MIKE ROSCOE – One Tear for My Grave.

Crown, hardcover, 1955. Paperback reprints: Signet #1358, November 1956, cover: Robert Maguire; G2432, 1964.

   Call me a jaded old cynic, but when I saw the name “Mike Roscoe” on the cover of One Tear for My Grave, I somehow doubted that was the appellation his parents bestowed upon him at birth.

   In fact, a little digging in Twentieth-Century Crime and Mystery Writers and on the ’net revealed this was a joint pen name for two writers, both allegedly Private Detectives, who spun a half-dozen books in the mid-50s around the exploits of PI Johnny April.

    And they did rather a nice job, ladling out tough, bright, Chandler-esque prose, with a generous hand, lively and entertaining, with vivid action:

   My right arm came back and connected with his gun hand. The .38 sailed across the room and banged against the wall. I saw the fist coming like a streak and heading for my belly. I tried to flex my stomach muscles.

   It helped.

   The punch only doubled me up half-way. I rolled to one side and sneaked a short right in. He was too quick. The damn punch just grazed him…

   Extravagant description:

   The rug gave under our feet with that plushy Persian feeling. It probably couldn’t have been more expensive if it had been made of live Persians.

   And the improbably-cantilevered women of a young man’s dreams:

   Whoever built this broad hadn’t spared the bricks.


   Prose like this can carry a book a long way, and for most of its brief length, Tear is a highly satisfying read, with a new twist wrinkling the end of each chapter, and a fresh corpse approximately twice a page.

   But then there’s the ending, and here I must carp: It’s just plain-damn sloppy. If a crime writer centers his book around Who-killed-so-and-so, that becomes a sort of important issue in the narrative. So when the cops tell our hero that all the major suspects have alibis, we readers should either take that as a given, or get to see the PI break down whatever alibis must needs get broken.

   Not here. I can say without revealing anything important that although the killer is given a clean bill early on, s/he turns out to be the killer with nary a word of explanation.

   It just ain’t fair.

   Fortunately, this unsatisfactory ending comes fairly late in the book, and doesn’t spoil what is for the most part, a lot of good fun. I’ll be looking for more “Mike Roscoe” and I recommend this one to anyone who likes a bright, fast-moving hard-boiled mystery.

      Bibliographic data:  [expanded from the Revised Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin]

ROSCOE, MIKE. Pseudonym of John Roscoe & Michael Ruso. SC: PI Johnny April, in all.
      Death Is a Round Black Ball. Crown, hc, 1952. Signet 966, pb, Oct 1952.
      Riddle Me This. Crown, hc, 1952. Signet 1060, pb, Sept 1953.
      Slice of Hell. Crown, hc, 1954. Signet 1216, pb, July 1955.


      One Tear for My Grave. Crown, hc, 1955. Signet 1358, pb, Nov 1956.
      The Midnight Eye. Ace Double D273, pbo, 1958.