Frank Kane is primarily known as the author of the popular series of novels and short stories from 1944 though 1965 starring private eye Johnny Liddell. He also wrote a handful of stand-alone novels including 1955‘s “Liz” and 1958’s “Syndicate Girl,” both of which have been re-released by Stark House in one volume.
Liz Allen is a voluptuous young woman - a drifter on the road at age 19. When we meet her, she’s in the county lock-up being whipped with a belt at the hands of a corrupt sheriff. Kane knew exactly what he was doing by writing the scene both shockingly violent and pruriently erotic. The tables quickly turn, and the sheriff learns that revenge is a bitch - named Liz!
Kane knew damn well that his target audience for this one were horny, twisted dudes like you and wrote for that audience. Check this out from the opening scene:
“She was long-legged, full-hipped. Her breasts were round, firm and pink-tipped, her stomach flat. The whiteness of her thighs and buttocks was marred by the angry red welts left by the strap.”
After escaping the clutches of the evil sheriff, Liz makes her way to a roadhouse where she lands a job as a “bar girl” pushing drinks and avoiding companionship with lonely men looking to cop a feel. The bar has cabins out back in case Liz and the other bar girls want to hustle a few bucks on the side. It's here where she arouses small-town horndog Gunson. She convinces him to drive her out of town on his dime. Gunson and Liz soon become natural born killers, cruelly robbing and killing a hotel manager before Liz chances upon an opportunity to ascend the criminal hierarchy.
A Syndicate kingpin pays Liz to become a woman named Lorna Andrews. Under the guise of a swanky "cigarette girl" (she hip-sways brand cigarettes to patrons), Liz seduces a federal prosecutor into an uncompromising situation. With the set-up, newspaper photos are secretly taken and the prosecutor is ridiculed and ruined by the press. The Syndicate wins, but Liz isn't through with the game.
We quickly learn that Liz is no pushover and she’s done playing the victim to predatory men. In fact, she’s kind of a badass worthy of the men’s adventure genre. Using connections and experience, Liz climbs the Syndicate ranks through a vast array of sex, violence and smooth bribery.
I was struck by the intensity of the vengeful violence in a book that was originally marketed as a sexy sleaze paperback. The reality is that “Liz” felt like Mack Bolan meets Thelma & Louise. Kane's penchant for barbaric violence is balanced with salacious sexual teasing. Liz rarely puts out, which works as a magnetic conservative charm. The enjoyment for the reader is pondering this consistent question: Is she just sexing him up for the slaughter?
“Liz” is recommended as a unique crime-noir, a hybrid of tantalizing sexual desires thrust into a treacherous Mob crossfire. Kudos to Stark House Press for offering another hard to find paperback to the masses. This one is hard to beat.
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