Day Keene

Pseudonym of Gunnar Hjerstedt; also wrote as Lewis Dixon, William Richards, Daniel White, John Corbett, Donald King
(1904-1969)

"Keene is a natural storyteller; he keeps things moving right along, and no reader is likely to bored."

-- Bill Crider in 1001 Midnights

"Familiar enough in its sex and violence and in its expose of criminous goings on in the pop-record business; but it's fast, lively and professional, and Irish-Hawaiian Johnny Aloha is better company than many of ficitonís private eyes.

-- Anthony Boucher, New York Times, on Payola

Day Keene was born Gunnar Hjerstedtin Chicago in 1904, half Swedish and half Irish, and 100 per cent writer.

A familiar sight on the paperback racks of the fifties, he started out as an actor in the twenties, doing mostly repertory work, but by the thirites he was writing regularly for radio on such shows as Little Orphan Annie and Kitty Keene, Inc. (about a female private eye, which had a pretty decent run.)

But that was just the start. By the 1940s, he had turned to the crime and detective pulps, where he proved he could handle the sex stuff and tough stuff as well as anyone, but where his wry wit and sly humour -- not to mention his talent for creating three-dimensional and often flawed male characters -- made him stand out in a field normally dominated by one-dimensional slabs of beef. Keene's short fiction appeared in such magazines as Black Mask, Ace G-Man Stories, Detective Tales, Dime Mystery and Manhunt.

But by the late forties he had moved on to longer works, focussing on paperback originals and even a few hardcovers. Sure, he churned out some crap, but what's amazing is how much of it was good stuff. He eventually penned over fifty novels, for such publishers as Avon, Gold Medal, Graphic and Ace, where he contributed more than a few doubles. He only created one recurring character, Los Angeles-based private eye Johnny Aloha.

Although now mostly forgotten except by pulp fans, in his heyday, Keene's work was generally well received, both commercially and critically, not just in this country but France as well, where many of his mystery and crime novels were first published.

As Cullen Gallagher of Pulp Serenade recalled,

"I was surprised by how often (Keene) was reviewed in The New York Times. What wasn't surprising was that it was mostly (by) Anthony Boucher, one of the most famous and important mystery reviewers of the 20th century, and perhaps one of the best critics in general."

Later on, as the paperback market (and tastes) began to change, he moved on once again, this time to writing for television, working on such shows as Burke's Law, Hawaiian Eye and Colt 45, while his 1960 novel Chautauqua was the basis for the 1969 Elvis flick The Trouble With Girls, one of the King's last acting roles.

RADIO

Keene scripted many episodes of this radio soap, about a female private eye.

SHORT STORIES

  • "It Could Happen Here" (September 1940, Ace G-Man Stories)
  • "Wake Up, America" (January 1941, Ace G-Man Stories)
  • "League of the Grateful Dead" (February 1941, Dime Mystery)
  • "Last of the Fighting Ainsleys" (September 1941, Ace G-Man Stories)
  • "What So Proudly We Hail" (October 1942, Ace G-Man Stories)
  • "Herr Yama From Yokohama" (February 1943, Ace G-Man Stories; 1988, The Super Feds)
  • "Rhapsody in Blood" (January 1943, Dime Mystery Magazine)
  • "Boy Kills Girl" (June 1944, Flynn's Detective Fiction)
  • "Dead As in Mackerel" (February 1945, Detective Tales)
  • "Dance With the Death House Doll" (May 1945, Detective Tales)
  • "Nothing to Worry About" (August 1945, Detective Tales)
  • "As Deep as the Grave" (January 1946, Detective Tales)
  • "Crawl Out of the Coffin" (September, Detective Tales)
  • "Fry Away, Kentucky Babe" (December 1947, Detective Tales)
  • "Marry the Sixth for Murder" (May 1948, Detective Tales)
  • "The Bloody Tide" (1950, Black Mask; 1996, The Mammoth Book of Pulp Fiction)
  • "A Better Mantrap" (Dangerous Dames)

NOVELS

  • Framed in Guilt (1949; aka "Evidence Most Blind") )..Buy this book
  • Farewell to Passion (1951; aka "The Passion Murders")
  • My Flesh Is Sweet (1951) )..Buy this book
  • Love Me and Die (1951)
  • To Kiss or Kill (1951)
  • Hunt the Killer (1952) ...Buy this book
  • About Doctor Ferrel (1952)
  • Home Is the Sailor (1952)
  • If the Coffin Fits (1952)
  • Naked Fury (1952)
  • Wake Up to Murder (1952)...Buy this book
  • Mrs. Homicide (1953)
  • Strange Witness (1953)
  • The Big Kiss-Off (1954)
  • There Was A Crooked Man (1954)
  • Death House Doll (1954)
  • Homicidal Lady (1954)
  • Joy House (1954) ...Buy this book
  • Notorious (1954)
  • Sleep with the Devil (1954) ...Buy this book
  • Who Has Wilma Lathrop? (1955)
  • The Dangling Carrot (1955)
  • Murder on the Side (1956)
  • Bring Him Back Dead (1956)
  • It's a Sin to Kill 1958)
  • Passage to Samoa 1958)
  • Dead Dolls Don't Talk (1959) ...Buy this book
  • Dead in Bed (1959; Johnny Aloha).. Buy this book
  • Moran's Woman (1959)
  • Miami 59 (1959)
  • So Dead My Lovely (1959)
  • Take a Step to Murder 1959)
  • Too Black for Heaven (1959)
  • Too Hot to Hold (1959) ...Buy this book
  • The Brimstone Bed 1960)
  • Payola (Pyramid, 1960; Johnny Aloha) .. Buy this book
  • Seed of Doubt
  • Bye, Baby Bunting (1963)
  • LA 46 (1964)
  • Carnival of Death (1965)
  • Chicago 11 (1966)
  • Acapulco G.P.O. (1967)

COLLECTIONS & OMNIBUS EDITIONS

  • This is Murder, Mr. Herbert, and Other Stories (1948)
  • Framed in Guilt/My Flesh is Sweet)..Buy this book
  • League of the Grateful Dead and Other Stories (2010))..Buy this book
  • We Are the Dean and Other Stories (2010))..Buy this book
  • Dead Dolls Don't Talk/Hunt the Killer/Too Hot to Hold (2011)...Buy this book
  • Sleep with the Devil/Wake Up to Murder/Joy House (2017)...Buy this book

NON-CRIME NOVELS

  • Guns Along the Brazos (western)
  • His Father's Wife (1954)
  • Chautauqua (1960)
  • World Without Women, w/ Leonard Pruyn (1960)
  • Southern Daughter (1967)
  • Live Again, Love Again (1970)
  • Wild Girl (1970)

Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith, with special thanks to Al Guthrie & Marcel Bernadac for thier help.


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