Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Newsman’s Lot Is Not Always Happy

Adventure novelist Edward S. Aarons is best known for his long-running series about globetrotting American spy Sam Durell, but he also penned many other pulp mysteries during his long career. NO PLACE TO LIVE, originally published in 1947 under his Edward Ronns pseudonym, is a nifty old-school mystery that even offers the tried-and-true gimmick of compiling the long list of suspects in a living room before pointing out the guilty party.

Aarons' hero is no detective, but Jerry Benedict, a political cartoonist for a New York City newspaper. Working the police beat temporarily while the regular guy is no vacation, Jerry sticks his nose into the case of a mobster named Frank Hamilton, whose mutilated body is fished out of the harbor. Although Hamilton's acquaintances positively identify the body, Jerry has his doubts—which are affirmed when he stumbles upon the real corpse in a dark apartment.

The key to the mystery lies in a different apartment—the one in which Hamilton was living when he died and the one that suspects are literally lining up to rent. Figuring there must be a clue or two inside, Jerry pulls some sleight of hand to nail down the lease and look around. Of course, a beautiful woman is involved as well. Stephanie Farley is one of many Hamilton acquaintances willing to woo or threaten Jerry into turning over the apartment, including a spacey actress, a shady doctor, and a South American who once tortured Jerry in one of Castro's prison camps (I wonder if Aarons ever told this story in an earlier book).

NO PLACE TO LIVE moves quickly and smartly through 160 pages with violence, intrigue, and good humor, courtesy of the wisecracking Jerry. It's the first non-Durell Aarons novel I've read and a good one. My paperback is a 1964 reprinting by MacFadden Books. The cover, while accurate, is not the most exciting.

1 comment:

Buck said...

Glad you mentioned Aarons. He seems almost forgotten these days. Both the Durrell and non-Durrell books are usually fast, tight, and lean. No bloat or flabbbiness.