STEPHEN MARLOWE – Model for Murder. Graphic #94, paperback original; 1st printing, 1955. Berkley D2023, paperback, date? Armchair Fiction, paperback, 2014. Wildside Press, trade paperback, 2015.

   While Graphic was a relatively minor player in the mix of paperback publishers that sprung forth in the 1950s, especially when it came to semi-hardboiled mysteries, every once in a while one can catch your eye more than the others. Such a one is Model for Murder.

   It begins with the book’s main protagonist being released and hooking up with an old friend (female) on his first night (and overnight) on the outside. It gets complicated from here. Chase was innocent of the charges (financial finagling) that sent him up. He took the rap for his well-heeled brother, who sends him a check for $100,000 for services rendered. While he was in stir, though, the brother married the woman Chase was in love with.

   And in the same meantime the previously mentioned lady friend Chase quickly catches up with has a problem. She works for a professor who has compiled data (voluntary but coded) on the elite of Manhattan that was “out Kinseys Kinsey”), and for a lark, she has stolen it. Paying for the crime is her roommate, whom she and Chase find dead and the data missing. Presumably it is now in the hands of someone with blackmail on his mind.

   Meanwhile Chase’s brother is also in blackmail trouble, this time in the form of his wife (who was the love of Chase’s life before he went up the river). Coincidence? Well, maybe, but you probably know how things like this go in book like this.

   Or, in other words, there is a lot of plot crammed into the 190 pages of Model for Murder, and while Stephen Marlowe (born Milton Lesser) was just starting out as mystery writer – as Lesser he was no more than a prolific writer of mostly mediocre science fiction – every so often he has a turn of phrase that a certain Mr. Chandler might have been proud of. And as far as plot goes, this barely scratches the surface. Sleazy photos, dysfunctional families, hired goons, a veritable Amazon of a bodyguard, more bodies, and a slick private eye — you name it.

   And in case you don’t know, Stephen Marlowe – and you needn’t wonder how he chose that name – went on to have a decent career writing the PI/secret agent Chester Drum series for Gold Medal, as well as some even more serious fiction later on.