A CORPSE IN BROOKLYN
and Other Stories
Robert J. Randisi
By the time you reach this volume you will have learned quite a bit about Day Keene. Did you know he was friends with actors Melvyn Douglas and Barton MacLane? Did you know that he flipped a coin to decide if he should become and actor or a writer? Lucky for us it landed on the right side.
Keene is generally considered to be a cut below Harry Whittington, Gil Brewer and Peter Rabe—the Holy Trinity of Gold Medal’s pulp authors—who many feel were the absolute best of the 50’s and 60’s paperback crew. (The Gold Medal website shows 19 books by Keene, 17 by Whittington. Maybe Keene’s quality wasn’t up there with Whittington’s—and I say “maybe”—but he was right there when it came to high quality productivity.) And, of course, none of these authors can match the sales record of John D. MacDonald, Richard Prather or Donald Hamilton, but I’m talking about the quality of work done in paperbacks by the men who cut their teeth in the pulps and went on to have successful if not spectacular careers.
Keene fits snugly in the bosom of the authors who die-hard pulp-paperback fans consider the best (not best-selling)—Whittington, Brewer, Rabe, Charles Williams, Wade Miller, Bruno Fischer and others whose worth is not measured in sales.
But maybe I’m rambling. That’s what fans of the 50’s and 60’s paperbacks do when they start talking books and authors.
I’m pleased that this multi-volume collection of Day Keene’s stories is being produced (I think there was only one other collection before these began to appear [This is Murder, Mr. Herbert, and Other Stories, 1948, according to the Thrilling Detective website].) I’m glad to be introducing a volume called A CORPSE IN BROOKLYN. It just seemed fitting since I was born and raised in Brooklyn and wrote three novels about my own Brooklyn P.I., “Nick Delvecchio.”
While “A Corpse for Cinderella” and “Seven Keys to Murder” and “I’ll Be Seeing You,” were also published in Dime Mystery from ‘44 to ’46, and have that P.I. flavor.
Keene may not be in top form in every story—and he later graduated from Dime Mystery and Detective Tales to Black Mask and Dime Detective—but these tales are no less entertaining, as he almost always does well what he did well. I sort of wish he’d brought back Tommy Martin and Matt Mercer for more stories. (Actually, I haven’t read all 11 of the other volumes in this series, so I can’t say he didn’t write about them, again. Did he?)
The prolific Day Keene died much too soon in 1969 at 65 years of age. This series of volumes is a must for pulp-paperback fans, and a treat for anyone who may have read Keene’s novels, but not his short fiction. Once I’ve finished reading the other volumes, I’ll have to go out and try to buy up all his novels.
Hey, that’s what we pulp-paperback fans do.