I’m Cannon — For Hire by Curt Cannon aka Evan Hunter/Ed McBain (Gold Medal, 1958)
Before Block’s Matthew Scudder, there was Curt Cannon, a private eye with a severe drinking problem. His name later changed to … with the Ed McBain byline, published The Gutter and the Grave by Ed McBain (aka Evan Hunter of Blackboard Jungle fame) by Hard Case Crime — Cannon’s name changed to Matt Cordel. Seems Hunter was reluctant to have this old book reprinted, similar to Lawrence Block was with Grifter’s Game, but, like Block’s, critical and fan reception was positive. This is tough Manhunt-style, two-fisted hardboiled noir.
In fact, Cannon appeared in the first issue of Manhunt; there were four other stories, later collected in I Like ‘Em Tough.
In this nifty little hardboiled novel, Cordell lives on the streets in the Bowery, drinking his pain away until he passes out. An old friend, Johnny Bridges, tracks him down, needing Cordell’s help in the detective realm. Cordell has no interest, and reminds his buddy that his license was yanked after an unfortunate incident that occurred when he found his wife cheating on him.
Johnny talks Cordell into it anyway — seems simple: Johnny operates a tailor shop and he believes his partner is reaching into the till. Cordell goes to the shop with Johnny and they find the partners dead body there.
The last thing Cordell wants or needs is to get involved in a homicide. But he is. Johnny is arrested for the murder and Cordell has to clear his buddy’s name and find the real killer. But first he must shave, shower, get a new suit, and look presentable. He doesn’t stop drinking, though. And along the way there are women who throw their bodies at him, more dead bodies, and two-fisted moments in the noir fiction vein.
A fun read, whether you read the Gold Medal or Hard Case version.