Monday, July 28, 2008

A Cry in the Night by Whit Masterson

A Cry in the Night By Whit Masterson
Bantam 1487, Copyright 1955

Whit Masterson is just one pseudonym used by the writing team of Robert Wade and Bill Miller. They also wrote novels and short stories penned under Dale Wilmer, Will Daemer, and the most recognizable name of Wade Miller. I first got hooked by the Gold Medal books published in the 50s. The settings were mostly around the borders of California and Mexico, with a femme fatal ready to throw a wrench into the guy's life. All are different and excellent, with not a bad one in the bunch. I then quickly treated myself to the earlier exploits of San Diego P.I Max Thursday. Six books in the series were published by Signet from 1947-51. These are outstanding and one of the finest written detective series of its day. They capture a believable picture in the day-to-day life of a P.I. working alone.

As for the books with the Whit Masterson tag, the most popular "Badge of Evil" was the basis for Orson Welles' 1958 film noir "Touch of Evil"; which is finally called "a classic." David Janssen started in the underrated 1967 "Warning Shot", from the novel "711-Officer Needs Help." Many of the Whit Masterson novels are exceptional, I found "A Cry in the Night" as one of the most suspenseful.

"I captured you, didn't I?" he told her aloud. "I won, so now I can do anything I want to you." He was boss. All that mattered was the girl. He patted her unconscious cheek and chuckled. "Relax, honey," he crooned. "You've got yourself a real sweetheart now."

The novel has five chapters each consisting of a hour in time. The whole story takes place in one night from 12:10am to 5:30am. A psychotic sex-fiend knocks out and kidnaps Liz Blossom, who was at a lovers lane location with her boyfriend. Police find the dazed boyfriend and they start a manhunt to locate the girl. Once her full name is known things really swing into action, because her father is Lt. Blossom who happens to be the duty officer on that night. This story is a quick pumping one, as we go on the hunt with the workings of a 50's police unit. The beginning of each chapter takes us into the thoughts of the warped kidnapper, Hill Loftus. He's not staying still, he is bouncing to different locations trying to find the right place to torment and rape the Blossom girl. The rest of each chapter is bang, bang police work, the pace is fast during the five hour period. Lt. Blossom fights to contain his worries as a father, to stay focused and help lead the investigation to get her back. Quality police work and cool heads allow the dragnet to close in.

Blossom didn't wait to hear the rest of it. If anything happens to her...Damn it, nothing was going to happen to her! He'd get her back safe if he had to tear the city apart, stone by stone.

The authors created this one to take us on a late night of high suspense. No mystery here, we know what happened and who did it. Its about grabbing the reader -with the demented psycho and his crime, and then rapidly joining with the law enforcement network to save the girl from him. Wonderfully executed by Robert Wade and Bill Miller.
(and considered a bit raw for its day)

"All Through The Night" is the title of the 1955 Hardcover First Edition, published by Dodd, Mead, New York.

Basis for the 1956 film noir "A Cry in the Night", starring Edmond O'Brien, Brian Donlevy, Natalie Wood and Raymond Burr.
(For excellent film noir reviews, check Steve's "Noir of the Week" site)


Chris said...

Sounds like a good read! I'll look for this one.

Chris said...

Looked on Amazon, no luck. Any ideas?

Anonymous said...

I read Devil May Care and was so blown away that I tracked down all but a handful of the Wade Miller team's work under their many names.
The Max Thursday books are great, and so are the other more realistic noir novels, but I have a soft spot for their slightly pulpier and more melodramatic thrillers like Devil May Care, Branded Woman and The Tiger's Wife. These books swing effortlessly from terse, hardbitten prose to lush purple passages, from snappy patter to fiercely dramatic dialogue, and they do it in tight plots that always provide a few surprises.
Cruelly under-rated stuff for sure.

John Hocking

P.M. said...

"Wade Miller" did indeed put together some great novels. Looks like there a couple of films I should check out.

Chris - why not try to pick up an original "Wade Miller" or "Whit Masterson" on ebay? They are usually pretty reasonably priced. is good as well.