William Garrett

Created by Natalie Marlow

British author Natalie Marlow (apparently her real name) reimagines Chandler’s tarnished knight of 1940s Los Angeles as a private inqury agent who is all tarnish. Then she plops him on the decidedly mean streets of 1930s Birmingham, England, in the noirish Needless Alley (2023).

Without a speck of chivalry, WILLIAM GARRETT has cut himself a nice slice of the pie, working for a sleazy solicitor he refers to as “Shifty Shirley.” William’s job is to set up honey traps on behalf of her upscale male clients who want a quick divorce. Aiding and abetting him in his endeavours is his best mate, Ronnie Edgerton, a drop-dead handsome unemployed actor, who acts as the bait for unsuspecting married women.

Of course, the book may be set 90 years earlier than it was written, but it seems quite “modern”—William is the survivor of both a troubled childhood and World War I, and is occasionally (but only ocassionally) troubled by his morally sketchy occupation.

But then William falls into a trap (or is it?) himself, falling under the spell of the seductive wife of a disturbingly popular (and possibly unstable) local fascist.

There’s plenty of grit and gloom here, and Marlowe does for Birmingham what—well, Chandler—did for Los Angeles, serving up a vividly rendered atmosphere of a time and place gone wrong, buckling under the weight of corruption and greed. A promising debut.


  • “This is historical noir at its grittiest, atmospheric and doom-laden… Dark streets, misty canals and slippery banks characterise Marlowe’s picture of Birmingham in its industrial heyday, alongside the webs of corruption and evil that go hand in hand with the city’s manipulating elites. A great character and la memorable ocale.”
    — Maxim Jakubowski (CrimeTime)
  • “Transplanting the hardboiled Hollywood noir of the 1940s to the backstreets of 1933 Birmingham, (Needless Alley) has all the seamy glitter and cynical grime of the genre
     Daily Mail
  • “Crafted with all the style and elegance of classic hardboiled fiction, lovingly splashed in the grubbiness and grime of interwar Birmingham’s cuts, alleys and back streets. A smart, ripping yarn (with) some shocking and moving revelations.”
    — Dominic Nolan


British writer Natalie Marlow admits that family histories and classic crime fiction inspire much of her writing. Needless Alley was her first novel, and she is currently writing her second William Garrett book. She lives in Warwickshire in the Midlands of England with her family.


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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