This is Nigel Morland’s gangster thriller “The Big Killing.” Published at 64-pages by William Foster, it boasts an eye-arresting cover rendered by Philip Mendoza featuring an American gangster preparing to smoke a cigarette while casually wielding a Thompson sub-machine gun with the popular “drum” magazine attachment. The cover art is simple, yet gorgeous, in a crude way; being a “NEW” Thriller by crime favorite Nigel Morland, readers were sure to be greeted with some blood-n-thunder action. The book immediately sold out of its June 1946 printing and was rapidly reprinted the following month. (NOTE: My edition is the July 1946 reprint edition, as noted on the copyright page, and that doesn’t make it any less rare than the first).
The behemoth detective-inspector Attila Ark is brought in to solve the brutal slayings of three river patrolmen. Rumor has it that American gangsters have invaded England. Ark is given four days to locate, detain, and eliminate the gang….
With the assistance of various parties (including a petty crook and a parentless newspaper office boy), Ark obtains details about the American underworld activities, involving bribery and blackmail. But when England’s wealthy bankers and stock market controllers begin committing suicide, it’s apparent that all hell is about to break loose.
When Ark learns of a crooked bank institution, a corrupted newspaper outfit, incriminating photos, and a mysterious American amateur criminologist arriving late on the scene, all the jigsaw pieces lead to…the big killing!
This is my first foray into reading literature by Nigel Morland. The heavy nature and murderous undertones of the story that Nigel tries to adequately and precariously portray are ruined by his insertion of repetitious jokes, yet, they play an important role in the novelette’s finale. Ark never has his own pack of cigs or lighter and bums them off fellow policemen and criminals, alike. His constant complaint that someone stole his cigarette pack(s) leads the ultimate killer into dropping his guard and falling for Ark’s routine request…by bending down to supply the captured Ark with a cigarette! Ark unleashes a thunderous fist and knocks him out, then takes on one final hoodlum. The murder mystery carries just enough intrigue to keep the reader plowing doggedly along!
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[…] The Skylight Man is by Nigel Morland and features his hard-nosed bitch of a detective, Mrs. Palmyra Pym. If that statement offends you, it shouldn’t. Pym’s stone-cold, abrasively coarse, etc. I’m not sure as to her age, but I dare say she’s probably in her 50s or so. Least, that’s how I read it. She’s called in to track a robber that can scale any building as agile as a cat and twice as fast. He made off with loads of cash. He was captured (accidentally) by a cop. Tossed in jail. Escaped, and killed a copper in the process. Every copper is hunting him to no avail. He has a girlfriend that has her own show at the BBC. She’s watched 24/7, certain the pair will contact one another. Pym finally cracks the case when she spots a blonde model and her unique nylons. They are coded in Morse, and the robber was once a navy man that can read Morse. Plus, being more than a bit of a “wolf,” he’s certain to first spot the sexy blonde’s legs on TV and then the code. They catch him alright, but Pym is miffed. Dozens of viewers also spotted the Morse code and phoned in asking if there was a cash prize for solving the code! I’ve read Nigel Morland previously and wasn’t too impressed with his works. The first time was via stand-alone novella The Big Killing. […]