Ahoy there, readers! With my hometown of Seattle, Washington, having just concluded its annual summer celebration, the nautical/pirate/Navy-themed Seafair, I’ve decided to showcase a couple of novels this week with distinctly seafaring fronts. The first is the 1950 Pocket Books edition of Perilous Passage, by Arthur Mayse. (That work had been released in hardcover the previous year by William Morrow, and at least two parts of the tale had appeared in successive issues of The Saturday Evening Post in May 1949.)
A 1949 critique posted in Kirkus Reviews calls Perilous Passage a “thriller, adventure packed,” set in the Pacific Northwest:
Two young people become enmeshed in some mysterious and questionable activities. One is a youth wanted by the police for escape from a reform school; the other a girl trying to be man of the family in her dead father’s stead, and to buck the predatory activities of her dissolute stepmother. This phase of the story alone might raise question[s] of suitability in some minds--so a word of warning. On the adventure side, and the really unusual handling of a rocky road to romance, the story will appeal to the upper teens as well as to adults.According to biographical sketches here and here, author Arthur William (“Bill”) Mayse was born in Manitoba, Canada, in 1912, but spent his teenage years in a couple of British Columbia towns: modest Nanaimo and much larger Vancouver. He attended the University of British Columbia, where he became “a prize-winning poet,” but left school “one course short of graduation” in order to work as an “ace reporter” for Vancouver’s best-selling newspaper, The Province. He later moved over to covering labor and politics stories for The Vancouver Sun, before taking the position of fiction editor at Maclean’s magazine in Toronto, Ontario. From the 1940s to the 1960s, Mayse peddled short stories to both Canadian and American periodicals, and published not only Perilous Passage, but also, in 1952, an adventure yarn titled The Desperate Search, which was soon after made into a motion picture starring Howard Keel and Jane Greer. In later years, Mayse and his family moved back to B.C., where he penned a column for the Victoria Daily Times and wrote scripts for The Beachcombers, a long-running CBC TV series. He died in 1992.
Oh, and the façade of Perilous Passage? That was done by the prolific James R. Bingham, about whom more can be learned here.
Now let’s sail quietly over to this week’s second cover, shown above: So Young a Body, by Frank Bunce (Pocket, 1951). Again, I turn to Kirkus for a brief plot description:
Mousy Mr. Humble, on a vagabond cruise, finds that being known as a private detective is more glamorous than admitting he is an accountant, [but] takes it hard when he is asked to take charge of a murder--later another--aboard the coastwise freighter. Able assistance is rendered by a cocky, memory-trained girl, a frustrated actress, and a long-lasting haunting is cleared up when Mr. Humble latches onto the killer.Unfortunately, finding out anything about the author of this work has proved frustrating. Not to be confused with the New Zealand rugby player of that same name, Bunce apparently composed at least one other novel during his career, 1962’s Rehearsal for Murder, as well as the short story “Too Big to Lick,” which featured in the January 1, 1938, edition of Argosy Weekly. Beyond that, though, I don’t see any biographical information available online or in the many resource books lining my shelves. The artist behind So Young a Body’s cover illustration is equally elusive. All I can say for sure is that the piece is credited to Casimer (“Cass”) Norwaish, who also did the front for the 1948 Bantam edition of Anthony Gilbert’s Murder Cheats the Bride. If anyone out there knows more background on Bunce or Norwaish, please share it with the rest of us.
READ MORE: “Maritime to Die” (Pulp International).