Thursday, March 24, 2011

FORGOTTEN BOOKS: THE LAUGHTER TRAP!

FORGOTTEN BOOKS: THE LAUGHTER TRAP!

JUDSON PHILIPS

Possibly better known under his Huge Pentecost pseudonym, Judson Philips was another successful wordsmith to make the jump from the pulps to paperback originals. Highly prolific, Philips was never top rank, but almost always told a solid story.

I started reading Philips’ Peter Styles novels when Pinnacle began reprinting them in 1973 with stylized covers. I enjoyed them enough to stay with them as each new title appeared.

Styles first appeared in The Laughter Trap. He is haunted by memories of driving his alcoholic father home from a ski resort only to be forced off the road by two hooded men in dark glasses and driving a dark sedan – the passenger laughing maniacally.

The resulting accident killed Styles’ father and severed Styles’ right leg below the knee when he was thrown clear. Now, he’s returning to the ski resort to seek the unknown killers.

Within a short time there are several more murders linked to a maniacally laughing man. Are they connected to the murder of Styles’ father – of course, but that’s all part of the fun.

With his experience in the pulps, Philips knew how to keep the pot boiling and the story clipping along. His use of Styles’ artificial leg is handled well and often leads to increasing suspense.

The Laughter Trap is a good start for the series with decent characterization and several twists leading to the traditionally surprising least-likely suspect reveal.

What makes the Styles’ novels of continuing interest is Philips’ efforts to confront the social controversies of the era, often using Styles’ position as a reporter/columnist for Newsview magazine to jump start his plots. In many ways, the novels are tiny time capsules drawn from the headlines of the day.

THE 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)

3 comments:

Jerry House said...

Philips/Pentecost was always a reliable author with many series characters. THE LAUGHTER TRAP is a solid book to make the beginning of a solid series. He should be ripe for rediscovery by a new generation. Battered Silicon Dispatch Box is bringing his Park Avenue Hunt series back into print. I hope some publisher does the same with his Peter Syles, Pierre Chambrun, Uncle George, and Dr. Smith series. (His Julian Quist series, popular at the time, would be too dated, I fear, for today's audience.)

George said...

I stopped reading this series with THE POWER KILLERS. I'll have to root around and see if I have the rest of the volumes in the series. I'm hoping GOOGLE or someone else rescues these books from oblivion by digitizing them and making them available as ebooks.

Mel Odom said...

I really enjoyed these books at the time. Learned a lot about plotting from the author.