Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: Alfred Hitchcock's Happiness is a Warm Corpse

Most of the Alfred Hitchcock fiction anthologies that I have purchased were found at the Planned Parenthood Book Sale, but this one I purchased online. You can probably guess why: it has a lovely cover with skeletons.

These are the stories in the anthology:

  • Once upon a Bank Floor... by James Holding, Jr
  • The Egg Head by Rog Phillips
  • Each Night He Pulled the Trigger by Robert Edmond Alter
  • The Waiting Game by Pat Stadley
  • Destruction is Always Arranged by Gilbert Ralston
  • The Happy Death by John Cortez
  • The Sweater by Richard O. Lewis
  • IQ — 184 by Fletcher Flora
  • Kill, If You Want Me! by Richard Deming
  • Antique by Hal Ellson
  • Mrs. Gilly and the Gigolo by Mary L. Roby
  • This Day's Evil by Jonathan Craig
  • Private and Confidential by Diane Frazer
  • Never Come Back by Robert Colby

This anthology was published in 1969. The stories in it were originally published between 1957 and 1967. I read the first story in the book and I liked it very much. I hope that the rest of the stories are just as good.

"Once upon a Bank Floor... " by James Holding, Jr.

This story was fun, upbeat, and had a great ending. 

Two men are on an airplane trip, seated next to each other. One has a mystery story magazine for reading on the plane trip. The other man works for a bank; he tells a story about earlier in his banking career when the bank was robbed. It was in the early morning and he was alone in the bank at the time. I don't want to go into more details for fear of spoiling the story.

I don't know anything about the author, James Holding, Jr., although the name is familiar. Checking the Alfred Hitchcock Wiki, he had a good number of stories published in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and various Hitchcock fiction anthologies. I would welcome more information on this author, if anyone knows more.


Cath said...

I love that cover, endlessly pleased by your love for skeletons on book covers... to the point where if I see one I think of you. LOL

pattinase (abbott) said...

I would frame that cover!

Todd Mason said...

Well, perhaps get a color photocopy of scan and printout and frame that!

This is one of the series of best-ofs from AHMM that Dell Books would publish starting the in early/mid 60s...long before the Dell magazine group ended up buying AHMM from Davis Publicaions as the latter collapsed (Dell's hardcover arm Dial Press would publish the hardcover/library-aimed AHMM best-ofs during the Davis years, while Davis would publish them as semi-annual magazines as ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S ANTHOLOGY issues...these Dell pbs came out when AHMM was being published by original publisher HSD Publications. Dell was also doing split pb editions of the Random House AH PRESENTS: volumes Robert Arthur (till his death in '69) and Harold Q. Masur (till Hitchcock's death in '80) edited for adult readers.

James Holding (he dropped the "Jr." early on) was a fine CF writer, and had a few series of stories, including one about a hit man who went by "The Photographer"... I'd guess his best-known story is the wryly humorous suspense story called "Second Talent". I've liked nearly everything I've read by him over the decades.

I've read his one, but it might be so long ago I'd borrowed it as a kid from the Enfield Public Library

TracyK said...

Cath, I am not quite sure where I got my love of skulls and skeletons on book covers. When I was in my thirties I used to do rubber stamping as a hobby and skulls and skeletons was a popular theme, and I had a friend and coworker at the time who also had a thing for skull images, and it has stayed with me. Fortunately my husband is very supportive. I am working on cutting down my desire to own every one I see.

TracyK said...

This cover is one of my favorites, Patti.

TracyK said...

Todd, I have several of the Dell paperbacks of this type. Unfortunately all of them have tiny print size so I can only read a bit at a time. Were the introductions just written by various editors?

I did see that there were stories attributed to James Holding without the "Jr." in some anthologies, and I assumed it was the same person. I will see if I can find those stories you liked especially.

Lark said...

What a fun anthology!

TracyK said...

It is fun, Lark. I like the old Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen anthologies because they usually are a mix of mystery short stories, not all dark and not all light and humorous.

CLM said...

Great cover and title! It occurs to me to ask if you will ever run out of anthologies?

Wish I could come to the book sale in your 'hood later this month! Not that I have room for any more books. My new bookcase should arrive by early October but there are already several piles waiting for space.

TracyK said...

Constance, I will never run out of anthologies. And I very seldom finish one. Which I really need to remedy. I even have tons of them on the Kindle.

I wish you could come to the sale too. You would have better sense than me and not buy too many books. I envy you getting a new bookcase. We live in a small home, and there are no more walls for bookcases.

Todd Mason said...

The introductions to the AHMM best-ofs were almost certainly written by the editors of the magazine (who also ghosted intros to the magazine issues till Hitchcock's death)--though I don't yet have confirmation they edited the best-of books Dell published as paperback originals, as this was weirdly kept under wraps, and the intros to the Random House books by their editors. Dell also reprinted one (only one...I believe!) of Peter Haining's several "Hitchcock" anthologies he put together for the UK market. Don Ward is known to have edited several "Hitchcock" anthologies for Dell from before the magazine or he tv series began, such as BAR THE DOORS, which Dell would also reprint in later years, packaged along with the other "Hitchcock" anthologies the were selling. They kept them (mostly) in print, sometimes altering titles (!) at least through the '80s...and the Dial Press hardcovers continued at least till Dell Magazines bought the four fiction magazines, including HITCHCOCK'S, Davis Publications was publishing at time of closure [not counting the four ANTHOLOGY magazines, one title each associated with AHMM, EQMM, ASIMOV's SF and ANALOG] Dial had been reprinting as hardcovers!).

TracyK said...

Thanks for all that information, Todd. The history of all those magazines and the reprints is very interesting. Seems like they would share more of that information, but maybe not that many people care.

Todd Mason said...

And, belatedly, I see that at least one collection of one of Holding's other series of short fiction might've only been released in a Large Print edition, aside from its e-book...seems odd if so, but THE LIBRARY DETECTIVE RETURNS keeps popping up in searches as a LP volume (and no evidence of a first volume). He also published at least a handful of young-readers' books, including THE WATCH CAT. Most databases are shambolic in listing his works, unless you want to buy short stories on Kindle. Ah, well.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Todd. After reading this comment, I did find that I already had The Library Fuzz MEGAPACK ®: The Complete Hal Johnson Series, on the Kindle already. For a few years, and I don't know why. And I bought two other Megapacks. So I have plenty of opportunities to read more by James Holding. I think I must have seen those when I was looking on Amazon and thought that they were a mix of authors. Anyway, thanks for looking into that.

I had seen earlier that he had written some children's books.

Alice Chang said...

Please let us know if the Holding "megapacks" are competently laid out, etc.! LIBRARY FUZZ is not reassuring. (I kept seeing that in my searches, too...for me, the big surprise is that he wrote cute easy reader books! Wonder if I ever read Holding six or eight years before I would read his work again as a more literate kid...)

Todd Mason said...

(That's me, Mason, forgetting I've picked up Alice's laptop again)

TracyK said...

I would have known that was you, Todd, both from content and the name. But I am glad you confirmed that. I will let you know. My husband has purchased some of the MEGAPACKs in the past but I don't know if he has yet read any stories from them.