Lancashire Post Reviews Bill S. Ballinger’s Portrait in Smoke and The Longest Second

“[Bill S.] Ballinger, who died in 1980 at the age of 68, wrote scripts for eight feature films, more than 150 teleplays, 30 books, and in 1961, he won an Edgar Award for one of his teleplays for Alfred Hitchcock Presents. His novels, several of which were made into films, have sold more than ten million copies in the States and been reprinted in 30 countries and translated into more than 13 languages. A book critic for The New York Times called him ‘a major virtuoso of the mystery technique,’ and yet Ballinger remains an overlooked writer, with much of his work long out of print.

Fortunately, the gap has now been plugged by the publication of a two-in-one volume from Stark House Press featuring two of the author’s personal favourites, Portrait in Smoke, and the Edgar-nominated The Longest Second, two unique mystery classics that shocked the literary world when they first came out in the 1950s.

In his introduction to this new volume, Nicholas Litchfield, editor of the Lowestoft Chronicle, a quarterly online literary magazine, revels in the republication of these two noir masterpieces, writing: ‘These two powerful, provocative tales from the Fifties are as fresh and impressive today as when they first startled and enthralled the world and earned their place as mystery classics.’

The Longest Second, says Litchfield, is ‘neither gimmicky nor contrived’ but ‘a cunningly deceptive work that is full of twists and shocks, and has a storyline intended to continually keep you guessing about the past and the present.’

Abnormal and packed full of surprises because of the two seemingly unconnected storylines, an unreliable narrator, and the author’s wily weaving between first-person and third-person narration, The Longest Second is ingenious, suspenseful, and memorably intriguing.

Perfectly paired with Portrait in Smoke, these two exceptional novels are as fascinating and entertaining today as they were 60 years ago.”

Pam Norfolk’s review of this new reprint of Bill S. Ballinger’s novels is published today in the Lancashire Post and syndicated to 20 newspapers in the UK.

Read the full, in-depth book review here.

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