The title of this book comes, of course, from a saying attributed to U.S. Founding Father Benjamin Franklin: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” However, Franklin makes no appearance in the novel.
It’s the work of David Dodge (1910-1974), a onetime certified public accountant, who, after making a bet with his wife (he insisted he could come up with a novel that was better than those they’d been reading), produced Death and Taxes, a 1941 mystery starring hard-boiled San Francisco tax expert James “Whit” Whitney. According to a write-up at the Web site, A David Dodge Companion, Death and Taxes finds Whitney
summoned home from a vacation in Santa Cruz to help his partner, George MacLeod, recover a hefty tax refund for a beautiful blonde client named Marian Wolff. When he returns to his office, Whit finds MacLeod dead in the firm’s vault, “with a small hole in the bridge of his nose.” In order to complete the tax return and uncover the murderer, Whit becomes a reluctant detective and nearly gets himself killed in the process. To prevent Whit’s murder, if possible, the SFPD assigns him a bodyguard named Swede Larson. Whit and Swede tangle with ex-bootleggers and Telegraph Hill gangsters in their efforts to unravel the mystery, which climaxes with a shootout in the Mission District and a dramatic car chase across the Bay Bridge. Along the way, Whit resists the advances of Marian Wolff and begins a romance with Kitty MacLeod, George’s widow.The cover of this 1948 Popular Library edition was illustrated by Rudolph Belarski, who, beginning in the 1930s, created paperback covers that featured “voluptuous dames in distress mixing it up with square-jawed detectives and thugs.” Belarski’s distinctive creations were also familiar from works by Steve Fisher, William Irish, Helen Reilly, and other authors.
READ MORE: “Tea Party Fallout: Independents Turned Off, Some GOPers Worried,” by Sam Stein (The Huffington Post); “Taxes, in Context,” by Steve Benen (The Washington Monthly).