British author Dennis John Andrew Phillips (1924-2006) served in the RAF during World War II, then turned to labor relations and worked as a musician—something he continued to do until right before his death, even recording a CD at the age of 80. He also wrote almost 60 novels between 1961 and 1992 under his own name and the pseudonyms Peter Chester, Simon Challis, Philip Daniels and Peter Chambers.
However, it was the last pen name, Peter Chambers that brought the author most success, with 36 books in a series featuring private eye Mark Preston. (As a side note, 'Peter Chambers' is also the name of the fictional P.I. created by the better-known author Henry Kane.) The Mark Preston novels were set in the fictional town of Monkton, California, with its fill of sleazy night clubs, gangsters and racketeers.
In 1964's This'll Kill You, the obligatory attractive young female client appears, a woman named Dana Pallister. She has a mysterious background and two attempts have been made on her life, yet she doesn't want to involve the police. Preston's investigation leads him to an unsolved kidnapping twenty years earlier in which neither the baby girl nor ransom money were ever recovered. When a prisoner with ties to the kidnapping escapes from prison, people begin to die and Preston races against the clock to prevent more deaths, including his own.
From perusing the other Mark Preston titles, I gather most are built more on plot and less on setting and characterization. Many of the plots often sound interchangeable, too, with the damsel in distress leading Preston into trouble with both criminals and the law. This is pretty much what you'd expect from someone cranking out two or three of these a year, but even so, This'll Kill You is a rather breezy, entertaining read.
In the Foreword to the 1994 Black Dagger release of the novel, author Peter N. Walker notes that Chambers' central character, Mark Preston, has been favorably compared to other giants in the genre, ranking alongside Hammett's Sam Spade and Chandler's Philip Marlowe. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but Preston is a likeable enough protagonist, and Chambers imbues him with a high moral code and a pointed sense of humor.
The author wrote 13 novels under the pen name of Philip Daniels, between 1979 and 1986, and these mostly standalones garner better reviews. Unfortunately, few of the author's works are in print with the exception of one or two reprints in the Black Dagger crime series.