“Drawn to Evil” is narrated by a Tampa Police homicide detective named Marty Carter who was passed up for the position of division chief because he was just too brutal. A beloved and respected state senator is murdered in cold blood, and Marty vows to catch the killer. In the aftermath of the senator’s murder, Marty meets Liza, the deceased’s grieving wife, and immediately becomes infatuated with her. Because this is a Harry Whittington novel, Liza’s a sultry, young looker. And because this is 1952, Marty has to slap her around a bit to get her attention after they first meet. Times do change.
Marty’s plan is that he’ll be the detective who solves the murder, and the Liza will be his prize. The problem is that Marty’s boss wants his help on the investigative team but has banned Marty from using his usual rubber hose tactics. So the cop who is normally a powder keg of violence races to solve the murder using pretty standard police procedures. Of course, a promise of restraint like that only can last so long. Marty is a fun character to ride along with because he is so filled with menace while trying (and failing) to do the right thing. He is pure id - fueled by lust and ambition.
The mystery takes Marty into the details of the senator’s personal life and into the bowels of Tampa’s crime syndicate. The action moves fast, and there are plenty of dysfunctional and twisted characters to gawk at along the way. More so than Whittington’s later crime novels, “Drawn to Evil” is a pretty conventional mystery - with a murder, clues, suspects, motives and a solution. However, things take a very dark and Whittington turn with about 30 pages left in the paperback when we leave Mike Shayne territory and go to a perverse and violent place at last.
As I wind my way through Harry Whittington’s body of work, I’d put “Drawn to Evil” in the top-tier of his crime fiction writing. It had the requisite amount of sex, violence, amorality and darkness to declare this one a true noir fiction classic. The fact that it’s basically free as an eBook makes this a no-brainer must-read for fans of this type of thing. Highly recommended.
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Great review. I have one question because the review indicates the book is a "true noir fiction classic." I thought I knew what film noir was because I watch a lot of old classic movies. But when I recently did an internet search on what qualifies as noir in fiction, I read the distinction between hardboiled and noir genres is that in hardboiled the protagonist is the detective, and in noir the protagonist is either the suspect, the perpetrator, or the victim, as long as it's anyone but a detective. What do you think, or is that just plain wrong.
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