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University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

No Wings on a Cop

cover image By: Adams, Cleve F. (male)
Publisher: Harlequin Books Ltd. (256)
Place of Publication: Toronto, Canada
Catalog #: Kelley Box 192: PS3501 .D21733 N6 1953
Contributor: K. Quinlivan


Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: Cleve F. Adams Geographic Locale: southern California (presumably Los Angeles) Date of Publication: 1953  |  Original Date: 1950 Setting: urban; downtown office buildings, hotels and apartments Motives: greed,corruption

Plot Summary

When Detective John J. Shannon's superior officer and good friend, Captain Grady, is murdered and Shannon's own car sabotaged with a bomb, the tough-talking detective suspects that a frame-up has been organized by some powerful behind-the-scenes force involving both the police department and the mayor's office. Shannon suspects corruption everywhere: in politics, in his fellow police officers and in the press, and he vows to clear his former mentor's reputation: "I want the real killer of the Old Man and I'm going to tear this town apart to get him." After turning in his badge in disgust, Shannon plunges headlong into his own investigation, confronting both the cops and the mobsters in an attempt to uncover the truth.

Major Characters

John J. Shannon adult male, tall, tough, cynical, police detective lieutenant, angry and frustrated by the corruption he sees all around him

George O'Meara middle aged male, ruthless, ambitious, acting chief of police

Vern Regan adult male, large, florid, chief of police

Gus Vogel adult male, short, chubby, blue eyes, plodding, police lieutenant

Ward Duffield middle aged male, gray hair, club foot, emotionless, noted criminal lawyer and brother of Floyd Duquesne

Captain Grady adult male, captain of detectives, admired and respected by Lt. Shannon

Tex Boyer adult male, tall, long jaw, runs a betting operation

Frank Little adult male, late 20s, bank clerk

Floyd Duquesne adult male, tall, slender, gambler, framed for Captain Grady's murder

Nick Lombardi adult male, fat-face, tough, greasy complexion, mob boss and head of a gambling ring

Sticky adult male, tall, lanky, thin mouth, gunman and bodyguard for Lombardi

Sourpuss adult male, "little guy with an ugly face", bodyguard for Lombardi

Frances MacGowan adult female, beautiful model, Shannon's girlfriend

Paul Shacklewood Argyle adult male, sandy hair and mustache, pince-nez, weak, inoffensive mayor under pressure from city mobsters

Osterwicz adult male, taxi driver with a violent streak, grudging admirer of Shannon

Karen Kane adult female, red hair, statuesque stripper and girlfriend of Nick Lombardi

Maria Lombardi adolescent female, dark hair and eyes, daughter of Nick Lombardi


guns,fists, car bomb, saps

Level of Violence

violence erupts often; three hoods are shot to death, two kidnappings; threats of violence color the action throughout the novel.


there is a strong sexual attraction between Shannon and Frances MacGowan. She is completely devoted to him and worries about his safety despite his refusal to take time out from his investigation to indulge in any sexual activity. One woman openly suggests that Shannon make love to her, but he resists, explaining that he has too many other things worrying him.

Gender Roles

female characters are either prostitutes, models, or schoolgirls, but they are tough and strong, and Shannon respects their intelligence. He views himself as stronger, smarter, and more determined than everyone else he encounters.


characters seem to fall into well-defined stereotypical categories: Irish-American cops are quick-tempered, loud and tough. Shannon is referred to several times as a "shanty-Irish bastard", but he is portrayed in a more positive light, with a sentimental soft spot and a conscience that compels him to do the right thing. The mobsters are described as sleazy Italian-Americans whose business interests center on vice, bribery and corruption. There is one reference to "Jap gardeners" who take care of landscaping for wealthy customers, and a Russian pawnbroker who speaks broken English.

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

Shannon has an enormous capacity for alcohol, preferably rye, but he remains clear-thinking despite the amount of alcohol he consumes. He uses alcohol to alleviate both physical and emotional pain. He smokes cigarettes frequently; several other characters smoke cigars.

Law Enforcement

Shannon's cynicism stems from the fact that he has no real hope of ever overcoming the corruption that he sees everywhere on the police force. Most of the cops are tough, violent and thoroughly despicable characters; they enjoy beating a confession out of someone. Shannon comments that a police badge is no guarantee of honesty, and just as in every other profession, there is a mixture of good and bad.

Added Features

there is a brief reference to Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective, a famous character who appeared in hundreds of pulp stories written by Robert Leslie Bellem; Turner is described as being "almost as bad" as Shannon. No Wings On a Cop was originally published by Cleve Adams and later expanded by Robert Leslie Bellem. The numerous references to smog and pollution lend an oppressive, choking atmosphere to the events described in the novel.

Subject Headings

California - Los Angeles/ Police/ Detectives/ Murder/ Corruption (In Politics)/ Gambling/ Greed

Psychological Elements

Shannon constantly berates himself, acknowledging inwardly that he is a heel, is a sucker, is naturally stupid, etc. and his tough outer veneer seems to mask a troubled conscience.