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University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

The Smell of Trouble

cover image By: Trimble, Louis (male)
Publisher: Ace Books, Inc. (D 321)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 836: PS3505 .H215 T74 1958
Contributor: P. Ryan


Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: Louis Trimble Geographic Locale: Spokane, Washington and Galton, Idaho (fictional location) Date of Publication: 1958  |  Original Date: 1958 Setting: small town; some rural settings Motives: organized criminal takeover of a small town leads to murder. Murder and corruption were used to pave the way for the establishment of vice and rigged gambling as well as a phony extortionary "insurance" racket

Plot Summary

Returning from an FBI training seminar, Dan Trevor is accosted by a "hophead" who tries to intercept a message sent by Dan's friend, Ben Wyrick. Dan gets the message but the "hophead," Edwin Shanning, escapes. Dan meets Wyrick who tells him that he has witnessed the murder of police chief Michael Keough and a subsequent cover-up by acting police chief Larry Moon. Moon has gained influence on the town council during Dan's absence, and a verdict of suicide rather than homicide would help Moon retain his position as chief. However, Keough was not only Dan's boss, but the father of his fiancée, Vinnie, and Dan insists on pursuing the investigation even though Moon has stripped him of police status. When Dan's friend, Gus Cullen, is found dead, Larry Moon accuses Dan of murder and beats him with a blackjack. Dan manages to escape and he learns that Ben Wyrick is partners with a hoodlum named Moretti. Together they have purchased a club but have been unable to open it because of opposition from Councilman Gus Cullen. Dan suspects Moretti in Gus's recent murder, and he visits Moretti's club, where he again gets the worst of an encounter with Edwin Shanning. When he recovers, Dan tells Wyrick that Moretti is involved in murders staged for a criminal takeover of the town through corruption, vice and graft. Dan ultimately reveals the murderer, clears his name and is reinstated as chief of police.

Major Characters

Daniel Trevor "Dan," adult male, 30 years old, 220 pounds, "a big guy about six-five with black hair and a big chin and a long nose....and big feet;" police officer

Edwin Shanning adult male, 30 years old, 6 feet 5 inches, skinny, black hair, bad teeth, long narrow face, sharp jaw and nose

Dale Cullen adult female, late 20s, almost six feet tall, beautiful, bold features, a crack shot

Michael Keough "Mike," adult male, middle-aged, Irish-American, chief of police

Gus Cullen adult male, 51 years old, businessman and member of the town council

Lawrence Moon "Larry," adult male, 31 years old, big and "brick wall solid," with a "cupid's bow" mouth, hatchet-chiseled features, curly black hair, stands to benefit by playing Chief Keough's murder as a suicide

Benjamin Wyrick "Ben," adult male, thick-bodied, kinky blonde hair going bald on the crown, face like "a piece of putty someone squeezed in his fist," in a "real sharp sport coat and a fat cigar in his teeth," obtuse, but decent and honest, insurance salesman

Betty Peaks adult female, slender, tall, dazzling smile, approximately 30 years old, sexually active, one of Dan's old girlfriends, secretary

Pat Woody adult male, "tall, slender man with graying hair and sharp, foxlike features," honest, competent district attorney

Vinnie Keough adult female, 28 years old, Dan's fiancée, gray eyes, upturned nose, high forehead partially covered by casually chopped blonde bangs, has a pharmacy degree and is an excellent driver

Hulga Olafson "Pip," adult female, Wyrick's fiancée, professional dancer (i.e. stripper) with the stage name of "Bubbles de la Tour," tall, long dark upswept hair, beautiful features and physique, a tremendous driver, physically courageous and tough

Gino Moretti adult male, "short and slender, his dark hair graying at the temples. He had a sleek, tailored look about him and the same flat, expressionless eyes I had seen on hundreds of small-time gamblers and hoodlums," imported by Dale Cullen to help run her operation


a silenced rifle; a brass bowl; an ashtray; a blackjack; a knife (switchblade); .38 caliber revolver

Level of Violence

violence is frequent and vivid. Dan's physical encounters with Larry Moon have a wish-fulfillment quality to them -- they have a "hate at first sight" relationship. Dan's encounters with Shanning have a nightmare quality to them. Shanning is physically a caricature of Dan and Dan seems as powerless against him as if he were fighting his own shadow.


Dan Trevor kisses but does not tell. He has "kept company" with a lot of young women in Galton, but that was before he met Vinnie Keough, his fiancée. He states that he has not yet shared a bed with her. When Dale Cullen comes on to Dan sexually, he gently turns her down -- he is faithful to Vinnie. He has less control of his aggression than of his sexual impulses; his rage attacks may be a sublimation of his sex drive.

Gender Roles

Dan Trevor can do the job (despite being stabbed, shot, sapped and rendered sodden with bourbon), and apparently he is secure enough in his masculinity not to be threatened by strong, competent women -- his fiancée, Vinnie Keough, has a pharmacy degree and helps him repeatedly in his investigation. There are other strong women in the novel-- Pip, who cold-cocks Dan, Betty Peaks, who defies Moretti and is shot for it, and the strongest woman of all, the noir villainess Dale Cullen. She infiltrates the town council through her husband Gus; she imports Moretti and Shanning for backup, and she is probably directly responsible for all of the murders. Dale is a far better shot than Shanning. She is the treacherous femme fatale. She can personify sympathy, exude sexuality, or kill without qualm, as circumstances dictate.


all characters, good and bad, are presumably American caucasians; ethnicity is not emphasized.

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

Dan Trevor drinks bourbon almost continuously. He also favors coffee and mixes coffee and bourbon indiscriminately. Dan medicates himself for his rage disorder with alcohol -- "I could feel my glands threatening to kick up again and I cooled them down with a gulp of bourbon." Alcohol is employed as an analgesic for everything from gunshot to head trauma. It is also symbolic of male bonding, as when Wyrick and Trevor commiserate over being railroaded into marriage commitments by their respective mates. Opiate usage, as exemplified by psychotic "hophead" Edwin Shanning, is definitely viewed as both a crime and a pathology. While on her pharmacist's job, Vinnie spots Shanning trying to score an illegal atabrine prescription; Chief Keough runs him out of town.

Law Enforcement

Trevor is dead honest. Other cops on the Galton force, notably Larry Moon, are very corrupt. The people in the community support and hide Dan Trevor even after he becomes a hunted man. The FBI is well-respected, and they also help break the case. The district attorney is portrayed as skeptical but honest and competent. Private detectives are not well-respected; Wyrick believes Moretti when he is told that hitman and junkie Edwin Shanning is a private eye.

Added Features

a rough but genuine humor is present. Technology features indirectly: the FBI breaks the case through fingerprint identification.

Subject Headings

Washington (State) - Spokane/ Murder/ Police/ Corruption (In Politics)/ Gambling/ Crime and criminals

Psychological Elements

there is a psychological paradigm wherein the hero is helpless against his doppelganger or double -- "Edwin Shanning was beginning to get in my way. Even when he wasn't around, I couldn't get rid of him." Both men are so close in superficial appearance that Shanning is able to intercept a message meant for Trevor. Shanning is both psychotic and pathological by reason of his narcotics addiction.