A few days ago I wrote about Charles E. Fritch’s private eye novel NEGATIVE OF A NUDE, published as half of an Ace Double in 1959. Well, there’s a sequel to this book, but it’s just a fluke that I ever found it. Some years ago while browsing through a used bookstore, I picked up PSYCHO SINNER by Eric Thomas, what appeared to be a typical early Sixties sleaze novel published in 1961 by an outfit in California called Athena Books. But the front cover copy mentioned Hollywood private eye Mark Wonder, and I immediately recognized that as the name of the character from NEGATIVE OF A NUDE.
I bought the book, of course, and now that I’ve read it, I can say without any question that Eric Thomas was a pseudonym for Charles E. Fritch, and PSYCHO SINNER is a direct sequel to NEGATIVE OF A NUDE, featuring not only Mark Wonder but also Dody Dutton, his girlfriend from the previous book. Despite its soft-core porn appearance, there’s really not much sex in this book, and what there is isn’t much more graphic than what would have appeared in a Gold Medal or a Dell book from the same era. PSYCHO SINNER is a straightforward private eye novel in which Mark Wonder is hired by beautiful starlet Silvi McClair to find out who’s trying to kill her. Wonder’s search for the truth leads him to a nudist colony, a beatnik nightclub, the office of a powerful Hollywood movie producer, and the apartment of a female psychiatrist who’s as stunning as any starlet. There are echoes of Richard S. Prather and Robert Leslie Bellem here, but Fritch has his own voice, and it’s a fast-paced, entertaining one. This book lacks the dark edges that made NEGATIVE OF A NUDE a more powerful novel, but it’s still great fun and I’m certainly glad I came across it and bought it years ago.
Emma Straub: By the Book
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