Sunday, August 8, 2010

Murder Doll by Milton K. Ozaki

Murder Doll by Milton K. Ozaki
Berkley Diamond D2016
Copyright 1952

She fluttered mascaraed eyelashes and laid a hand on my arm. "Has anyone ever told you you're handsome?"
"Sure," I said, "my mother. What's your name, baby?"

Novels containing characters that deliver a hardboiled narrative have always been a favorite of mine. And Milton Ozaki's Chicago P.I. Carl Good definitely fits that bill. Good describes himself as having "features like a fistful of dough and carrying the beginning of a paunch." He then adds in his favor are height and broad shoulders. In WWII, Carl Good was a paratrooper who saw plenty of action and did his share of killing. He's an impetuous guy who likes Scotch and girls, and fancies himself as a rough, tough guy in a fight. He knows the town and has plenty of connections, which is a big benefit for a man in his line of work.

Right out of the gates, Carl Good is trying to locate the missing Orville Pederson. Hired by his wife, Pederson has been gone for a few weeks and left her without any spending cash. Good finds Pederson's plaything in a Chicago B-girl joint, but in a few minutes she is dead after taking a poisoned drink intended for Good. He learns that Pederson is connected to the Chicago mob and performs real estate deals for them. And through his many street contacts, Good finds out the the heat has been turn up and this is making things difficult for mob operations. It's causing friction in the ranks that is leaving an opportunity for a Philadelphia kingpin to elbow in. Pisano, the standing boss, offers Good $25,000 to find the identity of the person the Philadelphia boys have sent to orchestrate the takeover. All they know is that it is a woman and she's a looker. Carl Good isn't one to let a financial opportunity go to waste, he adds that job to his plate because this is "real money." Later he realizes that both cases are interconnected and as usual in these PI plots, Good is smack dab in the middle of both of them.

As I said, I'm a sucker for hardboiled narrative and Murder Doll has some of the best I've read in a while. Here are a few that I liked:

"She's just a hooker," I insisted flatly. "She hasn't got enough brains to file her toenails."

I went up the side of a pile of two-by-fours like a scared cat and flattened myself on the rough timber like juice on a platter.

She came to me and lifted herself onto my lap. One arm went around my neck and her mouth searched for mine. I felt like spitting after the kiss, but I didn't.

As for the storyline, the majority of the time you can tell what is going to happen. But there are a few surprises. One is when an enraged Good chokes a thug to death after failing to make the guy talk. Later Good finds out that the thug had his tongue cut out. This didn't seemed to bother the PI at all. There's also a remarkable scene when Good is being hunted down in a lumber yard. In his pocket he happens to have a grenade that he took off a bobby-trap that was setup for him. Removing the firing pin with his teeth and lobbing it at his pursuers makes a satisfying payback. A couple of things come off silly in the plot. One is having a woman organizing the takeover of the deep-rooted Chicago vice organization. The other is a wild scene at a Nudist park where Carl Good is strutting his stuff trying to get the lowdown on how the woman is luring men away from Pisano's organization. And if you can swallow these, you'll find a good crime mystery in your hands. Milton Ozaki has Carl Good operating in the streets of Chicago where the surroundings are dark and grimy. Good isn't your compassionate P.I. and he definitely isn't in the game to be morally upright. He does it for the money and it also is a good occupation for him to release an inborn fury onto the bad guys. I liked the guy and will dig out a few more of his paperbacks. Chicago's Carl Good is a hard-headed and conniving private detective, who should have gotten more literary recognition.

This Berkley paperback edition was actually published in 1959. Murder Doll first appeared in the 1952 Phantom Books paperback authored under the name Robert O. Saber, a pseudonym used by Milton Ozaki.


Rusty James said...

How bout putting a best of list together for us: hard-boiled dialogue.

Everyone's a fan of one-liners.

Rusty James said...

Hey! Murder Doll is available for the Kindle for 99 cents.

Right on. I hate the Kindle.