Hal Darling

Created by Ed Lacy
Pseudonym of Leonard S. Zinberg
Other pseudonyms include Steve April, Russell Turner

“You private dicks are an insult to any real cop’s guts!”
— Lieutenant Hank Saltz

Ed Lacy was already a prolific writer, having written and sold hundreds of articles and short stories to various magazines, and even had a few books under his belt beforen he turned to crime fiction.

His early mysteries, all paperback originals, boasted titles that made him “grit (his) teeth” and sported typical-for-the-time sleazy, cheesy cover art. Still, they were well written and solidly plotted.

His third mystery, Strip for Violence (1953) was certainly no exception. It’s a private eye book, and it’s a corker, as it takes readers and HAL DARLING, the pipsqueak eye with the black belt, on a hard-boiled stroll through the mean streets of New York City—the rundown apartments, cheap offices and dive bars, as well as on the 12-metre sloop he lives on in the Hudson River.

Not that he’s completely afloat—he runs his detective and securuty agency out of a small downtown office, employing a string of former fighters to work as bouncers, while 19-year-old Anita Rogers holds down the front desk. He considers her a sweet kid suffering from the “private eye bug,” but strictly off-limits. 

Darling tops out at 5’1” but he’s “a rough stud, no matter how blond and baby-faced he looks,” according to a friend. A former flyweight fighter himself, he certainly knows how to handle himself—within the first few pages he’s already laying out an overly aggressive bouncer a foot taller than he is, and the action rarely lets up from there as he sets out on a “three day merry-go-round of women and murder.” It gives Hal ample time to use his judo skills and his fists, all of which he describes with relish, in terse first person.

The plot itself is decent, if not earth-shattering, full of pulpy goodness. Hal is hired to find a missing hooker, while working another, seemingly unconnected minor case—a puzzling act of vandalism—as a favour for Anita. But things don’t go as planned, and when Anita is murdered, Hal goes all Mike Hammer to hunt down her killer.


  • “She was an expensive call girl and spending a night with her came high. But he never figured on a price as high as murder. The photograph did justice to her generous statistics. Any private eye would enjoy tracking her down, and Hal Darling was no exception. Her name was Marion Lodge. She’d put her impressive body to good use as a call girl before she’d dropped out of sight almost a year before. Hal was being paid a fortune to find her. But someone else was also looking for Marion — with a knife. Hal had to get her fast, or the killer would strike first.”


  • “No, I’m not tough—being tough is a lot of crap. No, I’m just small and don’t like to be walked on. That’s all.”
    — Hal denies he’s tough


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Roger Martin for the lead.


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