Monday, July 21, 2014

"The Conclusion Is of the Sudden, Unexpected Sort That Is the Bane of the Honest Reader of Detective Yarns"

Arthur Somers Roche is usually remembered these days by movie buffs as the author of the novel that served as the basis for the William Powell/Ginger Rogers film Star of Midnight (1935) (see HERE and HERE). Quite a few of his stories were made into films.

Two critics read the same book and yet come to diametrically opposite conclusions:

LOOT.
By Arthur Somers Roche (1883-1935).
The Bobbs-Merrill Co.
1916. 320 pages. $1.25 (+ 12 cents postage)
Online HERE and HERE.
First serialized in The Saturday Evening Post, May-June 1916.
Filmed in 1917 as The Gray Ghost (IMDb).
[Full review] A popular magazine recently finished serially this story which combines the elements of mystery, romance, adventure, melodrama, and the lure of detective skill most cleverly.
That a story wildly exciting to the point of incredibility should absorb the reader without exciting adverse criticism speaks well for the skill of the writer. He has certainly worked out the intricacies of his plot with its wealth of details skilfully.
Slightly reminiscent of "The Master Mind" in that one personality conceives and directs all the exciting incidents of crimes and dramatic occurrences, he makes all coherent. The love element is convincing.
Wade Hildreth came to America to attend a business meeting for his rich client, Brenner Carlow, also to carry a $2,000,000 necklace back to London, but "The Gray Ghost" had heard of the jewels and proceeded to make other plans for the disposition of Hildreth and the necklace—plans which alternately failed and succeeded because of the interference of many absorbing characters in whom we become interested.
Morn Light, a beautiful young actress, is inexplicably involved in all these plots and counterplots.
Excitement is never lacking until Morn and Wade—but what's the use of spoiling a good story? It is a thrilling detective story. — "Some of the Latest Autumn Fiction," THE LITERARY DIGEST (November 18, 1916; go to page 1341, middle)
[Full review] Mr. Roche begins well and ends ill. An English lawyer is sent by an American money-king from London over to New York to fetch a diamond necklace worth a trifle of two million dollars, and to represent him in some railway deal.
The lord of the criminal world in New York learns of the errand, and our lawyer finds himself the object of mysterious plots and happenings.
The reader expects a good treat in the contest of wits between the lawyer and the crime-king, but instead of that the Englishman is kidnapped out of the story, and a young and rather featureless detective is brought in.
A perfectly extravagant account of looting the great jewelry house which has the necklace in safe-keeping gives the story its name.
The conclusion is of the sudden, unexpected sort that is the bane of the honest reader of detective yarns. It is a pity that the author let a good plot slip through his fingers. — "Current Fiction," THE NATION (November 23, 1916)
PLUNDER.
By Arthur Somers Roche (1883-1935).
The Bobbs-Merrill Co.
1917. 322 pages.
Online HERE.
Play version: The Scrap of Paper (1917; 40 performances); film version: Living Lies (1922) (IMDb).
[Full review] A detective story, extremely clever in its tracing of the adventures which befall a scrap of paper signed by three multi-millionaires which blows out of the window.
It is instantly picked up by an audacious master-crook who sees a chance for blackmail of a million dollars, but is arrested fifteen minutes later after he has slipped the paper into the overcoat pocket of an office clerk.
The end of the story is bombastic and absurd in its account of the instant conversion of Masterman, the unprincipled millionaire, to noble citizenship. — "The New Books," THE OUTLOOK (April 18, 1917)
THE EYES OF THE BLIND.
By Arthur Somers Roche (1883-1935).
George H. Doran Co.
1919. 322 pages.
Online HERE.
THE PLEASURE BUYERS.
By Arthur Somers Roche (1883-1935).
The Macmillan Co.
1925. 321 pages. $2.00
[Full review] A detective story, staged among the fashionable and rich pleasure-seekers at Palm Beach. The plot of the murder mystery makes one guess half a dozen solutions, no one of which contains the truth. A Scripture-quoting evangelist detective is a novelty—also a bore. — "Current Books," THE OUTLOOK (July 22, 1925)
[Full review] The reviewer whose literary taste is superior to the standard maintained by the current popular periodicals must be of an unusually generous nature not to pronounce "The Pleasure Buyers" a stupid book. Mr. Roche's latest concoction is a murder mystery story intended to entertain the host of readers of "summer fiction." The scene is in Palm Beach, the winter home of "the pleasure buyers."
Crude in construction, careless in style, platitudinous in its moralizing, this book is without literary life. — "The New Books," THE SATURDAY REVIEW (August 15, 1925; go to page 52, left bottom)
[Full review] Palm Beach society doings make the envious reader almost forget the murder mystery. — "The Bookman's Guide to Fiction," THE BOOKMAN (October 1925; go to page 203, right middle)
THE WOMAN HUNTERS.
By Arthur Somers Roche (1883-1935).
Century Co.
1929. 337 pages. $2.00
First serialized in Collier's Weekly, February-May 1928: PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3 - PART 4 - PART 5 - PART 6 - PART 7 - PART 8 - PART 9 - PART 10 - PART 11 - PART 12 - PART 13 - PART 14.
[Full review] A TALE of the New York underworld in which a gambler of good family reforms in order to protect a charming nouveau-riche girl against an unscrupulous gigolo. Full of thrills, with a careful observance of detail. — "Notes on New Books," THE BOOKMAN (May 1929)
PENTHOUSE.
By Arthur Somers Roche (1883-1935).
Dodd, Mead & Co.
1933. 249 pages.
Serialized in Cosmopolitan, May-September 1933.
Filmed in 1933 (see HERE and HERE) and remade as Society Lawyer in 1939 (see HERE).
THE CASE AGAINST MRS. AMES.
By Arthur Somers Roche (1883-1935).
Dodd, Mead.
1934. 309 pages. $2.00
Filmed in 1936 (IMDb).
First serialized in Collier's Weekly, March-May 1934: PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3 - PART 4 - PART 5 - PART 6 - PART 7 - PART 8 - PART 9 - PART 10 - PART 11 - PART 12.
Charming Manhattan widow, acquitted of husband's murder, quixotically hires reporter, who swears she's guilty, to clear her name. - Gunmen, chorines, society rotters and other Broadway mobsters career through super-speedy and smoothly-sophisticated tale. - Verdict: Aces. — "The Criminal Record," THE SATURDAY REVIEW (September 22, 1934)
SHADOW OF DOUBT.
By Arthur Somers Roche (1883-1935).
Dodd, Mead.
1935. 293 pages. $2.00
Filmed in 1935 (see HERE and HERE).
First serialized in Collier's Weekly, October-December 1934: PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3 - PART 4 - PART 5 - PART 6 - PART 7 - PART 8 - PART 9 - PART 10 - PART 11 - PART 12 - PART 13.
Killing of Broadway playboy and his valet involves actresses, cops and Mr. Sim Sturdevant who solves crime - Good formula stuff, very suave and well-groomed and with denouement that surprises but doesn't convince. - Verdict: Readable. — "The Criminal Record," THE SATURDAY REVIEW (March 16, 1935)
THE STAR OF MIDNIGHT.
By Arthur Somers Roche (1883-1935).
Dodd, Mead & Co.
1936. 243 pages. $2.00
Posthumous movie tie-in edition.
First serialized in Redbook Magazine, August-December 1934 and January 1935.
See NOAH'S ARCHIVES (December 22, 2013) for more about the movie.
For sale HERE ($500.00 plus $6.50 shipping).
Gossip columnist killed; musical comedy star vanishes. Clay Dalzell, who knows and sees all, fixes everything. - Slick and suave yarn of Metropolitan intrigue and gangsters. Hero a bit too omniscient but action and talk are good. - Verdict: Agreeable. — "The Criminal Record," THE SATURDAY REVIEW (February 1, 1936)

Category: Detective fiction

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