EDWARD RONNS – State Department Murders. Gold Medal #117, paperback original, 1950. Reprinted several times including as by Edward S. Aarons, Gold Medal, paperback, 1970. Film: National Film Studios/United Artists, 1961, as Dead to the World.

   The year 1950 was a turning point in Ronns-Aarons’ career. In the 40s he wrote mysteries in hardcover for second- and third-rate publishing houses (McKay and Phoenix, respectively) but in 1950 he wrote five paperback originals, three for Gold Medal and two for Handi-Books, giving him a new start in life as far as his writing was concerned.

   This one is the second of three he did for Gold Medal that year. First was Million Dollar Murder (Gold Medal #110), which from the numbering must have come out only months before. Either he wrote very fast, or one or both (or all three) must have been finished or in the works when he found out about Gold Medal’s new line of paperback originals.

   This one is about Barney Cornell, a security officer assigned to the State Department who’s just faced a tough day of grilling before a congressional hearing and who’s about to be accused of being a traitor for selling secrets to the Russians.

   He’s innocent, of course, and as a last resort, he decides to confront the man who’s behind it all, one of those people in Washington who knows things about everyone who’d rather keep it hushed up. He’s ruined many lives in his career, and it’s no surprise that when Cornell reaches his mansion on the Maryland shore, he finds him dead.

   There’s no shortage of suspects, including Cornell, of course. As it happens, he’s been having an affair with the dead man’s wife. The affair is pretty much over, and to his surprise, it’s another young woman who comes to his assistance when he needs to make his escape from the house where the dead man lived.

   The end result is a fast-paced and well-described action thriller, but what it is, is a detective story, too — not one that will ever be remembered as one, though, since if you think about it all, I doubt that you’ll be surprised at all when the killer is revealed.

   And all the way through, I kept thinking that what I was reading might make for a pretty good movie as well. Come to find out, a movie was made of the book: one called Dead to the World. Copies of the film probably don’t exist any more, but I did find a photo of the poster. This was the only film made by National Film Studios, and with the totally unknown Reedy Talton playing Barney Cornell, I can imagine not a lot of money was spent in making it.

   Since the names of the characters were changed very little, though, it leads me to wonder if perhaps the story might not have been changed all that much from the book. It is hard to tell from the synopsis on the AFI page. They mistake the two women in Cornell’s life with the other, and they give away the name of killer, so viewer beware.