A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Bill Crider & Bill Pronzini:


CARROLL JOHN DALY – The Snarl of the Beast. Edward J. Clode, 1927. Previously serialized in Black Mask, June-July-Aug-Sept, 1927. Hardcover reprint: Gregg Press, 1981. Trade paperback reprint: Harper Perennial, 1992.

CARROLL JOHN DALY Snarl of the Beast

   Carroll John Daly was one of the fathers of the modem hard-boiled private eye, a primary influence on such later writers as Mickey Spillane. His style and plots seem dated today, but the presence of his name on the cover of Black Mask in the Twenties and Thirties could be counted on to raise sales of the magazine by fifteen percent.

   Daly’s major contribution was Race Williams, the narrator of The Snarl of the Beast and the first fully realized tough-guy detective (his first appearance, in the June 1, 1923, issue of Black Mask, preceded the debut of Hammett’s Continental Op by four months).

   Williams was a thoroughly hard-boiled individual. As he says of one criminal he dispatches, “He got what was coming to him. If ever a lad needed one good killing, he was the boy.” Williams doesn’t hesitate to dole out two-gun, vigilante justice.

   The Snarl of the Beast has an uncomplicated plot: Williams is asked by the police to help track down a master criminal known as “the Beast” and reputed to be “the most feared, the cunningest and cruelest creature that stalks the city streets at night.”

   Williams is willing to take on the job and to give the police credit for ridding the city of this menace, just as long as he gets the reward. Along the way he meets a masked woman prowler, a “girl of the night,” and of course the Beast himself.

CARROLL JOHN DALY Snarl of the Beast

   Daly is not known for literary niceties — his style can best be described as crude but effective — yet there is a certain fascination in his novels and his vigilante/detective.

   Characterization is minimal and action is everything. “Race Williams — Private Investigator — tells the whole story. Right! Let’s go.”

   Race Williams also appears in The Hidden Hand (1929) and Murder from the East (1935), among others. Daly created two other series characters, both of them rough-and-tumble types, although not in the same class with Williams: Vee Brown, hero of Murder Won’t Wait (1933) and Emperor of Evil (1937); and Satan Hall, who stars in The Mystery of the Smoking Gun (1936) and Ready to Burn (1951), the latter title having been published only in England.

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   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.

Editorial Comment:   For a long expository commentary of the book as well as the author, see Mike Grost’s Classic Mystery and Detection website. Included is a breakdown of the novel into its singular parts as they appeared in Black Mask magazine.