Skip to Content
ublogo print

University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

The Day of the Dead

cover image By: Spicer, Bart (male)
Publisher: Dell Publishing Co., Inc. (909)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 769: PS3569 .P464 D39 1955b
Contributor: K. Quinlivan


Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: Bart Spicer Geographic Locale: Mexico, including Mexico City, Chapala and Guadalajara Date of Publication: 1955  |  Original Date: 1955 Setting: urban and rural; homes, apartments, hotels and villas in a variety of neighborhoods Motives: espionage, double cross

Plot Summary

The Communist Party is planning something big in Mexico in this tale of international intrigue and betrayed friendships. Colonel Peregrine White, shot up during the Korean War, has a bad heart and walks with a cane. Now retired from active duty, he lives in Mexico because it's warm and quiet and his trusted friend and mentor, Paco Morado, is there. White's retirement ends abruptly with a call from the F.B.I. -- they need White back in action to investigate a spy ring and the possible involvement of Morado in the Mexican Communist party. Just yesterday, Morado and White had been the two are enemies. White, sicker than ever at the thought that his old friend may be implicated in a scheme to overthrow the Mexican government, is continually riddled with doubts as he tries to learn the truth about Morado. Set against a vivid Mexican background, White is forced to rely on instinct and experience to discover the truth and thwart the Communist plot.

Major Characters

Peregrine White adult male, 36 years old, "long, thin man," serious, hard-working, a loner, walks with a limp, ex-Army colonel who once worked for the F.B.I.

Carlton Castle adult male, middle-aged, beefy, bald, cigar-chomping F.B.I. Agent

Lieutenant Colonel Chavez adult male, Hispanic, heavyset, thin mustache, Mexican army officer, coordinates anti-Communist work for the Mexican government

Francisco Morado "Paco," adult male, Hispanic, smooth black hair, thin mustache, concealed Communist and professor of English literature at the University of Guadalajara

Andrea Morado O'Donoju adult female, Hispanic, brown hair, dark eyes, Paco Morado's sister and political accomplice

Nacho Valdez adult male, Hispanic, small man with a long mustache, member of the Communist party

Joe Pedlar a.k.a. Ruben Gold, adult male, sleek, "well-brushed and healthy," tried to recruit Col. White for the Young Communist League while they were in college

Grace Coulter adult female, fairly short, very slim, short dark auburn hair, twin sister of Allen Coulter

Allen Coulter adult male, carbon copy of his twin sister, Grace, except for long dark auburn hair

Evelyn Gates "Evie," adult female, 30ish, "moderately wealthy and damnably pretty," petulant, White's landlady determined to rekindle the spark of romance in Col. White

Timoteo Costillo y Diaz adult male, Hispanic, ex-wrestler, solid, bulky, large head, heavy jowls, "dark as an Indian," Communist party member and hired gunman

Paul Ramsay "Pablo," adult male, middle-aged, long thin man with white hair and a red face, fond of throwing lavish parties


knife, guns, walking stick, sheak gun hidden inside a cigarette case

Level of Violence

Peregrine White is shot at; one character is killed in an explosion, another has his throat slit, but overall, the level of violence is moderate. Descriptions, although quite graphic, are relatively brief.


there is a slight hint of a romantic attachment between Col. White and Evie Gates, which grows stronger as the novel progresses. White tries to deny his feelings for Evie, believing that his emotional and physical scars prevent him from enjoying an intimate relationship with a woman.

Gender Roles

traditional 1950s-era gender roles prevail, with the added element of Latin American cultural mores. The central interest of most female characters is to remain at home and care for the family. White comments that "Spanish men run their families with a tight rein," and he indicates that Mexican women would never do anything without prior approval of husband, father or brother. White is attracted to Evie's independent nature and recognizes that she is an intelligent, trusted ally.


many of the characters are Mexicans, and Mexico is described as a "country where you see more hired guns than Chicago ever dreamed of; here the blood feud has its ancient meanings, and in politics, the pistolero is as much a part of the normal scene as a fixed ballot."

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

Col. White is fond of brandy and tequila con sangre, a popular Mexican drink. He drinks at parties and in bars with the local residents, but never over-indulges since he needs to remain alert and clear-headed.

Law Enforcement

White is suspicious of the Mexican authorities, and it has been his experience that the police frequently shoot first and ask questions later. White claims that Mexico is "Code Napoleon country," where under the law, one is presumed guilty until proven innocent.

Added Features

the House Un-American Activities Sub-Committee is mentioned several times, along with past political incidents involving the Nazi and Fascist parties. El Da de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) and other Mexican customs and rituals (e.g. bullfights, mariachi music, etc.) permeate the novel, providing a glimpse into Mexican culture.

Subject Headings

Mexico/ International Intrigue/ Communism

Psychological Elements

White has a huge guilt complex about having to betray someone whom he considers a friend. He is full of misgivings and belabors himself with inner doubts throughout the novel, never quite accepting the fact that his friend framed him for murder.