TWO GREAT DANES: A REVIEW OF TWO TIMOTHY DANE BOOKS BY WILLIAM ARD
William Ard stands with the top writers from the postwar paperback era. In ten years he wrote close to forty books before cancer cut him down in his thirties. One of his most popular characters was New York detective Timothy Dane. Stark House recently released two of the Dane books together, Cry Scandal and The Root Of His Evil that showcase Ard's immense skills.
In Cry Scandal, Dane is asked to look into the disappearance of his former partner Barney Glines (who starred in two Ard books of his own). Connected to the mystery are a group of talent agents and Broadway producers trying to figure out who is financing a scandal sheet involved in smearing and blackmailing their talent. Barney's trail leads Dane to the tabloid, presenting a question if former partner was after them or in bed with them. Whoever is behind it all has created a body or two is making plans for Timothy to be next.
Root Of His Evil reads more like an action thriller than PI tale. The manager of an obnoxious club entertainer hires Dane. The singer owes two hundred thou to a Miami bookie connected to that city's clubs and hotels and needs to pay it off so his dates down there don't get cancel. They send Dane down south to deliver the one hundred thousand to the guy bookie and collect some markers.
The bookie needs the cash to provide guns for a band of revolutionaries planning to overthrow a South American country who will provide him the rights to the gambling and hotel businesses. This puts several killers on the hunt for the suitcase of cash Dane carries creating two days of relentless fights, chases and shootouts he and a beautiful songstress have to contend with as well as a break or two of love making. With its violence, intrigue, and light touch, The Root Of His Evil has the feeling of Ian Fleming's Bond novels that were being launched a few years earlier.
Both books show the kind of writer Ard was as well as his breadth of what he could do. The Dane books are told in third person omniscient, instead of first. This helps give the feeling of the plot closing in on Dane, increasing the narrative drive. It also helps create a world unto itself weather it be the Broadway underbelly or Miami intrigue.
Timothy Dane is a cross between two private eye types who came out of the postwar era. Like Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, he can handle himself in a fight and women fall for him. In Root Of Hs Evil, he survives a knife wound that would cause most of us to bleed to death. However the third person allows less of a feeling braggadocio we get from Hammer or Shell Scott. Socially aware and more sensitive, e also shares the qualities of detectives influenced by Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer. In Cry Scandal, he mourns his relationship with Barney as he tries figure out how greed and ambition steered him down a darker path, remembering how they were earnest young partners.
William Ard was a master craftsman who found a formula to have it both ways. He knew what genre readers wanted and supplied them with sharply written action, propulsive plotting, and pretty dames. He also slipped in a dash of political awarness, brains in those pretty heads, and honest emotion. Both of these books serve a testament to his talent.