Friday, July 25, 2014

"The Pendulum Has Swung the Other Way, and the More Mystery the Better the Book"

It's good when a publisher has had previous writing experience:
William Andrew Johnston was born in 1871 in Pennsylvania. He was a career writer and editor, including being the longtime editor of the New York Sunday World. He was a co-founder with George Delacorte Jr. of Dell Publishing Company in 1921, one of the largest magazine publishers. He died in 1929. — PUBLIC BOOKSHELF
By William Johnston (1871-1929).
Bobbs-Merrill Co.
1911. 301 pages.
Online HERE and HERE.
[Full review] Mr. Johnston has hit upon a novel method of blackmail, and in both the development and the detection of the crime has shown no little ingenuity. The climax, particularly, in which most detective stories fail, is well conceived and executed. Only one false note is sounded, but that is a note which goes far toward destroying the emotional efficiency of the whole book.
Mr. Johnston has created a villain of the true type, and his baiting in the lonely country house is a bit of real detective invention. But the interest with which we follow the discovery and thwarting of such criminal machinations as are here described depends mainly on the intensity of our feeling of a maleficent and responsible power in the human brain. Mr. Chesterton relied largely on this feeling to create the proper atmosphere about the adventures of his "Father Brown." Mr. Johnston feels it artistically, but deliberately mars the effect by an irrelevant preachment on the relation of crime to disease, and on the desirability of substituting curative measures for punishment.
The result is an ingenious story, which fails to absorb the reader's mind as it should. — "Current Fiction," THE NATION (November 16, 1911; scroll down to page 469, left bottom)
By William Johnston (1871-1929).
1910. 344 pages.
Online HERE, HERE, and HERE.

By William Johnston (1871-1929).
Little Brown & Co.
1918. 292 pages. $1.40 net.
Filmed in 1920 (IMDb).
[Full review] The detective story is coming back into its own. For the past few years there has been a hesitancy before buying a detective story on the part of a large class of readers who did not wish to read how a skillful sleuth unravels a baffling mystery. And now the pendulum has swung the other way, and the more mystery the better the book. The reason for this, so the publishers tell us, is that the big thinkers of the country need mental relaxation and the fighting men need a volume that will carry them away from the camp to romance-land.
The House of Whispers is one of the best detective stories of the newer crop. It is from the pen of William Johnston, of 'Limpy' fame, and while the haunted house is familiar, the fact that this home was an apartment lends immediate interest to the volume. The theme of the story is not altogether unusual, nor do the characters stand prominently in the gallery of unique American types. The story has plenty of suspense, however, and the mystery is unsolvable until the very end. — "New Books," THE FORUM (June 1918scroll down to page 752)
[Full review] This story of theft and mystery is by the author of the very popular story entitled "Limpy." Its plot is laid in New York City and its incidents pertain to life in the modern luxurious apartment-house. — "The New Books," THE OUTLOOK (April 24, 1918)
By William Johnston (1871-1929).
Little, Brown and Company.
1919. 301 pages.
Online HERE, HERE, and HERE.
[Full review] "The Apartment Next Door" is hardly more than the conventional sort of war-mystery story, dealing with German spies, plots to blow up New York, secret service men, and the like.
But it is less perfunctorily done than is common, and has an excellent surprise-turn at the end for any reader who has not permitted himself to guess too much.
The current method is employed of putting the solution of the mystery into the hands of an innocent bystander, who stumbles upon more evidence than the professional sleuths are able to ferret out with all their machinery of detection. — "Nightmare Stuff," THE NATION (February 15, 1919)
By William Johnston (1871-1929).
Little, Brown and Company.
1920. 293 pages.
Online HERE.
[Full review] Murder and mystery with international or revolutionary motives behind the crime. — "The New Books," THE OUTLOOK (July 21, 1920)
[Review excerpt] . . . From a simple murder mystery, seemingly solved without difficulty by the police, it becomes an affair of such magnitude that its final clearance discloses a plot with almost endless ramifications. — MYSTERY*FILE (11 December 2013)
By William Johnston (1871-1929).
Little, Brown and Company.
1922. 269 pages. $1.75
Online HERE.
"The Tragedy at the Beach Club is the best murder mystery story I have read in years. The identity of the murderer puzzled me to the end of the book." — E. Phillips Oppenheim
"The Tragedy at the Beach Club qualifies about one hundred per cent as a satisfactory detective story." — Carolyn Wells — Both quotes from ad in PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY (March 11, 1922)
By William Johnston (1871-1929).
Doubleday, Page & Co.
1923. 300 pages.
Socialite, war hero, and bon vivant James Waddington Hurd learns of his ownership of the old family estate in upstate New York on his twenty-fifth birthday. Traveling there he becomes embroiled in working out the terms of his great-grandfather's forty-year-old will, which will disinherit his great-uncles in eight days if they don't reconcile. He also becomes interested in finding the "Waddington jewels," a treasure hidden by his great-grandfather and hinted at in the will, but as yet undiscovered. The cipher in the title is a poem in the will that points to three gold chain-links that give instructions for finding the jewels. — AMAZON.COM description
[Full review] Well, finally the rascally lawyer is exposed, the long lost family jewels are discovered, and sundry other mysteries are unveiled. — "The Bookman's Guide to Fiction," THE BOOKMAN (November 1923; go to page 314, right middle)
[On Johnston as a newspaper man: Excerpt] William Johnston, whose new mystery novel, "The Waddington Cipher" (Doubleday, Page & Co.), is the first story that has ever been serialized over the radio, holds a unique newspaper position as suggestion editor or official idea man to the New York World. His work is to anticipate public interest—to guess what will interest newspaper readers, not only today, but tomorrow and next week.  . . . — THE HARVARD CRIMSON (November 2, 1923)
By William Johnston (1871-1929).
George H. Doran.
1927. 301 pages. $2.00
[Full review] William Johnston's "The Affair at Duplex 9B" is what might be called standard gauge. Big studio party of a somewhat bohemian nature. Interesting people from all the walks and walkups of life. A diplomat dies dramatically and his death is quickly realized to be murder. — Grant Overton, "The Month on Murray Hill," THE BOOKMAN (March 1927; Jump To page 117, left top)
A scandal, a murder—society awhirl in a rapid mystery. — "The Bookman's Guide to Fiction," THE BOOKMAN (April 1927; go to page 211, right middle)
[Full review] "The Affair in Duplex 9B" is—don't stop me just because you've heard this one—about the wealthy rascal who was done in with the quick-acting South American poison, and about the Assistant District Attorney who fell in love with the beautiful young suspect. The present A.D.A. talks like this:
"No, by God," said Chilton earnestly, "I'm going to prove her innocent. I saw Miss Adair, Graham, for only a few minutes, and heard her sing, but I saw enough of her to recognize that she is a sweet, clean girl whose inexperience has gotten her mixed up with a bad crowd. I'm not going to have a young girl who needs a man's protection dragged in the mire of a case like this. Find her for me, Graham, won't you, and help me shield her from this scandal, a scandal she never could live down."
Neither he nor the detectives working with him show any signs of ever having been employed in police affairs before. The simplest code ever devised—its invention followed the typewriter's by about two weeks—stumps them. (The detective who copies the coded message into his notebook is supposed, by the author and in the following chapter, not yet to have heard of it.) Two typewritten letters are taken to a typewriter company for the purpose of having the machine on which they were written traced to its present owner. The company promises to try to trace it by its number. Luck to 'em! The murderer's identity may be suspected half-way through the book, but when you learn his motive you'll be ashamed of having suspected him. It's that sort of a motive. — Dashiell Hammett, "Guessers and Deducers," THE SATURDAY REVIEW (April 16, 1927)
By William Johnston (1871-1929).
A. L. Burt.
1928. 317 pages.

Category: Spy fiction, Detective fiction

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