In 1959 and 1960, NBC-TV aired a private eye show called “Markham” starring Ray Milland that ran for 59 episodes before cancellation. At the time, a young Lawrence Block was hired to write an original TV tie-in novel starring Markham that was finally released in 1961 - after the show had already been canceled. The paperback was originally published as “Markham: The Case of the Pornographic Photos,” but has since been re-released under Block’s original submitted title, “You Can Call It Murder.”
New York P.I. Roy Markham is engaged to find a missing 20 year-old girl named Barb who cleaned out her bank account and disappeared from her New Hampshire college. Her wealthy father is worried and wants Markham’s help to find his little girl. Barb runs with a fast crowd and loves to spend her daddy’s money, so its really just a question of what bad decision she’s made this time.
As always, Block’s writing is superb and Markam’s first-person narration recalls his early Matthew Scudder novels. Clear thinking, logic, and good detecting bring the P.I. closer to the novel’s solution. Markham isn’t a hardboiled detective cracking skulls along the way, but the underlying mystery takes him into the seamy underbelly of society giving the short novel enough gritty reality to keep the pages turning.
Although it was inconsequential upon its release, the original 1961 Markham paperback is now a collector’s item and will cost you a small fortune to buy. The paperback has been reprinted several times as “You Could Call It Murder” with rather generic covers that are readily available. Moreover, Block has been generous with his back-catalog and made the book available on Kindle for five bucks. Whatever the medium, this highly-enjoyable early novel is definitely worth your time. Recommended.
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