CHARLES E. FRITCH – Negative of a Nude. Mark Wonder #1. Ace Double D-367, paperback original, 1959.  Reprinted in revised form as Strip for Murder (Kozy, 1960), with Christopher Sly the new leading character.

   James Reasoner reviewed this book several years ago on his blog, pointing out that Fritch was the editor at Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine who hired him to do a long run the Mike Shayne novellas that always opened the magazine. Fritch doesn’t seem to have done a lot of writing of his own, but he did a fine job editing the magazine on what was probably a very limited budget.

   This is the only novel under his own name in Al Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV, for example, but he also has entries under the pen names of Charles Brockden, Christopher Sly, Eric Thomas and house name Troy Conway. He also wrote science fiction and was the editor of the short-lived magazine Gamma. The name Eric Thomas is significant because he wrote a second adventure of PI Mark Wonder under that name: Psycho Sinner (Athena, paperback, 1961).

   As James points out in his review. Negative of a Nude starts out in near Richard S. Prather / Shell Scott mode, with Wonder being attracted to a girl at the beach, a girl he quickly learns is a high class stripper at a local night club, and their mutually deciding to go to his apartment together. But the entertainment they have planned is interrupted by a phone call from a would-be client, and when he’s hung up the phone, both Cherry Collins and the camera case containing photos he shot for a previous client are gone.

   The book takes place in Los Angeles, so lots of the street names and other general locales are very familiar. So’s the story, in fact, but it’s complicated enough – and turns to have enough bite to it, that the oh-so-standard hi-jinks at the beginning can be forgiven, if need be.

   Let’s put it this way.  Shell Scott never had a past as an ex-police detective and a former heroin addict (the latter being the reason for the former).

   Fritch ought to have written more, and for better (or more discriminating) publishers. Based on Negative for a Nude, he was good enough.


Note: More of Charles Fritch’s other mysteries written under different entangled names and various semi-sleaze publishers can be found here, posted earlier on this blog.