Of all the digests in Farrell’s Suspense series, Naked Villainy by Carl G. Hodges is the most provocative. The story’s first victim is shown on the cover in a sheer bra and panties—exactly what she’s wearing in the opening chapter.
“The light was weak, but good enough so that the black panties held no mystery.”
And later: “She had whirled to face me, one hand jerking up from the front of the black bra and tearing the flimsy cloth. A nipple pointed at me, the color of a pecan on top of a cup cake.” Steamy prose for 1951.
Hodges’ reverence for the Midwest MWA provides a wonderful surprise mid-novel when Lieutenant Davis visits one of the chapter’s meetings. Chapter president Bill Brannon is on hand, a journalist and crime fiction writer with reportedly over 5,000 stories and articles to his credit. His biography of con man Joseph Weil, Yellow Kid Weil, is mentioned, but Brannon wrote several other books as well as stories for Coronet, Reader’s Digest, Omnibook, Saga, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and many others. He used his middle name, Tibbetts, to write as William Tibbetts, one of more than a half-dozen pseudonyms he used. Known as “The Dean of Crime Writers,” Brannon was nominated for the Edgar Award in 1951.
In 1976, MWA produced the Mystery Writer’s Handbook, under the guidance of Lawrence Treat. Each chapter tackles an element of the craft, written by a veritable who’s who of the industry. William T. Brannon is onboard with a chapter on how to write true crime. According to Treat: “After reading it, all you need is to go out and do it.”
Back at the fictitious MWA meeting, Lennie Hilts had just sold From Jennys to Jets. As it turned out the book was published in 1951, as The Airmail Jennies to Jets as told to Leonard Finley Hilts.
Milton Ozaki, who apparently coiffed hair by day, and had a “police dog” named Sacre Bleu, receives a quarter page tribute. His novels, A Fiend in Need, The Cuckoo Clock and Too Many Women are mentioned—as is his pseudonym, Robert O. Saber.
Another MWA member, Allen Pruitt, identified by his pseudonym “because he was Commissioner of Public Welfare of the City of Chicago and I guess he figured it would be better to use a pen name for his excursions into the mystery writing field.” This was actually Alvin Emanuel Rose, a Chicago journalist in the 1920s and 1930s before becoming Commissioner. He wrote two novels as Alan Pruitt, The Restless Corpse (1947), which Hodges mentions, and Typed For a Corpse, in 1954.
The final attendee was Paul Fairman, author of The Glass Ladder, Harlequin #139. Fairman’s work appeared most often in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, but he also sold to The Saint, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mike Shayne, Shell Scott—and earlier in pulps like Black Mask, FBI Detective Stories, and Mammoth Detective. He also wrote as Paul Daniels.
Getting back to Hodges, Naked Villainy is an excellent digest original that can leave you searching for more of his work. One of his short stories, “Murder Throws a Ringer” from Thrilling Detective (Dec. 1947), is included in The Noir Mystery Megapack from Wildside Press.