The problem with Harry Whittington is that he wrote so many books that it’s hard to differentiate his crime fiction masterpieces from the so-so paperbacks he authored for a quick paycheck. While I consider him one of my favorite authors, I find myself repeatedly acquiring and reviewing novels that just aren’t his best work.
Whittington’s “So Dead My Love” was released in 1953 as half of an Ace Double paired with Stephen Ransome’s “I, The Executioner.” At some point, “So Dead My Love” was also released in Australia under the title “Let’s Count Our Dead,” and it was also included in the 2001 “Pulp Masters” anthology edited by Ed Gorman and Martin Greenberg.
Jim Talbot is a New York private eye returning to his hometown of Duval, Florida (population 35,000) after a ten-year absence. He’s come at the request of Mike, an attorney and politician who functions as the benevolent political king of Duval. Mike needs Talbot’s help to find Mike’s missing law partner, and Talbot owes Mike a big favor from a decade earlier. Because this is a Harry Whittington novel, Talbot quickly learns that Mike is now married to Talbot’s old flame, Nita. Did I mention that she is beautiful and stacked?
Anyway, Mike seems to be a pretty honest politician, but his rival is a corrupt sheriff who controls the rackets in Duval. Could the sheriff have anything to do with the missing lawyer? Perhaps Nita knows more than she’s saying? Can Talbot navigate the corruption of Duval to learn the truth? Throw a spicy young stripper into the plot to further confuse Talbot’s loyalties, and we have a pretty traditional hardboiled mystery.
I’d describe “So Dead My Love” as a middle-of-the-road Whittington novel. It’s nowhere near as brilliant as “A Ticket to Hell” but it’s way better than “Saturday Night Town,” for example. The mystery was legit, and Talbot was a compelling main character to follow through the twists and turns thus making this paperback a fairly easy recommendation. Don’t move heaven and earth to buy a copy, but if you can read it on the cheap, it’s worth your time.