William “Billy” Wallace

Created by Ed Lacy
Pseudonym of Leonard S. Zinberg
(1911-1968)

“I was afraid my heart would burst if I took another step.”

One year after he suffered his first heart attack, author Ed Lacy published Bugged For Murder (1961) about a middle-aged private eye, WILLIAM “Billy” WALLACE, who has a bad ticker ticker himself, and is also on the mend from a heart attack.

Married, with a young daughter, he’s more-or-less resigned to his fate, none too happy about it, but trying to eat right and exercise more, even forgoing sex with his wife by sleeping on the couch. He’s closed down his office.

For good.

Or at least he thought he had. Turns out his ever-loyal wife Vilma’s been paying the rent on it behind his back. She has faith in him.

And so, reluctantly, he goes back to work, and almost immediately lands a case, a nasty little case of industrial espionage involving illegal wiretaps, a radical new vacuum cleaner design and Eva Jones, a “hundred-dollars-per-night nympho” hired to seduce an executive who works for the client’s competition.

The cover blurbs and inside fly of my paperback copy make a big deal about Eva, suggesting all sorts of hot and steamy sex, not to mention oodles of “suspense and violence,” but the magic of this impressive one-shot is the surprising amount of compassion and heart it shows.

Author Lacy (actually Leonard S. Zinberg) is best known for creating the ground-breaking African-American private eye Toussaint Moore, but he’s also responsible for some other fine hard-boiled detectives, including as Hal Darling, Marty BondBarney Harris, John O’Hara, Matt Ranzino and Lee Hayes.

STRAIGHT FROM THE AUTHOR’S MOUTH

  • “The changing of titles by publishers bugs me. Some houses believe certain words like murder, death, sin, etc., have a magic sales value. A book of mine had a tough detective who suffers a heart attack and when he recovers, like most cardiacs, he has a hard time regaining confidence in himself. I thought Time Running In was a dandy title. It was published as Bugged for Murder. I’ve been astonished to see my name on books with titles like: Woman Aroused, Shakedown for Murder, Harlem Underground and Sin in Your Blood. Rarely does the title have any connection with the plot.”
    — Ed Lacy in “I Dunit” (August 1966, P.S. Magazine)

NOVELS

FURTHER INVESTIGATION

  • “I Dunit”
    A 1966 article on the writing life by Ed Lacy. (August 1966, P.S. Magazine)
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. By the way, the cover of the paperback shown was by Robert K. Abbett.

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