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Rawson, Clayton

Page history last edited by barry_ergang@... 7 years, 3 months ago

Clayton Rawson (1906-1971) was an American magician. He was born in Ohio and graduated from Ohio State University in 1929. That same year he married Catherine Stone. He was a famous illusionist and also worked as an artist for magazines. He also served as editor for detective magazines including Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. His series detective was the magician known as the Great Merlini. He was one of the four founding members of the Mystery Writers of America.


Rawson also wrote four novelettes under the name Stuart Towne, about Don Diavolo, and non-fiction works under his own name.


The four original Merlini books are available from Ramble House. A collection of short stories was issued in 1979 and can be bought through Amazon.


Mike Grost on Clayton Rawson


Clayton Rawson's impossible crime puzzles are disappointing. Rawson's solutions are usually a let down. He finds some uninteresting way to barely explain the problems he has proposed. Carr's solutions, by contrast, tend to be wonderfully imaginative, often at least as much so as the central mystery itself. In addition, Rawson's solutions sometimes stretch believability beyond the breaking point. In addition, there is something unlikable about Rawson's characters and stories, considered as works of fiction. Not recommended. This review is perhaps a bit unfair, considering that Rawson's books work like beavers to try and entertain the reader, loaded with lore about magic and the supernatural, and with numerous impossibilities. For the record, I have only read Death from a Top Hat (1938), The Footprints on the Ceiling (1939), The Headless Lady (1940) and his story collection The Great Merlini. Top Hat opens with a long list of what Rawson considered the great mystery writers; made before Haycraft or Queen published their lists, it is an interesting barometer of 1930's opinion.


Among the Merlini short stories, "From Another World" (1948) and "Miracles -- All in the Day's Work" (1958) have a similar structure. The solutions have a similar disappointing feature, in the treatment of witnesses. The later tale compensates with some ingenious extra deception, however, and is the richer of the two tales. These extra ideas involve mechanical ideas, as do the mysteries in "Nothing Is Impossible" (1958).




Death From a Top Hat (1938)

The Footprints on the Ceiling (1939)

The Headless Lady (1940)

No Coffin For the Corpse (1942)

The Great Merlini (1979)

  • The Clue of the Tattooed Man
  • The Clue of the Broken Legs
  • The Clue of the Missing Motive
  • From Another World
  • Off the Face of the Earth
  • Merlini and the Lie Detector
  • Merlini and the Vanished Diamonds
  • Merlini and the Sound Effects Murder
  • Nothing Is Impossible
  • Miracles - All in the Day's Work
  • Merlini and the Photographic Clue
  • The World's Smallest Locked Room

As Stuart Towne

Death Out of Thin Air (1941)

  • Death From the Past {Ghost of the Undead}
  • Death From the Unseen {Death Out of Thin Air}

Death From Nowhere (1943)

  • Act I {the Claws of Satan}
  • Act II {the Enchanted Dagger}

Don Diavolo mysteries reviewed collectively

Uncollected stories

  • Stand-in For a Kill (1940)
  • Mr Mystery (1940)
  • The Man With the Radio Mind (1941)
  • The Ace of Death (1942)
  • The Man With X-Ray Eyes (1944)


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