The second Suspense Novel was an original, The Case of the Lonely Lovers by Will Daemer, published in 1951. A pseudonym, Will Daemer, is an anagram for Wade Miller, the writing team of Robert Wade and Bill Miller, who also wrote as Dale Wilmer (another anagram) and more famously as Whit Masterson and Wade Miller. Perhaps their most famous novel as Whit Masterson, Badge of Evil (1956), was the source of Orson Welles’ screenplay for his film noir classic Touch of Evil (1958).
The Wade/Miller team wrote over thirty novels together. Their lifelong friendship began in childhood; they attended San Diego State together and even enlisted in the US Air Force in unison. Both writers were born in 1920. Bill Miller died much earlier, in 1961, while Robert Wade lived to the age of 92, until his death in 2012.
After 1961, Wade continued his writing career as a solo novelist and a movie and television scriptwriter. He was honored with several awards over his career, including the Private Eye Writers of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1988.
The Case of the Lonely Lovers opens with a dark-eyed, young woman, one Betty Ackerman, dressed in a gayly flowered frock, running for her life. She chances upon an isolated house, its reluctant owner, Robert Muir, and his massive dog, Kahn. Only the mystery of what and why loom larger than the danger and desperation hinged on her disagreeable host, reluctant to help a damsel so obviously in need.
She explains she was kidnapped and how she only escaped by a stroke of luck. She pleads for him to believe her, to which he replies, “It doesn’t make any difference whether I believe you or not.”
A knock interrupts their strained conversation. A voice through the door, a police detective yells, “We’re looking for an escaped prisoner by the name of Betty Ackerman . . . I’d like to take a look around.”
But the ornery churl shares his aversion to the needs of others freely. He denies the detective entry, seeing it as the shortest route to end further interruption and investigation. Betty is quick to capitalize, and ekes out permission to stay the night, as he grudgingly unlocks one of the upstairs bedrooms for her.
Ed Lynskey, on MysteryFile. com, quotes the back cover copy from Evil Come, Evil Go, about Wade and Miller’s writing process. In part: “After discussing an idea at length, they outline extensively.” For me, this technique shows prominently in the tight plotting of The Case of the Lonely Lovers.
Tension builds masterfully as the fog of mystery behind “The Case” slowly clears. A conspiracy, with Betty unknowingly thrust into its center, in the fight of her life. As the main plot heats up, Wade and Miller simultaneously fuel the romantic triangle of Betty, her boyfriend Glen Proctor, and Muir, as she steadily thaws the cold heart of her reluctant host.
Most of the prose is purposefully composed, driving the plot, character depth or the emotional impact of the action. But a few lines stand out as more poetic, like this one near the climax: “She blamed the thin fog that had been sucked inland by yesterday’s heat and drifted like a grey broth at the windows.”
Like the first Suspense Novel, The Case of the Lonely Lovers is a terrific read, one that seems perfectly ripe for a new printing.