Recently I got back in touch with an old friend, author and editor Charles E. Fritch. Chuck was my editor at MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE for several years and was the one who asked me to take over writing all the Mike Shayne novellas. This was the first regular writing job I ever had, and I've always been grateful to Chuck for the opportunity.
Trading e-mails with him inspired me to dig out one of his old novels and read it. NEGATIVE OF A NUDE is half of an Ace Double (TILL DEATH DO US PART by Louis Trimble is on the other side) and as far as I know the only book Chuck did for Ace. It features private eye Mark Wonder, who is hired to recover some blackmail photos and along the way finds himself trying to solve the murder of an old enemy of his so that the killing won't be pinned on him. At first the story is told in a light, breezy style reminiscent of Richard S. Prather, and Fritch does light and breezy just fine. But then he springs some surprises that put a much darker face on things and elevate this book from a romp to something richer and deeper. The plot also becomes surprisingly complex for a book that probably clocks in at 40,000 words or less. All in all, an excellent novel. Fritch wrote at least one other Mark Wonder novel that was published by a small publisher I can't recall at the moment. I know I own a copy, so I'm going to have to see if I can find it and read it, too.
The Man Who Burned Hell!
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