Saturday, April 29, 2017

Mystery Scene Issue No. 149

The latest issue of Mystery Scene Magazine—No. 149—is at a newsstand near you. As usual, it is packed. It features Ron Miller’s terrific article “Why Can’t the Movie Be Just Like the Book?” “The Small World of Modern Thrillers” by Nicholas Barber and the second part of Lawrence Block’s “How to be a Writer Without Writing Anything,” which I’m still using as a blueprint for my future projects.

It also features my short story review column, “Short & Sweet: Short Stories Considered.” All of the column reviews are currently available in the print edition and most are also available at MS’s website. In the column I discuss:
Bound by Mystery, edited by Diane D. DiBiase, is an anthology celebrating Poisoned Pen Press’ 20th anniversary.
Anatomy of Innocence is an anthology, but also something very different from my usual coverage since it features true stories about men and women of have been wrongly convicted, and since released, of crimes they didn’t commit.
The January/February issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, featuring stories by Hugh Pentecost, S. J. Rozan, Brendan DuBois and nine others. Unfortunately this is a print exclusive.
The Purple Flame and Other Detective Stories, collecting 15 traditional mysteries by Frederick Irving Anderson.
There are also three of my book reviews in Issue No. 149. The titles: Heretics by Leonardo Padura, The Day of the Lie by William Brodrick, and Undertow by R. M. Greenaway. The book reviews are all available at MS’s website:
Heretics by the Cuban author Leonardo Padura is an interesting and well-developed, if a little long, private detective novel set in Cuba.  
The Day of the Lie by William Brodrick is the fourth novel featuring Father Anselm that is more thought provoking than thrilling.
Undertow by R. M. Greenaway is a fine Canadian police procedural set in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The reviews are available online at Mystery Scene’s website—click the titles above.
Mystery Scene is available at many newsstands, including Barnes & Noble, and available for order at MS’s website.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

COPP ON ICE by Don Pendleton

The fifth in the Joe Copp series, Copp on Ice, is pure hardboiled fun. Joe Copp, the toughest most righteous P.I. in Southern California, is hired on a short term basis as the chief of police for the growing inland city of Brighton. The city manager has promised him 48 hours, but Joe will be lucky if he makes it 36. His mission: find Brighton PD's corrupt cops and kick every last one to the curb, dead or alive. And corruption is exactly what Joe finds. Enough to make him good and angry.

Heavy on the hardboiled—prose and attitude alike—Copp on Ice reads like a shot of rock candy. The mystery quick and satisfying. The social commentary rough-edged, but illuminating and surprisingly relevant more than 25 years after its original release. The fun includes a climactic gunfight shot in the nude, more than a handful of murders, mostly cops, a house of sin and graft, sexual perversion and more. And Joe Copp, the man on a mission, the man with a code, the man who gets the job done, the man who is anything but an enigma, is always entertaining in his rough, over-the-top tough guy way.

Friday, April 07, 2017


Dan J. Marlowe.  The name alone brings an echo of the hardboiled—

“I’ll be leaving one of these days, and the day I do they’ll never forget it.” 

He wrote in the heyday of the paperback original.  His best work was published by Gold Medal, and his novels stand above most of his contemporaries as hard, uncompromising masterpieces of hardboiled crime and suspense. 

His life was as strange as his fiction: he is likely the plainest womanizer exported by Massachusetts; he gambled professionally for several years; he befriended, lived with, and co-wrote several short stories with the notorious bank robber Al Nussbaum; and late in life he developed memory loss and something called aphasia—“partial or total inability to write and understand words.”     
And all that is only the beginning.  Not to mention it was parroted from the introduction, written by Marlowe’s biographer Charles Kelly, to the new trade paperback double published by Stark House Press.  It features two of Marlowe’s best novels, which really, are two halves a single story: The Name of the Game is Death (Gold Medal 1962), and One Endless Hour (Gold Medal 1969). 

The novels tell the genesis story of Marlowe’s Earl Drake series character.  Drake is not a likable man.  He is a bank robber with a predilection for killing people.  He doesn’t kill simply to kill, but kill he does.  The Name of the Game is Death opens at the scene of a botched bank robbery with Drake shot in the escape.  He and his partner split up, and Drake finds a doctor and a dark place to hide until he is recuperated and the heat is off, which is when the story really begins.  His partner went missing with the money, and Drake is broke.  The rest of Name of the Game is Drake’s search for his partner, and the money, and One Endless Hour is the fallout.

The two novels merge into one complete and engrossing story, which is not to say either is dependent on the other; both are complete with beginning, middle, and end.  However the plot in One Endless Hour is built directly from Name of the Game.  In fact, the final chapter of Name of the Game is included, with a few adjustments as the Prologue to One Endless Hour.  

Name of the Game is the stronger of the two novels.  It includes an exposition of Drake’s childhood, explaining (without apologizing) for Drake’s seeming amoral character.  Its backstory emphasis and character development is reminiscent of John D. MacDonald, but only just.  Its prose is raw and hardboiled—

“I swear both his feet were off the ground when he fired at me.  The odds must have been sixty thousand to one, but he took me in the left upper arm.  It smashed me back against the car.  I steadied myself with a hand on the roof and put two a yard behind each other right through his belt buckle.  If they had their windows open they could have heard him across town.”

—and it is more thematically related to Jim Thompson than John D.

One Endless Hour is more of a straight caper novel.  It lacks Name of the Game’s character development, and backstory, but it flashes pure action.  And, if you consider the two novels as one story, it is the climactic resolution.  The differences in pacing and plotting act to strengthen the two novels’ impact rather than diminish it, and the new Stark House edition is the perfect way to experience the story arc.  

Purchase a copy of The Name of the Game is Death / One Endless Night at Amazon.

This review was originally posted May 19, 2013, but I thought it might be of interest again.