Showing posts with label William Ard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label William Ard. Show all posts

Friday, August 26, 2022

Timothy Dane #03 - The Diary

William Ard (1922-1960) was a popular author of mystery and western fiction during the 1950s whose nine-book series starring Timothy Dane remains highly regarded today. The series can be read in any order and Fiction Hunter Press recently re-released the third installment, 1953’s The Diary, as a $3 ebook.

Dane is a fairly typical 1950s Manhattan private-eye who is summoned to the home of a wealthy industrialist seeking to engage his services. The client has an attractive 18 year-old daughter named Diane whose diary was stolen. The old man isn’t particularly worried about this, but his daughter is freaking out and wants a PI on the job — so here we are. The suspect is a Spanish Harlem Mexican hood, who apparently stole the journal while doing some work at the estate.

When Dane makes his jaunt into Spanish Harlem, he quickly learns that the gig isn’t going to be as easy as he thought. Lurking in the background of the mystery is the specter of big-city politics and a race between two candidates to recover the diary and its secrets. There’s also a murder, and that’s the real mystery to be solved. Could the contents of a teenage girl’s diary be worth committing a homicide?

Dane’s engagement evolves into a bodyguard duty looking after the horny Diane, and there’s some sexy seduction within the pages of this 69 year-old paperback. Overall, this was a rather enjoyable, if insubstantial, private-eye mystery. While the Timothy Dane series isn’t the high point of Ard’s body of work, The Diary is a solid installment from a prolific young author whose life was cut short way too soon. It’s good to see publishers keeping his body of work alive. 

Buy a copy of the eBook HERE.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Timothy Dane #8 - Hell is a City

In his introduction to the Ramble House reprint of William Ard’s 1955 novel Hell Is a City, Francis M. Nevins makes a compelling case that the paperback is the finest installment in the popular ten-book series starring Manhattan Private Eye Timothy Dane. I’m also told that the series can be read in any order, so why not start with the best?

It’s ten days before the mayoral election in New York City. The polls indicate that corrupt mayor, Big George Kramer, is looking at a tough race against his challenger, the honest Manhattan District Attorney. The idea of losing the race is galling enough to the mayor, but the prospect of facing a subsequent investigation into his graft and embezzlement fills Big George with a special kind of terror.

Meanwhile, a disturbed young man kills a vice cop trying to engage in coercive sex with his virginal sister in a fleabag hotel. The scared siblings - Rita and Jamie - got away from the scene of the crime, but they know darn well that it’s only a matter of time before the cops catch up with them.

These two plot lines collide when the mayor decides to leverage sympathy for the dead cop to smear his anti-corruption opponent. Private eye Timothy Dane enters the scene after being engaged by a local muckraking newspaper to investigate the cop killing and poke holes in the mayor’s martyr narrative. Meanwhile, Rita and Jamie are on the run without knowing who they can trust.

Overall, Hell Is a City is pretty good, but I question those who say it’s Ard’s masterpiece. I enjoyed Wanted: Danny Fontaine and All I Can Get way more. The heroes of those novels are way more interesting and charismatic than Timothy Dane. Hell Is a City is a well-crafted bit of crime fiction, and you’ll probably enjoy it just fine. I just question how high it should be on your priority list. I think I probably got sucked in by the hype, and by that measure, the paperback under performed.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Friday, May 22, 2020

Danny Fontaine #01 - As Bad As I Am

William Ard wrote a two-book series starring Danny Fontaine - an actor turned ex-con trying to make a life for himself in New York City. Those books were As Bad As I Am (1959 - also released as Wanted: Danny Fontaine) and the second book, When She Was Bad (1960). Ramble House has released the two Danny Fontaine books in a single trade paperback as Two Kinds of Bad with a helpful introduction by Francis M. Nevins. I’ve been dying to explore the first Fontaine book, and the reprint made it an easy lift.

As Bad As I Am opens with 30 year-old former stage actor Danny Fontaine being paroled from prison where he just served five years for beating a muscle-man to death because the meathead was being rough with a girl. We learn early in the novel that Danny’s Achilles heel is his desire to help women - regardless of legalities, and this affliction has landed Danny in jail before. Because of this, a condition of Danny’s parole is that he can’t date or have sex with a woman for the 18 month term of his supervised release.

Danny warms up to the idea of getting back into acting, and, of course, meets a girl in the process. Her name is Gloria, and the aspiring actress is the hottest little dish - and sweetness personified. When Danny becomes a murder suspect, Gloria is the one he turns to for shelter and a base of operations to establish his innocence. Late in the novel, they turn to a Manhattan private eye named Barney Glines to help clear Danny’s name.

Earlier in his career, William Ard wrote two books under the pen name of Thomas Wills starring a private eye named Barney Glines. Those two books were: You'll Get Yours (1952) and Mine To Avenge (1955). Later, when Ard began the Danny Fontaine series, Glines becomes a major character in the short-lived franchise. Ard basically created his own little Marvel Universe of overlapping series titles shared between his own name and a pseudonym.

In any case, Private Eye Barney Glines is, by far, the best character in this Danny Fontaine debut. He’s a funny, self-confident, can-do guy who takes control of the situation and helps navigate Danny out of his mess. It’s not a fast-moving thrill-ride of a paperback, but I still enjoyed As Bad As I Am. Ard was an awesome writer and he unfolds his plots really well - even when there’s not much action taking place. The dialogue and characters were vivid and real. I’m told that in the second book starring Danny, When She Was Bad, the jailbird becomes a private investigator working for Barney’s firm. I can’t wait to read it and tell you about it.

William Ard probably would have written more books starting Danny Fontaine after the second installment, but the 37 year-old author died of cancer in 1960 ending a promising career as an edgy and innovative voice on the crime fiction landscape. For my part, I’m just thankful that some of his work remains available today. Ard was a powerhouse talent in a crowded field, and he deserves to be remembered.

Fun-Fact:

The title As Bad As I Am comes from a traditional Scottish toast:

Here’s to you, as good as you are,
And here’s to me, as bad as I am;
As bad as I am and as good as you are,
I am good as you are, as bad as I am.

Buy a copy of the two-book compilation HERE

Monday, May 4, 2020

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 42

On Episode 42 of the Paperback Warrior Podcast, we do a deep dive into the life and work of author William Ard (aka Jonas Ward) as well as a review of Clifton Adams’ DAY OF THE GUN and much, much more! Listen on your favorite podcast app, Paperback Warrior.com or download directly here (LINK).


Listen to "Episode 42: William Ard" on Spreaker.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Lou Largo #01 - All I Can Get

Before his untimely death at the age of 38 in 1960, William Ard was on a roll writing popular mystery fiction under his own name as well as the Buchanan westerns under the pseudonym Jonas Ward. Ard’s demise interrupted his Lou Largo series of hardboiled private eye novels, but the character lived on through later installments written by ghost writers Lawrence Block and John Jakes before they became famous. Ard’s first two Lou Largo novels are expensive collector’s items, but they have been reprinted in a single volume by Ramble House Books providing an affordable opportunity to enjoy the 1959 opening installment, All I Can Get.

Largo is a charming and wisecracking Manhattan private investigator with a difficult client: a wealthy media mogul named Milton Weston. Largo is hired to perform a background check on Mr. Weston’s new infatuation - a gold-digging chippy that he intends to make his eighth wife. The tycoon is thoroughly uninterested in hearing the truth about the party girl and refuses to pay Largo’s fee at a time when Largo’s reserve funds are running thin.

Ard begins the Lou Largo debut in a fun, lighthearted style that recalls the Carter Brown mysteries featuring over-the-top, wealthy eccentrics who Largo is forced to endure for business and economic reasons. And then things take a very clever turn. Nothing is as it seems in the opening act of this deceptively simple novel. Through a non-linear storyline with early-novel flashbacks and flash-forwards reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, the reader is treated to the story behind the story, and we learn that Largo has a little deception in his heart as well regarding the girl. This early-plot twist catapults All I Can Get from a simple, lighthearted crime novel into something bordering on brilliant. And sexy. 

While never veering into pornography or graphic descriptions of lovemaking, All I Can Get was surprising explicit for a 1959 novel. I couldn’t imagine sex scenes like this in 1952 as the world apparently just wasn’t ready at that point. Seven years later, here we are. The sex scenes work because they have real context and help to explain the decisions the characters make throughout this well-crafted paperback.

As the story progresses, it becomes clear that the doomed romance between the millionaire and the sexpot is actually the subplot, not the main dish. The real story involves the Cuban syndicate based out of Tampa’s Ybor City neighborhood and a newspaper rivalry in a nearby beach town. Lou Largo isn’t even present for a large part of the book’s second act. But sure enough, Ard weaves these threads into the early-novel story of Largo, Mr. Weston and his new fiancĂ©. All of this leads to a genuinely exciting and violent conclusion.

This is a tough book to review because I don’t want to spoil anything for you. If you enjoy crime fiction and can appreciate truly exceptional writing in the genre, you’re bound to be pleased with All I Can Get. It’s as if Ard took a close look at the dumb-but-fun private-eye sub-genre (think Richard Prather’s Shell Scott books) and asked himself “How can I turn this formula on its ear, and make it something that transcends the genre?”

Ard writes in a style popularized by Ed McBain in his 87th Precinct series. Basically, it’s a third-person narration with doses of personality and commentary sprinkled into the action with the omniscient point of view. It makes for a fun read, and Ard’s humorous narrative quips are a delight. It gives the reader the sense that you’re in good hands with Ard as your tour guide on this twisty paperback ride.

The downside is that Ard is considered to be a “collectible” author by the types of people who buy vintage paperbacks, encase them in plastic, and never read a word. Thank heavens Ramble House has compiled the first two books in the series into a single trade paperback volume titled Calling Lou Largo, which you can purchase HERE. However you get your hands on a reading copy of All I Can Get, please do so. It’s something special.

Addendum

Lou Largo Series Order and True Authors:

1. All I Can Get (1959) by William Ard
2. Like Ice She Was (1960) by William Ard
3. Babe in the Woods (1960) by Lawrence Block
4. Make Mine Mavis (1961) by John Jakes
5. And So to Bed (1962) by John Jakes
6. Give Me This Woman (1962) by John Jakes

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

You'll Get Yours

Although dying at the early age of 37, William Ard (1922-1960) penned over 30 novels under his own name as well as pseudonyms like Mike Moran, Jonas Ward, Ken Hamlin and Ben Kerr. As Thomas Wills, Ard wrote two novels starring private investigator Barney Glines, “You'll Get Yours” (1952) and “Mine to Avenge” (1955). Stark House Press imprint Black Gat has re-printed “You'll Get Yours” at an affordable price to attract new generations to this talented writer.

Press agent Archie St. George has summoned Glines to his office to meet aspiring actress Kyle Shannon. St. George has encouraged Shannon to explain her dire situation to Glines in hopes she will hire him to investigate. Shannon has her debut film on the cusp of theatrical release after years of modeling leggings. Shannon doesn't want the public to realize she has inherited a fortune from her dead father. Apparently women in the 1950s can't become legitimate film stars if they come from wealthy stock. So, the secret of her fortune, as well as the $100,000 in diamonds she carries in a suitcase, is being suppressed from the public until she reaches widespread appeal. Then her personal fortune will simply blend into her robust box-office earnings with none the wiser.

Glines becomes involved because someone has stolen her diamonds. Shannon, hoping the thief won't reveal the diamond's owner to the public, wants Glines to recover the jewelry. This is an elementary plot and Wiliam Ard thankfully knows it. That's why he throws a box of wrenches in the gears to surprise the characters and reader. This isn't just an average jewel heist.

The thief contacts Glines and advises he will ransom back the jewels for a meager $20K. Suspicious of the offer, Glines accepts the deal and offers Shannon's money for the box of diamonds. After looking through the box, Shannon wants to know where the real fortune is. Puzzled, Glines points out that the diamonds are indeed there. However, Shannon's real treasure were a series of nude photos that she kept secure with the diamonds...in her missing suitcase. Suspending belief, I'm buying it I suppose. Now, Glines next job is to locate the stolen pictures before the thief can ransom them to the press.

Glines’ role as investigator inevitably leads to him falling in love with Shannon. But she's in love with St. George, who alone seems to have more interest in Shannon's wealth and potential than her sultry red hair. As Glines digs deeper into the heist, he finds himself tangled in a heroin ring that leads to his own false arrest. Attempting to prove his innocence, he teams with a homicide detective to track Shannon's extortionist through New York.

For a 1952 paperback, Ard pulls no punches. There's a number of deaths, detailed drug abuse and a somewhat critical inspection of police procedure. In terms of violence...let's say 1970s and 80s men's action-adventure might be a close comparison. In one shocking scene, thugs hold Glines down while absolutely obliterating a drugged out hooker in a hail of bullets. That's bold. But what's really interesting about Ard's position is his candid look at the price of popularity. Even in today's modern times, we still see this same situation: celebrities' privacy auctioned off to the highest bidder. Then it was calendars and magazines, today it's social networks, leaked sex tapes and TMZ.

With “You'll Get Yours,” Ard proves to be a cunning architect of plotting as he scripts the perfect storm of bribery, jealousy, extortion and intrigue. The book's fiery finale asks if there is more for Barney Glines. Let's hope Stark House has the affordable answer. This novel's sequel, “Mine to Avenge,” demands a hefty price tag as an out of print used paperback online.

This book was discussed on the fourth episode of the Paperback Warrior Podcast: Link

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, July 29, 2019

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 04

The newest episode of the Paperback Warrior Podcast is out now! In Episode 4, we discuss the brand new Stark House “Manhunt” magazine compilation. Also, we check out the “Man from U.N.C.L.E” influence on spy fiction and offer two new reviews. We close out the month of July with our top three book picks of the month. Don't miss it! Follow the show on any streaming service as well as below:

Listen to "Episode 04: It’s a Manhunt!" on Spreaker.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Buchanan #02 - Buchanan Says No

Crime writer William Ard experienced 1960s success with his private eye characters Barney Glines, Timothy Dane, Lou Largo and Johnny Stevens. His impressive 10-year peak run of writing included pseudonyms Ben Kerr and Mike Moran. But, the then Florida resident turned his attention to the western genre by adding a W to his last name and becoming Jonas Ward. He combined that with his ad exec experience at the Buchanan Ad Agency and created the loner cowboy Tom Buchanan for an astounding 23-book series simply called 'Buchanan'. The debut, “Names's Buchanan”, was published in 1956 and it's 1957 sequel is the subject at hand, “Buchanan Says No”. 

The book begins after a tiring and exhaustive 40 day cattle drive that promises to pay Buchanan, his kid protegee Mike Sandoe and the whole crew a nice $400 payday. But, after a day of waiting at the end of the drive, the payroll guy hasn't shown up. Buchanan learns that the payer, Boyd Weston, is in the nearby town of Bela so he and Sandoe head for the town. From here we gain some insight on Bela, and its splitting between power hungry Frank Power and his partner Bernie Troy. The cattle drive was arranged as a backwoods deal – cattle to the US Army for guns that will later be traded to Mexico to in turn fight the US Army. It's a vicious circle but Troy and Power trust Weston to arrange the whole thing. Unfortunately, Weston blew the whole payroll pot on a poor night of gambling. Instead of ponying up the shortfall, Power and Troy agree to give the crew of laborers 10% of their promised payout as a final and only payment. 

While the plot could be construed as elementary from the surface – the “good guys” want the rich to pay – it has some deeper layers that keep it from being average. First, Sandoe is contracted by Power to provide the 10% news to the crew. Partly because he is the fastest hand in town but also because he needs to be divided from the deceptive and dangerous Buchanan. This turns the narrative into the teacher facing his student. But, there's the political portion of the town to contend with as well as two beauties that Buchanan must handle. In Ard's humorous “wink wink” fashion, Buchanan fondles one woman while another waits at the door for her turn. It's brilliant storytelling that left me laughing (and Buchanan was too at his incredible fortune). The story builds with intrigue, but laced with a number of fighting scenes that propels the inevitable showdown between Buchanan and Sandoe.

“Buchanan Says No” is my first sampling of this much beloved western series. In fact, it's my first taste of Ard's work as a whole. He's a fantastic storyteller here, creating a rich tapestry of action and intrigue that should please fans of the action-adventure genre. I have a lot of Buchanan books to devour, and like everything else, it's just simply a timing issue that I haven't read more. Look for more Buchanan and Ard reviews here soon.

Buy a copy of this book HERE