the usual j.d. story, "Gang Job" focuses on the damage the gang leaves in its wake rather than the sensationalistic aspects inherent in a j.d. story. In fact, the gang itself is never actually featured in the story. Powerful, almost too powerful for WEB, "Gang Job" brings to mind the best 1950s youth crime fiction of Ed McBain.
Terror Springs the Trap! by Bill Ryder *** (4050 wds)
Another dumb title for a fairly good story, the narrative of Dirk, aka Mr. Death, a gallows hangman, whose latest execution is a bit different than those in the past: two vicious teens accused of sexually molestation and murder. You can tell there's a twist in the offing all the way from the beginning of the story, but when the payload is delivered, it's pretty effective and quite original.
Don't Cheat on Passion! by Art Crockett ** (5050 wds)
Officer Paul Harkness walks in on his wife while she's playing hide-the-salami with her side dish. Harkness plugs her with lead (in a delightfully graphic description of bullets-meet-arteries damage) and quickly turns himself in. The twist here, which is pretty farfetched even for a WEB story, is that the escaped lover turns out to be the D.A. who'll prosecute Harkness.
Show Her His Blood! by Leslie G. Sabo * (1800 wds)
Meek Andy helps young thug Bart drag nubile Rita Kemper into the woods and rape her. After Andy gets a case of the guilts, he lets Rita talk him into murdering Bart.
There's a new kid in Sammy's organization and everyone loves him. Everyone, that is, except Sammy's right hand man Butchie. Seems "the kid" is seeing Butchie's moll on the side and Butchie's bound and determined to put the youngster six feet under. Decent mob story with a good twist.
Sheriff Milt Brady investigates the disappearance of one of his deputies, Pete Wiley. Seems Wiley was a nasty fella, beating on his girlfriend and generally raising hell with the local populace. Evidence leads the sheriff right to the patch of quicksand just outside town. Is Wiley down there or in the lake? "Bodies Won't Sink" is just the kind of story you'd find in ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE in the 1950s, with a long expository at its climax just in case we can't connect the dots ourselves.
Johnny and Frankie, two likable hitmen (yeah, just like Travolta and Jackson) are given a tough assignment from the syndicate: rub out Anne Carpenter. Right off the bat, the reader knows that Carpenter is no stranger to these gentlemen and this won't be one of their usual hits, but the darkly humorous double whammy in the final line is still effective.
A psycho with delusions of grandeur and a mousy physique chronicles his stalking of a co-worker who has spurned him. Some genuinely creepy writing elevates what might have otherwise have been just another madman saga. For example:
"No matter what I do to you tonight, you'll never feel the agony I've suffered at your hands. In a way it's poetic justice that I'll follow you into the freezing night. You've already killed my soul with your cruelty. All that is left is my body and my lust for vengeance. I will have that revenge. You can't deny it to me."
And then you get dopey clichés like this: Author writes short story about a cop killer, but keeps cop's name secret all through narrative. Only problem is: only a dolt would be surprised when the identity is revealed.
Arnie and Penny have a great racket going. Penny seduces middle-aged millionaires and Arnie gets it on film for blackmail money. Unfortunately for Arnie, Penny gets ambitious about her stage career and decides to do away with her cameraman.
Vol. 3/#1 May 1960
Sisters of Slaughter! by Edward D. Hoch *½ (5050 wds)
Steve Bradburg has a way with the ladies. Most of them, that is. His way doesn't work with Myra Nolan and he delivers her a good beating. Naturally, when Myra's corpse pops up, Steve is the prime suspect.
Crosby ** (5350 wds)
Mob priestess Tandy Morgan and her notorious prostitution ring have the town literally eating from her hand (and other parts of her body, I'm sure), until revenge-starved Cal Henderson attempts to bring her evil empire crashing down around her.
Madness Claims a Mate! by Bill Ryder *** (5575 wds)
A maniac stalks the city and beautiful barfly bimbos are at risk of losing their lovely limbs. Turns out that goofball professor Roger Sylvester has a woody for torture devices and puts them to good use at any given opportunity. Another s&m wacko tale that would hint at the things to come for WEB, "Madness" is so bad, it's almost good. The three stars awarded are not for quality, obviously, but for entertainment value, and this one packs a lot of guffaws into its 5575 words. Searching for a standout proquote, I realized that none would do it justice. We'd have to reprint the whole damn thing! Well, okay, just one line: "A fiend stalked the streets and kissed Sherry. Was it a dream out of a horrible past? Hideous death did not claim its victims in this manner any longer!"
You Can't Escape! by Bob Shields * (2950 wds)
PI is stuck with one very jealous girlfriend who ends up using the guy's own investigative tricks on him. The opening quote: "She stood over me stark naked with a gun in her hand..." must have eluded the artist, since his illo depicts the woman in a nightie.
The Glory Kids! by John Block *½ (1650 wds)
There's nothing much to this short-short about teenaged cop killers who eventually get theirs in a nasty shootout.
Die Hard, Lovely Cheat! by Greg Burns * (4100 wds)
James Harlan is arrested for the murder of one beautiful red-headed babe and grilled by Homicide detective Johnny Daniels. The detective himself is telling the story in first person, filling in details he couldn't possibly know, or so you think until, about half way through, the pieces start falling into place. The redhead was married to...surprise, surprise, surprise!
Passion Fears No Peril! by Frank Cannon **½ (5050 wds)
When Jed Gage is labeled a stoolie, he must escape or die at the hands of a crooked warden.
Mask of Hate by Jay Richards ** (2625 wds)
The cops need a little help when the local mobster ends up in the river minus his head and hands, so they question a shopkeeper whose specialty is shrunken heads.
Lust Steals the Scene! by Art Crockett * (4625 wds)
Marcia Henry comes to the Big Apple to become a star. The parts just don't come up for her, but her disgustingly obese agent has a swell idea: Marcia puts out and her agent will work double-time for her career. The would-be Monroe doesn't cotton to his advances and puts a bullet in him, or does she? A loser from the word go, "Lust Steals" at least can lay claim to one of the just plain stupidest twist endings in crime story history.
You'll Die Laughing! by Jack Kavanagh *** (2625 wds)
Artie has a falling out with his mob boss Christy over, what else, a dame, and becomes target practice for the mobster's gang. Wounded both mentally and physically, Artie decides to confront and mow down the big man before he himself becomes part of the sidewalk. Strictly average crime short until the closing paragraphs which find the crazed Artie at last face to face with the boss man.
Terror Trail! by Grover Brinkman * (2950 wds)
John Daly's been messing with a tiff-miner's girl (please don't ask), a big no-no in the backwoods. When he forces himself on the girl, he lives in fear that a knife will find its way into his back.
Vol. 3/#2 August 1960
A Grave Matter! by Frank Kane *½ (8200 wds)
Ace PI (and chauvinist pig) Johnny Liddell investigates the murder of a beautiful young client ("A loosely-tied dressing gown gave ample evidence that the magnificence of her facade had needed no artificial assist") . What he turns up leads him to a ring of arsonists. Overlong (21 pages actually feels more like 2100) relic of the early 1960s, a time when the paperbacks teemed with well-hung PIs like Mike Shayne and Shell Scott. Liddell appeared in over two dozen novels and several short stories in magazines such as MANHUNT and PURSUIT. Many of the stories were collected in the paperbacks JOHNNY LIDDELL'S MORGUE and FRANK KANE'S STACKED DECK (the latter reprinted "A Grave Matter").
And Sin No More! by Jack Kavanaugh **½ (2300 wds)
Frankie falls for a hooker and murders her pimp so he can have her for his own.
Blood Bargain! by Pete McCann **½ (4400 wds)
When a young lawyer is blackmailed by his sexy mistress, he turns to the only man who can help him: an aging hit man. The real identity of the hit man is a nice touch, albeit one that should be guessed at fairly quickly.
Murder is Eternal! by Edward D. Hoch *** (5475 wds)
Our unnamed narrator accepts the job of assassinating "The Eternal Brother," a cult leader who's amassed a fortune for himself from a legion of gullible believers. The job goes awry and the gunman finds himself on the run. Frustrating or fascinating. Either adjective applies to "Murder is Eternal!" Frustrating in that Hoch leaves us high and dry on a few details (why is the Brother assassinated in the first place? Why is the Brother armed when he's gunned down?). Fascinating for just that reason. So many of these stories spend their last eight to ten paragraphs in boring expository that it almost becomes a given that Hoch will finish with: "You see, Bobby, the Eternal Brother was murdered because he had an affair with my Aunt Gertie and..." Thankfully, that never comes. Instead you get a fairly suspenseful narrative and neat prose such as: "Oh God, we live so many days, so many terrifying days, and then without warning, we always die." or "The bullets took him in the chest and face and he just stopped living all at once." Hoch is well-known for his such mystery series characters as Simon Ark, a supernatural sleuth; Ben Snow, a nineteenth-century gunman who wanders into impossible situations; super thief Nick Velvet; and Dr. Sam Hawthorne, a country doctor who solves miracle problems. Hoch also has the distinction of appearing in every issue of ELLERY QUEEN MYSTERY MAGAZINE since 1973.
The Loving Corpse! by Leslie G. Sabo ** (2775 wds)
Larry Kendall, who's often fantasized about killing his shrewish wife, comes home to find someone's granted his wish. Unfortunately for Larry, the killer has left evidence pointing to Kendall as the murderer. Nice double twist ending elevates mediocre story.
Burn in Hell, Darling! by Bill Ryder * (5100 wds)
Completely predictable tale of a mobster's scorned moll, who's ready to testify against her ex, but the mobster's got other ideas. The police put her under protection. Do I have to tell you about the big twist at the end?
Punks Don't Kill! by Cliff Garner *½ (4500 wds)
Murdering punk Jackie lies dying in a gutter with a cop standing over him. The one thing Jackie's always longed to do is murder a cop. A 12-page story built around a delivery that could have been wrapped up on the second page.
Death Wears Black Lace! by Art Crockett ** (4450 wds)
Larry Striker makes off with $50,000 in mob money. Everyone knows that you can't get away with that kind of behavior, but Larry gives it the old college try. He holes up at an old girlfriend's place, only to be betrayed by the woman.
Hot Rod Honey! by Frank Hueppner ** (5050 wds) (note: contents page lists this story as "Hot Red Honey!")
War vet Joe Wood sets out to revenge an old girlfriend's son, who's been savagely beaten by a gang of thugs. Joe Wood's an interesting character trapped in a humdrum story. Hot Rod Honey feels like a piece in a bigger story but, as far as I can tell, it's the only story to feature Wood.
Vol. 3/#3 October 1960
The Triple Cross by Richard Deming ***½ (5700 wds)
PI Manville Moon is hired by wealthy socialite Henry Sheffield, who's convinced he's being stalked by mobster Eddie Dallas. A solid PI mystery with a compelling character in Manville Moon, who's a card-carrying member of the so-called "Defective Detectives," sleuths who suffer from some form of handicap but who still save the day. Moon maintains a sense of humor despite the absence of a right leg--at one point in the story, his client "checks his credentials" while gazing at Moon's artificial leg. Manville Moon was also the star of three novels by Deming: THE GALLOWS IN MY GARDEN (1953), TWEAK THE DEVIL'S NOSE (1953), and WHISTLE PAST THE GRAVEYARD (1954). Deming is perhaps best known by crime fans and pb collectors as the author of several DRAGNET and THE MOD SQUAD TV tie-ins.
Model of Murder by Christopher Mace * (4000 wds)
George Carlton, a frustrated artist, decides once and for all that he must kill his grossly overweight wife Bernice. It's not just that she's obese, but also because she's loaded and George's girlfriend is getting a bit impatient waiting for Bernice to have that hoped-for heart attack. A dopey story with the most outlandish wife-killing scheme ever devised in the history of mankind: to evoke the heart attack, George sculpts a severed arm, dips it in chocolate (to simulate blood--remember this is the black and white era) and hangs it in his wife's closet. Not the most reasonable method, but, hey, it works.
Daughter of Darkness by O. W. Reynolds ** (2400 wds)
Sick of being a kid stuck in a one horse town, working at a drive-in with old pervs grabbing at her tooties nightly, seventeen year-old Margaret hooks up with the stranger in town, who loves young lasses almost as much as he loves holding up filling stations. Margaret quickly shows the hood how much she hates men.
Comfort Her Corpse by Jim Barnett * (4000 wds)
Cain and Abel - WEB style. Author Barnett can't even keep the two brothers' names straight. Hands down the most ludicrous expository dialogue in, maybe, the whole issue.
Dumb Bull by Flip Lyons *½ (3200 wds)
Rosie Hauer, hooker, is with Jose Marchione, mobster, when Teddy Landon (our titular hero) breaks in to haul the crook away. In all the confusion, Teddy forgets to bring in Rosie (which is why he's a dumb bull) and she becomes a target of the rest of the Marchione brothers, who fear she'll rat them out to the cops.
You Can't Cheat Death by Earle Smith * (6000 wds)
George Smathers is blackmailed after he commits a hit and run.
The Smell of Fear by Buck Grimes ** (4100 wds)
No, not a NAKED GUN story. Frank Cooney, prison guard, is taken hostage by Cass Rawn, bad dude, and a handful of other inmates. If the cons don't get their every wish they'll start plugging Frank and the other guards held. When Frank is given a message to deliver personally to the warden outside the prison, he must fight his urge to run to safety rather than save the other guards, even if one of those guards is his son.
Lust Isn't Funny by Fletcher Flora *** (2500 wds)
Mrs. Baldwin lives a life of hell with her philandering husband, a successful comedian who loves to booze and womanize. The pressure gets to be too much and the woman cracks under the strain. A nicely written just desserts story by the author of such well-respected crime novels as THE HOT SHOT (1956), THE BRASS BED (1956), and WAKE UP WITH A STRANGER (1959), as well as over a hundred short stories published in the crime digests.
Mistress of Evil by Bill Ryder * (3800 wds)
Margery Coleman has a big time hang-up: she can't do the nasty with her husband unless he promises to beat and degrade her. Something's wrong with her husband's brain because instead of doing the sensible thing (beating and degrading her), he goes the sensitive '90s husband route and sends her to a psychiatrist. Once she gets there though, Margery seduces her shrink. Unfortunately (or fortunately, for Margery) her doctor turns out to be none other than Gustave Himmelman, aka Gerheardt Heinrich, medical officer of Dachau (still holding a torch for Adolf after all these years). Margery's offer of naked, blistered, whipped, and sweaty flesh triggers some long dormant desires in Little Hitler's brain and he shows her how to really have a good time. From beginning to end, "Mistress of Evil" is one long laugh-fest, enjoyable for its' soft corn and sado-masochist debauchery. When Himmelman asks Margery what makes her believe that she is a wanton hussy given to forbidden fruit, Margery whips a riding crop from her purse and dangles the weapon of love before the headshrinker:
Margery Coleman's shoulders heaved with the force of her sobbing. Her breasts rose and fell swiftly under the tight confines of her silk dress. Himmelman thought how like a sinner she looked on the final Judgement Day.Back in the early '60s, publishers with names like Nightstand, Greenleaf, and Bee-Line served up tons of novel-length trash along the lines of "Mistress," usually introduced by some phony sex therapist attesting to the importance of the story to follow. Bill Ryder sold 26 stories to the Holyoke group, including 10 that were published in WEB.
"Why can't I be normal like other women? Why must I have such horrible desires?" she wailed.
As Hot as Ginger by Art Crockett ** (5200 wds)
Petey and his buddy Big Sal Cherry burglarize the apartment of Ginger Lansing, unaware that she is a policewoman. After she gets the upper hand on the two, Ginger ventilates Cherry and turns her attention to Petey. The thug manages to escape but becomes the subject of a massive manhunt. The real challenge for Petey then is to get the hell out of Dodge, which he attempts by changing his physical appearance. Routine crimer is highlighted by the humorous passages of Petey's transformation.
Vol. 3/#4 January 1961
Hang by the Neck! by Stephen Marlowe ** (5725 wds)
PI Chester Drum is hired by Senator Hartsell to protect his son Blair from a hit man. If I didn't know otherwise, I'd swear that "Hang by the Neck!" was written by Michael Avallone. The dialog is peppered with such Avos as "I rolled over on my Labonza for him. Afterward Tony did some more bullskating." There's also a fairly risqué (for the day) exchange between Drum and a hooker:
"How do you like it?" she asked.
"With your mouth open," I said.
Her eyes got hard. "Now listen, mister," she said. "Maybe Rose should have told you I don't do anything like that." The hard look faded. "Unless," she said, rubbing her thumb on her extended fingers, "you can tempt me."
"I meant with your mouth open so you can talk."
"You mean just talk?"
Stephen Marlowe's Chester Drum was the star of 19 novels , with titles like DANGER IS MY LINE, DEATH IS MY COMRADE, and DOUBLE IN TROUBLE (the latter written with Richard Prather). The novels, as opposed to "Hang by the Neck," have more of an espionage slant to them. Marlowe was actually a pseudonym for Milton Lesser, who wrote tons of science fiction for the sf digests in the 1950s (see the SUPER SCIENCE FICTION index back in b*b #1).
Evil is a Redhead! by Hal Ellson * ½ (3875 wds)
A beautiful redhead is running a unique scam: she works her way from boat to boat, first bedding then robbing each ship captain. Told with all the excitement of a police report.
Love Her to Death! by Gil Grayson ** (4300 wds)
Wally and Maria murder a Vegas high roller and make off with his loot. When Wally decides that he'd rather not halve the 200 big ones, Maria takes maters in her own hands.
Ghost Beat! by Ed Lacy *** (1600 wds)
Harry's a retired cop who's having a hard time just hanging around the house. Good little character study with no WEB violence whatsoever. Respected writer Ed Lacy wrote over 100 short stories for the crime digests and such well-respected novels as SIN IN THEIR BLOOD (1952), BE CAREFUL HOW YOU LIVE (1959), and ROOM TO SWING (1957). Marcia Muller wrote of ROOM TO SWING's PI Toussaint Moore: "he is the first convincing black detective in crime fiction."
Portrait in Passion! by Grover Brinkman ** (3900 wds)
Up in hillbilly country, cheesecake photographer Mort Murray stumbles onto one of the most beautiful chunks of flesh he's ever laid hands on. Faster than you can say "Ellie May Clampett," Mort's got the girl consenting to nudes and on the way to hot porno action. Then her brother comes home. A fairly amusing finale, but with one or two too many twists.
As Silent as Doom! by Arnold English **½ (3675 wds)
Manson is an inmate of a maximum security prison. The facility's warden allows no speaking, so most of the communication comes through sign language. When Manson secretly circulates a petition to the warden to abolish the silence rule, he's sold out by a fellow prisoner. Unique tale ends with a big "OUCH!!"
Lust Claims a Bride! by Bill Ryder * (3950 wds)
Due to some major mental scars, Babs doesn't want to make love to her husband. He's getting fed up and takes to stepping out. Enter the crazed sex maniac who has been roaming the neighborhood raping and beating beautiful women. Babs is next on his list. I won't be ruining anything for you by giving away the nasty twist at the climax: Hubby comes home to find Babs twirling from the ceiling, getting flogged by the maniac. Being a karate expert, he kills the rapist, but then is taken aback by how lovely his wife looks spinning like meat on a hook:
"I'm going to be a caveman. I'm going to beat the hell out of you. Then I'm going to take you. I've decided that's a better treatment for a frigid bitch like you than all the crap (Bab's psychiatrist) Palmer can conjure up to waste money"More incredible than hubby's transformation from pent-up but understanding mate to masochistic animal is Babs' resignation to her fate:
"It might work," she told herself. "It's worth a try."
Celeste tires of her millionaire husband and cooks up a scheme to off him, but in the usual dumb WEB broad style, she screws up big time.
Harness Bull! by Don Unatin ***½ (5925 wds)
Officer John Stewart reflects on his life as an honest cop and how that honesty has kept him at odds with the other cops in his precinct, all graft-takers. "Harness Bull" is almost like two short stories: one, the main plot, deals with Stewart's endeavors to put away a mob boss who has gotten away with murder. The more interesting piece of the story though is its question of whether Stewart should have gone along with his fellow bulls in their crimes (and live the good life overflowing with money, women, and friends) or stay the straight course and keep a clean soul (and suffer the scorn of colleagues, wife, and worse, his own self doubts). In the end, Stewart contemplates just that after he stumbles across a dead man with a load of cash. The author wisely ends his narrative right there before filling in the blanks and, instead, puts the question to the reader - "what would you do?"
Vol. 3/#5 May 1961
Deadly Error by Frank Kane ** (6600 wds)
Johnny Liddell and his Girl Friday Muggsy Kiedel (Frank Kane's version of Lois Lane) run into the usual trouble when Liddell investigates the suspicious fires that have claimed five expensive homes covered in articles written by ace reporter Kiedel. A couple of antiques thieves are making off with priceless paintings and furniture and selling them for the big payday.
Death Watch by J. Simmons Scheb **½ (2100 wds)
Ever since his mother left him when he was four and screwed up his life completely, Frankie's wanted to kill a tall blonde. So when the opportunity presents itself, he springs into action.
So Young to Die by Ed Lacy *** (3900 wds)
15 year-old Joe Lancaster is duped into the boxing arena by a shyster fight manager, only to find that he has a natural punch, one that can level anyone it's aimed at. But with more punches, Joe becomes more punchy until he's pert near brain dead. The "boxer who's supposed to throw the fight but doesn't" storyline has been done to death in the movies, but Lacy manages to throw a sly twist into this one.
Requiem for a Heel by Jim Arthur *** (2800 wds)
Phil and Helen Mandler have been waiting ages for Uncle Jerry to croak and leave them his pot of gold. The couple has slaved years for the old man and they're owed that much. But the old goat is cantankerous and finally Phil loses patience and buts a bullet between Uncle Jerry's peepers. The only problem is that the sheriff doesn't believe Phil's "hunting accident" line and demands to be cut in on the booty. Then there's the funeral parlor director who's suspicious, and the mortician... Funny story would have made a great episode of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS.
The Night People by Edward D. Hoch **** (2900 wds)
A reporter is given an assignment: find a story, any big story to fill a front page. He sets out to find sensation and finds a prostitute resigned to life in the street. What the hell is this wonderful character study doing in the pages of WEB? This is the type of story you would have found in COLLIER'S or SATURDAY EVENING POST.
Murder's No Bargain by James Holding **** (4200 wds)
Assassin Manuel Andradas, aka The Photographer, is hired by the Italian mafia to take out Giovanni Corelli, a well-known and wealthy building contractor who has been using faulty materials for his structures. Believing he has been underpaid for his services, The Photographer approaches Corelli with a deal: Corelli pays the hitman and he'll smuggle him out of the country. When the contractor ponies up, the assassin kills him anyway (in a particularly nasty way too). James Holding wrote hundreds of short stories for the crime digests, including several more adventures of The Photographer for ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE. A humorous aspect of the stories is that the hitman always haggles over the price his bosses are willing to pay him, feeling he's always worth more.
Woe is For Wednesday by Hal Ellson ***½ (3800 wds)
Wild and wacky tale of an inmate named Flint, who begins his tour of his new home (an asylum) and meets all kinds of goofy occupants. "Woe is For Wednesday" almost defies description with its many twists and turns, some relevant, some not.
Dumb Rookie by Art Crockett **½ (2400 wds)
Johnny Grogan, rookie cop, falls into the clutches of Tom and Sandra, who need Johnny's uniform to pull off their warehouse heist. Peppered with very funny passages:
"The crazy gal stood on a ledge ten stories up and Joe had been assigned to get out on the ledge and drag her in. But she'd grabbed Joe's tie and told him that if he touched her she'd jump and take him with her. So he opened his pocketknife inside his pocket and then told her that her slip was showing. The crazy dame looked and Joe cut the tie."
Johnny returns from a day of hunting to find his dad murdered. The man responsible is looking for the jewelry he and Johnny's dad had stolen many years ago. But Johnny's a smart kid and soon he's got the killer in a trap. H. A. DeRosso wrote several dozen crime stories for such respected digests as MANHUNT, HUNTED, PURSUIT, and MIKE SHAYNE, but is best remembered for his gritty western novels, including END OF THE GUN and .44 (Bill Pronzini called the latter "a stark and suspenseful portrait of a professional gunfighter"). My first encounter with DeRosso was the story "Vigilante," which first appeared in the old pulp magazine, NEW WESTERN, back in 1948, and was reprinted by Ed Gorman in his anthology of westerns by crime writers, THE FATAL FRONTIER. DeRosso had a gift for showing the dark side of his characters, even those identifiable as "heroes".
Talk Me to Death by Seymour Shubin ** (1700 wds)
Mrs. Brown is an inconsiderate clod on the party line and Mr. Hammond, after exhausting his patience, decides it's time to clean her clock.
No Passion to Kill by C. B. Gilford **½ (5200 wds)
Clare Kusick has fallen in love with her supervisor, James Dysart. Problem is, Dysart doesn't love her, so Clare threatens to tell a tall tale of sexual harassment on the work room floor. No other avenue is available so Dysart kills her and mutilates the body to make it appear as if a maniac has struck. Fairly interesting story serves up something of a taboo at its conclusion (a taboo, at least, for its time): that the reason Dysart murders Clare is not because of a fear of losing his job, but because he's a latent homosexual and therefore hates all women. When the truth becomes clear to him, he commits suicide. Probably wouldn't appear in any of today's mystery magazines.
Vol. 3/#6 September 1961
Blood Bargain by Henry Slesar ** (5200 wds)
Hitman William Derry is hired by mob kingpin Rupert Harney to kill embezzler Eddie Breech. Derry shows up for the kill but then discovers he has a heart when it turns out that Breech's wife is in a wheelchair. He concocts an elaborate plan to enable Breech and his wife to escape. Derry soon learns that being a nice guy ain't all it's cracked up to be. Not one of Slesar's best.
Angel of Evil by Robert Rossner **** (6600 wds)
Sandy, Mitch, David, and Kevin are staunch members of the He-Man-Women-Haters Club, living together, partying together, vacationing together, until Mitch falls for the lovely Leora. At first the other three men find her charming, but eventually the false charm erodes away and what stands before them is the angel of emasculation. The three men decide the best thing to do for Mitch is kill Leora. So they do. Rossner does a good job of showing both dark and bright sides to each character. These three men only want what's best for their fallen comrade and that justifies any actions they may take. The matter-of-fact conversation wherein the trio plans Loera's death evokes memories of the famous (and very similar) scene in Paddy Chayefsky's NETWORK. The narrative also conjures up a well-told EC comic story (right down to the Shock SuspenStories ending) with the cherry on top being an art job by Jack Kamen. A highpoint in WEB history.
Requiem for a Junkie by James Stevens ***½ (4200 wds)
Max is a recovered junkie, only wanting to put his woes behind him when part of his past, in the form of his old junkie pal Herb, comes knocking at his door. Herb begs Max to put him up and help him kick his morphine addiction. Now married and a father, Max sees Herb as a mission, hoping to save the poor guy and save himself at the same time.
The lost ones. They call for the God they've never known. There are no atheists in foxholes. Outside the world the day they're born, frightened, they sell out for a ride to cloudland. Their God is a thirty five pound monkey perched lovingly between the shoulder blades. Heaven is a dirty room and a vein charged full of hope.
Unfortunately, Herb doesn't take well to rehab and grabs Max's daughter by the throat, threatening death if he goes without a fix. Max must think quickly. The final paragraphs are a little too much Happy Hollow, but the message of the story, though told a thousand times before, is told starkly, pulling no punches.
(Max) shed his tears for the weed-heads and the short-time-one dollar fix who would soon be taking the C train or the H train or the M express for the trip to oblivion. For the bug house, the big house, the death house.
And the tears won't help.
The Dumb Die Hard by Henry H. Guild * (4200 wds)
Danny Bolton was once bug man of The Ramblers gang until Bill Harper muscled his way in. Danny's got a plan to wrest away control and it involves the delicious (but brain-dead) Connie Rondel. A shortened title of "Dumb" might have been more appropriate.
To Serve the Dead by Edward D. Hoch ** (5600 wds)
Ben Ferrel goes to Puerto Rico with Senator Eaton as companion/bodyguard. When the Senator is brutally gunned down, it's up to Ben to find the killer. Though it's written well, "To Serve" just doesn't have much excitement. It's a short story that seems mighty long.
A Corpse Can Hate by Harlan Ellison *** (4800 wds)
Piddy Sandoz is only doing a Good Sam for a blind guy at a Salvation Army food kitchen when he recognizes the old man as the once-great prize fighter Kid Walders, now reduced to living on the street. Walders promises to pay Piddy the princely sum of five dollars if he'll help him find his old manager, Primo, who pushed the Kid into the ring one too many times, thereby rendering him damaged goods. A very funny road trip, so unlike the usual WEB fare, "Corpse" is a breath of fresh air amidst the misogyny, sado-masochism, two-timing dames, and sadistic wardens (not to mention the horrors that were to beheld starting with the next issue). Once the Kid finds Primo, a fight breaks out and the manager is forced to kill the man who was once his property. This means nothing to Piddy, who just wants his five bucks. Amazingly, Primo is outraged at the sight of the man rummaging through the dead fighter's pockets:
"Why you lousy little grave-robber, get your effing hands off that guy, you ain't fit to wear his dirty underwear, that was Kid Walders and he could of been a contender..."But my favorite line comes from Piddy in a moment of fright and self-doubt:
I was frankly dropping my load.
Carl Steadman is obsessed with the West but his money-loving wife sure isn't. When they visit an old ghost town, Carl Finally hears one too many shriek-fest from his lovely wife and exacts some good old-fashioned Western justice on her.
You Don't Have to Kill by Grover Brinkman ** (2600 wds)
Silas Greentree has big bucks stashed on his ranch and three conmen are up to killing him and taking possession of the loot. Brinkman's best writing attribute was his way with a title. He wrote dozens of stories for OFFBEAT, PURSUIT, TWO-FISTED, and HUNTED with such wonderful titles as: "Smooth Siren of Death", "Soft Arms-Bloody Hands", "Her Corpse Needs Loving", "Death's Errand Boy", and my favorite of Brinkman's: "Hell's Lovely Gravedigger."
Fear Stacks the Deck by William H. Duhart ***½ (5600 wds)
Good cardtable yarn about two pre-teens who take on an old card shark and teach him some of his own tricks. No violence, two thrusting breasts, lots of early 60s vulgar lingo. Should have been included in a one-shot called WEB GAMBLING STORIES.
Clute, John and Peter Nicholls. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. St. Martin's, 1993.
Cook, Michael L. Monthly Murders. Greenwood, 1982.
Cook, Michael L. Mystery, Detective, and Espionage Magazines. Greenwood, 1983.
Hubin, Allen J. The Bibliography of Crime Fiction 1749-1975. Publisher's Inc.,1979.
Pronzini, Bill and Marcia Muller. 1001 Midnights. Arbor House, 1986.
Tymn, Marshall and Mike Ashley. Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Weird Fiction Magazines. Greenwood, 1985.
"Sorry," I said. "I'm not your type."
"I'm everybody's type." She answered, moving closer through the mist.
"Know any place where I can get a little action?"
"Different kind. Cards, dice, that action."
"You a queer?" she asked, watching me more closely.
"I hope not."
from "The Night People"
He hit the girl so hard in the gut the sound was enough to make you sick. Squishy, like when you squeeze a sponge. I thought she'd upchuck everything she'd ate for a week.
from "As Hot as Ginger"
"But Captain, how long does a gink stay with a hustler? Marchione could've pulled out at any minute."
from "Comfort Her Corpse"
He walked off down the street, jamming the stockings into his pocket as he went. In his pocket, his fingers released the stockings and fastened on something else-something as hard and male as the stockings had been female.
from "Short Cut to Hell"
The man at the door was expressionless. The gun in his hand belched six times. Ben's body twisted grotesquely and fell to the floor.
The phone still clung to his hand.
But it was dead.
And so was Ben...
from "Gang Girl's Revenge"
Here was a girl who knew what her sisters had forgotten!
from "Life is Worth Dying"
Afterwards, back in her own apartment, she put his eyes in the box with the others.
from "Look Death in the Eye"
I told her who I was and what I wanted. I also gave her a smile, half power. What I could see above the typewriter looked usable. It couldn't be all hers. But, what the hell, I've got padded shoulders in my jacket, so we're even.
from "Just Kill Him, Darling"
From a distance he heard a woman laughing wildly, then a second explosion and the world fell on his head.
from "Hell's Deadly Lover"
What happened next to Marc is something that has defied understanding ever since man left the caves.
from "Don't Run From Evil"
Her eyes took in my clothes, looking for a bulge.
from "The Devil is a Darling"
"Oh Arnie," she murmured as she wriggled out of her panties.
from "Penny Costs Plenty"
Our good friends in Holyoke; see previous indexes for publisher history.
Though I will continue to berate Stefan Dziemanowicz until he picks some of these stories for his "100 STORIES" series for Barnes and Noble.
In fact, as the series entered the mid-sixties, the titles became more uniform: DRUM BEAT- BERLIN, DRUM BEAT- DOMINIQUE, DRUM BEAT- ERICA, etc., very much like Edward Aarons' seemingly never-ending Sam Durrell ASSIGNMENT- (insert country here).