“No Harp for My Angel”
“Booty for a Babe”
“Eve, It’s Extortion”
3 by Carter Brown
Stark House Press
Once again Stark House Press delivers a package of reprint classics. This time featuring three Detective Al Wheeler mysteries by Australian scribe Alan Geoffrey Yates writing as Carter Brown. As with all such collections from this wonderful publisher, the stories themselves are preceded by an informative essay on Yates and his life as a paperback writer by Rick Ollerman; itself worthy of the price of the book. As a child growin up in the 50s, we had an uncle who devoured paperback mysteries as if they were popcorn, reading a minimum of six per week. His nose was always buried in one of those little tomes; all of them featuring tough guy and hot babe covers. The one name we distinctly remember appearing over most of this sexy images was that of Carter Brown and for good reason. In his writing career he wrote hundred of them.
“No Harp for My Angel,” has Det. Wheeler on vacation in Florida when he runs afoul of a casino thug named Johnny Lynch with serious ambitions rise in the criminal underworld. At the same time lovely young socialites, daughters of prominent families, begin disappearing and the local cops believe Lynch is involved. Whereas Wheeler is a new face in town, he is recruited to go undercover as New York crook and learn not only what is happening to the missing girls but how it connects to the mobster. Naturally, in all such adventures, Wheeler not only has to contend with several deadly bruisers while mainting his disguise, but also a raven haired femme fatale who might very easily spell his doom if he becomes infatuated with her charms.
The second short novel is called “Booty for a Babe.” The guest speaker at a small weekend science-fiction club is murdered in the middle of the grand hall when a dart is shot into his heart. Eighty-five eye witnesses and all of them instant suspects. To solve the case, Commissoner Lavers sends in Det. Al Wheeler because of his unorthodox methods. Of course part of that includes flirting with every good looking dame on the scene. The problem is once the convention ends, the attendees get to go home. It’s Wheeler’s job to see the killer isn’t set free with them. This one is breeze and fun, with Wheeler’s wisecracking par for the course and early sci-fi takes a serious shellacking.
“Eve, It’s Extortion,” is the third and final book in the collection and our personal favorite. When a drunk is the victim of a hit and run, he leaves his beautiful widow a tidy sum of cash. Moss, the insurance agent, suspects foul play and convinces Police Commissiner Lavers to investigate. The commissioner assigns Al Wheeler to the case. As ever, the cocky, wise-cracking lieutenant soon finds himself elbow deep in beautiful, but deadly women; from Eve, the widow to a claims hunter named Edna Bright and a mischievous redhead named Natalie. Amidst this bevy of beauties he finds blackmailers and killers all intermingle in a pretzel like affair that will take all his unorthodox luck to solve. This is a breezy, fun caper that doesn’t disappoint. Wheeler even gets the girl in the end.
All in all, Stark House Mystery Classics delivers another great package celebrating the glorious days of paperback mayhem. This is one all mystery loves will appreciate.