Showing posts with label Morocco Jones. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Morocco Jones. Show all posts

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Paperback Warrior Unmasking: Who Is Jack Baynes?

Jack Baynes was a pseudonym employed by Fawcett Crest for four paperback original crime novels starring Chicago private eye Morocco Jones published between 1957 and 1959. Recent eBook reprints of the novels brand the books as the War Against the Mafia series, a name that rings more than a few bells for us. Neither the original 1950s paperbacks or the 21st century eBook reprints answer the critical question:

Who the hell was Jack Baynes?

Bertram Baynes Fowler (1893-1981) was an editor and writer at the Christian Science Monitor with an interest in history and economics. He was also a popular public speaker on social science topics in the 1930s and 1940s. He wrote several non-fiction works advocating the formation of cooperative institutions such as credit unions and food co-ops as an alternative to the top-down approach of corporatism. Fowler viewed cooperative organizations as a way to split the difference between cutthroat capitalism and centralized government socialism at a time when America was struggling with those questions in the wake of the Great Depression and World War 2.

In the world of fiction, Fowler left only a few footprints behind. He sold two short stories to the pulps in 1936 using the pen name B.B. Fowler. In August 1936, Dime Mystery Magazine published his novelette School for Madness. He also delved into horror fiction with his story Huntress from Hell published in the October/November 1936 issue of Horror Stories magazine.

Diving into inconsequential paperback crime fiction during the late 1950s must have been a fun diversion for the writer, particularly with the commercial success Mickey Spillane was achieving at the time with his Mike Hammer stories. Recall that in the 1950s, paperback originals were lowbrow pop culture for the masses. As such, a writer and thinker whose ideas were often cited in economics journals would understandably want to publish his violent and tawdry fiction under the veil of anonymity that the Jack Baynes pseudonym provided Fowler.

The copyrights were never renewed on the Morocco Jones series which created an opportunity to bring these now public domain books back to digital life for an enterprising reprint house called Deerstalker Editions. The publisher is owned by Jean Marie Stine, a former editor at Leisure Books and assistant to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. On her blog, she says that she changed the titles of the Morocco Jones series because the originals “seem to have been created by an inattentive editor.”

The order and title variations of the Morocco Jones series are:

1. Meet Morocco Jones (1957). Reprinted as Morocco Jones and the Syndicate Hoods

2. Hand of the Mafia (1958). Reprinted as Hand of the Syndicate

3. The Peeping Tom Murders (1958). Reprinted as The Syndicate Murder Cult

4. The Case of the Golden Angel (1959). Reprinted as The Syndicate’s Golden Angel

Buy the books HERE

Morocco Jones #01 - Meet Morocco Jones

The Morocco Jones books by pseudonym Jack Baynes are a four-installment series debuting in 1957 written by a newspaperman and non-fiction writer named Bertram B. Fowler (1893-1981). The actual title of the debut remains a source of great debate. I’m guessing the full title is Meet Morocco Jones in the Case of the Syndicate Hoods but the spine of the original paperback simply reads Meet Morocco Jones. A recent eBook reprint re-titles the novel, Morocco Jones and the Syndicate Hoods. Same difference, I suppose.

The book opens with our hero, Morocco Jones, opening a private investigative agency in Chicago along with two colleagues from their spy days together. As Morocco explains to an old flame, “We have wealthy clients who pay well for the return of missing jewels, of embezzled funds; for straightening out a crooked caper. It's duck soup after the old days, honey."

Unfortunately, it’s not going to be that easy for Morocco this time. A commie spy named Bardo has a score to settle from the group’s European Cold War days and resurfaces in Chicago with a goal of killing Morocco and his partners. Even more vexing, Bardo is coopting hoodlums from the Chicago syndicate to be his local muscle. It’s a war against both the commies and the mafia in one, easy-reading volume.

Another wrinkle is that the three ex-spy partners had a fourth member of the team back in Europe named Chris who went missing years ago. It seems that Chris went through extensive plastic surgery to change his appearance and is now also lurking in Chicago. This tired gambit has been done before in adventure fiction and feels a little lazy to me. Chris’ resurfacing as someone else is clearly somehow related to Bardo’s resurfacing, but how?

Morocco is not the boss of his own P.I. agency. He answers to the General who ran the spy agency before they all retired two years earlier. The General is a hard-nosed boss who says things like, "And, so help me, Morocco, I'll eat you for breakfast if you slip." Based on the exigency of this current mission, the three have been reinstated as U.S. government operatives until Bardo is permanently exterminated.

This first literary adventure in the series is basically a hunt-and-kill mission for Morocco, but he has to run down clues like a normal private eye to find Bardo and his syndicate protectors. He leaves a sizable body count in his wake in a bloodbath of carnage more extreme than most 1957 paperbacks. The action scenes were top-notch but there are far too many characters and untidy plot threads in this otherwise short paperback. It’s easy to get lost at times, which should never happen in a short paperback.

Fowler’s writing is serviceable without ever being flashy. He would have fit in perfectly among the Pinnacle Books serial vigilante authors of the 1970s. Overall, this opening Morocco Jones adventure is definitely worth your time, but it is unlikely to be the best book you read this year.

Buy a copy of this book HERE