Brute in Brass was a 1956 Fawcett Gold Medal paperback by Harry Whittington (1915-1989) published at a time when the prolific Florida author was at the top of his game. He probably was paid $2,000 for the novel with the promise of bonuses if the paperback saw multiple printings. In 1987, Black Lizard Books reprinted a handful of Whittington books including Brute in Brass under Whittington’s original manuscript title Forgive Me Killer.
Mike Ballard is a vice cop currently under investigation for corruption. This presents an immediate problem because he is also a bag man and fixer for a mobster nightclub owner with plenty of secrets. Mike’s got a girlfriend of sorts he set up in an apartment who’s not getting the emotional connection she desires. She wants to be his wife - anyone’s wife, really - but Mike likes the current no-strings arrangement.
Mike travels to a prison to see a death row inmate named Earl Walker who maintains his innocence of the murder that landed him on the electric chair waiting list. During the investigation, Mike was the only cop who didn’t beat Walker to elicit a confession, so he’s the one Walker begs to help save his life. Mike also has his eye on Walker’s comely wife, which is the real reason he agrees to help.
As you may have gathered, Mike is kind of a heel. But he’s one of those heels that you kind of like because he’s smart, tough and blunt - a good, but somewhat dirty, cop. He also evolves over the course of the novel to locate the decency within himself while solving a fascinating mystery and navigating a minefield of personal and professional problems.
Brute in Brass was another winner among Whittington’s 170 identified novels. The hero, Mike Ballard, is a badass fighter who should have starred in a series of his own.
There’s a theory that Mike Ballard was intended by Harry Whittington to be a series character - the key to a crime fiction author’s commercial success in the 1950s and now. He wrote a second Ballard novel called Any Woman He Wanted, but it was rejected by Fawcett Gold Medal.
The sequel was finally published in 1961 by second-tier paperback house Beacon under the pseudonym Whit Harrison. By then, any momentum toward making the protagonist a franchise was gone, and Whittington never tried again to launch a series of his own.
Any Woman He Wanted (Mike Ballard #2) remains available as a reprint from Stark House Noir Classics (HERE). Watch Paperback Warrior for a review coming soon.
Buy a copy of this book HERE