The following correspondence came about after Mike Braham saw that I had one of his father’s books for sale and bought it from me. Seeing the name of the purchaser, I asked the obvious question. I was right.   – Steve

   Hal Braham was my father. I stumbled onto the list of his books still out there by mistake the other night, and saw there are a few I don’t have, so I’ve been rounding them up.

   My father wrote extensively in the 1950s, and published a great deal in the old pulp detective magazines (of which I have a collection). He supported us by working as a technical writer by day. The rhythmic sound of his typing on his old Underwood upright lulled me to sleep many a night during my childhood. He also worked as a private investigator and took police science courses. He captures the color and character of Los Angeles and San Pedro of the post-war years extremely well in Call Me Deadly. He also co-wrote a screenplay, Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, which starred Jackie Gleason. It was one of Gleason’s earliest films.

   He belonged to a group of L.A. writers called the Fictioneers. Among them were Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson (Duel and other screenplays), Charles Beaumont (Twilight Zone), William Campbell Gault (murder mysteries and juveniles), Les Savage (westerns) and Bill Cox. I remember some of their parties at our house with great affection.

   I have followed my father into the writing profession. I am a journalist, currently working at The Fresno Bee. I’ve not published any books as all my work has been newspaper related. Writing seems to be in the family genes. Nelson Algren (Walk on the Wild Side, Man With the Golden Arm) was a cousin and grew up with my father in Chicago.

      From a later email:

   You might add that my father had a passion for writing, and it was a passion of joy. He never agonized; he wrote with pure enjoyment and when he talked about the process of writing there was a twinkle in his eyes. I’ve never been comfortable writing fiction because I can’t be as good as he was. I feel he is looking over my shoulder. He never did, of course. He always encouraged and supported me, and was never critical. But I held him in such high esteem that all my efforts seemed to fall short.

   I’ve always been intrigued by the cover illustrations. They stood out all right, but they never really had anything to do with the novel, and I always tried to imagine a plot based on the drawings. But if they sold more books, who can complain?

   One of my father’s best friends, the author William Campbell Gault (now deceased, sadly), told the story of how his juveniles used to be stolen from the libraries in Santa Barbara, where he lived. The librarians were livid, with the appropriate priggish indignation of how bad the youth of our day have become. Bill thought it was great. “It just meant they had to replace my books, which meant more money for me,” he said.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. Expanded from an updated entry for Hal Braham in the Revised Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin:

BRAHAM, HAL [i.e., Harold Braham] (1910-1993); see pseudonyms Mel Colton & Merrill Trask

* Call Me Deadly (n.) Graphic #152, pbo, 1957. [Los Angeles, CA] “When a bride who lost her laughter – met a man who lost a corpse …”


Back Cover

COLTON, MEL; pseudonym of Hal Braham, (1910-1993); other pseudonym Merrill Trask

* The Big Fix (n.) Ace Double D-3, pbo, 1952. “He’d won a hundred grand – and a sure bullet if he claimed it.”

Big Fix

* Big Woman (n.) Rainbow 1953 [Panama] “The nights in Panama are hot and dangerous — just like the women!”

Big Woman

* Double Take (n.) Ace Double D-27, pbo, 1953 [Los Angeles, CA]. “She was hard to meet and deadly to know.”

Double Take

* Never Kill a Cop! (n.) Ace Double D-19, pbo, 1953. “Had his own brother framed him for the fall guy?”

Never Kill a Cop

* Point of No Escape (n.) Ace Double D-101, pbo, 1955

TRASK, MERRILL; pseudonym of Hal Braham, (1910-1993); other pseudonym Mel Colton

* Murder in Brief (n.) Mystery House 1956 [Los Angeles, CA]


SHORT FICTION: All stories as by Mel Colton.

“Dead Men Can’t Welsh” — Black Mask, November 1948
“No Time to Burn” — Dime Detective, July 1949
“Dreamer with a Gun” — Dime Detective, December 1949
“Death Insurance” — F.B.I. Detective Stories, April 1950
“Corpse-Gathering Cutie” — Dime Detective, June 1950
“Hot-Scotch Polka” — F.B.I. Detective Stories, October 1950
“Kill and Make Up” — Dime Detective, October 1950
“Her Perfect Frame” — Dime Detective, December 1950
“Win, Lose–or Kill” — Black Mask Detective, March 1951
“Something to Shoot About” — Dime Detective, October 1952
“Murder Pays Double” — Pursuit, July 1954
“Ring Around a Murder” — Hunted, April 1955
“Murder on Account” — Pursuit, May 1955
“The Vicious Ones” — Hunted, August 1955
“Don’t Wait for Me” — Pursuit, September 1955
“Justice on the Death Prowl” — Short Stories, November 1956
“Second Guess” — ­Pursuit, November 1956
“Red Death” — Short Stories, June 1957


Hal Braham wrote the story which was the basis for Tramp, Tramp, Tramp (Columbia, 1942), starring Jackie Gleason, Jack Durant and Florence Rice.

Synopsis: A pair of barbers are driven out of business because most of the men in their small town are being drafted into the army. When they attempt to enlist and are turned down, they decide to form a Home Defense Force, getting them involved with a gang of crooks.

Thanks to Bill Pronzini for providing several of the cover images and the big assist in putting together the list of Hal Braham’s short fiction.