Showing posts with label William P. McGivern. Show all posts
Showing posts with label William P. McGivern. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Night Extra

World War 2 veteran William P. McGivern worked as a a police reporter for the Philadelphia Bulletin and The Evening Bulletin before publishing his first novel in 1948. Specializing in crime-fiction and mysteries, McGivern's journalism experience clearly played a large influence on his narratives and plot-points. Nothing showcases that more than his novel Night Extra, published by Pocket Books in 1957.

The book's hero is newspaper reporter Sam Terrell. While working the “night extra” (a special late evening edition of the newspaper recapping important events), Terrell receives a tip that Richard Caldwell, white-hat candidate for mayor, may be having an affair with a mob kingpin's girl. After interviewing the girl, Terrell learns that she has secretly relayed some mob details to Caldwell in hopes that he can use it to win the election. However, hours later it's reported on the police scanner that the girl has been found dead in Caldwell's apartment. Terrell thinks it's a frame job and can validate it with an eyewitness that says the killer wasn't Caldwell. When his sources are questioned and his story buried, Terrell sets out to set the record straight for the public.

Like any hardboiled crime-fiction protagonist, Terrell interviews key witnesses and participants to shake down an unnamed city's corruption. McGivern's contemporary, author David Alexander, utilized the same formula for his eight-book series starring Broadway Times reporter Bart Hardin (1954-1959). Other authors like Richard Sale and Fredric Brown wrote short-stories starring newshounds that worked like private-eyes to break or solve murder cases. McGivern's positions his hero to crack the case, but he stacks the deck with crooked cops and politicians for the hero to combat. The author adds some social commentary on the media's ability to sway voters with their story, an ethical message that is still prevalent today.

Night Extra doesn’t reinvent the hardboiled formula, but the author certainly showcases his talents and strengths in perfecting it. This was a fast-paced narrative with some touching characters in which readers will invest. I'm not sure if Terrell was a recurring character in McGivern's other novels. But if he wasn't, he should have been. Highly recommended.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, August 31, 2020

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 59

Paperback Warrior Podcast Episode 59 features a discussion of William McGivern with a review of his classic, Night Extra. We also discuss Armchair Fiction, Sterling Noel, William O’Farrell, Milton Ozaki, Reporter sleuths, Michael Brett and more! Listen on your favorite podcast app, stream below or download directly HERE

Listen to "Episode 59: William P. McGivern" on Spreaker.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Rogue Cop

William P. McGivern (1918-1982) started his writing career authoring science fiction and fantasy stories for the pulps. By the time he turned to paperback novels, crime fiction became his preferred genre with a high water mark being his 1954 release, “Rogue Cop.” The book was adapted that same year into a well-regarded movie starring Robert Taylor and a pre-Psycho Janet Leigh.

The book’s protagonist is Detective Sergeant Mike Carmody, a police officer in the employ of his big-city police department (feels like Philadelphia to me) and the local mobster, Dan Beaumonte. Carmody has an idealistic kid brother named Eddie who is also a cop, but one who honors his oath of office and plays by the rules. As you can imagine, their relationship is distant and chilly due to the sizable gulf between their core values.

As the novel opens, Carmody has a real dilemma on his hands. His brother Eddie is preparing to testify against a low-level mobster working for Beaumonte, and the racketeer is nervous that the defendant is going to flip if convicted. Beaumonte enlists Carmody’s help to have Eddie keep his mouth shut...or else.

When Carmody explains the risks of testifying to Eddie, the Super-Catholic younger brother doesn’t want to hear it as he can’t be bought or swayed. Carmody is forced into quite a bit of soul-searching regarding his own reputation in the department as a dirty cop while devising a plan to placate his mob boss and keep Eddie alive. Carmody enlists Eddie’s girlfriend into his scheme to keep his brother safe using his own knowledge of the girl’s checkered past. 

This really is a fantastic novel. McGivern brings his A-game when it comes to creating tension and making Carmody’s redemption tale a roller-coaster ride of conflicting interests. The mobsters are menacing without being cartoonish, and the scenes of reckoning between the brothers are emotionally wrenching. McGivern had a real knack for propulsive plotting, and this story is tight as a drum. 

“Rogue Cop” is more than just a kick-ass tale of cops and crooks (although plenty of asses do get kicked). It’s also a story of a man fighting for his own redemption - both professionally and spiritually. There’s a lot going on in this short novel, and it’s way smarter than most genre paperbacks of that era.

I haven’t seen the movie adaptation because they always seem to be a letdown, but I may seek this one out. But you shouldn’t cheat yourself out of a great page-turner. If you’re looking for a fast-moving hardboiled crime story without an ounce of fat, please consider “Rogue Cop” to be essential reading. Highly recommended.

Buy this book HERE

Friday, July 27, 2018

Odds Against Tomorrow

In addition to writing scripts for the TV shows “Kojak” and “Adam 12,” William McGivern also authored some highly-regarded crime fiction in the 1950s. I asked around and learned that his best noir novel is arguably 1957’s “Odds Against Tomorrow.”

The book is a classic heist thriller with an interpersonal twist. Earl Slater is a Texas ex-con who reluctantly joins a four-man crew planning a bank robbery with an estimated take of $200,000. The catch is that the outfit’s fourth man is an affable black guy named John Ingram (played by Harry Belafonte in the 1959 film adaptation), and Slater is more than a bit of a racist. Blame it on his humble, white-trash roots. Can Earl set aside his prejudices for the greater good of The Plan?

The man with the plan for this bank job is ex-cop-turned-crook, Dave Burke, and he’s thought of everything. He’s the consummate professional of the group. All he’s got to do is convince the crew to stick to the foolproof plan and convince Slater to set his bigotry aside for the duration of the job. If you’ve ever read a heist novel, you can guess that things go sideways and that no plan is truly foolproof.

For his part, McGivern does a fantastic job of introducing us to the key members of the heist crew, their backgrounds, and motivations. The flashbacks and exposition happens fast and never diminishes the excitement of the planning, the heist, and the getaway. The scenes depicting the canny local sheriff who senses that trouble is brewing are also terrific and really bring the “will they get away with it?” pot to a rolling boil. Some of the post-heist sequences dragged a bit, but the conclusion landed on solid ground.

Fans of heist paperbacks would rightly cite Lionel White and Richard Stark as the high-water marks in the genre. “Odds Against Tomorrow” doesn’t quite reach those heights, but it’s a worthwhile effort and a fun ride. Recommended.