Tough on the Wops was released 1947 under Harold Ernest Kelly’s alias, Buck Toler, via his Robin Hood Press. After this novel, Buck Toler expired and Darcy Glinto once again took center stage, after having not been seen since the war years.
His earlier Buck Toler efforts included:
- The Bronsville Massacre (Mitre Press, 1943)
- It’s Only Saps That Die (Everybody’s Books, 1944)
- Killer on the Run (Everybody’s Books, 1944)
Tough on the Wops would appear one further time, with a crudely constructed cover by Heade, showcasing a young lady holding a Thompson machine gun (a scene from the novel). Whether that edition was a reprint or remainder stock with the original ghastly cover by Hofbauer removed and the Heade attached to help move the rest, I won’t know until I obtain a copy. The scene featured on the Hofbauer cover illustrates the gunning down of Angelo….
Kelly introduces us to a series of hoodlums recently released from prison, with the goal of taking over Woptown, a fictional town heavily populated by Italians, but designed to represent a real American town. In charge is Lugs Heimer, and on one of their first outings, they strike against Angelo, a young man owning a prosperous restaurant. The shop is riddled with bullets and destroyed; more importantly, the polished mobster Fluther is forced to come along for the ride. Primarily, in the past, he is your clean-cut hoodlum, smooth-talker, etc, never gets his hands dirty. However, today, he is pushed into the fracas, and begins to enjoy the ruthlessness and destruction.
Days later, Fluther is sent to blackmail Angelo, whom in turn tells his fiance, Francesca, whom in turn, convinces Angelo to speak with the police. Fluther had warned Angelo about going to the police….
The police arrange for Angelo to wrap a wad of bills together and follow the hoodlum’s instructions to the letter. When the car drives by, a window will be down, a gun covering Angelo, and, he is to toss the bundle in the car. Unfortunately, they get wind that something is up when Angelo inexplicably steps into the street behind the car. This action would prevent them from shooting him down.
The police open fire but the car is heavily protected and the bullets fail to penetrate. The worst that occurs is the windshield stars-up and visibility is greatly reduced. Thinking he is safe, Angelo foolishly remains in the street, watching the fracas. From a secluded spot, Francesca watches everything, too. Then, the worst happens! She watches as Angelo crumples in a heap as another gangster car roars up and stitches him and the nearby police. The pair of cars make their getaway and Francesca weeps over her slain fiance.
Unable to take the emotional strain, she collapses and awakens in hospital, with her parents present. Once reality catches up to her, she becomes a hardened shell and is determined to exact retribution.
Unfortunately for the hoodlums, this is not the worst yet to come. For them, returning to base, they find that the wad of bills is nothing more than a wad of papers. They are all enraged, and worse yet, the docile Fluther mouths off to Heimer, whom takes it upon himself to beat the shit out of him. Fluther doesn’t fight like a man, and takes a wine bottle and begins carving up Heimer’s face, stabbing him repeatedly. Heimer finally collapses on the floor and Fluther has to be restrained. Fluther takes the gang under his wing, and being more intelligent than Heimer, constructs a series of successfully lucrative raids on Woptown, hitting banks, businesses, etc…
Francesca walks the streets nightly, and accidentally hits upon the territory of a local floozie, who isn’t taking it kindly that Francesca is walking her beat. They pair up and Francesca learns the area better, and where to hangout. Eventually, luck prevails and Fluther finds her attractive, and kidnaps her! Returning to the base, he locks her in a spare room upstairs, and has his way with her repeatedly (though Kelly is careful to make no actual allusions; he’d already been heavily prosecuted by the English government for his Darcy Glinto novels).
Francesca plays the floozie part, and eventually Fluther thinks she is sweet on him and okay with being locked up. She confesses to being turned-on by Fluther being a gangster, instead of a rich businessman, and guns really get her going. He shows her an empty Thompson, how to operate it, etc, and, leaves the empty machine gun in the room.
While away raiding a government train laden with money en route to the local banks, an ex-FBI agent has been performing his own investigations and is watching the hideout. When the gang depart, he kicks in the door and finds Francesca downstairs, sitting coolly on a couch, facing him, holding the Thompson. She confesses it is empty, so he calms down. They compare notes, but she does not tell him the entire truth of her circumstances. With his assistance, the Thompson is loaded and he leaves her to maintain the status quo while he rounds up the police for the final raid.
Francesca has other ideas….
The gang return, with some quarters-of-a-million dollars from the train heist. Everyone is partying hard, but Fluther has his murderous eyes on Heimer, whom he caught, on the heist, pointing his Thompson at Fluther’s back. Now, he figures the hour is ripe to kill Heimer, in front of everyone, and firmly establish himself as the leader. Heimer is accused, and goes for his armpit holster, but Fluther spits alcohol in his eyes, then beats him up and when he falls, pounces upon him and like a feral nightmare, begins ripping the flesh from Heimer’s neck and face with his bare teeth!
In walks Francesca.
She says nothing.
Just watches the scene.
Finally, one hoodlum after another begin to notice the gorgeous bombshell, calmly detached, wielding the death-dealer. And, it’s not only pointed at them, it’s fully loaded! Jaws dropping, they simply stare. Finally, the moment has come, and she hollers Fluther’s name twice; once she has obtained his attention, detaching his bloodied maw from the remnants of Heimer’s face, she informs those present who she really is and why they are about to die.
And, pulling back on the trigger, she sweeps the room from side to side twice. The last gangster in line, a quick-draw, manages to snap off some return-fire.
The ex-FBI agent and the police raid the building, only to find everyone dead. He kneels beside the girl, checks for a pulse. She’s dead cold, and praises her dead fiance as “the luckiest guy that ever did live.”
It’s a tough, hard-hitting gangster novel, heavily padded throughout, but an awful-good read, for the type of people out there that love this sort of thing.