Archive for private eye

Death Pulls a Doublecross by Lawrence Block (Gold Medal, 1961)

Posted in crime noir, Lawrence Block, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on September 29, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Block wrote and sold this one to Gold Medal the same year he did Mona, but it’s not as good as Mona (aka Grifter’s Game). This is a private eye novel — Ed London is a gumshoe with a Ph.D., likes to smoke from a pipe and listen to chamber music. No rough Matt Scudder here.

It opens with London helping out his brother-in-law by tampering with evidence.  His sister’s hsuband has been cheating with a sexy blonde and he’s found her dead body, with her face shot off, in her apartment and he’s afraid that he will be accused of the crime and his wife will find out he’s a cheater.

Why does London help the guy?  And why is London so willing to get himself in trouble by moving a dead body, wrapped in a rug, from a Manhattan apartment to Central Park?  Doesn’t make any sense. Plus, he as spotted by some bad guys, two at least, who now threaten him because they want a briefcase they think he has.

Block was obviously influenced by Dashett Hammel because there’s a loit of Maltese Falcon in here — instead of the falcon statute, it’s a briefcase, and an assortment of quirky criminals (who could be played by Peter Lori) show up at his door with guns and apologies.

But this was a young man’s effort at the P.I. book, and Block never (as far as we know) wrote another Ed London yarn, probably for the best.

It was reprinted as Coward’s Kiss.

Wild Wives by Charles Willeford (Beacon, 1956)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 2, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Charles Willeford’s orginal title for this quirky private eye yarn was Until I Am Dead, but Beacon Books re-titled it Wild Wives as the seond part of a double book, the reprint of High Priest of California, which had originally appeared in 1953 as the second half of a Royal Giant digest number.

Since both novels are short — c. 30,000 words — they were suitable for one regular-sized 60,000 word paperback.

Wild Wives is dubbed a “First Award Novel” which a number of Beacons from 1956-1958 were, for whatever reason…one will note that Beacon misspelled the author’s name as “Williford.”

This is my first read of Charles Willeford; people have been recommending him to me for years.  It takes me a while sometimes. He certainly has an interesting history as a writer.  Out of the army, he fancied himself a San Francisco beatnik poet, publishing a chapbook in the mid-50s, then turning to novels at age 30, writing the first few in a cheap room at the Powell Hotel on weekends, soaking up the San Francisco lifestyle.

His aim, like many young pulp crime writers then, was Gold Medal, but his books were too short. He found a home at Royal Giant/Beacon, and later Newsstand Library.  He wasn’t prolific.  He used the money to pay for graduate school.  He later went into college teaching, published more poetry and memoir, was re-discovered in the 1970s and 80s, and hit big time with the bestseller turn into a movie, Miami Blues.  In his autumnal years, he enjoyed his re-discovery as a pulp master, wrote more books, and passed away in 1988, age 69.

Since I have not read any other Willefords yet, I cannot say, but have read that Wild Wives is unlike his other novels, being a more “conventional”  noir/crime/gumshoe tale.

The narrator shamus is Jake Blake, San Fran wise-ass tough guy private eye.  In the first chapter, a 15 year old girl points a water pistol at his head then lifts her skirt and bends over, asking to be spanked — already we know that Willeford’s writing is a bit…off-kilter…

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Mad for Kicks by Jack Lynn (Novel Books Special, 1960)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

This is dubbed a “Novel Books Special” and is one of a number of Lynn;s Tokey Wedge private eye books.  Not sure which one is the first but doesn’t seem you need to start with the first, although there are references to characters and incidents from other books.

Wedge is not your typical tall, dark and handsome gumshoe.  Wedge describes himself as

five-six and one half [tall]. One hundred aned forty-seven pounds. A bundle of nerve and verve. Persuasive. Permissive. When it comes to girls, I love ’em. (p. 19)

The women he connects with often note that he’s “a little guy” or “short man.”  On the cover of Tall and Torrid, we get an idea of what he looks like:

Like the typical 1960s shamus, he gets laid often, he’s tough as rawhide, and he kills the bad guys when necessary. Which has given him somewhat a rep — in Mad for Kicks,  a man offers Wedge $5,000 to track down the man men who kidnapped nd raped his daughter, and wants Wedge to kill them. He’s heard Wedge kills but Wedge tells him he’s not a hired gun, and has only killed ijn self-defense.  Wedge takes the five grand to track the men down, but says he will turn them into the cops. Wedge’s relationship with the local cops is shaky.

Novel Books’ usual hyperbole to make the book seem more than it cam be is employed with this blurb from Men’s Digest (which was owned by Camerarts, that owned Novel):

MAD FOR KICKS outdoes LADY CHATTERLY’S LOVER and any book that you care to name for that strong stuff that you men like. Not recommended for women and children.  This NOVEL BOOK powerhouse will make you do a double-take every time you pass a beatnik.

What the book’s connection to Lady Chatterly’s Lover is unclear, as this is a private eye two-fisted tough guy yarn…

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