Thursday, May 29, 2014

6. Merchants of Menace edited by Hillary Waugh

Whose heads are those?
[Review hastily written October 7, 2014, actually completed reading as of the date of this blog post.]

Now this was a find.  It was in a box of books outside a house sometime in the early summer.  Obviously the title, the sub-title ("An Anthology of Mystery Stories by the Mystery Writers of America") and the date (1969) were appealling to me.  But I hesitated because it was short stories and this was at the nadir of my reading this year.  Well hesitation was gone when I saw that the third story was by Donald Westlake!  It's called Domestic Intrigue and was originally published in the Saint magazine from 1966 as well as Westlake's collection The Curious Facts Preceding my Execution and other Fictions.  Stories by Robert Bloch, Ross Macdonald and Patricia Highsmith rounded it out as well.

I thought I was just going to read the Westlake story, but that was over way too quickly.  It's more like a clever joke, almost a shaggy dog story than a complete tale, but tight and clever nonetheless.  I kept reading and found several gems.  The Front Room by Michael Butterworth particularly stood out.  It's a super creepy and darkly funny story of a newly-married couple staying in a beach bungalow at the far end of a road where their landlords are an old lady and her simple son.

All in all a fun read and this appears to be an actual hardback first edition, though pretty beat up.