Chapter 3: The Books

 

Part 1

 

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Ard’s debut, The Perfect Frame, was all the incentive the 28-year-old writer needed. Judging by his output, he did nothing for the next 10 years but write.

Ard’s novels literally exploded onto the scene. After The Perfect Frame, he had four titles in print in 1952; five in 1953; five in 1954; three in 1955; five in 1956; three in 1957; five in 1958; three in 1959; 10 in 1960; 10 in 1961 and two in 1962.

By 1958, his bio in Cry Scandal, says Ard has “skyrocketed to fame as one of America’s most successful mystery and suspense writers.” The publishers reported that sales of his Popular novels alone exceeded 5,000,000 copies.

Ard hit the scene at the height of the hard-boiled genre’s popularity. John D. MacDonald, Ross MacDonald, Goodis, Woolrich, Rabe, Cain and Thompson and the rest of the gang, wielded literary Tommy guns, spraying the public with hard-hitting novels and the public couldn’t get enough.

Ard’s background no doubt helped him develop his style.

His stint in the Marines gave him the experience to lay out the action scenes with authority. In fact both Dane and Largo credit their Marine training for some of the swift moves that put their assailants out of commission, sometimes permanently.

Ard’s short tenure as a detective no doubt gave him insights into the business, the mundane as well as the more sordid side of life.

But it was his brief career as an ad man, a copywriter, that was to him what journalism was to Hemingway and Steinbeck. A copywriter, like a journalist, writes under tight deadlines. In journalism, the only thing as important as the deadline is accuracy. In copy writing the only thing as important as a deadline is effectiveness.

To be effective you must pack a lot of meaning in a few words. As the world’s leading pop psychologists, the most potent copywriters shun the superficial and go for the soul. More than anything, the copywriter must motivate the reader, spur him or her to action. That action is to buy the product.

To do that a copywriter must know his audience. Then he must know all about the person in that audience: his/her insecurities, fears, hopes and most importantly, one’s fantasies.

During his years at the Buchanan Ad Agency and Warner Brothers, William Ard most certainly learned how to say a lot with few words. He knew how to motivate.

As a novelist he knew his audience. White males, ages 18-50. Mostly blue collar, working men with a basic education, a well-defined sense of right and wrong, guys not interested in wasting time on philosophies or discourse. They wanted action.

The action is violence and sex — in that order. The hero enters the maelstrom of evil to correct an injustice. Along the way he usually uncovers more evil. Some of it he eliminates. Some he simply passes by.

 

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