VICKSBURG FACTS: Earle Basinsky, Vicksburg’s crime novelist

Published 8:00 am Friday, August 26, 2022

Did you know that Vicksburg is the home of Earle Basinsky, a crime novelist? 

Basinsky was born in 1921 to Earle Basinsky Sr. and Aline Basinsky. In 1939, Basinsky went to attended law school at the University of Mississippi, but in 1942 joined the United States Air Forces for World War II according to Mississippi Writers and Musicians website. 

While he was stationed in Greenwood, Miss. for pilot training, he met and befriended Mickey Spillane. Spillane was extremely supportive of Basinsky’s writing and after the war, Basinsky decided to move to Brooklyn, N.Y. to continue his writing with Spillane. 

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While working with Spillane, Basinsky released two crime short stories called “Knife Act” in the Don Fortune Magazine No. 4, November 1946 and “Killer’s Choice” in Vic Verity No. 4, May 1946. 

After a while, Basinsky returned to Vicksburg and worked for his father’s printing business, according to Mississippi Writers and Musicians website. It wasn’t until Spillane’s visit to Vicksburg that he felt inspired to write again. His next project was his first crime novel “The Big Steal” published by E.P. Dutton in 1955, thanks to Spillane’s help. In the book, police caught a kidnapper that had stolen a suitcase full of $400,000 and gave the responsibility to Steve Conway, the main character, to take the money to the police station. However, when Conway arrived at the station with the suitcase his colleagues discovered that the money was gone and immediately accused him of stealing the ransom money. Conway begins to hit a downward spiral as he loses his friends and wife due to the accusation. He decided to go on a long and violent mission to find the missing money and the person that framed him for the crime, as stated in the book “Gun in Cheek: An Affectionate Guide to the “Worst” in Mystery Fiction” by Bill Pronzini. 

In 1956, Basinsky released his second novel, “Death Is a Cold, Keen Edge,” published by Signet. The story is about a World War II veteran that discovered his passion for murder while in the war. Once the war is over, the World War II veteran goes on a killing spree when he re-enters civilian life, as was summarized on the back of “Death Is a Cold, Keen Edge.” 

Basinsky was finished writing novels and later on published several short stories for pulp fiction magazines. This includes “The Broken Window,” published in Manhunt for February 1957 edition, “The Prison Break” in Mike Shayne for the October 1957 edition and “Decision” for The Saint in the March 1958 edition as stated on the Mississippi Writers and Musicians website.

Each story continues Basinky’s narrative writing style and his knack for raw and stomach-churning violence. However, his writing was not loved by everyone, and he did receive some criticism for his work. Such as Anthony Boucher’s comment in a June 26, 1955, New York Times Book review column about Basinsky’s “The Big Steal,” “Mickey Spillane who insisted… and for Nathan Jr. who suffered. Those should serve as a better guide to your choice than any review; personally, I’m on Nathan Jr’s side.” While some other critics praised Basinsky for his vivid writing style. 

In March 1963, Earle Basinsky passed away in Vicksburg.