To the extent that crime fiction author Richard Deming is remembered today, it’s for his many TV tie-in novels (Dragnet, Mod Squad, Starsky & Hutch) or his one-legged P.I. character, Manville Moon. However, he also wrote an interesting three-book series of hardboiled police procedurals starring Matt Rudd, a vice cop in the fictional city of St. Cecilia. The three Rudd novels are “Vice Cop” (1961), “Anything but Saintly” (1963), and “Death of a Pusher” (1964) - all of which are available today as cheap eBooks.
In a 1960 interview, Deming said that his Matt Rudd character (real name: Mateuz Rudowski) was originally designed to steal market share from Richard Prather’s Shell Scott series. Other than both detectives solving mysteries in sexually-charged environments (Rudd is, after all, a Vice Cop), they really aren’t all that similar - other than the fact that first-person narration and the fact that both heroes get laid. For my money, Deming was a far better writer than Prather.
“Vice Cop” begins with a citizen showing up at the police station to report a society dame who hosts “marijuana parties” with sex orgies at her home attended by the idle wealthy. Because the world was a very different place in 1961, the department assigns Rudd to begin dating a sexy reefer user in an undercover capacity, so he could score an invite to this recurring pot party in a private home. (Your tax dollars at work, 1961 America.)
Although the premise is stupid by today’s standards, Deming is still able to weave this into a credible crime novel. As long as you can see this as a historical artifact, “Vice Cop” is a minimally compelling police procedural story with well-written prose and a highly-likable blue-collar main character in Rudd. He’s a funny, and self-deprecating cop who makes you wish you were his drinking buddy. Narration this good makes the 175 pages fly by, but it still wasn’t much of a great novel.
Last year, I read and reviewed the second book in the Matt Rudd series, “Anything but Saintly.” It was a far superior effort than “Vice Cop” and more worth your time. You can probably just skip this one and try some of Deming’s better works. After all, life’s too short to read so-do crime fiction.
Buy a copy of this book HERE