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Pentecost, Hugh

Page history last edited by Jon 10 years, 8 months ago

Hugh PentecostHugh Pentecost was the pseudonym of Judson Philips (1903-1989), an American writer who also wrote thrillers under his own name. He was born in Massachusetts and travelled widely before completing his education at Columbia University. Philips was a founding member of the Mystery Writers of America and served as its third president. He wrote many stories for pulp magazines and created several series detectives under the Pentecost name: Inspector Luke Bradley, journalist John Jericho, PR man Julian Quist and Uncle George Crowder, as well as his best-known sleuth, Pierre Chambrun, the manager of a luxury hotel. Under his own name Philips has invented the series character Peter Styles, a one-legged investigative reporter. As Judson Philips he writes about Coyle and Donovan and Carole Trevor and Max Blythe.

 

Mike Grost on Hugh Pentecost

 

Hugh Pentecost's "The Day the Children Vanished" (1958) is an impressive impossible crime story, but this sort of story is apparently an isolated event in its author's literary career, which generally focuses more on characterization than on fair play puzzle plots. Pentecost is also known for his 1960's treatments of the era's liberal social protest and civil rights movements. Pentecost was clearly sympathetic to these movements, and his fiction shows a life long devotion to liberal causes.

 

Pentecost's characters are often caught up in difficult circumstances, with which they have to make a valiant personal effort to cope. The old man who is the detective in "Vanished", just doesn't stand around and talk, he has to make a radical effort to cope with the criminals. Pentecost's story also benefits from the novelty of its impossible crime: it is not just another locked room, but something new in magical effects.

 

Pentecost's first short story "Room Number 23" (1925) was also a locked room tale. The impossible crime mechanism of the story is of the same general kind as Chesterton's "The Invisible Man" (1910). As in Vincent Starrett's stories of the same era, it is modeled on the Sherlock Holmes tales in its detective characters and setup. There is also the same sort of 1920's big city feel to the tale as Starrett's, complete with a suspect who doubles as a bootlegger.

 

Pentecost's pure mystery writings sometimes focus on people selling luxury goods and services to the big rich. These include the high priced stamp merchants of Cancelled in Red (1939), the diamond merchants of the Lt. Pascal novella, "Murder in the Dark" (1949), and the luxury hotel managed by Pierre Chambrun in his stories. I confess that the inside looks at such businesses in these works do not interest me very much. Cancelled in Red is particularly dreary as a novel. It depicts some of the scams used by crooked stamp dealers, but it fails to convey any of the romance or glamour surrounding stamp collecting as a whole. "Murder in the Dark" is better. It is no classic, but it does have its moments of ingenuity.

 

"Bottom Deal" (1941) is a novella with a background in the Broadway theater. Its only notable aspect are its detectives, gambling specialist Coyle and his leg-man, "Harvard" Donovan, characters that also appear in two Pentecost novels, Odds on the Hot Seat (1940-1941) and The Fourteenth Trump (1942). The two are pastiches of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. The year before, Rufus King's Holiday Homicide (1940) had also included versions of Stout's sleuths, so perhaps something was in the air. The story emphasizes "Harvard" Donovan's extreme good looks, as well as his dapper tailoring. Sleuths aside, this is a routine story, with a mystery plot recalling Agatha Christie's Peril at Edge House (1932). Pentecost seems to have revived the character later: the short story "According to Coyle" (1948) appeared in Mystery Book Magazine, in Volume 7, #1, Summer 1948.

 

Pentecost wrote a few works about the colorless but penetrating psychiatrist detective, Dr. John Smith. Three of them appeared in the American Magazine during 1945-1946, and were collected in book form in 1947 as Memory of Murder. I've never seen this rare book. Ellery Queen reprinted "Volcano in the Mind" (1945) from it in his anthology Champions of Mystery (1977). "Volcano in the Mind" seems far-fetched as a mystery plot. And like a lot of psychoanalytic fiction, it is grim and joyless stuff. A character in the tale is a jovial artist with a huge red beard; he seems like a dry run for Pentecost's later artist-sleuth, John Jericho.

 


Bibliography

 

Peter Styles Novels

 

The Laughter Trap (1964)

The Black Glass City (1965)

The Twisted People (1965)

Wings of Madness (1966)

Thursday’s Folly (1967)

Hot Summer Killing (1968)

Nightmare at Dawn (1970)

Escape a Killer (1971)

The Vanishing Senator (1972)

The Larkspur Conspiracy (1973)

The Power Killers (1974)

Walk a Crooked Mile (1975)

Backlash (1976)

Five Roads to Death (1977)

Why Murder? (1979)

Death Is a Dirty Trick (1980)

Murder As the Curtain Rises (1981)

Target for Tragedy (1982)

 

As Judson Philips

 

Red War {with Thomas Marvin Johnson} (1936)

The Death Syndicate (1938)

Death Delivers a Postcard (1939)

Murder in Marble (1940)

Odds on the Hot Seat (1941)

The Fourteenth Trump (1942)

Killer on the Catwalk (1959)

Whisper Town (1960)

Murder Clear, Track Fast (1961)

A Dead Ending (1962)

The Dead Can’t Love (1963)

A Murder Arranged (1978)

The Compleat Park Avenue Hunt Club

 

As Philip Owen

 

Mystery at a Country Inn (1979)

 

As Hugh Pentecost

 

Cancelled in Red (1939)

The 24th Horse (1940)

I'll Sing at Your Funeral (1942)

The Brass Chills (1943)

Cat and Mouse (1945)

The Dead Man's Tale (1945)

Death Wears a Copper Necktie and other stories (1946)

Memory of Murder {novelets} (1947)

Where the Snow Was Red (1949)

Shadow of Madness (1950)

Chinese Nightmare (1951)

Lt Pascal's Tastes in Homicide (1954)

The Assassins (1955)

The Obituary Club (1958)

The Lonely Target (1959)

The Kingdom of Death (1960)

Choice of Violence (1961)

The Deadly Friend (1961)

The Cannibal Who Overate (1962)

The Tarnished Angel (1963)

Only the Rich Die Young (1964)

The Shape of Fear (1964)

Sniper (1965)

The Creeping Hours (1966)

The Evil That Men Do (1966)

Hide Her from Every Eye (1966)

Dead Woman of the Year (1967)

The Golden Trap (1967)

The Gilded Nightmare (1968)

Girl Watcher's Funeral (1969)

The Girl with Six Fingers (1969)

Around Dark Corners {short stories} (1970)

A Plague of Violence (1970)

The Deadly Joke (1971)

Don't Drop Dead Tomorrow (1971)

Birthday, Deathday (1972)

The Champagne Killer (1972)

The Beautiful Dead (1973)

Walking Dead Man (1973)

Bargain with Death (1974)

The Judas Freak (1974)

Honeymoon with Death (1975)

Time of Terror (1975)

The Day the Children Vanished (1976)

Die After Dark (1976)

The Fourteen Dilemma (1976)

Murder As Usual (1977)

The Steel Palace (1977)

Deadly Trap (1978)

Death After Breakfast (1978)

The Homicidal Horse (1979)

Random Killer (1979)

Beware Young Lovers (1980)

Death Mask (1980)

Murder in Luxury (1981)

Sow Death, Reap Death (1981)

Past, Present and Murder (1982)

With Intent to Kill (1982)

The Copycat Killers (1983)

Murder in High Places (1983)

Murder Out of Wedlock (1983)

The Price of Silence (1984)

Remember to Kill Me (1984)

Substitute Victim (1984)

Murder Round the Clock (1985)

Murder Sweet and Sour (1985)

The Party Killer (1985)

Death by Fire (1986)

Nightmare Time (1986)

Kill and Kill Again (1987)

Murder Goes Round and Round (1988)

Pattern for Terror (1990)

 

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