During his prolific career, Michael Avallone wrote around 38 novels and countless short stories featuring his private eye character, Ed Noon. Most of the early installments are straightforward mystery novels in the bawdy tradition of Shell Scott or Milo March. Later in the series, Avallone reinvented the Noon character as a spy working on special assignments handed to him directly by the U.S. President. Toward the end of the series, I’m told that Noon tangles with UFOs and aliens. He was an all-purpose, multi-genre hero for the ages.
“Lust Is No Lady” is the 14th novel in the series - although I’ve found that they can be enjoyed in any order. The paperback was originally released in 1965 by Belmont Books and later again under the title “The Brutal Kook.” Avallone’s son, David, is a successful comic book writer who has lovingly kept the Ed Noon series available as affordable Kindle editions while preserving the original cover art wherever possible.
The story opens with Noon’s car experiencing a blowout while driving through desolate Wyoming en route to a much-needed California vacation. While preparing to change the tire, a small airplane flies out of nowhere and starts dropping bricks from the sky onto his car - destroying any hope of a roadside repair.
Setting out on foot in the blistering heat, Noon finds a half-dead, naked, Native American woman staked to the ground with vultures circling above. The language barrier prevents a full explanation, but the woman leads Noon to a small settlement in the middle of nowhere called Agreeable Wells where every person that Noon encounters behaves in a guarded and suspicious manner.
While stranded with these oddball settlers, Noon is not exactly a prisoner but not quite a guest among them. A brutal murder occurs and Noon - being a hotshot NYC private detective - lends a hand toward getting to the bottom of the situation. However, the bigger mystery to the novel involves the true reason these people are in the middle of nowhere. For much of the novel, Noon is an observer bearing witness to a feuding and duplicitous small community brimming with dysfunction and greed.
At some point during this short paperback, it occurred to me that “Lust Is No Lady” was Avallone’s attempt at placing Noon into a Western novel - albeit one with periodic attacks by a killer airplane. The good news is that this works splendidly thanks to the author’s knack for compelling storytelling and vivid characters. The action sequences - particularly the one at the book’s climax - are all expertly engineered for maximum excitement.
As long as you know what you’re getting - a big-city private detective plopped into an old west adventure - “Lust Is No Lady” is an easy recommendation. You really can’t go wrong with the Ed Noon novels of Michael Avallone.
Thanks to the efforts of David Avallone, an unpublished Ed Noon book called “The Walking Wounded” by Michael Avallone will finally be published. The novel was written in 1973, and features cover art by contemporary comic book artist, Dave Acosta. Keep an eye on Amazon for details about this exciting release.