Journalist Tom Wicker, best known for writing about politics, wrote three hardboiled crime novels for Gold Medal in the early to mid-Fifties under the pseudonym Paul Connolly. I didn’t know about this until last year when the great Paperback Warrior blog reviewed the middle one of that trio, TEARS ARE FOR ANGELS.
The protagonist and narrator, Harry London, is like a lot of Gold Medal protagonists: he’s not having a good day. In fact, he’s had a bad couple of years because of a tragedy that took his wife’s life and left him full of hatred and thirsting for vengeance on the man he blames for her death. That incident cost Harry his left arm, too, so he’s left crippled, drunk, nearly broke, and living in a shack on a worthless old farm somewhere in the South.
Then a beautiful young woman shows up, and yep, just like in a lot of other Gold Medal novels, Harry’s life suddenly changes. But since he finds himself caught up in a plan to murder the man who caused all his troubles, it’s up for debate whether that change is actually for the better . . . or if it’s going to cost Harry his life, too.
A typical Gold Medal plot this may be, but Wicker’s prose is so smooth and vivid that it elevates TEARS ARE FOR ANGELS into the top rank of books from that iconic publisher, a worthy companion to the best novels by Harry Whittington, Charles Williams, John D. MacDonald, and Day Keene. The first half of the novel is, frankly, a little slow, but the second half races by, especially the last 40 or 50 pages. Wicker really had me flipping the pages to see what was going to happen, and that’s about the highest compliment I can pay to a book. This is top-notch hardboiled fiction and will soon appear in a reprint edition from Stark House’s excellent Black Gat line. I give this one a high recommendation. If you’re a fan of hardboiled crime fiction, you need to read it.