Keeler published nine novels with Phoenix in the 1940s. The dustjackets for all nine are provided here.
The Case of the Two Strange Ladies (Phoenix, 1945): This cover effectively represents a morgue. Courtesy of Art Scott.
"Tommy Skirmont, reporter on the Southern City Democrat, was caught high on the horns of a dilemma. In order to marry Tennessee Calhoun, fairest blossom of the New South, he had to have a job; and in order to retain his job he had to identify two brutally murdered corpses -- one white, one black -- on which the whole population of Southern City had gazed with interest but without recognition. A volume of ancient Chinese wisdom pointed the way to Tommy, and Yankee ingenuity did the rest. And while he was tagging the torsos, Skirmont tagged their murderer for good measure."
The Case of the Lavender Gripsack (Phoenix, 1944): This eerie illustration reminds me of paintings by Tanguy. Courtesy of Eysteinn Björnsson.
"A Keeler mystery guaranteed to give new thrills and surprises to even the most jaded mystery fans.
"Both her client's life and her own future hung in the balance as Elsa Colby, young criminal attorney, undertook to shatter the State's apparently fool-proof case against one 'John Doe,' accused of the murder of a night watchman.
"A red shoe-box; the skull of a blond Swedish gigolo; a Negress who was the best professional weeper in the whole South Side; a dignified Chinese restaurant owner; a man with magic eardrums -- and many other equally colorful clues and characters dramatically pave the way for a breath-taking climax in which Keeler outdoes himself."
The Case of the 16 Beans (Phoenix, 1944): Another stark, striking image. Courtesy of Eysteinn Björnsson.
"Why did old Balhatchet Barkstone, on dying, leave his nephew 16 beans?
"Why did Boyce Barkstone, the heir, hold on to the beans?
"Why did Hu Fong, a Chinese detective, come to the conclusion that a poverty-stricken hermit was murdered for an article of great value, and what might that article be?
"Why did Hutchcock McDolphus, dealer in hides refuse to accept any price whatsoever for a simple book costing $3.50?
"These are only a few of the seemingly insoluble riddles which Keeler answers, in his own inimitable manner, in his latest mystery-adventure."
The Case of the Ivory Arrow (Phoenix, 1945): This cover is almost as ridiculous as the one for The Case of the Mysterious Moll!
The blurb is similar to the blurb for this book's British counterpart, The Search for X-Y-Z: "Keeler at his fantastic best in a puzzle having to do with an oaf from the country who dresses like an old-time vaudeville act; a jet-black poetess who is nurse to a calcified man; a baby-faced taxi driver; a blonde with a father fixation; Herman Hieronymus the Sauerkraut King--and other equally colorful figures.
"Ezra Jenkins' desperate search for his vanished brother with the extraordinary name clashes and criss-crosses with the search of a Chicago gunman, 'The Farmer,' for a dope and white slave trader who brought about the ruin of the gunman's sister. One man is murdered, and the grim comedy of errors almost proves disastrous to Ezra."
The Case of the Mysterious Moll (Phoenix, 1945): This has got to be one of the wackiest covers ever created for a book. Must be seen to be believed!
"As ingeniously intricate a baffler as any Keeler has written.
"Margaret Annister sat in her death cell awaiting execution for a murder which she had not committed. Yet so damning was the evidence against her that her lawyer's battle to gain a reprieve seemed hopeless. Nor could Margaret possibly realize, as she stoically awaited her fate, how inextricably entangled was her life--and death--with such disparate characters as Criocan Mulqueeny, political boss; Iris Fernwood, Chicago artist and socialite; and Ichabod Tsung, a Chinese xylophonist. Much less the mysterious moll who was reputed to be the brains behind gangleader 'Gorilla' Svenson."
The Case of the Canny Killer (Phoenix, 1946): Honestly, I have to say I find this one downright ugly. Ward Lock did a much better job with the British version of this tale, Murder in the Mills. Dustjacket courtesy of Eysteinn Björnsson.
"Who was the saboteur at the Tippingdale Steel Mills? Obviously one of the line gang who had access to the high tension wires, but which one?
"Archimedes Kee, ten-year-old Chinese messenger boy for the plant, was given the job of unobtrusively keeping his eyes open as he made his rounds on his bicycle. As a result, Archimedes, son of a laundryman, about to be adopted by a wealthy Parisian, was murdered in a catnip bed.
"The author defies the most astute reader to guess the surprise ending of 'The Case of the Canny Killer,' and his publishers can but second his challenge."
The Case of the Barking Clock (Phoenix, 1947): Even though this novel includes detailed instructions for painting a wild, surrealistic dustjacket, it received only this minimalist design by Ancona. Why, the clock doesn't even bark!
"Never was Mr. Keeler's imaginative ingenuity more apparent than in this tale of Joe the Duck, small-time racketeer condemned to die for the murder of State's Attorney Ibstone. The circumstantial evidence against Joe was so complete and convincing that his life was as good as gone--unless he could communicate with a certain crime analyst by the name of Tuttleton T. Trotter. [That should be "Tuddleton"! --RP]
"But the only known address of the one man who might have solved the puzzle of the button collector, the African cannibal and the barking clock was a cemetery in Pincheon's Corner, Wisconsin. And dead men neither tell tales, nor analyze crimes."
The Case of the Jeweled Ragpicker (Phoenix, 1948): Why is it always so dark in these Phoenix visions? Courtesy of Eysteinn Björnsson.
"Some crimes seem destined to go down in police annals as forever unsolved. Such was the case of Joe, the shabby ragpicker who was killed with a dagger inlaid with precious jewels, and then deposited, dagger and all, in the seedy hostelry known as the Hotel Romanorum.
"For thirty years the motive for the murder remained as obscure as the reason an Ace of Spades had been spitted on the jewelled dagger stuck through the corpse's back. Then an employee of Angus MacWhorter's Mammoth Motorized Shows found a clue to the slaying, and set out to solve a puzzle which had been given up as insoluble before he was born."
The Case of the Transposed Legs (Phoenix, 1948): A nice one from Phoenix! A creepy meat cleaver, surrounded by a needle and wire, graces the cover of one of Harry and Hazel's most peculiar efforts.
"Why did the killer of banker Nils Pederson chop off his legs and sew them back on with silver wire in transposed position?
"How was a book on cats the key to escape from a great prison?
"Why was a highly literary manuscript sent to Rudolph Uberhulf, a convict who could scarcely read or write?
"What was the meaning of the letter warning Warden Pembroke of a diabolical plot to end his career?
"Harry Stephen Keeler and Hazel Goodwin collaborate in an ingenious mystery which will delight the hearts of Keeler fans, and which maintains its suspense until the very last dramatically unexpected paragraph."
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