Showing posts with label Paperback Warrior Primer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paperback Warrior Primer. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Paperback Warrior Primer - Howard Hunt

There is already a lot that can be said about Howard Hunt. He was both a WW2 veteran, a spy, a Hollywood screenwriter, war correspondent, and a criminal. His life has been fictionalized by the film industry, his exploits chronicled by numerous non-fiction books about the infamous Watergate incident, and his possible involvement in the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Even Hunt himself wrote non-fiction books about his own life. While all of these things are fascinating, the purpose of this Paperback Warrior Primer is to examine some of his literary highlights. You can dig the hole deeper through any number of other resources. He authored at least 88 novels, most featuring lurid covers that we appreciate.

Everette Howard Hunt Jr. (1918-2007) was born in Hamburg, New York. He attended the prestigious Brown University and later began writing for Life as a war correspondent. Later, Hunt joined the Navy, serving on the USS Mayo during the early days of WWII. After, he went to the Army Air Corps and then finished his military stint with the OSS, the nation's wartime precursor to what is now known as the CIA. Beginning in 1949, Hunt was an officer for the CIA, performing 21 years of international counter-intelligence until 1970. During this entire time, Hunt was writing novels.

His first book was East of Farewell, published in hardcover by Alfred Knopf in 1942. The book reads like a true biography as Hunt recounts the day-to-day life upon a Fletcher-class destroyer. Hunt also used his Army Air Corps experience to write his second novel, Limit of Darkness. It covers a single 24-hour period in the "life" of a Navy torpedo bomber squadron on Guadalcanal in 1943. With the success of these two novels, Hunt won the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, which provided him a grant to help fund his writing career and provide blocks of time where he can pursue his art form. 

During the 1950s, paperback original novels became extremely marketable by publishers. Hunt was in the perfect position to take advantage of this publishing craze by writing and selling a lot of books under his name and various pseudonyms. 

As John Baxter, Hunt authored the two novels A Foreign Affair and Unfaithful in the mid-1950s. 

Using the name Robert Dietrich, Hunt authored 12 total novels, but 9 of these make up the Steve Bentley series. Hunt produced nine series installments between 1957 through 1962 as Dietrich. He revisited the series in 1999 under his own name with one additional installment featuring the titular hero at an advanced age. In the novels, Bentley is a Washington D.C. accountant that stumbles into a lot of crime inside the Nation's Capital. Mostly, these crimes are solved by doing favors for clients or business associates. But often, they just conveniently appear in strip clubs, bars, and even by the roadside. Bentley is easily likable and shares a lot of stereotypical genre tropes with the popular private-eyes of the era - he drinks a lot of alcohol, engages in various relationships with women, owns a boat, former military, and can fight, shoot straight, and speak the truth. Paperback Warrior has a number of reviews about the series HERE. Some of the Steve Bentley books have been released in brand new editions by Cutting Edge Books, including an ebook omnibus containing a majority of the series. Cutting Edge also offers the stand-alone Dietrich novels One for the Road, Be My Victim, and The Cheat

1. Murder on the Rocks (1957)
2. End of a Stripper (1959)
3. House on Q Street (1959)
4. Mistress to Murder (1960)
5. Murder on her Mind (1960)
6. Angel Eyes (1961)
7. Curtains for a Lover (1961)
8. Calypso Caper (1961)
9. My Body (1962)
10. Guilty Knowledge (1999, as Howard Hunt)

As David St. John, Hunt authored a nine-book series starring CIA operative Peter Ward. These books were published between 1965 through 1971, and then later were reprinted under Hunt's own name in the 1970s to capitalize on his newfound fame connected with Watergate. In this series, Ward is helping Soviet scientists defect, dodging enemy assassins, chasing sensational cults, and investigating assassinations of foreign leaders. It's stereotypical spy-fiction of the era, but enjoyable nonetheless. Hunt also used the David St. John pseudonym to author the 1972 novel The Coven, a stand-alone thriller about a Washington D.C. attorney navigating witchcraft and murder. 

1. On Hazardous Duty (1965)
2. Return from Vorkuta (1965)
3. The Towers of Silence (1966)
4. Festival for Spies (1966)
5. The Venus Probe (1966)
6. One of our Agents is Missing (1967)
7. The Mongol Mask (1968)
8. The Sorcerers (1969)
9. Diabolus (1971)

Hunt's Gordon Davis works are all stand-alone novels. Paperback Warrior reviewed Where Murder Waits HERE and Hard Case Crime reprinted House Dick in 2009 using the name E. Howard Hunt. A majority of the Gordon Davis paperbacks were reprinted by various publishers under Hunt's name, once again to capitalize on Watergate.

In 1972, President Richard Nixon was running for re-election. A group of men beholden to the President was caught burglarizing the Democratic National Committee headquarters – President Nixon’s opposition party – at a hotel called The Watergate in Washington, DC. One of the burglars caught was Howard Hunt. It became known as the Watergate Scandal and one of the central questions was: What did the President know about this burglary and when did he know it? The burglary led to the resignation of President Nixon. Howard Hunt, among others, was incarcerated for his part in the burglary and served 33 total months in federal prisons in Pennsylvania and Florida. While in prison, Hunt suffered a minor stroke. 

The prison stint did not dampen Hunt's literary career. If anything, it improved his sales. Publishers were able to list a front-cover blurb that connected the author's name with one of the greatest scandals in U.S. history. Once he was released from prison, Hunt began writing consistently, but also realized that his prior pseudonyms were being converted to his real name.

In 1985, Hunt created an action-adventure series starring Jack Novak, an agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency. The series ran seven total novels from 1985 through 2000. 

1. Cozumel (1985)
2. Guadalajara (1990)
3. Mazatlan (1993)
4. Ixtapa (1994)
5. Islamorada (1995)
6. Izmir (1996)
7. Sonora (2000)

While he was authoring the Novak series, he also authored three-stand alone action-adventure novels using the pseudonym P.S. Donoghue from 1988-1992 - Dublin Affair, Sarkov Confession, and Evil Time.

On January 23, 2007, Howard Hunt died from pneumonia in Miami. He is buried in Prospect Lawn Cemetery in Hamburg, New York.

You can read all of our Howard Hunt reviews and listen to a podcast episode dedicated to the author HERE.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Paperback Warrior Primer - Jack Pearl

The first thing to know about Jack Pearl is that the name is a pseudonym of Jacques Bain Pearl. Pearl was born in Richmond Hill, New York in 1923. After obtaining his Master's at Columbia, Pearl spent nearly three years in the U.S. Army's Military Police throughout Africa, Sicily and Italy during World War 2

After the war, Pearl began a short career as an engineer, but quickly his goal of becoming a full-time writer took control of his life. In 1952, Pearl was able to get his feet wet by writing for a short-lived crime-drama television show called Gang Busters. He also began contributing short stories to the Men's Adventure Magazines. His earliest short story may have been "Submerge!", published by Saga in September 1953. He would go on to contribute short stories to Man, Climax, Impact and Boys Life. After a stint as an advertising copywriter, Pearl worked his way into a managing editor role at Saga and Climax

In 1961, Pearl began writing military non-fiction novels. The first was simply called General Douglas MacArthur, a life story of the man published by Monarch, which was followed by Blood-and-Guts, a life story of General Patton also published by Monarch. These two books instantly became hot sellers and Pearl was off to the races as a full-time novelist. A year later he wrote another one about Navy legend Admiral Bull Halsey and Famous Aerial Dogfights of World War 2.

The earliest work I've read by Pearl is his 1962 movie novelization Ambush Bay. This was a film released by United Artists and Pearl mostly sticks to the film's screenplay but has a few variations. I read the novel and it's set during World War 2 in the Philippines. Nine battle-scarred U.S. Marines and an Air Force radio man are attempting to penetrate a Japanese occupied region to rescue a U.S. Intelligence officer. I really liked it a lot and reviewed the novel HERE.

Pearl wrote a young adult, air force cadet series called The Young Falcons in 1962. The first was The Young Falcons, the second was Bruce Larkin – Air Force Cadet

In 1963, Pearl was still writing for magazines like Saga. In fact, Pearl started dabbling in Cryptozoology with some of his stories. 1964 proved to be a very productive year for the author. He wrote a non-fiction book called Battleground World War 1 as well as the movie novelization for Robin and the 7 Hoods. This was an all-star film showcasing Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Bing Crosby. That same year, Pearl rose to prominence with his book about historical assassinations called The Dangerous Assassins. In 1965, he also authored the movie novelizations for The Yellow Rolls-Royce and Our Man Flint, as well as a prison novel called Stockade, which was published by Pocket Books. 

One of Pearl's most popular novels was published in 1966. It was called The Crucifixion of Pete McCabe and it is about a man convicted of rape and murder that must prove his innocence. In 1967, Pearl authored a television tie in novel to the sci-fi TV series The Invaders called Dam of Death. That same year he also authored the first of a two book series of young adult science fiction called Space Eagle, which is loosely based on the Lone Ranger concept. Also in 1967, Pearl authored two books as television tie-in novels to the show Garrison's Guerillas. One was a young adult novel called Garrison's Guerillas and the Fear Formula. The other was simply titled Garrison's Guerillas, a paperback published by Dell that serves as a traditional WW2 men's action-adventure novel. I read and reviewed the book HERE.

In 1968, Pearl authored the movie novelization of Funny Girl. By the 1970s, Jack Pearl started to author books in a gritty, more violent tone that fits snugly with men's action-adventure of the time. This era of his writing begins with 1971's A Time to Kill, A Time to Die. It's about a reunion of old friends from World War 2 at an Aspen Ski Lodge. But within a half-hour, five are fatally shot by a sniper and it's up to the local police and a psychiatrist to close in on the killer and learn his/her motives. His 1973 book Victims is about a terrorist bombing attempt in New York City on Christmas Eve. 

Pearl wrote The Plot to Kill the President in 1972 and it was published by Pinnacle. This is a book that was inspired by the Kennedy Assassination. Pearl continued doing television and movie novelizations in the 1970s with a book called Nancy, a mob-themed one called Lepke. He also started tinkering with romance novels in the 1970s with books like Callie Knight.

Real life Newark Detective David Toma co-authored a handful of novels with Pearl based on his career in law enforcement. The first was co-written with Michael Brett (the same one that wrote Diecast) and two were written with Jack Pearl – The Affair of the Unhappy Hooker and also The Airport Affair

From 1977 through the late 1980s, Pearl teamed up with his cousin Donald Bain (author of the Murder, She Wrote series) to write mass-market romance novels under the name Stephanie Blake. This is what Pearl finished his career doing. He would pass away in Nassau County, New York in 1992. 

You can check out our Jack Pearl page HERE as well as listen to our podcast episode about the author HERE.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Paperback Warrior Primer - Nick Carter: Killmaster

The character of Nick Carter (or Nicholas Carter) was created by Ormond G. Smith and John R. Coryell in 1886. Smith was heir to the New York City publisher Street & Smith, the early catalyst for dime novels and pulp fiction as far back as 1855. Smith wanted a private-eye or detective character similar to Old Sleuth or Old Cap Collier to star in various forms of media. The first Nick Carter literary appearance began in New York Weekly, September 18, 1886, in a story called "The Old Detective's Pupil" or "The Mysterious Crime of Madison Square." The serial ran 13 total installments with the setting mostly being Victorian-Edwardian New York.  

Carter is described as 5' 4" and having bronze-skin, gray eyes, dark hair and a square jaw. The character was trained by his father, Old Sim Carter, to fight criminals, essentially becoming the opponent of global evil. He's a genius that is inhumanly strong and a master of disguise. The character was so popular with readers that Street & Smith created the Nick Carter Weekly dime novel series. These stories would later be reprinted as stand-alone titles under New Magnet Library. 

With its premier issue on October 15, 1915, the Nick Carter Weekly publication transitioned into Street & Smith's new Detective Story Magazine (just 10-cents twice a month!). The magazine ran 1,057 total issues, most of which concentrated on short crime-fiction with appearances from pulp heroes like The Shadow. The magazine's first 20 years featured covers by illustrator John A. Coughlin. In 1935, the magazine began suffering financial stress and officially stopped publishing in 1949.

Between 1924 and 1927, Street & Smith attempted a revival of the Nick Carter character in the pages of Detective Story Magazine. These stories also featured many of the same villains that Carter had faced in the prior Nick Carter Weekly publication (Dazaar the Arch-Fiend, Dr. Quartz, etc.). It seemed as if Carter's appearance in literature was over in 1927, but due to the success of The Shadow and Doc Savage, Street & Smith revived the character again. Between 1933 to 1936, the Nick Carter Detective Magazine was published. These stories introduced Carter as a more traditional hard-boiled detective. 

Beyond the page, two Nick Carter shows were featured on radio. Nick Carter, Master Detective radio show aired on Mutual Broadcasting System from 1943 to 1955. Nick Carter's son was the star of Chick Carter, Boy Detective from 1943 to 1945, followed by a film in 1946 under the title Chick Carter, Detective.

In 1908, the French film company Eclair ran a six-episode series starring Pierre Bressol as Nick Carter. Two French films were released, Nick Carter va tout casser (1964) and Nick Carter et le trefle rouge (1965). In Germany, four silent Nick Carter films were released: The Hotel in Chicago (1920), The Passenger in the Straitjacket (1922), Women Who Commit Adultry (1922), and Only One Night (1922). In the US, MGM released a trilogy of Nick Carter films: Nick Carter, Master Detective (1939), Phantom Riders (1940), and Sky Murder (1940). A television show called The Adventure of Nick Carter filmed one pilot, later released as an ABC movie.

The pulp version of Nick Carter continued in comic book form, with appearances in The Shadow, Army & Navy, and Doc Savage comics from 1940 through 1949. There was also a 1972 Italian comic strip and a Nick Carter comic book series from 1975. It lasted 12 issues and stars a character named Nick Carter that is a British soldier in WW2. However, it is not related to the Nick Carter spy series.

Little did fans know that a British secret-agent named James Bond would play a part in reviving the literary character 37 years later.

In the 1960s, Lyle Kenyon Engel began his plunge into paperback publishing. He was heir to his father's magazine publishing company, but sold that to become a publicity agent (supposedly one of his clients was the Today Show) and also a producer of children's records. To make an impact in publishing, he revived the familiar character of Nick Carter to capitalize on the 1960s spy fiction market. 

Nick Carter: Killmaster debuted in 1964 as a marketing attempt to cash-in on Ian Fleming's James Bond. The character was reinvented as a secret agent instead of a detective or private-eye. These novels were to be international adventures with a more robust approach compared to the serials, pulps and dime detective magazines. Basically, everything prior to 1964 was erased and this series was a complete reboot.

The general theme is that Nick Carter is an American secret-agent or spy working for an organization called Axe. The organization's leader is David Hawk. Axe and Hawk work closely with the American government and Hawk answers to "The Chief", presumably the U.S. President. Carter is referred to as N3 and we know there are other agents like him, also known as an N/number combination. In the first book, Run Spy Run, readers learn that Carter served in WW2 and also worked for OSS, the pre-cursor to what is now known as the CIA (like Matt Helm). Read our review of the book HERE.

One of the predominant characteristics of this version of Nick Carter is the three weapons he uses in the field. In the debut novel, it is explained that Carter took a Luger handgun from a German SS officer he killed in Munich during WW2. Carter named the gun Wilhelmina and it's included in nearly every novel. Hugo is the name for his Italian stiletto. He also carries a marble sized gas pellet that goes by the name Pierre. Carter can twist each half of the marble in separate directions and it will release a deadly toxin within 30-seconds, giving Carter enough time to flee the area. 

The Nick Carter: Killmaster series became immensely successful, running from 1964-1990 and offering 261 total novels. Each book on average sold 115,000 copies. Ironically, the series just lists Nick Carter as the author. The real authors aren't credited on the book's copyright page, a painful trademark of the series that frustrates readers, fans and collectors to no end. Engel typically split 50-50 with the authors he hired. He demanded lightning fast work, sometimes novels written in less than three weeks to meet furious deadlines. These books were released monthly, first by Avon and then later by Charter.

Notable author statistics:

- Valerie Moolman authored or co-wrote 11 novels between 1964 and 1967.

- Michael Avalone authored or co-authored 3 novels in 1964

-Manning Lee Stokes, of Richard Blade fame, wrote 18 novels

-Popular crime-fiction author Lionel White authored one Nick Carter book, the 18th installment from 1966. This was his second foray into spy fiction. He also wrote a stand-alone novel called Spykill under the name L.B. Blanco.

- Jon Messmann wrote 15 installments. Messman was a heavy contributor to action-adventure paperbacks. He was behind the popular adult western series The Trailsman along with the short-lived series titles Handyman: Jefferson Boone and The Revenger.

- George Snyder did 8 installments. He also wrote novels for the Grant Fowler series.

- Ralph Hayes authored 8 volumes in the series. He is known for his John Yard: Hunter series and Check Force among others.

- Martin Cruz Smith wrote 3 installments. Smith is primarily known for his Arkady Renko series that is still current to this day. The 1983 film Gorky Park was an adaptation of that series debut.

- Surprisingly, Chet Cunningham only wrote 1 book, # 72 Night of the Avenger, that was co-authored with Dan Streib

- Dennis Lynds authored 9 and his wife at the time, Gayle Lynds, wrote another 4. I've read one of Dennis Lynds' novels and I really enjoyed it. It was #211 Mercenary Mountain and it is reviewed HERE. Many will know Dennis Lynds as American author Michael Collins. He wrote the popular Dan Fortune series before his death in 2005.

- Saul Wernick wrote 5. Many remember him as writing the first Mack Bolan novel after Don Pendleton sold the series to Gold Eagle. 

- David Hagbert authored 25 books. He is primarily known for his CIA series starring Kirk McGarvey

- Death Merchant creator Joseph Rosenberger wrote 1.

- Jack Canon is the heaviest contributor with over 30 installments. I lost count, but I think it was 35. Not to be confused with Nelson Demille pseudonym Jack Cannon. 

- Robert Randisi authored 6 in the series. He's a respected western writer who also wrote 3 Destroyer books as well.

- Joseph Gilmore wrote 8.

- There are numerous authors that authored three or less that I haven't mentioned, but you can find a detailed list on or Wikipedia.

- There is yet another Nick Carter series that ran from 2011-2019 called Project. It's written by Alex Lukeman and again features a starring character named Nick Carter that is an anti-terrorist sort of hero. Again, not related to the Nick Carter spy series.

Lyle Kenyon Engel would go on to create Book Creations in the 1970s. Ultimately, it was a cash cow and a rather unique company. Engel would create a series, imagine the story, hire authors to write it and even create book cover art. Then he sold these to various publishers. He was the paperback king and died a multi-millionaire in 1986. 

You can listen to the Paperback Warrior Podcast episode dedicated to Nick Carter HERE and the episode spotlighting Lyle Kenyon Engel HERE.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Paperback Warrior Primer - Thomas B. Dewey

Paperback Confidential by Brian Ritt is my favorite reference book about vintage crime-fiction. In browsing the book (published by our good friends at Stark House Press), I was able to locate a lot of information about an underrated author named Thomas B. Dewey. He authored 36 novels and a handful of short stories between 1944 and 1969. He also wrote a number of stand-alone novels using the pseudonyms Thomas Brandt and Cord Wainer. For this Primer, I'm using the information I discovered in Ritt's book, so all credit goes to him.

Thomas B. Dewey was born in Ekhart, Indiana in 1915. Dewey graduated from Kansas State Teachers College in 1936 and attended grad school at the University of Iowa. After grad school, he moved to Hollywood to find his fortune working for a correspondence school called Storycraft. In 1942, he moved to Washington, DC to be an editorial assistant for the U.S. State Department during World War 2. While working as a writer and editor for the State Department, he began writing novels as a side hustle. 

Dewey's first published novel, Hue and Cry, was published in 1944. It was also released under the titles Room for Murder and The Murder of Marion Mason. The protagonist was a character named Singer Batts, a hotel owner and Skakespeare fan living in Preston, Ohio. He partners with his hotel manager, Joe Spinder, to solve the book's mystery. Dewey (or readers) liked the character so much that he wrote three other novels starring him - As Good As Dead (1946), Mourning After (1950), and Handle With Fear (1951). The books and character are similar to that of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series with Spinder serving as the narrator like Archie Goodwin's role in the Nero Wolfe books. You can obtain the four Singer Batts books through Wildside Press HERE

In 1945, Dewey leaves the State Department to go back to Los Angeles to work in advertising. It’s there that he marries his first wife, Maxine Morley Sorensen, in 1951. It was during his advertising years that he launched his most popular series starring a Chicago private eye named Mac – the reader never gets to know his full name. The first Mac book, Draw the Curtain Close, was published in 1947. It took Dewey six years before the second Mac installment was published, Every Bet's a Sure Thing. Our review of the book is HERE. Remarkably, the Mac series continued for 17 novels with the last installment being The Taurus Trap in 1970. 

Mac is often described as “The Compassionate Private Eye”, a true statement that also understates that Mac can, and does, kick some serious ass when called upon to do so. His compassion as a character really humanizes him in the body of his first person narration. But these books shouldn’t be confused with soft-boiled cozy mysteries. They are top-notch private eye stories. I’ll be reading and reviewing more Mac books here at Paperback Warrior, and he may turn out to be my favorite private-eye series. Wildside Press has reprinted most of these for $5 or less per book HERE.

Dewey quit his job in advertising to write full time in 1952, a steady gig he continued until 1971. In 1957, Dewey launched his third series character, a San Fernando Valley private-eye named Pete Schofield. The first book in the series was And Where She Stops (1957). That series continued for nine total installments through 1965’s Nude in Nevada.  The gist of the series is that Schoefield solves crimes with his adorable redhead wife Jeanne. Once again, Wildside Press has these available as well HERE

The usual trajectory of an author of this era is to write a lot of stand-alone novels, hone their craft, and then launch what they hope will be a successful series. Dewey did it backwards launching three successful series titles right out of the gate and keeping Mac and Pete Schofield alive at the same time.

He did write a handful of stand-alone novels – a couple under his own name - but he also deployed two pseudonyms in the 1950s. This was a pretty common way either to get some extra work on the side without your publisher knowing or to ensure that you aren’t flooding the market and hurting your own brand.

Dewey’s last novel was published in 1969, and then it appears he retired from writing fiction at the age of 54. In 1971, he became a professor of English at Arizona State university, where he taught writing. In 1972, he married his second wife Doris L. Smith, and the author died nine years later in 1981 at age 66.

Hollywood never adapted his work for the big screen, but two of his novels were made into TV episodes:

Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theatre
"Runaway" (1964)
Based on “A Sad Song Singing” 

"Death's a Double-Cross" (1971).
Based on the novel Every Bet's a Sure Thing

Friday, November 19, 2021

Paperback Warrior Primer - Clifton Adams

Clifton Adams was a wine connoisseur that loved jazz music and Oklahoma history. He also wrote a bunch of violent, gritty novels about heroes and outlaws. He won two coveted Spur Awards and was admired by many of his contemporaries. Popular crime-noir author Donald Westlake cited Adams as an influence on his beloved Parker series of heist novels. We've reviewed many of Clifton Adams' novels and we hope today's Paperback Warrior Primer will prompt you to explore his robust bibliography. 

Clifton Adams was born in Comanche, Oklahoma in 1919. He began writing at an early age. However, his writing development paused when he joined Hell on Wheels, officially known as the U.S. Army's Second Armored Division. During WW2 he served as a tank commander in both Africa and Europe. 

After WW2, he utilized the G.I. Bill to attend University of Oklahoma to study professional writing - a degree that focused on making a living as a writer. It was there that he won the “Oklahoma Writer of the Year” award. In his acceptance speech he said, “There’s only one way to approach the kind of writing I do - and that’s as a business. I’m not selling art. I’m selling entertainment.”

And with that idea as his North Star, he succeeded. In his career, he wrote 50 full-length novels and 125 short stories the magazines and digests. His first professional sale was the short story "Champions Wear Purple", published in Adventure in January 1947. His first novel, Desperado, is often cited as his finest work. It was originally released as a Fawcett Gold Medal paperback in 1950. It was a monster hit and spawned a sequel in 1953 called A Noose for the Desperado. Both books remain available as reprints from Stark House Press

Besides the two Desperado books, his only other recurring character was Amos Flagg, a western series written under the pseudonym of Clay Randal. The series ran from 1964 to 1969 for seven installments. He also wrote five stand-alone novels under the Clay Randal name between 1953 and 1963. He also wrote six westerns between 1958 and 1963 under the name of Matt Kinkaid. Celebrating his western writing, he won two Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America - 1969 for Tragg’s Choice and 1970 for The Last Days of Wolf Garnett.  

While most of his literary work falls into the western genre, he also wrote crime-fiction. Whom Gods Destroy and Death's Sweet Song were both published in 1953 by Fawcett Gold Medal. His 1956 crime-noir, Never Say No to a Killer, was published by Ace under the pseudonym Jonathan Gant. All three of these books have been reprinted by Stark House Press. He also used the Gant name to author The Long Vendetta, published in 1963 by Avalon. Under the name Nick Hudson he authored The Very Wicked, published in 1960 by Berkley. 

Clifton Adams died from a heart attack in 1971 in Comanche, Oklahoma. According to our research, the author's papers are kept at the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming. For more information, listen to the Paperback Warrior Podcast episode about Clifton Adams HERE.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Paperback Warrior Primer - Edward S. Aarons

Author Edward S. Aarons is mostly associated with his long-running and successful series Assignment, starring a CIA agent named Sam Durell. However, Aarons was extremely prolific in the decades prior to his Assignment books. In today's Paperback Warrior Primer, we reveal who Edward S. Aarons is and delve into his remarkable literary career. 

Edward Sidney Aarons was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1916. He attended Columbia University and gained degrees in both literature and history. At the young age of 17, Aarons had his hands in writing short stories while also working through college as a newspaper reporter and a fisherman. This experience probably lends itself to his crime-noir novels, which typically feature reporters and/or fishing towns in the Northeast.

By the end of the 1930s, Aarons had three full-length novels written - Death in a Lighthouse (aka Cowl of Doom), Murder Money, (aka $1 Million in Corpses), and The Corpse Hangs High. These novels were published by Phoenix Press and authored under the name Edward Ronns. 

Like most of the mid-20th Century authors, Aarons served in WW2. He was part of the U.S. Navy between 1941-1945 and reached the rank of Chief Petty officer. During his military service, Aarons sold a lot of his short stories to the pulps. He was featured in the late 1930s and 1940s pulps like Thrilling Detective, Angel Detective, Detective Story Magazine, Complete Detective, etc. According to Crime Mystery and Gangster Fiction Magazine Index, I found 92 short stories listed from the 30s through the 50s under the name Edward Ronns. Needless to say, by the time Aarons was discharged from the Coast Guard in 1945 he transitioned smoothly into full-time writing. 

In 1947, his hardcover Terror in the Town was published. It was later reprinted in 1964, complete with a suspenseful, horror-styled cover. I had the opportunity to review it for the blog HERE. In 1947 and 1948, Aarons wrote two novels starring Jerry Benedict, a newspaper cartoonist who functions as a private-eye. The first one was called Lady, the Guy is Dead, which would also be printed as No Place to Live. The second book was called Gift of Death and I had the opportunity to review it HERE. Like Terror in the Town, Aarons used a distinct atmosphere with moonlit graves, dark cornfields and a weird menace styled-subplot involving a family curse. Also in 1948 Aarons saw his novel Nightmare published internationally. I also have a review of that novel HERE.

Up until 1950, each of Aarons' published novels listed his name as Edward Ronns. But, in 1950 he used the pseudonym of Paul Ayres to contribute to the Casey, Crime Photographer series created by George Harmon Coxe. The series installment was Dead Heat. In 1951, his novel The Net was published by Graphic and reviewed HERE. Most of the author's 1950s crime-noir novels were published by the top crime-fiction company at the time - Fawcett Gold Medal. They published stuff like Escape to Love, Passage to Terror, Come Back, My Love, The Sinners, Catspaw Ordeal, The Decoy and so forth. But at the same time, Aarons was also being published by Harlequin, Graphic and Avon. In 1950, he had five novels published, two in 1951, two in 1952, two in 1953, and then one more in 1954. 

It is remarkable to think that Edward S. Aarons had 20 novels published before he really struck gold. His career trajectory is very similar to John D. MacDonald. Aarons honed his craft in the pulps and wrote stand-alone novels until he was ready to launch a series character that carried him financially for the rest of his career. For Aarons, this was his Assignment series starring CIA operative Sam Durrell and published by Fawcet Gold Medal.

The first series installment is Assignment to Disaster, published in 1955. After the debut, the series ran for 48 installments through 1983. Each book in the Assignment is mostly a stand alone title - the original printings weren’t even numbered. The series hero, Sam Durrell, is a Cajun from Louisiana who left the swamps to attend Yale. It's there that he learned several foreign languages. Later, he served in WW2 in the OSS - which was the real-life precursor to the CIA. When readers first meet Sam in 1955, he’s an operative in the CIA’s espionage division.

Each novel is a single assignment for Sam. He needs to carry out each mission for the CIA, with his adversaries generally being the Soviets, the Chinese, or one of their client states. Many of the books provide the setting in the title: Assignment Bangkok, Assignment Peking, Assignment Budapest, etc. Others are named after the sexy vixens Sam encounters on his adventure: Assignment Helene, Assignment Madeline, Assignment Zorya, etc. Sam meets a lot of different people trying to get his mission off the ground, and they all join forces to succeed. Assignment is like a combination of Nick Carter: Killmaster and Matt Helm. Better than Killmaster, not as good as Helm. 

Edward S. Aarons wrote the first 42 Assigntment installments up until his death. His last book, Assignment Afghan Dragon, was released post-humously in 1976. Then, also in 1976, the 43rd installment, Assignment Sheeba, was released under the by-line of Will B. Aarons - the brother of  Edward. There were six Assignment books under the Will Aarons name released through 1983. There are two important things to know about the Will Aarons installments.

First, series fans generally agree that these books don't possess the same quality. Second, Will Aarons didn't author these books. He hired a ghost writer named Lawrence Hall to write them. This mystery was crowdsourced and solved on the Mystery File website, and you can read the sequence of edits to their article solving this authorship HERE.

But, aside from the Assignment installments, Edward Aarons was able to sprinkle in another 10 unrelated novels through 1962. Some of these were based on screenplays like Hell to Eternity, published in 1960 and reviewed HERE.

Edward Sidney Aarons died from a heart ailment in New Milford, Connecticut in 1975 at the young age of 58. His obituary in the NY Times stated that his Assignment books sold more than 23 million copies and were reprinted in 17 languages. 

Monday, November 1, 2021

Paperback Warrior Primer - Lionel White

Lionel White (1905-1985) wrote a lot of heist and caper books for Fawcett Gold Medal and other paperback houses beginning in 1953. He was a big influence on Donald Westlake's acclaimed Parker series and Quenton Tarantino's classic film Reservoir Dogs. Many of his books have been reprinted as doubles by Stark House Press, and each of those has an introduction discussing different aspects of his work and life. For biographical information, no one is better than author Ben Boulden from Utah who dug into census and other records to piece together information from Lionel White’s shadowy life. Boulden wrote the introduction to the Stark House double collecting Lionel White’s Hostage for a Hood and Operation-Murder, and his piece called "Lionel White: The Caper King" is my primary source for this Primer.

Lionel Earle White was born in Buffalo, New York in 1905. His father was a superintendent at a car manufacturing facility. When he was a teenager, his family relocated to San Joaquin, California following his father's new job. White dropped out of high school after his sophomore year and began to work menial jobs. At some point, he was able to obtain a job as a crime reporter in Ohio in 1923. In 1925, White relocated to the Bronx in New York City to work as an editor for True Confession magazine. By 1930, he obtained a position as a proofreader for one of the newspapers in New York City. He continued working as an editor and was earning $4,000 per year by 1940. In 1943, he joined the U.S. Army, but was released after just five months.

When White was 47 years old, his career as a published writer began. His debut was the digest-sized book called Seven Hungry Men. It was later reworked into his novel Run Killer Run. His first mass-market paperback was The Snatchers, published in 1953 by Fawcett Gold medal. That novel was adapted into the film The Night of the Following Day. After The Snatchers, White became a productive writer with nearly 40 novels published between 1953 and 1978. In 1966, he used the pseudonym L.W. Blanco to write the espionage novel Spykill. In 1966, he co-wrote The Mind Poisoners, the 18th installment in the Nick Carter: Killmaster series. His 1963 novel The Money Trap and his 1955 novel Clean Break were both adapted to film.

Lionel White passed away in Asheville, North Carolina at age 80. He left behind a legacy that serves as a triumphant cornerstone of crime-noir literature. For more information on Lionel White, visit our review link HERE and listen to our podcast episode HERE.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Paperback Warrior Primer - Orrie Hitt

Orrie Hitt (1916-1975) was a suburban family man in upper New York who was quietly one of the most successful creators of sleaze paperbacks in the 1950s and 1960s. His plots were largely noir fiction with a heavy dash of non-graphic sexuality and bad decisions driven by greed and lust. During his life, he authored upwards of 150 novels before dying penniless. As a tribute to his life and literary work, Paperback Warrior offers an extensive look at author Orrie Hitt:

Hitt was born in Colchester, New York in 1916. When he was 11 years old, his father committed suicide. Hitt obtained a job at a hunting lodge in upstate New York to make ends meet while his mother worked as a hotel chambermaid. Meanwhile, Hitt was a high school student. As a sophomore, he advised his teacher that he wanted to be a writer, and his teacher did what all good teachers do – she shattered his dreams by telling him that he was never going to make it as a writer because his English language skills were unsatisfactory and that he was too much of a dreamer.

While working at the lodge, Hitt gained hunting and outdoors experience. Hitt sold his first articles about hunting as a high schooler to hobbyist magazines. When he became a senior, he and his former English teacher both submitted articles to an educational book company. Hitt's article about shooting was accepted, and his teacher’s submission was rejected. 

After Hitt's mother died, he became an orphan. Later, he joined the Army at age 24 and served in some capacity in WW2. After his military service, Hitt married Charlotte Tucker on Valentines Day, 1943, and together they eventually had four daughters. In the years following the war, Orrie worked as an insurance salesman, a radio disc jockey, a roofing and timing salesman, a frozen food salesman, and a handyman. He had about 16 jobs during that post-war period, and he wasn’t writing much because he needed the steady paycheck to feed his wife and growing family of daughters. During that period of time, he relocated to Iceland for a year to work at a hotel. This job afforded him a lot of downtime, so he used it to write his first novel, I'll Call Every Monday, published by Avon in 1953. 

It’s clear that Hitt was a fan of James M. Cain, and a lot of his books were re-workings of Cain’s Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice. The formula is that a drifter falls in love with a married woman. Together, they conspire to kill her heel of a husband so they can obtain the husband’s money. Of course, things go sideways, as they do anytime you fall for a murderous wife. That’s the template used by lots of writers in the 1950s, and Hitt went to that well many times in his own writing.

Hitt returned to upstate New York and became a full-time novelist. He set his manual Remington Royal typewriter up on the kitchen table and worked the entire day cranking out 90 words per minute. He lived on iced coffee and Winston cigarettes and he wrote book after book. He was a faithful husband and attentive father while all day, every day, he wrote about guys who were duplicitous heels who couldn’t keep it in their pants. In real life, Hitt was nothing like the characters he wrote about in his books. 

Early in his career, Hitt developed relationships with “adults only” publishers like Beacon and Midwood who bought and published his books. Hitt found a good niche for himself as a writer of sexy fiction – often sexy crime fiction – but his publishers played up the sex and down the noir. Hitt was trying to make a living, so he kept writing the books he knew how to write and receiving advances of $250 to $1,000 per book for his paperbacks. His sleaze publishers gave him a lot of freedom to write what he wanted because they knew that they were just going to slap a silly sleaze cover on his books. 

Between the years of 1953 and 1970, Hitt had about 150 original novels published under his own name and a variety of pseudonyms. There is a robust collector’s market for sleaze fiction, and his original paperbacks tend to get top dollar. The most affordable options are the reprint houses like Stark House Press, Prologue Press, and Automat Press. 

Here's a "buyer's guide" on some of Hitt's novels:

If you want a James M. Cain style novel about the protagonist falling for a young woman married to an older rich guy where they plot to murder the husband:

- The Cheaters (1960)
- Dial M for Man (1962)
- Two of a Kind (1960)

Novels starring a young woman trying to survive by using her body to pay the bills: 

- Campus Tramp (1962)
- Four Women (1961)
- Trapped (1954)

Novels that expose the behind the scenes world of prostitutes and their tragic origin stories:

- Trailer Tramp (1957)
- Nude Doll (1963)
- Naked Model (1962)
- Girl of the Streets (1959)
- Party Doll (1961)

Hitt also wrote under several pseudonyms including Kay Adams, Joe Black, Charles Verne, and Nicky Weaver. Between 1953 and 1960, Orrie Hitt was producing about 20 books per year. His productivity slowed down gradually thereafter. By 1964, he was down to about four books a year, then three, then one. He essentially just ran out of ideas. The book contracts disappeared and his money ran out. A lifetime of working 12 hour days at his kitchen table drinking iced coffee and smoking cigarettes caught up with him. In 1979, he died in debt in a veteran’s hospital at age 59. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Paperback Warrior Primer: The John Raven Mysteries

Considering the enormous success of series staples like “Mack Bolan,” “The Butcher,” and “The Penetrator,” it would make sense that publishers would want to steer their marketing and branding efforts into the look and feel of the Gold Eagle or Pinnacle product lines. Brutish bullies, fast cars and the damsel in distress surrounding bold fonts, a serial number, and an immortal gun-toting hero. These elements are the centerpiece of the book’s plot, so why not run with that for the marketing flair? Back in the day, every bookstore and pharmacy in America had a prominent display of these book covers depicting all of the above hallmarks of the 70s and 80s costume party known as the Men's Action-Adventure genre.

This packaging approach was an economic success story for a lot of publishers. But what exactly could publishers do when they didn’t really posses written content suitable for a Men’s Action-Adventure series? That seemed to be a problem confronted by Berkley Books back in the day, and they had an interesting solution to this lack of supply.

In 1981, book shoppers may have seen a new action hero adorning their paperback aisles. His name was Raven, and Berkley released “Raven #1 – Raven Settles a Score” in the US with a tag line that introduced “The playboy ex-cop in the sizzling new action series.” The cover design certainly dressed the part with the scantily clad woman, a sleek car, and a turtleneck-clad hero with gun-in-hand. New subscribers had a great opportunity to get in on the ground floor with this alluring new series. The problem with “Raven #1” is that it wasn't a new series at all. In fact, this novel was actually the sixth book in a pre-existing series originally marketed as the 'John Raven Mysteries' – and the story was a far cry from the cover’s promise of an extraordinary action-hero debut.

'Raven' author Donald MacKenzie received most of his official education at a hodgepodge of England, Canada and Switzerland's school systems. However, like so many of writers, his true education came through life experience. MacKenzie was jailed numerous times - once in the U.S. for five years and another time in England for three. In fact, his life was so tumultuous that he wrote two autobiographies chronicling his checkered past - “Fugitives” (1955) and “Gentlemen at Crime” (1956). He began writing stand-alone crime novels in the late 1950s, with titles like “Manhunt”, “Knife Edge” and “Double Exposure.” But it wasn't until 1974 that he really hit his stride.

The 'John Raven Mysteries' ran from 1974 through the writer's death in 1993. The series comprised 16 total entries about an ex-British Inspector named John Raven. It was published in England by Macmillan and featured standard and unremarkable mystery novel cover designs that bore zero resemblance to the gun-toting bold font and Raven branding that Berkley invented for this benign series. To their credit, the bland covers of the original novels made no attempt to deceive or rook their intended audience. The plots themselves are more international man of mystery stories. There's plenty of espionage, international escapades and a sense of heightened alert – but John Raven just isn't an action hero in even the broadest definition of the genre. They were more like Tom Clancy writing Sherlock Holmes starring Spenser. Not exactly 'Hawker' or 'The Revenger' as Berkley conveyed the series in their deceitful packaging.

The grift behind “Raven Settles a Score” was simple enough for Berkley. After obtaining the license from British publisher MacMillan, they falsely staged the books as a new American series by dressing them up in packaging dripping with testosterone. The publisher either didn't know the chronological order of the original stories, couldn't get the rights to the earlier books, or simply just didn't care. It appears that Berkley simply slapped a #1 on whatever book was handy to score some quick cash from ill-informed male book shoppers looking for some action.

Berkley’s opening shot, “Raven Settles a Score,” begins with a walk down memory lane among series regulars John Raven and Inspector Jerry Soo. The whole scene is confusing to the uninformed reader with talk about a recent marriage, Soo's current happenings and the presumed defeat of a villain named Drake. Later, some alliances form that were clearly the bi-product of some incidents in prior books from the British Raven mystery series. Any reader believing this was truly the opening episode in a new series is bound to be lost. To hamper things even more, the “Settles a Score” reference in the book's title actually refers to the prior book altercations between Raven and his nemesis, Drake - a malevolent figure in this book that Soo/Raven both want to defeat for the greater good. Again, there's very little action and most of the book is simply positioning characters in key locations where Korean Embassy officials are hiding bad deeds while utilizing drug squad members as cover. There's a damsel in distress, but she’s buried in dialogue and never actually seems to need Raven’s help all that much. In fact this whole novel (or the 95-pages I could tolerate) is really just a ton of dialogue among a humongous cast of characters with very little explanation or entertainment value.

Apparently, Berkley's ruse didn't generate an enthusiastic reaction among readers. The publisher ran only four titles before canceling the whole debacle:

Raven #1 - Raven Settles a Score (originally 1979's sixth entry)
Raven #2 – Raven in Flight (oddly the second novel from 1976)
Raven #3 – Raven After Dark (renamed from 1980's fifth book, Raven Feathers His Nest)
Raven #4 – Raven and the Paper Hangers (originally the seventh title from 1980)

The entire 'John Raven Mysteries' series:

Zaleski's Percentage (Macmillan, 1974)
Raven in Flight (Macmillan, 1976)
Raven and the Ratcatcher (Macmillan, 1977)
Raven and the Kamikaze (Macmillan, 1977)
Raven Feathers His Nest (Macmillan, 1980); US title Raven After Dark
Raven Settles a Score (Macmillan, 1979)
Raven and the Paperhangers (Macmillan, 1980)
Raven's Revenge (Macmillan, 1982)
Raven's Longest Night (Macmillan, 1984)
Raven's Shadow (Macmillan, 1984)
Nobody Here by That Name (Macmillan, 1986)
A Savage State of Grace (Macmillan, 1988)
By Any Illegal Means (Macmillan, 1989)
Loose Cannon (Macmillan, 1991)
The Eyes of the Goat (Macmillan, 1992)
The Sixth Deadly Sin (Macmillan, 1993)

Buy "Raven Settles a Score" HERE

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Fey Croaker: A Paperback Warrior Primer

Author Paul Bishop is a 35-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department. Receiving “Detective of the Year” accolades twice, Bishop starred as the lead interrogator on the ABC reality show “Take the Money and Run” developed by marquee name producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Along with his 15 published works, Bishop also is the writer and editor of the essential reference work “52 Weeks 52 Western Novels – A Guide to Six-Gun Favorites and New Discoveries”.

With his commendable career in law enforcement, Bishop writes with conviction and authenticity. His experiences are easily conveyed in his artistry, evident in his five-book literary series starring LAPD Detective Fey Croaker. The first novel, “Kill Me Again”, was published by Avon Books in 1994. It introduces us to the seasoned Fey, a West LA detective and supervisor of the homicide unit. It was the top detective spot in the division and she's the first woman to hold the job.

Bishop explains, “I based Fey in part on two of my long term, very experienced, female detective partners. Walk into any LAPD detective squadroom and you'll find one or more versions of Fey. She's got some hard earned miles on her. She street savvy. She knows how to fight dirty, not just politically, but physically, and is more than willing to kick your ass if you take her on. She's forty with a string of bad marriages, bad choices, and bad boooze behind her. She expects and demands a lot of her people, but in return she is loyal to a fault and will fight like a tiger for them. Basically, she's about as far from a twenty-something, hard-bodied, high heel wearing, female TV detective as you can get”.

Just shy of 300-pages, “Kill Me Again” is a riveting mystery procedural that has plenty to unpack in terms of the central character. While Bishop expands the murder case, he slowly allows readers a more intimate view of this rather complex character. From her early career rise, tumultuous love-life and murky childhood, there's a lot to offer beyond a stand-alone story.

Bishop, detailing the character's beginnings, explains, “By the time I was ready to write Kill Me Again, I already had a handful of novels published. Two were connected, but the others were all stand-alones. Career wise, I felt I needed a series character strong enough to carry at least four books. In creating Fey Croaker, the protagonist of Kill Me Again, I plotted out a four book personal story arc for her. I knew exactly what position I wanted her to be in personally at the end of each of the first three books, forcing her to deal with everything that had come before in book four. Each of the four books would have a standalone plot, but there would be a through story dealing with Fey's abusive upbringing, which would come full circle and to resolution in book four”.

Beginning with “Kill Me Again”, Fey's relationship with her father is shown as a key role in her development as a detective, rising through the promotions after 16-years in the unit. As a sexually molested child, the novel provides brief passages explaining Fey's protection of her brother and her abuse from both her father and family friend. It's a prickly family tree, cultivated by sorrow and regret, and written with a grainy sense of realism.

“At the time, I was also working full throttle in my career with the LAPD. As a detective, I spent almost all my career, 30 out of 35 years, investigating sex crimes from indecent exposure to child molest to rape to sexual homicide and everything in between. I was always aware of how victims processed the assault emotionally. There were those whom it destroyed, and others who were never able to break the cycle of victimhood. But I was fascinated by those who flat refused to be defined by something beyond their control. They were determined not to just be survivors of sexual assault, but victors over it. They struggled and they fought and they failed and they picked themselves up again. I admired these incredible individuals, and this was what I wanted to exemplify through Fey Croaker”, explains Bishop.

“Fey is a high functioning detective, but a low functioning human. She is aware of this and ferociously fights those emotional forces that have threatened to cripple her since she was a child...As the omnipotent author, I was going to give her a chance at redemption if she could lead me there over four books.”

“Kill Me Again” received a sequel in “Twice Dead”, published in 1996 by Avon. Following the mystery-procedural formula, the novel centers around an NBA athlete charged with murder. Later, the book was later re-titled as “Grave Sins”. In 1997 the third novel, “Tequila Mockingbird” was published by Scribner in hardback and by Pocket Books in paperback. The same publishers produced the series' fourth entry, “Chalk Whispers,” in 2000. A 68-page novella was released in 2014 entitled “Pattern of Behavior", which was also included in Bishop's short story compilation of the same name. All of the books have been republished in digital formats, including Kindle, by Wolfpack Publishing.

Bishop concludes, “The greatest compliment I've received as an author is when either female law enforcement personnel or individuals who have been through the ringer of sexual assault approach me at a writing function, sometimes with tears in their eyes, and ask, 'How do you know this?' 'How do you know what it's like to be a woman on this job?' Or in the case of one woman, 'How do you understand what it feels like to be a child of the silence?' My answer is always the same, "Fey told me..."

Fey Croaker Purchase Checklist

1. "Kill Me Again" (1994 Avon)
2. "Twice Dead" (aka "Grave Sins" 1996 Avon) 
3. "Tequila Mockingbird" (1997 Scribner/Pocket Books)
4. "Chalk Whispers" (2000 Scribner/Pocket Books)
5. "Pattern of Behavior" (2014 Wolfpack)