Created by William Ard
Pseudonyms include Jonas Ward, Ben Kerr, Thomas Wills and Mike Moran
LOU LARGO must have been a pretty popular dick in his time, because when his creator, William Ard, passed away–having written just two books in the series–his publisher, Monarch Books, just kept pumping them out. The byline may have read “William Ard,” but they were actually written by Lawrence Block (one book) and John Jakes (three books).
But HEY! Ard’s previous creation, New York P.I. Timothy Dane, who supposedly was the influence for Largo, wasone of the great unsung private eye series, if you ask me.
Turns out Largo, like Dane, was a Big Apple private dick, but he was no clone of Dane–Largo was rougher and rawer, and a little more free with the wisecracks… and the women. He also drank more, and definitely had a gambling jones. Gentleman Dane was the private dick your mom would want you to marry; Largo was the one she was worried that you would end up marrying. Or possibly have to end up marrying…
Not that Lou’s a complete barbarian–Lord knows, there were enough fictional eyes in the fifties whose knuckles barely cleared the sidewalk. Lou seemed to get around a bit more than Dane, traveling to Florida in All I Can Get (1959), and clashing with some hustlers from Montreal in Like Ice She Was (1960) hiding out in Saratoga, of all places, when he wasn’t ruminating about the state of the world in his Times Square office.
Our pal Gary Warren Niebuhr recommends Babe in the Woods (1960), in particular. He calls it “a thrilling novel about the private eye Lou Largo. In this book, our hero gets to bodyguard LiLi Kovar (who has a twin named LuLu — can you say Gabor?). But that’s not the cool part. The cool part is when he goes to bed with the two Swedish nude ice skaters. Er, that is they are both nude in bed AND when they ice skate….the author of this book is actually Lawrence Block.”
Babe in the Woods might have been the bee’s knees, but there’s a decidedly slap dash and at times adolescent vibe to some of the other books in the series. Not that they’re bad, really–just that the Timothy Dane books hold up so much better.
A long-time favourite of mine, Brooklyn-born Ard was one of the unjustly forgotten hard-boiled writers of the fifties. An ex-Marine, he worked as a publicist and a copywriter, and even did a stint, just after WWII , as a detective. But his books are hard to find, and decent copies of his paperback titles are nearly impossible to track down. His career burned bright but fast, lasting little more than a decade, but in those ten or so years he managed to create several intriguing New York private eyes Johnny Stevens, Barney Glines, Tom Doran and Mike (later Danny) Fountain, as well as a slew of well-regarded westerns (as Jonas Ward). Other pseudonyms included Ben Kerr, Thomas Wills and Mike Moran. The stuff I’ve read of his has all been solid — check ’em out.
- “Ard begins the Lou Largo debut in a fun, lighthearted style that recalls the Carter Brown mysteries… And then things take a very clever turn. Nothing is as it seems in the opening act of this deceptively simple novel. Through a non-linear storyline with early-novel flashbacks and flash-forwards reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, the reader is treated to the story behind the story, and we learn that Largo has a little deception in his heart as well regarding the girl. This early-plot twist catapults All I Can Get from a simple, lighthearted crime novel into something bordering on brilliant. And sexy… If you enjoy crime fiction and can appreciate truly exceptional writing in the genre, you’re bound to be pleased with All I Can Get.”
— Paperback Warrior
- All I Can Get (1959) | Buy this book
- Like Ice She Was (1960) | Buy this book
- Babe in the Woods (1960; by Lawrence Block) | Buy this book
- Make Mine Mavis (1961; by John Jakes) | Buy this book
- And So to Bed (1962; by John Jakes) | Buy this book
- Give Me This Woman (1962; by John Jakes) | Buy this book
- Calling Lou Largo (2011) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
Includes All I Can Get and Like Ice She Was, plus an intro by Francis M. Nevins.
- William Ard: He Coulda Been a Contender
My own ham-fisted tribute to William Ard.
- The Three Barney Glines of William Ard
Ard liked the name so much, he used it three times.
- William Ard: Hard Boiled Detectives. Western Heroes
Dennis Miller’s fascinating profile of one of the genre’s sadly forgotten writers.