Dan J. Marlowe is in the top rank of Gold Medal novelists in my book, right up there with Jim Thompson, Charles Wiliams, John D. MacDonald, Harry Whittington, and Elliott Chaze. I was able to help Marlowe out a bit long years ago when he was looking for copies of his out-of-print novels, and I had a couple of short letters from him. I knew a little about his life, but I'm always interested in learning more about my favorite writers. So naturally I was glad when I discovered that Charles Kelly, a novelist and former reporter, had put his investigative skills to work and written a biography.
It turns out that Marlowe was quite a character, even more interesting than I'd thought. I knew a bit about his amnesia, but now I know the whole story, or as much of it as we're ever likely to learn. I knew about his association with writer and former bank robber Al Nussbaum, but Kelly gives much more information. In fact, there's a great deal of material here on Nussbaum, and even some stuff about Nussbaum's associates. If Marlowe was quite a character, you can double that for Nussbaum. Or triple it. There's a good bit here about Marlowe's collaborations, particularly with William Odell. All of this was entirely new to me.
Marlowe was a hard-nosed professional, a working writer in every sense of the term. I would've thought that his "Operation" series would have made him rich. It didn't, and that's a real shame. I never knew why the series ended, either, but not I have a much better idea.
If you have any interest in Marlowe or in writers' lives, you should enjoy this book. It's well-written, and it's a fascinating story. Highly recommended.
Here's some more good news. Next year Stark House will reissue two of Marlowe's best novels, The Name of the Game is Death and One Endless Hour in one volume with an intro by Kelley. This one's a must-have.