Thursday, July 24, 2008

Night Cry by William L. Stuart

Night Cry by William L. Stuart
Avon 801, Copyright 1948

There is nothing like picking up a novel that you don't expect much out of and be blown away by it...

The barriers that had held his emotions broke and thoughts came flooding at him, released. They had escaped and now they would burrow and work, reappearing briefly and scuttlingly, like rats in an alley.

Hard-nosed cop Mark Deglin just got passed over for the big promotion, and has been carrying a chip on his shoulder since. Mark plays it tough and the press loves him. During a murder investigation he visits a possible suspect, war hero Ken Paine. He gets a little too rough with the guy and Deglin accidentally kills Paine. Immediately after he learns the guy had nothing to do with the murder. He covers up what he did by first disguising himself as Paine, then dumping the corpse in the river and make it look like the guy flew the coop. Paine can't be located, so the cops make it a missing persons case and guess who gets assigned to find him-Mark Deglin. Paine's girlfriend, the beautiful Morgan Taylor, gets involved in the story and she doesn't believe Paine vanished and left town. To insure he is not connected to the disappearance, Deglin comtemplates another murder; but morally weakened, he can't go through with it. Good police work by others lead to the body being found and Morgan is now the suspect in the Paine murder. Pitted with anxiety and hagridden, the weight is too much for Deglin. Unable to escape emotionally, he realizes he must do what is not in his nature-throw his cards in and make his final play.

This is classic crime fiction and contains everything that is great about the genre. Wonderfully written by William Stuart, with a dreary autumn NYC as the setting. The streets are dark and the pages are full of fog, rain, and shadows. From the precinct houses, to the drab bars, and with the stench of the riverfront warehouses in the air; we are rewarded with a psychological noir thriller that grabs you from page one.

After a moment, the body came out of the water, slowly, oily with viscous mud, the dirty water cascading back from its blanket shroud. Deglin felt his stomach revolt, and he caught the vomit in his mouth, held it and swallowed convulsively.

Mark Deglin descends down a nightmare journey, as Paine becomes a man who will not stay dead. Ken Paine remains one of the main characters throughout the story, even though he is killed in the first few pages. It's haunting, with the police searching the city for Paine, and the Morgan girl waiting for him to show up; while all along Deglin knows he's at the bottom of the Hudson. This, along with its noir atmosphere, brings an eerie element to the novel. What starts as a simple cover up, slowly torments Deglin to a point of anhedonia; which at the end, the burden of guilt becomes unbearable when he realizes he has fallen for Paine's girl. He can't let it continue, he must get out....

One of the best books I read this year!

( and it was written 60 years ago)

Of course this novel was so good that Hollywood grab it immediately and Otto Preminger produced and directed the film noir classic, "Where The Sidewalk Ends." (1950) Dana Andrews portrayed Mark Dixon (changed from Deglin) The film starts the same as the novel, but then curves a bit from there. (The film was excellent, but of course the plot in the book is superior)

In 1958, Kraft Television Theatre aired "Night Cry", with Jack Klugman as Mark Deglin. I don't know if this was more faithful to William Stuart's novel, I would love to see it sometime.

The Radio Program "Suspense" aired "Night Cry" on 10/07/1948, with Ray Milland as the rogue cop.

Dial Press, NY (1948) published the first edition in hardcover.

Paperback editions were published by Avon.
Avon 186 (1949)
Avon 597 (1954)
Avon 801 (1958)


Chris said...

Oh my gosh--thank you, thank you, thank you! You don't know how often over the years I've thought about finding something like this. I love noir but just didn't know where to start. I've seen some of the classic movies, but literature-wise, I've only checked out Louis L'Amour's "The Hills of Homicide," itself more of an homage than straight-up noir. I love your writing and love this site. Can I link to it from mine? Also, you might enjoy my site. Click on my name above or go to Man, I am so pumped about this site and can't wait to explore your archives.


August West said...

Chris: I pickup "The Hills of Homicide" now and then and go on a Kip Morgan adventure. Haven't gotten to the Joe Regan stories yet, but I'll keep the book out to insure I read one. If I remember right, the story "The Hills of Homicide" don't feature Morgan or Regan-I might be wrong on that though.

I love L'Amour's Boxing stories and I did a review of "The Guns of the Timberlands" awhile back.

I like your blog and will keep checking it out regularly. Feel free to link to mine.

Chris said...

You're right about the "The Hills of Homicide" story not having Morgan or Regan. The guy's name is on the tip of my tongue, but I can't remember it.

My favorite story from Hills is Unguarded Moment. Beau L'Amour did what I think is a fantastic audio adaptation of it, too. If you want, I can e-mail you an mp3 of it (I recorded the cassette into my computer awhile back). Let me know...very noir-y and worth hearing!

I linked to your site from mine. Any chance I can get a link? (:

I'm going to check out your review of Guns of the Timberlands in a sec. I was going to read and review that after "The Outlaws of Mesquite," but have decided to stick with the short story collections for now. Up next for me is Buckskin Run.

tes said...

wow. the book does look good. I'm going to have to dig it up. Don't forget to check out the Noir of the Week on Where the Sidewalk Ends: