(pseudonym of Robert Wade [1920-2012] and Bill Miller [1920-61]; they also wrote as Whit Masterson, Dale Wilmer, and Will Daemer)
This bio, taken from Brian Ritt's excellent Paperback Confidential, highlights the career of a unique writing partnership that was responsible for the creation of one of the all-time great private eyes, Max Thursday, as well as a couple of other notable eyes, Mort Hagen and Walter James.
The team of Robert Wade (left, born in San Diego, California in 1920) and Bill Miller (born in Garrett, Indiana, 1920) achieved several notable distinctions throughout their career: They successfully created their own private eye (Max Thursday); they wrote a book, Badge of Evil, that served as the basis for one of the best film noirs, Touch of Evil), and wrote another book, Kitten with a Whip, that was the basis for one of the most entertaining "so-bad-it's-good" films.
Wade and Miller started their partnership early. They were both twelve years old and attending a music class at Woodrow Wilson Junior High in San Diego when they met for the first time. They began writing together while teenagers--plays, sketches and radio scripts. They both attended San Diego State College and edited the college newspaper. When WWII came along, they enlisted in the air force.
After WWII, Wade and Miller combined their surnames and wrote their first novel, Deadly Weapon (1946). It was a fine debut from the team and features PI Walter James, who is in San Diego investigating the shooting of his partner.
Their next effort, Guilty Bystander (1947), features private detective Max Thursday, an unkempt alcoholic with an unpredictable temper who lives in a fleabag hotel. In the story, Thursday's ex-wife shows up to tell him their son has been kidnapped and, along with battling to stay sober, he has to battle assorted cops, thugs and doublecrossing hookers.
Reviewers compared Guilty Bystander favorably with the work of Hammett and Chandler. It was made into a movie in 1950, starring Zachary Scott. The other Thursday novels are Fatal Step (1948), Uneasy Street (1948), Calamity Fair (1950), Murder Charge (1950) and Shoot To Kill (1951).
Wade and Miller wrote numerous standalone novels, as well. Kitten with a Whip (1959) is the story of a seductive juvenile delinquent who blackmails a happily married man. It was made into an over-the-top, camp classic starring Ann-Margret and John Forsythe.
Other notable standalone efforts are Devil May Care (1950), the story of an ex-soldier of fortune (with the classic tough guy name of Biggo Venn) who is hired to go to Mexico and obtain a deathbed confession that will exonerate a deported mobster and allow him back into the U.S. to start new rackets; The Killer (1951), where a big game hunter is hired by a father to track down a man who killed his son; and Branded Woman (1952), about a woman who goes to Acapulco to get revenge against the man who branded an "X" into her forehead.
Wade and Miller also wrote several novels under the name Whit Masterson. They used the Masterson name on their novel Badge of Evil (1956)--the basis for the classic film noir Touch of Evil (1959), directed by Orson Welles and starring Welles, Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh. Other excellent Masterson novels are A Cry in the Night (1955), which deals with a kidnapping, and A Hammer in His Hand (1960), which features a policewoman as the protagonist.
In all, the two wrote over thirty novels and a dozen or so short stories together, and several of their works became the basis for films.
Bill Miller died of a heart attack in 1961. He was only 41 years old. Robert Wade continued his career as a successful writer, penning novels both under his own name and as by Whit Masterson, as well as writing a regular column for the San Diego Union. In 1988, Wade was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Private Eye Writers of America.
As "Wade Miller," unless otherwise noted
As "Whit Masterson" (Robert Wade only)
As "Wade Miller," unless otherwise noted
Burr kidnaps teenage daughter (Wood) of a police captain.
One of the all-time great film noirs, strung along the Mexican/American border, a seedy masterpiece full of murder, kidnapping, and corruption. Notable for Welles' direction, and Heston being cast as a Mexican cop.
From the sublime to the ridiculous...
Above average made-for-TV flcik with Jannsen as a cop who kills a suspect, only to discover the dead man was a well-respected doctor.
The past of a small-town newspaper editor catches uop with him, in the form of a Soviet agent.
Mark M.'s intriguing tribute site to Max Thursday. My favourite part? His hunt for the San Diego locations used in the books.
Respectfully submitted by Brian Ritt, author of Paperback Confidential: Crime Writers of the Paperback, from which this biography was taken. Paperback Confidential is a must-read for anyone interested in the golden era of pulp fiction, offering 132 profiles of the men and women who worked the black vein of crime for the burgeoning paperback market from the 1930s through the 1960s, covering everyone from Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain and Cornell Woolricht o Gil Brewer, Norbert Davis, Brett Halliday, Day Keene, Charles Williams, David Goodis, Elisabeth Sanxay Holding, Ennis Willie and Douglas Sanderson. Additional bibliographical information by Kevin Burton Smith.
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