In the five William Crane novels, Jonathan Latimer synthesized puzzle-mystery and tough-guy conventions by introducing a series protagonist of great intelligence and social sophistication who comes into violent contact with crime. For Crane, pleasure and pain interact as forceful agents by which both conscious and unconscious processes produce enlightenment. The larger world (mostly Chicago) appears irredeemably corrupted. For the detective Crane, the model of order seems to be survival in the hierarchy of the Black Detective Agency, where he is confirmed by bonds of loyalty and good job performance.
Latimer’s experimentation with shifting points of view in the Crane novels and elsewhere anticipates the author’s later fiction, in which he seeks to reconcile the depth of characterization and richness of technique of mainstream literary fiction with the appeal of detective fiction. In these novels, William Crane and crew have been dismissed and replaced by solitary and more introspective protagonists: amateur sleuths whose profession as writers (newspaperman, Hollywood scriptwriter) makes them especially sensitive to the way words shape reality.