|he Four Johns (1964)
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)
A cast of characters is included,
and the book is ghostwritten by Jack
Vance. Why did he write the books? "Because
gave me a flat fee of 3000 dollars for each book. Which was then a
money! I did have to sign a contract never to reveal I actually wrote the
books. Theoretically I never took his name. In a way he took my good prose
and did everything to let it pass as his own." Vance was forbidden by his contract to sign copies of books written under the
Ellery Queen pseudonym. As Vance developed a following in his own
right (he was an elaborate Sci-fi-writer), he did eventually sign the
Queen-books as "Jack Vance" or "Ellery Queen" and initialed "JV". Recently
the manuscripts of the three Vance Queens were partially recovered. They
will be restored and made available. So this story
was published under
its original title Strange She hasn't
Written as a supplemental volume to
the Vance Integral Edition in 2006.
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