William F. Deeck

FRANK KANE – Esprit de Corpse. Dell 2409, paperback original; 1st printing, August 1965. Cover by Ron Lesser.
FRANK KANE Esprit de Corpse

   Yes, there’s nothing new in one individual taking on the crooks and corrupt officials in a city. And it’s been done better and in greater depth — The Fools in Town Are on Our Side and Red Harvest come immediately to mind. Nonetheless, this thriller is quite satisfactory for the second rank.

   When a private eye, out of his depth, gets framed for murder in the sleazy Barbary Coast of Carsonette City in Southern California and is, with the eager assistance of his estranged wife, doomed to spend his life in the loony bin, he asks his partner to call in another private eye, Johnny Liddell.

   His partner — a she, although by no means another V.I. Warshawski — flies to New York to enlist Liddell’s help. Apparently she goes in person since her argument isn’t a strong one and she must compensate by “the hemispherical roundness of her full breasts.” Upon viewing them, even clothed, Liddell’s jaw drops and his good judgment vanishes.

   She knows her man.

   (Has there ever been a female client in private-detective literature who had “empty” breasts? Have no tough PI’s been weaned?)

   Though threatened and attacked by the crooks and threatened and arrested by the corrupt police, Liddell emerges triumphant. He understands, and I’m taking his word for it, why the frame took place and how the bookies and the Mafia were being taken by other crooks.

   As an added attraction, one of the villains ostensibly is a closet Edgar Wallace reader. When Liddell catches this desperado in a felonious act, the man says, “Okay, Mac. It’s a fair cop.”

– From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 10, No. 3, Summer 1988.

EDITORIAL COMMENT. Bill Deeck, who died far too young in 2004, was a well-known mystery fan and over the years the author of a tall stack of articles and reviews for The Armchair Detective, Mystery Readers Journal, and a number of other zines, including The MYSTERY FANcier.

   Before posting any of his work here, I consulted with Richard Moore, a close friend of his who lived not very far away, and Bill Pronzini, who helped ensure that Murder on 3 Cents a Day, Bill Deeck’s reference work on hardcover lending library mysteries, finally saw publication.

   For covers of many of these books and more on Bill Deeck and how the book came into being, go here.

   Said Richard, when I asked, “I am positive that Bill would be pleased to have his reviews receive another life. They were done without pay originally and the reprinting does not involve revenue. It is hard to imagine an objection.”

   Bill Pronzini: “I agree with Richard. Bill D. would be delighted to see his reviews reprinted on the M*F blog. By all means go ahead.”

   And so I have. This is the first of many of Bill Deeck’s reviews that I will be posting here. I feel greatly privileged to be able to do so.