Review of The Snarl of the Beast

Have you ever read any of the works by Frank L. Packard? He is best known for his detective stories such as The White Moll, or his series about the gentleman thief/detective, Jimmie Dale. They were written in the early 1900s and took place in New York City. Serious students of the detective genre see Packard’s works as an important stepping stone between the very proper Victorian era detective novels of the late 1800s and the tougher, grittier detectives of the hard-boiled school of the 1930s and 1940s. Packard painted a New York that was filthy, derelict and immoral. Dope addicts, thieves and killers populated it. Packard took his readers into broken-down tenements, back alleys and evil-smelling dens of New York as his detective tried to right society’s wrongs through a little larceny. The larcenous means gallantly justified the happy ending. What does all this have to do with a Race Williams story? Everything. The Snarl of the Beast was published in Black Mask in 1927 as a serialized novel. It features Daly’s inveterate tough guy detective, Race Williams, spitting death from his guns while trying to do the right thing for his client. His means to achieve his ends are messy and violent, but in Race William’s philosophy it will be justice that triumphs in the end.

However, the writing style of The Snarl of the Beast comes through as an older writing style. If you took out Frank L. Packard’s suave Jimmie Dale and replaced him with Race Williams you would have a New York setting and writing style very comparable to each other. It is akin to reading a novel of the late 1880s with a 1930s tough guy thrown in to the mix. The action sequences are fast-paced and explosive. The rest of the story, however, reads in a rather dated style. It is not one of Daly’s best works. Yet it does have elements of the coming hard-boiled tradition that would come full force into detective fiction in the 1930s and 1940s. Be it Frank L. Packard’s gentleman detective or Carrol John Daly’s hard-boiled private eye, be assured that the good guy will win in the end.

Authored by Robert D. Wheadon.