Stan Burns commented a few posts ago that he enjoyed Jack Vance’s “Sheriff” novels best. As a long-time fan, I’ve been rationing the few remaining Jack Vance books that I haven’t read. And, I hadn’t read The Fox Valley Murders featuring Acting Sheriff Joe Bain. Bain was a rowdy kid growing up, but he did a tour in the military, went to college on the G.I. Bill, earned a Criminal Justice degree, and was a top deputy when the Sheriff of San Rodrigo County in California dropped dead. Facing an election to keep his job, Bain confronts the puzzling series of fatal “accidents” by witnesses who testified in a rape/murder trial. Jack Vance is best known for his classic SF and fantasy fiction, but he could write a solid mystery, too. I have a copy of the other “Sheriff” novel, The Pleasant Grove Murders, that I’ll review in the months ahead.

16 thoughts on “FORGOTTEN BOOKS #121: THE FOX VALLEY MURDERS By John Holbrook Vance

  1. Scott Cupp

    I read this a long time ago and loved it. If Jack Vance ever wrote a bad novel, I have not found it.

    1. george Post author

      Within the conventions of a standard mystery novel, THE FOX VALLEY MURDERS is a solid performance, Drongo. In Vance’s SF and Fantasy, he has the tools to really “wow” his readers.

  2. Richard R.

    Haven’t read any mystery fiction by Vance, don’t know if these are the total for that genre, but I’m intrigued. I guess I’ll run down to the book store and pick up new paperback copies of these.

    What? Out of print? Sheesh, isn’t everything? What are the chances of someone doing an omnibus of these two, do you think?

    1. george Post author

      You have the omnibus volume of three of Jack Vance’s mysteries in DANGEROUS WAYS, Rick. I’m hoping Subterranean Books brings out more of Vance’s mysteries.

  3. Stan Burns

    Incidentally, there was a third novel planned for this series, The Genesee Slough Murders. The 15 page outline is contained in the 1994 Borgo Press/Underwood-Miller publication The Work of Jack Vance by Hewett and Mallett.

    Vance Mysteries (according to the above book and up to 1992):

    Isle of Peril (1957, as by Alan Wade)
    Take My Face (1957, as by Peter Held)
    The Man in the Cage 1960 (Edgar Award, best first novel (!), Made into an episode of TV show Thriller)
    The Four Johns (1964, as Ellery Queen)
    A Room to Die In (1965, as by Ellery Queen)
    The Fox Valley Murders (1966)
    The Madman Theory (1966, as by Ellery Queen)
    The Pleasant Grove Murders (1967)
    The Deadly Isles (1969)
    Bad Ronald (1973, made into 90 minute ABC movie of the week)
    The House on Lily Street (1979, Underwood-Miller, unpublished manuscript)
    The View From Chickweed’s Window (1979, Underwood-Miller, unpublished manuscript)
    The Dark Ocean (1985, Underwood-Miller, unpublished manuscript)
    Strange Notions (1985, Underwood-Miller, unpublished manuscript)

    I haven’t read the last four as they are OOP and very expensive – would love to see them as eBooks just so I can read them


    1. george Post author

      I may be in the minority, Stan, but I think Jack Vance had a hand in writing FACE TO FACE, one of the “Ellery Queen” paperback series. I never knew there was an outline for a third book in the Bain series! You are a fount of information, Stan!

  4. Stan Burns

    George, your ISP is wacko. It took me almost an hour to publish the above comment. I kept getting an ‘Internal Server Error’ message.

    As an aside, the 60s were Vance’s most prolific period in terms of both mysteries and science fiction (Planet of Adventure, first three Demon Prices novels).

    I should have also noted that mysteries published under his own name were by John Holbrook Vance.

    1. george Post author

      I think the server that my blog is on was having problems, Stan. In the last hour, my blog suddenly picked up speed and now it’s almost back to normal. Sorry for the inconvenience!

    1. george Post author

      I find some of Jack Vance’s mysteries–especially the ones he wrote as “Ellery Queen”–at Library book sales, Rick. They were reprinted a couple of times.

  5. Juri Nummelin

    I couldn’t make myself to finish THE FOUR JOHNS, but I read TAKE MY FACE as by Peter Held. In both accounts, the Finnish translation might’ve sucked, but I thought the latter was only interesting, nothing more. I have THE FOUR JOHNS in English as well, but I’m not sure whether I’ll ever try it again.

    1. george Post author

      Apparently, Fredric Danney outlined the novels, and then those “Ellery Queen” books were farmed out to a stable of ghost writers, Juri.


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