Friday, August 19, 2016

The Best of Spicy Mystery Volume 1 and 2

Editor Alfred Jan compiled the stories collected here all of which were originally published in Spicy Mystery magazine between 1935 and 1938. Spicy Mystery is legendary among pulp aficionados for stories and illustrations that often relied on naked or semi-nude women as enticements, wildly imaginative plots, and terse, hard-boiled writing. The collection was published by Altus Press in 2012. Being a fan of the pulps, I want to point out that reprint collections such as this, and facsimile reproductions of magazines such as those published by Adventure House, are absolutely vital in preserving this era of American entertainment fiction. The original pulp magazines have not aged well. Soon, they will all be untouchable, the pages too brown and brittle to handle. Reprints are vital, and they have become the new pulp collector’s items. The Best of Spicy Mystery Volume 1 is the perfect example of a modern collector’s edition. The eleven stories reprinted here (including the original illustrations) were chosen by Alfred Jan because they rise above some of the more mundane tales found between the covers of Spicy Mystery. The first tale, “Hell’s Archangel” by Henry Kuttner sets the tone for the moody tales that follow. The stories here are not only drenched in a moody atmosphere, but they clip along at a suspenseful pace. The other stories are: “Fiend’s Feast” by Robert Leslie Bellem, “Lorelei of Lynnwold Light” by Harley L. Court, “Murder from Nowhere” by Jerome Severs Perry, “The Second Mummy” by John Bard, “Mistress of Vengeance” by Justin Case, “Green Eyes” by Mort Lansing, “The Head of Mike Vasco” by Colby Quinn, “Bat Man” by Lew Merrill, “Mirror Magic” by Robert Leslie Bellem, and “Dance of Damballa” by Rex Norman. I always enjoy stories by Robert Leslie Bellem and both are good. I think the real forgotten gem in this collection is “Lorelei of Lynnwold Light” by Harley L. Court, a nifty haunted lighthouse story. The Best of Spicy Mystery Volume 2 offers another eleven stories, including two more by Robert Leslie Bellem, “Labyrinth of Monsters” and Taupoo Dance.” The other stories are “Cats of Cassandra” and “Castle Sinister,” both by Ellery Watson Calder, “She Who Was He” by Hugh Speer, “Blind Flight” by Clint Morgan, “The Secret of Old Farm” by Clive Trent, “I Must have 5 Corpses” by Jerome Severs Berry, “False Face” by Carl Moore, “Red For Murder” by Cary Moran and “Flesh of the Living” by Clark Nelson. These two volumes showcase the hardboiled allure of pulp fiction, and some of the lesser known but equally entertaining writers.

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