Created by Michael Storme
Pseudonym of George H. Dawson
Other pseudonyms include Michael Storm
The very first book featuring NICK CRANLEY, Make Mine a Shroud (1949), promised “a never-ending vortex of excitement … tough mobs … police that mean business; and gals that mean business too – but not the same kind,” while the second suggested we’d find the tough but suave Chicago eye “up to his big ears again in luscious lovelies and trigger-happy hooligans.” A dealer deftly summarizes one of the later books this way: “Soft-mouthed dames and hard-eyed gamblers, thrills, chills and frills – the usual Nick Cranley scenario.”
That pretty much summarizes most not just the other books in the series, or any of the sixty or so other novels written by Storme, but pretty much all of those written by his rivals during the so-called “mushroom” era of British publishing. Trashy, flashy “American-style” pulp action, fast-paced and derivative as fuck, written by (mostly) British men who had (mostly) never been to the United States.
Having said that, some folks claim Storme was a better writer than most. Maybe. But like all the rest, he wasn’t above a little “creative borrowing” from his betters (Dame in My Bed, for example, rips off the initial set-up of Chandler’s The Big Sleep, complete with Nick being summonded to a mansion presided over by a rich, elderly client with a troubled and over-sexed daughter, a snooty butler and a very attractive and flirtatious… stepmother. Ah! Not a sexy older sister, but a stepmother!
So not a complete rip-off, then. And the gambling debt stuff and the shady nightclub owner? Just coincidence, I’m sure…
Still, if you were looking for hard-boiled action, Storme delivered. In spades. There’s murder, of course, and plenty of it, and it comes with all the fixin’s: book after book, Nick faces a rogue’s gallery of criminals, in an avalanche of action, interrupted with frequent bouts of unconsciousness and occasional scenes of torture (“I am tough, but I can be “tendered” up.”) and detailed, sexually charged interludes (“I hold her close and our lips meet in a searing, burning kiss. Hot water runs up and down my spine; electricity is in my palms along with sweat. Her cute little tongue is probing my mouth again.”
Perhaps the loopiest part of it all, though, is that throughout the series, Cranley, he of the searing, burning kisses and palms full of electricity is… married. To the beautiful (and apparently forgiving–or oblivious) Sheila. Still, if Sheila was blissfully unaware of hubby’s extramarital shenanigans, the British censorship board was not–several of Storme’s books were seized and destroyed. Eventually, Storme and his publisher (he was a co-owner) took the books be printed and distributed in the United States, which resulted in that rarest of things–genuine mushroom jungle books that were actually sold on this side of the Atlantic.
Storme wrote at least fifteen books featuring Cranley, including several in the so-called “Make Mine” series, although I’m not sure how those books differ (if at all) from the others in the series.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Storme was the pen name of George H. Dawson, who worked in the newspaper industry before World War II. During the conflict, he served as a radio engineer in the RAF and saw service in Egypt, Sudan, Tripoli and Italy, and on the aircraft carrier Indomitable, and used his off-duty hours to begin a writing career that would serve him well after the war ended. In The Mushroom Jungle (1993), Steve Holland even tags Storme as “amongst the most popular gangster writers of the time.” Certainly, he’s among the most collectable of them, although that may be due to the often outstanding cover art provided by the likes of John Pollack and Reginald Heade.
- “Though only 128 pages of small type, the book feels longer, because of the abundance of incidents—much more than would be needed for merely cobbling together a sellable pastiche….This isn’t hackery… It all works because you know that the author isn’t attempting to give you a realistic Chicago or a credible stylistic pastiche but is riffing exuberantly in what strikes me as being an authentic Brit-jungle mode.”
— John Fraser on Make Mine a Shroud (Found Pages)
- Make Mine a Shroud (1949)
- Make Mine a Harlot (1949)
- Make Mine Beautiful (1949)
- Dame in My Bed (1950)
- Hot Dames on Cold Slabs (1950)
- Make Mine a Corpse (1950)
- Make Mine a Virgin (1950)
- Satan Buys a Wreath (1950)
- “Sucker for a Red-Head” (1950)
- Chicago Terror (1952)
- Elvira Digs a Grave (1952)
- Kiss the Corpse Goodbye (1952)
- Lovelies Are Never Lonely (1952)
- Hot Dames on Cold Slabs (1952)
- Make Mine a Redhead (1952)
- Baby Don’t Say Goodbye (1953)
- Me and My Ghoul (1953)
- The Devil Has a Racket ( 1954)