Thursday, September 22, 2022

Book Review: 'Alfred Hitchcock: A Hearse of a Different Color'

Book Review: 'Alfred Hitchcock's A Hearse of a Different Color'
4 / 5 Stars

'Alfred Hitchcock's: A Hearse of a Different Color' first was published by Dell in November, 1972. A new edition (207 pp.; pictured above) was released in August, 1980.

All of the 14 entries in 'Hearse' first appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine during the interval from 1960 to 1970. As such, they are devoid of supernatural trappings (it's rather difficult to determine from the title alone, which of these Dell Hitchcock anthologies were devoted more to the horror genre).

My capsule summaries of the contents:

Dream of a Murder, by C.B. Gilford: Harvey Fenster is a rotter.......who might just get away with murder.

The Missing Miles, by Arthur Porges: even the 'perfect' alibi can have a flaw.

Adventure of the Haunted Library, by August Derleth: a 'Solar Pons' story from Derleth. I can't say I've ever found these Pons stories to be very good pastiches of Sherlock Holmes, and 'Library' won't change my opinion: the 'ratiocination' used to explain the haunting of the library is more than a little contrived. 

In fairness, the MPorcius blog has a more complimentary attitude towards the Pons franchise; a review can be accessed here.

An Estimate of Rita, by Ed Lacy: Rita is a Swell Dame, married to the son of a very wealthy man. Nothing good ever comes of this, of course.

The Full Treatment, by Rog Phillips: never go over the speed limit near the sleepy, inbred hamlet of Bethel ! A great treatment of the 'Small Town from Hell' theme, and one of the best stories in the anthology.

Another Day, Another Murder, by Lawrence Treat: two cops investigate what seems to be an open-and-shut case. A very well-crafted story, with an ending that took me by surprise. Another of the better entries in the anthology.

The Living Doll, by Richard O. Lewis: it could be the most clever heist anyone ever has pulled off.........

The Flat Male, by Frank Sisk: undertaker Thaddeus Conway has an eccentric client.  A neat little tale, with Roald Dahl-ish humor.

Chaviski's Christmas, by Edwin P. Hicks: the eponymous Chavinski can't stay away from the station house on Christmas. And maybe that's a good thing.

The Case of the Helpless Man, by Douglas Farr: Uncle Rudolph, paralyzed from a stroke, must endure indignities.

Fat Jow and the Sung Tusk, by Robert Alan Blair: Chinatown resident Fat Jow investigates the theft of a priceless artifact. There are political ramifications. This story suffers from a failing, common to those stories of its era, in that the 'Oriental' characters speak a unique sort of stilted English............

Echo of a Savage, by Robert Edmond Alter: a variation on the theme introduced in the 1913 chestnut 'Fishhead', by Irvin S. Cobb. This time, the eccentric swamp man is named Jube.

The Nonconformist, by William R. Coons: the first-person narrator assures us that Robert Cressy is going to die.

The Sapphire that Disappeared, by James Holding: in Buenos Aires, the husband and wife detective team of Landis and Landis investigate a theft.

Summing up, 'A Hearse of a Different Color' represents another good showcase of stories from the era when detective and crime fiction magazines enjoyed considerable popularity with the literate members of the American public. There are enough good stories in this volume to justify a solid four-star rating. With their emphasis on well-crafted plotting and composition rather than mood and atmosphere, they retain value some 60 years after they first saw print.

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