William F. Deeck

JOHN FARR – The Deadly Combo. Ace Double D-301, paperback original, 1958. Bound back-to-back with Murder Isn’t Funny, by J. Harvey Bond.

   Two factors militate against this novel for me: I am not all that fond of the hard-boiled mystery and listening to jazz I find painful. Despite my biases, I must conclude that John Farr, a pseudonym of Jack Webb, has written a dandy novel.

   Mac Stewart. whose position on the Los Angeles police force I don’t quite understand — he’s a plainclothes detective who cruises just like a patrolman — has been a jazz enthusiast since he used to sit in alleys listening to tin pan in a noisy speakeasy. Stewart’s love for the music drew him to Dandy Mullens, a former jazz great, from whom he learned a great deal. When Mullens is found stabbed to death in another alley, Stewart investigates on his own.

   As I said, this is a hard-boiled novel, but Farr often approaches poetry in his writing. particularly when he is dealing with jazz. It’s somewhat fair play, also, though Stewart is helped by the murderer — at least the first one — being not too bright.

— Reprinted from MYSTERY READERS JOURNAL, Vol. 6, No. 1, Spring 1990, “Musical Mysteries.”

Bibliographic Notes:   First of all, the Jack Webb who wrote this book is not the radio-TV-movie actor Jack Webb. There was a lot of confusion about this in the early days of mystery fiction fandom (and elsewhere I’m sure). The Jack Webb who wrote this book was the author of eleven mystery novels under his own name, nine of them with the unlikely sleuthing pair of Father Joseph Shanley and Sammy Golden.

   As John Farr, Webb wrote five more crime and detective novels, two of them with a series character named Cy Clements, about whom I know nothing. The Deadly Combo was Mac Stewart’s only appearance.