Friday, January 25, 2013

Forgotten Books: Holocaust House by Norbert Davis

A man wakes up after a night of drunkenness.

"Carstairs!" He calls out. "Carstairs."

The aforementioned Carstairs comes in and looks at the man with a wearily resigned disgust. The man apologises for his regrettable condition. Carstair's expression of weary disgust doesn't go away. After looking at the man for a few moments, he lumbers out of the room in silent dignity, head held high and tail held stiff.

I see.

No...Wait! What was that?! Tail!!!

Yes, because Carstairs is a Great Dane. So big, in fact, that his master Doan thinks he ought to be another species altogether. And above all, he is a champion, and he had a long and imposing list of very high-class ancestors. He was fond of Doan in a well-bred way, but he had never been able to reconcile himself to having such a low person for a master. Whenever they went out for a stroll together,Carstairs always walked either far behind or ahead, so no one would suspect his relationship with Doan. (1)

Carstairs and Doan are the creation of American crime writer, Norbert Davis. Doan himslef is employed by the Severn Detective Agency Agency in Bay City :  He was a short, round man with a round pinkly innocent face and impossibly bland blue eyes. He had corn-yellow hair and dimples in his cheeks. At first glance--and at the second and third for that matter--he looked like the epitome of all the suckers that had ever come down the pike. He looked so harmless it was pitiful. It wasn't until you considered him for some time that you began to see that there was something wrong with the picture. He looked just a little too innocent. (1)

This delightful pair (or jodi as we say in Hindustani) first appeared in the 1940 novella Holocaust House, published in two parts in the November 16th and 23rd issues of Argosy.



Doan is asked by his employer (the long-suffering J.S. Toggery) to safe-guard an heiress by the name of Sheila Alden. Her father had left an immense fortune for her. As she is about to turn 21, and her case has acquired immense negative publicity, the girl has retreated to a small lodge on a barren mountain site.

Doan reaches the place only to stumble at once upon a corpse. If that wasn't bad enough, the lodge too is thick with tension. There is Brill, a nervous young man from the bank that is acting as Sheila's guardian, there is Sheila who seems smitten with a handsome young man Crwoely who ostensibly lost his way in the storm and landed up at the lodge, and Joan Greg, Sheila's secretary who threatens to kill her mistress. To further complicate matters, there are Kokomo, the mean caretaker,and Jannen the station-master who harbours a grudge against Sheila's father.

All in all, the stage is set for murder. And murder does happen. But who among the small circle of suspects is the murderer?

I enjoyed this breezy read and will love to read more of Doan and Carstairs.

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Opening Lines: WHEN DOAN WOKE up he was lying flat on his back on top of a bed with his hat pulled down over his eyes. He lay quite still for some time, listening cautiously, and then he tipped the hat up and looked around. He found to his relief that he was in his own apartment and that it was his bed he was lying on.

Title: Holocaust House

Author: Norbert Davis

First Published: 1940

Pages: 43

Other Books read of the same author: None

Trivia: Norbert Davis was a favourite of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.

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Kindle edition of the book can be purchased on the Net. It can also be downloaded for free from Manybooks.net.

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Submitted for the following challenges: 52 Books in 52 Weeks, 2013 Ebooks, Birth Year- Honors, Let Me count the Ways, Vintage Mystery (Dynamic Duos), and What Countries Have I Visited.

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Entry for Fridays Forgotten Books.

12 comments:

  1. Sounds like a good story. Will have to check it out.

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    1. I liked the story for the humour thrown in. Do read it.

      Thanks for the visit. Hope you come again.

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  2. I've read all of the Doan and Carstairs books and they are a rather odd mix of screwball comedy and hard boiled detective story. It's a terrific, but short, series.

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    1. Ron, I read on the Net that Davis' stories were not accepted by Black Mask magazine because of the humour element in them. Rather a pity because I enjoyed the humour. I'll certainly be reading more of him.

      Thanks for the visit. Hope you visit again.

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  3. This was a surprise to find on your blog, neer. American pulp magazine stories! Lucky you to have found some ebook versions of these pulp stories. I don't thnk anyone has collected them in regular book form, but I haven't been too assiduous in my hunting. They may be out there.

    I enjoyed the first book THE MOUSE IN THE MOUNTAIN. Not too screwball as in the case of Alice Tilton or Craig Rice, but comic enough for a detective who seems more of the hardboiled school. You might be able to find the three novels cheap from Rue Morgue Press.

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    1. What is life without an element of surprise, John? :)

      While I was searching for Norbert Davis on the Net, I cam across an article that stated that THE MOUSE IN THE MOUNTAIN is one of the funniest detective novels ever written. Since, it is available for free download, I'll be reading it soon.

      Never heard of Alice Tilton and have just read one of Craig Rice's so really do not know.

      Incidentally, Davis' life seems pretty tragic, doesn't it?

      Thanks for the visit. Do come again.

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  4. Ha ha ha! Enjoyed the post - now I want to read the book! I have been meaning to say hello to you for a while now, since your sister Sunita introduced me to your blog. She and my husband worked together in Toronto for a while, hence the connection.

    - Rashmi.
    somuchtoreadandsay.wordpress.com

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    1. Welcome Rashmi

      Thanks so much for enjoying the post. Do read the book, it's pretty delightful.

      Nitu di will continue to do her good deed.:)

      Do visit again.

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  5. Great post! A preview for the Davis book that I've got on deck for the Challenge: Sally's in the Alley. John over at Pretty Sinister Books is the one who first put this pair on my radar.

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    1. Thanks Bev. Looking forward to your views on the pair.

      John's knowledge is legendary. I have lost count of the number of books, authors, characters I have come to know through his blog. Really Amazing.

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  6. This is very interesting and I have never heard of the author. A vintage mystery with a duo and one is a dog. That sounds great. Will definitely have to look into it. I have got to stop finding more books to read.

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    1. Do read it Tracy. It's not very long and pretty easy reading. I intend to pick up the next book MAN IN THE MOUNTAIN soon as I read that it is one of the funniest detective books ever written.

      'I have got to stop finding more books to read': I have given up on this.:)

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