Long ago and far away I was 14 or so and visiting my crazy aunt Bobby Joe (married to Bobby Ray) and digging through large brown paper sacks full of books bought at garage sales. I had to be mindful of the tiny black North Georgia scorpions who loved to nest up in those stacks of old wood pulp paper, little bastards hurt like hell and made you sick to your stomach for days if you let one get a hold of you. But I was a book worm and here were hundreds of books for my taking.
I came across an old yellowish book from 1969 (originally published (1947) with a cover that had a man in trench coat and a gun in his belt looking down in dismay at a naked blond laying among some conveniently placed pillows. Well, that was enough for me. I took that home and read the hell out of it.
Now the tale inside did not quite live up to the lurid cover, yes there was an undraped blonde, but she quickly wound up dead as a canary in a coal mine. What I did find was a smartass lawyer acting as a detective in 1947 New York, getting shot at and dealing with thugs. My first hardboiled book. I loved it.
I carried that book for a long time. It was by Harold Q. Masur, himself a lawyer turned novelist. He is now one of my favorite hardboiled authors.
The story is pretty good. Case of mistaken identity results in a dead woman and our hero has to find out what’s going on. He’s stubborn and smartass in all the best ways. Like a less tough Mike Hammer who is a bit more book smart and a bit less grim.
It is still one of my favorite books ever. I’ve read it probably 2 dozen times.
Here is the cover I have.
and here is the new, re-issued version you can get from Raven’s Head Press.