Kansas City native Frank E. Smith wrote over 100 novels and 300 short stories during his writing career. Most of his crime fiction was published under the pseudonym Jonathan Craig, including ten police procedural novels in his Pete Selby-Stan Rayder series during the 1950s and 1960s. These paperbacks were later rebranded as ‘The Sixth Precinct’ books in the 1970s for a re-release. I recently discovered that there may be other stories in the series buried among the author’s magazine work.
The last Pete Selby novel was “Case of the Brazen Beauty” in 1966, but it appears that Smith resurrected his popular police detective characters again in September 1970 for a novella titled “The Girl in Gold” published in “Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.” The 20-page story was also included in three Hitchcock anthologies:
- Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Grave Business (1975)
- Alfred Hitchcock’s Borrowers of the Night (1983)
- Portraits of Murder (1988)
My theory is that Smith revisited the characters for this 1970 novella knowing that Belmont-Tower would soon be reprinting the Selby novels as “The Sixth Precinct” series. Smith was likely hoping that “The Girl in Gold” would spark a renewed interest in the series that hadn’t seen publication in four years. Or maybe he just felt creatively drawn to revisit some old friends.
In any case “The Girl in Gold” is a fun read and a worthwhile entry into the series. The story begins with a boy flagging down Selby and Rayder to show them a man who landed in the alley behind a Manhattan hotel - presumably having come from the open third-floor window above. Because this is a murder mystery story, suicide and accidental death are quickly ruled out.
A visit inside the hotel identifies the deceased as Harry Lambert, and his room on the third floor uncovers a hotel glass with lipstick on the rim. Jewelers cases in the room are suspiciously missing the gold and diamonds they once contained. With a probable motive and the gender of the suspect, the detectives have clues to leverage in order to solve the case within 20 pages.
Like a normal police procedural, the reader rides along with Selby and Rayder as they interview witnesses and suspects until the clues lead them to a likely solution. There was a neat little hardboiled twist in the final scene that tipped this short story from good to great. Overall, “The Girl in Gold” was a worthwhile diversion from an author who I continue to enjoy.
This story and a Jonathan Craig feature are both on episode three of the Paperback Warrior Podcast.
Buy a copy of this story HERE