Showing posts with label Sixth Precinct. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sixth Precinct. Show all posts

Monday, July 22, 2019

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 03

In this episode we discuss the literary works of crime-noir writer Jonathan Craig, including his “The Girl in Gold” novel. We also look at the ‘Super Cop Joe Blaze’ series from the early 1970s and its mysterious author. Tom tells us about a locked room treasure house in Detroit that is sure to please fans of vintage paperbacks. (Credit to Bensound for the epic intro music). Stream the episode below or through these services: Apple, Google, Spreaker, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, YouTube, Castbox or directly download the episode HERE.

Listen to "Episode 03: Jonathan Craig" on Spreaker.

Pete Selby #11 - The Girl in Gold

Kansas City native Frank E. Smith wrote over 100 novels and 300 short stories during his writing career. Most of his crime fiction was published under the pseudonym Jonathan Craig, including ten police procedural novels in his Pete Selby-Stan Rayder series during the 1950s and 1960s. These paperbacks were later rebranded as ‘The Sixth Precinct’ books in the 1970s for a re-release. I recently discovered that there may be other stories in the series buried among the author’s magazine work.

The last Pete Selby novel was “Case of the Brazen Beauty” in 1966, but it appears that Smith resurrected his popular police detective characters again in September 1970 for a novella titled “The Girl in Gold” published in “Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.” The 20-page story was also included in three Hitchcock anthologies:

- Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Grave Business (1975)
- Alfred Hitchcock’s Borrowers of the Night (1983)
- Portraits of Murder (1988)

My theory is that Smith revisited the characters for this 1970 novella knowing that Belmont-Tower would soon be reprinting the Selby novels as “The Sixth Precinct” series. Smith was likely hoping that “The Girl in Gold” would spark a renewed interest in the series that hadn’t seen publication in four years. Or maybe he just felt creatively drawn to revisit some old friends.

In any case “The Girl in Gold” is a fun read and a worthwhile entry into the series. The story begins with a boy flagging down Selby and Rayder to show them a man who landed in the alley behind a Manhattan hotel - presumably having come from the open third-floor window above. Because this is a murder mystery story, suicide and accidental death are quickly ruled out.

A visit inside the hotel identifies the deceased as Harry Lambert, and his room on the third floor uncovers a hotel glass with lipstick on the rim. Jewelers cases in the room are suspiciously missing the gold and diamonds they once contained. With a probable motive and the gender of the suspect, the detectives have clues to leverage in order to solve the case within 20 pages.

Like a normal police procedural, the reader rides along with Selby and Rayder as they interview witnesses and suspects until the clues lead them to a likely solution. There was a neat little hardboiled twist in the final scene that tipped this short story from good to great. Overall, “The Girl in Gold” was a worthwhile diversion from an author who I continue to enjoy.

This story and a Jonathan Craig feature are both on episode three of the Paperback Warrior Podcast.

Buy a copy of this story HERE

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Pete Selby #8 - Case of the Laughing Virgin

“The Case of the Laughing Virgin” by Jonathan Craig (real name: Frank E. Smith) is the eighth mystery-adventure starring NYPD Detective Pete Selby and his partner, Stan Rayder. The paperback was originally released by Fawcett Gold Medal in 1960 with a cheeky, swinging cover and was re-released in April 1974 by Belmont Tower as #6 in the “Sixth Precinct” series with a decidedly more menacing illustration.

There’s really no reason to tie yourself into knots trying to reading the series sequentially - particularly since the 1970s publisher couldn’t figure out the proper order anyway. This short installment begins with Selby (our narrator) and Rayder pulling a hysterical naked girl down from the roof of a Greenwich Village brownstone - only to discover her dead lover inside the apartment with three bullet holes in his chest. Did the naked lady plug her boyfriend? Sometimes in life it’s that easy but rarely in crime fiction.

Selby and Rayder logically put the pieces of what unfolded at the apartment together to generate logical leads in the case. It’s a pure police procedural and the paperback follows the course of the investigation with a brisk pace that is seldom boring. Also, sex is humming in the background of nearly every scene but no one seems to get laid here.

Over the course of 160 pages, the author does a great job of making 1960 New York City come alive, particularly when the investigation leads the police into the world of underground stag film production and sex clubs. Moreover, the interplay between the two police partners is pure gold. The problem is that this novel isn’t particularly exciting. It’s a serviceable police procedural where Selby and Rayder go from interview to interview running down logical leads. There was really nothing to grab the reader in a story about two honest cops doing their jobs very well.

I’m not giving up on this series. I regard Jonathan Craig as an unsung master of crime fiction, and I know he can do better. If you dive into the Pete Selby Sixth Precinct series, start with a different installment. For me, this one failed to deliver.

We have a Jonathan Craig feature on our third episode of the Paperback Warrior Podcast.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Friday, January 25, 2019

Pete Selby and The Sixth Precinct: A Paperback Warrior Primer

Pete Selby & The Sixth Precinct: A Paperback Warrior Primer

This year, we are launching a new feature we are calling “Paperback Warrior Primers” with a goal of giving you a mile-high overview of interesting series titles. Our hope is that you can use these Primers as a guide to decide if a series appeals to you while giving you enough knowledge to jump into the series mid-stream if you choose. We launch this feature with a primer on a noteworthy series from crime fiction author Jonathan Craig.

Under the pseudonym of Jonathan Craig, Frank E. Smith wrote ten related hardboiled police procedural novels in the 1950s and 1960s that were originally marketed as “The Detective Pete Selby” series. As Selby’s partner began to play a larger role in the novels, they were rebranded as the “Pete Selby - Stan Rayder Detective Series.”

The stories are hardboiled police procedural mysteries that, more often than not, begin with the discovery of a murdered (but always totally hot) naked lady (Recall that nudity was a novelty in the 1950s). NYPD Detective Selby is our narrator guiding us through the twists and turns leading to the successful capture of the perps in a readable first-person style.

The original publisher of this commercially-successful series was the great Fawcett Gold Medal imprint, and the paperbacks were packaged with beautiful painted covers consistent with the era. The author was a prolific contributor to the short story digest market and much of his work appeared in “Manhunt” and “Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine,” but I think it’s fair to say that the ten Pete Selby books really put Jonathan Craig on the map.

He also wrote a series of seven novellas and short stories published in “Manhunt” between February 1955 and January 1956 tagged as the “Police File” series. My theory is that the “Police File” stories served as a literary precursor to the Pete Selby police procedurals. They are considerably harder to find but also worth checking out.

In the 1970s, Belmont Tower reprinted the Pete Selby mysteries with covers attempting to appeal to a Men’s Action-Adventure audience. The low-end publisher rebranded the series as “The Sixth Precinct Thrillers.” This was likely an effort to capitalize on the popularity of Ed McBain’s “87th Precinct” series despite the fact that the Pete Selby books actually debuted first. In true Belmont Tower fashion, they screwed up the series order and numbered the books all wrong. The good news is that the series order doesn’t really matter, and the books seem to stand alone quite well.

Unfortunately, if you want to read the Pete Selby Sixth Precinct series, you’ll need to do some hunting for the rare Fawcett Gold Medal paperbacks or the slightly cheaper Belmont Tower reprints. As of this writing, the novels have not been digitized as commercially-available eBooks.

For the record, here is the actual series order:

  The Dead Darling (1955)

  Morgue for Venus (1956)

  Case of the Cold Coquette (1957)

  Case of the Beautiful Body (1957)

  Case of the Petticoat Murder (1958)

  Case of the Nervous Nude (1959)

  Case of the Village Tramp (1959)

  Case of the Laughing Virgin (1960)

  Case of the Silent Stranger (1964)

  Case of the Brazen Beauty (1966)

Stay tuned to Paperback Warrior in the upcoming months for reviews of selected installments from the Pete Selby Sixth Precinct series.

We discuss the author and series on the third episode of the Paperback Warrior Podcast.

You can buy a used copy of the third novel HERE