For my reading project this summer, I've been reading various genre fiction mass market paperbacks that I've had on my shelves for years. Mysteries, crime novels, spy thrillers, science fiction anthologies and novels, etc. I'm trying to make a little bit of space (which will just get taken up by more books!) as well as read some authors that I'm not familiar with.
One of those authors is William P. McGivern, who wrote both hard boiled crime fiction and science fiction novels. He later turned to television, writing for such shows as BEN CASEY, ADAM-12 and KOJAK. McGivern's most famous book, THE BIG HEAT (1953) was made into the film noir masterpiece that same year. Directed by Fritz Lang, this hard boiled classic stars Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame and Lee Marvin. McGivern wrote other crime novels that were made into films including ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW (filmed in 1959) and ROGUE COP (filmed in 1954).
SHIELD FOR MURDER was written in 1951. The edition I read (pictured above) was published in 1988. It's got everything you need for a gritty hard boiled crime novel: a crooked cop, a gutsy reporter, a beautiful night club singer, a mob boss who employees two murderous goons, a fair amount of bloodshed and violence and a satisfying ending.
Barny Nolan is a bent Philadelphia detective, a crooked cop with anger issues. At the start of the novel, he ruthlessly guns down Dave Fiest, a two-bit punk gambler who just happens to be carrying a huge sum of cash, money that is owed to crime kingpin Mike Espizito. Nolan claims he shot Fiest when he resisted arrest and that story stands. For awhile.
Nolan needs the money to pay for the good life he wants to provide to night club singer Linda Wade. Barny and Linda share a tenuous relationship with Barny feeling much more for the lovely young lady than she feels for him. Reporter Mark Brewster smells something fishy in the Fiest shooting and starts nosing around. He meets and falls for Linda and starts to put together the pieces of Nolan's strange behavior. Meanwhile, Espitizo sends out his enforcers, Hymie Solstein and Laddy O'Neil to recover his stolen money, a witness to the Fiest shooting surfaces and all hell breaks loose.
SHIELD FOR MURDER was filmed in 1954 with Edmond O'Brien starring as Barny Nolan. I have not seen the film but it's on my list. It will be interesting to see how the film version stacks up against the book because SHIELD FOR MURDER is a first rate crime novel. I can't wait to read more McGivern books. I have THE DARKEST HOUR on my shelf and a copy of THE BIG HEAT on its' way.