Monday, August 21, 2023


Stark House Press, and their imprint Black Gat Books, have done a fantastic job preserving Lorenz F. Heller's bibliography for modern audiences. Heller, a New Jersey native, authored a number of stellar crime-fiction and sleaze novels in the mid-20th century using names like Larry Heller, Larry Holden, Lorenz Heller, and Laura Hale. He also penned television scripts using the name George Sims. 

We continue our examination of Heller's reprints with Ruby, a crime-noir novel originally published by Lion in 1956. Stark House Press has published the novel as a twofer with another of the author's 1956 Lion publications, Hot. Both of these novels were originally published under the Frederick Lorenz pseudonym.

As Ruby kicks off, readers are introduced to Joe Latham, a former Army veteran that is now a successful Florida charter captain working the beach tourists in the Gulf of Mexico. Unbeknownst to Latham, his former girlfriend, Ruby, has been murdered. He finds this out from the local small-town deputy, a pudgy vile lawman named Floyd. Like a variant of the fugitive-on-the-run story, all fingers point to Latham as Ruby's killer. Fortunately, Latham was still in love with Ruby, so he has doubled reasons for finding her killer and clearing his own name.

Latham's amateur detective role is vividly brought to life as each page effortlessly slides by. Heller's prose is just so smooth as the protagonist digs through Ruby's most recent relationships to find suspects. His contention with the local police is a real highlight, and becomes the star attraction as the narrative flows into the book's calculated and rewarding finale. An enjoyable element to the story is a young kid that Latham is voluntarily mentoring, so his safekeeping is paramount as Latham seeks the murderer. Additionally, Heller blends a unique embezzlement side-story into Ruby's murder, making the crime a bit more dynamic.

Like usual, Lorenz Heller delivers a twisty and riveting crime-noir tale saturated with defining characters and a memorable storyline. Why Heller wasn't ranked higher in the crime-fiction literary echelon is a real mystery. Ultimately, Stark House Press is doing God's work by keeping his memory and work alive. Recommended! 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

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