Thursday, October 24, 2019

Silver Street by E. Richard Johnson

The 1968 crime novel, Silver Street, is a simple story but it has a gritty reality and the smell of the city streets.

Tony Lonto grew up a tough kid from the slums of an unnamed American city. He went into the Army, fought in Korea, returned to the city, joined the police force, and found himself assigned to a beat in the very neighborhood he worked to get away from.

A dozen years later, he is now a detective. But when anything happens in his old neighborhood, known as “the Strip,” Lonto is sent in because he knows who’s who and what’s what down there.

This book begins with the murder of a pimp, described by Johnson in gruesome detail. Lonto is sent to the Strip to investigate, and even though he is a guy from the neighborhood, no one will talk to him because he is a cop.

Making Lonto’s life more difficult is the newly appointed, lazy but politically connected, detective assigned to work with him.

The investigation is just getting underway when a second pimp is killed.

The killer is known from the beginning of the story. He is a young solider who acquired a taste for killing in Vietnam, and feels justified in murdering pimps.

Further complicating Lonto’s life is his girlfriend, Anna, a woman with a secret who seems to be stringing him along while he has dreams of marrying her and settling into an orderly suburban life.

Silver Street won the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

Photo of Johnson found at Listverse credited to Babelio
There is not much information out there about Emil Richard Johnson (1937-1997). He served in the Army in the 1950s, held a variety of jobs, got involved in crime, killed someone during a robbery and was sentenced to a long stretch in the Minnesota State Prison at Stillwater. He wrote Silver Street and several other novels while serving his time. A short biography of him can be read here.

(For more posts on books, head over to Todd Mason’s blog.)

(Also, check out my crime novel, Lyme Depot. Thanks.)


  1. SILVER STREET actually tied for Best First. The other was THE BAIT by Dorothy Uhnak, a police procedural about a young detective on the trail of a serial killer. Two winners tying for the award is odd enough, but both being police procedural, and both being about the hunt for serial killers is truly weird. Weirdest of all, where Johnson was a convicted murderer, Mrs. Uhnak was a decorated New York City Transit Police detective.

  2. Jim- Thanks for your comments, those are strange coincidences.

  3. Sounds like my kind of book, Elgin. I ought to read more from Uhnak as well.

    1. I think you would like this one, Col.

    2. By the looks of it there's a few of his I would enjoy.