Stephen Marlowe was born Milton Lesser in 1928 and Marlowe was just one of a series of pseudonyms until he made it his legal name. He wrote science fiction and mystery novels, as well as fictional autobiographies.
Chester Drum first appeared in the 1955 novel THE SECOND LONGEST NIGHT and was a decidedly different private eye from all his contemporaries. He had all the tropes of the typical member of his profession, but he was a traveler with his cases taking him all over the world. Home base was Washington, D.C.
He spent ’50 and ’51 with the FBI before realizing he was too much of a lone wolf and started his own one man agency.
DANGER IS MY LINE came out in 1960 and finds our hero returning from South America, only to be visiting a potential client the next day at the request of an old friend, reporter Wallace Baker.
He arrives just in time to prevent George Brandvolt’s murder by a young blond woman. He subsequently learns that nothing can be done to her as she’s part of an Icelandic delegation and has diplomatic immunity. He turns her over to the police and goes to see his friend to learn the story.
Baker, who he hasn’t seen in three years, starts to tell him the particulars. It all happened when he was in South America. An Icelandic diplomat has been murdered and Brandvolt had a long standing hatred of the victim. But he was acquitted in trial and that’s when things got complicated.
Baker was doing Brandvolt’s story. He confessed, now that nothing could be done to him(double jeopardy) for fifty thousand dollars. But Baker doesn’t think he is the murderer and before he can explain further, he has to go to the hospital. His wife is in labor.
As Drum is walking to his car, behind him, a bomb in Baker’s car goes off and his friend is dead. He sees the same blond walking away. After the police finish grilling him, he rushes back to Brandvolt’s apartment only to find him shot to death and the blond sitting on the floor in a daze.
His old FBI mentor shows up next and informs him that Russia is trying to move in on Iceland and wants him to find out exactly what’s going on. He won’t be hired, but will receive a monetary gift for successful completion. He gets the old “if you get into trouble, we don’t know you and won’t help you” and he’s off to Iceland, following the blond and her brother, determined to find out who murdered his friend(he’d promised the widow).
The story involves an Amazon Swedish Baroness, a cold-blooded killer, an experimental drug called LSD, and a trail that moves to Sweden.
Previous to this one, I had not read any Chet Drum novels, only the collaboration with Richard S. Prather, DOUBLE IN TROUBLE, involving both Drum and Shell Scott.
I recommend this one and probably the others in the series. I have one more in the TBR pile and will be on the lookout for more.