Maxwell Dent

Created by Kenneth Orvis
Pseudonym of Kenneth Lemieux

“God help us, Dent – the thing is, my daughter has become a dope fiend.”

Montreal private eye MAXWELL DENT studied law at McGill and served in the RCAF and Intelligence M-5 during the Korean War, where he took down a drug ring. He’s got a reputation for being discreet, and in Montreal in 1954, still reeling from the election victory of a do-gooder mayor, being discreet’s probably a good thing. He’s not exactly a swinging man about town, but he’s doing okay — he’s got his own one-man agency, an office near Place d’Armes, a swinging bachelor pad with wall to wall hi-fi, a sexy, understanding girl friend and a sports car.

Then local millionaire Huntley Ashton summons him to his swank Westmount mansion. Seems Ashton’s younger daughter Helen has become a “dope fiend,” in The Damned and The Destroyed (1962). But Daddy isn’t content with just getting his baby girl back — he hires Dent to shut down the whole damn operation; to work his way “into a vicious drug syndicate and smash it.”  Dent agrees, his eyes on Thorn, the sexy older sister.

The book may have been set in 1954, but it wasn’t published until 1962. Still, it’s very much a product of its time, written just a few years before everybody was being urged to tune in and turn on. The book, though, definitely harks back to the fifties. It’s full of moral outrage and self-righteous chatter about dilated pupils, scars, scabs and tracks, and, of course, H. You can’t have a book about junkies without mentioning… H.

The Damned and the Destroyed was published in 1962 by McClelland & Stewart in Canada and Dennis Dobson in the UK; Montreal’s Ricochet Books released a reprint in 2019 with a new introduction by Brian Busby, the first print edition in over fifty years — spurred on, perhaps, by Lee Child’s embrace of it in Books to Die For.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kenneth Orvis was the pen name of Montreal-born thriller writer Kenneth Lemieux. Born and educated in Montreal, he was supposedly a professional hockey player (although the NHL doesn’t list him as a player), before becoming a newspaperman and writer for various TV and business publications. His other books, mostly thrillers, include Hickory House (1956), Night Without Darkness (1965), Cry Hallelujah! (1970), Into a Dark Mirror (1971), The Disinherited (1974), The Doomsday List (1974), and the memoir Over and Under the Table: The Anatomy of an Alcoholic (1985).

UNDER OATH

  • “I bought this sixty-cent Belmont paperback in the spring of 1969 (but) I didn’t pay sixty-cents for it. This was a solid high-quality thriller… very Raymond Chandler…I guess the mechanics of the narcotics trade are a little dated — but nothing else is, really. This is where thrillers were in about 1960, and nothing much has changed.”
    — Lee Child, from Books to Die For
  • “Maxwell Dent, Kenneth Orvis’ hero, is … certainly he is in a position to solve our social problems. His solution to the social ills of the narcotics trade is very simple: shoot the traffickers, and the addicts whom the resulting cold turkey cure doesn’t kill will be cured, because theycannot obtain drugs. Dent’s only flaw, in fact, is that he drinks rather a lot. Perhaps Mr. Orvis’ next book, which he describes as “controversial”, will suggest burning the distilleries to cure alcoholism.”
    — Barrie Hale, Canadian Literature No. 18 (Autumn 1963)

NOVELS

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. The cover pictured, from the 1964 Digit paperback, was done by Sam Peffer, who designed film posters, paperback book covers and the covers of home videos,  best known work for the series of James Bond covers he did for Pan in the 1950s and 1960s.

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