Milo March

Created by M.E. Chaber
Pseudonym of Kendall Foster Crossen
Other pseudonyms include Bennett Barlay, Christopher Monig, Richard Foster & Clay Richards
(1910-1981)

MILO MARCH, a former employee of both the OSS and the CIA before becoming a high-flying, globetrotting investigator for Denver-based Intercontinental Innsurance, appeared in over twenty fast-paced books by M.E. Chaber. Later in the series, he moved to New York City and set up his own agency.

Not that Milo turned his back on Uncle Sam–he remained in the Army Reserves, with the rank of Major, and thus it’s not uncommon for him tobe recalled for special hush-hush spy jobs, particularly when the sixties James Bond-inspired spy craze went ballistic. This of course gives him an excuse to judo chop various enemy agents, shoot it out with assorted secret police and have his paperbacks reissued with spiffy Robert McGinnis covers (McGinnis, of course, was the man behind several of the iconic posters for the Bond films).

But whether he was rescuing American agents or retrieving stolen jewelry, Milo laughed in the face of danger, and was quick to wrap things up–these books, in true pulp fashion, rarely ever slow down. And then it was back to the good things in life for Milo: poetry, women, martinis, and fine food. At one point Milo was married (to Greta), and then he wasn’t. He also adopted a Spanish kid (Ernesto), who showed up just often enough to make readers wander “Why?”

Continuity? Meh.

The general consensus about the series is that it’s fun, if not exactly Chandler. “Lightweight buy enjoyable,” is how paperback collector and mystery writer Bill Crider puts it. Crider then goes on to mention that one of the books was probably the first novel to ever use LSD as a plot device (and there’s a great needle cover on the paperback).

There was even a British film made, The Man Inside (1958), based on one of the earlier books, starring Jack Palance as March, with Anita Ekberg, Anthony Newley, Donald Pleasence and even Sidney “Carry On” James along for the ride.

M.E. Chaber was actually a pseudonym for the incredibly prolific Kendell Foster Crossen who wrote over 400 raio and television dramas, some 300 short stories, 250 non-fiction articles and around forty-five novels. He also found the time to write reviews, edit several science fiction collections, and serve as editor for a while for Detective Fiction Weekly, and was responsible for the creation of such varied private eyes as Brian Brett, Pete Draco and Manning Draco (apparently no relation), although he’s probably best known for creating The Green Lama, a costumed vigilante who appeared in the forties pulps.

All twenty-one of the Milo March books were reprinted by Paperback Library in the early 1970s, and they were relatively easy to find at one point, but not anymore.

So I was surprised to hear from Crossen’s literary executor, way back in February 2000,  that they’d unearthed the last Milo novel, Death of the Brides, which Holt had refused to publish back in the seventies because it contained an unflattering portrait of then-president, Nixon, and a spy mission to Vietnam. There was some discussion of possibly publishing it, and possibly some of the other books in the series. But it was only in 2020 that pulp publisher Steeger Books announced their ambitious plans to to reissue twenty-three vintage novels and stories by M.E. Chaber, promising “mile-a-minute action and breezily readable entertainment for suspense buffs.”

Among the goodies to come are the first paperback edition of Born to Be Hanged, the last-published book in the series, and Death to the Brides will finally see the light of day. Also in the works is The Twisted Trap: Six Milo March Stories, which collects for the first time  stories previously only in magazines.

UNDER OATH

  • “I have been reading the Milo March series from the beginning and have a question about his disappearing son. In the very early books, March meets and marries a girl named Greta from East Berlin, then befriends and plans to adopt a street urchin from Spain named Ernesto. After that flurry of activity, Greta is ignored for a few books, then it’s mentioned in passing that she and March are now divorced. But poor l’il Ernesto is never heard from again. What’s up with that?
    This is almost as annoying as that first Scott Jordan book, where he marries a girl who’s never heard from again.
    At least Brett Halliday–after making the mistake of marrying Mike Shayne off in the first book–had the decency to kill her off several books later. He didn’t leave his readers hanging.”
    — David Nobriga

NOVELS

  • Hangman’s Harvest (1952; aka “Don’t Get Caught”) | Buy this book Kindle it!
  • All the Way Down (1953; aka “No Grave for March”) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
  • The Man Inside (1954; aka “Now It’s My Turn”) Buy this book Kindle it!
  • As Old As Cain (1954; aka “Take One for Murder”) | Buy this book
  • The Splintered Man (1955) | Buy this book
  • A Lonely Walk (1956)Buy this book
  • The Gallows Garden (1958)
  • A Hearse of Another Color (1958)
  • The Gallows Garden (1958; aka “The Lady Came to Kill”)
  • So Dead the Rose (1959)
  • Jade for a Lady (1962 )
  • Softly in the Night (1963)
  • Six Who Ran (1964)
  • Uneasy Lies the Dead (1964)
  • Wanted: Dead Men (1965) Buy this book
  • The Day It Rained Diamonds (1966)
  • A Man in the Middle (1967)
  • Wild Midnight Falls (1968)
  • The Flaming Man (1969)
  • Green Grow the Graves (1970)
  • The Bonded Dead (1971)
  • Born to Be Hanged (1973)
  • Death to the Brides (2020)

COLLECTIONS

  • The Twisted Trap: Six Milo March Stories

FILMS

  • THE MAN INSIDE
    (1958, Warwick)
    Based on the novel by M.E. Chaber
    Screenplay by John Gilling, David Shaw and Richard Maibaum
    Directed by John Gilling
    Produced by Albert “Cubby” Broccoli
    Starring Jack Palance as MILO MARCH
    Also starring Anita Ekberg, Nigel Patrick, Anthony Newley, Bonar Colleano, Sean Kelly, Sidney James, Donald Pleasence, Eric Pohlmann, Josephine Brown
    By all accounts, an enjoyable Third Man-like romp, with the smooth, suave and sophisticated globetrotting investigator bopping around Europe, suggesting an early version, perhaps, of James Bond. Which figures–the film was produced by Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, and one of the writers of the screenplay was Richard Maibaum, who wrote or cowrote the screenplays for almost every Bond film 1962 until 1989. But Jack Palance smooth, suave and sophisticated? Apparently Alan Ladd and Victor Mature were both originally considered for the lead.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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