A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Marcia Muller


  DAVID ALEXANDER – Paint the Town Black. Random House, hardcover, 1954. Bantam 1534, paperback, 1956.

   Bart Hardin, managing editor of the Broadway Times, is in urgent need of $500. On the recommendation of an old friend, television commentator Mike Ainslie, he applies for a press-agent job with the Latin American Trade Alliance.

   Hired for the position, Hardin returns to his apartment over Bromberg’s Flea Circus and finds Ainslie’s tortured body in front of his fireplace. Hardin’s problems are compounded by the fact that he must break the news to Ainslie’s wife, Dorothy, with whom he is in love.


   The newspaperman’s personal involvement with both the murder and the trade alliance — which urgently wants to recover a fake pre-Columbian jug that Ainslie reportedly had in his possession prior to his death — leads him into encounters with a strange curio-shop owner, a psychologist who collects art, a strongman named Andes, and a chinless man with a penchant for sadism.

   Hardin is an engaging character: a denizen of Broadway who sports embroidered vests and a cynicism that is undermined by his ability (which he would term a flaw) to care deeply — be it for a murdered friend or his old blind dog.

   David Alexander’s portrayal of the people of Broadway gives full rein to their eccentricities, but stops short of being unbelievable. The plot is intricate, and all elements tie off neatly at the conclusion.

   Other notable Bart Hardin titles are Terror on Broadway (1954), Die, Little Goose (1956), Shoot a Sitting Duck (1957), and Dead, Man, Dead (1959).


   Alexander also created two other series of two books each. The first features the detective duo of Tommy Twotoes, an eccentric penguin fancier, and private eye Terry Rooke (Most Men Don’t Kill and Murder in Black and White, 1951); the second stars Broadway lawyer Marty Land, who also appears in the Hardin series (The Death of Daddy-O, 1960, and Bloodstain, 1961).

   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.