If Bob Wade and Bill Miller (writing as Wade Miller) set out to create one of the most noir of noir novels, they achieved their goal – although they came perilously close to parody with Guilty Bystander.
The writing partners poured everything into this one. There is a drunken, down-and-out detective, a seedy hotel, a femme fatale, a good girl who could be more “fatale” than the other woman, a kidnapped child, a fortune in missing jewels, a bunch of rival gangsters, a couple of mysterious murders, and a lot of violent action.
Oh yeah, and rain. It rains all the time in this not-so-sunny California setting.
One morning, Max Thursday, wakes with a world-class hangover to find his ex-wife in his shabby hotel room with bad news. Their little boy has been kidnapped and her new husband, a doctor, has disappeared.
Max sets out to find the boy. The clues he picks up keep leading him back to a woman named Angel who, coincidentally, lives in his hotel. Angel knows far too many shady characters.
In the course of the 144 pages of the Signet paperback I picked up somewhere for a buck (original price, 25 cents), Max gets framed, beaten, tortured, and dunked in the ocean – twice – before putting the puzzle together, recovering the child and solving the murders and the mystery of the jewels.
Bob Wade (1920-2012) and Bill Miller (1920-1961) wrote more than 30 novels together, including Kiss Her Goodbye (see here) and Kitten With A Whip (see here). There is more about them at Thrilling Detective.