This entry is a contribution to November crime fiction of the year meme hosted by Rich Westwood over at his blog Past Offences. The year chosen for November was #1946.
Prologue Books, 2012 a division of F + W Media, Inc. Kindle edition (324 KB). First published in 1946 by Robert Wade and Bill Miller. eISBN: 978-1-4405-4054-7 ASIN: B0075FEVLM, 215 pages.
The publisher’s blurb reads: Her name was Shasta Lynn—a names as phony as the color of her golden hair. She was big and beautiful, and she knew how to tease when she stripped. She was so sensational no one noticed that an admirer in the last row wore a knife sticking in his heart. Curtains go up on a drama of murder, racketeering, dope-peddling, and double-dealing romance. And a smart San Diego cop calls the finale for one of the toughest killers ever to clear the stage for death. – See more at: http://www.prologuebooks.com/books/wade-miller/deadly-weapon#sthash.tzu9suTg.dpuf
A nice summary of this book can be found at Battered, Tattered, Yellowed, & Creased: Private eye Walter James is on the trail of the drug cartel who killed his partner, led to a San Diego burlesque house by an anonymous tip from one Doctor Boone. But before he can make the meet, the contact is murdered. James decides to team up with police detective Austin Clapp to bust the drug ring once and for all. There are plenty of suspects for him to choose between. There’s the beautiful Shasta Lynn, the striptease artist headlining at the burlesque. There’s Laura Gilbert, whose romance with James blossoms over the course of the novel, and her father, who’s providing a lot of secret money to Shasta Lynn. There’s a retired Major, a quack psychiatrist, and a trio of Mexican drug lords. Untangling this web of shady dealers and dangerous characters might lead James to the mysterious Doctor Boone, who is the key to busting this case wide open. Read more here.
My fellow blogger Sergio on Tipping My Fedora wrote: … what we have here is not an especially original novel in some respects – and probably not as memorable as some of the team’s subsequent Max Thursday series (in which Clapp also appears incidentally) either. But don’t let this put you off because it has some great things in it. The novel is very smoothly put together and has some great touches of humour in the dialogue (especially between James and Clapp) – and really does have some genuine claim to originality, though really I can’t talk about it – yup, that’s right, it has a sensational surprise ending … indeed Ed Hoch praised it for “an ending unique in the private eye genre.”
Police detective Clapp says at one point: “I’ve never seen a case before where so many leads end up with so many corpses”
From my side I’ve found the plot too far fetched, and I agree with Sergio that it’s not an original novel. However I’m ready to give him credit and I’ll probably read some book in their subsequent Max Thursday series.
My rating: C (I liked it with a few reservations)
Robert Allison “Bob” Wade (1920-2002) and H. Bill Miller (1920-61) penned their novels using the joint pseudonym of Wade Miller (they also wrote as Whit Masterson, Dale Wilmer, and Will Daemer). After WWII, Wade and Miller combined their surnames and wrote their first novel, Deadly Weapon (1946). It was a fine debut from the team and features P.I. Walter James, who is in San Diego investigating the shooting of his partner. Their next effort, Guilty Bystander (1947), features private detective Max Thursday, an unkempt alcoholic with an unpredictable temper who lives in a fleabag hotel. In the story, Thursday’s ex-wife shows up to tell him their son has been kidnapped and, along with battling to stay sober, he has to battle assorted cops, thugs, and double-crossing hookers. Reviewers compared Guilty Bystander favourably with the work of Hammett and Chandler. The other Thursday novels are Fatal Step (1948), Uneasy Street (1948), Calamity Fair (1950), Murder Charge (1950), and Shoot To Kill (1951). They used the Masterson name on their novel Badge of Evil (1956)–the basis for the classic film noir Touch of Evil (1959), directed by Orson Welles and starring Welles, Charlton Heston, and Janet Leigh. Other excellent Masterson novels are A Cry In The Night (1955), which deals with a kidnapping, and A Hammer In His Hand (1960), which features a policewoman as the protagonist. Bill Miller died of a heart attack in 1961. He was only 41 years-old. Robert Wade continued his career as a successful writer, penning novels both under his own name and as by Whit Masterson, as well as writing a regular column for the San Diego Union. In 1988, Wade was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Private Eye Writers of America.
Read more at Prologue Books