| he Four Johns
aka our Men Called John
The four of them had only two things in common - their name and a love for the ladies. John Boce was a no-account accountant who lusted after food, drink cars, and women. John Thompson was a secretive librarian who liked his books and his women well-stacked. John Viviano was a fashion photographer with a great feel for a body - any body! And John Pilgrim was a poetic bum who had the girls hanging on his every stanza. All of them wanted the same woman, but which one wanted her enough to kill...?
Set on and around the campus of the University of California-Berkeley. Mary Hazelwood, "one of the busiest bodies on the campus," disappears one day. The main suspects in the disappearance are all named John, from John Pilgrim, a "beatnik of distinction", to librarian and UC stacks supervisor John Thompson. Thompson is "persuasive, hedonistic, and enterprising, a librarian who likes his assistants well stacked." He is a "compact, sunburned man of thirty-five," with a mild disposition. he does, however, lead a mysterious existence: Each Friday after work, he disappears from campus, not to be seen again until Monday morning. When an investigator follows Thompson as the latter blasts off in his MG late one Friday, he discovers an astonishing truth: John Thompson is living a double life. During the workweek, he's a stack superintendent-roué and lives in a bachelor apartment in the city. From Friday evening to Monday morning, he's a devoted family man who lives in the suburbs with his wife and children. Is he guilty of more than duplicity? This is a competent Ellery Queen potboiler (Librarians in Fiction: A Critical Bibliography Grant Burns, 1998)
A cast of characters is included.
Although he never admitted it publicly this book is ghostwritten by Jack
Vance. The title refers to an
overly flirtatious young woman’s quartet of suitors, who become the
chief suspects when she disappears. A university teaching assistant
turns amateur sleuth when the lady’s body is found in the trunk of his
car and he realizes that someone’s trying to frame him. Of his detective
skills the less said the better. The plot and main characters are in
retrospect incredible but the pre-uprising Berkeley milieu and some
nicely observed university hangers on rescue this quickie from total
Vance specialist Richard Chandler asked
himself if there were any clues in the novels themselves that gave away
their true owner.
He starts off by saying that all three stories Vance wrote for Queen are
set in California with a very strong sense of place. And continues by
stating that there are two clues
in The Four Johns which practically shout their author’s name. Can any Vance enthusiast
read the following and not think ‘Jack Vance’?
("The Case of the Missing Vance", Richard Chandler in Cosmopolis N° 37, April 2003)
More recently the manuscripts of the three Vance Queens were partially recovered. They were restored and made available. This story was published under its original title Strange She hasn't Written as a supplemental volume to the Vance Integral Edition in 2006. Evidently one of 400 copies printed. Sources report only 100 copies of this volume were printed which explains why it's a really rare find offered at prices ranging from $45 to $122,5
|Above: 12 page Star Weekly insert (April 18, 1964) titled Four Men Called John, this being the 1st Canadian appearance. Included 3 magazine sections, novel, and comics.
Interested readers should know
that the icons/covers
of books, used throughout the
website have extra
included in the text on the same
page. Pointing your cursor at
the icon/cover used to reveal
this extra information.
To achieve the same effect Firefox users can install an add-on called 'Popup ALT Attribute'. When installed pointing your cursor at an icon/cover results in showing you the details or additional information.
b a c k t o Q B I
Copyright © MCMXCIX-MMXXII Ellery Queen, a website on deduction. All rights reserved.