Johnny April

Created by Mike Roscoe
Pseudonym of John Roscoe and Michael Ruso

very underrated, nearly forgotten series from the fifties, written by real private detectives! Kansas City private eye JOHNNY APRIL is, according to at least one character, “a nasty, viscious and dirty bastard.”

Suffice it to say that Johnny’s one hard-talkin’, fast-shootin’, dirty-fightin’ guy, always up for a little action, or a little cracking wise. The five novels in the series are tough, fast-paced little gems well worth seeking out. Anthony Boucher called April “the only genuine private eye I know,” and John Conquest in Trouble is Their Business thought Riddle Me This (1952) was particularly impressive, for its “toughness on racism,” as Johnny investigates the murder of a black private eye, while Max Allan Collins cited One Tear for My Grave (1955) for its”studiously spare style” and suggested it was “stripped for speed.”

The author, Mike Roscoe, was actually the joint pen name of a couple of Kansas City writers, John Roscoe and Mike Russo, who actually worked for the Hargrave Detective Agency. There’s a photo of them on the back cover of my Signet edition of Death is a Round Black Ball (1952): two hard looking dudes in hats, sporting killer smiles.

The first four books drew almost universal praise at the time, but the fifth and final book, The Midnight Eye, published as half of an Ace Double in 1958, was a letdown, lacking the bare-bones white-knuckle pacing of its predecessors, prompting some to speculate that it was completed by only one of the authors.


  • “…razor sharp and lean…””
    — Robert A. Baker and Michael T. Nietzel in 101 Knights
  • “Bedroom-barroom broad, and I may say- unblushing.”
    Kirkus Reviews on Death is a Round Black Ball
  • “Among the best produced in the wave of hard-hitting P.I. fiction that followed the big splash made by Mickey Spillanre’s Mike Hammer…”
    — Max Allan Collins in 1001 Midnights
  • “This is so hotted up and bursting apart at the strain it is unbelievable.”
    — Kirkus Reviews on Slice of Hell


  • “Whoever built this broad hadn’t spared the bricks.”
    — Johnny on the finer things on life… in One Tear for My Grave


Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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