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Retirement. Publishers, thank you for the many years of reading pleasure you gave me, but all good things must come to an end. Due to failing eyesight I am forced to retire. I can no longer review your books, and any that you send will be donated to the local library, unread. Do not send any more. I can only read for a couple hours every day, and this does not allow me to finish a book in reasonable time. I will be devoting time to my own books from now on, and reading on a personal level. Books that interest me. I prefer paperbacks and hardbacks, not eBooks. My eyesight has been failing the last few years, and I cannot handle hundreds of review books any more. My books are still available for review. Anyone interested in reviewing any of them, they are found in the Link to Tom’s Books On Amazon. Contact me for pdf copies at

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Green Ghost Volume One

The Green Ghost Volume One
By Michael Panush, Greg Hatcher, B.C. Bell, Erwin K. Roberts
Airship 27
ISBN #978-0615993300
Price $15.29
172 Pages
Rating 4-Stars

The Green Ghost originally appeared in the early 1940 pulp magazines from Ned Pines’ Standard Magazine line. The author was G.T. Fleming-Roberts, whose name was appearing in many pulps of the day. He had already written a good chunk of Secret Agent X yarns over at Ace Magazines before starting The Ghost/Green Ghost stories. The Ghost was George Chance, famous stage magician, who now and then took on the guise of a mysterious crime fighter, with the aid of several friends. Fleming-Roberts was a master of mysteries with hidden motives behind the crimes. There are four stories in this volume by different authors.

“The Phantom Elephant of Coney Island” by Michael Panush gives us an odd story about a phantom elephant haunting an abandoned amusement park. Chance, Harper, and Tiny Tim go there one night to catch the ghost, and find a group of old carnival freaks hiding out, and a mobster trying to destroy the park, even if he has to kill the freaks. To be honest, the story was terrible. George Chance reveals the long-kept secret of his alter ego. There were at least five editing problems in the first two pages, but I’ve come to expect that from all the small press books, and it doesn’t bother me. What does bother me, however, The Green Ghost is ineffective even with his aides helping him; it’s a wonder there was a conclusion to the story. But thankfully, it did come to a merciful end.

“The Case of The Ectoplasmic  Escapist” by Greg Hatcher. Magician George Chance is invited to a museum honoring one of his mentors, Barry Bourdain, who died performing his trade magic act several years previously. In fact, all of the magicians he mentored are invited to Bourdain’s gothic mansion for a party. Chance believes his old friend was murdered, and the tragic magic act was not an accident, so The Green Ghost plans to attend the event.
This one was a gem. Chance, Harker, Tiny Tim, and Merry White sound and act like they are supposed to. One sour note was again revealing The Green Ghost’s identity to a fellow magician (and undercover agent), but the story was topnotch.

“The Case of The Rocketeer Ripper” by B.C. Bell. George Chance and Merry White are traveling across country to speak to servicemen about gambling traps around military bases. Their current stop is at Camp Burlington, but they make a stop in the city of Burlington where Judd Walters works as a rocket engineer for the government. Chance had known Walters when he worked at the circus during college. Arriving at his house, an ambulance and police are already there. Stepping from the car, the police chief recognizes the famous magician immediately, and takes him into the murder scene where he finds Walters, his head severed from his body. Now he has a murder to investigate while in the area.
This one needed to be fleshed out more. I think it would have worked better if expanded to a short novel or novel length. For instance, the policeman had never met the famous magician, and newspaper or poster pictures would not be a good image of him. He could not have been instantly recognized stepping from his automobile in a strange town. Nor would the police have let him enter the crime scene. Even the Phantom Detective had to show his badge. But with more space, this could have been an excellent plot.

“Murder In Sound Effects” by Erwin K. Roberts. George Chance, invited to speak on a radio station, finds a dead man during the program. All may not be what it seems at the station. He discovers that Wonderful Bakery, Inc. bought out the radio, and was it’s main sponsor.  He sent Joe to look in on the bakery, and Merry White to check records, while Tiny Tim visited a friend at the library for other information.
            As with the previous story, “Murder In Sound Effects” this one could have used more space to flesh out the story. We are “told” too much of the mystery, instead of seeing things discovered. A character named Johnston becomes Johnson by the end of the story.

Some final thoughts: The book has a great cover by Zachary Brunner, as well as some fine interior illustrations. I still contend that pulp illustrations had action scenes, but we see too many scenes with no action here - a room with people standing around, or eating at a table, or just standing around talking, etc.  The language in a couple of these stories dishonors the old series, as well. I did notice a bit more editing problems than usual for Airship 27 books, but this should not keep the reader from enjoying the volume. The gem of the volume is “The Case of The Ectoplasmic Escapist” by Greg Hatcher. Overall, the issue is a fun read, and I hope we see more volumes in the future. It would also be fun to see B.C. Bell and Erwin K. Roberts expand their novelettes into novel length adventures.

Tom Johnson

Echoes Magazine

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