Damn Yankee: Murder in Myrtle Beach
In this hardboiled-style mystery, Frankie McKeller is a “damn Yankee,” that is, a transplant from the North now living in the South. He is also the “house dick” of Myrtle Beach’s famed Ocean Forest Hotel. A veteran of Omaha Beach, McKeller bumbles his way through the post-war racist culture of this Southern city to find a black girl’s killer and track down a missing white girl.
His investigation takes him into Myrtle Beach’s black ghetto and to isolated roadway houses, where he drinks and gambles his way to vital information. After bungling his attempt to rescue the missing girl, he hits an emotional low. With nothing left to lose, he concocts a wild, potentially deadly confrontation with the local underworld capo and manages to save the day. He also finally puts together the pieces of the murder mystery and a killer is brought to justice.
McKeller is an intriguing character. He suffers from what today would be diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder. He’s also got a phenomenal case of bleeding heart syndrome and feelings about racial equality that won’t be seen for another twenty years. We don’t know where he gets all the money he spends helping victims or raising stakes in poker games. He drinks too much and is self-admittedly not good at being a detective. He is certainly unique in the world of mystery book sleuths.
Still and all, Damn Yankee is a decent read. There are some good action scenes and nice touches of local history. Who knows? With a few more cases under his belt, McKeller might become the next Columbo.