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Frost –


Sunday , 11, June 2023 1 Comment

Donald Wandrei (1908-1987) is one of my favorite pulp magazine writers of fiction. He was a member of the Lovecraft Circle, wrote for Weird Tales and Astounding Stories, and co-founded the publisher Arkham House with August Derleth.

He had started out writing weird poetry and had moved into writing prose. His weird and science fiction could be described as lying somewhere between H. P. Lovecraft and H. G. Wells. He often examined the cosmic.

I think he was one of the best writers for the pulps. His prose was rich and descriptive though he always kept the words under control.

What is less well known is he had more stories in Clues Detective Stories than in Weird Tales or Astounding Stories. It was Sheldon Jaffery who first told me about the “I.V. Frost” stories in Clues when I bought the Arkham House collections The Eye and the Finger, Strange Harvest, and the novel The Web of Easter Island from him. I desperately wanted to read those detective stories. Unfortunately, I had to wait years.

Finally in the 1993, “The Lunatic Plague” was reprinted in Tough Guys and Dangerous Dames. John Gunnison at Adventure House reprinted “Bride of the Rats” in 1998 in High Adventure.  Fedogan & Bremer reprinted the first eight I.V. Frost stories in 2000.

Professor I.V. “Ivy” Frost is described as 6′ 4”, gaunt, a “hatchet-thin face and a nose like a beak of an eagle.” He has dark hair and black eyes. He has some inventions that bring him in income so he has luxury of tackling the most bizarre crimes. He also has all sorts of ingenious gadgets.


Frost Clues, September 1934

Green Man Creeping Clues, November 1934

They Could Not Kill Him Clues Detective Stories, February 1935

Bride of the Rats Clues Detective Stories, April 1935

The Artist of Death Clues Detective Stories, June 1935

Death Descending Clues Detective Stories, August 1935

Impossible Clues Detective Stories, October 1935

Merry-Go-Round Clues Detective Stories, December 1935

“Frost” introduces the character and his assistant, the beautiful Jean Moray. Moray had just moved from Minnesota to New York City and caught up in a series of bizarre incidents. She answers the ad by Frost for a job. Jean Moray is blond, resourceful, and carries a .25 automatic pistol. Frost uses her often to distract men by her beauty.

The prose is not spare and hard-boiled:

“Barburg, thin and cadavorous, with hands like claws, resembled a scarecrow. His skin was worm-white, his eyes snaky, his nose as thin as his lips were cruel.

Moss, fat and oily, had Slavic features, His flattened nose went with his moon face. Everything about him seemed round and greasy, from black hair drowned in pomade to fingers like so many plump grubs, and a pudgy figure in a snuff-colored suit.” – Merry-Go-Round.

The crimes are bizarre, though generally the criminals are not something like the Joker from Batman. Having written for Weird Tales, Wandrei has  gruesome elements in the stories. These stories are novelette length with around 10 chapters. My guess is length is around 15,000 words per story.

“Fred Devore Allen returned from the missing. He made his appearance in broken sections that showered the foundation of the mansion. Shocked into rigidity, she saw his body fall in six fragments– arms, legs, torso, and head. The grisly and whitely pallid parts split further upon impact, severed horribly into still lesser chunks.” – Death Descending.

The murderer was hurling victims frozen with liquid nitrogen with a catapault.

The editor of Clues Detective Stories was F. Orlin Tremaine. He had taken over editing Cowboy Stories, Astounding Stories,and Clues Detective Stories when they titles were purchased from the failed Clayton Publications by Street & Smith. He also edited Top-Notch. Clues had been Clayton’s detective magazine. It had lots of Erle Stanley Gardner, Tom Curry, Victor Rousseau. Street & Smith already had Detective Story Magazine which ran weekly. Tremaine had to create a unique identity for Clues. You saw overlap of writers: Murray Leinster was in Astounding and Cowboy Stories. Robert E. Howard was in Top-Notch and Cowboy Stories. Donald Wandrei in Astounding Stories and Clues Detective Stories.

Clues would feature off-kilter crimes and generally featured a series story per issue. Series would include H. Bedford-Jones “Tertius March,” Harry Lynch’s “John Jaffray,” Cleve Adams’ former circus fat-woman turned detective “Violet McDade,” E. Hoffmann Price’s half Arab-half Malay “Pawang Ali” set in Singapore, and Arthur J. Burks’ midget detective “Harlan Dyce.”

Wandrei’s “Frost” series proved to be popular enough for imitations with at least one series in a rival magazine. I will cover that in the future.

Unfortunately, Fedogan & Bremer never got the second I.V. Frost volume out. They would be eventually all published which I will also cover in the future. Frost is still available from Fedogan & Bremer marked down from $29.00 to $19.00. If you like bizarre crime stories, there is no better series. You can’t beat the price for a high quality hardback from F&B. I.V. Frost is one of my favorite pulp series characters. Get the collections Colossus and Don’t Dream by Donald Wandrei while you are at it. All are available from Fedogan & Bremer. You will not regret it.

One Comment
  • John E. Boyle says:

    I managed to pick up the complete collection of the Frost stories put out by Haffner Press in 2020 (with a dynamite cover by Ray Swanland), and I have to agree with you about Wandrei’s writing. He was very, very good.

    I didn’t know there were imitations of Frost out there. Looking forward to your next post on this topic. Thanks.

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