A Book With Pictures

every-little-crook1My mother has always been an avid user of public libraries, coming home with stacks of borrowed books – and somehow reading them all. I remember that she once, long ago, borrowed a book named Every Little Crook and Nanny. It was an curious novel, illustrated with full-page photographs of its characters.

When the 2017 Reading Challenge came along, and I saw that one of the categories was “A book with pictures”, I immediately thought of this book. But, why, out of the thousands of books I’ve seen Mom borrow over the years, did this one stick in my mind? I hadn’t read it, and I don’t remember if she liked it or not. Was it the clever title? Was it the novelty of adult fiction with illustrations? I don’t know why I remember the things I remember.

I picked this book for the first in the Challenge because when I searched the library catalog, I learned that the Seattle Public Library had just one copy, and if I went there to pick it up, I’d have to ask for it at a specific desk. I know from my inside sources (Barbara and Mariah) that this means the library is considering getting rid of it, and wants to judge its interest before they decide. So, I figured I’d better borrow it while I still can.

every-little-crook2

Benny Napkins

Every Little Crook and Nanny, by Evan Hunter, was published in 1972.

One Wednesday morning, Benny Napkins receives a phone call from Nanny Poole. Nanny is the governess for Lewis, the ten-year-old son of retired soft drink magnate Carmine “Ganooch” Ganucci. Lewis has been kidnapped. Ganooch is “vacationing” in Italy, so Nanny hopes that if some of Ganooch’s “associates” can help, she can get Lewis returned before Ganooch comes home, and her boss will never find out that she’d lost Lewis. The problem is, if she acquired the help of anyone skilled enough to have any prestige in criminal circles, word would surely reach Ganooch. That’s why Nanny called Benny Napkins.

Every Little Crook and Nanny is a comedy of ineptitude, misunderstanding, and coincidence. The phrase “Well, everybody makes mistakes” gets used a lot. It’s a story of small potatoes crooks just trying to get by. Every character is treated with sympathy – even the kidnapper.

And, I remembered correctly. Each character is introduced with a full-page, black and white photograph. (One character is “played” by the author.) There are also photographs of ransom notes, post cards, and a Spiro Agnew watch.

Every Little Crook and Nanny is a well-written book. Its characters are well-developed, the dialog is believable, and the story flows well. It’s 224 pages long (including the illustrations) and a quick read.

After I finished the book, I learned this about the author: “Evan Hunter” was originally the pen name of Salvatore Lombino. Then, Salvatore Lombino legally changed his name to Evan Hunter. Then, Evan Hunter frequently used the pen name “Ed McBain”. He wrote many books and screenplays under the names Evan Hunter and Ed McBain, and also as Richard Marsten and Hunt Collins.

  • A book with pictures

 

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