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The Killer/Devil on Two Sticks: Two Mysteries by Wade Miller    by Wade Miller order for
Killer/Devil on Two Sticks
by Wade Miller
Order:  USA  Can
Stark House, 2008 (1949)
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Bob Wade (1920-) and Bill Miller (1920-1961) were the hotshots of mystery writing in their day. Taking the name Wade Miller, they collaborated in their writing until Miller's 1961 death of a heart attack. They created what is considered one of the best post-war detectives, Max Thursday. Their writing team produced an astounding number of novels as well as short stories.

Stark House Press has chosen two - considered some of their best work - of those many stand-alone tales for republication today. In The Killer, written in 1951, Jacob Farrow, a big game hunter and guide in Kenya, is approached by an avid hunter and good friend to find and kill the man who shot his son in a bank holdup. Leaving Kenya is a burden to Farrow, not to mention the thought of actually killing another human being. His quest to find the elusive bank robber takes him to Chicago and further west.

Devil on Two Sticks, written in 1949, is a contrast to The Killer. Steve Beck drives a Buick and does chores for the mob based in San Diego. He falls in love with the mob lawyer's daughter and his loyalties are subsequently questioned - to turn against the mob means to say goodbye to the world of the living. His boss feels there is a government agent moving amongst them incognito. The proof of their activities is in the set of books that the boss holds close to his chest. This twisting tale eluded me at times, the bevy of characters making it hard to keep the storyline straight.

With the amount of cigarettes consumed by the characters, it's a wonder they lived long enough to tell their story, even in fiction. But the era must be kept in mind - limited TV (certainly not the HD of today); no cell phones; big cars; and fast living. The tough guy approach to the writing in these stories is in the same league as Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe and beautiful women wrap themselves around the men involved. There's even a punch drunk fighter awaiting his next big bout.

I've loved mysteries since I was a little girl. I might even have read some of the authors' work. It's good to see that the older novels are not left to molder in the archives. Movies are made over and over again. Why can't we reread these older books not necessarily the classics just good old tales that keep us entertained?

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