Johnny Killain

Created by Dan J. Marlowe

JOHNNY KILLAIN is a “tough, but not inhuman” hotel dick/bell captain/night porter/bouncer and part-time detective working out of the Hotel Duarte in New York City who appeared in a spate of hard-charging Avon paperback originals by Dan J. Marlowe in the late fifties/early sixties.

According to Josef Hoffmann in The Mystery File:

“Killain is a character very typical of the “hard-boiled detective story”: of massive physique, aggressive, cool, reckless, a survivor.  He is bubbling with sarcastic wit and, of course, is a great man for the women. 

Although the Killain novels contain some of the qualities of the “Black Mask school” of the 20s and 30s, today they seem in parts to be full of clichés and straining after effect.  For Marlowe, they provide a good basis for his later writing”

I dunno–I thought the stories were pretty good. And you’ve just got to love stuff like this, used as an inside blurb in Doorway to Death (1959), where a cop gives us the skinny on Johnny:

“In the old days Johnny was an undercover agent. He was a specialist–no guns, no knives, all he had to do was reach you. He can give any circus strong man cards and spades, and when he gets mad, the tough guys take to the trees. He warms up on brick walls.”

Excuse me? I’m not even sure I want to know what that means…


Author Dan J. Marlowe worked in accounting, insurance and public relations, until 1957, when his wife died. At the age of 43, he decided to become a writer. He became one of the best and most popular writers of paperback originals of the sixties, and is best known for his series featuring cold, ruthless professional criminal Earl Drake.



  • The Wrong Marlowe
    Charles Kelly’s heartbreaker of a tale, published in the March 10, 2012, issue of The Los Angles Review of Books, about “an amnesiac pulp writer in L.A.,” the first taste of Gunshots in Another Room, his 2012 full-tilt bio of Dan J. Marlowe.
  • Murder, My Suite
    House Dicks


  • July 7, 2023
    The Bottom Line: A big bruiser of a hotel dick, in a spate of Avon paperback originals from the late 50s/early 60s. Hard? Like the blurb says, “when he gets mad, the tough guys take to the trees.”
Respectfully report submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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