Sunday, October 21, 2007


Quite a bit of talk on various blogs about the old Ace Books line of mysteries. I'm sentimental about them because I'm a geezer but there are only a few of the Ace Originals I can pick up now and find interesting. There was a Peter Rabe Ace, Cut of The Whip. Peter told me that Gold Medal had bounced it so he took it to Ace. I liked it a lot; no idea why GM didn't buy it.
There were three very fine Stephen Marlowe Aces. In fact Turn Left At Murder is a small masterpiece of suspense writing.

In my teens I read every Ace I could find. I know J.M. Flynn isn't highly regarded but he's one writer of Ace Originals I can still read. Bob McKnight always struck me as the road show version of Harry Whittington (Bill Crider made that point first the other night) but his horse racing books were entertaining and believeable. There are a half dozen others who hold up today, too.

I suppose this is heresy to some but I think Ace was most valuable as a reprint line. It was in the Ace format that I discovered Elizabeth Sanxay Holding (whom I've read and reread all my life), Charlotte Armstrong, Dana Lyons, Stephen Ransome (Frederick C. Davis, a reliable pulpster who occasionally wrote way above his talent), Helen Neilsen. They did some nice editions of Cornell Woolrich as well.

I think the science fiction line did a litle better by way of originals. The early and best work of Samuel R. Delaney was all Ace. That alone justified the line's existence. Poul Anderson, Margaret St. Clair, Wilson Tucker and a number of solid Brits made just about every month a treat. They also published poor Robert Moore Williams, a holdover from the worst of the pulp days. When I started reading him he got trashed by reviewers every time out. By the end of his Ace run I'm pretty sure that reviewers felt so sorry for him they strained to say something nice about his stuff. I always felt sorry for him, anyway. But I couldn't read him. He got even worse when he switched to Lancer. Do you really need to read a book titled Zanthar At World's End to know how bad it's going to be?


Anonymous said...

J Flynn is a favorite of mine. Action Man is pure pulp perfection. mtm

Curt Purcell said...

I'm looking forward to the Ace doubles in my to-read pile, some by authors you mention (I'm especially intrigued that you're so fond of Sanxay Holding).

Ed Gorman said...

For me Holding was the originator of the psychological mystery and some of her books remain high poinst of the genre. Raymond Chandler called her the best suspense writer of his generation and I think he was correct. There's a phantsmagoric quality to most of her work that anticipates what Ruth Rendell would do decades later. Very dark stuff.

Anonymous said...

One of the best bargains I've picked up was a Unicorn Book Club omnibus of Fredric Brown's THE FAR CRY, a Brett Halliday Mike Shayne, Curme Grey's famously eccentric MURDER IN MILLENNIUM VI, and a Sanxay Holding novel, the first I've owned (the FictionMags list was discussing Grey, and John Boston turned up the citation of the book for sale). (Unicorn's editor was Hans Stefan Santesson, later of FANTASTIC UNIVERSE and THE SAINT magazines; Unicorn's books were better-produced variations on the Detective Book Club omnibi.)

Meanwhile, for me, the fact that the Ace Doubles produced GHOST BREAKER, the collection of Ron Goulart's Max Kearney stories, would be justification enough. Fritz Leiber's NIGHT MOSTERS didn't hurt.