“The Floater” is a police procedural novella by Jonathan Craig (real name: Frank E. Smith) that first appeared in the January 1955 issue of “Manhunt Magazine” and predates Craig’s similar ‘Police File’ and ‘Sixth Precinct/Pete Selby’ series titles from the same era. The novella has been reprinted by Black Cat Mysteries (a Wildside Press imprint) as a 99-cent eBook.
The story is told by NYPD homicide detective Jim Coren who, along with his partner, Paul Brader, is assigned the case of an 18 year-old female who washed ashore near Manhattan’s Pier 90. The author includes all sorts of interesting forensic science trivia about floaters that seems credible enough to me. The evidence convinces the fictional detectives that the girl was murdered before she was dumped in the water.
The officers follow a logical trail to determine if any missing persons match the demographics of the young floater. There’s something about a “Jonathan Craig” police procedural that’s so pure and logical that they’re always a pleasure to read. The detectives don’t have the colorful, fully-formed personalities of Ed McBain’s detectives of the 87th Precinct, but that approach places the evidence, procedures and suspects front-and-center. You can also count on the female victim of his stories to be involved in deviant or promiscuous sexual activity, and “The Floater” is no exception.
I’d be interested to know why the author was writing NYPD police procedurals during the same era for the ‘Police File’ series, the ‘Sixth Precinct/Pete Selby’ series and stand-alone stories like this one? Wouldn’t it have been better branding to pick one hero and ride him until he drops? It’s not like all these NYPD protagonists were differentiated in any meaningful way.
Sadly, Frank E. Smith died in 1984, so I’ll never get the chance to ask him about his career and the literary choices he made. It doesn’t seem as if he granted many interviews during his life or that anyone has made an exhaustive study of his writing. He was probably just one of those hard-working Florida authors at the time grinding out stories to feed his family. Anyway, the bottom line is that “The Floater” was a great story, and you should read it. Recommended.
A feature on Jonathan Craig is included in the third episode of the Paperback Warrior Podcast.
Buy a copy of this book HERE