Saturday, July 24, 2010

Find Eileen Hardin - Alive! by Andrew Frazer

Find Eileen Hardin - Alive! by Andrew Frazer
Avon T343, Copyright 1959

I had taken a man's life. Not in cold blood, but I had taken it. I waited for the first pangs of remorse. They didn't come.

Some fictional private eyes are lucky enough to have long careers and go down those mean streets in many novels, other excellent ones made an appearance is just one or two paperbacks. And this is the case with P.I. Duncan Pride in Find Eileen Hardin - Alive! Of course if you are a busy and prolific author, you most likely have many projects going on at once. And I would like to believe that this is the reason why Pride only appeared in two novels. The author Andrew Frazer is really Milton Lesser, or better known as Stephen Marlowe the creator of the successful Chester Drum series. And even with the Drum novels, Stephen Marlowe seemed to be a tireless writer and for decades filled up his large bibliography with a steady stream of quality work.

The history behind P.I. Duncan Pride is a darn intriguing one. He was an All-American quarterback at Wynant College located on Long Island. Big man on campus, beautiful girls in his arms, and first round draft pick of the L.A. Rams. He held the world in the palm of his hands. Well, that was before the West coast mob confronted him on the eve of his NFL debut with an offer to shave off points in the game. He refused, the mob lost money, and Duncan Pride got this legs broken in three places which ended his football career. So what is a big, tough, college graduate gonna do to earn a living? Not an accountant, not an architect, not a shoe salesman -Duncan Pride applies for a license and picks up a gun to become a West coast private eye. And as an avid reader of crime mysteries, I'm glad he did.

Find Eileen Hardin - Alive! starts with Duncan Pride returning East to his Alma mater, called in by his ex-college sweetheart Marjorie to locate her missing stepdaughter. Marjorie married Pride's college coach Ward Hardin (the father of Eileen) and her disappearance is tearing him up. Of course this is not a simple missing persons case. Pride's investigation runs into switchblade pimps, whorehouses, mobsters, addicts, and crushing intimate family secrets. The novel has an excellent mystery plot that has numerous twists that have you guessing what is the real reason behind having Pride hunt down Eileen Hardin. Questions I kept asking myself-Why are so many people interested in located her? And what in the past has caused this girl to flee? There is plenty of sexual tension throughout the novel, mostly between Pride and Marjorie. Pride has a sense of loyalty and respect for his college coach and Marjorie is making it tough for him. This strain bogs him down a little, but once he is in the dark alleys or sneaking through the back doors of NYC tenements, we realize Pride is in his element. Stephen Marlowe didn't make this into a basic P.I. novel, it has a quality complexity to it that has Pride wondering where this investigation is going. And even with being paid to lay off the case, getting knocked out a couple of times, shot at, and having to kill a man himself-he is determined to find Eileen Hardin.

To be honest when I starting into the first few pages, I almost quit on this one. I wasn't in the mood for this "P.I. returns his old college" storyline. I'm sure glad I continued. It quickly turned into a fine noir tale with many suspenseful hardboiled episodes. Four are standouts that have Pride lurking and hunting in a violent pimp's pad, an abandoned oyster cannery, a curious Men's health club, and a wonderful airport scene near the end that reminded me a bit of the ending in the Steve McQueen movie "Bullitt." A well-written and adventurous P.I. novel, that takes off and slams down to an exceptional conclusion.

Just one thing that lightly dated this paperback, and that is Pride's interaction with the college kids. You have your 1950s stereotypical crewcut boys here. In one scene you have Pride handing one of them a gun to watch over a suspect he has locked down in a motel room for a night. I kept thinking of Archie of Riverdale with a gat in his hand. But the college boys have no importance in the plot and their role is very minimal.

The other novel that Duncan Pride appeared in is called The Fall of Marty Moon, written in 1960. Marty Moon was the muscle who put out the order to have Pride's legs broken when he was a rookie with the L.A. Rams.


mybillcrider said...

I read both the Frazer books many long years ago. Remember them fondly.

Steve Lewis said...

I've always meant to read this book, and I never have. Now of course I want to more than ever. Wish I knew where my copy is!