Bibliographies, Lists & Checklists


THE SERIES CHARACTERS FROM
DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY
by Monte Herridge


        #16. Detective X. Crook, by J. Jefferson Farjeon.

   Detective X. Crook is another of the many series characters in Flynn’s/Detective Fiction Weekly. He appeared in 57 stories from 1925-29, all written by the English detective story novelist J(oseph) Jefferson Farjeon (June 4, 1883-June 6, 1955).

X. CROOK J. Jefferson Farjeon

   Farjeon was a descendant of Thomas Jefferson, and was named after his maternal grandfather, Joseph Jefferson, a well-known actor of the time. One of his works, “Number 17”, was originally a stage played that was filmed twice: once in 1928 and the second time in 1932 by Hitchcock. Three other films were also based upon some of his approximately eighty books. He also wrote a novelisation of the thriller movie The Last Journey. This was published in No. 398, July 18, 1936 issue of The Thriller, a weekly fiction magazine published in the UK.

   His sister was Eleanor Farjeon, author of works for children. One brother was Herbert Farjeon, a playwright. Another brother was Harry Farjeon, a musician. Their father was novelist Benjamin Farjeon (1838-1903). It is clear that this was a literary family, and to get an idea of the author’s first twenty years see the book written by sister Eleanor: Portrait of a Family (1936) in the US, A Nursery in the Nineties (1935) in the UK. It gives a good insight into their younger years up to about the age of twenty. As teenagers, Jefferson and his brother Herbert edited and wrote a very small circulation magazine, undoubtedly giving them some experience they would use in later years.

   The X. Crook stories that appeared in Flynn’s/DFW is an average series that seems to have been popular enough to have run into quite a few tales. The mysteries in the stories are often simple and tame, and their solution by X. Crook is mostly a bit too plodding. However, there are some stories that stand out for their exceptions to the above, and many of these are later in the series.

   From what I can determine from very little information, most or all of the stories had previously appeared in the magazines Pictorial Magazine and Pictorial Weekly in Britain. “The Fourth Attempt” appeared in the British magazine Pictorial Magazine, August 28, 1926 issue. It then appeared in the July 9, 1927 issue of Flynn’s.

   The main character is something of a two dimensional personality, and really very little is made known about him throughout the series. In fact, his blandness and personality are such that he tends to blend into the background. From his name, it is clear that he is not using his real name. Crook is a reformed criminal who, upon release from prison for some unnamed offense, changes his name and takes up the profession of private detective. He means to start a new life and cut off ties from the old law-breaking ways.

   In a number of stories he meets up with former acquaintances, but his real name is not mentioned. He has good relations with the police, after proving his true reformation. His viewpoint in his new life is pointed out in one of the stories: “My second duty is to my clients, my first to justice and humanity.” And “Theoretically they are the same,” he answered, “but as we practice them they sometimes differ…” (Elsie Cuts Both Ways).

   Later in the story he tells a criminal he is trying to reform: “. . . and my life’s work is to try and help those who, like myself, are trying to wipe out their old mistakes.” He tends to make optimistic sayings to criminals, trying to convert them. When speaking of time in prison, he states: “There is always hope, when one comes out,” said Crook. “Always.” (The Hotel Hold-Up)

X. CROOK J. Jefferson Farjeon

   This new life means new ways of thinking and behaving. In one story (Darkness), Crook became involved in trying to prevent a murder, and found himself becoming angry: “Blackguards!” he muttered, and, for a moment, almost saw red. But he stamped out his emotion, for that interfered with clear thought and intelligent action.

   In another informative paragraph there is a bit more about his new attitude in this new life of fighting crime:

   Detective Crook did not often allow himself relaxation. In his endeavors to wipe out a regretted past, he found it difficult to justify the gift of leisure when it came within his grasp, and he drove himself with a relentless conscience. (Death’s Grim Symbol)

   The first story in the series appeared in the June 20, 1925 issue: “Red Eye”. One of the regulars in the early stories was Edgar Jones, Scotland Yard detective. He worked in Crook’s household as a butler under the name William Thomas. He was certain that Crook was still a criminal, and determined to get the evidence.

   It is very similar situation to the one in the Lester Leith series written by Erle Stanley Gardner, which also appeared in this same magazine later. And like that series, the employer (Crook) knows that the servant is a detective but does not let him know that.

   In the first group of stories from 1925, X. Crook is still developing his reputation and proving to the police that he is really a reformed person. This came to a climax with the story “Thomas Doubts No Longer”. In this story some criminals and former associates of Crook give him an ultimatum, demanding that he give up trying to be honest and come back to their gang. He refuses, causing the criminals to try to frame him. He resolves that to the satisfaction of the police, who doubt him no longer. The fake butler becomes Crook’s assistant, but soon disappears from the series.

   In the story “Elsie Cuts Both Ways”, Crook finds himself the victim of a plot by criminals to revenge themselves upon him. However, Crook is not easily fooled and the criminals wind up captured by the police and himself. Not a totally satisfying story, and it does not bother to explain on what grounds the criminals are arrested because they actually did nothing criminal.

   Farjeon presents small puzzles in many of the stories, and Crook usually solves these fairly easily, though occasionally one presents a harder solution. These puzzles are not where the clues are given to the reader in the Golden Age of Detection style. Crook takes on cases of many kinds, from searching for missing persons to catching thieves and murderers. He occasionally becomes involved in crimes by accident, such as in “The Hotel Hold-up”. This is a very short story which shows Crook at his best, outwitting a criminal with ease. Though he is now a great believer in honesty, Crook does admire cleverness in his opponents and notes this here.

X. CROOK J. Jefferson Farjeon

   Unlike many other crime solvers of this period, Crook does not work on cases for only the well off and higher classes (for example, see the Dr. Eustace Hailey series). He will take cases from lower class shopkeepers and ordinary workers. A good example of this kind of case is “The Absconding Treasurer” (July 23, 1927), where the Christmas fund of a number of people is missing. The amount involved is less than one hundred pounds, so this shows Crook does not let this low amount influence his decision to take the case. He doesn’t mention a fee in this case, so he might have done it for a nominal or no fee at all.

   He mentions in one story that he “never ate heavily when engaged on a case” (The New Baronet). There is little or no violence in most of the cases he works on, like many other stories in Flynn’s at this time. That degree of violence in the magazine gradually changed over a period of time, until by the early 1930s there was plenty of violence, like many other detective pulps.

    However, to show that the Crook stories didn’t need to be violent to be effective, see the September 3, 1927 story, “The Man Who Forgot”. While in Dulverley on a case, Crook is sitting on a seashore bench. Another man also on the bench strikes up a conversation with Crook, revealing that he is an amnesiac. The conversation between the two, steered by Crook’s questions, gradually reveals information about the man. The two leave the bench and backtrack the amnesiac’s trail in an effort to learn the truth about him. They uncover the truth and discover a crime, but Crook’s optimism about people gives the story a kind of upbeat ending.

   Some of the stories are excellent, without any of the faults noted. “The Stolen Hand Bag” in the March 19, 1927 issue, is an example. Crook overhears a restaurant conversation about a woman’s handbag theft, and shortly afterwards comes the news of the suicide of a baronet nearby. He sees a connection between the two events, and his investigation proves it.

   This investigation involves Crook working with the police investigator on the case. In a number of cases, showing his standing and reputation with the police, Crook was called in or called himself in to work on a police case. Crook also worked with the police on a case of apparent suicide in “No Motive Apparent”, another of the better stories. In this story, it was noted:

   There were police officials who, jealous of Detective Crook’s successes, declared that he was apt to be slow; but behind all his leisurely questions his brain was always acting fast, and when he had made up his mind no man could be quicker.

X. CROOK J. Jefferson Farjeon

   The characters and stories are nothing like Farjeon’s novels. Having read Greenmask and The 5:18 Mystery, the difference is clearly seen. The lead characters in both novels are young men who accidentally happen into mysteries, and also into romantic entanglements. They are caught up in mysterious affairs out of their control, similar to the plots of a number of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies.

   Farjeon is noted in one source as “one of the first detective writers to mingle romance with crime.” This may be true of his novels, but not in the Detective X. Crook series. No romance ever creeps into Crook’s life. He seems to have come to terms with the way the world is and has devoted his life to criminology. Sounds like some of the other manhunters of the pulp era.

   Other novels were not as the two described above. One of his later novels was Aunt Sunday Takes Command (1940), involving three elderly women taking a trip to visit their niece and inadvertently becoming involved in crime. A rather low-key story, unlike the other two described.

   The mystery writer Dorothy Sayers considered Farjeon one of her favorite writers (Crime Time, “Reviewing The Reviewer: Dorothy L Sayers as crime critic 1933 – 1935”, by Mike Ripley). However, nowadays he seems to be a forgotten writer, and the Crook stories seem rather dated in comparison to some of his novels. Not having access to all of his books, it is not known as to whether the stories were ever gathered in collection form, though it would take more than one book to do so. However, Farjeon has quite a long list of published books so one of them may contain some of these stories.

       The Detective X. Crook series by J. Jefferson Farjeon:

Red Eye June 20, 1925
The Bilton Safe June 27, 1925
The Way to Death July 4, 1925
Thomas Doubts No Longer July 11, 1925
Fisherman’s Luck July 18, 1925
Where the Treasure Is August 1, 1925
The Hidden Death August 8, 1925
Nine Hours to Live August 22, 1925
Elsie Cuts Both Ways August 29, 1925
Crook’s Code December 19, 1925
Percy the Pickpocket December 26, 1925
A Race for Life January 2, 1926
Seeing’s Believing January 9, 1926
The Deserted Inn January 23, 1926
Death’s Grim Symbol February 6, 1926
Crook Goes Back to Prison April 10, 1926
Who Killed James Fyne April 17, 1926
Caleb Comes Back April 24, 1926
The Vanished Gift May 1, 1926
The Death That Beckoned May 15, 1926
Footprints in the Snow July 17, 1926
The Shadow July 24, 1926
Cats Are Evil August 14, 1926
The Silent House August 28, 1926
The Kleptomaniac September 18, 1926
The Knife October 23, 1926
The Hotel Hold-up November 20, 1926
The Silent Client November 27, 1926
Darkness December 11, 1926
It Pays To Be Honest December 18, 1926
Kidnaped December 25, 1926
Whose Hand? January 8, 1927
The Datchett Diamond January 29, 1927
Vanishing Gems February 5, 1927
The Murder Club February 26, 1927
LQ585 March 5, 1927
The Stolen Hand Bag March 19, 1927
Prescription 93b March 26, 1927
The Thing in the Room May 7, 1927
In the Diamond Line May 28, 1927
The New Baronet June 4, 1927
The Fourth Attempt July 9, 1927
The Absconding Treasurer July 23, 1927
The Man Who Forgot September 3, 1927
No Motive Apparent September 24, 1927
The Cleverness of Crockett October 29, 1927
August 13th September 8, 1928
The Photograph September 15, 1928
Between Calais and Dover September 22, 1928
The Bloodstained Handkerchief October 6, 1928
Wanted October 13, 1928
The Third Act December 29, 1928
The Secret of the Snow February 9, 1929
Open Warfare February 16, 1929
The Photographic Touch March 9, 1929
The “Times” Advertisement March 30, 1929
The Golden Idol April 13, 1929

    Previously in this series:

1. SHAMUS MAGUIRE, by Stanley Day.
2. HAPPY McGONIGLE, by Paul Allenby.
3. ARTY BEELE, by Ruth & Alexander Wilson.
4. COLIN HAIG, by H. Bedford-Jones.
5. SECRET AGENT GEORGE DEVRITE, by Tom Curry.
6. BATTLE McKIM, by Edward Parrish Ware.
7. TUG NORTON by Edward Parrish Ware.
8. CANDID JONES by Richard Sale.
9. THE PATENT LEATHER KID, by Erle Stanley Gardner.
10. OSCAR VAN DUYVEN & PIERRE LEMASSE, by Robert Brennan.
11. INSPECTOR FRAYNE, by Harold de Polo.
12. INDIAN JOHN SEATTLE, by Charles Alexander.
13. HUGO OAKES, LAWYER-DETECTIVE, by J. Lane Linklater.
14. HANIGAN & IRVING, by Roger Torrey.
15. SENOR ARNAZ DE LOBO, by Erle Stanley Gardner.

Hi Steve,

   W. B. M. Ferguson’s dates are given everywhere, including Crime Fiction IV, as 1881-1967. The birth is correct according to the Irish births registration, but I have now found in the English National Probate Calendar the death of a William Blair Morton Ferguson on 12 January 1958 in Londonderry.

   I have told Allen Hubin as it seems unlikely there are two people of that name, though one never knows.

   But, as I have said, as the 1967 death is given everywhere, I wonder if you could mention this to see if anyone can provide more information. It would also help to spread the word of that incorrect date – if it is incorrect.

   Many thanks

               John

      BIBLIOGRAPHY     [Taken from Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin] —

FERGUSON, W(illiam) B(lair) M(orton) (1881-1967); see pseudonym William Morton; Born in Belfast.

* *The Big Take (Long, 1952, hc) [U.S.]
* *-Black Bread (Long, 1933, hc)
* *The Black Company (Jenkins, 1925, hc) [New York] Chelsea, 1924.
* *Boss of the Skeletons (Long, 1945, hc) [New York City, NY; 1920 ca.]
* _The Clew in the Glass (Chelsea, 1926, hc) See: The Clue in the Glass (Jenkins 1927).
* *The Clue in the Glass (Jenkins, 1927, hc) [U.S.] U.S. title: The Clew in the Glass. Chelsea, 1926.
* *Crackerjack (Long, 1936, hc) Film: Gainsborough, 1938; released in the U.S. as Man with 100 Faces (scw: A. R. Rawlinson, Michael Pertwee, Basil Mason; dir: Albert de Courville).
* *Dog Fox (Long, 1938, hc)
* *Escape to Eternity (Long, 1944, hc) [Dan Cluer; New York City, NY]
* *The Island of Surprises (Long, 1935, hc)
* *London Lamb (Long, 1939, hc)
* _The Murder of Christine Wilmerding (Liveright, 1932, hc) See: Little Lost Lady (Hurst 1931), as by William Morton.
* *Other Folks’ Money (London: Nelson, 1928, hc) Chelsea, 1926.
* *Phonies (Long, 1951, hc) [New York City, NY; U.S. West]
* _The Pilditch Puzzle (Liveright, 1932, hc) See: The Murderer (Hurst 1932), as by William Morton.
* *Prelude to Horror (Long, 1943, hc)
* *The Riddle of the Rose (Jenkins, 1929, hc) [New York] McBride, 1929.
* *Sally (Long, 1940, hc)
* *The Shayne Case (Long, 1947, hc) [Dan Cluer; New York City, NY]
* *Somewhere Off Borneo (Long, 1936, hc)
* *The Vanishing Men (Long, 1932, hc)
* *Wyoming Tragedy (Long, 1935, hc) [Wyoming]

MORTON, WILLIAM; pseudonym of W. B. M. Ferguson, (1881-1967)

* *The Case of Casper Gault (Hurst, 1932, hc) [Police Commissioner Kirker Cameron; *Insp. Daniel “Biff” Corrigan; New York]
* *The Edged Tool (Chelsea, 1927, hc)
* *Little Lost Lady (Hurst, 1931, hc) [New York] U.S. title: The Murder of Christine Wilmerding, as by W. B. M. Ferguson. Liveright, 1932.
* *Masquerade (London: Nelson, 1928, hc) [*Insp. Daniel “Biff” Corrigan; New York] Chelsea, 1927.
* *The Murderer (Hurst, 1932, hc) [*Insp. Daniel “Biff” Corrigan; Police Commissioner Kirker Cameron; New York City, NY] U.S. title: The Pilditch Puzzle, as by W. B. M. Ferguson. Liveright, 1932.
* *The Mystery of the Human Bookcase (Hurst, 1931, hc) [*Insp. Daniel “Biff” Corrigan; Police Commissioner Kirker Cameron; New York City, NY] Mason (U.S.), 1931.

THE BACKWARD REVIEWER
William F. Deeck


WILSON TUCKER – The Chinese Doll. Rinehart, hardcover, 1946. Detective Book Club, hardcover, 3-in-1 edition, May 1947. Dell #343, mapback edition, 1949.

WILSON TUCKER The Chinese Doll

   While you might think that a private detective in Boone, Illinois, would be underemployed, you would be right. In this documentary novel — in the form of letters from Charles Horne to Louise, the woman he is in love with — Horne is in his office trying to keep warm and working on his book, Lost Atlantis, of which seven chapters have been completed.

   Into the office comes Harry W. Evans, who gives Horne $500 to bail him out of jail since he claims he will inevitably be arrested for spitting on the sidewalk, or jaywalking, or shoplifting, or whatever.

   Naturally, Home is somewhat nonplussed, for the authorities in Boone are not noted for monkey business. To coin a phrase — or is it a clause? — little does he know. Evans leaves Home’s office, and as Horne is watching, a Studebaker sedan with supercharger strikes Evans, killing him, and then speeds off. Later Horne is invited into another Studebaker with supercharger, this time a coupe, driven by a beautiful Chinese girl, and ends up at an illegal gambling club.

   All of this and another “accidental” death tie in with Evans. Horne doggedly and intelligently — though not brilliantly — investigates, getting some idea of who Evans was through Evans’s membership in an amateur publishing association and discovering another beautiful Chinese girl.

   Even after he’d metaphorically rubbed my nose in it, Tucker fooled me on the villain, for which I give him great credit. The novel is well-written, amusing, and believable, up to the point of revealing the villain.

   While I probably won’t make myself clear here, I accept that the villain was who Tucker says it was — the facts, once Horne pointed them out, prove it — but I don’t accept that the villain was who Tucker says it was. You’ll have to read the book to see what I mean, and you ought to read it anyhow, for it’s an excellent private-eye novel.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 13, No. 4, Fall 1992.


NOTE:   Wilson “Bob” Tucker, was much more well known as a Science Fiction fan and author than he was a mystery writer. His entry on Wikipedia can be found here.

       The Charles Horne series:

The Chinese Doll.Rinehart, 1946.
To Keep or Kill. Rinehart, 1947.
The Dove. Rinehart, 1948.
The Stalking Man. Rinehart, 1949.
Red Herring. Rinehart, 1951.

ELIZABETH BACKHOUSE – Death Came Uninvited. Robert Hale, UK, hardcover, 1957.

   You can find unusual items on eBay, and for me, this is one I recently ended up winning. My copy is a rather shabby ex-library edition which cost me perhaps a pound, plus double that for shipping from England.

   Elizabeth Backhouse, the flap of the jacket says, is a young Australian writer, and this is her first novel. This sends me to Al Hubin’s [Crime Fiction IV] almost immediately, mostly out of curiosity to see if she ever wrote another.

   And indeed she did. Here are all her books of crime fiction, at least, in chronological order:

         Death Came Uninvited. Hale, 1957. [Inspector Christopher Marsden]
         The Mists Came Down. Hale, 1959.
         The Web of Shadows. Hale, 1960. [Inspector Prentis]
         The Night Has Eyes. Hale, 1961. [Inspector Marsden]
         Death of a Clown. Hale, 1962. [Inspector Prentis]
         Death Climbs a Hill. Hale, 1963. [Inspector Prentis]

   Inspector Marsden is her English policeman, while Inspector Prentis, about whom I know nothing else, is Australian. It may be that Ms. Backhouse’s story-telling techniques took on extra dimensions as she continued to write, but in at least her first book, we see and follow Marsden when he’s on the job, and nowhere else, so as it turns out, I know very little about him as well.

   No wife, girl friend, no home life, nothing at all except — it’s not much, but it will have to do — he does have a dog, one who follows his master around with him as he interviews suspects and follows clues. The dog’s name is Spodge, which sounds terribly authentically British to me.

   In pure pulp fashion, you might say — not the hard-boiled Hammett stuff — but the gentleman-adventurer-slash-drawing-room sort of tale, the murderer kills his first victim using a sealed envelope filled with ammonia, leaving a calling card for the crime, signed “The Uninvited.”

   And so the pursuit is on. There are lots of suspects in an increasingly complicated plot, but what Marsden and his men failed to do, it seems to me, is to ever ask the question, “Why such a complicated means to do murder?” and “Why did the murderer feel that he was uninvited?”

   Or, where is Ellery Queen when we need him? As for me, I let Marsden and his men do all of the legwork, I concentrated on the second question (the first one has no answer), and I worked out the entire solution before any of them.

   I don’t brag. I only tell it how it is. The case is still entertaining, save for a small amount of muddled telling toward the end, and I could see why. The author was trying to keep the surprise ending up her sleeve for as long as she could, and there wasn’t nearly room enough for her to maneuver.

— October 2003

THE BACKWARD REVIEWER
William F. Deeck


ALICE MacGOWAN & PERRY NEWBERRY – The Million Dollar Suitcase. Stokes, hardcover, 1922; International Fiction Library, hardcover reprint, n.d.

MacGOWAN & NEWBERRY Million Dollar Suitcase

   Impossible-crime fanciers get a bonus and a debit here. The bonus: There are two locked-room situations. The debit: They aren’t very good.

   The first occurs when a San Francisco bank teller absconds with nearly a million dollars. Close on the teller’s heels is the bank’s private detective, Jerry Boyne. He arrives at the teller’s hotel room to find the windows latched with burglar-proof locks and the door closed with the usual spring lock.

   In front of the door is a woman repairing a rug, and she had been there since the teller had entered his room. The teller had not left by the door, but neither he nor the money was in the room.

   Worth Gilbert, whose father has stock in the bank, offers the bank’s board $800,000 for the contents of the suitcase. It seems he needs a challenge. While Gilbert can raise most of the money, he has to ask his father to provide the rest. After a fight with his father, he doesn’t get the money. Shortly thereafter his father is found shot to death in the second locked room.

   Fortunately for Boyne, who would not have been chosen by his predecessor to head the detective agency and one can see why from the many mistakes he makes in this investigation, he has the aid, on the rare occasions he’s sensible enough to use it, of a young woman whose psychologist father trained her from childhood to be a lightning observer and reasoner. She figures out the first locked room; Boyne, after having the solution shoved under his nose, solves the second.

   This novel apparently appeared first in the Saturday Evening Post as “Two and Two.” As far as I can recall, the Post printed no bad stories, but it did publish some mediocre material, in which category this falls, despite an occasional good observation such as “A financier’s idea of indecency is something about money which hasn’t formerly been done.”

   Since this is the first in a series of books featuring Jerry Boyne, I’ll be looking for the other novels by MacGowan and Newberry but only to establish who solves Boyne’s other cases.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 13, No. 4, Fall 1992.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Alice MacGowan & Perry Newberry —
             [All with Jerry Boyne.]

      The Million Dollar Suitcase. Stokes, 1922.
      The Mystery Woman. Stokes, 1924.
      Shaken Down. Stokes, 1925.
      The Seventh Passenger. Stokes, 1926.
      Who Is This Man?. Stokes, 1927.

ROBERT LUDLUM – The Janson Directive. St. Martin’s, hardcover, October 2002; paperback, October 2003.

ROBERT LUDLUM The Janson Directive

   I don’t know about you, but the few of Robert Ludlum’s books I’ve read have always kept me reading. And with this particular one checking in at 680 pages in paperback, reading and reading and reading. I can’t do that in one night any longer, no matter what, and I don’t think anybody can.

   Plot: An ex-Vietnamese War prisoner named Alex Janson, now a super-whiz corporate security consultant, is hired to free a wealthy philanthropist Peter Novak from a group of terrorists. Novak’s billions of dollars have been used many times over to promote democracy and peace around the world, and Janson is the only one who can save him.

   Which, after several nerve-shattering incidents, including a free-fall parachute drop from four miles up, he does. This is on page 140. With 540 pages to go. What next? You should only ask.

   Janson finds that he only a pawn, if you’ll forgive the cliché, in an even greater conspiracy, one designed to simply knock your socks off. Ludlum demonstrates such a worldliness in his characters, and leans so heavily on a world of esoteric knowledge that seemingly comes natural to him, that an everyday, ordinary sort of person such as you and I can only sit back in awe.

   Well, I can vouch for me.

   There are flaws, though. Janson is all but perfect, but his shield of invincibility only goes so far. It just isn’t large enough to include all of the people who give him aid and assistance, to put it mildly. They’re on their own. Given a chance to second guess themselves, they might well opt out of this book, given the opportunity. Nor is Ludlum averse to dragging out the clichés himself, as the occasion arises.

   All in all, at $7.99 list price for the paperback, you certainly get your money’s worth. If in the end you start to reflect on the fact that the tale that’s told is no deeper than your standard super-hero comic book, that’s the only drawback that might trigger some regret, and it will quickly pass.

— October 2003


[UPDATE] 10-13-12.   According to at least one online source, following the success of the Bourne movie, The Janson Directive is also being converted to the big screen. It ought to be a good one.

       The Paul Janson series —

The Janson Directive (2002)
The Janson Command (2011) (with Paul Garrison)
The Janson Dilemma (2014)

THE SERIES CHARACTERS FROM
DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY
by Monte Herridge


        #15. Senor Arnaz de Lobo, Soldier of Fortune, by Erle Stanley Gardner.

SENOR ARNAZ DE LOBO

    Senor Arnaz de Lobo … announces himself bored with life… But Senor Lobo makes no secret of his dissatisfaction. The world, he claims, has become too civilized to offer adventure. (The Choice of Weapons)

   Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970) is probably best known for his long-running series about the always victorious lawyer, Perry Mason, but he also had hundreds of exciting stories in the pulps. Many of these appeared in Detective Fiction Weekly, where he had multiple series running: Senor Arnaz de Lobo, Sidney Zoom, Lester Leith, the Patent Leather Kid, The Man in the Silver Mask, and other standalone stories that could have been turned into series. The Lester Leith series seems to have been the most popular in the magazine, but the other series were popular as well.

   The Senor Lobo stories are fun, action-packed stories that were nothing like the other detective and mystery stories in the magazine. Senor Lobo and his friend, El Mono Viejo, are basically soldiers of fortune thrown into the midst of a city where they continually find adventure and danger.

   Lobo is like a knight errant, always ready to jump to the defense of a lady in danger or to right a wrong. Of course, the adventurers don’t turn down any money that comes their way, and many a criminal finds himself divested of his cash after running into them. Here is a paragraph from the beginning of one their adventures that describes Lobo:

SENOR ARNAZ DE LOBO

   To appreciate the character of Senor Arnaz de Lobo, revolutionist, soldier of fortune, and gang buster, it must be remembered that he was hard. Governments are not overthrown, even in South and Central America, save by courage, valor, and a certain ability to capitalize circumstances. (A Matter of Impulse)

   His physical description is given early in the series:

   Standing in the doorway was six feet of lean, whip-corded strength, bronzed by tropic suns. Dark eyes surveyed them in scornful appraisal. He was attired in a natty spring suit. In his right hand he carried a light cane. The left hand held the hat… (Gangsters’ Gold)

   He reveals that he is only part Spanish — his mother was Spanish and his father American, and he himself is an American citizen. This brings the question as to whether his name had been changed or was originally Lobo. He can speak not only English and Spanish but also French and Chinese. He fought in Central and South America and also in China and Africa.

   Events from the past are often alluded to in the course of their American adventures. El Mono Viejo’s real name is not given in the series, just his nickname and description: “which means ‘The Boss Ape,’ short, abnormally broad of shoulder and long of arm, his eyes round and brown.” (Costs of Collection)

   Although Senor Lobo often uses guns in the course of his adventures, his favorite weapon is his sword cane. It has a retractable blade, and Lobo often uses it in confrontations with criminals. Lobo kept weapons of various kinds in his car that would be of use in close quarter fighting, including hand grenades.

   One story describes an outing against gangsters thusly: “And now as they swept into this gangster hide-out, each man carried two hand grenades, two guns, extra clips of shells, and a tear gas bomb.” (The Sirens of War)

   So they were well prepared for any fighting to be done, which is more than most of the criminals up against them could claim. Senor Lobo also had a special car for his adventures – a roadster “specially constructed for power, acceleration, and an ability to take right angle turns at high speed.” (Broken Eggs)

   Unfortunately, Lobo’s adventures were rough on equipment, and the car was shot to pieces by a machine gun in “Broken Eggs.” However, doubtless he had it repaired or acquired another because cars were indispensable in his work.

   Another requirement for his work was a safe place to live. He had to constantly change his apartments whenever their location was revealed, often abandoning his belongings at the same time. “To maintain safety it was necessary that he keep himself well under cover. The place where he had his apartment was known to but two people, El Mono Viejo and himself.” (Carved in Jade)

   Lobo also tried to keep his whereabouts secret from the police. As El Mono Viejo stated about the police viewpoint: “They are angry now at our methods. They say we are as much of a menace to law enforcement as are the gangsters upon whom we war.” (Carved in Jade)

   In virtually every story the soldierly professionalism of Lobo and his lieutenant are stressed, and the lack of such qualities in their gangster opponents is also stressed. In fact, the gangsters’ lack of ability to handle the tactics of the two soldiers of fortune is shown to best effect in the story “Barking Dogs.” Here the two soldiers raid a gangster headquarters in order to rescue a woman, and defeat a gangster mob many times their size. Afterwards, the gangsters claimed to the police and newspapers that twenty rival gangsters had raided their stronghold, and asked for a police investigation. Clearly, they never knew what hit them.

   The series, which ran for 23 stories, starts out with basically a two-part beginning, though each can be read separately and were published four months apart. In “The Choice of Weapons” and “Gangsters’ Gold”, the two parts of the opening story, Lobo is up against a hard fight with Butch Pender and his gang. These early stories are full of action, with Lobo out-maneuvering the gangsters twice in their attempt to rob gold from a bank. Lobo originally came to the U. S. in response to a strange situation. It seems that a dying American gangster named High Test Barker, wanting revenge on his enemies, makes a will leaving $70,000 in gold to Senor Lobo.

   The will makes the condition that Lobo can have the money only if he avenges Barker’s death. So Lobo comes up to take care of the situation and steps into what might be termed a hornet’s nest of trouble. The first stories are based upon this plot. After it runs its course, Lobo becomes involved in one adventure after another in the city.

SENOR ARNAZ DE LOBO

   The series seems to have quite a lot of the influence of Leslie Charteris’ series about The Saint (who appeared in DFW itself in 1938-39 and 1943). However, there was nothing like it in the magazine during the series run from 1930-34.

   Detective Fiction Weekly boasted many series, and none of them were remotely similar to Senor Lobo. Plenty of professional detectives, both private and government, ran through the pages. Also plenty of amateur detectives of all kinds appeared in stories. Senor Lobo fell into none of these categories. He was a professional who enjoyed what he did as a mercenary and revolutionary, as well as his new work as a gangbuster.

   Lobo was at his happiest when engaged in a conflict. He states to a woman: “sometimes I feel the lust for adventure in my blood… Perhaps I’ll pull out one of these days and start another revolution.” (Gangsters’ Gold)

   He does eventually leave for another revolution — in the last story, “Opportunity Knocks Twice”, he and his assistant leave the city for Latin America for this purpose.

   In an example of Lobo’s predilection for getting into trouble, see the story “The Sirens of War”. In this story, Lobo is bored with inaction and soft living. He is pacing the late night sidewalks of the city looking for action. As his assistant, El Mono Viejo, says, “it has been a week, and we have had no action.”

   So they wander the streets until, finally they find some trouble to get involved in. Trouble in the form of a kidnapping of a wealthy woman. Lobo involves himself in the matter to the extent that he goes after the kidnappers and in a couple of violent shootouts wipes them out. He returns the ransom money, minus what he takes for expenses.

   The expenses are what Lobo refers to in other stories as “the costs of collection”, and usually run ten per cent of the money returned. (Costs of Collection)

   Lobo gets involved in more conflicts with criminals by investigating any strange occurrence that strikes his interest. After things quieted down too much, he got the idea of paying taxicab drivers to report unusual occurrences to him. This helped keep Lobo busier, even if only part of the drivers’ reports led to action against criminals.

   Another example of Lobo’s penchant for getting into trouble occurs in “Carved in Jade”, an early story. This one starts in Chinatown, a popular setting for Gardner. Lobo wants to eat Chinese food, but his visit to a Chinese restaurant involves him with a group of gangsters who try to kill him in a trap. Lobo is up against both American and Chinese criminals in this story.

   One of the funnier stories is “Costs of Collection”, where Lobo and his friend are almost broke, thanks to their bank going under with all of their money in it. Far from finding it to be a bad situation, the two adventurers laugh about the situation and decide they have to make more money.

   “Caramba!” said El Mono Viejo, “but we need guardians, we two. We put money in a bank, and presto! We cannot take it out!” So Senor Lobo needs to find some gangsters to fight and money to appropriate. He uses almost the last of his money to pay for information from a cabdriver, and as a result finds some crooks to fight and a young woman to rescue. Coincidentally, Senor Lobo takes $10,000 in cash from some crooks as what he calls the “spoils of warfare”. So he is back in the money again.

   By the time of the story “A Hundred to One”, many of the local gangsters were fed up with Lobo’s interference in their affairs and made attempts to eliminate him by setting traps. In the words of one newspaper that Lobo saw, they intended “to rid the city of a “disturbing influence” in the shape of an independent adventurer, who seemed to enjoy interfering with gang activities for the sheer pleasure of the ensuing conflict.”(A Hundred to One)

   Lobo smiled at the article; all he wanted was some excitement and conflicts with the gangsters were one way to do this. In fact, he tells El Mono Viejo: “We can ask but three things of life, beautiful women, hard fighting—and a clean getaway.” (A Clean Getaway)

   So we can assume this is the philosophy of Senor Lobo. But he has another philosophical comment in another story: “Senor Arnaz de Lobo snapped out his philosophy of life in a single sentence: “I am not afraid to die,” he said, “nor do I want to be afraid to live.” (The Spoils of War)

   El Mono Viejo is constantly warning Senor Lobo to beware of beautiful women, because their enemies may use them as bait for traps for him. Nevertheless, Lobo continues to enter the traps. As he says: “Trap or no trap, I like the bait. There is beauty and adventure, a woman and danger, a mystery and a threat. I know of no better combination.” (A Clean Getaway)

   El Mono Viejo is much more serious-minded than Lobo, and more cautious. Lobo occasionally calls him “Sobersides” to poke fun at his serious attitude. El Mono Viejo enjoys the action and adventure, but he sees matters differently: “life is a stern reality.” (Leaden Honeymoon)

   The Senor Lobo series was undoubtedly more fantasy than reality based, but it was the kind of crime-fighting stories that appealed to readers, as shown by the fact that it lasted for 23 stories and probably could have run longer.

   Each story features Senor Lobo and El Mono Viejo becoming involved in gangster activities, and usually culminates in a violent gun battle (sometimes with explosives used).

   Naturally, Senor Lobo always comes out on top and wins the girl when one is part of the conflict. El Mono Viejo told Senor Lobo “it was a wonderful idea of yours — this business of coming to the city and antagonizing organized crime.” (Opportunity Knocks Twice). He only complained when there was insufficient action.

SENOR ARNAZ DE LOBO

   The last story, “Opportunity Knocks Twice,” is a fast-moving tale of action, started when a taxicab driver’s report of a very unusual occurrence puts Lobo on the trail of a $10 million secret and murder.

   At the same time, Lobo and El Mono Viejo are getting ready to offer their services to a revolutionary, who is in the city buying arms for a revolution in Latin America. If he doesn’t want their services, then they will offer them to the opposing side.

   By this time, El Mono Viejo is tired of the “guerilla warfare” with the city’s gangsters, and wants nothing more than to leave so they can get involved in a war or revolution. So the story is of the two mercenaries running around trying to resolve the murder and at the same time keep an eye out for when the time is ripe to leave for Latin America.

   The title refers to the two opportunities that Senor Lobo has in the story: firstly the murder and secondly the revolution. As Senor Lobo says at the end of the story: “In our profession,” he said, “one does not overlook opportunity’s second knock.”

   So the series has a conclusion of a sort, as the two prepare to leave the city they have lived in for over four years. It is certain that the criminals will not miss them.

   This is an excellent series that deserves reprinting. As this series was finishing its run in 1934, another series was beginning that seems to show some influence of Senor Lobo: the Park Avenue Hunt Club series of Judson P. Philips. This was a small group of men who were devoted to fighting gangsters, and enjoyed their work. Though it is doubted if they ever enjoyed it to the extent that Senor Lobo did.

        The Senor Arnaz de Lobo series by Erle Stanley Gardner:

The Choice of Weapons     July 12, 1930
Gangsters’ Gold     November 15, 1930
Red Hands     December 6, 1930
A Matter of Impulse     February 7, 1931
Killed and Cured     February 21, 1931
Carved in Jade     May 9, 1931
Coffins for Killers     July 25, 1931
No Rough Stuff     December 5, 1931
Sauce for the Gander     December 12, 1931
Barking Dogs     March 26, 1932
A Hundred to One     April 30, 1932
A Private Affair     June 25, 1932
Trumps     November 12, 1932
A Clean Getaway     December 3, 1932
Tickets for Two     December 31, 1932
The Spoils of War     January 14, 1933
Leaden Honeymoon     March 11, 1933
Results     May 6, 1933
The Sirens of War     September 16, 1933
Costs of Collection     November 18, 1933
The Code of a Fighter     January 27, 1934
Broken Eggs     May 5, 1934
Opportunity Knocks Twice     October 27, 1934

Note:   An earlier version of this article appeared in Blood ‘n’ Thunder magazine (#16, Fall 2006).

    Previously in this series:

1. SHAMUS MAGUIRE, by Stanley Day.
2. HAPPY McGONIGLE, by Paul Allenby.
3. ARTY BEELE, by Ruth & Alexander Wilson.
4. COLIN HAIG, by H. Bedford-Jones.
5. SECRET AGENT GEORGE DEVRITE, by Tom Curry.
6. BATTLE McKIM, by Edward Parrish Ware.
7. TUG NORTON by Edward Parrish Ware.
8. CANDID JONES by Richard Sale.
9. THE PATENT LEATHER KID, by Erle Stanley Gardner.
10. OSCAR VAN DUYVEN & PIERRE LEMASSE, by Robert Brennan.
11. INSPECTOR FRAYNE, by Harold de Polo.
12. INDIAN JOHN SEATTLE, by Charles Alexander.
13. HUGO OAKES, LAWYER-DETECTIVE, by J. Lane Linklater.
14. HANIGAN & IRVING, by Roger Torrey.

ROBERT PATRICK WILMOT – Blood in Your Eye. J. B. Lippincott, hardcover, 1952. Pocket 975; paperback, October 1953. Cover illustration by James Meese.

   Blood in Your Eye is the first of three cases cracked by New York City private eye Steve Considine, and for the record, here’s a list of all three:

      Blood in Your Eye. Lippincott, 1952; Pocket 975, Oct 1953.
      Murder on Monday. Lippincott, 1953; Pocket 997, March 1954.

ROBERT PATRICK WILMOT

      Death Rides a Painted Horse: Lippincott, 1954; Jonathan Press #80, abridged, no date.

ROBERT PATRICK WILMOT

   You’re much more likely to like this one if you’re a fan of hard-boiled tough guy detective fiction; it really isn’t one that’s going to convert you. The cover of the paperback is (um) an eye-catcher, and the first 100 or so pages are terrific. By that time, though, while the pace hasn’t let up, the air has started to leak out of the tires, and by the time the book is over, you may have cause to wonder from where solution came, far left field?

   To start at the beginning, though, Considine is hired to wet-nurse an actively practicing but generally amiable alcoholic on a plane trip to England, where a doctor is waiting for him. On the night before their departure, Charlie Gillespie, given in the past to hallucinatory and (hence) quite invalid misinterpretations of everyday events, claims to have seen a murder committed, and soon after, goes underground and disappears completely.

   Considine’s job: find him, and thus we have a story. What I think I’ll do is give you two long quotes, both of which caught my attention in no uncertain terms, but in not exactly the same way. First, from pages 36-37, where Considine is alone in a bedroom with a girl who’s involved — and of course there is:

ROBERT PATRICK WILMOT

   Her handbag was on the chair, and she had to turn her back to me, bending to pick up the bag. I moved fast. I wrapped my left hand around her, breast high, and I clapped the palm of my right hand across her mouth, pressing hard. I picked her up bodily and carried her into the bathroom and set her on her feet and shifted my left hand to her mouth while I reached out with my right and turned on the shower taps, full blast. You could hardly hear her yell at all, or me, either, when she sunk her teeth into my hand.

   She bit hard and it hurt like hell and I went crazy mad, for a moment. I got my right hand into her hair and gripped it and spun her around and slapped her across the mouth with the flat of my bloody left hand. Then we were locked in tearing, panting embrace, me trying to hold her hands while she clawed at my face and jerked her knees up into my body, until I got both her arms pinned and pulled her so close that she couldn’t use her hands or knees, and I could feel her breasts swelling firm and big against my chest, and her curved long thighs against my thighs.

   Desire and rage were so completely mingled within me that I twisted her wrist even as I kissed her lips — and I kissed her lips hard. Her head went back and she gave a long, sighing, panting breath, and for an instant her lips met mine wide and warm, and her body seemed to melt in a yielding movement that made it part of my own… Then she butted me solidly on the cheek with her head and twisted loose from my hands.

   It’s quite a first date, even for a kindergarten teacher, which in fact she is, although Considine doesn’t know that yet. He continues:

   And isn’t this all just simply wonderful, I thought, leaning against the door. Gillespie’s out somewhere maybe waxing up a million dollars’ worth of trouble, and you’re supposed to be looking after Gillespie, and what do you do, Considine, what do you do? You don’t take a babe’s word for it that she’s a whore when she says she’s a whore; you’ve got a lousy false pride that’s piqued because you can’t figure out what sort of petty racket she and her pimp and the other guy are mixed up in, and you’re a sorehead who can’t take it when the girl pulls some of the same stuff on you. So you make with the muscles, and now you’ve got her, and what do you really want of her, except the one thing you can’t have unless you take it by force.

   The girl’s name is Carla Paul, and later on — here’s the other quote coming up now — Considine is talking the case over with the cop on the case. From pages 65-66:

    “One more thing,” Christie said to me. He looked about him as though to be sure there was no one else in the room, lowered his voice and squinted at me. “You ever read detective stories, Considine?”

    “Sometimes,” I said, wondering what-the-hell.

    “You know how it is in those stories,” Christie said. “They got a regular formula. The hero is always a bright gum-shoe, with ideas, and he’s always getting fouled up with a lot of stupid, sadistic city cops who do everything they can to prevent him from solving the crime.”

    “I bet you could write yourself,” I said. “How do you know, if you haven’t ever tried?”

    Christie ignored my remark. “So, because of the dumb cops, our Shamus hero has to more or less take the law into his own hands. In order to bring the villain to book, it’s necessary for our hero to break every law in the book, himself.”

    “Tell me more,” I said.

    “Take a case like this,” Christie went on. “The cops might wanna case Carla Paul’s room, just to see what they could see. But they’d need a warrant, because if Carla or the landlady came in while they were shaking down the place, there’d be hell to pay. If it did happen to be a case of mixed identity, I’d hate to be the cop who happened to be caught with a handful of her unmentionables.”

    “Time presses,” I said, “so suppose I just take the story from here. The Shamus in your story isn’t inhibited by legal red tape or bothered by stupid principles against the search. Right?”

    “Oh, so right,” Christie cooed.

    “So he waits until Paul isn’t home,” I said, “and he opens her door with a skeleton key, or maybe a strip of celluloid because that makes it sound harder. He goes into the room and combs it good, and maybe he finds something — a letter or something — that gives him a line on Mr. Blair? Okay so far?”

    “Perfect,” Christie answered, avoiding my eyes. “I doubt if Raymond Chandler himself could do better.”

    “There’s only one thing wrong,” I said, “and that’s the possibility that someone may come in and catch the bold hero in shaking down the apartment. Someone like a big, tough policeman, for instance. Or a two hundred and fifty pound wrestler, who doubles as a janitor.”

    “That ain’t in the script,” Christie said, “but I’ll admit it would be awkward if it happened.”

    “Yes, wouldn’t it? And then our Shamus gets carted off to the nearest police station and placed in a backroom where a lot of uncouth persons ask impertinent questions about him having been in the apartment. And then maybe Shamus gets so indignant that he gives a discourteous answer, and loses some of his teeth.”

    I flipped my cigarette at the cuspidor and grinned at Christie. “I need my teeth, lieutenant. I might be sent out on a job that paid so well I could afford to eat steak.”

    Christie rolled a pencil around on the desk top and looked at me thoughtfully. “Of course,” he said, “the Shamus could always ask to speak to Lieutenant Christie.”

    “No doubt he could,” I said, “and by the time he got to talk to Christie, our hero would have a pocket full of teeth. See you later, Chris.”

    We went out, and as we closed the door, Christie sighed again.

   I don’t know about you, but for me, that was worth the price of admission, right there. I also have to admit that there was a time, about half way through, that I had absolutely no idea where the story was going next, and that’s doesn’t happen, or at least not very often.

    You may take that as a good thing — I do — but what it also means it that it takes a full final chapter that’s ten pages long, after the bad guys have been named and identified, to tie up all of the loose ends, or at least all but one, a huge, massive coincidence that Wilmot dares not even mention, but I will. Possible? Sure, but without it, it all falls apart.

— October 2002


[UPDATE] 10-06-12. I’ve not been able to find any personal information about the author online, but I did come across a reference to one quote that’s interesting. From the cover or jacket flap of a British edition of Death Rides a Paper Horse: “Robert Patrick Wilmot has been compared by Anthony Boucher of the New York Times to the young Dashiell Hammett.” I have not found the quote from the Times itself, but it does suggest that reading the book again may be in order, or even all three of them.

EDWARD MARSTON – The Vagabond Clown. St. Martin’s, hardcover, August 2003.

EDWARD MARSTON The Vagabond Clown

   Marston is a wonderfully prolific writer. Besides two separate series written as by Keith Miles, which as it happens is his real name, he has three additional series under this particular pseudonym, all historical mysteries: (1) with Christopher Redmayne, an architect, and Jonathan Bale, a constable in 1600s London, England; (2) the Domesday series, with Ralph Delchard, soldier and Gervase Bret, lawyer in medieval England; and (3), of which this is the latest, a series featuring Nicholas Bracewell, book holder for Westfield’s Men, an accomplished acting company in Elizabethan times.

   A book holder includes the jobs of both stage manager and road manager, and Nicholas has his work cut out for him in The Vagabond Clown, what with one clown incapacitated with a broken leg, and the second, recruited from a debtor’s cell, subject to serious bouts of wine, women and japery.

   Murder and other calamities also follow the trail of the travelers as they make their way from London to Dover, making adjustments to their plays as they go. The jealousies and acrimony between the two clowns make for fine amusement, and it is hard to imagine how the life of troupers like these on the road could be better described.

   The solution to the mystery is more than a little weak, alas, with motivations hidden until the very end, far too late to be of any help to the reader at home, though the culprits themselves are painfully obvious. An uneven entry in the series, therefore, but one that’s definitely worth reading.

PostScript: For the sake of completeness, the detective novels written under the Keith Miles byline are (1) the Alan Saxon mysteries, in which the current day golfer goes from country to country solving crimes and (2) a rather new series following the adventures of Merlin Richards, a young Welsh architect and a Frank Lloyd Wright protégé, taking place in Phoenix and Chicago in the 1920s and 30s.

   This is embarrassing. Marston/Miles can write faster than I can read.

— October 2003



[UPDATE] 10-03-12. Here it is, nine years later. The Vagabond Clown was the 13th in the Nicholas Bracewell series; there are now 16. Other current totals:

Eleven books in the Domesday series.
Six books in the Christopher Redmayne series.
Ten books in the Inspector Robert Colbeck series (begin in 2004).
Five books in the Captain Rawson series (begun in 2008).
Two books in the Inspector Harvey Marmion and Sergeant Joe Keedy series (begun in 2011).

       As by Keith Miles:

Six books in the Alan Saxon series.
Two books in the Merlin Richards series.

       As by Martin Inigo (not mentioned above):

Two books in the Dan Hawker series

   In the past nine years, if my count is correct, Marston/Miles has written 23 books.

REVIEWED BY BARRY GARDNER:


MICHAEL RALEIGH – A Body in Belmont Harbor. Paul Whelan #2. St. Martin’s, hardcover, 1993. iUniverse, paperback, May 2000.

MICHAEL RALEIGH Body in Belmont Harbor

   When I found this in the library last week I vaguely remembered reading the first in the series, Death in Uptown, but couldn’t remember anything about it. Not particularly promising, but it was a lean library day, so I checked it out anyway. Good move.

   PI Paul Whelan is a Chicago native who works the dangerous Uptown neighborhoods. As your basic hardboiled PIs tend to be, he’s somewhat at loose ends when a lady asks him to follow a man she suspects of murdering her husband two years ago. The police ruled it a suicide, but she doesn’t believe that; particularly since a small-time hood called her and said he had evidence against the man, then turned up in Belmont Harbor, murdered.

   Whelan doesn’t see much there, but the money’s good, and he takes the case. This quickly brings him in contact with Al Bauman, a legendary and irascible Chicago cop whom he helped and with whom he clashed in the first book. Bauman is investigating the hood’s murder, and Whelan’s involvement isn’t wanted. We know how that goes, though.

   This is one of the better PI books I’ve read lately. The story is told in a straightforward third-person narrative, from Whelan’s point of view other than the prologue. Whelan is a sympathetic and believable character, more reminiscent of Marlowe than Spenser though without the wisecracks. He manages to be both tpugh and vulnerable, and credibly so.

   The cop, Bauman, is also very well portrayed, seems one of the more realistic ones I’ve come across. There is a wealth of Chicago color, particularly in the area of restaurants and taverns, and although I don’t know from Chicago, it seemed real to me. The plot mechanism was the weakest part of the story, bit wasn’t so bad as to cause outrage. All in all, I liked it considerably.

— Reprinted from Ah, Sweet Mysteries #9, September 1993.


       The Paul Whelan series —

Death in Uptown. St. Martin’s 1991
A Body in Belmont Harbor. St. Martin’s 1993
The Maxwell Street Blues. St. Martin’s 1994
Killer on Argyle Street. St. Martin’s 1995
The Riverview Murders. St. Martin’s 1997

Editorial Comments:   For more information about the author, he has a webpage here. I have three of the five Paul Whelan novels, but I’ve never read one. Barry’s review of this one tells me that I may have made a mistake about that.

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