Showing posts with label Robert O. Saber. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Robert O. Saber. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Case of the Cop's Wife

During a writing career that spanned from 1946 to 1960, Milton Ozaki, a Japanese-American author from Wisconsin, authored a few dozen crime novels under his own name and using the pseudonym of Robert O. Saber. The majority of his books were private eye stories, but he also wrote a handful of well-regarded stand-alone crime novels, including a 1958 paperback original for Fawcett Gold Medal titled “Case of the Cop’s Wife.”

As the book opens, we meet Chicago Police Lieutenant Robert Fury who is preparing to take some vacation time coinciding with the upcoming birth of his first child. His pregnant wife is the former Mary Ellen Quinn, daughter of a famous wealthy businessman in Chicago.

Meanwhile, a heist crew has an elaborate plan to knock over a large department store at opening time on payday when the armored truck arrives with the cash. The crew is filled with basic malevolent thugs plus a hot babe getaway driver who gets super-horny when whipped with a belt. So, there’s that.

A confluence of events involving a Chicago crime lord, rogue cops, and pregnant Mary Ellen being at the wrong place at the wrong time conspire to turn the heist into a total bloodbath. One thing leads to another and Mary Ellen - the very pregnant wife of Chicago Police Lieutenant Fury - is snatched away by one of the robbers and taken as a hostage.

The action shifts nicely from character to character with the core being Mary Ellen with the heist crew while Lt. Fury tries to find his missing bride before she goes into labor. The Chicago Police are also hot-to-trot to catch the bad guys, which makes for a nice police procedural aspect to the story.

This is exciting stuff, and Ozaki keeps the story moving with short scenes that cut from one third-person POV to another - a literary technique effectively employed by Stephen King years later. I was left with the impression that Ozaki was a way better writer than most of his contemporaries, yet oddly he’s never remembered for the quality of his plotting. I’ve heard that his stand-alone crime novels are superior to his series books, and this paperback supports that theory nicely.

If “Case of the Cop’s Wife” is a fair representation of Ozaki’s talent as an author, he really was something special. In any case, this is a terrific novel that crime-suspense-heist-police procedural fans are sure to love. It’s certainly one of the most compelling books I’ve read this year. Highly recommended.

Purchase this book HERE

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Robert O. Saber and the Con-Games of Milton Ozaki: A Paperback Warrior Unmasking

Between 1949 and 1956, thirteen original crime novels were released under the name Robert O. Saber by a variety of paperback publishing houses. Most of these were private eye books starring an assortment of hardboiled heroes including Phil Keene, Hal Cooper, Max Keene, and Carl Good.

Consistent with the era, the covers of Saber’s paperbacks featured lushly-painted illustrations depicting scantily-clad women, square-jawed heroes, and often a murder weapon nearby. When compared to the lousy cover art we see today, the packaging of these vintage novels demand that the books be purchased and read. Quite deservedly, the author was also a member of the Mystery Writers of America.

All of this begs the question: Who the hell was Robert O. Saber?

Milton Ozaki was a Wisconsin-born, Japanese-American crime fiction author who wrote mass-market paperbacks under his own name as well as the pseudonym Robert O. Saber in the 1950s while living in Chicago and also operating two beauty shops. The economic realities of the publishing world of the 1950s forced many writers to employ pseudonyms to make a living. Handi-Books, for example, probably didn’t want to flood the market with books by Ozaki, so about half of his novels were published under the Saber pen-name. No harm. No foul. Everybody wins.

However, it appears that his double-identity and 27 published novels - plus women’s hair styling - failed to bring Ozaki the lifetime of financial security he desired. As such, he decided to channel his creative energies elsewhere. Life began imitating art as the man who was author of many heist and con-man stories began to turn his fiction into a dark reality.

In the 1970s, Ozaki began operating a “diploma mill” mail-order scam involving the issuance of phony college degrees from non-existent universities including “Colorado State Christian College” and “Hamilton State University” in exchange for a $100 donation to the fake schools. Campus life at these universities must have been rather mundane since they were nothing but post office boxes in Colorado (As an aside, if your urologist received his degree from either university, you may want to get your vasectomy elsewhere). After realizing $70,000 from the scam, the courts ordered him to knock it off in 1974, according to an article by Mike Royko in the Chicago Daily News.

It seems that 1974 was a doubly-bad year for Ozaki who was also sued by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office for another con-game he operated. Ozaki was director of “Ko-Zee Products Corporation” where he sold a phony “mini-turbo charger” guaranteed to give your car 37% better gas mileage. The device didn’t work, but the government’s action did. The former crime writer turned scammer was put out of business, again.

Additionally, Ozaki ran a mail-order school teaching paying students how to develop their powers of E.S.P. and hypnosis. Given this skill set, you’d think Ozaki would have seen the government investigations coming. 

Regarding his multitude of failures as a professional grifter, Ozaki said, “We are trying to do good work, and we just ran afoul of these archaic-minded bureaucrats.” This quote sounds like a re-working of the famous lament of criminals from the Scooby-Doo universe, “And it would have worked if it weren’t for you meddling kids.”

Ozaki died in Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1989 at the age of 76, and many of his mystery books are still available as eBooks and paperback reprints.

Buy Robert O. Saber books HERE