M. E. CHABER – The Flaming Man. Milo March #18. Holt Rinehart & Winston, hardcover, 1969. Paperback Library 63-353, paperback; “Milo March #9”; June 1970. Cover art by Robert McGinnis.

   Insurance investigator Milo March’s assignment in The Flaming Man is to investigate the death of one of Intercontinental Insurance’s clients in a department store fire during the Watts riots in Los Angeles.

   I’ve always been a fan of this series, but I seem to have never read this one until now. It’s a short book, just over 150 pages in the paperback edition, and what I said in paragraph one summarizes the story completely. There is not a single surprise or unexpected event in the entire book.

   And if you cut out the references to drinking, the book would be at least 20 pages shorter. Milo March is one of those guys who could really put it away. For breakfast, lunch, dinner, bedtime and every other half hour in between, another drink. From one bar to another, it seems, nonstop. (March does find time, while solving the case, for a good-natured dalliance with a well-endowed stripper lady. They make a good couple. She knows how to toss them down as well.)

   The cover is nice, but the reading is awfully slow going. This is the kind of book that makes me tell myself that I could do better, and what’s worse I know I couldn’t.

       The Milo March series —

Hangman’s Harvest (n.) Holt 1952 [California]
No Grave for March (n.) Holt 1953 [Berlin]
As Old As Cain (n.) Holt 1954 [Ohio]
The Man Inside (n.) Holt 1954 [Madrid]
The Splintered Man (n.) Rinehart 1955 [Berlin]
A Lonely Walk (n.) Rinehart 1956 [Italy]
The Gallows Garden (n.) Rinehart 1958 [Caribbean]
A Hearse of Another Color (n.) Rinehart 1958 [New Orleans, LA]
So Dead the Rose (n.) Rinehart 1959 [Berlin]
Jade for a Lady (n.) Rinehart 1962 [Hong Kong]
Softly in the Night (n.) Holt 1963 [Los Angeles, CA]
Six Who Ran (n.) Holt 1964 [Rio de Janeiro, Brazil]
Uneasy Lies the Dead (n.) Holt 1964
Wanted: Dead Men (n.) Holt 1965
The Day It Rained Diamonds (n.) Holt 1966 [Los Angeles, CA]
A Man in the Middle (n.) Holt 1967 [Hong Kong]
Wild Midnight Falls (n.) Holt 1968 [Moscow]
The Flaming Man (n.) Holt 1969 [Los Angeles, CA]
Green Grow the Graves (n.) Holt 1970
The Bonded Dead (n.) Holt 1971 [Miami, FL]
Born to Be Hanged (n.) Holt 1973 [Nevada]