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No Badge, No Gun [Paperback]

Adams Harold
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 16 2004 Carl Wilcox Mysteries
Carl Wilcox, a sort of Sam Spade of the Depression-era Prairie, sets out to find the killer of a brilliant teenage girl.

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From Amazon

Harold Adams's series of mysteries about small-town South Dakota during the Great Depression are like the work of another great artist of that period--the photographer Walker Evans, who captured in black and white every grain and pore of the façades and faces he saw. Carl Wilcox--the rebellious son of a hotel owner who makes his living as a sign painter and occasional detective--is Adams's camera, recording in sharp, spare, and often pungent language the misdeeds of his fellows.

This time, Wilcox is finishing up a painting job in the town of Jonesville when the local pastor offers him $100 to find the man who raped and strangled his young niece. A frustrated bible teacher and a slick traveling salesman are the likely suspects, but the police have no evidence against either. In his comfortably offhand way, Wilcox sits and talks with all sorts of people, soaking up impressions and possible leads with apparently aimless ease. He also finds time to pursue another of his interests--romancing attractive and available women, in this case the town librarian, another character so quickly brought to life by Adams that you'll swear you've seen her picture in an old album. Other fine Wilcox outings include The Ditched Blonde, The Man Who Was Taller Than God, and A Way with Widows. --Dick Adler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Carl Wilcox, a peripatetic middle-aged sign painter, crisscrosses the small towns of Depression-era South Dakota, attracting women and trouble in almost equal proportions in this consistently entertaining series (The Ice-Pick Artist, 1997, etc.). Though he's the less than proud owner of a jail record acquired during his reckless youth, Carl sometimes acts as the law?either officially or privately. This time, Carl finds himself in Jonesville with a nice painting commission. But this is the Depression and times are rough. So, when pastor Bjorn Bjornson asks Carl to find the killer who raped and strangled his young niece, Gwendolen, Carl can't resist the promise of an additional $100. Adams has a knack for investing the stock characters of small towns?doctors and lawyers, waitresses, housewives and salesmen?with refreshing color and originality. As Carl questions Gwendolen's father (the town doctor), her brother and her teachers and classmates, suspicions focus on Chris Kilbride, a young Bible teacher, and Derek Warford, a glib traveling salesman with a penchant for young girls. Carl finds serious romance in Jonesville with the school librarian?and danger, too, as a deadly rival stalks him. Carl's laconic narration is full of terse pleasures. In fact, Adams's prose, though as spare as a Dakota sky, contains more complexity and substance than most mystery writers achieve with the normal genre arsenal of noir atmospherics and anxiety-ridden psychologizing.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Paperback
It's a good time for Harold Adams, whose novels about itinerent sign painter ex-cop Carl Wilcox had been languishing, garnering critical raves but little in the way of sales. Walker & Company, a publishing house becoming known for literate, sometimes off-beat mysteries, has released four books so far in trade paperback and published new ones in hardback. This is a series well worth investigating.

Wilcox reminds me of every boy's favorite uncle, the one who's a black sheep to the women of the family for not settling down, who stops by when he needs a bed and a few square meals, bringing with him a whiff of sin and a few great stories. He travels the small towns of the Dakotas and Minnesota during the Depression, taking on sign-painting jobs for grocery stores and law offices when they're available, and camping by the side of the road in his modified Model T. When the jobs are few on the ground, he'll take on a murder investigation.

In "A Way with Widows," his sister asks him to come to Red Ford, North Dakota, to help clear a neighbor of killing her husband, who was found on the stairs of another woman's house. In "No Badge, No Gun," a minister who has heard of Wilcox's reputation as an investigator asks him to solve the murder of his niece, found dead in the basement of a church. Wilcox's investigating style consists of wandering around town, talking to people, gathering threads of facts and weaving them into a plausible story. He's suspicious, but not cynical. Told about the perfect character of a churchgoing man, he observes, "Nothing in this world raises more doubts in my mind than apparently perfect young men."

Yet Wilcox is also a flawed man.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Prairie noir sweeps Depression-era Dakotas Jan. 5 1999
Format:Hardcover
For some of us too young to know better, the world of the Depression can seem as foreign a place as Moscow or Outer Mongolia. It was, after all, a half-century ago, before computers, television, the Interstate Highway system and couple of major wars.
Which is why following Carl Wilcox, part-time bum, former convict and itinerant sign painter as he travels from town to town in the Dakotas so fascinating. In addition to painting signs and doing what he can to bring body and soul a little closer together, he sometimes investigate cases in small towns like Hope, Jonesville and Greenhill.
For the most part, these are pretty quiet stories about small towns where there's not much to do, and where murders are few and far between. Adams's books describe a Depression-era Dakotas of quiet small towns where private reputations and public behavior mattered. His Wilcox is a quiet man, willing to work when he needs money and loaf when he doesn't. His constant pursuit of any semi-willing women would be off-putting were it not realistically depicted (i.e., he doesn't succeed very often).
One added bonus can be found in the design of the books, whose covers sport art by Edward Hopper and Thomas Hart Benton. Not your usual mystery book design.
Was this review helpful to you?
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
During the Depression, sign painter Carl Wilcox has earned a reputation throughout the Dakotas for solving murder mysteries, which is why Pastor Bjorn Bjornsen invites him to lunch. Bjorn and his nephew Sven offer Carl $100 to discover who raped and murdered the pastor's niece Gwendolyn in their church basement.
Carl begins his inquiries by talking to the cop on the case, Officer Driscoll, who has unofficially given up on the case, but does provide Carl the needed information. Carl follows up with discussions about the victim with her teachers, friends, and family. As he continues to look into the brutal death of a child with no seeming enemies or anyone with a motive to hurt her, Carl begins to wonder if even he can solve this mystery.
The fifteenth Wilcox depression era who-done-it keeps the freshness that has constantly made this series one of the best historical mysteries on the market. The story line fits the period, making it seem much more alive than fiction normally produces. However, it is the talent of Harold Adams to brilliantly describe a host of characters as seen through their varying relationships with succinct and abrupt Carl that makes NO BADGE, NO GUN and , for that matter all the Wilcox books, must reading for sub-genre fans.

Harriet Klausner
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prairie noir sweeps Depression-era Dakotas Jan. 5 1999
By Author Bill Peschel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
For some of us too young to know better, the world of the Depression can seem as foreign a place as Moscow or Outer Mongolia. It was, after all, a half-century ago, before computers, television, the Interstate Highway system and couple of major wars.
Which is why following Carl Wilcox, part-time bum, former convict and itinerant sign painter as he travels from town to town in the Dakotas so fascinating. In addition to painting signs and doing what he can to bring body and soul a little closer together, he sometimes investigate cases in small towns like Hope, Jonesville and Greenhill.
For the most part, these are pretty quiet stories about small towns where there's not much to do, and where murders are few and far between. Adams's books describe a Depression-era Dakotas of quiet small towns where private reputations and public behavior mattered. His Wilcox is a quiet man, willing to work when he needs money and loaf when he doesn't. His constant pursuit of any semi-willing women would be off-putting were it not realistically depicted (i.e., he doesn't succeed very often).
One added bonus can be found in the design of the books, whose covers sport art by Edward Hopper and Thomas Hart Benton. Not your usual mystery book design.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strong sense of Depression-era Upper Midwest small-town life Sept. 13 2000
By Author Bill Peschel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
It's a good time for Harold Adams, whose novels about itinerent sign painter ex-cop Carl Wilcox had been languishing, garnering critical raves but little in the way of sales. Walker & Company, a publishing house becoming known for literate, sometimes off-beat mysteries, has released four books so far in trade paperback and published new ones in hardback. This is a series well worth investigating.

Wilcox reminds me of every boy's favorite uncle, the one who's a black sheep to the women of the family for not settling down, who stops by when he needs a bed and a few square meals, bringing with him a whiff of sin and a few great stories. He travels the small towns of the Dakotas and Minnesota during the Depression, taking on sign-painting jobs for grocery stores and law offices when they're available, and camping by the side of the road in his modified Model T. When the jobs are few on the ground, he'll take on a murder investigation.

In "A Way with Widows," his sister asks him to come to Red Ford, North Dakota, to help clear a neighbor of killing her husband, who was found on the stairs of another woman's house. In "No Badge, No Gun," a minister who has heard of Wilcox's reputation as an investigator asks him to solve the murder of his niece, found dead in the basement of a church. Wilcox's investigating style consists of wandering around town, talking to people, gathering threads of facts and weaving them into a plausible story. He's suspicious, but not cynical. Told about the perfect character of a churchgoing man, he observes, "Nothing in this world raises more doubts in my mind than apparently perfect young men."

Yet Wilcox is also a flawed man. He makes mistakes and is perfectly capable of being turned by a pretty widow with something to hide. His attempts at seduction sometimes succeed, but more often fail, which makes sense at a time when a woman's reputation could be affected by who she's seen with.

One hopes for better things for Adams and Wilcox, but if it doesn't happen, it won't be the fault of the publisher. Like most of Walker's books, these are beautiful to look at -- details from Edward Hopper's paintings appear on most of them, which is a nice change from the usual blood and skulls that passes for art on most mystery covers -- and the $8.95 price tag is more than reasonable for these absorbing tales of small-town crimes of passion.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wilcox remains fresh and fun in this Depression era tale Sept. 20 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
During the Depression, sign painter Carl Wilcox has earned a reputation throughout the Dakotas for solving murder mysteries, which is why Pastor Bjorn Bjornsen invites him to lunch. Bjorn and his nephew Sven offer Carl $100 to discover who raped and murdered the pastor's niece Gwendolyn in their church basement.
Carl begins his inquiries by talking to the cop on the case, Officer Driscoll, who has unofficially given up on the case, but does provide Carl the needed information. Carl follows up with discussions about the victim with her teachers, friends, and family. As he continues to look into the brutal death of a child with no seeming enemies or anyone with a motive to hurt her, Carl begins to wonder if even he can solve this mystery.
The fifteenth Wilcox depression era who-done-it keeps the freshness that has constantly made this series one of the best historical mysteries on the market. The story line fits the period, making it seem much more alive than fiction normally produces. However, it is the talent of Harold Adams to brilliantly describe a host of characters as seen through their varying relationships with succinct and abrupt Carl that makes NO BADGE, NO GUN and , for that matter all the Wilcox books, must reading for sub-genre fans.

Harriet Klausner
4.0 out of 5 stars This Depression Era mystery is a gem Dec 30 2010
By Cathy G. Cole - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
First Line: It was hot in Jonesville just before noon as I was finishing up a window sign and looking forward to getting out of the sun and into a café, when these two characters came around and moved close, watching me.

Those two characters just happen to be the local pastor and his nephew, and they'd like him to check into the rape and murder of the pastor's niece. Carl Wilcox, ex-con, part-time bum, and itinerant sign painter is beginning to get a reputation in small town South Dakota for being able to solve crimes. Since this is the Depression, Carl can't afford to pass up the money, even though he's not trained as a private investigator:

"How'd you get into detecting?"

"Fell in. Being an ex-con, I was a suspect in anything that went wrong wherever I went for a few years, and I started figuring out who done it a couple of times when it kept me from getting stuck, and then one day Corden needed a temporary cop the worst way, and as somebody said, they got the worst kind. That sort of set up my bona fides, and I've been milking it ever since."

While Wilcox paints signs and woos the local school teacher, his investigative methods mainly consist of questioning every person he can think of and seeing what turns up. What turns up are several prime suspects, and Carl soon has to narrow down the list.

Adams has a lean comfortable writing style that drew me right in. It's a deceptively simple style because whenever I stopped to ponder what I'd read, I would realize that I'd gleaned much more than I thought was there.

Even though this is the fifteenth book in the Carl Wilcox series, I didn't feel lost. This book stands very well on its own, but it's so good-- and doesn't have the usual P.I. clichés-- that I fully intend to look up other books in the series.
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