Beginning in 2017, Stark House Press began releasing the Al Wheeler series by author Alan Yates, better known as paperback extraordinaire Carter Brown. These 1950s mysteries are easy reads about a West Coast lieutenant who assists the commissioner on difficult whodunits. Stark House released the first volume in 2017, containing Wheeler entries 1-3. That followed in 2018 with the 4-6 installments. In March of 2019, books 7-9 were released. When choosing an affordable Stark House collection ($20 paper, $6 digital), pay no mind to series order because there isn't one. Al Wheeler is a cop. There's beautiful women. A crime needs to be solved. These aren't labor intensive.
Wheeler is summoned by the commissioner to assist an arrogant homicide detective named Hammond. Wheeler, always holding Scotch, is to locate the murderer of two women found dead in San Francisco alleyways. The only clue is that each have a snake tattoo and they are from out of town. Never a strongman, our bumbling sleuth somehow backs himself into a call girl racket that involves mortuaries, hair salons and a hilltop mansion that might hold the answers.
The scenic coastline provides a beautiful backdrop for Wheeler's actions. The investigation eventually leads to fisticuffs, but not before both Wheeler and Hammond verbally spar on who's right and wrong. Of course Wheeler is attempting to get laid, but never settles to just pay for it (a prostitute practically wants to pay him!). It's when he meets the stunning goddess Jo Dexter that his sex-drive hits overdrive. But this is the tame paperback kingdom of the 1950s, so that sort of thing is more suggested than described.
Carter Brown is firmly master of his domain and proves it with “No Law Against Hair-Dye”....I mean “Angels”. This was a gripping, short read that I read in nearly one sitting. Al Wheeler is hilarious with his endless sarcasm, never completely in control but somehow being three steps in front of the bad guys and the reader. This is absolutely entertaining and a must read.
Note - This U.K. book was released in the US in 1958 as "The Body".
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