Between 1954 and 1959, Florida author William Fuller wrote six Brad Dolan mystery paperbacks for Dell about an American playboy who finds mystery and adventure while bumming around the Caribbean in his rickety houseboat. “Brad Dolan’s Miami Manhunt” is the fifth book in the series from 1958, but there’s no particular reason why they need to be read in order.
As a hero, Dolan is a can-do guy in a laid-back shell. His only ambitions are “blue water, sunshine - and freedom.” In practice, Dolan funds his freedom by doing some low-level smuggling throughout the Caribbean - mostly guns, booze, smokes, and people. As required, he’s got an eye for the ladies and very specific feelings about the appropriate breast size. And while he’s unlikely to ever get booked on the “Ed Sullivan Show,” he’s quick with a funny wisecrack at just the right times.
In this Miami-based adventure, Dolan finds himself on vacation while his boat is being repaired. Upon arrival at his hotel, he meets a stripper with all the correct proportions who asks him to help recover money that her dead husband squirreled away before his demise. Faster than you can say “Travis McGee,” Dolan is on the case. The stripper - Marta is her name - thinks she knows where the money is stashed, but bad guys are after her to get that information. She offers to split the dough - a cool quarter million - with Dolan, which will help fund his roustabout lifestyle for years into the future.
Almost right away, things go sideways. Dolan is tailed by an unknown shadow and he is questioned by police for a crime he didn’t commit. The hidden cash is somehow tied into an airline pilot who recently went missing in a Caribbean banana republic, and Dolan turns gumshoe to get the straight dope on the pilot’s disappearance in hopes that it will open the door to the hidden fortune.
I don’t know much about the author, William Fuller, but he was likely very different than most of the genre paperback scribes of the 1950s. The back of “Brad Dolan’s Miami Manhunt” has a photo of the impossibly handsome, shirtless, muscular writer with the bio, “Like his fictional creation, Fuller’s been around himself - merchant seaman, hobo, movie bit player, infantryman on Guam, Leyte, and Okinawa. He now lives in Winter Haven, Florida.” It sounds like Fuller lived a remarkable life and channeled his experiences into his fiction.
At 160 stubby Dell pages, this Brad Dolan adventure wasn’t a huge time-commitment, but it was a lot of fun to read. Given Fuller’s looks, charisma, and talent, the real mystery may be why he remains largely unknown today. At the very least, it was good enough to motivate me to seek out the other five books in the series. Recommended.