TWICE MURDERED is another in the outstanding series of pulp reprint collections coming out from Black Dog Books. Laurence Donovan is probably best known for the house-name novels he wrote starring Doc Savage, The Phantom Detective, The Skipper, and The Whisperer, but he also had a long and prolific career producing detective and Western yarns for a variety of pulps. This volume collects a dozen stories published in the Thirties and Forties in the pulps PRIVATE DETECTIVE, SPICY DETECTIVE, HOLLYWOOD DETECTIVE, BLACK BOOK DETECTIVE, and SUPER DETECTIVE, under Donovan’s name and his pseudonym Larry Dunn.
Donovan had three main strengths as a writer: he was able to come up with complex plots, he used interesting settings, and he wrote fast-moving, effective action scenes. Most of the protagonists in these stories are private eyes, and like Roger Torrey’s private eye characters, they share a lot of similarities despite having different names. I think Donovan’s shamuses come across a little more as individuals, though.
All of the stories included here are good solid pulp tales, consistently entertaining. Some of them are stand-outs, though. “Death Dances on Dimes” is set in a dime-a-dance joint, and it’s unusual in that it has a female narrator. There’s something else about her that’s unusual for the pulps, too, but you’ll have to read the story to find out what it is. “The Man Who Came to Die” is about an insurance racket and manages to be pretty creepy while at the same time packing enough plot and action for a full-length novel into a novelette. “The Greyhound Murders” is another complicated murder mystery with an interesting setting (a dog racing track) and a high body count. “Footprint of Destiny” is about the movie business and features the sort of plot that Dan Turner is usually untangling. I guess Dan was out of town that week.
In addition to the stories, editor/publisher Tom Roberts provides a fine introduction that includes more biographical information about Donovan than I’ve seen anywhere else, as well as an extensive bibliography of Donovan’s work. TWICE MURDERED is an excellent addition to the Black Dog Books line, and if you’re a pulp fan, I highly recommend it.