The Horror Expert-Frank Long (1961)

frank long-the horror expert

SF/Horror author Frank Belknap Long drops his middle name for this crime novel. He should have dropped the manuscript. The title means absolutely nothing. A murdered woman liked grisly horror movies and true crime stories. That was mentioned in a couple sentences. So much for the title.

Helen Lathrup is a partner in a publishing outfit. One thing is universal..everyone hates her. She builds people up just for the fun of bringing them down. One day a man walks into her office with a gun, silencer attached. He blows her away.

In the outer office, associate editor Lynn Prentice thought she heard a noise coming from Helen’s office and goes to investigate. Her scream announces her discovery. After being questioned by the cops she walks to a nearby diner. She thinks she’s being followed. Her instincts are right. Turns out the man is a young artist looking for a break. He couldn’t be seen in the magazine office so he followed her. He shows her his portfolio and she tells him his drawings while good are not magazine material.

Time for Long to bring in Ralph Gilmore. He’s an author that’s sold some short stories and now has a novel in the works. The big envelope arrives. He thinks it’s another rejection. Nope. Looks like he’s in business. One night he’s to meet Helen at a restaurant. When he gets there a man is with her at a table. Before he gets there the man stands up and slaps Helen. Ralph punches him out. It’s not long before he gets a real taste of Helen and his hopes of being published are dashed and she refuses to see him.

Homicide Lt.Joseph Fenton is in charge of the murder investigation. A disgruntled author who had an affair with Helen confesses to killing her. Now we get page after page of Fenton and his partner intellectualizing about alcoholism. They realize the man isn’t guilty.

We move on now to associate editor Ruth Porges. She has Helen join she and her boyfriend for some dinner and dancing. Helen works her charms on him while dancing and Ruth is steaming. Time to go and Helen takes off. In a cab on the way to his place Ruth is about to blow up. Inside the apartment she lets loose. He responds by playing caveman. That doesn’t work and she storms out.

The next day Ruth is standing at a construction site before any workers show up. There’s a gap in the fence at an excavation. The chain on her locket breaks and she goes down to retrieve it. She gets it and then spots a large stone. She decides to lift it to see what’s under it. She finds a gun with the silencer still attached…the murder weapon. When she climbs back out some people from the office are walking by.

Ruth goes home and realizes where she’s seen the gun before. She decides o cover for the owner and intends to toss it in the East River. Then the doorbell rings.

Before slogging along to the ending there’s some pseudo intellectual discussion among the magazine editors and Helen’s business partner about the craziness of creative people. Now the book takes a hard boiled turn as Fenton spots something suspicious.

The ending takes close to ten pages and gets ridiculous especially the closing scene. Long has written some excellent horror novels and some fair SF. This attempt at a crime story is below the basement.

About vintage45

I'm a big fan of vintage books,movies,TV shows and music. I encourage everyone to patronize your local used book/record store and pick up some of the good stuff. My posts are capsule reviews of some favorites that you may want to investigate. The albums posted aren't really reviews but items from my collection that are still available. I try and point out highlights of each one and let the music speak for itself. Thanks to all for checking out the blog.
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