During the paperback explosion of the 1950s, many writers of different stripes tried to ride the post-pulp cultural wave with varying success. Fawcett Gold Medal released three stand-alone noir paperback original novels by New York Times columnist Tom Wicker using the pseudonym Paul Connolly, including the 1952 effort, “Tears are for Angels.”
When we meet our narrator, Harry London, he’s only got only one arm, and he’s alone in a remote cabin - drunk and depressed about something to do with his ex-wife. He’s visited by an attractive female named Jean Cummings whom he greets with suspicion and violence when she wants to hear his story. These opening scenes are a bit frustrating because the reader has no idea what’s happening or how Harry got into this position. Stick with it, though. You’re in for quite a ride.
It’s midway through chapter five - about 15% into the paperback - that the flashback begins enlightening the reader about how London finds himself in such a bad place. I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s an infidelity, a murder, a frame-up, and a cover-up followed by a scheme to exact revenge. There are many clever plot twists here that you must read to experience. This a great book written by an author with clear literary aspirations and an ability to craft a plot utilizing prose far exceeding most of the era’s noir stories. Things get a bit melodramatic towards the end, but the quality of the writing never fails.
“Tears are for Angels” really is a quality work of forgotten noir fiction that hasn’t been legally reprinted since its release over 66 years ago. It would be a natural fit for a modern release at the hands of Stark House or Hard Case Crime. For the rest of us, it’s just great reading. Recommended.
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