Frisco Flat by Stuart James. Monarch (1960), 140 pp.
Ex-prize fighter Frankie Cargo returns to his boyhood home near a small fishing village on the northern Monterey County coast. He’s been summoned by his old pal, Polo Girolomo, but he’s not sure why. Frankie learns that his recently deceased father was beaten to death and that the murderer is still at large. He also discovers that the community has changed. Formerly independent fishermen have sold out to the new cannery owner, Sam Barlow, who seems to have imposed a reign of fear on everyone. Frankie soon runs afoul of Barlow’s chief enforcer, psychopathic deputy sheriff Jake Springer. He also meets Springer’s girlfriend, beautiful hooker Tosca Sorrento, who has moved into his father’s house. Frankie has much to figure out -- if he can stay alive long enough to do it.
This story doesn’t quite come together. Which is too bad, because the writing approaches the level of John McPartland’s. The pacing is brisk. The action sequences are exciting. The descriptions, especially the sequence depicting tuna fishing, are detailed and convincing. Sadly, the characters lack depth. One of them seems to have no purpose aside from providing Frankie a sexual partner. Worse yet, the plot doesn’t make sense. Frankie is in constant peril, but it turns out that those who are harassing him have no reason to do so. And his plan to defeat the bad guys requires not clever thinking or decisive action but just good luck. All in all, the book offers a fairly entertaining read but not a completely satisfying one. Finally, the title represents deception pure and simple. Frisco Flat refers not to an apartment in San Francisco but a fictional town like Castroville. And the story isn’t even set there. Many original readers probably wound up with something they did not expect.