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    Three paintings by the amazing Floyd Gottfredson.

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    This 1937 cliffhanger serial (not to be confused with the 1945 feature film of the same name) was the first of four serial featuring our man Dick, and was followed by four feature films. And dang, I've yet to see a one of them. I'd better get cracking. This would be a rare opportunity to see Smiley Burnette clowning around in a fedora instead of a cowboy hat. In this one, for reasons unknown to me, Dick is a G-Man instead of a police detective.

    More Overlooked Films (most of which I have ALSO personally overlooked) at Sweet Freedom.

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    Richard Prosch has a new Western series going, and it looks like a winner.

    "Branham's Due" takes us to wild and wooly Holt County, Nebraska, where Deputy Sheriff Whit Branham is hunting Johann Kramer, a notorious back-shooter freshly arrived from Dakota Territory. What Whit doesn’t know is that Kramer has hooked up with Whit’s old Sunday School teacher, a mountainous, pumpkin-faced woman who’s strayed from her righteous ways. Luckily, Whit flunked Sunday School and is not above a little unrighteous behavior of his own.

    Richard Prosch’s writing is clever and sharp, like Whit himself, and his quirky supporting characters are finely drawn.

    Also included: a preview of the soon-to-be-released novella, “Holt County Law,” in which we meet Whit’s boss, Sheriff Barney Keane, and other salty residents of O’Neill City, Nebraska. “Branham’s Due” is the beginning of what promises to be a great series, and I’m already looking forward to “Holt County Law.”

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    Okay, I like Daniel Craig as an actor, and his latest films have delivered some amazing action, but I just ain't never going to accept him as James Bond. The guy below is IT, and I'd rank Pierce Brosnan number 2. Heck, I prefer even George Lazenby to Craig.




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  • 11/26/12--05:00: A Fistful of LESTER DENT!
  • Here's a package of great reading from Black Dog Books - at 30% off cover price. Lester Dent rocks! Click HERE to order.

    Check out the rest of the amazing Black Dog line-up, including other SALE PACKAGES, HERE.

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    I was always thought Kid Galahad was just an Elvis movie (albeit an above-average Elvis movie, because it had fighting built into the storyline and supporting cast members who could actually act). Boy, was I wrong.

    The real Kid Galahad is this 1937 classic, while the Elvis vehicle is only a pale imposter.

    This one has rock-solid performances from Robinson, Davis and Bogart, some fine directing from Michael Curtiz, and a screenplay I can’t kick about. And there are some pretty cool fight scenes. It’s an all-around entertaining film, and I’m ashamed to admit I discovered it only recently.

    Robinson is definitely the star here. The story is his more than anyone else’s. But Bette Davis runs a close second, and while Bogie got third billing, he’s really only incidental. Wayne Morris, as the innocent farm boy/bellhop Kid Galahad, gets more screen and story time.

    Bogart is great, of course, in what little role he has. He’s the bad-guy fight manager handling the current heavyweight champ, and the guy who stands in the way of Robinson taking the title for a fighter of his own. Bette Davis plays Fluff, Robinson’s long-time girl, who knows she’ll never be as important to him as the fight game.

    Enter Wayne Morris, the bellhop who smacks down the Champ to defend Fluff’s honor, and Kid Galahad is born. Robinson finally has high hopes of taking the title away from Bogart.

    Naturally, something gets in the way of that goal, and that something is love. Before long they’re caught in a triangle with an extra angle, as Robinson is in love with Davis, Davis with Galahad, and Galahad with Robinson’s sister. Thankfully, the writers stopped there, or we might have had Robinson’s sister in love with Bogart and Bogart in love with Robinson.

    Also thankfully, the love stuff stops short of being sappy, and the film ends on a down beat, with violence and death. Elvis could have used more of that in his version.

    Find films other folks have overlooked each week at this time at Sweet Freedom

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    I've been rereading ALL of the Continental Op (short for Continental operator) stories, and as I mentioned earlier this month in a review of the first paperback collection, The Continental Op (that's HERE), that amounts to 28 stories (some of which are long novelettes) and two novels.

    That's a LOT of writing, accounting for a good two-thirds of Hammett's total output.

    This collection, published as a Jonathan Press digest in 1945 and Dell Mapback in 1947, contains two novelettes and three stories, all of which originally appeared in Black Mask.

    The earliest story, "The Tenth Clew," (respelled here as "The Tenth Clue"), was first published in January 1924. It belongs to what I call the Op's "invisible" stage. The prose is straightforward and spare. It's not lacking in style, but it displays none of the distinct personality that emerges in later stories. Hammett's goal here was to lay out a puzzle for the Op to solve using the sort of investigative methods and agency resources Hammett himself used while working for the Pinkertons.

    I have to believe that "Death and Company," which did not appear in Black Mask until 1930, was written around the same time. Like "The Tenth Clew," it's an enjoyable tale with a clever finish, but the Op is pretty much a ghost.

    But in "One Hour," a short piece published only three months after "The Tenth Clew," the Op starts feeling his oats. Not only does he get more playful with his language, but he's plunged into a situation where he has to rely on his fists - and his gun - along with his brain.

    The main attractions of this collection are the two novelettes, "The Whosis Kid" (from March 1925) and "The Gutting of Couffignal" (December 1925), where both the language and the action gets more wild and woolly. Black Mask readers asked for more action, and Hammett delivered.

    In "The Whosis Kid," the Op gets tied up with a gang of backstabbing thieves whose antics anticipate those of Caspar Gutman, Joel Cairo and their cohorts in The Maltese Falcon. And in "The Gutting of Couffignal," the scene of the crime is entire town, where a criminal gang goes looting on a grand scale.

    These days, you won't find these stories in any one collection. Crime Stories and Other Writings your best source for "The Whosis Kid," "The Gutting of Couffignal" and "The Tenth Clew," because that book restores the original Black Mask text. "One Hour" appears in the 1999 collection Nightmare Town.

    Meanwhile, near as I can tell, "Death and Company" has not been reprinted anywhere since the Dell Mapback appeared in 1947. That's not only a damn shame, it's a disgrace. If any of you hardcore Op fans would like to read it, write me and email you scans.

    More Forgotten Books at pattinase!

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    This Black Dog Holiday Sale Package brings you $37 worth of Spicy Western adventure for $27. And this is a great line-up. You know Robert Leslie Bellem from his Dan Turner - Hollywood Detective stories (or if you don't, you should get to know him pronto!). Norvell Page was the man behind the best of The Spider's wild pulp adventures. And E. Hoffman Price wrote his Simon Bolivar Grimes tales as a tribute to his pal Robert E. Howard. Yee-hah! Click HERE to order.

    See the entire Black Dog line HERE.

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    Here’s the good news: This first film version of The Shadow was based on the pulp magazine rather than on the radio show. (The pulp character, by my reckoning, is the real Shadow, and the other guy an imposter). The movie is based on the novel “The Ghost of the Manor” from the June 15, 1933 issue.

    But the bad news is: Despite the cool title, The Shadow never really Strikes. In fact, he’s hardly present at all. This is really just an average low-budget mystery in which the hero twice dons a cape, for a total screen time of just over a minute.

    As the film opens, we meet an unnamed gentleman and his aide. The gentleman is examining the bullet that killed his father, a high-profile attorney killed by the racketeers he crusaded against. The gentleman professes a desire to learn who fired the bullet.

    Our hero spends the rest of the film solving a couple of mundane manor house murders and pretending to be an attorney named Chester Randall. Why this Randall persona was necessary is more than I can figure. In the pulp story, The Shadow was masquerading as Lamont Cranston, currently vacationing in Timbuktu. Anyway, it’s pretty tame stuff. A couple of guns are fired, but no one is shot on camera, and we don’t even get a fist fight.

    In The Shadow’s first brief appearance, he wears a normal narrow-brimmed fedora and has a cape draped casually over a shoulder or two. Though his face appears to be in full view of the bad guys, they immediately know him as The Shadow. Hm.

    Next time he pops in, he has the high collar of his cape turned up, so folks see just his eyes. This is more effective, but all he does is stand there, point a gun, and vamoose.

    Only at the very end of the film, via a newspaper article, do we learn that our gentleman hero is amateur criminologist “Lamont Granston.” Yes, Granston with a G. Why? I’ve no idea. Unlike the Cranston we know from the magazine, he doesn’t know anybody and nobody knows him, so he parades around in his own face without being recognized. The mystery of who shot his father is never resolved, though the film ends with him studying a bullet recovered during the case.

    Rod LaRocque makes a decent film detective. He always wears a slightly amused look, like a slightly older and fleshier version of Warren William. This adds a little comic relief, and we get more from the byplay between him and his aide. Trouble is, he’s not Lamont Cranston, or even Granston.

    The film is otherwise not horrible. It’s a typical cheapie, with passable acting and occasionally good dialogue. A musical soundtrack would have helped a lot, but I guess that wasn’t in the budget. It’s only really bad if you watch it expecting to see The Shadow.

    More Overlooked Films at Sweet Freedom.

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    OK, I told you about the Lester Dent 4-pack (HERE) and the Spicy Western 3-pack (HERE). Now here's the Fighting G-Men 2-pack - a $50 Black Dog value, offered for a limited time for just thirty bucks. Shock Troops of Justice (I reviewed it HERE) brings you twelve adventures of Duke Ashby of the F.B.I. The author, Robert R. Mill did his homework, and it shows. Duke Ashby uses actual F.B.I. methods to bring fictional criminals to justice. And Bring 'em Back Dead delivers three pulp novels starring ace G-man Dan Fowler. The Fowler series ran in G-Men Detective for almost twenty years because it delivered the action readers craved. Order info HERE.

    Check out more Black Dog Holiday Packages (and the regular line-up too) right HERE.

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    Hammett Homicides, edited by "Ellery Queen," appeared in digest in 1946 and Dell Mapback in 1948.

    The stars of this collection are the two related novelettes “The House on Turk Street” and “The Girl with the Silver Eyes.” Originally from Black Mask in April and June 1924, this was the first time the two stories appeared together, and they’ve been together ever since.

    Both stories are good examples of the Op in transition. He’s still behaving like a realistic agency detective, but his language is growing more colorful. He’s still a long way from the peak of his narrative style in Red Harvest, but he’s on the move.

    In “The House on Turk Street” a kindly old couple agree to answer questions to aid his investigation. But they’re not at all what they seem, and the Op finds himself in a house full of thieves, each more dangerous than the next - and each looking for every opportunity to double-cross the others. One of the gang is a deadly dame who escapes to bedevil him again in the next story . . .

    . . . “The Girl with the Silver Eyes.”  The deadly dame, known as Elvira in the first story, now uses the handle Jeanne Delano, but neither is her real name. She was Hammett’s first prototype for the character who eventually became Brigid O’Shaunessy in The Maltese Falcon. She relies on her beauty to bamboozle men, and she’s so good it almost works even on the Op.

    Next up is “Night Shots,” a manor house mystery from February 1, 1924. The Op solves a clever plot, and the characters are quirky, but his language is pretty bland. Hammett made a major stylistic leap between this and “Silver Eyes,” just four months later.

    The fourth, and last, Op story in the book is “The Main Death,” a puzzle story from June 1927. Publication-wise, it falls between “$106,000 Blood Money” and the first installment of Red Harvest, but stylistically it’s more akin to “Night Shots.” My guess is that this was written in 1923 or ‘24. It’s main claim to fame is that features a character named Bruno Gungen who bears several qualities later seen in Caspar Gutman.

    “Two Sharp Knives” is an oddity - a first-person detective story in which the narrator is not the Op - he’s a small town police chief named Scott Anderson. This one appeared in Collier’s in January 1934, and it’s a nice little tale, though not among Hammett’s best.

    “Ruffian’s Wife,” from the October 1925 issue of Sunset, was the biggest surprise for me. This is fine, sophisticated storytelling - and great prose too - though the entire story is in the third person point-of-view of the title character. I hadn’t read this in just about forever, and forgot how good it was.

    So where do these tales reside today?  “The House in Turk Street,” “The Girl with the Silver Eyes” and "The Main Death" are in both The Continental Op (1974) and Crime Stories & Other Writings (2001). The Crime Stories versions follow the Black Mask text, while the others, like those in Hammett Homicides, were altered by Frederick Dannay. “Night Shots,” “Two Sharp Knives” and “Ruffian’s Wife” appear in Nightmare Town (1999).

    Links to more Forgotten Books appear on pattinase.

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    Talbot Mundy's pulp stories (mostly from Adventure magazine) are as fresh and sharp today as they were a hundred years ago. He's better known for his novels, of course, and I like those just fine, but I enjoy the short stories even more. This is great stuff! (My review of In A Righteous Cause is HERE.)

    For a limited time, Black Dog is offering these four collections - an $83 value - for a measly sixty bucks. Order info HERE.

    For the dope on more great books, and more Package Specials, click HERE.

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    Many of the films I review here don't live up to expectations, and I'm compelled to make snide remarks about them. Not so this time. Maybe it's because I expected this one to be bad, and it wasn't. Thanks to the wacky performance of Ray Milland, it was FUN.

    That's not to say I'm a Bulldog Drummond fan. At least not yet. I haven't read any of the 19 novels, never seen a TV episode, never heard the radio show, and, until now, hadn't seen any of the 26 movies. But after seeing this one, I am a fan of Bulldog Drummond Escapes.

    Milland's appeal here is that he seems more than slightly crazy. He's an adventurer who craves mystery and danger, and doesn't care who knows it. This is the same sort of divine madness that makes Doctor Who such a great character.

    And Milland gets an assist in the humor department from Reginald Denny (as his pal Algy) and E.E. Clive as his manservant. There are also some good scenes with Guy Standing, who plays a long-suffering Scotland Yard inspector.

    Sadly, this was Milland's only appearance as Drummond. The list of others who've played the role is impressive, including such names as John Barrymore, Ronald Coleman, Ralph Richardson, Tom Conway and Walter Pidgeon - - BUT, will they deliver that touch of insanity I enjoyed so much from Milland? Somehow I doubt it. I fear he may have spoiled me.

    If you, too, care to be spoiled, the entire film is presented below (courtesy of YouTube), and the sound and picture quality is superior to that of my cheapie DVD.

    NOTE: The stills below are labelled "Bulldog Drummond Comes Back." Why? Beats me. That was the title of another 1937 film, featuring John Howard in the title role. Actually, "Comes Back" would have been a more appropriate title for this one, because it opens with him coming back from some exotic adventure - and he never "Escapes" from anything.

    More Overlooked Films, etc., at Sweet Freedom.

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    Our hero has had some truly wild rides here in the All-New WILD Adventures of Doc Savage, but none wilder than Death’s Dark Domain.

    In the Lester Dent novel Fortress of Solitude (reviewed HERE), you may recall, evil John Sunlight broke into Doc’s Arctic hideaway and stole a bunch of WWDs (Weapons of Weird Destruction) that Doc had appropriated from assorted mad scientists. In true bad-guy fashion, Sunlight sold one to each side in a small European war. Now, in this previously untold tale by Will Murray, while Sunlight is off somewhere enjoying the proceeds, Doc and his crew are stuck trying to clean up the mess.

    And it’s one hell of a mess. Some of the many menaces they’re up against are monsters who are invisible except for their eyeballs, a sudden blackness that makes everything dark as the inside of a lump of coal, and a squadron of bats the size of airplanes. Add to that the usual quota of quirky villains and dangerous dames (some even quirkier and more dangerous than usual) and you’ve got one of the toughest cases the Savage gang has ever tried to crack.

    As always, Will Murray’s homage to Lester Dent’s style is dead-bang perfect. And if I’m counting my fingers right, this is only the fourth in a projected seven-book run, so we have at least three more WILD adventures to look forward to.

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    Stark House Press, purveyors of fine vintage (and new) noir, just announced a special Holiday Sale. From now through the stroke of midnight on Dec. 25, they're offering a Buy 2, Get 1 Free deal - and to sweeten it, they're throwing in Free Shipping.

    They offer an impressive - and extensive - line-up. Along with the authors pictured here, you'll find titles by such folks as Gil Brewer, W.R. Burnett, A.S. Fleischman, Elizabeth Saxnay Holding, Steven Marlowe, Vin Packer and Peter Rabe. And most books contain two or more novels, so that's a lot of noir.

    Details and complete list of books HERE.

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    When I reviewed The Return of the Continental Op a couple of weeks ago (that's HERE), I noted that one of the stories, "Death & Company" (from the November 1930 Black Mask), had been out of print since 1947. At the time, I had it in my brain that this was the only Op tale so neglected. I was wrong.

    Hammett scholar Robb McAllister kindly reminded me that the story "It" (from Black Mask of November 1, 1923) has been out of print since 1951. That story last appeared, under the title "The Black Hat That Wasn't There" in the digest collection Woman in the Dark.

    That any Hammett stories are unavailable today is a travesty, and that Op stories are out of print is a crime. So I've scanned the digest versions of both tales, and I'm happy to share. Email me at, and I'll shoot them back at you.

    And do not fail to check this week's line-up of Forgotten Books - at pattinase.

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    Many folks consider Adventure magazine to be best pulp ever published. And these two volumes from Black Dog Books collect the very best stories from the mag's first five years. These guys were great storytellers, and great writers. Cover price for the two together is $70. Holiday Sale price: $44.95. Click HERE!

    More Holiday Package specials, and more, more, more books, HERE.

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    I haven't seen many Orson Welles films, but I've seen Citizen Kane a few times, and felt right at home here, because there were plenty of Kane-ey moments. By that I mean unexpected (but effective) camera angles, unusual close-ups, intense use of shadow, wild eyeballs, and music that sometimes jumps way over the top for dramatic effect.

    And Welles' acting is every bit as peculiar (and as good) as his directing. He's a Nazi war criminal who's come to Smalltown, U.S.A to disappear, and is about to marry the daughter of a Supreme Court Justice as the first step in his Happily Ever After. But along comes Edward G. Robinson, bulldog investigator for the War Crimes Commission, to shoot Orson's dreams to hell. 

    Loretta Young is the loving, trusting bride slowly forced to face the fact she's married a monster. She and Welles together account for about 90% of the wild eyeballs. Also on hand is a young Richard Long as her college student brother, twelve years away from 77 Sunset Strip and nineteen years away from The Big Valley

    This one never got boring, and built up to a clocktower climax that must have been the envy of Alfred Hitchcock. Dang, that's two Overlooked Films in a row that I actually enjoyed. Will the streak last another week? Stay tuned.

    The rest of this week's Overlooked Films are now playing at Sweet Freedom.

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    Those Holiday Sale Packages from Black Dog Books just keep on a'comin'. This one strikes a special chord for me, because it features one of my all-time favorite pulp writers, Mr. Fred Nebel.

    South Seas adventures stories were massively popular in the '30s because they took readers to exotic locales and pitted their heroes against unexpected dangers. Today, those locales are even more exotic - and the dangers even more unexpected - because this has become an almost lost genre. These three volumes are packed with great stories, this limited time offer brings you all three (a $55 value) for forty bucks. You'll find that deal HERE.

    But wait! Black Dog is also offering a Bedford-Jones 2-pack, an Adventure Library 4-pack, a Classic Sci-Fi 2-pack, a Creeping Terror 4-pack, a Crime Time 2-pack, an Early Science Fiction 2-pack, a Fly the Killer Skies 2-pack, a Sax Rohmer 2-pack, a Western 2-pack and a Swordsmen of the East 2-pack. 

    PLUS the ones I've talked about here on the Almanack: The Lester Dent 4-pack, the G-Men Galore 2-pack, the Spicy Western 2-pack, the Talbot Mundy 4-pack and the Best of Adventure 2-pack. Yikes. All great deals, and you'll find them all HERE

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    The four-story collection Nightmare Town first appeared in digest in 1948, with stories edited by Frederic Dannay, and was repackaged in this nice Dell Mapback in 1950. As a bonus, the Mapback included seven original illustrations, shown below. Bill Lyles, in a Paperback Quarterly article, attributed the art to Lester Elliott, and Bill should know.

    If the novelette “Nightmare Town,” originally from Argosy All-Story Weekly in 1924, had been written by Lester Dent, Walter Gibson or Norvell Page, I’d probably think it was a crackerjack story. But at Hammett’s hands, the tale seems unworthy of its author.

    Without giving too much away, I can say that the plot involves crime on a grand scale - a scale so grand that it requires heaping helpings of suspension of disbelief, and cries out for purple prose. And that’s the problem, because Hammett’s prose is anything but purple, and when he tells me something’s happening, I tend to believe him.

    Not this time.

    The good news, though, is that “Nightmare Town” was his first crack at tackling a large scale crime, and can be viewed as a test run for the more successful stories to follow. I’m talking here about “The Gutting of Couffignal,” in which an entire town is looted, “This King Business,” in which a corrupt European nation is up for grabs, “The Big Knockover,” where a hundred of the nation’s elite crooks converge on San Francisco to rob two banks at once, and Red Harvest, where the Continental Op blows the lid off a crime-infested city.

    Our hero here is Steve Threefall, who blunders into the strange town of Izzard on a drunken bet, takes interest in a nubile young woman, and is soon up to his neck in strange characters and sudden violence. Luckily, he carries a weighted ebony walking stick and knows how to use it. The stick is described as having a roughness that polishing cannot disguise - which must have confused the Dell artist, because he seems to have turned it into a club.

    Steve Threefall kicks butt with his "walking stick."

    Unlike the Op, Steve allows himself to fall for the dame.

    Hammett’s prose is a pleasure to read, as always, and there’s plenty of action in the finale, but something is just . . . off. I have no evidence that he tried and failed to sell this to Black Mask before submitting it to Argosy All-Story, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

    Next up is “The Scorched Face,” from Black Mask May 1925, in which the Continental Op is on the trail of two runaway rich girls. This one is a nice mix of realistic detective work with gratuitous sex and violence. Hammett was quickly learning his trade.

    The artist didn't get the memo that the Op is supposed to be short and broad.

    Still not broad, but maybe shorter.

    “Albert Pastor at Home” is a short-short (little more than flash fiction) that first appeared in Esquire in 1933. It’s a great little tale, though, full of humor and tough talk. And it’s unusual for Hammett, because it’s told in first-person present tense.

    Meet Albert Pastor (alias Lefty), a genial disbarred heavyweight
    who beats people up for money (or for free).

    This collection saved the best for last, as the Continental Op rides into the Wild West in “Corkscrew,” from Black Mask September 1925. Hammett had fun with this one and didn’t care who knew it. Corkscrew, like Izzard the Nightmare Town, and like the yet-to-come Poisonville of Red Harvest, is a corrupt town, and the Op decides to clean it up whether his clients like it or not. Hammett was following the example of many western films of the time (and later), in which six-gun toting, bronc-busting cowpokes co-exist with city-slickers driving automobiles. It's a hoot.

    Never thought I'd see the Op in a cowboy hat.

    This tussle began thusly:
    The ex-pug looked me up and down and spit on the ground at my feet. 
    "Ain't you a swell mornin' glory?" he snarled. I got a great mind to smack you down!"
    "Go ahead," I invited him. "I don't mind skinning a knuckle on you."

    These days, “Nightmare Town” is the lead story in the 1999 collection Nightmare Town. It also appears in Crime Stories and Other Writings (2001), along with “The Scorched Face.” For “Corkscrew,” you’ll have to look in The Big Knockover, which also includes the Dannay-edited version of “The Scorched Face.”

    More Forgotten Books at pattinase!

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