(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Often grouped with contemporaries such as Mickey Spillane, Davis Dresser, and Henry Kane, Michael Avallone found himself writing in a similar vein and for a very similar audience. Challenging situations, introduced in Avallone’s first series of private-eye novels, are resolved by a rough-and-tumble six-foot character named Ed Noon, who dominated a slew of books issued between 1953 and 1993.

The Tall Delores

Private investigator Noon is a city slicker whose street talk is filled with wisecracks that defuse or create explosive situations while shielding a mind clever enough to unravel tangled affairs. In Avallone’s first novel, The Tall Delores, Noon introduces himself and his style:Great business, this private-peeper racket. You get paid to look through keyholes, mess up fresh playboys for old guys who wanted to scare them off their child brides, find missing persons who usually preferred to stay lost, and get your own face pushed in once in awhile. For a fee, of course. I’m buck-hungry like the rest of my fellow Americans. And not crazy about taxes either. So money dominated all the time I had. My time was anybody’s who could pay for it. And now the Tall Delores wanted me to find Harry (also Tall) Hunter for her for the fifth part of a grand. Well, it was worth it. I’d done things for a part of a grand before that weren’t so grand.

For some forty years this American detective hero was to roam the streets, exuding his love for films, baseball, and beautiful women, while trying to keep the world straight for middle-class America. “With this recipe Avallone has inadvertently created a private Nooniverse,” writes critic Francis M. Nevins, Jr. Other critics were appalled by Avallone’s atrocious misuse of language, plots that lacked substance, and freakish scenes. Yet Noon carved a place for himself in mystery fiction, and if literary giants and academics scorned his technique, it did not bother his fans (or Avallone’s publishers).

Apparently, some confusion exists over which book was actually Avallone’s first Ed Noon book. Many lists cite The Spitting Image (1953) as the first; in The Spitting Image, however, Noon is hired because he had solved the case of The Tall Delores. The...

(The entire section is 935 words.)