Monday, September 7, 2015

Web Detective Stories, October 1960 (Volume 3, Number 3)

Very similar to (but not as enjoyable as) the issue of Two-Fisted Detective Stories I recently reviewed, this October 1960 issue of Web Detective Stories features a handful of lurid crime stories with EC Comics levels of dark humor and “twist” endings you can see coming a mile away. No surprises there, as despite not carrying the Reese Publications imprint logo, this mag was also edited by publisher Bud Ampolsk, who turns in my favorite tale in the magazine.

“The Triple Cross” by Richard Deming starts things off; this one’s narrated by Deming’s recurring character Manville Moon, a private eye who has an artificial lower right leg, something only given cursory mention in this story. Since getting on my recent hardboiled kick I’ve seen Deming’s name quite often, but I don’t as yet have any of his novels and this is the first of his work I’ve read. The story isn’t bad but seems pretty quick and underdeveloped, which is true about most every story here – this certainly isn’t Manhunt magazine.

Moon’s hired by Henry Sheffield, a mega-rich guy whose young wife Sylvia was murdered a few months ago. Local hoodlum Eddie Dallas is the prime suspect but the cops can’t pin it on him. Sheffield thinks he’s next on Dallas’s list and hires Moon to protect him. Eventually they visit Dallas in his penthouse apartment, and as they check out the mobster’s collection of vintage weapons Dallas professes his innocence. Then the hoodlum later calls Moon, blaming him for stealing his WWII trench knife. Moon didn’t do it, which leaves only one other candidate. That night Dallas turns up dead in Sheffield’s home; the story Sheffield gives is that Dallas tried to break in and kill him with the knife, but Moon knows that Sheffield had the knife and Dallas was merely coming to get it from him – in other words, Sheffield just murdered the guy.

“Model Of Murder” by Christopher Mace is more along the goofy, EC Comics-esue vibe these Ampolsk-edited digests were known for. It’s about a sculptor named George Carlton who lives off of a heavyset wealthy lady named Bernice. Meanwhile George has a nice thing going with blonde hotstuff Yvonne, secretly shacking up with her in his artist’s loft just off from the main house. Yvonne pushes him to divorce Bernice, but George can’t do it, he needs the money. So he decides to kill Bernice, coming up with the most bizarre method you’ll ever read.

Sculpting a realisitc hand, he stores it in the fridge for a while and then dips the cold marble in chocolate and ties it to the pull-chain for the light in the bedroom closet. That night when Bernice comes home George makes up a story he claims to have read in the paper, about a maniac loose on the streets who chopped up someone and made off with the bodyparts. Bernice, aghast at the tale, goes into the closet, grabbing for the light-pull – and grabs hold of that “severed hand.” She has a heart attack and dies, and George figures her two million is now his. Only he forgot to factor in Goldie, Bernice’s equally-obese maid; she says she knows what George did, and unless he marries her she’ll turn him in to the cops.

“Daughter of Darkness” by O.W. Reynolds is a short nasty about Margaret, a pretty 17-year-old who works as a waitress in a dive somewhere. With a mother who whores herself and a long-gone father, Margaret yearns to get the hell out of town. She puts down the constant proposals of various men, until one night she decides to get in the car of some random guy who pulls up alongside her as she walks home. He tells her she can be his partner on a cross-country con game. Margaret, who hates men, gets in. Their first job will be to rob a diner; the guy will go in, rob the joint, and then run back to the car, Margaret driving them off. Instead Margaret runs him over and drives off to a new life in a new town. The end!

“Dumb Bull” by Flip Lyons concerns Rosie Haver, high-class hooker for bigwig crook Tony Marchione. Teddy Landon, a junior cop, arrests Tony while he’s in the middle of doing the deed with Rosie, something his superior bashes him for – he should’ve nabbed Rosie instead and tapped into her knowledge about the Marchione crime family. Back Landon goes to Rosie’s place, figuring someone’s likely about to kill her – and of course, a few Marchione thugs are on the way to her place. Features a lackluster finale with Rosie running for safety across the rooftop of her apartment building and Landon, whom she’s called “a dumb bull,” showing up to blast the thugs and save the day.

“You Can’t Cheat Death” by Earle Smyth is like I Know What You Did Last Summer a few decades early; a guy named Smathers has just run over someone, out driving around late at night with his busty mistress Caroline. Now Smathers, who runs a fashion company in New York, is desperate to keep it all out of the papers, lest he be ruined. This long tale then goes into a flashback on how Smathers hired Caroline, who showed up one day willing to both model his lingerie and work around the office. Lots of “spicy” stuff here with details on how Caroline would waltz around in “wisps” of lingerie for department store buyers, the men oggling her curvaceous bod and buying Smather’s lingerie in bulk.

This leads somehow to an affair between Smathers and the girl; I say “somehow” but any idiot can easily figure that Caroline has something up her sleeve. This goes on for a few months and then one night the two are driving back to Caroline’s place and Smathers, as usual, has had a few too many, and he runs over some guy in the gutter. Caroline checks the body, says the man is dead, and Smathers panics. They keep it quiet but the next day Smathers receives a threatening note; the sender claims to know what Smathers did and demands payment to keep quiet. A panicking Smathers has Caroline do all the dirty work for him, answering the blackmailer’s calls, taking the demanded payment to him. Who will be surprised when the blackmailer turns out to be the man who was in the gutter – ie Caroline’s partner in a long-running con game?

“Lust Isn’t Funny” by Fletcher Flora has one of the goofiest titles ever. Flora’s like Deming, a hardboiled writer who’s name I see a lot but haven’t actually read…until now! This short tale probably isn’t the best indication of his writing talents, though. Leo Baldwin, “a publicity bloated punk comic with a sponsor,” likes to frequent the club owned by Clay Cooper. Baldwin is a notorious prick who picks up women with ease, due to his fame and wealth – all while his wife sits right there. Gilbert, the club’s headwaiter, complains that Baldwin treats his wife like shit, just openly pawing women while she sits there beside him. After Baldwin’s wife tries to commit suice that night – Gilbert having saved her – the headwaiter decides to do something about it. He spikes Baldwin’s drink with his wife’s poison and then blithely informs Cooper later that the annoying comic is dead. 

“Mistress of Evil” is by Bill Ryder, aka Bud Ampolsk himself, and it’s very much along the lines of the sort of thing he’d write for the sweat mags he also edited and published. In a way this one’s almost like a “part two” to the Nazi Horror tales he edited/wrote for those sweat mags, such as the type seen in Soft Brides For The Beast Of Blood; it’s about Gustave Himmelman, a pyschiatrist in an American city who is really taken to task by his latest client, an attractive young woman named Margery Coleman. Margery’s problem is that she gets off on being hurt, especially being whipped, and it’s driving a wedge in her marriage because her husband doesn’t get it.

As Gustave sits and listens, breaking out into a sweat, Margery goes into a long backstory over the many times she’s gotten off on pain. Starting with her father, who whipped her (much to her enjoyment), to the boy who took her virginity, Margery basically demanding that he beat her up before, during, and after the act. And let’s not forget about her sorority sisters, who as part of hell week stripped her down and whipped her, something which made Margery actually pass out, due to the power of her orgasms. What she wants from Gustave is not psychoanalysis but instead for him to whip her! If not, she’ll make up a story that he raped her.

But what we learn in the last moments is that Gustave was really a medical officer at Dachau, and is a wanted Nazi, “Himmelman” just being the name he took up when he fled Germany. He also knows that this gorgeous young sadist will be “the end of him,” because, once he starts whipping her, he won’t be able to stop. Whereas the title makes you think Margery is going to be the evil one, it’s actually Himmelman, and all she has done is unleashed the evil he’s blocked in himself this past decade and a half. He begins whipping her nude body, knowing he will whip her until she is dead – just as he whipped to death so many other women at Dachau.

“As Hot As Ginger” by Art Crockett rounds out the mag. This first-person tale doesn’t feature Crockett’s recurring character Juan Kelly; it’s narrated by a 21 year-old petty thief named Petey who when we meet him is watching as his fellow burglar, 17 year-old Big Sal, is punching some woman in the gut. Crockett goes to town detailing how savagely the woman’s been uppercut, so hard that the “squishy” sound of it makes Petey figure the gal will be puking her guts out for the rest of the week. He and Sal are in the midst of robbing the woman’s apartment, only to be surprised when she shows up – and they’re even more surprised when she produces a .38 and, despite being half-dead from agony, blows a few holes into Big Sal. 

The lady passes out after that and Petey makes a run for it. The next day on the news he hears that the lady was actually a policewoman named Ginger and she’s given Petey’s full description to the force. Now all the cops in the city are out looking for him, even the ones with the day off. A frantic Petey attempts to escape, only to be caught in a traffic jam – and to find that Ginger is the policewoman directing traffic! He abandons the car and hightails it for a barbershop, where he gets a buzz cut; next he gets a pair of glasses. Getting some books so he’ll look like a student, Petey’s almost home free when some cops yell at him. He runs for it, falls, wonders how they figured he was the guy from the break-in; turns out they were just yelling at him because they assumed he was a truant, but they’re sure glad to hear they’ve just nabbed the guy who had the audacity to rob a policewoman’s apartment.

EDIT: As Walker Martin mentions below, Peter Enfantino also reviewed this issue of Web Detective (as well as all of the others) at the Barebones e-zine blog; you can read the review here.


Walker Martin said...

This issue was review a few years ago on a blog called BAREBONES E ZINE. Peter Enfantino picked "The Triple Cross" as one of the better stories to appear in WEB DETECTIVE. I read it a couple months ago and liked it, mainly I guess because the defective detective just gives up on a murder case. Something that probably happens more often than we think.

Joe Kenney said...

Thanks for the comment, Walker. I've updated the review with a link to the Barebones e-zine site. I've been reading some Manhunt stories since this issue of Web Detective, and the difference in quality is incredible. Funny you should employ the phrase "defective detective," as I just learned about (and ordered) the old anthology The Defective Detective In The Pulps.

Walker Martin said...

There also is a second volume titled, More Tales of the Defective Detective in the Pulps. DIME MYSTERY in the late 1930's and the early 1940's had several series starring detectives with disabilities and handicaps.

Walker Martin said...

MANHUNT is my favorite crime digest magazine and was the best of the hardboiled magazines that flooded the newsstands in the 1950's. I discuss my adventures in collecting all 114 issues at

The fiction was on a far higher level than the stories in WEB DETECTIVE.