THE GOLD MEDAL CORNER, by Bill Crider
You never know where collecting old paperbacks will lead you. When I published a book called Blood Marks some years ago, the paperback rights were bought by Random House, which at that time included the Gold Medal imprint. (Maybe it still does.) At a Bouchercon I was talking to the editor who’d bought the book for reprint and told them how much I liked the old Gold Medals. He said, “Would you like to have Blood Marks come out as a Gold Medal book?” I could have said, “No. After all, that imprint was for original novels, not reprints.” But what I did say was, “Zowie! I’d love it!”
A few years later, I got a phone call from that same editor. A Gold Medal writer named Marvin H. Albert was looking for a copy of one of his books, Devil in Dungarees. A French movie company was interested in buying an option on it, but Albert didn’t have a copy. Did I have a copy and could I send Albert one? Well, no. I had a copy, but I wasn’t willing to give it up. However, I said I’d be glad to make a photocopy and send that. The editor was happy with that solution, and so was Albert, who was living in the south of France at the time. Albert and I corresponded briefly, and he sent me some autographed copies of his novels, though not, unfortunately, any of the old Gold Medals.
Albert was a versatile and energetic writer, and he turned out a great many books under several different pseudonyms. He also sold a number of them to movies, including the westerns The Law and Jake Wade, Duel at Diablo, and Rough Night in Jericho (the novel title was The Man in Black, and it wasn’t about Johnny Cash).
While he wasn’t quite in the same class as the very best of the Gold Medal writers, Albert was often quite good. He was always reliable when it came to story-telling, and while characterization wasn’t his strong point, he generally did a creditable job. My favorites of his Gold Medal novels are probably those in the Jake Barrow series, which he wrote under the name “Nick Quarry.” Barrow is a tough private-eye, and I’ve often thought that Albert should have named the P.I.. Nick Quarry and used Jake Barrow for the author’s name. All the novels in the series are fast-moving, entertaining stories. If I had to pick just one, I might go with Till It Hurts.
There are at least two Nick Quarry titles that aren’t part of the Jake Barrow series. These are Mafia novels, which, as Gold Medal liked to say at that time, are “In the Tradition of THE GODFATHER.” The titles are The Vendetta and The Don Is Dead. The latter was made into a not-too-successful movie.
As “Albert Conroy,” Albert wrote a number of straight crime novels for Gold Medal, and my favorite is the aforementioned Devil in Dungarees (which is actually a Crest book, but that’s the same as a Gold Medal. Trust me.) This is a caper novel that involves a bank robbery, a cop gone bad, and the titular (pun intended) Devil in Dungarees. The cover and title make the book sound like some kind of ’50s J.D. novel, but it’s not, and it’s one of Albert’s best books. It’s Lionel White territory, and it’s as good as White’s novels. Maybe better than some of them.
Under his own name, Albert wrote Lie Down with Lions (another Crest title), which isn’t a primarily a crime novel but an African adventure. Still, it has crime elements, and it’s an eventful and entertaining story. Albert does the local color very well.
In the early 1970s, Albert re-invented himself as “Ian MacAlistair,” a tribute, I suppose, to Ian Fleming and Alistair MacLean, and I’ve always thought of it as one of the great pen-names. Using this name, Albert wrote four espionage thrillers with exotic locations. I like them all, but since I’m a sucker for desert locations, Valley of the Assassins gets my vote for the best of the lot.
In the middle ’70s, Albert turned to writing big hardcover thrillers, and The Gargoyle Conspiracy was nominated for an Edgar as Best Novel in 1976. In 1978 The Dark Goddess was published, and it introduced a character named Pete Sawyer. Albert saw some possibilities in Sawyer, and in 1986 he brought him back as the first-person narrator of the Stone Angel series for Gold Medal. These novels, set primarily in France, feature Albert’s smooth writing, excellent local color, and straight-forward story-telling. The last book in this series, The Riviera Contract was published in 1992, but I’d recommend beginning with one of the first ones, either Stone Angel or Back in the Real World.
Gold Medal Bonus #1: The westerns. I’ve already mentioned some of the titles. Solid stuff.
Non-Gold Medal Bonus #1: I’ve already mentioned the hardcover thrillers, too. The one to read is Hidden Lives. Albert was married to a well-known artist, and this book deals with the art world, which Albert knew first-hand.
Non-Gold Medal Bonus #2: For Dell, Albert wrote a P.I. series about Tony Rome, and he used Tony Rome as his pen name. A couple of these books were filmed with Frank Sinatra and had a ’60s smirkiness. The books are much better, and they hold up well. Nice voice, nice pacing, worth looking for.
Non-Gold Medal Bonus #3: The Dell westerns as Al Conroy. The Man in Black is one I mentioned above. The first is Clayburn, who’s the Man in Black.
Double Non-Gold Medal Bonus #4: As Al Conroy, Albert also wrote a series of books for Lancer. These were an Executioner riff, and there were five of them. The “double” bonus is that two of them (#s 3 and 5) were ghosted by Gil Brewer. These aren’t classics, but they’re interesting for their Gold Medal associations.
Non-Gold Medal Bonus #5: Albert’s last book, published under the name “J. D. Christilian,” was a historical mystery called Scarlet Women. It’s a cracking good story. It’s set in turn-of-the-19th-century New York City, and it features a P.I. named Harp, a survivor of the Civil War, who has a network of city people, both fictional and historical, who help him on the case. Highly recommended for fans of the history mystery.
Besides all the things I’ve mentioned, Albert did a slew of movie novelizations, including the one for What’s New Pussycat. That one’s actually pretty funny, and it’s the only one I’ve read, though I have a stack of them. Now pretty much forgotten, Albert’s a writer who deserves more recognition and more readers. See what you can do about that.
Postscript: For a daily dose of Bill Crider's commentary on matters of pop culture, past and present, his blog is located at http://billcrider.blogspot.com/
MARVIN H. ALBERT (1924-1996) – A Bibliography by Steve Lewis
CRIME FICTION AS BY ALBERT CONROY
The Road’s End. Gold Medal #231, March 1952. Second printing, #579, 1956.
The Chiselers. Gold Medal #289, February 1953. Second printing, #608, 1956. Boyhood’s remembered hates destroyed the man, the woman.
Nice Guys Finish Dead. Gold Medal #676, June 1957. Second printing, #s1079, 1961. The basis for the French TV-movie À CORPS ET À CRIS
The Mob Says Murder. Gold Medal #780, June 1958. The order came straight from the top: If she gets out of line, kill her.
Murder in Room 13. Gold Medal #806, September 1958. The basis for the French TV-movie ADIEU MARIN!
Devil in Dungarees. Crest #349, 1960. She made him forget he was a cop because she never let him forget he was a man.
Mr. Lucky. Dell First Edition #B165; September 1960. Novelization based on the Blake Edwards 1959-60 TV series starring John Vivyan, Pippa Scott, Ross Martin & Tom Brown. (The TV series was in turn very loosely based on the 1943 movie starring Cary Grant.)
The Looters. Crest #s431; 1961. There was the gold – and the girl. Both could be had. But the price was murder.
MYSTERIES AS BY NICK QUARRY. Series character: Private eye Jake Barrow.
The Hoods Come Calling. Gold Medal #747, March 1958.
Trail of a Tramp. Gold Medal #824, November 1958.
The Girl with No Place to Hide. Gold Medal #938, November 1959. Just before they died, three man learned that she was a false promise of passion.
No Chance in Hell. Gold Medal #1033, September 1960.
Till It Hurts. Gold Medal #1053, November 1960.
Some Die Hard. Gold Medal #s1150, September 1961.
NOTE: Nick Quarry was the leading character in a short 15-minute pilot [demonstration reel] made for a proposed TV series. Starring in the brief film were Tony Scotti and Gena Rowlands. Remarkably all eleven minutes of the jazzy background music were salvaged and are available on composer Jerry Goldsmith’s original motion picture soundtrack CD “The Stripper.”
ADVENTURE FICTION AS BY MARVIN H. ALBERT
Lie Down with Lions. Gold Medal #519, September 1959. One woman, two men - in a jungle storm of passion. Note: This hard-boiled novel taking place in Africa is harder to find than it should be; only three copies are presently available on ABE.
MYSTERIES AS BY ANTHONY ROME. Series character: Private eye Tony Rome.
Miami Mayhem. Pocket Book #1269, January 1960. Reprint: Dell #8952, October 1967, under the title of Tony Rome, as a tie-in to the movie of the same name, 1967, starring Frank Sinatra & Jill St. John. Reprinted under the original title as by MARVIN ALBERT: Fawcett Gold Medal, October 1988.
The Lady in Cement. Pocket Book #6059, February 1961. Reprinted as by MARVIN ALBERT: Fawcett Gold Medal, December 1988. The book was the basis of the film of the same name, 1968, starring Frank Sinatra & Raquel Welch. Albert was also the co-screenwriter.
My Kind of Game. Dell First Edition #B232, April 1962. Reprinted as by MARVIN ALBERT: Fawcett Gold Medal, May 1989. “You're in real trouble,” Rome told her. “You call it trouble,” the girl said, “I call it fun.”
Tony Rome. See Miami Mayhem.
The Law and Jake Wade. Gold Medal #553, 1956. At least one later printing, #756, as a tie-in with the movie of the same name, 1958, starring Robert Taylor, Richard Widmark & Patricia Owens. Note: The first printing of this book is extremely scarce, with only one copy offered on ABE.
Apache Uprising. Gold Medal #696, 1957. Reprinted once under its original title, #s1167, then as Duel at Diablo, Gold Medal #k1666, as a tie-in with the movie of the same name, 1966, starring James Garner, Sidney Portier & Bibi Andersson. Note: The first printing of this book is once again extremely scarce, with only one copy offered on ABE.
The Bounty Killer. Gold Medal #760, April 1958. At least one later printing, # s1345. The basis for the Italian-Spanish movie EL PRECIO DE UN HOMBRE, aka THE UGLY ONES in the US.
Renegade Posse. Gold Medal #826, Nov 1958. The basis for the movie aka BULLET FOR A BADMAN, 1964, starring Audie Murphy, Darren McGavin & Ruta Lee.
The Reformed Gun. Gold Medal #856, 1959. Reprinted several times, including as #d1835, and by Fawcett Gold Medal [Ballantine], Jan 1989. Who was going to believe that his name and reputation were not for sale any more?
Rider from Wind River. Gold Medal #902, July 1959. To clear his name he had to trap the deadliest outlaw and the fastest draw in all the West.
Posse at High Pass. Gold Medal s1387, Feb 1964. He was the only bounty hunter in Montana Territory who could boast he’d never lost a prisoner, but that was before he met up with the kid from Kansas.
Duel at Diablo. See Apache Uprising.
WESTERNS AS BY AL CONROY. Series character: Clayburn.
Clayburn. Dell First Edition #B218, Dec 1961. At least one later printing, 1978. Reprinted as by MARVIN ALBERT, Fawcett Gold Medal, Mar 1989.
Last Train to Bannock. Dell First Edition, #4694, 1963. At least one later printing, 1979. Reprinted as by MARVIN ALBERT, Fawcett Gold Medal, July 1989. “I’ll be back alive,” Clayburn told his crew. “Only the good die young.”
Three Rode North. Dell #8852, 1964. At least one later printing, 1978. Reprinted as by MARVIN ALBERT, Fawcett Gold Medal, Nov 1989. Clayburn was going to get his man, even if it killed him.
The Man in Black. Dell #5214, Apr 1965. At least one later printing, 1979. Reprinted as by MARVIN ALBERT, Fawcett Gold Medal, Feb 1990. “Draw whenever you’re ready” – Clayburn said. “I never like to hurry a man who’s about to die.” The basis for the movie ROUGH NIGHT IN JERICHO, 1967, starring Dean Martin, George Peppard & Jean Simmons. Albert also wrote the screenplay.
MAFIA CRIME FICTION AS BY NICK QUARRY
The Don Is Dead. Gold Medal #T2527, 1972. The behind-the-scenes novel of a bloody power struggle that rocked the kings of crime. The basis for the movie of the same name, 1973, starring Anthony Quinn, Frederic Forrest & Robert Forster.
The Vendetta. Gold Medal, 1973.
MAFIA CRIME FICTION AS BY AL CONROY Series character: Johnny Morini, Soldato: Man Against the Mafia.
Note: It is rumored that one or more books in this series were actually written by Gil Brewer. According to one source on the Internet <www.xs4all.nl/~embden11/Engels5/albert.htm> the ones Brewer wrote are #’s 3 and 5.
#1. Soldato! Lancer, 1972.
#2. Death Grip! Lancer, 1972.
#3. Strangle Hold! Lancer, 1973.
#4. Murder Mission! Lancer, 1973.
#5. Blood Run! Lancer, 1973.
ADVENTURE THRILLERS AS BY IAN MacALISTER.
Skylark Mission. Gold Medal T2720, May 1973. Setting: New Guinea, 1941.
Driscoll’s Diamonds. Gold Medal M2889, November 1973. Setting: Middle East.
Strike Force 7. Gold Medal M2971, 1974. Setting: Morocco.
Valley of the Assassins. Gold Medal P3443, 1976. Setting: Saudi Arabia.
The Gargoyle Conspiracy. Doubleday & Co., 1975. Paperback reprint: Dell, July 1982. A hunt for a Libyan assassin in Europe.
Hidden Lives. Delacorte Press, 1981. Paperback reprint: Dell, April 1982. Setting: World War II, as France falls to the Nazis.
The Medusa Complex. Arbor House, 1982. Paperback reprint: Zebra [Kensington], Nov 1983. Female superspy.
Operation Lila. Arbor House, 1983. Paperback reprint: Zebra, Mar 1985. Setting: World War II. British agent Jonas Ruyer warns the French that the Nazis are about to seize their fleet in Toulon harbor.
The Golden Circle. Beach Books/National Press, Inc., hardcover, 1987. No paperback edition. International arms smuggling, with leading characters the beautiful Lady Victoria and young arms dealer Garson Bishop.
MYSTERY FICTION. Series character: Private eye: Pete Sawyer
The Dark Goddess. Doubleday & Co., hardcover, 1978. Paperback reprint: Dell, 1979.
NOTE: The remaining books in the series are paperback originals. By the late 1980s, Fawcett Gold Medal had become an imprint of Ballantine, as part of the larger Random House group. (I may have this wrong.)Stone Angel. Fawcett Gold Medal, May 1986.
Back in the Real World. Fawcett Gold Medal, Oct 1986.
Get Off at Babylon. Fawcett Gold Medal, Jan 1987.
Long Teeth. Fawcett Gold Medal, May 1987.
The Last Smile. Fawcett Gold Medal, Sept 1988.
The Midnight Sister. Fawcett Gold Medal, April 1989.
Bimbo Heaven. Fawcett Gold Medal, Feb 1990.
The Zig-Zag Man. Fawcett Gold Medal, June 1991.
The Riviera Contract. Fawcett Gold Medal, Nov 1992.
BOOK WRITTEN AS J. D. CHRISTILIAN
Scarlet Women. Donald I. Fine, hardcover, 1996. Paperback reprint, Signet 1997. Setting: New York City, 1871, in the midst of the Tammany Hall scandal. Street-smart private eye Harp (no first name given) solves the case of a murdered prostitute found wearing clothes of a wealthy aristocrat’s wife. Written in the wake of Caleb Carr’s successful novel The Alienist. One wonders if Albert might have written more about this character if he had not died before he could do so.
MOVIE ADAPTATIONS * = criminous at least in part.
* Party Girl. Gold Medal #808, 1958. Based on the movie starring Robert Taylor and Cyd Charisse.
That Jane from Maine. Gold Medal #846, Jan 1959. Based on the movie aka IT HAPPENED TO JANE, starring Doris Day, Jack Lemmon & Ernie Kovacs.
Pillow Talk. Gold Medal #918, 1959. At least one later printing, #k1410. Based on the movie starring Doris Day, Rock Hudson & Tony Randall.
All the Young Men. Cardinal [Pocket Books] #C-389, 1960. Korean War: The story of ten marines surrounded by an entire Chinese Communist army. Based on the movie starring Alan Ladd, Sidney Portier & James Darren.
Force of Impulse. Popular Library Giant #PC900, 1960. A frank, revealing story of two decent young people in the oldest kind of trouble. Based on the movie starring Robert Alda, J. Carroll Naish & Jeff Donnell.
Come September. Dell First Edition #K101, 1961. Based on the movie starring Rock Hudson, Gina Lollobrigida, Bobby Darin & Sandra Dee.
Lover Come Back. Gold Medal #s1193, 1962. Based on the movie starring Doris Day, Rock Hudson & Tony Randall.
Move Over, Darling. Dell #5859, 1963. Based on the movie starring Doris Day, James Garner & Polly Bergen.
Palm Springs Weekend. Dell #6813, 1963. Where the boys and the girls are...the wildest three days in the history of anybody’s spring vacation. Based on the movie starring Troy Donahue, Connie Stevens, Ty Hardin & Stefanie Powers.
Under the Yum Yum Tree. Dell #9218, 1963. Young, in love, unmarried.. Should she or shouldn't she.. Yum Yum.. Based on the movie starring Jack Lemmon, Carol Lynley, Dean Jones & Edie Adams.
The V.I.P.s. Dell #9335, Aug 1963. A magnificent, explosive novel of love and money, power and crisis. Based on the movie starring Richard Burton & Elizabeth Taylor.
* Goodbye Charlie. Dell #2923, 1964. Based on the movie starring Debbie Reynolds, Tony Curtis & Pat Boone.
Honeymoon Hotel. Dell #3701, 1964. A racy, rib-tickling tale of an overcrowded bridal suite. Based on the movie starring Robert Goulet, Nancy Kwan, Robert Morse & Jill St. John.
The Outrage. Pocket #50104, 1964. A powerful novel of the lawless West – its violence, its lust, its untamed savagery. Based on the movie starring Gregory Peck, Laurence Harvey & Claire Bloom.
* The Pink Panther. Bantam #J2696, 1964. Based on the movie starring Peter Sellers, David Niven, Robert Wagner & Capucine.
Do Not Disturb. Dell #2117, 1965. Based on the movie starring Doris Day & Rod Taylor.
The Great Race. Dell #3128, 1965. It's a wild, riotous turn-of-the-century steeplechase with lovers on wheels, villains at the heels, and cigar-smoking suffragettes on the rampage. Based on the movie starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis & Natalie Wood.
Strange Bedfellows. Pyramid #1132, 1965. A madcap comedy of marital tangles and triangles. Based on the movie starring Rock Hudson, Gina Lollabrigida & Gig Young.
A Very Special Favor. Dell #9305, 1965. One word leads to another man’s daughter and some hilarious free-association that Freud never dreamed of! Based on the movie starring Rock Hudson & Leslie Caron.
What’s New Pussycat. Dell #9461, 1965. Cover by Frank Frazetta. The sex kittens of Paris can-can ... and do ... in the wildest romp ever! Based on Woody Allen’s movie starring Peter O’Toole, Peter Sellers, Romy Schneider, Capucine, Paula Prentiss.& Ursula Andress.
* Crazy Joe, as by MIKE BARONE. Bantam, 1974. Dino de Laurentiis film based in turn on career of violent NY racketeer Crazy Joe Gallo. Stars: Peter Boyle, Paula Prentiss, Fred Williamson & Rip Torn.
* The Untouchables. Ivy, April 1987. Based on the movie starring Kevin Costner (as Eliot Ness) & Sean Connery.
Duel at Diablo, 1966, based on Apache Uprising. (See above.)
Rough Night in Jericho, 1967, based on The Man in Black. (See above.)
Lady in Cement, 1968, based on his novel of the same name. (See above.)
A Twist of Sand, 1968, starring Richard Johnson & Honor Blackman. Based on the novel by Geoffrey Jenkins.
The Don Is Dead, 1973, based on his novel of the same name. (See above.)
Becoming a Mother: What Every Woman Ought to Know About Fertility, Conception, Pregnancy and Childbirth. David McKay, 1955. Co-authored by Theodore R. Seidman. Various editions and printings in paperback.
Broadsides and Boarders. Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1957. The history of sailing ship warfare, from Sir Francis Drake to John Paul Jones.
The Long White Road: Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventures. David McKay, 1957. Paperback reprint: Pyramid #G532, 1960. Several other reprint editions. Part of the publisher’s series of Biographies for Young Adults.
The Divorce. Simon & Schuster, 1965. A dramatic, intimate evocation of a fateful triangle – Henry VIII, his queen, and his mistress – and of the divorce which separated England from Rome and changed the course of history.
Thanks to Roger Martin for pointing out the previous omission of the self-help guide to motherhood in the non-fiction section. His suggestions also prompted a complete rewriting of the screenplays Albert worked on, and information on the French TV-movies based on two early books for Gold Medal (as by Albert Conroy) has been added. His emails can be found in their entirety here.
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