I’ve mentioned St. Louis-born author Manning (Lee) Stokes (1911-1976) in at least one previous Killer Covers post, and will undoubtedly do so again. He was a particularly productive fictionist who penned both original books and film novelizations under a variety of pseudonyms (Kermit Welles, Ken Stanton, Nick Carter, etc.) as well as his own name. His 1955 novel Murder Can’t Wait (Graphic)--shown above, left--evidently offered the one and only appearance of a New York City private eye named Vince Donnellen, who has recently lost his license to do business. This has left him in need of money, susceptible to dubious employment propositions such as the one brought his way in Murder Can’t Wait. Vintage45’s Blog provides the following synopsis of Stokes’ storyline:
[Donnellen’s] sometimes girlfriend Yvette Farrell dumps him since it looks like she’s landed a millionaire. He’s publisher David Fenston.The copy on the flipside of this 1955 paperback gives the tale in between a decidedly grim aspect, especially in reference to the targeted niece, Lee: “She was a lush, no good to anyone, a million bucks worth of body and booze and bygone husband.” Yet Vintage45’s Blog assures us that it’s a “fast-paced story that is well worth reading.” Notable, too, is the novel’s front. It was painted by Saul Levine (1915-?), who did a good deal of work for Graphic Books during the 1950s (you’ll see, on the left, his cover illustration for 1956’s The Intruder, by Octavus Roy Cohen) as well as other publishers, such as Beacon (which was behind the 1954 release of Fred Malloy’s Rooming House, also on the left).
Later, Yvette goes to Vince’s place and tells him David wants to hire him to take his alcoholic niece Lee to a sanitarium in Indiana. Vince thinks there’s more to the job than that. He’s right.
David takes him out on his boat and tells Vince the real deal. Lee is set to inherit a million dollars in eleven days. If she dies before then, David gets the money. He needs it since he’s almost broke. He only fooled around with Yvette in order to contact Vince.
He’ll pay Vince fifty grand to kill Lee. Vince says he’ll do it. As planned, he and Lee head for Indiana. Vince comes up with a plan to make David think Lee’s dead. Before he can take that any further he has to sober Lee up.
One of Levine’s contemporaries, Rudolph Belarski (1900-1983), was responsible for creating this week’s other featured façade, from the 1951 Popular Library edition of While Murder Waits. The artwork here presents plenty of intrigue, from its clearly cautious redhead with a gun exiting what might be a basement staircase to the dark-coiffed ruffian waiting behind that stairway door, a metal bar clutched in his paw, ready to strike. Even the book’s tagline--“Night Is the Time for Killing”--abets the suspense Belarski’s illustration is meant to suggest, though Eric Beetner, in this Criminal Element piece about such cover copy, observes that it “[doesn’t] make a whole heck of a lot of sense.”
While Murder Waits was originally published in 1937 by Doubleday Crime Club, and is by-lined “John Estevan.” However, the author was really Samuel Shellabarger (1888-1954), a Princeton graduate and well-traveled writer-educator who penned both historical adventures (such as 1945’s Captain from Castile, which was made into a 1947 movie starring Tyrone Power) and mysteries. While Murder Waits was one of five books he produced under the Estevan pen name. The only plot description I can find comes from the Goodreads site:
Retired sea captain George Gleasing named his three daughters after the reefs and then raised them as he had ruled his crew, as a tyrant and a bully. His ruthlessness roused so much hatred that, now, old and ill, but still brutal and unrepentant, he lives in fear that one of his daughters would breach the old stone walls—and take his life.At present, the full text of While Murder Waits is available online.
When heads begin to roll, Dr. Miles Le Breton of the Department of Justice finds himself both curious and repelled as much by the ruthless old captain as by his three daughters who mirror the sea that flows through their blood—no pity, no love, no truth; only cunning, strength, power, and, yes, beauty.
Fans of the old style mysteries will love this one.