Murder Gets Around by Robert Sidney Bowen

Murder Gets Around is the sequel to Make Mine Murder, and once more features detective Gerry Barnes and (less prominently) his girlfriend, Paula Grant.

Murder Gets Around
Full Dust Jacket art

1947 – Crown Publishers (192-pages, 1st edition hardcover in jacket)
1955 – Lindqvist forlag (189-pages)
via the Meteor series, Number 27 (Sweden) as “Diamanter Till Bruden”
1956 – Horisont (142-pages)
via the Meteor series, Number 15 (Denmark) as “Diamanter der dræbte”
1957 – Kotkan kustannus (184-pages)
via the Tiikeri series, Number 14 (Finland) as “Timanttisormus morsiamelle”

The novel never saw a mass market English-language edition, in America, England, or Australia, to my knowledge. However, it was heavily syndicated in American small-town newspapers in late 1948 through 1949.

The murder centers around a love quadrangle. Gerry and Paula are dining and Paula is jealous of Gerry’s flirtations with a blonde while Gerry is angry due to a Frenchman’s interests in Paula. There’s only one way to eliminate the situation.

Murder!

Assuming you read my blog entry on Make Mine Murder, you’ll recollect the dead man in that novel was found on Paula’s bed. Here, we flip the scenario, and place the deceased client literally in Gerry’s office. In his office chair, to be precise. Gerry walks into his office, late, slated to keep an appointment with a Frenchman that served with the Underground resistance against the Nazis during WW2. He met the man at a party, and the man got into fight with another Frenchman.

Having arranged to meet that morning, he is chagrined to find the man at his desk, dead, a knife in his back. On the desk is a check to retain his services.

To make the situation more awkward, the police inspector from the first novel unexpectedly walks in, which perhaps is the worst coincidence in the world, but, truth is, shit happens. Gerry now has a murdered man in his office, and an inspector that isn’t generally pleased to have a new private dick working in his city. And a dead man presenting itself as material evidence to possibly lock Gerry away, to boot. Thankfully, the inspector realizes that Gerry couldn’t possibly have committed the crime (why not?) and logically, certainly wouldn’t have done it in his own office (again, why not?).

Unlike the prior novel, which heavily featured his snappy girlfriend, this one gives her the backseat treatment and Bowen permits his green detective more space to flex his wings. And get beat-up more often.

Gerry stumbles through life and meets various members of The Underground movement, and slowly unravels the plot, but not before being captured, blindfolded, severely beaten to near-death, and dumped unconscious into the river. Remarkably, his body floats to shore and he is rescued. Kind of. He wakes up in a shelter for drunks. They found him battered but reeking of alcohol, and lacking any form of personal identification. Realizing that he ought to be dead and can’t be released, he tells the caretaker to contact the police inspector. This he does, not believing the drunkard to be who he claims.

Naturally, he is nonplussed to have a real police inspector show up, and extract Gerry from his care. Gerry is forced to confess all he knows to the inspector; later, he is  brought home to get cleaned up and get real food into his system. A plan of attack of constructed, and Gerry plays his cards to the hilt, placing himself once again in harm’s way.

In the end, murders in the novel was committed to obtain an illegal trade in stolen diamonds. I won’t ruin the climax of this pulp political thriller by unveiling the identity of the villains, etc. Hence why I have strictly avoided dropping names, other than that of Gerry and his girlfriend. Personally, I enjoyed this novel seismically more than the first, as Bowen digs deeper into a tougher, grittier position than his first effort.

Obtaining a copy of this scarce novel might be a tougher proposition. Currently, there is only one copy on ABE for $45 (plus shipping).

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Murder Gets Around by Robert Sidney Bowen

“Make Mine Murder” by Robert Sidney Bowen

When the mangled copy of Robert Sidney Bowen’s Make Mine Murder slid across my line of sight, I cringed, but I read it. Why…? A year prior (2015 or early 2016) I had read, for the first time, a short story by Mr. Bowen appearing in a wartime issue of Dare-Devil Aces. The tale intrigued me enough to wonder if this novel was actually a wartime propaganda novel disguised as a murder-mystery, or really what is purported to be.

BOWEN - Make Mine Murder

Make Mine Murder opens with Gerry Barnes arguing with future wife (Paula Grant) over his decision to become a private detective. Gerry served in the 2nd World War and has inherited enough money (from the stereotypical dead uncle) to do whatever he desires.

He desires to be a dick-for-hire.
She desires to marry him.

He tosses her the challenge of finding him his first case, preferably a nice juicy murder.

She does, which is where all credulity is thrown out the window. Still, the eye-rolling scenario is necessary to not only catapult our facetious protagonist into his first real case, but, toughen him up to reality. And boy, does he bungle it up awfully, showcasing that one, he is a flawed detective, and two, he can take his licks and learn from them. Ergo, he is human, and I like that in a story.

So…lovely Paula goes home to clean up and powder her nose, etc., and discovers a corpse in her bed. Hence, our charming cover art. She freaks out, and immediately phones Gerry, to get his ass over there, but pronto!

He tries. He really does. He fails….

An ape named Jake walks in and informs him that his boss demands his presence. Now. Gerry isn’t keen on keeping this newly formed appointment, and insists on getting past the ape. Nothing doing. He soon is introduced to the back seat of an automobile, tossed down, and kept in the dark as to the boss’s location.

The boss is one Mr. White, and while I’m not entirely certain, he may be an albino. He is described as good-looking and sporting the appearance of maintaining a tan, with pink eyes. His hair isn’t mentioned, but given his eyes and namesake, one leans toward believing he is an albino. But, then, how about that tan? Mystifying.

Mr. White wishes to hire the newly-created detective to find a missing person. Why? He wants an untried detective, with no reputation, to maintain a low-profile, plus, he has heard that Gerry has a huge ego. That ego means he will work hard to solve the case for Mr. White, with or without the hefty fee he promises.

The problem? Mr. White doesn’t know what the missing man looks like. He’s never met him. We do learn that the missing man has something Mr. White wants.

Gerry wants no part of this heist-Gerry-and-hire-Gerry plan, but Mr. White and his ape have other plans, and he tactfully agrees to accept the offer, lest he disappears, too!

The novel goes haywire as Gerry attempts to locate the missing person, whom he is certain is Paula’s dead man, while keeping out of the reaches of the police inspector (Bierman), whom wants his full cooperation or he’ll stomp him like a bug. With the aid of the usual newspaperman thrown into the mix, and a handful of socialites to create confusion, the novel haphazardly is drawn to a final conclusion and the killer revealed, but not before further murders are committed. Gerry solves the case, and that is the only thing that saves his rump from being tossed into the slammer. The generally tongue-in-cheek mood of the story takes an abrupt hard-boiled edge in the concluding pages, which was very much not expected.

Naturally, I won’t reveal the actual workings of the plot or the killer’s identity. In reading the book, you’ll figure that out readily enough, I’m sure, but, Bowen has fun forcing Gerry to learn the truth for himself, and, why.

I thoroughly enjoyed this romp through postwar America and the images Bowen created. The socialite scenes are in keeping with how Hollywood perceives the rich and eccentric to act and behave, without conscious thought to the realities of the rest of the world.
The steady pace, snappy dialogues, and fast action keep the reader hooked.

Have YOU ever read this novel? I’d love to hear your input.

Bowen’s best remembered in the pulp community for creating the Dusty Ayres and His Battlebirds magazine series. Among American’s youth during World War Two, he is fondly recalled for his Dave Dawson series and Red Randall war series.

Wikipedia has an entry for the author, but I’ve not dug deep enough yet into it to discern how accurate some of the data actually is, however, it’s fair to say that the majority is.

Now, as it turns out, this title has seen a handful of editions.

1946 – Crown (252-pages, 1st edition, hardcover in jacket)
1947 – Ideal Publishing Company (168-page mass market paperback)
via the Black Knight series, Number 30, unabridged
1949 – Checkerbooks (96-page paperback, abridged)
from the Library of Basil Rathbone series, Number 3
1955 – Original Novels Foundation (130-page booklet, likely abridged)
via the Star Books series, Number 277 (Australia)

And, at least one translated:
1959 – Ark’s Forlag (160-pages)
via the Rekord series, Number 67 (Denmark)
printed in Danish, as “De døde mænds guld”

The edition I have is the Black Knight edition. The cover art is unsigned, but features a man, dead, in a bed, and a woman looking on in horror. Thankfully, this scene actually does appear in the novel, and wasn’t a bogus cover created to generate sales.

“Make Mine Murder” by Robert Sidney Bowen