Somehow I never came across this vintage paperback with its great cover by Sam Cherry, and I never heard of the author, Ferguson Findley (whose real name was Charles Frey). But Stark House will soon be reprinting it as part of the excellent Black Gat line, and I’m glad because MY OLD MAN’S BADGE turns out to be a very good novel.Johnny Malone is a young cop in New York City whose father was also a cop. Fifteen years before this book opens, the elder Malone was murdered, and the killer was never caught. That failure of justice has eaten away at Johnny ever since. Now, after all those years, a new clue to the murderer has turned up, and Johnny, newly promoted to detective, goes undercover to infiltrate a drug smuggling and peddling ring that has some connection to the man who killed his father.
The plot in this novel is pretty straightforward, which makes it work more as a procedural and a suspense novel than an actual mystery. What elevates it is Findley’s writing, which is sharp and tough and observant. He does a great job of depicting the sleazy lower rungs of New York City society and vividly captures the squalidness of the dope ring Johnny Malone becomes part of, as well as its customers. The pace never slows down much, and Findley pulls off the neat trick of using other points of view in a book that’s primarily written in first person. He really had me flipping the pages when he got toward the end.
Now, about that cover . . . Sam Cherry did scores of covers for pulps in the Thrilling Group, which was owned by Ned Pines, who also owned Popular Library. As a result, a lot of those pulp covers were reused as paperback covers, but Cherry also did some as originals for Popular Library. This one looks like it could have been on one of the detective pulps, but if that’s the case, I haven’t been able to find it. As always, any information on that is more than welcome. But I think it’s an original, since it does match one of the scenes in the book. And it’s a good one, that’s for sure.