Murder With Southern Hospitality:
An Exhibition of Mississippi Mysteries

Exhibit Home » Hard-Boiled & Noir » Earle Basinsky & Charlie Wells

Hard-Boiled & Noir

Earle Basinsky
& Charlie Wells

The two authors displayed here are a well-matched pair. Both men were born in Mississippi; both published one hardback, hard-boiled mystery followed by one original paperback; and both dedicated their first books to bestselling noir author Mickey Spillane, who provided blurbs for all four works.

Earle Basinsky was born in 1921 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. He began attending the University of Mississippi in 1939, and left the law school in 1942 to join the U.S. Air Force. He became buddies with Spillane while in training at the air base in Greenwood, Mississippi. After the war, Basinsky moved to New York briefly where he worked with Spillane. Eventually, Basinksy returned to Vicksburg and his father’s printing business, but a visit by his famous pal in 1953 rekindled his writing ambitions. In 1955, E.P. Dutton published The Big Steal as a “Guilt Edged Mystery.” A police detective falsely accused of stealing ransom money loses his job, his wife, and his friends. On his own, he uncovers the real villain and extorts his own brand of justice. A year later, Signet released Death Is a Cold, Keen Edge in which a psychopathic World War II veteran goes on a killing spree.

Born in Greenwood, Mississippi in 1923, Charlie Wells worked as a draftsman, a bank messenger, and a drummer in a dance band. During World War II, he served in an anti-aircraft battalion and a field artillery unit in Europe. Wells worked with Spillane for a year before Abelard Press published Let the Night Cry (1953), in which a New Orleans ex-con becomes entangled in a web of vengeance. The Last Kill (1955) finds a Memphis private eye tracking the murderer of a friend who knew too much about a million-dollar heist. Robert Maguire, one of the great cover artists of the period, provided the illustrations for both The Last Kill and Death is a Cold, Keen Edge.

         Something else. When I think of librarians I immediately conjure up sweet, gentle, grey-haired, low-voiced old ladies, anxious to please you if they can only find their spectacles and locate you.
         That led to my first shock.
         Behind the desk sat a sweet, gentle, sultry-voiced brunette. She found me with deep brown eyes, smiled at me with full, soft lips and woke my long-dead, deeply buried thirst for knowledge with a suggestive, “May I help you?”
                -- Charlie Wells, The Last Kill, p. 20.

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