Take Your Last LookBy: Brady, Matt (pseudonym of Joseph Shallit) (male)
Publisher: Fawcett Publications, Inc. (Gold Medal Books - 811)
Place of Publication: Greenwich, Connecticut
Catalog #: Kelley Box 450: PS 3552 .R244 T35 1954
Contributor: P. Ryan
GeneralEra: 1950s Author as on Cover: Matt Brady Geographic Locale: fictional city -- northeastern United States (could be New York City) Date of Publication: 1958 | Original Date: 1954 Setting: urban; settings vary; spirals outward from an inner city precinct, to offices and wealthy residences, to the isolated, rural setting of the denouement. Inner city settings include Hardie's precinct house, his apartment, the streets of the nameless metropolis, and the Harmony Bar. Suburban settings include Pat Carothers' newspaper office and her palatial family home. A deserted mansion in the country serves as a backdrop for the final action. Motives: financial gain
Plainclothes narcotics detective Cliff Hardie pursues a routine narcotics investigation in his inner city precinct which leads him to a heroin ring operating out of the affluent suburb of Ardley. In order to uncover the workings of the drug operation, Hardie ruthlessly exploits a young reporter from the Ardley Crier named Pat Carothers. Unbeknownst to Pat, she is being used as a stalking horse by her editor, Tom Gerard. He is the kingpin of the recently-arrived heroin ring. Pat's sister Kathy is a heroin addict, and Hardie enlists Pat's cooperation by threatening to arrest Kathy. When Kathy disappears, Hardie first locates her and then abducts her (whether to interrogate or protect her is unclear), and he is subsequently knocked cold by Gerard's thugs. Hardie awakens in an isolated rural mansion to a session of grueling physical torture. He manages to escape, survives a tense siege in the attic, and turns the tables on the gangsters by killing or disabling them and shooting their boss.
Clifford Hardie "Cliff" adult male, early 30s, big (six feet one inch), strong, ungovernable temper, prominent "hypersensitive" nose, cleftless chin, can draw and fire his service revolver in less than half a second
Thomas Gerard "Tom" adult male, ruddy complexion, light blue eyes, pale eyebrows, well-set; favors tweeds; hail-fellow-well-met manner serves him well in his newspaper editor cover; actual occupation is that of a drug pusher, but he caters to a select clientele
Patricia Carothers "Pat," adult female, 5 ft., 5 in. tall, 120 lbs., russet hair, blue-green eyes, and a mole near her jawline. Looking to advance her career in newspaper work with a good story about the "drug underworld," she is also feeling Hardie out for advice on how to best help her sister, a drug addict.
Kathy Carothers adult female, Pat's sister, a heroin addict; slight chestnut-haired version of her sister with a husky voice.
Ray Fallon adult male, a "nice kid" according to Pat Carothers, a "creep twice her age" according to Cliff Hardie; big-boned and awkward, newspaper photographer
Ellen Elstrom adult female, attractive brunette, looks like a librarian Cliff once knew; a well-mannered prostitute she is drug-addled enough to initially not recognize Hardie, who had sent her to prison less that two years ago.
Jimmy Rubirosa "Ruby," "Rooster Beak," Gerard's only non-affluent customer, he opens a "tea-pad" that is under surveillance and patronized by Cliff Hardie.
Harry M. Lanker "Tan-Face," adult male, slim, full-lipped, a low-level soldier in the narcotics operation; unmarked by the narcotics trade (he doesn't get high on his own supply); attempts to kill Hardie twice.
Herbert Mercker "Griffo," adult male, one of the sources for Hardie's narcotics bust; he has gained weight since Hardie saw him last; formerly served as a muscle-man in drug deals.
Lieutenant Morwitz adult male, despite his sardonic manner and appearance -- dark, scarred, thick-browed, and clad in blue serge like a Mafioso, he is honest and competent; Cliff's superior officer in the Narcotics Division.
Other than various brute-force wrestling moves and fisticuffs, and some nerve-pinch and come-along holds, most of the violence is situation-improvisational or gun-oriented. Additionally, there is systematic physical violence visited on Cliff at the gangster retreat in the country. Many guns are used; the only specific model mentioned is a .32 Colt Woodsman expropriated from one of the gangsters.
Level of Violence
descriptions of violence are cold, clinical, and dispassionate with a subtext of leering enjoyment or fulfillment.
Cliff Hardie has such a high degree of insecurity that he feels a need to both initiate and terminate his sexual affairs -- to "get rude with them" if his partner feels a need for intimacy after a sexual encounter. Women seem to be incidental to him; he gets much more of a charge out of leaning on or "sweating" junkies for information. The job of narcotics detective has conditioned him this way.
the male gender role is apparently that of "Company Man" -- even so-called relationships are pursued on the job. Although women are viewed as the subordinate gender by this protagonist, chivalry is largely absent. Women are consistently objectified ("She was a smooth, creamy thing." p.41). What is perceived as weakness in women serves more as occasion for predatory sexual opportunism than as cause for protection.
race is irrelevant in this novel. All participants, law-abiding and otherwise, are not only Caucasian but Anglo-Saxon.
even when Cliff Hardie is extremely stressed by his job and approaching burnout, he never drinks to excess. He can take or leave alcohol and is anti-drug, but is surprisingly liberal at the tea-pad where he samples the cannabis which he describes as no stronger than corn-silk.
law enforcement is portrayed as honest, if not as obsessive as Cliff's brand of "Dirty Harry" pre-Miranda law-enforcement.
the McCarthy era is the backdrop for this tale of people who are slaves to a different master -- in this case enslaved by opiates instead of the Kremlin, but the principle is similar. The heroin ring/spy ring analogy can be further extended in that the drug ring is segmented in a fashion similar to the "cell" organization of Communist spies in order to prevent betrayal (the logic being that you cannot betray a comrade you do not know). Tom Gerard, the affable editor, is apparently a pillar of the community, but is actually here to damage the community and profit thereby. His role as a community leader makes his drug-dealing analgous to the actions of a Soviet mole; a long-term deep cover spy planted for the purpose of maximum intelligence-gathering and infliction of damage. Cliff Hardie's "end-justifies-the-means" philosophy perfectly exemplifies the fascistic mind-set of the McCarthy era. "Junkies," like "Commies," are the way they are because of a defective character or congenital disability. Whatever the reason, they have forfeited the right to decent treatment accorded to other human beings. Their real crime is not narcotics use or political affiliation, but fooling us -- the "normal" -- into accepting them as people like us. Thus Cliff's brutality to the hapless junkies he squeezes for information is self-justified. As an example, when Cliff is asked, "What would you do if you discovered your own sister was using drugs?" he replies, "I'd take off my belt and whip her till she was one bloody welt over her whole body....I'm not brutal at all. I'd only be doing it to save my sister. Because I'd know what that drug would do to her is a lot more brutal than anything I could ever do." (p. 59)
Drugs/ Heroin/ Drug Traffic/ Journalists/ Murder/ Paranoia
clinical paranoia as evidenced in schizophrenia is not present in any of the characters; however, functional or occupation-related paranoia is present. Cliff wants no one to know his true name or occupation so that his effectiveness as a narcotics detective will not be compromised. The narcotics distributors want no one to know their true name or occupation or their liberty will be curtailed. Cliff himself is the most interesting psychological case in the novel. He is severely repressed and has such low self-esteem as to appear suspicious of any "tramp" low enough to go with him. His low self-esteem apparently derives from his sense of never measuring up to his father's heroic standards. His repeated pattern of initiating and abruptly terminating sexual affairs betrays a fear of intimacy which is pathological. Hardie will not take a chance on allowing someone to get close enough to him to hurt him.