Created by James Hadley Chase
Pseudonym of Rene Brabazon Raymond
Other pseudonyms include Raymond Marshall, Ambrose Grant & James L. Dougherty
“My desk clock told me it was five past ten, early for a drink, although I wanted one. After a little hesitation, I decided the bottle wouldn’t know it was too early, hoisted it out of the desk drawer and gave myself a small, rather shamefaced nip.”
— Lay Her Among the Lilies
One of the many pulpsters sweating it out in England’s post-war mushroom jungle (and certainly one of the most successful) was James Hadley Chase, who cranked out a trilogy featuring California tough guy private eye VIC MALLOY.
Vic’s detective agency, Universal Services, caters to the very, very rich, offering everything from “exercising a pet poodle to stamping on a blackmailer.” Their rates are very high, but it seems to work for Vic and his office gal, Paula Bensinger, who handles the routine stuff, and his leg-man, Jack Kerman, who he calls in when something “out-of-the-way” reared its head.
That something out-of-the-way included some bits nicked from Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely, but hey, it’s Chase! Charges of plagiarism and lifting passages verbatim or almost verbatim from other writers dogged Chase throughout his career, eventually prompting him (much later in his career) to publicly apologize to Chandler. So some creative “borrowing” is pretty much to be expected, as is his rather foggy sense of American geography.
Like most of his brethren in the “jungle,” Chase was a little sketchy of “over there”–Malloy had his office in the affluent beach town of Orchid City, which doesn’t exist, and seems to float somewhere between Los Angeles and San Francisco, depending on the necessities of plot.
Still, a lot of people apparently didn’t mind–Chase sold skedillions of books. And You’re Lonely When You’re Dead (1949) and Figure It Out For Yourself (1950), the first two novels, were even actually reprinted in the States–a rare occurrence indeed for hard-boiled thrillers from the U.K. at the time. Of course, Harlequin in Canada, being a good little member of the Commonwealth, also reprinted it.
But if Malloy doesn’t strike your fancy, take your pick from the slew of other American PI’s offered by the very, very prolific Chase: Bart Anderson, Dave Fenner, Floyd Jackson, Nelson Ryan, or Dirk Wallace.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The so-called “King of the Thrillers” James Hadley Chase (real name: René Brabazon Raymond) was born in London on Christmas Eve, 1906, and worked as a children’s encyclopedia salesman, a salesman in a bookshop, and as an executive for a book wholesaler, when it dawned on him that “American-style” hard-boiled thrillers were selling especially well. So he decided to write his own. No Orchids for Miss Blandish was the start of an incredible run of nearly a hundred novels. Some of them are even good. A slew of them were made into feature films and stage plays.
- “A frenzied private prowl shows Vic Malloy, out to protect a client — if the job is legal and ethical — whose wife is suspected of kleptomania. This leads to five killings, a picture-taking racket, and a shake-down deal, and adds up to quite a dish of flesh-peddling. Bad burns for the thin-skinned here. California setting.”
— Kirkus Reviews on You’re Lonely When You’re Dead
- You’re Lonely When You’re Dead (1949) | Buy this book
- Figure It Out for Yourself (1950) | Buy this book
- Lay Her Among the Lilies (1950; aka “Too Dangerous To Be Free”) | Buy this book
THE DICK OF THE DAY
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.