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The last of Gees

Posted by at 10:00 am Monday, November 6, 2017 in English Pulp, Occult Detective, Review
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

The last of Gees

'Her Ways Are Death'I have previously posted on a new (to me) occult detective I discovered: Gees, real name Gregory George Gordon Green. Created by British author and editor Charles Henry Cannell (1882-1947) who may be better known by one of his pseudonyms, E. Charles Vivian, these novels appeared under his Jack Mann pseudonym.

There are eight novels in the series, and I have read and reviewed the first five. Recently I got the last three: The Ninth Life, The Glass Too Many, and Her Ways Are Death. All originally appeared, so I am told, in 1939 and ’40. All eight are available from Ramble House in paperback, but you need to look on both Amazon and Lulu. For those wanting a pulp connection, The Ninth Life was serialized in The Argosy in 1939, then reprinted in A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine in 1950. Her Ways Are Death was reprinted (and cover featured) in an issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries in 1952.

We were introduced to Gees in Gees’ First Case. We learn his background: a former policeman who has quit to form his own detective agency, to the disapproval of his father, a general. His agency is just him and a secretary, Eve Madeleine Brandon. But there is no hanky panky there. Gees investigates anything from “mumps to murder,” as his card says, and thanks to the funds he took from communist conspirators in the first story, he is free to take the cases that interest him.

After that first case, all the rest have a supernatural element.

In The Ninth Life, we are told it has been two years since Gees opened his agency. I liked the off-hand mention of previous cases (his first case, the matter of the “gray shapes” and “nightmare farm,” as well as the matter of the “maker of shadows” and the Kleinert case), but one mentioned — the “Colborne Affair” — is unknown to me. I guess this is a recent case that is not covered.

This time his old boss from his short time as a cop, Inspector Tott, brings him a matter to look into. His friend, Tony Briggs, who is high up in the Foreign Office, has become infatuated with an exotic woman, Cleo Kefra, and plans on marrying her. Tott is bothered by her and wants Gees to look into it (probably hoping there is some way to break things up). Gees takes the couple out to lunch, accompanied by Ms. Brandon to check out our Ms. Kefer.

A chance encounter with his father leads to Gees learning that his father met the same woman 30 plus years ago in Egypt! Or at least someone who looks just like her. Gees’ father has a decent amount of time in this story, more so than in the rest of the series.

Added to this, at lunch Gees mentions the matter of the “maker of shadows,” and the name MacMorn and that he put an end to the “maker.” This all seems to affect Ms. Kefra.

Yes, there is clearly an occult mystery about her, and Gees takes care of the matter, as you’ll see. Not Azilian this time, but Egyptian. Our Ms. Kefra (yes, that’s her real name) is the last priestess of Sekhmet, and has lived for untold years, blessed (or cursed) to stay young and untouched for ever. Well, until nine lives are sacrificed to Sekhmet. And she has one more to go. And has plans for Mr. Briggs. But she is not the real evil, all she wishes is to be free of the curse of immortality and be able to live a normal like and have a husband and a child. Sadly, there is an evil in the story, and things won’t work out for everyone. Something I’ve come to expect in the Gees novels.

And Gees also has to worry that Ms. Brandon is thinking of quitting, feeling she isn’t doing much with just transcribing his few cases. Uh oh.

The Glass Too Many takes Gees out to a country estate to look into a mystery. On the surface, it looks like we have your basic English countryside murder (or soon to be murder). Sydnor Reed, one of the lead principles in a firm, lives in a large country estate inherited from his father. But his father’s will has several rooms set aside for the wife of his old, now-dead partner, and the son of his partner, Brendan Lawson. Very strange. And if Reed passes without a heir, it all goes to the son of his partner.

Turns out, it’s clear that Brendon is really the son of old Mr. Reed, as he resembles him, whereas Sydnor does not.

Also present in the house are several others. There is Brendon’s wife and infant son, watched over by Anita, who watched over Brendon. There is Claire, Brendon’s sister. There is Sydnor’s other partner in the firm. And Sydnor’s fiance and mother. Yes, and a butler.

Oh, and a blizzard has hit, they are all snowed in, and the line to London is down.

Why is Gees there? A maid has gone mad and was locked up after first reporting of symptoms of a hand tremble. And now Sydnor has the same thing. He fears he will be stricken with the same unknown malady and hopes Gees will help. Gees was recommended by Miss Aylener, from Maker of Shadows. And adding to things, Sydnor has the same look of the old Azilian race! Thus some call this work a kind-of sequel to Maker. We get ancient rituals being conducted in catacombs beneath the manor house and all. And yes, there will be a murder. Or two. Things won’t work out for everyone, including Gees.

'Famous Fantastic Mysteries" (June 1952)Who also faces losing Ms. Brandon.

And finally we have Her Ways Are Death. Here Gees is summoned to Dorset to help a country squire. He had been recommended by Hunter from Nightmare Farm. Jerome Naylor fears that a local witch, Ira Wareen, has cursed him, and hopes that Gees will help him. But Gees finds there is much more to this.

Naylor and Wareen are the last of their lines, and their ancestors have long been locked in a feud that has lead to Naylors going crazy due to a Wareen witch’s actions. They claim descent from the Volsungs. But Gees finds there is even more to it than that. He sees Azilian influence, and ties back to Atlantis. Naylor desires the Rod of An, a mystic artifact in the possession of Ira Wareen, which allows for command of time and space. Gees warns Wareen that her use of it will bring down the wrath of a higher power, but the two are too tied up in their feud.

Yes, things come to a head, and it’s not to everyone’s benefit, including Gees, though he does gain a new companion: a cat.

I was surprised that the issue with Ms. Brandon from the past two novels was not resolved. There was a comment that it had been almost three years since he started his firm. Ms. Brandon seems to think about quitting, but not to the extent we saw in the prior novel. The discussion about Atlantis was interesting, and here Mann’s Azilian race is tied to them, which I don’t think happened when we were introduced to this race in Maker of Shadows. Also, we are told that the capital of Atlantis is An. I’ve never heard of that one, so I wonder if this is original to Mann/Vivian. Now, as Vivian has written several lost race novels, is this an idea from one of them? Similar to his reuse of the lost city from City of Wonder in Nightmare Farm?

Sadly, that’s it for the Gees series. No idea why more weren’t written, as these are pretty good. These are not your standard occult works. Gees working to understand and make sense of things, and the parts were he is working this all out are fairly creative, especially in the last novel, where his knowledge seems extensive.

As I’ve said with the previous ones, I could see these made into good Hammer horror movies, making use of the English countryside and the like. The stories work on characters and atmosphere, and not a lot of gruesome stuff.

And I can’t figure out why no one has really made use of this character in new stories. But clearly one needs a good knowledge of England and the English country side. This is seen in Mann’s use of local dialogue. In Her Ways Are Death, there is a note of thanks for help with the Dorset dialogue. I think only someone from England with a good understanding of this can make it work.

E. Charles Vivian wrote a several other novels that look interesting that I wish were reprinted, like City of Wonder, A King There Was (a sequel to The Lady of the Terraces, which has been reprinted), and Fields of Sleep and its sequel, People of the Darkness, which sound like good lost world/lost race style works. He has a few others. Some that Ramble House or someone else (maybe Armchair Fiction) could reprint. I don’t even see this as being available in ebook form.

One Comment

  1. The Vivian titles you mention in the final paragraph are all offered on abebooks.com, either as used or print on demand. Prices vary widely; the print on demand ones are very high. But if you really want them…

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