CARROLL JOHN DALY “Not My Corpse.” Race Williams. Novella. First published in Thrilling Detective, June 1948. (Cover by Rudolph Belarski.) Reprinted in The Mammoth Book of Private Eye Stories, edited by Bill Pronzini and Martin H. Greenberg (Carrol & Graf, 1988).

   Race Williams had a long career in the pulp magazines, ranging in time from 1923 to 1955, and he showed up in a few book-length adventures as well. He was a tough guy with both his fists and his guns, and he wasn’t afraid to show it. If Mickey Spillane didn’t read Race Williams’ adventures before coming up with the idea for Mike Hammer, I’d be awfully surprised.

   In his heyday, all through the 1920s and early 1930s, Carroll John Daly was one of the hottest PI writers around. By the time “Not My Corpse” appeared, in June 1948 issue of one of the lesser detective pulp magazines, his luster had faded considerably, and Race Williams’ antics had tamed down considerably – but not completely, and it’s still a cracking good yarn.

   After a series of young girls have been tortured and killed, Race decides that the common factor connecting them is that they inadvertently saw something they shouldn’t, and that the killer is tracking them down, one by one, going from one to the next. A solid tip suggests that one more girl is going to be the next victim, and Race is determined to stop him.

   There are flashes of good writing in this tale, with memorable turns of phrasing, and Race is his usual cocky, confidant self, which is all to the good. The plot is a little rickety, though, and there’s too much that’s never hinted at as to the killer’s actual motive; it takes a flood of details on his dying bed before the whole story is told.

   A mixed bag, in other words, but while Carroll John Daly is often given a bad rap today as a lousy writer, he wasn’t.