Morgan Butler

Created by David Anthony
Pseudonym  of William Dale Smith

In his first book appearance, 1969’s The Midnight Lady and the Mourning Man, David Anthony’s hard-boiled sleuth MORGAN BUTLER is a former cop and ex-farmer who reluctantly takes on a gig as a campus security officer at Jordan College in Jordan City, Ohio, as a favour for a pal. But no good deed goes unpunished, and a simple burglary investigation leads Morgan to the discovery of a murdered co-ed.

By Morgan’s second book, Blood on a Harvest Moon (1972), he has retired and gone back to farming, but agrees (again somewhat reluctantly) to take an important case for his ex-wife. Her current husband has been murdered.

Apparently Morgan doesn’t learn quickly. In The Long Hard Cure (1979), his final appearance, he’s once again poking into things as a favour for another old friend calls — this time it’s the same doctor who helped him get through a few rough spots. Seems someone is terrorizing women in the area, and suspicions are that it’s one of the inmates at the good doctor’s psychiatric retreat.

The books are almost forgotten now, but from what I recall, they were deftly plotted, comparable to seventies-era Ross Macdonald, all swirling secrets from the past and slow-burn investigations, but harder and tighter in tone. Definitely worth looking for.

The first book in the series was subsequently was made into a Universal film, The Midnight Man (1974), starring Burt Lancaster, who also co-directed, co-wrote and co-produced. It also took considerable liberties with the book, perhaps most significantly changing Morgan’s name to Jim Slade, and making him an ex-con, just released from prison for shooting his wife’s lover. By most accounts, the film’s dated, but enjoyable, but certainly not among Lancaster’s best.

Anthony is also the author of another PI, Stan Bass.

NOVELS

FILMS

  • THE MIDNIGHT MAN | Buy the DVD | Buy the Blu-Ray
  • (1974, Universal Pictures)
    117 minutes
    Tagline: The Ex-con. The Hippie. The Senator. The Pervert. The Lesbian. The Professor. The Sheriff. The Sadist. One of them is a murderer. All of them make the most fascinating murder mystery in years.
    Based on the novel The Midnight Lady and the Mourning Man by David Anthony
    Screenplay by Roland Kibbee and Burt Lancaster
    Produced by Roland Kibbee and Burt Lancaster
    Starring Burt Lancaster as JIM SLADE
    Also starring Susan Clark, Cameron Mitchell, Morgan Woodward, Harris Yulin, Robert Quarry, Joan Lorring, Lawrence Dobkin, Ed Lauter, Mills Watson, Charles Tyner, Catherine Bach, Roland Kibbee, Joan Lorring
Report respectfully submitted by David Nobriga, with additional info from Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Big Al Hubin for the well-deserved whack on the head.

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