I'm hosting Friday's Forgotten Books today so that Patti Abbott can spend the week working on the copy edits for her new novel Concrete Angel, to be published by Polis Books later this year. At the end of this post, you'll find all the links for the other FFB offerings from around the blogosphere today.
But first, a look at English mystery writer William Edward Vickers (1889-1965), who was best known under his pen name Roy Vickers, although he also wrote under the names David Durham, Sefton Kyle, and John Spencer. Biographical details are a bit sketchy, but Vickers worked as a salesman, court reporter and magazine editor in addition to penning nonfiction articles. He also found some success as a ghostwriter and as a crime reporter for a newspaper.
He found his literary stride when he published his short story, "The Rubber Trumpet," the first of over three dozen stories originally published in Pearson's Magazine and featuring the fictitious Department of Dead Ends division of Scotland Yard (a precursor to TV's Cold Case, if you will). Many of these are inverted mysteries, with the crime and perpetrators being known and the crime solved as much by luck and perseverance than brilliant detection. He also edited several anthologies for the Crime Writers' Association.
The central sleuth in Vickers' Department of Dead Ends stories started as being Superintendent Tarrant and in the later stories switched to Inspector Rason. However, Vickers also wrote eight novels in a more traditional procedural style featuring Detective-Inspector Peter Curwen. Find the Innocent was the final Curwen installment, published in 1959. He's described by one character as being "large, rotund and homely, looking like a successful local auctioneer who contemplates retirement."
Three scientists, Eddis, Stranack and Canvey, are all suspects in the murder of their employer, Mr. "WillyBee" Brengast, who had refused to grant them royalties on their inventions. The trio work and live together at WillyBee Products Ltd., yet they detest one another. Each man gives the same story to the police—each claims the same alibi, that he was the one to stay behind alone with the victim while the other two men went into town together. It's obvious to Inspector Curwen that one man must be guilty and the other two abetting, but which is which? Complicating matters are the victim's beautiful young widow whose one-night stand with one of the scientists plays a key role, and the victim's brainy niece who "helps" Inspector Curwen while falling for another of the suspects.
I've not read much of Vickers' output, but I came across one criticism that his novels paled in comparison to his stories, and I think I can understand why that might be the case. The premise of Find the Innocent is promising—three suspects who give the same story with little or no evidence to prove or disprove which one is guilty—but I think the novel (novella, actually, as it's on the short side) would have worked even better as a shorter story.
Vickers ultimately wrote close to 70 novels under his various pseudonyms, as well as the dozens of stories published in Pearson's and in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. He was inducted in Britain's famed The Detection Club in 1955. Unfortunately very few of his works are in print today. The Black Dagger Crime Series reprinted Find the Innocent in 2001, but it's hard to find a copy of the 1959 original, unless you're willing to fork over $275 or more for a first edition online.
THIS WEEK'S FFB LINKS:
Les Blatt – At 1:30 by Isabel Ostrander (1915)
David Cranmer – Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (1962)
Bill Crider – The Star Treasure by Keith Laumer (1971)
Jose Cruz and Peter Enfantino – The Pre-Code Horror Comics Volume Two
Martin Edwards – Criminal Sentences by Steve Haste (1997)
Barry Ergang via Kevin Tipple – Wicked Women ed. Lee Wright (1960)
Curt Evans – Goddess of Death by Michael Underwood (1982)
Shonna Froebel – The Sacred Cut by David Hewson (2006)
Glenn Harper – Two Soldiers by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellström (2012; English 2014)
Rich Horton – A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1912)
Jerry House – Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such by Joe R. Lansdale (1995)
Randy Johnson – The Bedroom Bolero by Michael Avallone (1963)
TracyK – Villain by Shuichi Yoshida (2007)
George Kelley – Triplanetary by E.E. Smith (1934)
Margo Kinberg – The Killing of Emma Gross by Damien Seaman (2013)
Rob Kitchin – My Soul to Take by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir (2009)
Kate Laity - Ride the Pink Horse by Dorothy B. Hughes (1946)
Evan Lewis – The Evil Star by John Spain a/k/a Cleve F. Adams (1944)
Nik Morton - Mission by Patrick Tilley (1981)
Steve Nester via The Rap Sheet – Epitaph For A Dead Beat, by David Markson (1972)
John F. Norris - Darkest Death by Ralph Stevenson (1964)
Erica Obey – Darkness at Pemberley by T.H. White (1932)
John O’Neil – Galaxy Science Fiction, June 1952
James Reasoner – The Man from Scotland Yard by Maxwell Grant a/k/a Walter B. Gibson (1935)
Richard Robinson – A Six-Letter Word for Death by Patricia Moyes (1983)
Peter Rozovsky – Hot Rock by Donald Westlake (2001)
R.T. – Dekok and the Dead Harlequin by A.C. Baantjer (2009)
Ron Scheer - Texas Showdown by Elmer Skelton (2007 reissue)
Bill Selnes - The Mao Case by Qiu Xiaolong (2010)
Craig Sisterson – The Silent Hour by Michael Koryta (2009)
Kerrie Smith – Closed for Winter by Jørn Lier Horst (2011)
TomCat – Alias Basil Willing by Helen McCloy (1951)
David Vineyard via Steve Lewis – I’ll Call Every Monday by Orrie Hitt (1954)
Rich Westwood – The Hand in the Dark by Arthur J. Rees (1920)
James Winter – Calypso and Ghosts by Ed McBain (1979, 1980)