Rex Howard

Created by Ferguson Findley
Pseudonym of Charles Weiser Frey

“They Killed My Sister — And I Want Revenge”
— how’s that for a front cover tag?

Private eye REX HOWARD sounds pretty like all the other Spillanesque eyes snorting their way through the paperback racks of the fifties and early sixties.The publisher even helpfully reassures us with a helpful blurb from Real Magazine that Rex’s one and only appearance, in the 1956 paperback original, Murder Makes Me Mad, “Out-Spillanes Mickey Spillane.”

But just in case we missed that point, just flip the book over to discover just how mad murder makes poor Howard:

  • so mad that he challenged the mob rule of a ruthless boss…
  • so mad that he had to pound a burly gunman to a pulp with his bare fists…
  • so mad that hew had to torment his lover before he could love her.

Hoo-boy! That’s mad!

The book’s actually not as ham-handed as all that, but it’s no lost classic either. Rex is a former Navy man (as was the author), so there’s a lot of NavySpeak tossed around, and Rex doesn’t even call himself a private investigator, preferring “Security Agent,” since he specializes in security. That, plus his navy pension, and a few stocks, allows him take only the cases he wants to. He lives alone in a “two compartment-galley-and-head lash-up” in that part of New York City they call “Peter Cooper Village,” wherever the hell that is. And things go buzz-buzz-buzzing along, relatively shipshape,until he gets a call from his sister, Janice, whom he hasn’t been in touch with for almost five years. She’s in town, waiting for her new husband to return from a business trip to Canada. They agree to have a drink at Counihan‘s, one of Rex’s hangouts.

“Irish whisky on the rocks…Tooley’s, if you have it,” Janice says to Cookie, the friendly barkeep. But poor Janice keels over after one sip. Dead. Poisoned.

The ensuing 130 or so pages blaze by, full of the usual sex-and-violence (and guys with “street” names like

Smiley, Piggy and Coggy) you’d expect from someone trying to out-Spillane Spillane, but it never even comes close.

Which, depending on your mileage, may be a plus.


Charles Weiser Frey  was born in Pennsylvania in 1910, and was a graduate of the Naval Academy. Under the pen name of Ferguson Findley he wrote several crime novels, including My Old Man’s Badge (1950), Counterfeit Corpse (1956) and probably his best known, Waterfront (1951), which was filmed as The Mob in 1951 and starred Broderick Crawford–five years before the better known On the Waterfront, which also zeroed in on unions and corruption on the NYC docks.


  • “Out-Spillanes Mickey Spillane!”
    — Real Magazine
  • “The book isn’t bad but it’s the kind to read on a bus trip and forgotten by the time you reach your destination.”
    — Vintage45’s Blog



  • January 16, 2022
    THE BOTTOM LINE: Liked this weekend’s THE MOB on TCM, based on the book by Findley? Here’s a PI novel by the same guy, one who allegedly “out-Spillanes Spillane.” 
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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