Re: RARA-AVIS: Howard Browne, a little late

Date: 15 Jul 2001


Re your post on Howard Browne:

> However, Browne was not just a pastiche artist. He
> may be even more
> skeptical of authority figures than Chandler.
> SPOILER When I first
> read this book [*Halo in Blood*] about 20 years ago,
I was shocked
> that the cop did it.
> Not that it didn't fit or that the cop hadn't
> already proved himself at
> least a jerk, but he was a cop. I think it was the
> first older PI novel
> I read with a corrupt cop (I still can't think of
> too many other
> examples form that era, except for Thompson, of
> course).

Chandler and Hammett did it several years before Browne. Spillane was doing it at around the same time. So was an old-time *Black Mask*-er named Thomas Walsh whose heroes, significantly, were invariably cops.


Chandler's *Lady in the Lake* and one of the short stories from which it was developed ("Bay City Blues," I think) both feature a cop as the murderer. In the film version, the cop/murderer was played by Lloyd Nolan. Actually, most of the cops in Bay City, Chandler's fictionalized version of Santa Monica, were thoroughly corrupt.

One of Hammett's early Continental Op stories has an SFPD beat cop turn out to be the killer. Exactly which one escapes me at the moment.

At just about the same time that Browne was writing his Halo books, Mickey Spillane was writing his second Mike Hammer book, *Whom the Gods Destroy*, which featured a crooked small-town cop named Dilwick as one of the villains. The publishers sent it back for a rewrite, which made Spillane made, so he just withdrew it for twenty-odd years, then re-submitted as *The Twisted Thing* in the late '60s.

The second novel of Thomas Walsh, following up the Edgar-winning *Nightmare in Manhattan*, was *The Night Watch*, in which the villain was a crooked cop who actually becomes a cop-killer. The book formed the partial basis for a mid-50s film *Noir* (the title of which escapes me) in which Fred MacMurray played the bad cop and Phil Carey (one of TV's Phil Marlowes) the good cop.

I think the corrupt cop as villain was a fairly deeply ingrained HB perrennial by the time Brown started the Pine series.

  And a priest
> did it in one of the other novels, Halo for Satan, I
> think.

The killer wasn't a priest. He was *impersonating* a priest. Big difference.

You might want to check out the book I regard as Browne's best, *Pork City*, based on the real-life Jake Lingle murder case in Chicago. The hero is a cop
(Browne's anti-authority bias notwithstanding), real-life DA's Investigator Pat Roche, who was actually assigned to the Lingle case.


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