Friday, December 13, 2013

Forgotten Books: MURDER WON'T WAIT by Carroll John Daly (1933)

Detective Vee Brown, trodding in the bloody footsteps of Race Williams and Satan Hall, was Carroll John Daly’s number three hero. But, I am pleased to report, while he shared characteristics with both, he was no carbon copy of either.

Like Satan Hall, Brown is a police detective who works outside the system. He reports directly to the district attorney, allowing him a freedom of action that sometimes brings resentment from cops on the regular force.

Like Both Race and Satan, Brown is lightning quick with his guns and rarely passes up an opportunity to make a righteous kill. Warned that a particular gunman is able to draw and shoot in exactly one second, Brown - like Race and Satan - brags that in that case the bad guy will be exactly one-half second too late. His favorite target is the center of his opponent’s forehead, though he sometimes mixes it up by sending the slug through the guy’s open mouth.

What sets Vee Brown apart is that he’s physically puny, and seems just slightly influenced by Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes?? In a Daly story? Well, not really. But Brown has a Watson-style narrator (a reporter who sometimes writes up his adventures for the newspaper) and a touch of eccentric genius. In his case, that genius has nothing to do with crime fighting. When he’s not shooting criminals dead, he's locked away in his music room, composing popular songs.

Brown’s Watson, Dean Condon, is reasonably tough and reasonably intelligent, but lacks Brown’s skill with a gun - and his killer mentality.

This illo of Brown accompanied the 1934 story, "The Murder Syndicate."

Murder Won’t Wait follows the pattern of the Race and Satan novels. It’s comprised of four pulp novelettes pitting Brown against a seemingly untouchable crime boss. In each of the first three segments, Brown takes out one of the big guy's vicious and deadly lieutenants, setting up the showdown with the boss in the finale.

Also following the Race and Satan formula, the book features a delicate but schizophrenic bit of femininity who walks the line between devil and angel. When the chips are down, she’s likely to betray the hero to her gangster friends and/or masters. But when the chips are really really down, she shows her true colors and risks all to save the hero’s life.

Race and Satan have a tough time with these ladies. Though it’s clear both find them attractive, and even harbor feelings for them, they’re too tough to admit it to themselves. The tandem team of Vee Brown and Dean Condon eliminates this problem. Condon can fall in love and make no bones about it, while Brown remains aloof and untarnished by emotion.

Vee Brown made his debut in Dime Detective in 1932 and appeared in the magazine eighteen times before making his last bow in 1936. His career was cut short when Joe Shaw left the helm at Black Mask and Daly moved his chief money-maker, Race Williams, over to Dime.

Brown's debut story, “The Crime Machine,” was once anthologized, and eight others formed the basis for two hardcovers, Murder Won’t Wait in 1933 and The Emperor of Evil in 1936. Fortunately, thanks to Altus Press, the entire saga will soon be back in print. They’re now assembling the complete works, and the first volume could be available as soon as January. Watch this space, because when it happens I’ll be shouting about it.

More Forgotten Books at pattinase!


Rick Robinson said...

Wow, another great book to look forward to! Cool.

James Reasoner said...

I read some of these stories about ten years ago and really enjoyed them. I'll be getting the Altus Press collections for sure.