Between 1950 and 1958, prominent interior designer Richard Himmel (1920-2000) wrote five novels starring a hard-nosed Chicago lawyer named Johnny Maguire with the first being “I’ll Find You” (U.K. title: “It’s Murder, Maguire”). Both the cover art and synopsis sell the novel as a melodramatic romance, but the reality is that Himmel wrote something likely to please readers of well-written hardboiled crime who are also comfortable with some romance and human drama in their stories.
“I’ll Find You” begins with Johnny being rousted out of bed by the cops. A female client named Cynthia that he’d attempted to romance was dead, and Johnny was the last person to see her alive. As narrator, Johnny recounts the trajectory of their brief relationship (“She needed some rough stuff, she needed a guy like me to let her have it, to give it to her good.”) that became an obsession to the horndog lawyer. Here’s the thing: Cynthia had Johnny, as her attorney, bring her $200,000 cash the night of her death, and she supposedly committed suicide by walking into Lake Michigan in the pitch darkness with all that cash. Neither her body nor the money were ever recovered making it the most Fawcett Gold Medal demise in the history of death.
Johnny is a very funny narrator and a self-deprecating lawyer. He explains to the reader that he was a night school guy, and he shares an office on Chicago’s State Street full of low-end punk attorneys, poseurs who use fancy stationary to create the illusion of successful practices. He’s a ladies man, dead broke, and completely honest - with one exception. You see, Johnny does some legal work for a local mob boss in Chicago. Nothing serious, but Johnny knows that his client is seriously bent. His relationship with the racketeer makes for an interesting subplot that gets intertwined with the missing girl story.
Naturally, Johnny begins to suspect that maybe Cynthia’s “suicide” was staged, and he can’t get her out of his mind. The plot is really about Johnny conducting an investigation into Cynthia’s disappearance - and possible suicide - based solely on his romantic obsession with her. The mystery brings Johnny down to Florida in search of the truth. To be fair, there’s a lot of romantic content in the Florida part of the book, and if that’s problematic for you, skip this one. If you’re willing to buy the idea that a guy will turn the world upside-down for a woman he hardly knows based on a hunch she’s alive and in trouble, you’re bound to enjoy this short, well-written paperback.
Richard Himmel was an outstanding writer, and “I’ll Find You” is a quality book. It must have been a successful title for the publisher as the paperback went through five print runs between 1950 and 1955. That’s good news for you decades later because there should be ample old copies for you to find and read today. And you should. This is one of the better genre novels - call it romantic suspense- from the dawn of paperback originals. If it helps, disregard the overwrought romantic cover art and focus on the revolver sticking out of Johnny’s pocket. Recommended.
The Johnny Maguire series by Richard Himmel:
I’ll Find You. Gold Medal, 1950
The Chinese Keyhole, Gold Medal, 1951
I Have Gloria Kirby, Gold Medal, 1951
Two Deaths Must Die, Gold Medal, 1954
The Rich and the Damned. Gold Medal, 1958
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