Tough, ruthless gangsters from Chicago descend on London and for two weeks their violent campaign of murder and intimidation holds the city in a crushing grip of fear. Scotland Yard has never seen such an onslaught. When a lull ensues, Captain Jiggs Allerman of the Chicago Detective Bureau suspects the rival gangs of forming an uneasy alliance. Suddenly a shot rings through the House of Commons - unleashing an outburst of terror even more bloody.
Two rival gangs from Chicago coming to London and competing to blackmail rich men into paying up to prevent being killed. Scotland Yard is helped by Jiggs, a captain from the Chicago detective bureau... old school Hollywood style gangsters' story, from the master of the genre Edgar Wallace.
A vintage mystery read with this 1932 book from prolific UK author Edgar Wallace. One of his publishers claimed that at one time (20’s or 30’s) a quarter of all books read in England were written by him. He died 1932, while working on the screenplay for the film King Kong and after having penned over 170 novels. Apparently he dictated his books onto a wax cylinder (the Dictaphone of the day) and his secretaries typed up the narrative later, before he shipped it directly on to his publisher afterwards. A lot of his books were created during a three day period and help explain his prolific output.
Enjoyable enough with a fast moving plot concerning rival US gangs and their efforts at extorting money from the rich and lofty in London. By chance we have a Chicago Police Detective in town. Our Captain Allerman is all too familiar with the villains having crossed paths with them more than once stateside. In tandem with Terry Weston of the Yard, he anticipates their every move and whilst able to avoid some bloodshed is impotent to prevent the competing gangs forming an alliance and ratcheting up the ante. Unless he’s given carte blanche and the mild and meek powers that be endorse a policy of meeting fire with fire, London is set to become a gangster battleground with an American flavour.
Wallace adds some interesting characters to the mix, notably a young typist, Lesley Ranger who inadvertently becomes involved at nearly every turn. There’s an interesting dynamic at play with her and Weston, as well as one of our suspected crime lords. Our first introduction to Miss Ranger is when our first murder victim interviews her for a position.
“You left your last employment because the hours were too long?”
“I left my last employment because the manager made love to me, and he was the last man in the world I wanted to be made love to by.”
“Splendid,” he said sarcastically.
A charming attitude on display – a product of the period or maybe an indication of Wallace’s attitude towards females in general? Hard to say, this being my first read of the author. In fairness, throughout the rest of the book Lesley is portrayed as resourceful, intelligent and perceptive, but for me it was the most awkward reading moment.
3 from 5
Acquired earlier this month from Amazon UK at under a pound for Kindle.
I have another recent addition waiting on the shelves – The Calendar. Not rushing headlong to read it, but conversely not shuffling it to the bottom of the stacks either.
I selected this read as part of Rich’s October monthly meme for 1932 over at Past Offences blog. Click here to see what others have been enjoying.