MIKE MORAN – Double Cross. Popular Library 494, paperback original, April 1953.

   A recent review on this blog of William Ard’s Hell Is a City produced some opposing opinions on his work, but neither the review or his discussion brought up the fact that Mike Moran was one of Ard’s pen names. (Ben Kerr was mentioned, while Thomas Wills was also not.)

   This was Ard’s only use of Mike Moran as a name to hide behind — for what reason he or someone thought he needed one is a question for which no one living may know the answer — and while I have some good things to say about it, I also have to admit that it’s a wildly uneven piece of work.

   Tom Doran is the PI who tells the story. He’s an independent operator, but when the head of the agency he sometimes works for sends a case his way, he’s happy to take it. He’s hired to be a bodyguard for a boxer whose sparring partners have all been frightened off the job while the fellow and his trainer are in training camp preparing for a big fight.

   Besides an ugly cook who takes a decidedly bad attitude toward Doran, there are two beautiful women involved, the first the boxer’s live-in girl friend Velma, a would-be singer with the morals of a bunny rabbit; the second, the blonde who owns the farm where the entourage has set up camp. Her name is Janet Pearce, and before you know it, she and Doran have taken up housekeeping together.

   It’s that kind of PI story. The opening scene is very tentatively written, and even when the actions of the cook are explained later on, they still don’t make a lot of sense. Nor do those of any of the bad guys, were you to sit down and try to do so, as I am invariably wont to do, even for inexpensive PI fiction, as this one was when it first came out.

   On the other hand, once the characters are introduced and the story is well on its way, it’s smoothly told and very easy to finish in a mere two hours or less. (It helps that it’s only 128 pages long, a mere bagatelle by today’s standards.)