Tokey Wedge


Created by Jack Lynn
Pseudonym of Max van derVeer
(1927-79)

“What Suddenly transformed five different women into five uncontrollable beasts of passion?”
blurb for Nympho Lodge

“The hard tips of her breasts shown through the thin pajama top like giant-size pencil erasers.”
– Broad Bait

First of all, let’s get this straight. Women just can’t resist hard-boiled private eye TOKEY WEDGE.

He may stand only 5’4″ (sometimes as much as 5’6″ in later novels), and weigh in at a mere 145 pounds, but it’s not that measurement that counts–nope, what really drives the babes crazy is another metric. Tokey was big where it mattered.

If you know what I mean…

Yes, welcome to the smirky, seedy world of “dirty books,” those titillating tomes to tumescence that flooded the spinner racks (and discreet cubbyholes “behind the counter”) of the fifties and sixties. Aimed at horny men who may not have actually had much knowledge of actual women, these cheesy jack-off specials, poorly edited and adorned with often gawd-awful but suggestive covers, were a big thing in the fifties through the seventies, and some writers (usually hiding behind house pseudonyms) actually gained followings.

But Tokey may have been the first character to draw a following, prefiguring such later champions of serial sleaze as Jane Blond (“The Girl from B.U.S.T.”!) and Rod Damon (“The Coxeman”!).

Tokey appeared in a string of Grade C masterpieces, such one-handed classics as Nympho Lodge (1959), Women on the Loose (1961) and 10 Shockingest Seductions (1962). They were put out by Novel Books of Chicago, one of the more notorious sleaze publishers; known for their cheesy, perspective-challenged covers, blatant hucksterism, shame-free practice of recycling older titles by repackaging them with new artwork and new titles, and, oh yes, their alleged mob ties. But all that’s arguably part of the Tokey charm, and his current cult status.

Tokey was everything the young dick on the make should be, tooling around town in his flashy Triumph convertible, cracking wise (naturally Tokey handled his own narration–no sissy third-person yapping for our man Tokey!), and sporting a Shell Scott-like blond buzz cut, which was probably not a coincidence–Richard S. Prather’s paperbacks were flying off the racks at the time. And yeah, while Shell, that towheaded Lothario, never had any real problems attracting the attention of buxom beauties, or enjoying their various charms, he was but a verifiable virgin, an enigmatic eunuch, compared to Tokey who, according to one blurb, “made 10,000 females moan his name.”

The secret to Tokey’s formidable skills as a lover? He was, as we mentioned before, hung like a horse. It may have been subtly implied (as was all the sex was in these books), but his detecting dong was apparently a massive weapon of destruction.

Despite his diminutive size, though, Tokey was every inch (sorry) a private eye of the era, trigger happy and plenty rough and tough, and not afraid of hoodlums, mobsters, thugs or killers, no matter how much big they were. Like most fictional private eyes of the era, he even had a cop buddy, and a sometime-girlfriend, a sexy blond reporter, there when the plot demanded it, and never mentioned otherwise.

Oh, yes. The plots. Typical P.I. fare, perhaps, if you sorta squint, although definitely dredged up from the more outlandish and non-linear end of the pool: stripper clients, Caribbean uprisings, Beatnik thrill seekers and twin sister nymphomaniacs. I mean, here’s the blurb for Tall and Torrid:

“5 foot 5 inch Tokey Wedge finds himself alone with six 6 foot 3 inch 26 year olds — all of whom are passionate and one of which is a perverted killer!”

But don’t worry–nobody bought these for the plots. The appeal was the sex. Granted, it was all more wink-wink-nudge-nudge innuendo and ogling than detail-laced play-by-play. No dirty words. But even more than the sex, they came for the yucks. Because these books were funny.

As James Reasoner points out, “Tokey Wedge seems to have been influenced more by Richard S. Prather’s Shell Scott novels than anything else, although there’s some Dan Turner and Mike Hammer in there, too. Based on an admittedly limited sample, this one book, I’d say Tokey was aimed at readers who found Prather, Bellem, and Spillane just too sober and restrained.”

Ah, yes. those guys were so restrained.

And really. Tokey was a spoof of those guys? A lot of people would argue those guys were already spoofs.

Nowadays, the appeal may seem a little dated, and of course seen through modern eyes (and perhaps even back then), the books were gloriously slabs of political incorrectness–sexual and racial stereotypes abound. But it was all so stupid and goofy and somehow innocent, it’s hard to believe anyone with more than a couple of neurons to scrub together, even back then, could ever took it seriously.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

There were at least twenty books in the Tokey series, although it’s hard to tell exactly how many. Jack Lynn, whoever he was, cranked ’em out, and Novel Books apparently had no qualms about playing fast and loose with the titles and cover art.

But who was Jack Lynn? Collector types have speculated for years, but author and “longtime Tokey Wedge fan and collector” Steve Mertz did some deft detective work of his own, and came up with a viable solution, that most of the paperback community (and me) seem to have accepted. Lynn was actually a pen name of Max van derVeer, a prolific writer who pumped out short stories for Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery MagazineThe Girl from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine  and Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine during the sixties and seventies. In fact, he seems to have written twenty-three of the Mike Shayne novellas, under the house name, of course, of Brett Halliday. He also wrote a few stories each about female spy Desiree Fleming, Federal Agent Kevin Kar and detective Gilbert Crocker, but by far his most popular creation was Tokey. And just to nail the lid shut on Lynn’s identity, it turns out that “Jack Lynn” was actually a play on Van DerVeer’s wife at the time: Jacqueline!

 

BRINGING ‘EM BACK ALIVE

  • In 2020, it was announced that Michael Monson’s Grizzly Pulp would be reprinting the Tokey Wedge series. On actual pulp. You’ve been warned…

UNDER OATH

  • “You want sex and hardboiled action in your reading?  Put down that limp “best reading” from the New York Times Book Review and grab yourself a big deep toke…of TOKEY!
    — Dull Tool Dim Bulb
  • Mad for Kicks outdoes Lady Chatterly’s Lover and any book you care to name for the strong stuff that you men like.  Not recommended for women or children.  This Novel Book powerhouse will make you do a double-take every time you pass a beatnik.”
    — Men’s Digest (published by the same company that published Novel Books)
  • “I loved these books when I was a kid, but it was hard to track them down even then. Novel Books republished them under various titles, and I could never figure out how many Tokey Wedge books there were.
    The other great series, from Novel Books’ secondary (!) line Merit Books, was Ennis Willie’s Sand novels. Sand was to Mike Hammer what Tokey Wedge was to Shell Scott.”
    — Max Allan Collins
  • “They don’t write ’em like this anymore.”
    — Bill Crider

NOVELS

  • Nympho Lodge (1959) | Buy this book
  • Mad For Kicks (1960)
  • Torrid Twins (1960) | Buy this book
  • Loverboy! (1960)
  • The Passion Pit. Novel (1960)
  • Tall And Torrid (1961)
  • Double Seduction (1961)
  • Wholesale Seduction (1961)
  • Women On The Loose (1961) | Buy this book
  • Forced Females (1961)
  • Tall and Torrid (1961)
  • 10 Shockingest Seductions (1962)
  • Wild Women (1961)
  • White Hot Women (1962)
  • Three Passionate Sisters (1962)
  • The Third Seduction (1963)
  • Desire in Duplicate (1963)
  • They Were Too Much (1963)
  • Four Insatiable Nymphs (1963)
  • Night Nurse (1964)
  • Three Kinds of Love (1964)
  • Kandy (1965)
    NOTE: Not all of these may feature Tokey, and some of the later books may simply be re-titled reprints.

RELATED LINKS

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to “Slammin'” Steve Lewis for the tip. And Michael Monson for “just the tip.”

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