Night of the Horns / Cry Wolfram
Sanderson wrote a series of white hot thrillers in the 1950s which were published under his two pseudonyms, Martin Brett and Malcolm Douglas. But he also published a good many novels under his own name, and Stark House is proud to reprint two of them, the first a seedy tale of a Southern California lawyer whose life is ripped apart when he agrees to do a job for a racketeer, the second the story of a double-cross affair that takes place on the coast of Spain. Publisher Greg Shepard provides the introduction.
Douglas Sanderson: Pure Sweet Hell
By Gregory Shepard
Douglas Sanderson loved to travel. You could almost chart his travels in the books he wrote. Growing up in England, he first moved to Canada, where his first five novels were set. Then off to Europe—Yugoslavia and Spain, in particular—where he set his next four novels. Then back to Canada for one more mystery. Next, he took a trip around the States, which gave him the background for two more books. Then back to Europe again, where most of his final books were set—with the exception of one in Cuba and another in Africa—and including four novels that were published only in France. But really, it all started in Canada.
Sanderson had just published his first book, Dark Passions Subdue, with Dodd, Mead and Company. It got a few good notices. Sanderson himself called it “an analysis of Puritanism in Montreal’s high society,” and that is certainly one way of looking at it. It is also a frank look at a group of gay men who jockey for the attention of an effete artist. Banned in England, the book did not sell well. But interestingly enough, the fellow whom Sanderson used as a model for his main character made him a bet that he couldn’t write a hardboiled thriller. As Sanderson paraphrased it in a 1990 interview with Lucas Soler for El Temps: “Mickey Spillane has sold 32 million copies of his books. I’ll bet you ten dollars you cannot write a thriller as he does.”
The bet was on. Sanderson claimed that he had never read a tough guy thriller before, though in fact he had already published one mystery, Exit in Green, featuring a somewhat hapless main character, not at all in the Spillane mold. As the story goes, Sanderson went out to a local drugstore and did a bit of quick research in the paperback stand. He met some members of the Canadian Mounted Police. They shared stories about local drug dealers. Douglas had his hook. The result was Hot Freeze, a story of drug smuggling in Quebec. His publisher didn’t want him to use his real name because they were still trying to build a reputation around “Sanderson.” For Exit in Green he had used a name that had a family history, albeit a tricky one—Martin Brett—which he again employed for Hot Freeze.
For the “Martin Brett” anecdote, we must leave Canada and go back to England, where Ronald Douglas Sanderson was born on August 20th, 1920, in Beltinge, Kent, and grew up in a large family with three brothers (one a half-brother) and two sisters. While he was still a child, his father abandoned them, leaving his mother bring up the family. She and Douglas did not get along, two temperaments at opposite extremes. She was the hard-headed pragmatist, he the temperamental artist. And she had a family to feed. After Père Sanderson left, a Mr. Brett began visiting the household, and after each one of his visits, there would always be more to eat in the house. So, when it came time to pick out a pseudonym for his first thriller, Sanderson chose “Martin Brett” as a way of letting his mother know that he full well knew what was going on back in Kent.