Cleve F. Adams

(pseudonyms include John Spain and Franklin Charles)

The missing link between Dashiell Hammett and James Ellroy?

The first of the two novels is /Too Fair To Die!, /by Cleve F. Adams.†
Cleve Franklin Adams (1895-1949) was an American author of hard-boiled fiction who has been described as the missing-link between Dashiell
Hammett and James Ellroy.† Between 1933 and his untimely death from a heart attack in 1949, he wrote about 80 novels and short stories which
appeared in most of the major detective pulps.† He had several series character detectives† including female detective Violet McDade and her
partner Nevada Alverado, John J. Shannon, St. George Silver and Rex McBride, the detective in this story.† Adams was born in Chicago and
before starting his writing career at the age of 38, he tried his hand as a manual laborer, copper miner, private detective, soda jerk,
accountant, window trimmer, motion picture art director, chain store operator and life insurance salesman.† By the early 1930s, he and his
wife Vera were running a candy store in Culver City, a suburb of Los Angeles.† He was a founding member of The Fictioneers, a social club for
writers that disbanded when most of it's member left to fight in WWII.† Like his friend Raymond Chandler, most of Adams later "novels" were
created by slicing and dicing characters and plot elements from earlier stories into a single narrative.† Rex McBride, the detective in this
story, as written by Adams, was hot-tempered, crude, racist and sexist.† He appeared in six novels and is considered one of the most repugnant
characters in detective fiction.† In a line from /Murder All Over /(1943) McBride says "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." /Too Fair To
Die /was Adams' final novel.† He became gravely ill while writing it, so his good friends Robert Leslie Bellham, the spicy pulps author of the
/Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective/ stories and W.T. Ballard of Black Mask fame, offered to finish it for him.† According to Ballard, when Adams
finished reading the revised story he ungratefully told them "It's a beautiful...typing job."† After Adams death, Bellham and Ballard made
more revisions and the book was reissued in 1955 in an Ace paperback as /Shady Lady.

Cleve F. Adams wrote rambunctious, violent, corrosively cynical private eye fiction from the mid-1930s until his untimely death from pneumonia in 1949 at the age of 54. He also wrote as Franklin Charles and John Spain.

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.


  • Sabotage (1940; )Rex McBride
  • And Sudden Death (1940; Rex McBride)
  • Decoy (1941; Rex McBride)
  • The Black Door (1941)
  • The Private Eye (1942; John J. Shannon)
  • Dig Me a Grave (1942; as John Spain; Bill Rye)
  • What Price Murder (1942)
  • Up Jumped the Devil (1943 aka "Murder All Over"; Rex McBride)
  • Death Is Like That (1943 as John Spain; Bill Rye)
  • The Evil Star (1944; as John Spain)
  • The Crooking Finger (1944; Rex McBride)
  • Death at the Dam (1946)
  • Contraband (1950; aka "Borderline Cases")
  • No Wings On a Cop (1950; John J. Shannon; completed by Robert Leslie Bellem)
  • Shady Lady (1955; )Rex McBride


Shady Lady / One Got Away (1955)

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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