Dead on Delivery by Al Bocca

Dead on Delivery was published mid-1950 by Scion Ltd. and represents the 9th novel written by Bevis Winter under the Al Bocca pseudonym. The cover art is signed Gomez; one of several aliases of Philip Mendoza who also signed as: Garcia, Zero, Ferrari, etc.

DEAD ON DELIVERY

Al Bocca just can’t seem to keep his sorry arse out of trouble. The novel opens with Bocca at the train station, waiting to pick up Mulligan (an assistant) and reminiscences over his last assignment, the Durrimer case. Then a luscious doll-face departs the locomotive and latches her body and lips to his face. She’s in a fit of hysterics; a meathead is following her, and appears to intend harm. Bocca looks big and strong, and she wants to appear to be in his company. Bocca hasn’t time for her drama, and since she won’t reveal the nature of her woes, he hands her his business card, tosses her inside his personal car, and see ya later. The driver (Harry) is given instructions to drive her anywhere she wants, but to be sure to lose the brute tailing her. Harry takes off, and the brute hops a car and tears off in hot pursuit.

A costly mistake, but we’ll return to that in a moment. Mulligan deserves some air-time…

Mulligan walks out of the train station and locates Bocca watching the cars race away. Bocca explains the recent development, and Mulligan, ever appreciative of the fine female species, wants facts and figures.

“What kinda dame? Big, small, fat, thin, dark, light, easy…?” and Bocca replies: “Five feet five of glamour, one hundred and fourteen pounds, strawberry blonde, nice legs, good bust.”

Lemme tell ya, Bocca robbed Mulligan of his original impression. For us readers, earlier, he went on at great length to ensure us she was worthy of attention, even going so far as to note the type of perfume she was wearing. To say she left an aromatic impression wouldn’t be going far enough, given she practically body-melded Bocca and gave him the lip treatment.

Am I boring you? I’m boring you…

Mulligan and Bocca head to the latter’s apartment and are met by a hyper Harry (the driver, remember?). He vomits that the brute was unshakable, across town, around the park, through the Ennever Tunnel (the what?!?!) across town again, back to Vine (where?), then the car stalled at Graham and Third (yeah, okay, I give up). The nameless dame jumps from the dead vehicle, hot-foots it, the brute gives chase, Harry ditches his wheels and lends his feet to the concrete, pours on the speed, down an alley, and they vanish. He hears a shot; then another. Finds the gal dead, a bloody mess, and the brute is long gone.

Now we have a dead girl and a mystery. Bocca tells Harry to provide the police with basic information, but leave Bocca’s name out of it. Picked up the girl at the train station arriving from Dorval (where??? there is NO such place in California) and you know the rest. We eventually learn she left her purse in Harry’s car and that the brute must have returned to the scene of the crime; she’d been stripped, and Bocca’s business card is missing from the purse and her body. He’s certain the cretin now knows a P.I. is involved.

Al Bocca is certain of one thing: he feels responsible for the young lady’s untimely demise. Obtaining the purse, he dumps out the contents. No identification. The most substantial clues are a ring of keys and hurried note. Following the semi-cryptic clue, Bocca finds himself phoning the address of a Mrs. Gloria Kerr-Smith. She answers the call, and Bocca carefully alludes to the unknown girl. Gloria panics and agrees to meet Bocca at her home. He arrives, enters, they meet, and she is one sexy dame.

Bocca unveils the truth concerning the dead girl, and Gloria breaks down in tears over the loss of her friend, Arlene Raynor. Turns out Miss Raynor shares the same occupational hazard as Bocca: private investigations. She operated her own outfit out in Dorval with partner Loretta Carson. Bocca is gobsmacked to discover the young 20s-something hotty was a P.I. like him. But Gloria has more surprises.

The plot as presented by Gloria Kerr-Smith:
1. she is the sole child of her father’s business empire.
2. she dated and eventually married a man her father did not approve of.
3. daddy cut off her $5,000 allowance certain her hubby (George) was a piece of dirt.
4. said piece of dirt confesses to stealing her jewels after they were reported stolen by person’s unknown.
5. The jewels were previously insured, and the agency coughs up $125,000.
6. Gloria does not inform her father because he detests the media. It would spell S.C.A.N.D.A.L.

And because no proper crime novel is complete without a web of intrigue, we have some more overlapping scandals involved. Seems daddy is married to his second wife, a much younger woman. While he has been busy working his tail off for the American government, she’s having an affair with Adrian Calbrook. She wrote him numerous love letters, sent unscrupulous photos, etc.

Adrian meanwhile is deep in debt to George Kerr-Smith’s gambling rooms. In order to pay off the debts, Calbrook turns heel and blackmails his wayward lover. Those letters and photos eventually are acquired by George to settle the remaining debt, and George then uses the same materials to continue blackmailing Gloria’s father’s wife (Marie). The arrangement is simple: George demands, Marie sends money to the middle-man (er, middle-woman, rather) in the form of her daughter-in-law, Gloria, to collect. Gloria turns it over to George. Gloria eventually is tired of all this and unburdens her soul to childhood friend Arlene Raynor. She deals her hand in and promises to discretely obtain the letters and photos, despite Gloria’s protests to not get her involved.

Al shows Gloria the keys, and eventually she recognizes one key as potentially belonging to a deposit box at a bank in Dorval, where George’s gambling business is located. Gloria makes sexual advances and Bocca is warm-blooded and eager to be drained dry, but smells a rat. Gloria is holding back some information, but he hasn’t a clue as to what. The brute, if he was employed by George, certainly does not require the stolen ring of keys to enter the bank’s deposit box. All he needs to do is present himself and valid identification, and claim to have lost the key.

So, at the heart of all these problems it appears that George is the ultimate beast that needs manhandling. However, Bocca describes the brute that murdered Miss Raynor. Gloria hasn’t a clue who he is; he isn’t her louse of a husband! So, who is the brute? Is he associated with George Kerr-Smith? Or is there a third faction involved?

To add some fresh data to this series, Bocca is called “Alphonse” at one point. Is that the full name for Al Bocca? I’d like to see that name pop up in another novel to be sure.

Next day, Mulligan and Bocca drive Gloria out to the fictional town of Dorval, park outside the bank. Al and Gloria enter, fill out required forms, and are shown to the box. She enters the key, withdraws an envelope containing the letters and photos. She’s further excited to spot a small box that contains her stolen jewels, only, the box is empty! The swine has already removed the jewels.

Departing the bank, the trio are run off the road by some hulking hoodlums carrying foul-talking gats. Realizing they had Gloria in a potential cross-fire, Al orders his partner to drop his gun. They are extracted from the car, and searched for the papers. They realize they must be on Gloria, and shred her dress, leaving her stark naked in the effort (I imagine her undies aren’t touched, as that would be too much for English censors). Declothed, the hoodlums extract the papers hidden under breasts, and depart, leaving the trio stranded with a busted car.

Al Bocca is annoyed. Gloria clearly lied, and he finally throws it in her face regarding the blackmail papers, that he is aware George could have accessed the bank anytime without those keys. She realizes the peril of the situation, and reveals the truth… Her father had developed some form of top-secret technology in his chemical laboratories. The papers were not just letters and photos: they were blueprints. George is working with the “commies.”

Now, how to find the hoodlums? Skipping ahead, Bocca visits George’s apartment. He is certain one of the keys on the ring must open the door. No need…while inserting the first key, he turns the knob and it opens easily. Wasn’t locked. Unlimbering his hardware, he sneaks in and catches a young lady making to exit but she is caught by Bocca in her attempt. She is revealed to be the late Miss Raynor’s partner, Loretta Carson! And on the ground at her feet is a very dead George. Apparently the third-party no longer required his services, having obtained the blueprints.

Despite not being involved with the case, Loretta’s friend had leaked some of the data to her. After reading of her partner’s demise in the newspapers as an unidentified corpse, she investigated George herself and make various discoveries. One was that he was working with the “Agents of Freedom,” a group of shady characters associated with the commies. Bocca convinces Loretta to chat in safe privacy at her apartment. They hit romantically off (ah, more required padding) and between chat and making out we have both driving off to the “Agents of Freedom” headquarters in a seedy part of town.

Convinced he has found their HQ, he instructs Loretta to locate a callbox, phone his partner for backup, and to tell the police everything. Bring all forces to his rescue, for Bocca intends to do something he swears he is not cut out for: heroics.

Locating the gang’s secreted car, he pops the hood and removes various parts to make it nonfunctional, wipes grease over his face, and then heads upstairs semi-disguised in the hopes the hoodlums that stripped Gloria naked won’t immediately recognize him. It works. He pawns himself off as a lowlife associate of “the brute” that killed Miss Raynor (who by the way is dead, courtesy of Mulligan saving Al’s life during that “skip ahead” moment…sorry, but it saves a lot of time, mates!) and informs them that the brute was captured by the police and is confessing everything. They panic, but quickly begin completing their assignment, having made miniature copies of the blueprints. Climbing all up to the building’s turret, Bocca is mortified to see they attach the documents to a carrier pigeon and release it!

Realizing he must compromise his life, Bocca draws his hidden gun, pushes it through the slats, and shoots the pigeon. All hell breaks loose. Guns are drawn, Bocca is in a gun-battle, and eventually finds himself safely behind a surviving hoodlum, who has his boss at his own back, gun drawn. Neither Bocca nor the boss can shoot without slaying the hoodlum. Not that the boss cares, but shooting the hoodlum means exposing himself to Bocca’s lead. After both slowly circle the motionless-one, the boss escapes and bars the door, then douses the door and lights it. Both men inside suddenly find themselves on agreeable terms, to save each other. But neither can break down the door!

Thankfully, sirens sound, guns begin blazing. The cavalry has arrived. Bocca busts out some slats from the turret to obtain air, and his suffocating companion thrusts forward for fresh air. An opportune moment, and Bocca slaps his gun over his head, knocking the man unconscious.

The novel essentially ends. The crooks are captured attempting to flee in the sabotaged car. The downed pigeon is found and the blueprints retrieved. Al is dining with Gloria and her father and his wife. Turns out while he and Marie were away on a trip, Marie confessed everything, including her infidelity and the stolen blueprints. All for nothing. He had already changed the plans and the blueprints; had they made their way to the commies, they would have been utterly useless. Despite that, his wife’s confession strengthened their love and devotion, and he admires Bocca for his own heroic adventures, despite the fact it was actually not necessary. But Al Bocca didn’t KNOW that. So, he offers his widowed daughter Gloria as reward, and a position at his chemical plant making a vast amount of money.

Bocca turns it all down, but accepts the $10,000 reward, drives away, and calls up Loretta. Is she interested in some alone time down in Miami, or maybe Florida? Yeah, that’s how it ends. Let’s think about this…Miami or Florida? Was this a typo on Bevis Winter’s part, or, was it intentional that he had Al Bocca offer the city of Miami and then follow it up with Florida as an option, insinuating that either way, he’s bringing her there? Who knows! Knowing Bevis’s humorous habits, I’d like to think it was truly intended to sound idiotic. Personally, I’d love to see Al Bocca and Loretta Carson team up as business associates in future novels, but I’d wager this doesn’t happen. In any case, I can’t wait to dive into the next Al Bocca novel on my shelf.

Rear cover Al Bocca bio

If you have any Al Bocca novels on your shelf that you aren’t particularly attached to, please contact me at morganwallace@gmail.com
Books are meant to be read, and if your copy is languishing, gathering dust, I’d like a crack at that book.

As an additional note, the rear cover to Dead on Delivery supplies an entirely fictional bio for Al Bocca. It is rather amusing, and I decided to present it here for your perusal. Someone had a load of fun creating it.

Dead on Delivery by Al Bocca

She Was No Lady by Al Bocca

Unlike the previously blogged Al Bocca gangster novel, this story isn’t a gangster novel. Oh, don’t get me wrong…there are gangsters. The plot here revolves around protagonist Al Bocca (yeah, the fictional name of the author) who is a private investigator. More on the plot in a moment.

She Was No Lady

She Was No Lady was published by Scion Ltd. circa July 1950 per Whitaker’s Index under the Al Bocca alias; as previously discussed, this is one of a handful of pseudonyms belonging to Bevis Winter. The digest-sized paperback features cover art signed “Ferrari”. This was one of many aliases used by Philip Mendoza. One glimpse at the cover art (a canary blonde dame with large jugs, bra and scanties disclosed, and long shapely legs, wielding a small handgun) and you know that the Irish censor board were all over it. A quick look at their register proves we are correct. I imagine it was banned by other countries as well.

My copy has a faded “Brown’s Book Exchange” rubber stamped under the author’s name, and I’m grateful to the person that smartly placed it where the artwork itself would remain unmarred. It’s a well-read copy, with a reading crease, and several dog-ear creases to the lower right cover. Otherwise, clean and sound.

The novel opens on page 5 and concludes on page 127. Our protagonist (Al Bocca) is walking the street with his luggage, having just departed the Okeville Station (um, there’s no such place). He eventually enters a bar. Departing, he’s met by a gun-totin’ cretin, and soon joined by another creep. They force him into a taxi and eventually arrive in a disreputable part of California. (I’m not sure by this point what city we are in, but the author claims we are going to the corner of Wellington and Medusa; there’s no such intersection). They push him into a room, and an ape going by the name of Big Nick begins to systematically slap him around. Seems Bocca is suffering maltreatment due to a case of mistaken identity. They want some bloke named Murray. He convinces them to look at his identification. Wrong name, wrong guy, and worse yet, Bocca is a P.I.

Convinced that Bocca isn’t Murray, they apologize and help the messed-over Bocca to his feet. Big Nick instructs the hoods to drive Bocca to his lodgings. They do so, with reluctance. One decides to get smart and follows Bocca to his apartment door. Big mistake. Bocca has recovered his wits and decides to exact vengeance for the beating he suffered. After doing so, Bocca extracts the fellow’s gun, dumps out the cartridges, hands it back, and tosses him out.

Next day, Bocca is hired over the phone by a nameless entity. They meet at his apartment, and Bocca is nonplussed to find himself looking at a man that seems to resemble himself. This clearly is Murray, the guy the hoods were hunting. He’s got a job for Bocca: find a girl. Her name is Mickie. Seems Murray is worried about the girl who has gone missing. And he’s paying Bocca a cool grand in cash to find her.

We later learn from other sources that it’s believed she is holding jewels from a heist pulled off by a bunch of gangsters and her brother. So, the gist is there was a jewelry heist. Something went wrong. The jewels are missing. Some turn up at a pawn shop. The girl’s brother is arrested for passing stolen goods. He serves time. The girl is suspected of hiding the goods. Two rival factions are looking for the goods. Murray is later found dead in Bocca’s pad. Why? Did the killer(s) know he was Murray or think they were bumping off Bocca? Meanwhile, the brother escapes prison. Toss in a two-timing doll-face and you’ve got part of the picture. But let me tell you, Bevis Winter never, ever, makes it that easy. He likes to toss in a twist…somewhere.

Now, I won’t ruin the plot from here, but let me tell you, it’s a fun and wild ride, and reminds me just why I love reading Bevis Winter. His detective novels carry a strong pace, enough tough hard-boiled dialogue and sarcasm to make you smile throughout. The most irritating part of his novels: a lack of attention to regional details. If you are from California, his dropping of locales will bewilder you. Most are fake or so far apart that the distance makes no sense. Where is Bocca based? Hard to say, unless I can trace that very first novel that Bocca debuts. Even then, I’m not confident we will learn the truth.

Until then, I’ll look forward to tackling my next Bevis Winter novel.

She Was No Lady by Al Bocca

The Long Sleep by Al Bocca

The Long Sleep was published in 1950 by Scion Ltd. and represents the 4th book written by Bevis Winter under the Al Bocca pseudonym. The cover art is signed Ferrari; this is the alias of Philip Mendoza, who also signed as: Garcia, Zero, Gomez, etc.

The novel opens with Rick Morrison walking down the ‘hood, having recently been released from prison for a small-time crime. He’s looking to hook up with his girlfriend (Lola Madigan) only to discover that she has been two-timing him with an Italian “wop” by the name of Matt Corelli.

Disclaimer: Keep in mind that this is a 1950s novel, and we are still fairly fresh from exiting World War Two against the Germans and Italians. Slurs such as “wop” were commonplace terms in “gangster” novels. Any racism in these novels are not necessarily any reflection on the author’s actual personal beliefs.

Disgusted that Lola has been lip-smacking Corelli, Rick decides he will snatch her back from Corelli… But first, he needs money.

Picking up where he left off (criminally) he hooks up with another ex-jail-mate by the name of Lee Ackerman, who has the schematics to a rich old man’s home. He also knows that he and a butler are the only pair in residence, their movements, sleeping patterns, etc. Breaking in proves to be easy, but the whole scene goes haywire when the old man atop the staircase points a firearm down at them.

Rick refuses to shoot the old man. What’s worse, Lee Ackerman finds himself in a tussle on the ground with the butler. Tossing his handgun down to Lee in the darkness, Rick moves to leave when the gun goes off. The butler is done for, and the old man falls down the staircase to his death. Departing the house with the stolen goods, they hook up with their driver (a young female named Sonia) and speed away.

The goods are cached along the way and the trio split up. Rick phones his partner the next day only to discover a voiceless person has answered the phone. Repeating the call again nets the same result. A lifted receiver, but no speaker! Fearing the worst, Rick discovers via the newspaper that the police have arrested Ackerman and Sonia. The former has been charged with murder. Blood and dirt and scrapings are found on his body and clothes. Sonia, being quite young and inexperienced with the law, apparently has coughed up the fact that a third party (Rick) was involved.

Realizing the police are hunting him, Rick enlists the aid of Lola to obtain a fast car, then he races to where he believes the money and jewels are cached, finally discovers the location and the pair make their getaway. Lola isn’t too keen on bugging out on Corelli, as he has long reaches. The man practically owns her, having gifted her with jewels, furs, etc.

Ditching their wheels, the pair stereo-typically hop a railway car and sleep off their fright inside and permit the train to assist in their nocturnal escape. With the train coming to a sudden stop, Rick and Lola jump out before their “car” can be searched. Lola’s having no fun over the expense of having ditched a cozy situation with a repulsive-looking man in the city versus being on the lam with a loser with a pretty face.

They eventually obtain another set of wheels and make their way to San Francisco, and into the joint run by Siegal. Explaining that he is a wanted man out East, and having pulled off a botched jewelry heist, Siegal agrees to help but unwilling to match Rick’s cash demands for the jewels. Figuring the jewels to be too hot, he offers a much lower rate and travel out of the country. But the deal sours when Seigal learns that Rick has a girlfriend along for the ride. Demanding that Rick brings the jewels and the girl along for inspection, Rick finally relents and agrees to the terms.

Arriving at the agreed meeting place proves to be Rick’s undoing. Turns out that back East, Corelli has put out the word that a hood has made off with his girl and wants the girl back…and the man held. Rick is beat and knocked out and left in a houseboat. Waking up sore and bloodied, Rick scours the houseboat for a means of escape. All means are firmly secured. But, discovering he still has matches, he sets door frame ablaze and rapidly begins to suffocate from the flames and smoke. The door frame begins to weaken as he continues to throw his body against it then finally parts.

Making his escape, Rick drops into the water as people ashore notice the boat is on fire. Swimming far from the scene, he drags his body from the water. His suit is a mess, his twisted and battered, but he makes his way into a shady part of town and is met by a prostitute, who takes him up to her apartment to get cleaned up…after he promises to pay her.

While in her pad, we learn her sob story. Her old man died at San Quentin in the gas chamber after a botched job, leaving her a widow, and working her body for cash. Rick and her end up on the bed making out. Next day, he phones a cab and makes to leave, promising to mail her the money. Shockingly, she states she doesn’t want the money, that he can keep it. She’s more interested in skipping town with him, just for him. Not the money. Just goes to show you can’t always judge a book (or a person) by their circumstances. That’s something that turns up in various books I’ve read by Bevis Winter…a moral within a story.

Meanwhile, on that very day of Rick departing the prostitute’s pad, Siegal has Lola bound and gagged in his place. He’s developing a soft spot for her sultry body and decides to rape her before Corelli arrives. In fact, he spouts his intentions to her quite clearly, explains that Corelli would never believe her over him anyway. That Rick has been disposed off on the wharf. You get the gist…and so he removes her gag, she begins calling him all manner of names and other foul things spew forth. Siegal begins to paw her, remove her garments, kiss her all over, which proves to be a fatal mistake. Lola sinks her teeth into his neck and removes a chunk of flesh and he, in a fit of rage, heaves her. Distracted by his less than affectionate amorous intentions, he vaguely hears a scraping sound… The window opens and Rick leaps in, a gun in hand.

Siegal is mortified, and has every right to be. He’s stuck in a room with a vengeful maniac and he himself has foolishly bolted the door from allowing his toughs to enter and save his life while he molested Lola!

Retrieving the jewels from Siegal’s jacket, Lola departs by means of the fire escape, and Rick levels the gun and puts two rounds into Siegal’s gut. Dropping down after Lola, they both make off to his secreted wheels, when another shot in the dark is fired, and two gunmen step out of the darkness. They are Corelli’s men. And Lola is captured. Rick knows he’s bested…

…and now we are formally introduced to Corelli as a fat, flabby, jowl-faced character, with broken English. Corelli and his thugs decide to take Rick out to the rural part of California, find a good canyon, and push Rick in his stolen jalopy off the cliff. Rick doesn’t like this idea one bit and puts up a struggle, only to be knocked over the head; Lola herself is physically shaken like a rag and slapped violently by Corelli a dozen times.

Rolling the clock backwards to Rick and Lola’s escape and immediate capture by Corelli’s hoods, Siegal’s guards break in the door and find their boss dead. Spotting the open window, they look out into the darkness and spot 3 male figures and a dame climbing into a luxury sedan. Certain that Corelli and his 2 hoods have pulled a double-cross (not realizing it is Rick, the girl, and 2 hoods) they gather their own wheels and heavy artillery. Siegal’s smartest guard, Murphy, is the one to utter the oath that whomever killed their boss will receive “the long sleep” treatment. Hence the title of this novel.

Knowing full well where Corelli usually hunkers down, Murphy and the boys locate the rental and decide to rig the rental for a whole different sort of trip. Retreating to their own wheels, Murphy is pumped to follow the rental and see what sort of mayhem ensues…

Tossing Rick into his own stolen wheels, Corelli climbs into the rental, and the pair of cars make for the mountains. Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, the driver of Rick’s wheels looks back in the mirror and in horror watches as his boss’s rental is out of control. The steering, clutch, brakes, all are useless. The car careens out of control on the bridge, over the rails, and plummets over the side, taking Corelli, one guard, and Lola down to certain death. Rick’s driver pulls over and gets out, looking down. There’s no need to look for survivors. His both and partner are dead, the jewels also having gone down with them. Murphy and the boys are enjoying the deadly bedlam.

Cops are immediately on the scene. The driver makes a run for it, pulling his gun. Another cop opens the rear door of the car and finds Rick unconscious, stuffed inside. The guard doesn’t get far before he is shot dead. And so ends this novel…we can only figure that Rick goes to jail as the final loose end, an obvious conclusion as he is a wanted man.

If you are into gangster novels and movies, this one certainly picks up the pace in the last quarter of the novel with all manner of twists and turns in the plot, violence, sex, etc. What it lacks is Bevis Winter’s customary facetiousness. Literally, there is no sarcasm nor wit present, but plenty of subtle irony.

The Long Sleep by Al Bocca

“The Big Killing” by Nigel Morland

william-foster-the-big-killing
The Big Killing (Nigel Morland) William Foster, 1946

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!

“The Big Killing” by Nigel Morland