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John Gawsworth – Crimes, Creeps & Thrills

Posted by demonik on September 2, 2007

John Gawsworth (ed.) – Crimes, Creeps & Thrills (Eric Grant, n.d.)

E. H. Visiak – The Shadow
Philip Lindsey – Hunger
R. Edison Page – The Eyes Of Obi
E. H. Visiak & John Gawsworth – The Uncharted Islands
Kenneth Hare – The Woman With The Bundle
A. L. Davis – The Skull
John Rowland – The Rattlesnake
John St. Clair Muriel – Chinese Mask
R. Edison Page – The Ninth Year
Simon Dewes – Sacrifice
Henry Yalden – Broken
Richard Middleton – The Hand
M. P. Shiel & Fytton Armstrong – The Falls Scandal
Richard Middleton – Eccentric Lady Tullswater
H. H. Ewers – The Execution Of Damiens
Richard Middleton & G. Dundas – Murray’s Child
E. H. W Meyerstein – The Cat-Lovers
R. Edison Page – The Tube Of Radium
Frederick Carter – Coincidence
Edgar Jepson – The Women Avenge
G. R. Malloch – High Politics
Frances Marsden – The Signet Ring
Oswell Blakeston – – The House Opposite
Eimar O’Duffy – My Friend Trenchard
E. H. W Meyerstein – Boxbug Paints His Kitchen
John Lindsey – On Lighthouse Rock
Edgar Jepson – Secret Service Work!
Mary Francis McHugh – Gilmartin
John St. Clair Muriel – Decision
Simon – Death For The Gander
Edgar Jepson – The Case Of The Absconding Financier
E. H. W Meyerstein – Really Was A Bluetit
Nora C. James – Helping Mummy
R. Edison Page & Kenneth Jay – The Jingling Telephone
E. H. Visiak – Carson
Mary Francis McHugh – The Ride
E. H. W Meyerstein – A Whistling Woman And A Crowing Hen
hamish MacLaren – Summer Harvest
Philip Henderson – Cruelty in Sunlight
Edgar Jepson – The Lost Meadow
Simon – The Disappearance
M. P. Shiel & Fytton Armstrong – The ‘Master’
Nugent Barker – The Announcement
Frederick Carter – The Fakir Of Teheran
Edgar Jepson & John Gawsworth – The Shifting Growth

Biographical notes

 Boring plain red cover on my copy so no point my scanning it.

The subtitle, “Forty-Five New Stories Of Detection, Horror And Adventure” forewarns you that it’s not going to be quiet as gruesome a ride as the best of the Not At Night‘s or Creeps. Some of these are super-short, two to three pages, and in certain cases, you know what’s going to happen within a few sentences. Another difference with the above named anthologies: on the strength of the dozen I’ve read at least, there’s less fascination with the “supernatural” than there is murder and suicide. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be fun …

Norah C. James – Helping Mummy: Poor Mrs. Rodgers. Her husband has died and now she’s taking the long boat journey home from the Philippines. Little Tommy and Ruth mean well, but that screaming baby is getting on everybody’s nerves and how are they to know she’s being flippant when she warns him that, if he doesn’t stop wailing, she’ll throw him out of the porthole ….

Edgar Jepson & John Gawsworth – The Shifting Growth:“Uncompressed, it looked as if it would have filled a drainpipe, and split the colon of an ox.”

Euw. The charming story of swimming champion Sylvia Bard, her perplexed surgeon lover and the nasty something she swallowed. Probably the most reprinted of the Thrills stories.

Simon – Death For The Gander: Mr. Carson thinks his daughter Marie is pulling a fast one when she insists they mustn’t move to the reputedly haunted house in Bloomsbury as she’s had a premonition. He threatens her with a good thrashing if there’s any more talk of this infernal spectral policeman peering through the window.

Richard Middleton – The Hand: A life-shattering experience for fanatical ornithologist Lord Scaife begins when he watches a young woman pass in the street below, her bonnet decorated with the rare tail-feather he thinks has been stolen from his collection. He tails her to a house in a part of London “which he had heard of but had not previously believed in.” There he encounters a feisty youth who mistakes him for a debt collector and locks him in a dark room with a severed hand for company.
All is explained at the end. Not really what I’d call horrific, but well told and Scaife’s mischievous sister Lady Arabella is the most likable character in the book thus far.

Simon Dewes – Sacrifice: Kaloun, a hunchback with the squeaky voice, has somehow convinced himself that he has a chance with the lovely Amima. His friend Anton, who has the reputation of being something of a Lothario, finally rids him of his delusions when he proposes to the girl and she readily accepts. Kaloun plans to kill Anton the next time they’re working the crocodile-infested river.

E. H. Visiak – Carson: A bullied youth finally turns on the younger kids who torment him. The shame of it all ruins his life.

Simon – The Disappearance: Inspector Deering mystery. This time the porky super is assisted in cracking the case of a fence who seemingly vanishes from a house under surveillance. Something to do with an old cretin who is transformed into a dashing young gent. It’s all in the thyroid gland, you know.

E. H. W Meyerstein – Boxbug Paints His Kitchen: A vindictive old despot who has “a habit of getting rid of things” finally sees the error of his ways when he encounters another of those plucky poor children who put in so many appearances in this book. He returns home and redecorates his room a ghastly shade of crimson …

Nugent Barker – The Announcement: John Warrington-Coombe spends the stifling hot afternoon in the public library. He’s a man of eclectic tastes judging by the several books he admiringly browses. His next stop is the police station to hand himself in …

E. H. W Meyerstein – The Cat-Lovers: Mr. Justice Grist and fellow henpecked Judge Leanjer bemoan the good old days when they could dole out twenty strokes of the cat-o’-nine-tails to juvenile delinquents. Nowadays, everybody’s too namby-pamby to allow the old perves to indulge their pleasure so often, but eventually Round and Bollow come before them. It was better for Grist and Leanjer that they hadn’t.

A. L. Davis – The Skull: Dr. McIver loans his artist friend James Ewen the skull of Old Maggie, recently hanged at the crossroads for murder. McIver and the medical students – body-snatchers to a man – liberated her corpse for their dissecting rooms but, forced to flee from an angry mob of villagers, they bodged the job and decapitated her in their haste to get away. McIver warns his friend that the skull resents being shut up in box or cupboard but if somebody tells you something like that, what are you going to do?

Kenneth Hare – Woman With A Bundle: Up there with Helping Mummy and The Skull as my favourites so far. The Nags Head is something of a hotbed of simmering sexual tensions. Landlady Mrs. Bates detests her husband for his inability to provide her with a baby, while barman Blowin is trying to get his end away with the not altogether discouraging barmaid Mary who can more than match his saucy innuendos. One day an old woman comes in and, after getting on the wrong side of Mrs. Bates by mentioning babies, departs having left behind her bundle. She doesn’t come back and finally the landlady inspects the lost property ….

John Rowland – The Rattlesnake: Johnson is captured and staked out by the Apaches with a tethered rattler for company. When it rains, the rawhide will expand and the snake will eventually reach him. Storm clouds hover overhead …

Hamish Maclaren – Summer Harvest: The old soldier sits at the bar selling fresh cherries to strangers and regaling them with tales of his experiences during the war in South Africa. Finally, the innkeeper has had enough and exposes him as a fraud who’s never set foot outside of Hillingdon. The old boy takes it badly and the Cherry tree is put to a different use.

Mary Frances McHugh – Gilmartin: Another suicide saga, this time concerning an Irish journalist drummed out of Fleet Street and fallen on hard times. He rages at the world – especially his countrymen – until he finally ends it all in the bogs at Euston Station. Like Summer Harvest, it’s well enough written but there are already enough of these predictable tragedies for one volume.

Edgar Jepson – The Women Avenge: Dear old Dennis Wheatley must have loved this one!

World War I. Lady Mosenheim, Clarissa Leggatt, Lady Northwold and her stocky Welsh servant, have each lost sons or lovers during the conflict. Good Tory’s all, they put the blame squarely at the feet of eighty ‘traitors’ – otherwise known as “The Labour Government” – including disgraced MP Blagden and an unnamed person at the very top. As men are too spineless to kill these wretched Socialists, the women will have to do it themselves.

Blagden, they decide, will be the first to be put on trial – not that he can influence the verdict as the eighty have already been found guilty and will be hung or otherwise executed for their crimes.

Lady Northwold invites him to River Court for the weekend …

Eimar O’Duffy – My Friend Trenchard: The narrator, Stapleton, has known Percy Trenchard from when they were at Wadminster School. He was always a headstrong, difficult fellow, seemingly incapable of tact, but after the great war he becomes odder than ever. When Stapleton goes to stay with him at his Sussex home, he finds that Trenchard has taken a wife – a woman ever on the verge of hysteria – and built a huge wall at the bottom of his garden. Trenchard’s recent expedition to Sumatra provides a clue to the horror that holds them in thrall.

Very well written but, to be honest, the revelation isn’t as scary as it should be and this one really stood out for me due to some Wheatleyesque Labour bashing (see also The Women Avenge). ” … I began to know what hunger was. My clothes became shabby, my boots wore out … I know lots of men in my situation – some of them even public-school men – became infected with Socialism and other seditious ideas. But I knew that wasn’t the game. Thanks to the training of the old school, I kept a stiff upper lip and determined to play with a straight bat.”

As is the case with The Women Avenge, the author gives no indication that this is intended as satire.

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