Jonathan Craig was a pseudonym utilized by author Frank Smith. Known for his police procedural series '6th Precinct', which ran ten installments from 1955-1966, Smith was also a contributor to 'Alfred Hitchcock Magazine', submitting five total stories over the course of 1964 through 1970. His first, “This Day's Evil”, was featured in the March, 1964 issue and reprinted again numerous times in the popular paperback anthology formula.
The short-story begins where all good crime novels should – a planned robbery. In this case, it is the young Earl Munger, a small-town crony who's tired of blue-collar labor and slim paydays. After being humiliated by his date, who feels ashamed to ride in Earl's smelly farm truck, the young man decides to rob the wealthy Charlie Tate, a prominent businessman and property owner.
Right before Earl's planned burglary, the sheriff arrives for a mysterious encounter that leaves Earl torn – wait until the sheriff's departure, bag the old man and take the goods or conservatively plan for another night. After a quick meeting, the sheriff leaves and Earl goes through with the robbery. In turn, Tate is knocked unconscious with what looks to be a deadly blow and Earl makes off with about $20K in bundled bills. Where's the mystery and intrigue that only Alfred Hitchcock's people can deliver? The next day, Earl overhears the sheriff explaining to a local store owner that Charlie left a suicide note before killing himself with poison.
This quick read delivers the goods in an entertaining fashion. Earl must learn how Charlie died, and ultimately how to hide the cash and himself in what could be either a murder or suicide investigation. Everything isn't what it seems and the reader is left guessing until the very end. Frank Smith is a solid writer and this one is just a lot of fun. Looking for a breather between those 180-page action novels? Give it a free read at http://www.luminist.org/archives/PU/.
We discuss Jonathan Craig and his literary works on the third episode of the Paperback Warrior Podcast.
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