FRANK KANE – Time to Prey. Dell 1st Edition B159, paperback original; 1st printing, November 1960. Cover art by Harry Bennett. Reprinted as Dell 8924, paperback, 1966.

   Back in the day, circa 1958-1963, I polished down books like this at the rate of one a day. It was certainly helpful, then, that publishers put them out at very nearly the same rate, and a lot of them were Johnny Liddell private eye novels, just like this one.

   This isn’t one I remember reading, but don’t count on my lack of memory meaning anything. There isn’t anything in this one that stands out now, and I doubt if it would have back then. It starts out being a little different, with Johnny apparently getting caught up with a gang smuggling Communist Chinese agents into the country, but without a lot of notice, the story gradually converts itself into a run-of-the-mill tale of a longshoremen’s racket along the New York City waterfront.

   The villain makes himself known early on, so this is no detective story. Liddell does a good job using his brain as well as his fist, though, working members of the mob against each other, one at at time. He doesn’t even have a client. It’s personal, with the deaths of two young women having occurred because of him, one incidentally, but the other he’s directly responsible for.

   The story’s pure puffery, all the more so by the ineptitude of his primary adversary, who [spoiler alert] sets up a frame for Johnny for one of the girl’s deaths, but does not bother to be sure that the latter has no alibi for the time of the killing.

   If Kane ever describes Johnny in detail, I missed it, at least in this book. Based on his actions and the way people react to him, I picture him as a Robert Ryan type. Ruggedly good-looking but tough as nails when he needs to be.