Sat 22 Dec 2012
William F. Deeck
RICHARD BURKE – Murder on High Heels. Gateway, hardcover, 1940; Arrow Mystery Library #5, digest-sized paperback, no date (1943).
Once the thrill, not likely to last even microseconds, has passed from the discovery that the detective’s name is Genghis Donne — his brother’s name is Kublai — which occurs on the second line of Page 1, there isn’t much left of interest here.
Since Clarence Elden, the murdered man, was president of the New York branch of the American Purity League, was owner of a sizable pornography collection, and apparently had a planned assignation with a female for purposes ostensibly impure, Burke could have had some fun with this situation. He doesn’t.
Occasionally I am introduced by mystery authors to others as a “critic.” I respond that actually I am a reviewer. Reviewers appraise, or try to appraise, as in my case, what the author has written; critics tend to deal with what the author would have written if the author had been only half as talented as the critic.
Thus, I am not going to criticize Burke for what he didn’t do in his first novel. I shall merely say that what he did was create, or more accurately borrow, stock characters — among others the dumb and antagonistic cop, the dumb and friendly cop, and the show girl down on her luck — and a plot so forlorn that I kept reading only in the hope that something, anything, fresh might appear. My hope was dashed.
Editorial Comment: Although author Richard Burke wrote nine other mysteries, this was the only appearance of Genghis Donne. (See also Comment #1.)