Thursday, March 28, 2024

PaperBack: “The Lone Wolf”

Part of a series honoring the late author and blogger Bill Crider.

The Lone Wolf, by Louis Joseph Vance (Dell, 1943). This was published as part of the now-famous Dell “mapbacks” series, with a cover painting by Gerald Gregg.

Published originally in 1914, this is the first of Vance’s eight novels starring Michael Lanyard, aka The Lone Wolf. As The Thrilling Detective Web Site recalls, Lanyard began as “an English-born orphan of unknown parentage who endured a horrid Dickensian childhood after arriving at Troyons, a Parisian restaurant, where he was ‘raised’ by the cruel and disreputable ‘Madame,’ and trained in the criminal arts by the mysterious Irishman, Bourke, who had a ‘heart as big as all outdoors,’ and took the young boy under his wing. Somehow, Michael survived until adulthood, and became a charming sort of rogue, a European jewel thief who worked alone (hence the nickname), despite a soft spot for damsels in distress and a yearning for travel.”

However, the character changed as the 20th century progressed, and as his exploits were portrayed a couple of dozen times on the big screen, and later on radio and in a syndicated, half-hour TV series titled, appropriately, The Lone Wolf. That last starred British-American actor Louis Hayward, found Lanyard reinterpreted as an American private eye of sorts, and ran for 39 episodes (1954-1955). You can watch colorized versions of most of those TV installments here.

(Vance’s protagonist should not be confused with this very different Lone Wolf, created by “Mike Barry,” aka Barry N. Malzberg.)

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