#218: Murder on the Way! (1935) and I’ll Grind Their Bones (1936) by Theodore Roscoe Are Being Republished by Bold Venture Press…

Murder on the Way

Last year, I put up this post lamenting the dearth of classic-era detective fiction, and then one claiming that I was going to try and do something about this.  And then things went quiet.  Very quiet.  Almost too quiet, wouldn’t you say?

Well, see, that’s because I was working at trying to making it happen.  And the result of that work is this: Bold Venture Press will be republishing two impossible crime novels by Theodore Roscoe — Murder on the Way! (1935) and I’ll Grind Their Bones (1936) — over the next couple of months or so, with yours truly having edited and prepared the texts for publication as well as writing introductions for each book.

Murder on the Way! is available to buy now in both ebook and in printed form — good news, Sergio! — with the gorgeously gaudy cover shown up top.  It’s at boldventurepress.com now, and listings have started to appear on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, BooksaMillion, and all the usual places. The plot has been summarised thusly:

An artist and his girlfriend attend a funeral of her uncle on the island of Haiti, where they encounter the deep vein of Voodoo superstition. The legend of living souls trapped in dead bodies becomes a frightening reality as they witness a Zombie resurrection. 

The tale by the well-traveled pulp fiction author Theodore Roscoe captured his sense of awe and terror surrounding such a monster in the very place that would have given rise to it. His first-hand experience during his travels in Haiti taught him of such legends and arguably enabled him to use them to quite excellent ends in MURDER ON THE WAY! 

Thus, well before the Zombie came to represent today’s flesh-eating cinematic monster of lore, Roscoe’s story published by the New York Dodge Publishing Company in 1935, unravels impossible shootings, inexplicable disappearances, and the stirrings of rebellion that form the background of this most unforgettable of weekend house-parties in the heart of Zombie madness.

If you want to know how excited you should be, here’s TomCat’s take on it from a few years back.

This immensely cool turn of events has come about due to the brilliant work of Rich Harvey and Audrey Parente at Bold Venture, who have been amazing since the very first email they received from me, which must surely have had them questioning my sanity.  Audrey wrote the authorised biography of Roscoe — Pulpmaster: The Theodore Roscoe Story (1992) — having gotten to know him in his later years and working extensively with him to catalogue his work and life (and, damn, didn’t Roscoe ever live an interesting life!).  For an overview of that man and his work I can legitimately and wholeheartedly recommend it, and my two introductions are deliberately short on biography so that you have the chance to learn about the man afresh from Audrey’s far more personal take.

The two novels themselves, suffice to say, are simply wonderful — it was such a joy to discover the richness and depth of Roscoe’s prose, and the insanity of his freewheeling plotting and construction, while editing the OCR’d pages into shape.  It’s far from the best way to discover a book, but there’s such great clarity in what he writes that it was difficult not to be blown away at times.  And the puzzles he proposes and frames and explains are doozies: I’m in the process of compiling a list of the 100 impossible crime novels that I feel comprise the ultimate English language library on the subgenre, and both of these are absolute shoo-ins.  But more on all that later.


And here’s how they used to look…

More news on the release of I’ll Grind Their Bones as we get it, possibly a review of each or some sort of discussion if I feel that’s a legitimate cause that doesn’t appear too self-serving, but mainly it’s just great to finally be able to share this with you all.  It’s been a very exciting time, Rich and Audrey have been so enthusiastic and easy to work with throughout, and I can’t wait for you all to take on Roscoe and see what the world has been missing.

And those of you who don’t already know it will learn my full name, too, provided you at least look in the front of the book.  This is, however, far from the most exciting thing about the news I’m sharing here…

52 thoughts on “#218: Murder on the Way! (1935) and I’ll Grind Their Bones (1936) by Theodore Roscoe Are Being Republished by Bold Venture Press…

  1. Well, I already know your full name since you once used it with your unique icon while commenting in a post by Puzzle Doctor. 🙂
    Anyway, thanks for your efforts ! I will be getting both the books.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is fantastic news – you are doing what we all wish we could do (but usually can’t because we are not Martin Edwards, Curt Evans or John F. Norris). Really excited to see that paper versions are available – I will be having these! Will they appear on Amazon UK or will it be a US import, do you know? The UK site does have a stub for it, so that seems positive … Bravo JJ 🙂


    • Thanks, Sergio, it’s been a huge amount of fun, and I recognise how lucky I’ve been to have it go so well (I emailed a lot of people and got nowhere for a very long time, as is to be expected…). To have been successful in this way at the first attempt is wonderful, and they’re such great books that I’m sure people are going to love them.

      As for buying it…when I look it up on Amazon UK here it appears wth a price in £ sterling and everything. There’s no ‘non-American’ edition since Bold Venture are US-based, but it’s purchasable through the UK site. In fact, the first copy to sell was sold through Amazon UK…!


  3. This great news, JJ. There are so many locked room mysteries about to be released, but Theodore Roscoe is arguably the greatest one thus far. Murder on the Way is absolutely marvelous, not just simply as an impossible crime story, but as a mystery novel in general. I hope everyone will enjoy and appreciate it as much as I have. Now I can start looking forward to I’ll Grind Their Bones!

    And good job, JJ! Keep up the good work!


    • Now I’m intrigued about those locked room novels that are forthcoming…!

      And, hey, if you hadn’t made this sound so intriguing to me when I was first getting into this kinda thing I may never have thought to try to get Roscoe reprinted in the first place — I’m not aware of any other reviews elsewhere, so this has come about at least in part because of your efforts. Keep bringing us these obscure ones every now and then!


    • There’s an ebook currently available here through Smashwords but I believe that Kindle versions should be forthcoming on the Amazons, too (though I may be wrong about that…but I hope not!). Amazon have a pretty large stock, so these additions can sometimes take a little while, is my understanding…

      Hope you enjoy it! I remember finally tracking down a copy of Derek Smith’s Whistle Up the Devil after much searching (about three months before the LRI reprint was announced…how silly did I feel?) and finding it as delightful as I’d hoped; I’m pretty confident this will live up to expectations, too.


      • The ebook on Smashwords is available in different formats: it says, “Available ebook formats: epub mobi pdf lrf pdb txt html”.


    • It may have been a lot of work, but I was having so much fun I genuinely didn’t notice! And, yeah, it sounds quite a scary premise, but it’s really just a very, very dark comedy of sorts superimposed into a country house murder. And the puzzle plotting, if you’re interested, is superb — the impossibilities are extremely clever, and show the genre in full flight.


  4. This sounds marvelous and kudos to you for your involvement in getting this stuff out on the market. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on this.


      • Thanks, Noah, I’m sure you’ll find a lot in them to enjoy. I’ve even got my eye on another book (or two) that I’d be interested in trying to get reprinted next, though it may prove a slightly trickier task to repeat this — I got very lucky indeed with Bold Venture; part of me had a lot of fun and would ove to repeat this, but part of me thinks it might be better to retire undefeated, y’know?


    • Thanks, Colin — getting a hard-to-find book out there for others to have easy access to is the GAD dream, and I’m delighted to be able to contribute to that in some small way. The fact that they’re also brilliant books just makes it all the more enjoyable: you guys have some superb reading ahead of you!


  5. Well done, JJ! MURDER ON THE WAY was available for those assiduous book hunters like myself in a 1990 reprint under the original pulp magazine title A GRAVE MUST BE DEEP (which is the title I prefer) . To my utter shock many, many years ago I discovered that the main branch of the Chicago library had a copy of that edition along with some two other Roscoe pulp magazine reprints. I loved it! I’LL GRIND THEIR BONES has been eternally elusive for me and I’ve still not read it. But I’m excited that you managed to find a copy and get it reprinted! Eager for the release of that one.

    In related news: Yesterday I ordered DEATH IN THE DARK by Stacey Bishop (AKA George Antheil) which was finally released by John Pugmire’s LRI operation. He doesn’t do eBooks so I’m hoping I’ll be the first to read and review it among this blogging crew.


    • Interestingly, A Grave Must Be Deep isn’t quite the same thing as Murder on the Way: I’ve read them both, and MotW is both longer and a bit more narratively complex. AGMBD was the original title of the serial, and this was published as a separate volume by a couple of different publishers, but there was a little bit of recasting and the addition of a few elements when Roscoe bulked it up to become the novel.

      The structure is very similar and the central problem and solution the same, but for reasons of copyright we had to be very clear that this was Murder on the Way! and not A Grave Must Be Deep. Perhaps a comparison of the two might be on the cards, that could be fun…

      I, too, have ordered Death in the Dark and am very excited. You’ll likely be the first contemporary review — you’ll be ahead of me at any rate, as I’m unlikely to get to it in the next couple of weeks because of…reasons. I am keen to get to it soon, though, despite only having learned of its existence when John mentioned it on his blog. It’s a very exciting thing to have available again…here’s hoping we enjoy it, eh?!


      • Well how about that. You taught me something! Thanks for the clarification and details about publication history and different incarnations of MotW and AGMBD. But I recognize that this was all a sly way to get me to buy a copy of MURDER ON THE WAY and do exactly what you want by comparing the two. Guess what? It worked! :^)


  6. You dog, you! I can’t help but think about the novel and movie, Looking for Mr. Goodbar: kindergarten teacher by day, slut by night. Here we have an unassuming maths teacher who, in his precious spare time, is ushering classic detective fiction into the light for the masses. I’m blown away! What have i accomplished in my puny life??? Nothing! 😦

    I have ordered Murder on the Way – in book form, NOT Kindle, mind you, because you’re worth the extra eleven bucks, brother – although that cover art may haunt my nightmares for years! (I have a strong antipathy for the modern zombie, although the Val Lewton type is charmingly creepy, and that’s what we’re talking about here, I figure.) I’ll Grind Their Bones isn’t available on Amazon yet.


    • “I’ve achieved nothing,” says the man who had his own TV show…

      Those extra 11 dollars will get you a photograph of me in the back of the book, so it’s money well-spent (you have no idea how tempted I was to send in that Lord of Misrule cover art when Bold Venture asked for a photo…).

      I’ll Grind Their Bones will follow at some point in the coming months. I confess I drifted off during the high-powered business meeting where we all at around smoking cigars and plotting publishing world domination. The dazzle of the crystal decanter holding the scotch made from Napoleon’s blood had given me a headache, so I had to be helicoptered off to a special medical facility and given headache pills made from powered unicorn horn. ‘Cos I’m so moneyed and influential now.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Really glad that something was bubbling underneath the surface after that post about publishing more Golden Age mystery fiction. 😀 I confess I’m not thrilled about the prospect of zombies, but the impossible crimes sound very much like my kind of thing. I’ve purchased the ebook copy off SmashWords – couldn’t afford waiting!

    Would you say you liked this title, or ‘I’ll Grind Their Bones’, better?


    • Ooooo, dude, tough one.

      They’re constructed on very different lines — this is a small group of people in a confined setting, whereas Bones is a small group of people in a sort of globe-trotting thriller. For sheer GAD joy and misdirection and amazingness, I think MotW wins it, but the context of Bones is such a difficult thing to get right and Roscoe nails it, just hits the tone and the various elements perfectly.

      I guess preferences will depend on what you’re after: for a more GAD aproach, this one, but for something larger that still ties into a fiendish puzzle plot it’ll be Bones. Me? I was having such a blast discovering a new favourite sentence of mode of expression every third page that I genuinely couldn’t pick between them. They’re rather like Derek Smith’s two novels in that way: Whistle Up the Devil is the tighter puzzle, but Paddington Fair does the larger cast and motivation and switchbacking so damn well that you just can’t help but love it.

      In conclusion: both 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hello JJ — I’m late to the release party here, but I LOVE that you are helping to bring long-unavailable mystery and thriller books back into print! I suspect that a lot of GAD fans take the same enjoyment in discovering a new author that I do. I don’t want the book that’s selling a zillion copies because it’s the hot title that month; I want to dig around and unearth a hidden treasure that gives me great pleasure to discover on my own. So you’ve now given me an author and two titles to sample, which you brought to light once more for a new audience of readers through your passion and drive, and for that I/we thank you. Keep fighting the good literary fight! — Jason


    • Thanks, Jason — here’s hoping it finds the audience it deserves, eh? And, if nothing else, the experience of this has taught me a lot about why so many excellent books are OOP and virtually impossible to track down…I can grumble about it more quietly now 🙂


  9. I thought you were joking about your photograph in the book, but I find that it is really there. However, the page containing your photo is now included in the sample pages of the book shown at Amazon. Hence one needn’t buy the printed copy to see your photo. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha. Well, hopefully no-one was buying it for that reason anyway…but if so then at least the disappointment would be negated by having an awesome book to read…


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