A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Bill Crider

M. E. CHABER – The Splintered Man. Rinehart & Co., hardcover, 1955. Perma Book M-3080, paperback, 1957. Paperback Library 63-308, paperback, 1970.

   Kendall Foster Crossen published more than twenty novels as M. E. Chaber. All but one of these featured Milo March as the first-person narrator and protagonist. At times March functioned in his usual capacity as an insurance investigator, but he often had occasion to work for the State Department or the CIA.

   There is a certain similarity in many of March’s adventures, but Crossen is a writer who perfected his craft, and the Chaber books are fast, smooth, funny in spots, and always entertaining. The Splintered Man stands out among them because long before the Beatles were singing “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” Crossen introduced lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) as a major [;pt device in an espionage story.

   Milo March is called back into the army and sent into East Berlin to find Herman Gruss, the head of the counterespionage police in West Berlin, who is believed to have defected to the East. Getting into East Berlin is not too hard for March in those days before the wall. Getting out is something else again, especially when March is caught and given a hefty dose of LSD by a doctor who is experimenting with the drug at a large Russian hospital.

   The description of the drug’s effects on March, while perhaps not clinically accurate by today’s standards, is nevertheless convincingly carried off. It is not revealing too much to say that March;s inevitable escape from the hospital is accomplished by a little fudging of scientific facts, but the result us still satisfactory.

   The cover of the first paperback edition of The Splintered Man (Perma Books, 1957), is a collector’s dream. March, in his undershorts, cowers in the background while held by two men in uniform. In the foreground are two large red hands, one holding a test tube, the other holding a sizable red hypodermic needle. (In the story, March’s dose of LSD is administered in a glass of water.)

   Milo March’s other adventures include The Gallows Garden (1958), Softly in the Night (1963), The Flaming Man (1969), and Born to Be Hanged (1973). Crossen also published numerous mystery novels under his own name and such pseudonyms at Christopher Monig, Clay Richards, and Richard Foster.

   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.