Sunday, June 16, 2024

Carter Brown's Where Did Charity Go?

Australian author Alan Geoffrey Yates (1923-1985) wrote more than two hundred novels as well as around seventy-five novellas under the name Carter Brown. His books sold well over a hundred million copies. He created several series characters, including Hollywood troubleshooter/private eye Rick Holman who features in thirty-five books. Where Did Charity Go? is a 1970 entry in the Rick Holman series.

It begins with Rick being told he’s about to be offered a job and if he knows what’s good for him he won’t take it. He gets a beating to make sure the message gets through.

He takes the job anyway. Big-time Hollywood star Earl Raymond has mislaid his daughter Charity. He wants her found. The story told to Rick by Raymond isn’t consistent with the story told to him by Raymond’s personal assistant Sarah Manning. And the stories keep changing. Maybe Charity just ran away from home. Maybe she was kidnapped. Maybe it’s a fake kidnapping. Maybe it’s a real kidnapping. Rick doesn’t like the sound of any of it but five grand with the promise of another five grand if he’s successful is enough to persuade him to take the case anyway.

It’s a complicated family situation. Earl Raymond divorced his wife Mary to marry glamorous movie star Claudia Deane. Rick has four women to to deal with - the first Mrs Raymond, Claudia Deane, Sarah Manning and Charity. And then Daniela enters the picture. That makes five women. And there are all sorts of jealousies and romantic and sexual complications.

Rick can’t trust any of these women. He can’t trust Earl Raymond either. Perhaps Rick would have been wise to avoid sleeping with any of these women, but he sleeps with at least three of them. Rick is that kind of guy.

Every time Rick starts to figure things out he discovers something that doesn’t add up. Like the dead body at the cabin. In fact nothing really adds up.

The problem is that no-one seems to have a motive that would explain anything that has happened. It’s only when motives start to emerge that Rick finally starts to see some chance of solving the case. And the motives could be motives for murder, or just as easily be motives for double-crosses.

The plot is solid enough with reasonable twists.

Rick isn’t really a typical hardboiled protagonist. He’s not a two-fisted hero type. He carries a gun but he prefers to use his brains to get himself out of trouble, rather than his gun or his fists. He doesn’t care too much about justice or any of that kind of thing and he hopes to keep the police in the dark for as long as possible. He’s not crooked but he does like money. And he does like the ladies. Seducing Rick is not exactly hard work for a woman.

Rick is not a tortured hero or an anti-hero. He’s an easy-going guy and he enjoys his work, especially if attractive women are involved. He’s no alcoholic but he likes a drink. He’s not what you’d call a model member of a society so he’s no sleazebag and he’s definitely not a loser.

This is typical Carter Brown stuff. It ain’t literature. It’s very pulpy and it belongs towards the trashy end of the pulp spectrum. Brown however understands this type of writing perfectly. He includes all the right ingredients and he keeps things moving.

Where Did Charity Go? was never going to win critical plaudits but it delivers the pulp goods. Highly recommended.

I’ve also reviewed a number of Carter Brown’s Lieutenant Al Wheeler crime thrillers - The Stripper, No Harp for My Angel, Booty for a Babe and Eve it's Extortion. They’re all trashy but highly entertaining.

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