Mike Fontaine (aka Danny Fontaine)

Created by William Ard
Pseudonyms include Jonas Ward, Ben Kerr, Thomas Wills and Mike Moran
(1922-1960)

When we first meet MIKE FONTAINE, in William Ard’s As Bad As I Am (1959), he’s a struggling New York actor.

Perhaps more struggling than most–he’s just been released from prison, after serving five years for killing a man for beating a woman.

It seems the handsome young thespian (“the image of Rock Hudson,” we’re told) has this thing about rescuing women–so a condition of his parole is that he avoids “social contact” with women.

Trying to resurrect his career, he starts auditioning for parts, and–despite the conditions of his parole–soon becomes entangled with a gorgeous redhead, Gloria Allen who, we are told in one blurb, “makes the Copa girls look sick.”

But he has bigger problems than a parole violation–when he moves in with his kid sister in the old family digs on East 97th, he discovers that her police officer husband Harry is renting out the upper rooms of the place to whores. An argument takes place, and Harry ends up dead, with Mike on the lam, branded a “mad dog killer” by Harry’s cop friends, and eventually the entire NYPD. The only one’s in Mike’s corner are Gloria, his lawyer Phil Royce, and a private eye named Barney Glines.

Eventually they succeed in clearing Mike’s name, but by his second appearance, in When She was Bad (1960), his name’s not only cleaning but changed. He’s now “Danny”, not Mike.

But it’s definitely the same character. It’s set only two weeks after As Bad As I Am, and Mike/Danny are now married–to Gloria–and he’s now gainfully employed. In fact, he’s signed on as Barney’s junior partner. Unable to take a missing persons case, Barney sends the novice gumshoe and newlywed off to Bermuda to hunt for a missing English girl, but the trail soon leads back to New York, and a mess than involves smugglers, voodoo and blackmail. Oh, and Danny once again wanted for murder.

As Bad As I Am was later cited as one of the 21 Classics in Gary Warren Niebuhr’s A Reader’s Guide To Private Eye Novels.

Brooklyn-born Ard was one of the unjustly forgotten hard-boiled writers of the fifties. An ex-Marine, a publicist and copywriter, he also worked for a brief time, just after WWII , as a detective. His career burned bright but fast, lasting little more than a decade , but in that time he mananaged to create several intriguing New York private eyes Timothy Dane, Lou Largo, Tom Doran and Johnny Stevens (all of which come highly recommended), as well as a string of well-regarded westerns (as Jonas Ward). Other pseudonyms included Ben Kerr and Mike Moran.

UNDER OATH

  • “… a happy, exciting romance-melodrama of rogue cops, the theatre, and young love…”
    Anthony Boucher on As Bad As I Am (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)

TRIVIA

  • As inventive and creative and clever a writer as Ard was, he had one major bugaboo. He could be really lazy about names (ie: Mike Fountain becoming Danny Fountain). Or casually recycle the same name for different characters. Don’t believe me? See The Three Barney Glines of William Ard.

NOVELS

  • As Bad As I Am (1959; aka “Wanted: Danny Fontaine”)Buy this book
  • When She Was Bad (1960)

COLLECTIONS

  • Two Kinds of Bad (2011) | Buy this book
    Contains both novels, plus an intro by Francis M. Nevins.

RELATED LINKS

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. The illustration is by the great Robert McGinnis, used for the paperback edition of Wanted: Danny Fontaine.

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