Permabook M4099; paperback reprint, June 1958. Hardcover edition: E. P. Dutton, June 1957. One chapter appeared earlier in Stag Magazine under the title “The Treatment.” Later paperback edition: Paperback Library 64-706, 1971, as by “M. E. Chaber writing as Kendall Foster Crossen.”

   That last byline is rather strange, if you think about it. Kendall Foster Crossen was the author’s real name, and M. E. Chaber was the name he used to write his “Milo March” novels. Paperback Library had been publishing these in uniform editions, all with hugely attractive covers by Robert McGinnis. They must have done well with them, because they when they ran out of Milo March’s adventures to print, to capitalize on Chaber’s popularity, they started doing some of Crossen’s other work in the same numbered format, including this one and several he wrote as by Christopher Monig.


   Milo March was basically an insurance investigator, but he also had connections with the CIA, and his adventures took him all over the world. [For more on March, check out his page on the Thrilling Detective website.]

   Major Kim Locke, the primary protagonist in The Tortured Path, had even more direct connections with the CIA, and I’ll go into the details in a minute. First, though, here’s a list of the books he appeared in, taken from Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin:

      * Kendell Foster Crossen:
         o The Tortured Path (n.) Dutton 1957 [China]
         o The Big Dive (n.) Dutton 1959 [England]
      * Clay Richards:
         o The Gentle Assassin (n.) Bobbs-Merrill 1964 [Cuba]

   Why the switch in bylines, I don’t know, but it may have had something to do with the switch in publishers. The Big Dive is scarce; it was never reprinted in paperback, and at the moment, there are only two copies of the hardcover edition offered for sale on the Internet. While The Gentle Assassin never had a paperback edition either, it is fairly common in hardcover. It’s also easily available in a three-in-one Detective Book Club edition.

   Here are the first couple of paragraphs from The Tortured Path, which will give you more information about Major Locke’s background. It will also supply you with a glimpse of the author’s writing style, or so it’s my intention:

    “It started out like any other day in Washington. I’d been cooling my heels there for three months. I was theoretically on duty but I hadn’t anything to do for that length of time. The first month was fine, but then I began to get a little tired of it. I didn’t have an assignment, but I was supposed to check in three times a day. After three months, just checking in was beginning to interfere with my drinking. One thing you can say about Washington – the hunting in the cocktail bars was fine.

    “The name is Kim Locke. Major, U. S. Army, permanently attached to the Central Intelligence Agency. Cloak and dagger stuff. But the only cloak I’d ever seen was worn by a blond adagio dancer and the only time I’d been near a dagger was when I was in the OSS during World War Two. There’d been a Yugoslavian partisan who had a dagger; we’d used it to slice the chickens we caught at night and roasted in coals. So it wasn’t like in the books; no willing broads willing to do anything to get your secrets. But it was a living – if you can call being in the Army living.”


   His assignment? To get himself caught by the Chinese Communists, be brainwashed and undergo any other form of torture they might devise for him, and then rescue an American officer who has secrets that mustn’t fall into enemy hands.

   Which he does. End of book. Well, not quite, but almost. Getting in is far too easy, getting out is another matter, sort of the scorched-earth approach, if you ask me, crude but effective. Crossen has a quiet, breezy style of story-telling, beginning (as you will have seen) with page one onward. The resulting adventure is readable in about a night or two. It is also largely forgettable in about the same length of time.

January 2007