MURDER AT 3 CENTS A DAY
Except for the cover images, the first four entries below were taken exactly as they can be found in William F. Deeck’s book, Murder at 3 Cents a Day. The subtitle for the book will explain more: An Annotated Crime Fiction Bibliography of the Lending Library Publishers: 1936-1967.
Bill had completed the book before he passed away in 2004, but at the time of his death, he had not yet been able to find a publisher for it. With the manuscript in the hands of mystery writer Bill Pronzini, the search was continued after Bill Deeck’s death, but there were no takers to be found. Some publishers looked at it, some promises were made, but in the end, nothing more happened. When Steve Lewis offered in mid-2006 to put the entire book online, Bill agreed, and soon thereafter the project was begun
The website was registered as www.lendinglibmystery.com, some preliminary uploading followed – and that was when events took an unexpected turn. It happened at Pulpcon later in 2006, during a conversation that took place between Steve and George Vanderburg. George is the man in charge at The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, publisher of a number of hefty volumes of both classic detective fiction reprints and stories from the pulps. While discussing the various projects both he and Steve were working on, George quickly became convinced of the value of the material in Bill Deeck’s book, and having a strong interest in works of bibliographic interest in the field of crime fiction, he enthusiastically declared his wish to publish it. Obviously there were details to be worked out with Bill Pronzini, but with almost no delay, they were.
Jump to the present. Even though Bill Deeck’s book is now available, and in the precise format he’d envisioned, we [Bill Pronzini and I] have decided to keep the website up and running. Our intentions are to maintain it as a supplement to the book, not only for now, but for the foreseeable future. Even more, the Internet will allow us to enhance Bill’s book in a way that would be prohibitively expensive to do in printed form: with very little effort, we can upload and display full cover scans of every one of the titles which Bill Deeck included and annotated in MA3cAD. Or at least, that’s the goal.
The page you’re viewing right now, for example, includes cover scans of [almost] all of the mysteries published by Phoenix Press between 1936 and 1939. Follow the links at the bottom of this page to view the remaining covers through the end of the Phoenix line in 1952. For more information about the transition of Phoenix Press into Arcadia House and the names of the people involved, see Bill’s footnote following the cover scans for 1950-52.
Other publishers whose mysteries are included in MA3cAD are: Hillman-Curl, Arcadia House, Mystery House, Gateway Books, Alliance Press, Alliance Book Corporation, The William Caslon Company, Dodge Publishing Company, William Godwin Inc., and Jonathan Swift Publishers. Cover images for the all of their mystery fiction will be uploaded to this site as quickly as we can do it.
For the commentary that goes with each of these novels, you may consider the notes and blurbs you’ve seen above as only a teaser. For the complete version, you’ll have to buy the book itself. See the main page for more information.
A. A. Archer (Archie Joscelyn)
THREE MEN MURDERED
Leading character: Lieutenant Ripley Reeve
Dust-jacket: On a background of green and gray is a large tree with leaves above a window showing an elderly man slumped in a chair. The top of a ladder is leading against the window sill. On the spine a red circle contains a ladder, a revolver, and a test tube with contents. “3” in title is white; the rest is red. Author’s name is white on a red strip at bottom.
Blurb: When Percival Maxon, the eccentric bird-fancying millionaire, was found shot to death, the evidence pointed clearly to his nephew, Larry O’Neill. When Lieutenant Ripley Reeve had run down some of the clues, he was certain of one baffling conclusion: Maxon could not have been murdered in the manner that everything positively proved! But by this time two other victims had been killed by an exotic poison. In pursuit of a suspect Reeve is almost electrocuted, but the solution is one that flabbergasted that old detective as much as it will the most expert mystery reader.
Note: Archie Lynn Joscelyn, a free-lance writer, wrote mainly in the Western and pulp fields.
Review excerpts: “The solution will hardly do, but the rest of the story burbles along pleasantly enough, and there’s something appealing about the whole thing.”—Will Cuppy, Books
“The story is nothing to write home about.”—Isaac Anderson, New York Times
“Somewhat murky mixture of bird-fancying, oriental cult high-jinks, and what not – but the solution is unique. Readable.”—Saturday Review of Literature
Leta Zoe Adams
THE MIRROR MURDER
Leading characters: Elsa Kent and Sheriff Alex Boone
Setting: Washington State
Dust-jacket: Upper background is light red shading to white, on which is the title in black. Bottom background is black, with brown shading around a white mirror in front of which is the black figure of a man with a knife in his back. The same figure is on the spine with a larger knife in his back.
Blurb: The stabbed body of Rance Hindley fell crashing into a mirror and tragically interrupted the party at his home on lonely Outpost Island, off the northwest coast of Washington.
Who killed him? Nearly everyone there could have; it seemed that nearly everyone would have. The trail of the killer leads through a series of thrilling and exciting events. Although all the facts and clues are available to everyone, no one can solve the mystery except the hick sheriff – and perhaps the reader, though we doubt it.
THE CASE OF THE DEAD GRANDMOTHER
Leading characters: Amy Clarke and John Yayley, newspaper reporters
Dust-jacket: On a black and shading into bright yellow background is a cityscape with one building prominent. There is a light on one of the windows of the building. “The Case of” is yellow; “the Dead Grandmother” is white. Author’s name is black.
Blurb: Amy was pleasantly engrossed with the prospect of a life of ease which awaited her when her aged grandmother should die. But there was someone who could not wait and the old lady was found murdered.
The entire Clarke family of eccentrics lived under one roof. This should have simplified the problems of Johnny Yayley, the reporter who was summoned for assistance by Amy. But he had to use all the ingenuity he possessed to eliminate the wrong clues and suspects and identify the guilty person.
Note: Reprinted as Murder for Fun XXX Real by Black Knight.
DEATH IN THE DORMITORY
Leading character: Bill Fuller, school principal pro-tem
Dust-jacket: A stone building with just one light in a second-floor window.
Blurb: Did Nathan Fuller, principal of Meadowdale Academy, foresee the murder of Madeline Jeffries, the magnolia-skinned violin teacher? When he asked his broker nephew to assume his duties temporarily, why did his note say: “Watch ... any peculiar happenings”?
And of what significance were the gold earrings, the broken swing, the note near Madeline’s body reading: “Meet me to-night”?
These were only a few of the questions Bill Fuller, principal pro-tem, was obliged to face. But eventually, after danger and disaster, he knew all the answers.
Phoenix Press, 1937 (continued)
PHOENIX PRESS: 1940-44
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