Monday, October 21, 2019

No Comment: "Bad Debts"

“I found Edward Dollery, age forty-seven, defrocked accountant, big spender and dishonest person, living in a house rented in the name of Carol Pick. It was a new brick-veneer suburb built on cow pasture east of the city, one of those strangely silent developments where the average age is twelve and you can feel the pressure of the mortgages on your skin.”

—Peter Temple, Bad Debts. Text Publishing, 2012 (© 1996). Page 1.

[No Comment is a series of posts featuring passages that caught my attention. It may be the idea, the texture, or the presence that grabbed my eye. There is no analysis provided, and it invariably is out of context]

Friday, October 18, 2019

SOME DIE HARD by Stephen Mertz

Some Die Hard is Stephen Mertz’s first published novel. It appeared as a paperback original in 1979 from the low-rent New York publisher Manor Books, as by Stephen Brett. A pseudonym, at least the surname—according to an informative and interesting Afterword in the recent Rough Edges Press edition—that was a hat-tip to Brett Halliday. The same Brett Halliday behind the fictional private eye Michael Shayne.

Rock Dugan, a former stuntman who gave up Hollywood for private detective work and Denver, is returning home—after tying up an employee theft investigation—from the fictional Langdon Springs, Colorado. Sitting next to Dugan on the bus ride home is a nervous man who, once they arrive at the depot, panics and bolts, stumbling into Dugan before dashing into traffic where he’s hit and killed by a taxi. The police think the man’s death is an accident, an opinion Dugan doesn’t share because the man expertly passed an envelope to him in the confusion. The envelope’s contents are for Susan Court who, with a dying millionaire father changing his will at the last minute and a no-good brother, hired the nervous man, also a P.I., to uncover a few secrets.

Some Die Hard is a hardboiled locked-room murder mystery—those impossible crimes where the whodunit is less important than the howdunit (and Im not even going to tell you who the victim is). Its prose is smooth, although not as crystal as Stephen Mertz’s latest work, and the story is enjoyable and easy. Easy to read, rather than easy to guess. Dugan is likable and hardboiled. He is big-fisted, clever and carries that sacred Private Eye code. A knight-errand more concerned with justice than law.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Thrift Shop Book Covers: "The Name of the Game is Death"

The Name of the Game is Death, by Dan J. Marlowe, was a paperback original published by Gold Medal in 1962, but the edition that caught my eye is the Black Lizard paperback published in 1988. The dark background and muted colors make for a sinister atmosphere, which perfectly match the dark story. The artist: Kirwan

The first paragraph:

From the back seat of the Olds I could see the kid’s cotton gloves flash white on the steering wheel as he swung off Van Buren onto Central Avenue. On the right up ahead the strong late September Phoenix sunshine blazed off the bank’s white stone front till it hurt his eyes. The damn building looked as big as the purple buttes on the rim of the desert.

The Name of the Game is Death is the first appearance of Earl Drake; a middle-lass mand who turned violent crime as an escape of the “hopelessness of middle-class life.” The follow-up novel, One Endless Night, is the second part of a single seamless story. Drake was revived for Marlowe’s ten “Operation” novels.