When he first appeared in The Name of the Game was Death, a lean, but furiously-paced novel published by Gold Medal in 1962 (and reprinted by Black Lizard Books in 1993), his name was Chet Arnold. Described by Anthony Boucher as "a completely callous and amoral criminal," he was a ruthless and unapologetic professional thief and bank robber. Encouraged to build a series around the character, Arnold returned in One Endless Hour, only now he's had plastic surgery, and he's changed his name to EARL DRAKE, although Marlowe's publisher soon christened the books the "Man With Nobody's Face" series. Regardless, the cold, cynical narrative voice remained.
Marlowe was one of the best, and most popular of the PBO writers in the sixties. He attracted quite an audience with this series, most notaby convicted bank robber and former member of the FBI's Most Wanted list, Albert F. Nussbaum, who initiated correspondence with the author from prison. Thanks to the technical advice of his new pen pal, the Drake series soon became perhaps the most authentic series about a crimal ever, rivalled only by Richard Stark's Parker. Of course, the trick to using a crook as the hero of a series is to always make him look like the lesser of two evils. Hence we see a lot of really evil criminals, corrupt cops and the unrelenting hypocrisy of society.
Alas, as the series progressed, the Gold Medal editors had Marlowe gradually tone down Drake, moving him from a professional safe cracker and bank robber, to a secret agent. Still, the twin themes of justice and retribution continued to drive the series. The fourth book in the series, 1970's Flashpoint, won an Edgar for Best Paperback Original.
Dan J. Marlowe wrote plenty of tough, muscular books about tough, muscular guys for the original paperback market, primarily for Fawcett's Gold Medal Books and Avon. His other series character was P.I. Johnny Killain, another no-nonsense, existential anti-hero.
Report submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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