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University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

Strip For Violence

cover image By: Lacy, Ed (pseudonym of Leonard S. Zinberg) (male)
Publisher: Eton Books, Inc. (E123)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 317: PS3523 .A238 S87 1953
Contributor: K. Quinlivan

General

Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: Ed Lacy Geographic Locale: New York City Date of Publication: 1953  |  Original Date: 1953 Setting: urban; rundown apartments, offices and bars in various New York neighborhoods (Marble Hill, Broadway, etc.). Much of the action takes place on board a sloop in the Hudson River. Motives: armed robbery; lust for money and power

Plot Summary

"A three day merry-go-round of women and murder." That's how private investigator Hal Darling sums up a case that proves to be a far cry from his usual small-time jobs policing dance halls and providing security guards for store owners. Hired to investigate how an unusual rock came sailing through the apartment of postman Will Johnson, Hal decides to humor Anita, his attractive young secretary by allowing her to assist with his investigation. While attempting to trace the whereabouts of a missing call girl for another client, Hal learns that Anita has been brutally murdered, and he blames himself for letting her get involved. Anxious to absolve his guilty conscience, Hal vows to track down the murderer, and he sidesteps the police, launching his own search for the killer. The discovery of a second murder victim enrages Hal even further, and his relentless investigation ultimately leads to notorious local mobster, "Cat" Franklin, who earned his nickname because of his remarkable ability to escape unharmed from sticky situations.


Major Characters

Hal Darling adult male, late 20s, short (5 ft., 1 in.), judo expert and former flyweight boxer, self-conscious about his short stature and his last name, intelligent, "a rough stud, no matter how blond and baby-faced he looks," private investigator

Hank Saltz adult male, big face, short spiky hair, police detective

Bobo Martinez adult male, Hispanic, flattened nose, battered face, 6 feet tall, 34 years old, ex-fighter, now works as a guard for Hal's detective agency

Ed Franklin "Cat," adult male, big, beefy mobster, owns numerous bars, bookie joints and nightclubs

Anita Rogers adolescent female, slender, dark hair, enjoys reading detective magazines, Hal's eager young secretary

Louise adult female, dyed red hair, painted eyebrows, unhappy lush, factory worker who finds Hal impossible to resist

Marion Lodge a.k.a. Margrita de Mayo, adult female, tall, blonde hair, "the girl with the fine, fine legs," former call girl now a television actress and singer

Will Johnson adult male, middle-aged, "big, lumbering fatso with thick, graying hair," postal worker

Thelma Johnson adult female, middle-aged, plump, nervous, housewife

Laurie Shelton adult female, 22 years old, short, dark hair, high cheek bones, tennis player

Shirley Lee adult female, African-American, cool, efficient, secretary


Weapons

blunt instrument, fists


Level of Violence

punches begin to fly in the opening scene, setting off a series of violent incidents, described with relish by the first-person narrator, Hal. One victim is beaten to death, another's throat is slit. Hal uses his well-honed judo skills to fend off numerous attackers who are bigger and stronger than he is, and the frequent fight scenes incorporate various judo moves that are described in vivid detail.


Sexuality

although Hal claims that he knows "a lot of good reasons for not laying strays," he is quick to jump into bed with most of the women he encounters. He has a soft spot for his secretary, but claims he doesn't believe in mixing business with sex after a previous affair with a former secretary resulted in his office "going to hell."


Gender Roles

gender roles are reflective of the time period: women are employed in factories or offices, and married women do not work outside the home. The sole non-traditional female character is Laurie, a tennis player whose athletic prowess is considered something of a novelty for a woman.


Ethnicity

most characters are presumably European-Americans. Bobo Martinez is referred to as a "spick" by one of the other characters, a remark that Hal finds offensive. Hal is sympathetic toward his replacement secretary, an African-American woman, recognizing that she has probably been turned away from other jobs because of her skin color. A Japanese judo master is portrayed as wise and philosophical.


Alcohol/Drug Abuse

Louise is so drunk in the opening scenes that she is unconscious. Hal is fond of strong rye and is always ready for a drink, but he never suffers any ill effects. The mob boss mixes drinks with straight hospital alcohol, 190 proof. The use of alcohol is neither condemned nor praised; it is simply acceptable.


Law Enforcement

according to Lt. Saltz, "You private dicks are an insult to any real cop's guts!" The police lieutenant sees no need for private detectives, and he feels they are glorified by the movies. Hal shows little respect for Saltz and his cohorts; he suspects that corruption within the police force is one of the main reasons why mob violence exists in the city, and Hal comments that for no apparent reason, "Saltz was a character I couldn't like."


Added Features

the 25-cent paperback original features a blurb on the inside front cover written in the form of a police department report It provides basic background information on the story and acts as a lead-in to the novel by stating: "Report continues on the following pages...."


Subject Headings

Detectives, Private/ Murder/ New York (N.Y.)/ Police


Psychological Elements

Hal's tremendous sense of guilt over Anita's murder drives him to find her killer, and it weighs heavily on his mind throughout the novel.