(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Jack Webb’s principal series of mystery novels, the Father Shanley and Sammy Golden books, features a Catholic priest with a church in a Hispanic neighborhood of Los Angeles who teams up with a Jewish police detective. As a result, Webb places heavy emphasis on ethnic characters and their attitudes and problems, an unusual approach that ran against the grain of the culturally cautious 1950’s, when all but the last book in the series appeared. Even more unusual than the characters who appear in Webb’s novels are his warm approach to human problems (even criminals are sometimes sympathetically viewed as victims of forces beyond their control), his emphasis on higher moral issues (usually raised by Father Shanley), and his frequent references to music, art, and literature.