Violet Books Gallery

Weird Detectives


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JokerIsabel Ostrander's The Black Joker (McBride, 1925) features a fantastic pictorial of the death-Joker holding forth the horror-joker from a deck. A macabre shipboard mystery, the sinister deck of cards adds a fantastic element to the main thriller.

A(lfred) E(dward) W(oodley) Mason's No Other Tiger (Doran, 1927) is a were-tiger murder mystery featuring his series character Inspector Hanaud. It sports a gorgeous pictorial dustwrapper of a stalking great cat. Mason was a naval intelligence officer in the first world war & later in life a member of the British Parliament.

Kyne The dustwrapper for Peter B. Kyne's Golden Dawn (Cosmopolitan, 1930) shows our sunny heroine back-to-back with her crouching shadow-personality. Crime-action romance with a Jekyll & Hyde theme, a childhood accident caused the heroine's personality to split. As Penelope Gatlin she is a "society Cinderella"; as Nance Belden, she's an escaped convict on the lam.

CorrectorMelville Davisson Post's The Corrector of Destinies, Being tales of Randolph Mason (Clode, 1908) is third in the series. It consists of tales narrated by Mason's "Watson," his private secretary, Courtland Parks, & horror & detection is what Mason is all about. The decorative binding depicts a hand upholding a crystal ball. Erle Stanley Gardner named Perry Mason after Randolph Mason, so the two detectives must be near relatives.

JuveFrench detective writer Marcel Allain wrote several Parisian thrillers about the eerie villain Fantomas "the Lord of Terror, Genius of Crime," the Moriarity-like arch enemy of L'Inspecteur Juve of the Paris Surete. Juve in the Dock was issued in the US in 1926 by David McKay, then reissued by Burt with the same pleasing dustwrapper. Most of the Fantomas novels have never been translated.

MeyrickGordon Meyrick's last book, written shortly before his untimely death, was The Ghost Hunters (John Crowther Thrillers, 1947). Scientific psychic investigator Arnold Perry, assisted by a Watson-like companion & narrator, comprise the classic sort of ghostbreakers seeking the meaning & import of hauntings & poltergeists, & scaring the bejabbers out of themselves no matter how well prepared.


In The Mind of John Meredith (Macdonald, 1952), Francis Gerard's occult detective Sir John Meridith investigates a family curse in an ancient Welsh border-castle & evades a Baskervills-type hound, all captured in the dustwrapper that appears to be signed "Nairo" though I'm uncertain. There are several John Meridith adventures & there's a strong sense of John Dickson Carr in the best of these.


British author Margerie Lawrence personally believed in spiritualism, but her stories are definitely constructed as horror thrillers, not "instructional" occultism. Her collection The Master of Shadows recounts sundry adventures of occult detective Miles Pennoyer. Typical plots range from Miles' intervention in behalf of a girl haunted by the spirit of an evil mesmerist in "Circus Child" to his encounter with a vampiric spirit in "The Woman on the Stairs."


Russell Thorndyke is best known for his Dr. Syn historical adventure-mysteries, themselves eerie enough with their bizarre scarecrow imagery. But Russell also wrote a volume of ghost stories that approaches occult detection, i.e., The Master of the Macabre (Rich & Cowan, 1946), with individual tales set in an encompassing frame.


Sydney Horler's weird mystery The Curse of Doone (Mystery League, 1930) was issued in an attractive art deco dustwrapper depicting a bat over a corpse; it was a package intended to get the attention of Bram Stoker fans, though it was not Doone that emulated Dracula, it was Horler's later novel The Vampire (1935). Mystery League books were distributed in cigar stores rather than bookshops; this was the second title so issued, preceded only by The Hand of Power by Edgar Wallace.

KeelerHarry Stephen Keeler wrote many mysteries & thrillers that occasionally incorporated the fantastic. The Box from Japan (Dutton, 1932; seen here in the Burt reissue) is "a high-powered mystery yarn" set ten years in the future. This dustwrapper is borrowed from the Harry Stephen Keeler Society website, where you can go see many other wild covers for this author.

HangoverHangover House (Jenkins, 1950) is about as "straight" a murder mystery as Sax Rohmer ever wrote, featuring detective Storm Kennedy. Yet even here he could not resist his usual macabre touches, with a setting that offers something of the mood of a haunted house.

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