Thursday, November 28, 2013

David/Day Keene: The Queens of Death?

I bought this old Finnish paperback (published in 1947) with three short stories in it several months ago, mainly because it has a Zorro story in it. If I'm right, this is the only real Zorro story by Johnston McCulley published in Finnish. It's probably one of the later Zorro stories that were published in pulp magazines, such as West. I believe these stories have never been reprinted.

I didn't read the Zorro story in the book, but I read the two preceding stories. The first one that also gives the book its title is written by "David Keene". The title reads as "The Queens of Death". Now, there's no David Keene who has written any kind of crime novels or stories that I can find. I can't find any trace of a story called "The Queens of Death". Of course it's possible that this story was published in a pulp magazine no one has ever indexed, but somehow I don't think that's right. I got to thinking it might be possible this is really by Day Keene. The Finnish publisher may have thought that "Day" is not a right name for an author and changed him to "David". These things happen. And Day Keene happens to have a pulp story called "Three Queens of the Mayhem", published in Detective Tales in February 1946, so it's entirely possible that this story found its way to Finland and got published as part of a three-story anthology.

There are three old women in David Keene's story. They are old ladies living together. They were once famous singers called The Beverly Sisters, but getting caught in a murder case ruined their career. Now one of the sisters asks private eye called Tom Doyle to try to find a girl one of the sisters was forced to give away to an orphanage. The story is fun, mildly parodist in tone and plot. It's written strictly in the zany school of hardboiled writing, reminiscent of Robert Bellem, Richard S. Prather and others. So, is it "Three Queens of Mayhem"? Anyone? Or is it some other story by Day Keene? Or is there a David Keene?

There's also another short story to stir up interest. It's called "Kadonnut sävel", which means "The Lost Tune" or some such. The hero of the story is troubleshooter of some sort called Hannibal Smith. He's a former sports coach, but now makes his living selling used stuff, giving loans and doing services to people. Hannibal Smith is a fat man, but he's also resourceful and intelligent and quick with his mouth. Now, there's a Hannibal Smith story called "Down Among the Dead Men" published in Dime Detective in 1945, written by C. William Harrison, who's best known for his paperback westerns. (I've read one, it was pretty good.) I'm pretty sure this story is by the same C. William Harrison. Can anyone confirm? The story is funny as Hannibal Smith is asked to take a photo of a cow somewhere in the fields. He does exactly that, but fast he realizes he maybe shouldn't have, since he's being suspected of a murder...

The great Finnish cover is by Poika Vesanto. Probably - I can't find his signature in the cover.

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