Between 1959 and 1961, Charles E. Fritch (1927-2012) wrote a quasi-series of five private eye paperbacks in which the main character’s name changed regularly as well as the pseudonyms used by Fritch when publishing the novels. In various installments, the protagonist’s name was Mark Wonder, Christopher Sly, or Nicholas Gamble while the author names were Charles Fritch, Christopher Sly, Eric Thomas, and Christopher Brockden. It’s a mess to understand and unsurprising that the books never took off commercially. The series order, heroes, pseudonyms and publishers are all hashed out below in the addendum to this review.
The fourth book in the series (although they can be read in any order) is “7 Deadly Sinners” by Christopher Sly, starring private detective Christopher Sly from 1961. The novel is currently available as a trade paperback reprint from Wildside Press restoring Charles Fritch’s own name as the author. Fritch went on to have a successful career as the editor of 'Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine'.
Christopher Sly (the character, not the pseudonym) is a wisecracking Hollywood private eye with an assignment any red-blooded man would relish: he needs to guard seven starlets for a local movie studio to ensure they stay out of trouble before a publicity tour. The catch is that one of the seven beauties was a girlfriend of a deported mafioso. The syndicate wants to find her to ensure she remains silent forever about what she knows. The problem is that nobody knows which of the seven ladies is the girlfriend.
While Sly’s overt assignment is to keep all seven women alive, his secret mission is to identify the mobster’s ex-girlfriend. His only clue to get this done is the knowledge that she has a diamond-shaped birthmark down near her lady-parts. Yes, you read that right. Sly’s needs to discreetly examine each of the seven to determine which woman is the mob’s target and take extra care to keep her alive thereafter. His preferred method is seduction, but other opportunities arise as well. Okay, I’ll grant you that this is a stupid and contrived premise, but it’s basically a lighthearted sex-romp mystery in the same manner as a thin 'Carter Brown' or 'Shell Scott' novel.
This is a very horny paperback with a fair amount of sexually explicit content. We get lots of moaning animal sounds, heaving breasts, and expectant thighs, but the descriptors seldom take it to the next level. The sex scenes - and there are quite a few - are more graphic than a Shell Scott book but less explicit than a 'Longarm' Western. The original publisher, Athena Publications, was a sleaze fiction paperback house that pushed the limits far more than the Ace Double housing Fritch’s 1959 private eye novel, “Negative of a Nude.”
The twisty solution to the paperback’s central mystery is so painfully obvious that any reader will see it coming from a mile away. The ending was also abrupt as if Fritch hit his contractual word count and just stopped writing. Despite its simplicity, “7 Deadly Sinners” was a mostly fun, low-impact read. Only you can decide if the $8.49 price tag for the paperback reprint is worth the cost of this mindless diversion. Paying much more for a bawdy murder mystery really would be a crime.
Addendum: Charles Fritch’s P.I. Series Chronology
- Negative of a Nude by Charles Fritch (1959), Ace Double starring P.I. Mark Wonder
- Strip For Murder by Eric Thomas (1960), Kozy Books starring P.I. Christopher Sly
- Psycho Sinner by Eric Thomas (1961), Athena Books starring P.I. Mark Wonder
- 7 Deadly Sinners by Christopher Sly (1961), Athena Books starring P.I. Christopher Sly
- Fury in Black Lace by Charles Brockden (1962), Carousel Books starring P.I. Nicholas Gamble
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