Rex McBride

Created by Cleve F. Adams (aka John Spain and Franklin Charles; 1895-1949)

"An American Gestapo is goddam well what we need... The only way you can lick these guys is to fight as dirty as they do... bite and gouge and use a knee where it will do most good."

-- Rex shows he's a man for the ages in Murder All Over (1943)

Hot-tempered, crude, sexist, racist REX McBRIDE appeared in six novels by Cleve F. Adams.

Adams was a contemporary and apparently a good pal of Raymond Chandler. But while Chandler's Marlowe was the classic tarnished knight going down those mean streets, clinging to a personal code of honour, working outside the system, perhaps, but generally staying within the lines drawn by that system, McBride was something else entirely. Think of him as the Donald Trump, if you will.

As Richard Moore put it on Rara-Avis once:

"(McBride) was a cretin, famous for his statement that 'an American Gestapo is goddamned well what we need.' Marlowe became the model for the future, the classic tarnished knight. McBride, for the few who have read him, is one of the most repugnant characters in detective fiction history. Lessons learned."

The quote's from Murder All Over (1943), and if you think he couldn't possibly have meant it, he goes on to elaborate, adding

"The only way you can lick these guys is to fight as dirty as they do... bite and gouge and use a knee where it will do most good."


Still, Adams was quite popular in his day, cranking out over eighty hard-boiled short stories and novel-length chunks of malice and menace, spitting them out like they were nails, all hard and to the point. He also created P. I., John J. Shannon, who at least has some redeeming qualities, and even more surprisngly, Violet McDade and her Hispanic partner, Nevada Alvarado, two of the very first hard-boiled lady eyes, who slugged their way through a string of stories in the pulps

Born in Chicago, Adam starting writing well into his thirties, having already worked as as a manual laborer, a copper miner, a private detective, a soda jerk, an accountant, a window trimmer, a motion picture art director, a chain store operator and a life insurance salesman. He was a founding member of The Fictioneers, an LA-based social club for pulp writers that included, among others, Chandler and William Campbell Gault.


  • "A guy can take care of his enemies. Friends are just a plain damned nuisance."


  • Sabotage (1940)
  • And Sudden Death (1940)
  • Decoy (1941)
  • Up Jumped the Devil (1943 aka "Murder All Over")
  • The Crooking Finger (1944)
  • Shady Lady (1955)

Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith, with thanks to Richard Aldrich.

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