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George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

Dangerous To Know

cover image By: Duff, James P. (male)
Publisher: Ace Books, Inc. (D-361)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 836: PS3553 .O437 M86 1959
Contributor: J. Vourgourakis


Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: James P. Duff Geographic Locale: Los Angeles, California and Las Vegas, Nevada Date of Publication: 1959  |  Original Date: 1959 Setting: urban; hotels, apartments, offices Motives: murder

Plot Summary

"Frank Heggen's involvement in the whole deadly mixture began harmlessly enough with a very simple automobile collision. But that little scrape changed from humdrum to murderous with amazing speed. For within hours, Frank's pick-up was slain, a beautiful stranger tried to lure him to her home, and the most dangerous man in Las Vegas was out for blood -- his blood. All Frank knew was that he had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. And for the life of him he now had to learn just who it was that was so Dangerous To Know." (from the inside cover).

Major Characters

Frank Heggen adult male, 34 years old, tall, lean, dark, newly divorced college French instructor, in Los Angeles on an "emotional holiday"; was in the O.S.S. during World War II and in the C.I.C. after the War

Casey Wayne adult female, reddish-gold hair, green eyes, commercial artist, hot-tempered, stubborn, niece of a famous ex-fighter

Buck Simmons adult male, wealthy, Vegas casino owner, former small time hood who became a pimp and drug dealer before moving to Las Vegas and opening a casino. Wanted in L.A. for murder. His wife is an alcoholic and he and his daughter are insane. Owns a ghost town in the desert where he and his daughter go and play dress up. He dotes on his daughter but kills every man she falls in love with.

Lester G. Wheeling adult male, solid, thick-jowled, Simmon's thug

Adam Katz adult male, small, wiry, receding hairline, L.A.P.D. police detective

Brad Willis adult male, bookie, murdered in broad daylight by Simmons

Glorie Hallelujah adult female, prostitute

Johnny Kipp adult male, ex-prizefighter and Casey Wayne's uncle

June Ellen Simmons adult female, crazy, nymphomaniac daughter of Buck Simmons

Jack Pittman adult male, Las Vegas private detective

Level of Violence

lots of violence depicted in great detail. Heggen beats up many people, mostly those who are trying to kill him. He breaks into Casey Wayne's house, knocks her out, ties her naked to a chair and interrogates her.


Heggen agrees to accompany Glorie Hallelujah to a "party" because he wants to lose himself and forget his troubles by having sex. Every woman who comes into contact with Heggen desires him. He reminds Eunice, Glorie's roommate, of her "first time." Casey Wayne is depicted as sexually alluring. When she goes to Detective Katz to press charges against Heggen for brutalizing her, Katz imagines the scene of Casey tied up naked while Heggen interrogated her, and he wishes that he had been there to see it.

Gender Roles

Although Heggen brutally interrogates Casey Wayne, she still ends up falling in love with him, especially his "manly" strength. She speaks of wanting him to "take" her, and though she expresses annoyance at his "male chauvinistic" ways, she falls in love with him because of these same traits. Heggen is the silent but deadly type who says something once and means it, then does what he has to do.


several Mexican characters are the "bad guys", including Simmons's thugs and Glorie's pimp.

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

everybody drinks socially. Simmons's wife is a drunk who claims to have been driven to it by her husband's cruelty.

Law Enforcement

the law, personified by Detective Katz, is kind and smart, but rather ineffectual. Heggen feels he cannot rely on the police, though he states at one point in the novel, that he has the utmost respect for the law.

Subject Headings

Murder/ California (Los Angeles)/ Nevada - Las Vegas

Psychological Elements

Simmons is a cruel and insane man. He brutalized his wife by, among other things, taking her child away from her and refusing to let the two of them have any sort of a relationship. He is obsessed with his daughter and gives her everything she wants except love. He even goes so far as to procure men for his daughter because she is a "nymphomaniac." But if his daughter falls in love with a man, then Simmons feels he must kill the man because no one, not even her own mother, is good enough for her. At the end of the novel, when Simmons is alone with Heggen, he asks him to help him figure out what is wrong with his daughter. When she learns that her father killed her fiance, she shoots him and then sets fire to the house and dies in the blaze.