Today's installment of Friday's Forgotten Books is hosted over at Todd Mason's blog, so be sure and stop by to check them all out.
Leopold Horace Ognall (1908-1979), was a prolific author, with close to 90 novels under his two pseudonyms, Hartley Howard and Harry Carmichael. Thus it is rather surprising that it's so difficult to find anything about the author or his books.
He was born in Montreal, educated in Scotland and worked as a journalist before starting his fiction career. His primary series characters under the Harry Carmichael name are insurance assessor John Piper and crime reporter Quinn. The main focus of his Hartley Howard line are Philip Scott, head of a successful toy company and secretly the head of a British spy unit, and the New York private eye Glenn Bowman. The author once declared thirty-eight year old Bowman to be "the toughest wise-cracking private eye in the business."
One of the earliest Bowman novels is The Last Vanity from 1952, the third in that series. The novel opens with Edwin Newsome, a man worried about the health of his brother, Harold, fearing he may be the victim of steady poisoning by his brother's new—and much younger—wife, Moira. Edwin hires P.I. Glenn Bowman to investigate, and Bowman poses as an ex-con to get himself hired as a second chauffeur in the Harold's household. He soon discovers many under-currents beneath the surface involving family and staff alike, much more than a scheming young wife after her husband's wealth.
Hartley Howard's style is solidly in the Golden Age era, with the British author trying valiantly to emulate the American hard-boiled detective writing of Raymond Chandler and the others who followed in Chandler's footsteps. There are a few British-isms that creep in here and there, although they're relatively minor. The novel doesn't rise to Chandler's level, perhaps, but it's still entertaining and Bowman's character is sympathetic and engaging.
Although Ognall/Howard's books were apparently never published in the States and weren't even all that easy to find in the U.K. The Thrilling Detective site notes that Howard at some point moved to Italy during the Sixties and his Glenn Bowman private eye books were very popular among Italian readers during that period. They apparently did well in Germany, where almost his entire output was translated.
Both Leopold Horace Ognall and his books appear to be largely forgotten (save perhaps his novel Assignment K, made into a movie starring Stephen Boyd as spy Philip Scott), but the author's son Harry became a high court judge and conducted the hearings regarding former Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet.