Monday, December 10, 2007

Suspense Magazine - March 1960

Cover shown is the March 1960 issue of Suspense (Vol. 3, No. 3) from Fleetway Magazines (UK). 144p.

The 50s and 60s must have been a great time for mystery enthusiasts. So many mystery/crime short story magazines were available every month: Suspense, Ellery Queen, Alfred Hitchcock - just to name a few. Now, with the exception of the Internet, it's rare to find a regular magazine of short stories of any genre.

The March 1960 issue of Suspense features 11 stories and the third part of a continuing serial. 'I'm No Hero' by Henry Kane is the gritty tale of a young doctor, held at gunpoint in his home and forced to operate on a dying criminal. Agatha Christie's 'The Accident' touches slightly on the occult as she was wont to do, but in the main part is a delicious little story of a husband killer who is simply too smart to be caught.

'The Man in the Middle' by Nigel Fitzgerald was the stand-out story. Fintan returns to the small Irish town of his youth. He is on an uncomfortable mission: to kidnap the son of a friend and take him to a cruiser moored in the harbour, where the boy's mother (also Finton's friend) is waiting. He does this easily. Quickly making his way back to his car, he tries to refuel at a local service station. But his betrayal was witnessed, and telephones have been ringing throughout the village.

He isn't allowed to refuel, and is then given incorrect directions so he wastes what little fuel he had left. As night draws closer - and the boy's father is desperately trying to bring his son home - the villagers become more and more hostile towards Finton, to the point that he has to barricade himself in his car.

The story I bought the magazine for - 'Dream of Death' by Cornell Woolrich - didn't disappoint. A young man wakes, remnants of a terrible dream in his head, in which he stuffs a dead body in a cupboard. As his memory returns and his cocaine headache clears, he realises he did stuff a body in a cupboard. He joins forces with his brother-in-law, a police detective, to uncover exactly what happened the night before.

Other stories worth reading included 'The House in Turk Street' by Dashiell Hammett, 'Spotlight on Murder' by Michael Barker, and 'The Worp Reaction', a very weird, very funny little story by Lion Miller.

There were a handful of stories that for one reason or another didn't quite get there for me. 'One Survived' by Hal Butler is the story of a shipwreck survivor. He resorts to cannibalism to survive, and spends years on a small, rocky island (rather like Tom Hanks in 'Cast Away') before being rescued. The shonky ending ruined the story for me. William Heuman's 'Apache Attack' was so cliched it was almost boring, while Stuart Letchford's 'Over and Out' wasn't cliched but was boring nonetheless.

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