Friday, January 20, 2017
FFB: Lovely Lady, Pity Me by Roy Huggins
He was a novelist who started writing for television in the 1950s and went on to create shows like Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip, The Fugitive, The Rockford Files, and many more.
His 1949 murder mystery novel, Lovely Lady, Pity Me, is a noir story of an ordinary guy, John Swanney, a reporter for a national news magazine living in Los Angeles, whose marriage has broken up, although he and his wife still share the same house. On assignment and checking out a gambling joint, John meets Ann, a beautiful, mysterious woman decked out in furs, who offers him no information about her personal life while offering him everything else.
John falls hard for Ann. (Guys like John always do. Makes you wonder if he had ever read any James M. Cain or at least seen a Fritz Lang movie. Huggins read Cain. He even mentions the author in the book.) Anyway, John and Ann meet in out-of-the-way places until he discovers, while on another assignment, that she is married to a wealthy and powerful older man.
In an attempt to straighten things out with Ann, he meets her in a dark parking lot at UCLA. Later, when John returns to his house, he finds his wife has been brutally murdered.
Knowing he will be the No. 1 suspect in the case, John contacts Ann and explains that she must tell the police they were together all evening. She refuses and John, now without an alibi, is headed for the gas chamber unless he can find out who killed his wife before the cops nab him.
Huggins creates a fast-paced story with his hero avoiding the police at every turn and at times running like mad to escape them. Lovely Lady, Pity Me, is a fun read and Huggins (1914-2002) was a good storyteller. He also provides a glimpse of L.A. in the 1940s.
In 1958, Huggins used the bare bones of this story as the second episode of 77 Sunset Strip, which he also called, “Lovely Lady, Pity Me.” In the part of John, he inserted series lead character, private investigator Stuart Bailey, which makes a neat circle. In the book, John briefly contacts Bailey. The P.I. first appeared in Huggins’ novel, The Double Take from 1946.
(For more posts on books, visit Patti Abbott’s blog.)