Chester Drum

Created by Stephen Marlowe (pseud. of Milton Lesser)

Stephen Marlowe wrote a quite popular, well-written, but now almost forgotten series for Fawcett/Gold Medal about a globe-trotting private eye, CHESTER DRUM.

As Jim Doherty points out, "Drum followed the Chandler paradigm in virtually all respects (30-ish, unmarried ex-cop, operating a one man agency in a large US city, telling his own stories in the first person). To this familiar recipe was added a new ingredient, world travel. Though Drum was based in Washington, DC, almost all of his cases take him to a different foreign country. He's made the pilgrimage to Mecca, slipped down into South America, solved a murder in Moscow's Gorky Park years before Martin Cruz Smith ever hard of the place, made it to Rome in time for the 1960 Olympics, and had two cases in Berlin, one before the Wall, one after." Hell, in Violence Is My Business (1957) he even goes to Canada, hobnobbing with the Mounties in Mont Tremblant Park.

And, like many PIs in the 50s and 60s, a lot of his cases involved espionage. In fact, this was the case with Drum more often than not, given the international nature of his cases.

As Chester himself puts it in one blurb, "I keep one finger on the nation's pulse and the other on the trigger of my .357 Magnum. I've been involved in everything from bumptious belly-dancers to dipsomaniac diplomats."

Marlowe also collaborated with fellow Gold medaller, Richard S. Prather, on one of the highlights of the paperback era of the fifties, the Chester Drum/Shell Scott crossover novel Double in Trouble, in which the authors and their characters alternated chapters.

Born in New York in 1928 and educated in Virginia, Milton Lesser wrote science fiction under his own and a variety of pen names. After serving in Korea, he adopted the "Marlowe" pen name (possibly as a tip of the hat to Chandler) for his P.I. books featuring Drum, and eventually made the pseudonym his legal name. He also wrote mysteries as Andrew Frazier (including some not so bad P.I. stories about Duncan Pride), and some Ace Double mysteries as C.H. Thames, a name he also used on SF. It's entirely possible he also wrote a few books under names that we don't know about. He was awarded France’s Prix Gutenberg du Livre in 1988, and in 1997 the Private Eye Writers of America conferred on him their Life Achievement Award.

NOVELS

Famed collaboration with Richard S. Prather, featuring Shell Scott.

SHORT STORIES

  • "My Son and Heir" (December 1955, Manhunt)
  • "Terrorists" (January 1956, Accused; reprinted in American Pulp, 1997)
  • "Drum Beat" (1960, Ed McBain's Mystery Book #2; also Best Detective Stories of the Year-1962, ed. Brett Halliday)
  • "Hang by the Neck!" (January 1961, Saturn Web Detective Stories)
  • "Wanted, Dead and Alive"(1964, Best Detective Stories of the Year-1964, ed. Anthony Boucher)
  • "Baby Sister" (1965, Come Seven/Come Death)
  • "A Place to Visit" (March 1968, AHMM; also 1968, Rolling Gravestones, ed. Alfred Hitchcock)
  • "Chester Drum Takes Over" (Spring/Summer 1973, Ellery Queen's Mystery Antholgy #25)

COLLECTIONS

RELATED LINKS

London Guardian's obituary of the "US sci-fi and crime writer and early star of Gold Medal books."

Resectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Special thanks for the heads up to Steve Brown, a longtime fan, who not only fondly remembers Chet but still reads him. And thanks to Jim Doherty and Ted Fitzgerald for some of the info on this page.


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