Raymond Buxton (author) and Ben Bennison (sports journalist) team up for “The Black Wraith: A Story of the Dog Tracks” (aka: See How They Run) published by Stanley Baker Publications Ltd., in 1952. (Click on STANLEY BAKER in the “tags” section for another book I read October 2017)
The precise identity of Raymond Buxton is currently unclear, and from online research, I see that this topic has already been tackled, so I will move along to the novel itself.
The cover art features a stylish blonde paying a creepy-looking man a ton of money. No such scene ever transpires within the novel.
At its heart, “The Black Wraith” is a dog racing novel. We are introduced to Bart Bentley, an unscrupulous soul whom learns from another underworld denizen that up in Ireland, he might find the fastest dog that has never been raced. Bentley departs the train and eventually meets the O’Dare clan, which consists purely of father Patrick and his daughter, the lovely Sheila. They are poor and in dire straits. The father is a mechanic owes the local government(s) taxes and like.
Bentley takes advantage of their situation, playing up the London gentleman, whom got away from the big city for rest and relaxation. In fact, he wants to slowly claim control of the dogs and Sheila, the supreme prize. After attaining her confidence, he suggests that they train her two greyhound dogs (Sweep and Sooty). Afraid to go with him to London, he then suggests a chaperone. She obtains a relative, Kay Mulvaney, a spirited-fiery young lady that ultimately (privately) informs Bentley that she is onto his plans, but, has no intention of crossing his path. She’s in it for two things: the money and escaping to the city.
Agreed, the trio embark to London, and Bentley in no time begins to have the dogs trained at a derelict track, quietly, so that nobody becomes suspiciously awakened to the fact that Sheila has in fact two dogs in training. The world soon is introduced to the unknown Sweep, whom does just that. Sweep blows past the competition and repetitively begins to win races. No fool Bentley, he informs each of the local rackets about the dog, to ensure that they are equally satisfied, since they are aware of his darker reputation.
Bentley’s greed grows. He begins to toss Sooty into the mix, to purposely lose some races. On the sly, he bets on the sure dog, while placing public bets on Sooty (listed as Sweep). Sooty is fast, but seconds slower that Sweep, and, not as intelligent.
His funds growing by leaps and bounds, he has forgotten to include one other ally in his winnings. The person that first informed him about the dogs! That man slowly becomes enraged to the point that he goes to one of the big-noises, whom just lost thousands of pounds at a recent race “fixed” by Bentley.
To make matters worse, the floozie that Bentley normally shacks up with over the years is actually deeply in love with the louse. She learns that Bentley has been not only evading her (believing him to be busy on the tracks) but, also having sex with Kay Mulvaney. She and Sheila had been staying at a large home the during much of the novel. Kay wanted to escape, badly, as early mentioned, and with her share of Sweep’s winnings, finally sets herself up in some nicely furnished rooms.
Not satisfied with the winnings that Bentley bestows upon her, she flirts with Max Glicka, the man whom was just noted to have lost thousands of pounds on Sweep (er, Sooty). As anyone knows, that multi-faceted love triangle is bound to collapse.
Bentley’s floozie, Bessie, introduces herself to Sheila, and, while under alcoholic influences, reveals the truth to her, going so far as to state that if Sheila goes to Kay’s flat at “x”-hour, she will find Kay and Bart together.
However, Bessie arrives at that flat first, and forcing her way in, past the trim and scantily clad form of Kay, she finds Bentley in bed, inappropriately dressed. Next arrives Sheila, and she is aghast. Developments spiral out of control when Max Glicka, Kay’s other lover, also appears on the scene, to learn the truth of the fixed dog races.
Enraged beyond any sense of self-control, and realizing her wealth-building whorish empire is crumbling, Kay lifts a chair to clobber Bessie, but is shot dead by her erstwhile exposure! Bessie had found a revolver in Bentley’s clothes (at her apartments, where he sometimes stayed) and she brought it along for protection. Having never wielded a fire-arm in her life, she is shocked to find that she has shot and killed Kay! The gun drops to the ground, the police and called and Max makes sure nobody leaves the scene of the crime.
The next chapter switches to Bessie, imprisoned, awaiting trial. All the witnesses are present and are questioned. Each are honest save for Bentley, and Bessie’s lawyer, however, is one of the best in the country. He wrings enough of the truth out of Bentley to satisfy his case. The jury comes back: “manslaughter!” She collapses and is carried away, to serve her one-year sentence.
Time passes again. Sheila is rich, back home in Ireland, with her pa. She has saved the homestead and converted the back into a kennel. She receives a letter postmarked from Canada, and learns that Bentley, whom vanished after the trial, fled across The Great Pond and settled in Canada, and further, Bessie has joined him! She, a goodhearted young lady, decides to “gift” the pair with one of her newest pups…and so the novel ends.
Personally, I care little for any sort of sport story, however, Raymond Buxton delivers decent dialogue and a stupendous backdrop of color and an okay-enough plot to keep you plodding along. I heartily recommend this novel to anyone looking for a fresh escape.