Tucker took occasional breaks from SF to write some good mysteries and noir novels. This is a good one about a man trying to get two women out of the country and back to the Antilles for a racketeer.
Clay Gordon is a marine engineer. He would rather be aboard ship than anyplace else. A storm wrecked the last boat he was on. One way he made some bucks was running people out of one country and getting them to safety in another.
He goes to Peoria,Illinois to call on an old army buddy for some money. He sees Anson Ford who is now a lawyer. Ford has a job for him. He’ll find out what it is when he visits Sylvanius “Beerbelly” Marchi. He made his money in Chicago as a bootlegger and then retired to the Antilles islands.
He had to leave because the Feds were after him for income tax evasion. On the island a man sold his two daughters to him and he married one and kept the other around as his housekeeper. Ford has the income tax charges all tied up so it looks like he’s safe. Then he does something stupid. He sneaks back into the U.S. with the sisters. Now he could be charged with bigamy since his first wife is in Chicago.
Gordon’s job is to get the two women back to the island. He’ll be paid forty grand. Marchi warns him not to touch his wife…or else. Overhearing all this is a nervous girl that Ford put on the household staff to listen in on what goes on. Marchi also has a safety deposit box full of cash he wants to get out of the country.
Gordon goes to a motel to get the women and to his surprise there’s also a baby. He’s not happy but takes everyone into his car and heads for New Orleans where he hopes to get a boat.
Along the way someone is following him. He finds out it’s the girl from the house and her husband. She overheard Marchi’s warning about his wife and she thought her husband could break into the room and catch Gordon with the sisters. Gordon stops that blackmail idea and chases them away.
Later he gets a newspaper. There’s an article about a small plane crash. Marchi is dead. Then he spots a suitcase in the car. It’s the money. He tells Marchi’s widow that if it wan’t for the baby he would’ve stolen it and taken off. The two start drifting closer. Her sister keeps coming on to Gordon and he keeps rejecting her.
In New Orleans he finds out his contact is gone and may be in Florida. Time to hit the road. This is a good one well worth picking up.
Turn it over for a story about a PR director in Hollywood whose main job is to keep scandals quiet.
Sam Howell is the Public Relations Director for a movie studio. After a party at his place he gets a call from has been actor Jack Roland. He’s in jail accused of murdering the publisher of the scandal sheet Tattle. He says he’s innocent and wants Sam to help him.That won’t be easy since Jack is married to Sam’s ex-wife Betty and he never liked Roland in the first place.
The cops are sure Roland’s guilty. Betty tells Sam she’ll come back to him if he proves Jack innocent. He wants nothing to do with that. Publisher Fred Pawley wasn’t below blackmail and the list of those wanting him dead is a long one.
The story about Roland recounts his hiding on a train from an enraged husband. He was a hot property for about ten years before his career faded. Veteran director Ceil Bowne was about to cast him in his latest picture. He doesn’t believe Roland is guilty.
Sam is braced by a hood with a gun and forced to accompany him to the home of rackets boss Leo Ross. He wants Sam to either find the real killer or let Roland take the rap. Thanks to Pawley, Ross is due for a trip to the pen on income tax charges. He says he didn’t kill him.If Sam doesn’t do either of those things, Ross will have him rubbed out.
This is the usual good book from Whittington. It’s interesting to read about a Hollywood eager to cover up scandal instead of today where that kind of behavior is a badge of honor.
The Sam Howell character has the same job as Carter Brown’s creation Rick Holman. That series has its merits but it doesn’t hold a candle to Whittington’s stand alone.