Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Crime Club Books of 1928

1928: The first year of The Crime Club was 1928, and the series kicked off with The Desert Moon Mystery by Kay Cleaver Strahan as the inaugural edition on April 1st, 1928.

The premiere year continued with a number of great titles,  featuring 27 titles in total by 9 American authors by the end of December.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Crime Club Jigsaw Puzzle of The Death Safe by Edgar Wallace

The Crime Club jig-saw puzzle was a double-faced puzzle, which included a 16-page story of The Death Safe by Edgar Wallace. The idea of the puzzle was to read the story, and then solve the jigsaw clue so that you could solve the crime! Once you put the puzzle together, the solution to the mystery became clear.

The 16-page booklet of The Death Safe begins,
"Bash" was really clever. He stood out from all the other criminals in this respect. For the ranks of wrongdoers are made up of mental deficients--stupid men who invent nothing but lies. They are what the brilliant Mr. Coe calls in American criminals "jail bugs." The English criminal, because he does not dope, becomes a pitiable adn whining creature who demands charity, and the American criminal develops into a potential homicide.
Bash was a constant, but not, in the eyes of the law, an habitual criminal. He had never been charged because he had never been caught. He was an expert safe-breakers and worked alone.
This 200-piece puzzle was published by Einson-Freeman in 1933, and was one of three such puzzles: The Death Safe, The Torch Murder, and The Ringer's Revenge. The original cost of the puzzle was 35 cents, and here is the copy from the back of the box:
What was the secret of "THE DEATH SAFE?"
WHAT deadly thing lurked within?
WHO was "The Ringer", mysterious avenger of crime?
WHY did he kill "Bash the Brutal"?
HOW did "Mr. Bash" meet his fate?

The thrilling 16-page story by EDGAR WALLACE--King of Mystery-story writers--most widely read author of "thrillers" in the world, then--

The double-sided, 200 piece jig-saw puzzle--really TWO puzzles of 200 pieces each.
FIRST--put together the CLUE side--the torn letter and newspaper clipping. THEN put together the PICTURE side--in green and black--and you will


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Peter Cheyney and The Crime Club Card Game

Peter Cheyney authored the Crime Club card game, which was first published by Pepys (Castell Brothers Limited) in 1935. Peter Cheyney was a top author of British detective and mystery books in the 1930s and 40s, and to have him get personally involved in the creation of a card game for The Crime Club was quite a coup.

The set comes in a wonderful gold-lined box, featuring a sharp padded lid. The top of the box is embossed in gold, and a special card for Peter Cheyney is glued to the bottom of the box. The card game was released with two color varieties: the 1935 first edition features a padded dark purple box, with card backs of purple. The second edition, around 1938 or 1940, had a dark green box with green-backed cards, so there wouldn't be any confusion.

The game contains 50 cards, mostly made of characters from Peter Cheyney's books (such as Lemmy Caution), however there are exceptions, such as Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot. The cards are made up of 6 suits with 8 cards in each suit. There are 3 detective suits, and 3 crook suits. Each suit features characters, objects, and locations. There are also two jokers included in the set, as well as the instruction booklet and 4 value reminder slips. The back of each card features the masked Crime Club gunman on a geometric pattern. The card illustrations of Cheyney's Lemmy Caution and Carlotta are reissues of the classic architypes taken from John Pisani’s book cover artwork for the Collins editions of “This Man is Dangerous” and “Poison Ivy”.

The complete list of characters available in the game is:
  • Lemmy Caution
  • Hercule Poirot
  • Mr. Colbeck
  • Dr. Harlow
  • Superintendent Battle
  • Mr. Glapthorne
  • Mr. Woodspring
  • Inspector Macdonald
  • Peter Vernon
  • Mr. Evans
  • Janet Murch
  • Carlotta
The game is played as a two-part process: the first step in the game is to collect and make up a good hand. Then, in the second part of the game, the players attempt to take as few tricks as possible. Obviously, the game gets better as you play it, as the players quickly figure out what makes up the best hands for a winning strategy. The Crime Club card game is played with at least two players, and up to six can be accommodated using a single pack of cards -- for more than six players, it is recommended that you use two packs of cards.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Crime Club Radio Show

Eno Effervescent Salts
In 1931, The Crime Club came to radio for the first time, when some of the titles from Doubleday's The Crime Club library were dramatized on The Eno Crime Club, sponsored by Eno Effervescent Salts. The CBS Radio detective series ran from February 9, 1931 until December 21, 1932. It should be noted that Eno later sponsored Blue Network's Eno Crime Clues, but that did not have anything to do with The Crime Club -- that series ran from January 3, 1933 to June 30, 1936.

Then, in 1946, The Crime Club returned to radio as half-hour adaptations from the series in the Mutual Broadcasting System's program, Crime Club. The premiere of the show was Death Blew Out the Match, which aired on Monday, December 2, 1946, filling the time-slot previously occupied by Bulldog Drummond. This new show was a completely new start for The Crime Club on radio, and not associated in any way with the prevoius Eno Crime Club or Eno Crime Clues. The 1940s series were all broadcast on the Mutual Broadcasting System (MBS), and introduced by a mysterious host known as The Librarian.
The telephone rings, "Hello, I hope I haven't kept you waiting. Yes, this is the Crime Club. I'm the Librarian. Murder Rents A Room? Yes, we have that Crime Club story for you. Come right over. (The organist in the shadowed corner of the Crime Club library shivers the ivories) The doorbell tones sullenly, "And you are here. Good. Take the easy chair by the window. Comfortable? The book is on this shelf." (The organist hits the scary chord) "Let's look at it under the reading lamp." The Librarian begins reading our tale, and we begin another Crime Club offering let's hope it's not a burnt offering.
The role of The Librarian was actually portrayed by either Barry Thomson and Raymond Edward Johnson (who is famous for his role in the Inner Sanctum Mysteries). This new radio series ran from December 2, 1946 to October 16, 1947, and is available via many old-time radio channels. About half of the episodes were authored by Stedman Coles, as only half were adaptations of Doubleday's Crime Club selections, which include the following:
  • Death Blew Out the Match by Kathleen Moore Knight (1935)
  • For the Hangman by John Stephen Strange (1934)
  • Under A Cloud by Hilda Van Siller (1944)
  • Mr. Smith's Hat by Helen Kiernan Reilly (1936)
  • Murder Goes Astray by Mary Violet Heberden (1942)
  • Flowers for the Judge by Margery Allingham (1934)
  • Murder Solves A Problem by Marion Bramhall (1944)
  • Call Me Pandora by Abbie Harris (1946)
  • The Absent-Minded Professor by Aaron Marc Stein (1943)
  • Fear Came First by Vera Kelsey (1945)
  • Dead Man Control by Helen Kiernan Reilly (1937)
  • The Grey Mist Murders by Constance and Gwenyth Little (1939)
  • Death Cuts A Silhouette by D. B. Olsen (1939)
  • Epitaph for Lydia by Virginia Rath (1937)
  • The Corpse Wore A Wig by George Bagby (1940)
  • Murder On Margin by Robert George Dean (1936)
  • Hearses Don't Hurry by Stephen Ransome (1941)
  • Death At 7:10 by Harry F. S. Moore (1943)
  • A Frame for Murder by Kirke Mechem (1936)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mastermind tells how The Crime Club operates!

Mastermind tells how The CRIME CLUB operates!

Kings and presidents, bankers and senators, as well as surgeons, lawyers, and college presidents are ardent detective and mystery story readers. Many of them have joined the Crime Club to insure themselves the best in a vast flood of mystery fiction in order to avoid the mediocre and the dull.

Five noted experts in mystery will select for you each month the outstandingly thrilling story. The Crime Club Jury includes Grant Overton, critic, author, former fiction editor of Collier's -- Frances Noyes Hart, distinguished author of "The Bellamy Trial" -- John Kidd, Former President of the American Booksellers' Association -- Arthur T. Vance, editor of The Pictorial Review -- and William Rose Benet, associate editor of The Saturday Review. The jury has an absolutely free hand, and its decision, by ballot, is final.

  • The CRIME CLUB Jury's Selected Detective Novel Each Month -- Mailed to you by your bookstore ten days or so before it can be bought by the public.

  • FREE -- Crime Club Annual -- As soon as you join the Club, you receive absolutely free the handsome full-size volume, "Masterstrokes of Crime Detection," compiled by Lassiter Wren. This fascinating book is comparable in every way to standard $5.00 non-fiction books.

  • Membership Certificate and special privileges -- You also receive a membership certificate, filled in with your name. And you will be kept posted about the latest in mystery literature.
  • The Crime Club Mystery Films from Universal in the 1930s

    In the late 1930s, Universal made a deal with book publisher Doubleday to use the publisher's The Crime Club imprint for a series of 8 Crime Club mystery films. The history of this series has been misreported in various sources, including the AFI Catalog of Thirties films, with 10, and sometimes 11 films attributed.

    Each film was based on a popular mystery novel that had been published in hardcover under Doubleday's Crime Club imprint. You could buy Crime Club books at bookstores or get them in the mail as a subscriber. Beginning in 1928, Crime Club released four books per month. One book each month was designated the "Crime Club Selection," and that book was automatically sent to subscribers, just like the Book of the Month club.

    Danger on the Air movie poster, 1938
    Numerous Crime Club books were made into movies before the Universal series: Murder by the Clock (1931 Paramount), The Mystery of Mr. X (1934 MGM), and While the Patient Slept (1935 Warner Brothers) were all adapted from best-selling Crime Club novels. The '30s novels of  The Saint were all published by Crime Club, as were many Bulldog Drummond and Fu Manchu novels, and obviously all of those characters had multiple screen appearences.

    Reportedly, Universal licensed the rights to the novels but farmed out production of the movies to Starr, who brought them in on a cost-plus basis and was given access to Universal's salaried technicians and contract players, to keep production costs down. The series was produced by Irving Starr (with an uncredited assist from Matty Fox) under the auspices of Crime Club Productions, Inc., releasing through Universal.

    There were eight films in the Universal Pictures series of The Crime Club, four released in the 1937-38 season and four in the 1938-39 season. In order of release they were:
    • 1937 The Westlake Case (based on Jonathan Latimer's "Headed for a Hearse")
    • 1938 The Black Doll (based on William Edward Hayes novel of same title)
    • 1938 The Lady in the Morgue  (based on Jonathan Latimer's novel of same title)
    • 1938 Danger on the Air (based on an "Xantippe" (Edith Meiser) novel, "Death Catches Up with Mr. Kluck")
    • 1938 The Last Express  (based on the Baynard Kendrick novel of same title)
    • 1938 The Last Warning (based on Latimer's "The Dead Don't Care")
    • 1939 The Mystery of the White Room (based on James G. Edwards' "Murder in the Surgery")
    • 1939 The Witness Vanishes (based on James Ronald's "They Can't Hang Me")

    The four 1937-38 pictures were later reissued theatrically by Walter Futter through Astor Pictures. They were also made available to 16mm rental libraries beginning in 1948. On these four there must have been a financial arrangement similar to that of the first six Hopalong Cassidy pictures, which were financed independently and later sold off separate from the later films produced with Paramount money. It's thought that Matty Fox owned the controlling interest in the first four Crime Clubs, and that he made the deal with Futter.

    The second group of four remained under Universal control. Most likely they were financed directly by Universal, with Irving Starr producing for a straight salary. When M-G-M bought rights to Baynard Kendrick's novels featuring blind detective Duncan Maclain (two of which the studio made into "B" movies starring Edward Arnold), they got The Last Express too -- which is why that film has not been seen since its original theatrical release.

    Three of the Universal Crime Club films, The Last Warning, The Mystery of the White Room, and The Witness Vanishes, were packaged for TV as Shock! by Screen Gems, who syndicated Universal films until MCA took over.

    The following films are generally confused for Crime Club pictures because they, too, were produced by Irving Starr for Universal release in the same basic time period. But they were not based on Crime Club novels and don't belong to the series.

    1938 The Gambling Ship
    1939 Inside Information
    1939 House of Fear

    Thursday, July 15, 2010

    The Crime Club by Doubleday

    The Crime Club was an imprint of the Doubleday publishing company, which later spawned a 1946-47 anthology radio series.

    Many classic and popular works of detective and mystery fiction had their first U.S. editions published via the Crime Club, including all 50 books of The Saint by Leslie Charteris (1928-1983). The imprint also published first editions in Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu series.

    The Crime Club began life in 1928 with the publication of The Desert Moon Mystery by Kay Cleaver Strahan, and ceased publication in 1991.

    One of the best-known publishing imprints in the crime and mystery genre, the Doubleday Crime Club was the brainchild of Daniel Longwell, Doubleday's advertising manager in the late 1920s. After a 1927 buying trip to England, Longwell decided to profit by the immense popularity of Edgar Wallace's “thrillers” and the work of the authors who made up the newly formed Detection Club by issuing a dedicated line of mystery novels with an identifiable logo. 1 April 1928, was the publication date of the first Crime Club book, The Desert Moon Mystery (1928) by Kay Cleaver Strahan. It wore what was to become the distinctive black cloth cover highlighted with crimson-inked titles and the Crime Club Gunman logo. The logo is made up of the letters that spell “crime,” and it appeared on every book during the sixty-three-year history of the Crime Club. In the imprint's first three years, Doubleday published more than 150 books in the new series, prompting several other publishers to start their own mystery lines in the hope of duplicating the Crime Club's popularity and profits. The Great Depression forced Doubleday for eleven months to reduce the price of the first editions to one dollar and for a period of several years to limit the number of titles.

    Members of the Crime Club received their copies of the monthly main selection in advance of those readers who would either purchase one at a bookstore or borrow a copy through the then popular lending libraries. For many years the dust jackets for these member editions had a distinct motif, and the covers of these books were red cloth instead of the customary black. Dust jackets commissioned during the 1930s were cleverly designed, usually with vivid colors, and reflected the book's contents. Many covers were drawn by artists who later became well known in the commercial and fine art fields, often as illustrators of children's books. Notable artists who designed Crime Club dust jackets included Boris Artzybasheff, Paul Galdone, Vera Bock, and Andy Warhol.

    In 1943 longtime editor Isabelle Taylor originated the Crime Club Bullseyes, a series of symbols classifying each book. The symbols were printed on the spine and on the bound-in blurb. They identified favorite categories popular with authors, readers, booksellers, and librarians. Among these symbols were a grinning skull that designated humor and homicide, an owl that promised suspense, and a shooting gun that suggested fast action. During this period, forty-eight books a year were usually published, even though World War II brought a major paper shortage that reduced print runs, trim size, and paper quality. Print runs increased after the war, but production values never matched their prewar levels.

    During the sixty-three years that the Doubleday Crime Club was in existence, it published 2,492 titles and furthered the careers of such authors as Leslie Charteris, Aaron Marc Stein, Margaret Millar, Mignon G. Eberhart, Charlotte MacLeod, Barbara Paul, Sax Rohmer, and Jonathan Latimer.