Friday, April 07, 2017

FFB: The Taming of Carney Wilde -- Bart Spicer (Jay Barbette)

My nomination for the best series of private-eye novels that's now almost entirely forgotten is Bart Spicer's Carney Wilde series (I'll bet Art Scott will back me up on this).  Wilde is a Philadelphia p.i. and the series covers his career from his small beginnings to his days as the owner of an agency with a number of operatives (12, in The Taming of Carney Wilde).  In all the books the plotting is excellent and the writing is, too.  

A few days ago I found myself sitting in a chair with three cats sleeping on me.  I didn't have a book to read, but I could reach the bookshelf nearby.  The book I grabbed to have a look at is the 6th in the 7-book Carney Wilde series.  I'd read it years ago, and when I started it again, I knew I'd finish it.  It was too good to put back on the shelf otherwise.

It opens with a shootout between a bank robber and the cops.  And Wilde.  A cop is killed, Wilde is wounded (bone shattered in his shoulder), and the robber gets away.  There's a clue that indicates the robber might be escaping on a steamboat on an excursion to New Orleans, so Wilde goes aboard in hope of redeeming himself and not losing his agency's biggest client.  Wilde is handicapped throughout because his shoulder hasn't healed and his left arm is immobilized.

There are plenty of colorful characters and twists in the tale, and Wilde meets a beautiful photographer who's destined to become his wife in the next book.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story again, even though I remembered some of the key points.  All the books in this series are highly recommended.


Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I used to have most of these but I can't remember ever reading one, and I rarely read old PI novels these days, though I have a bunch on the Kindle in case the urge should strike.

George said...

I wish STARK HOUSE would reprint these Bart Spicer novels.

Mathew Paust said...

Ouch! Somehow, amid my reading of this, the Arthur Itis in my shoulder started making itself known once again.

Rick Ollerman said...

George, I do, too. And Bill, I just wrote about this book yesterday as part of the past-deadline book I'm trying to get to Stark House hopefully before I head to Florida Monday morning. (I get to meet and interview Howard Whittington for an article I was asked to write for a European film director's website. Fun stuff.)

Bill Crider said...

What a great deal. Interviewing Whittington will be a great experience, I'm sure. I just picked up (assuming it's going to get here in the mail), one of the Whittingtons I've been looking for 40 years or so. One of the two Henry Whittier pen name books. I have the other one already.

Shay said...

"A few days ago I found myself sitting in a chair with three cats sleeping on me."

And one of them is always right on your bladder.


This is a truly excellent series. Aside from the unusual, and well-realized, Philadelphia setting, one thing that sets the Wilde series apart is that, unlike most hard-boiled PI's, Wilde's actually got some business acumen.

When the series starts, Wilde's firmly following The Marlowe Paradigm. Wilde's a 30-ish, male, American, unmarried ex-cop (WW2 Army service as an MP investigator), who operates a one-man agency in a large US city, and who tells his stories in the first person. But he's not content to stay that way.

By tht foueth entry in the series, RUN SHEEP RUN, Wilde's one-man show has taken on at least one employee, and the agency is now known as Carney Wilde, Inc. One book later, in THE LONG GREEN, his agency has two full-time operative, and another four on retainer.

In the penultimate book, the subject of this blog, Carney's got twelve full-time employees, and a string of regular clients, including the chain of banks to which he provides protection.

In the final entry, appropriately titled EXIT RUNNING, Wilde's married the heroine of TAMING, and employs 200 men in a business now known as Wilde Protective Systems, Inc.

Until Max Allan Collins's Nate Heller novels, I don't think any other PI series showed the hero's one-ma operation growing into a large, successful business, and very few that depicted the formerly lone-wolf shamus becoming a happily married suburbanite.

Kudos to Bart Spicer for bring it off. The Wilde series truly is one of the best unsung PI series.