Thursday, October 26, 2017

DOWN BY THE OLD BLOODSTREAM, "edited" by Alfred Hitchcock

In the 1960s and '70s, Alfred Hitchcock's name was attached to countless anthologies. I doubt he truly edited them; he worked hand-in-glove with former radio writer Robert Arthur who I suspect is probably responsible. Arthur also wrote a good number of the "Three Investigators" boys' series that featured Hitch as a sort of "M" to a trio of teen sleuths.

Down by the Old Bloodstream, published in 1971, is sadly unremarkable as an anthology. There's no real luminaries among the authors, with two a "Hal Ellison", likely our old friend Harlan, but his story "The Good Thief" is a bore. The other is TV cop Jack Webb, and his story, "A Miracle is Arranged," is slightly better, a tale of attempted insurance fraud undone by a Twilight Zone-ish twist of fate.

Some of them write checks they can't cash. "Kurdistan Payload," for instance, sounds like a tale of international intrigue, but instead it's a noir-ish tale involving a moving company and a valuable Oriental rug. "The Monster Brain" sounds like a pulp horror tale, but the title refers to a computer that's only peripherally involved. In fact, that story is part of the one thing that makes this collection interesting...there are three stories in sequence, "The Still Small Voice," "Haunted Hill," and "The Monster Brain," that function as what I can best term "Hillbilly Noir." All three involve crime and conniving in a backwoods setting, with rustic characters. "The Monster Brain" is an exception as it's narrated by an insurance investigator, but the setting and the remainder of the characters put it in that mini-genre I just invented. It's an interesting view of a time when the world was less connected and it wasn't unusual to drive from a major city for less than a day and be in an area with no telephones or very little electricity.

Aside from that, not much to recommend it, really. Another story, "A Fair Warning to Mystery Writers," is amusing in its depiction of an author who rents a quiet place to do some writing but is constantly hassled by neighbors. Otherwise, this is forgettable stuff.

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