RARA-AVIS: Re: Frank Kane/Johnny Liddell

From: Richard Moore ( moorich@aol.com)
Date: 14 May 2008

Henry Kane introduced private eye Peter Chambers in 1947 in A HALO FOR NOBODY published by Simon & Schuster. The Chambers novels stayed in hardcover from top publishers for a few years and they were above average hardboiled mysteries for the time. As Mickey Spillane continued to hit it big in sales, my memory is that the Kane novels had a bit more of an edge than the first one.

In the middle 1950s, the Peter Chambers novels became PBOs, initially Avon and then Signet, Lancer and Belmont. Kane was also doing stand- alones for those companies as well as for Dell. In the later part of the 1950s through the early 1960s, Chambers became less hardboiled and more of a Cary Grant, snappy patter type. The character also became a jazz club "cool" sort that had characteristics soon associated with the television program "Peter Gunn." Chambers was always funnier than Gunn but Chambers had staked out the jazz club scene (IIRC) prior to Gunn or Johnny Staccato. There was enough similarity between Gunn and Chambers that Henry Kane was hired to do the 1960 novelization for Dell of Peter Gunn and Chambers made a guest appearance in that novel. To perhaps confuse things further, when the series Johnny Staccato was novelized it was written by Frank Kane under a penname.

While sex was always a part of the Henry Kane Chambers novels, it became a much more overt element, especially in the marketing, in the novels of the early 1970s. My impression is that the publisher Lancer was trying to appeal to the audience buying the various series then considered near soft porn, such as the one Michael Avallone did for Paperback Library(KEEP IT UP ROD or my favorite title THE CUNNING LINGUIST). The later, sexed-up Peter Chambers novels often had the word "job" in the title as in THE SCHACK JOB (Lancer 1969), THE TAIL JOB (Lancer 1971), THE GLOW JOB (Lancer 1971), etc.

Some of the earlier Chambers novels (predating the soft porn stage) published by Lancer I recall fondly, such as DEAD IN BED (Lancer 1961).

Henry Kane also did quite a few serious stand-alones for various publishers and some of those were above average entertainments with solid plotting.

Richard Moore

--- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, "jacquesdebierue"
<jacquesdebierue@...> wrote:
> --- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, "Richard Moore" <moorich@> wrote:
> <<So I enjoyed Frank Kane back in the day but I actually preferred the
> novels of Henry Kane. No relation to Frank, Henry Kane had a breezy
> patter to his dialog that I found funny forty years ago. Goodness
> knows how I would view it today.>>
> That is my recollection, too, from the Henry Kanes I've read. If I
> remember correctly, he pushed the sex angle quite a bit.
> Best,
> mrt

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