FIVE STAR and VULCAN MYSTERIES
by Steve Lewis
Introduction: Two rather obscure publishing companies came and went very quickly in the final year of World War II and the year after. One was the Five Star Mystery line, the other, also specializing in mysteries in a digest-sized format, was the Vulcan Mystery line. Neither company did reprints. The output from each were paperback originals.
Checklists for both companies have been complete for both companies for quite some time, but some recent investigation has come up with both some loose ends and an assortment of questions that have not yet been answered.
Victor Berch has been looking into some of the people behind the companies, and the results of his research will eventually be included here. If you know anything behind the companies and the books, please email me. If you can provide cover scans of the ones that are missing, they would be most welcome as well.
FIVE STAR MYSTERY. Green Publishing Company. Digest-sized. All PBO’s.
1. PETER YATES The Dress Circle Murders, 1945.
2. KEN CROSSEN Murder Out of Mind, 1945.
3. BRUCE ELLIOTT You’ll Die Laughing, 1945.
4. PETER YATES Death Comes to Dinner, 1945.
5. RICHARD FOSTER The Invisible Man Murders, 1945.
6. WENZELL BROWN Murder Seeks an Agent, 1945.
7. PETER YATES Death in the Hands of Talent, 1945.
● Perhaps it is at this point that the Green Publishing Company vanished from the picture and Five Star took over as the puboisher as well as the name of the line of books. In any case, the publisher of record for the books that follow was: Five Star Mysteries, Inc., located at 150 Nassau Street, New York 7, N.Y. Please see below for some commentary on the obvious gap that you see in the numbering system.
41. KATHERINE WOLFFE Death’s Long Shadow, 1946.
42. WILL CREED Death Wears a Green Hat, 1946.
43. JOSEPH CSIDA Crime Is of the Essence, 1946.
44. DOUGLAS STAPLETON & HELEN A. CAREY The Corpse Is Indignant, 1946.
45. LESLIE ALLEN Murder in the Rough, 1946.
46. BRUNO FISCHER Kill to Fit, 1946.
47. WILL CREED Death Comes Grinning, 1946.
● The following book was announced on the very last page of Death Comes Grinning, and while it is in fact listed in Graham Holroyd’s Paperback Prices and Checklist, no copies seem to have ever surfaced. The safe assumption is that it was never published and should be considered a phantom entry. (Note that Frank Kane did publish a mystery novel called Slay Ride in 1950, published by Ives Washburn in hardcover.)
48. FRANK KANE Johnny on a Slay Ride, 1946.
● One additional book that might belong to the series appears in Allen J. Hubin's Crime Fiction IV. Arthur Berry is not credited with any other mystery fiction, nor are there any copies available on the Internet. The source of the entry itself can no longer be determined, and the current consensus is that this book does not exist either.
?? ARTHUR BERRY Take Death for a Lover, circa 1946.
● You will have noticed the long gap between the first seven books and the one numbered #41. To my knowledge, no explanation for this large break has ever been offered, but after Victor Berch recently pointed it out to me, in the backs of several of the books are lists of Five Star mysteries the reader could order by mail. The lists are not the same in the various books, but combining what is found in all of them produces the following:
21. PETER YATES The Dress Circle Murders [reprint of #1].
22. KEN CROSSEN Murder Out of Mind [reprint of #2].
23. BRUCE ELLIOTT You’ll Die Laughing [reprint of #3]. As listed in Death Comes Grinning.
26. BRUCE ELLIOTT You’ll Die Laughing [reprint of #3]. As listed in Crime Is of the Essence and Death Wears a Green Hat.
28. PETER YATES Death Comes to Dinner [reprint of #4].
36. RICHARD FOSTER The Invisible Man Murders [reprint of #5].
37. PETER YATES Death in the Hands of Talent [reprint of #7].
38. WENZELL BROWN Murder Seeks an Agent [reprint of #6].
It is difficult to know what to make of these additional (and contradictory) listings. None of these books has ever been seen. One conjecture is that when Five Star took over the company and whatever assets Green had, including rights to the first seven books, they reprinted them without the Green imprint and offered them as available by mail. One can easily suppose that very few readers took them up on the offer.
I do not know if there was any relationship between Five Star and Vulcan, but the books that each published were of similar quality and vintage, with several authors being published by both.
VULCAN MYSTERY. Vulcan Publications. Digest-sized. All PBO’s. Published in New York, N.Y., but in the first book at least, no other address is given.
[1.] ANDREW I. ALBERT The Maori Murder Case, 1944.
[2.] DAVID GEORGE ROBINSON Death Meets the Deadline, 1944.
3. RICHARD FOSTER The Laughing Buddha Murders, 1944.
4. ANDREW I. ALBERT Murder for a Hollow Shell, 1945.
5. KEN CROSSEN The Case of the Phantom Fingerprints, 1945.
6. PETER YATES Curtain Call for Murder, 1945.
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Copyright © 2006 by Steve Lewis. All rights reserved to contributors.
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