Murder Comes Calling: Douglas Sanderson

Fifteen years ago, when Stark House was just getting started, I asked myself who I would reprint if I could reprint anyone, and never mind whether there was a market for the author or not. Never mind whether anyone was writing about the author or had ever heard of the author. And that’s when I decided that I had to reprint the thrillers of Douglas Sanderson. Elisabeth Sanxay Holding was a piece of cake next to this guy. He hadn’t even used his real name most of the time. If anyone in the U.S. knew about Douglas Sanderson, I would have been surprised.

I first encountered Sanderson with a copy of Pure Sweet Hell, which he had written as “Malcolm Douglas,” at about the same time as I discovered Peter Rabe. I loved it. Sanderson had a very hard-boiled voice, tempered by a shrewd self-awareness. Sanderson put his main character through hell alright—you could feel every punch he took, every little pain he endured—but there was a canny intelligence that made his observations sardonic and darkly witty. There is something nightmarish about a guy racing around town at night trying to track down a drug smuggler in a small Spanish town. It’s a crazy book, and I found that all the Sanderson books I read shared this manic intensity.

But nobody was agitating for a revival of Sanderson’s works. So fools rush in. I tracked Sanderson down to Spain, but he had just passed away in 2002. However, his son, a lit professor at the local university, was happy to help me bring a couple of his dad’s books back into print, and even suggested a cover artist who lived in the same Spanish town of Alicante, where several of the Sanderson books are set. I even got Kevin Burton Smith of Thrilling Detective involved. He was a fan of the Canadian mysteries Sanderson wrote about a Montreal detective named Mike Garfin. Hey, I thought, somebody else knows Sanderson! This looks promising.

And so, in 2004, Stark House Press brought Pure Sweet Hell back into print, backed up by Sanderson’s Hollywood mystery, Catch a Fallen Star. And in 2006, we brought out two of the Montreal mysteries, The Deadly Dames and A Dum-Dum for the President. Has the world beat a path to these books? I won’t lie, they aren’t Stark House bestsellers. But they were generally well-reviewed, and to hell with sales. Sometimes you’ve just got to go with what feels right. After all, as I mentioned before, Stark House was jump-started with a certain level of indulgence built into it.

Anyway, since publishing these two volumes of Sanderson, I had by now collected all the books he wrote under all his various pseudonyms, including a couple of French editions which did me no good because my high school French was practically useless after all these years. But I decided to write an article on Sanderson, and interested Gary Lovisi at Paperback Parade in publishing it in 2013. And now, almost ten years since our last Sanderson volume, we’re finally reprinting two more of his books: Night of the Horns (published in the U.S. as Murder Comes Calling) and Cry Wolfram (God, what a title!—published here as Mark it for Murder by Avon Books), including my article as the introduction.

These are two of Sanderson’s best, the first one set in Southern California involving a lawyer who has his world turned upside down when he takes on a job for a shady client, and the second one set in Spain where a man has one night to prove his didn’t kill his employer. Both utilize Sanderson’s frantic “night in hell” set-up as the characters race against time to try to prove their innocence. The next Stark House bestsellers? They should be. They really should.

Greg Shepard,



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