Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Mister Deadly Makes a Comeback

Do you remember newhound-turned-private investigator Larry Kent? Probably not. He began life on I Hate Crime, a 1950s Australian radio drama series (created by Ron Ingleby), then became a phenomenon in print—initially in a succession of novelettes, but ultimately in hundreds of novels. Most of those tales were set in New York City, and all of them boasted prodigious body counts. Kent was allegedly created to capture the same male reading market that was already thrilling to the Carter Brown novels; he didn’t disappoint.

“Ingleby may have written the radio shows, but he never wrote any of the books,” explains Kevin Burton Smith in The Thrilling Detective Web Site. “Among those who did write under the Larry Kent name were Don Haring, an American like Larry who settled in Australia after WWII, and died in the 1980s, and Des R. Dunn from Queensland. But it’s hard to tell who wrote what, really. They were squirted out so quickly that accurate copyright info and author attribution would have only slowed them down.” Smith counts more than 400 Larry Kent novels and novelettes in existence, produced mostly from the mid-1960s to mid-‘70s, though “as late as the 1990s, the series was [supposedly] still being produced in Scandinavia. The covers usually featured paintings of leggy, full-figured babes and sported such snappy (and often exclamation mark-endowed) titles as Kill Me a Little!, This Way, Sucker!, Cute Heat!, Dig Me a Dame! and Stand Up and Die! Add on the 150 or so radio shows, and our Larry turns out to be one of the hardest working eyes around.”

Procuring print copies of those not-quite-classic tales isn’t at all easy these days. But Britain’s Piccadilly Publishing, which usually specializes in Westerns and men’s adventure yarns, is now making at least some of them available in e-book format—with their original “good girl” artwork. Four can be had right away: Curves Can Kill, Witch Rhymes With …, and Hello Dolly … Goodbye, all by Don Haring; plus One More for the Road, by Des R. Dunn.

David Whitehead (aka Ben Bridges)—who, with writer and Shots editor Mike Stotter, founded Piccadilly Publishing—tells me they hope, initially, to produce e-book versions of 25 Larry Kent titles, “and depending on how they sell, yes, our plan is to bring out more.” Among the other works still to come: Honey-Blonde Blues, The Heavenly Bodies, Mourning Glory, Stripped to Kill, and Mona Lethal.

Curious about the undeniably eye-catching cover art on these e-books, I asked Whitehead if he could identify the illustrators. He says the fronts were “painted by the Australian artist Stan Pitt, with occasional input by Wally Stackpool. Between them, these two artists crafted the distinctive ‘look’ for the entire Cleveland Publishing line. Many of their western paintings are equally impressive.”

Incidentally, if you’re interested also in listening to a few of Larry Kent’s radio adventures in I Hate Crime, tune in here.

READ MORE:Australian Western Publisher Cleveland Set to Sell Off Its Original Cover Art Library,” by John Freeman (

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