Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Kiss Off The Dead by Garrity

Kiss Off The Dead by Garrity
Gold Medal 948, copyright 1960

Max Carey is a big lug who has to do it his way. He talks tough and preaches to the reader on how you got to handle things. His mind is set to make people pay and to kill, kill, Kill... Throughout the novel we anticipate the "big payback" and then when the time comes -nothing... Instead of the "big payback" we get the "big letdown."

"I was in a fix. A lousy rotten burn-in-the-chair kind a fix, and it looked like I was going to walk the last mile all the way."

Max Carey was an honest tough NYC cop, until the day he decides to take payoff money to keep his "loving" wife accustomed to her high living standards. Disgraced and kicked off the force, she leaves him and for three years he hunts her down. He locates her in the coastal city of Seaside, and they both realize the love they share is still strong and undying. That night she is found dead and Carey is framed as the murderer. He vows revenge on the persons responsible for killing his "loving" wife and setting him up. The city rackets are involved and a couple of hired guns are always around the corner. With the help of a hatcheck girl, Carey eludes the cops and the guns. This girl falls deeply for him, after only seeing him for about five seconds. Carey is so torn up over his wife's murder, that he's in bed and in love with the hatcheck girl soon after. Eventually he turns the tables from being hunted, to being the hunter. He pounds shoe leather and his noggin to settle the score. Garrity has the plot building and we are waiting for the final big action that really doesn't materialize.

There is nothing like a slap in the face to convince a dame you're not playing games. She got one, a hard open-handed one that smacked like a pistol shot and left an imprint of my fingers that she'd be wearing for a few days to come.

To Dave Garrity's credit the dialog is hardboiled and Max Carey is a big, hard customer. Mickey Spillane was supposedly an acquaintance of the author, and there is definitely an influence here. The ending does have a bit of a surprise waiting for the reader, but I expected a bigger showdown when Max Carey confronts the reason for his pain. Carey has trouble thinking this one out and fails to see clues in front of him. He acts foolish at times; like walking into obvious avoidable situations and being sapped three times, twice by the same dame. Also Carey drags on, explaining the why and how, for what he's "gonna do." He carries this too far, causing the story to be jagged and the reader being confused about the character's true cognizance. (Garrity should of looked over Spillane's shoulder more closely. After all, the Mick was a master of getting through to the reader.)

This is a novel about a man wronged and him setting out to right it. And in these novels we want the one's responsible to pay and pay through vengeance. In the end, we are left disappointed, waiting for blood to spill and butts to be kicked - that never occur.
Maybe I was expecting more out of this then I should of.

Known novels by Dave J. Garrity:

Kiss Off The Dead (1960), Gold Medal 948
Cry Me A Killer (1961), Gold Medal 1170
Dragon Hunt (1967), Signet 3203
Hot Mods (1969), Signet 3899
Rim of Thunder (1973), Signet

5 comments:

Frank Loose said...

I agree, Kiss Off The Dead was a disappointment. BUT, Garrity's Cry Me A Killer, is a great read. You will definitely see the Spillane influence in the dialogue and toughness, but it goes beyond imitation, and is flat out a solid noir read. Recommended.

Anonymous said...

Aw, I kinda liked this book.
The great title, and even greater cover (surely one of Gold Medal's finest- is that guy's head carved out of a cinderblock?) combine to push up your expectations.
The plot requires more suspension of disbelief than a 1920's science fiction yarn. The conclusion has one of the most laborious "plot explanations by the villain to the helpless hero" you'll ever find.
Yet, I enjoyed much of the book. The hero is tough, but admits to greater fallibility than most hardboiled first person narrators. His feelings for the woman who done him wrong swing wildly from raw hate to tender forgiveness. I found this oddly convincing, easily the most believable aspect of the whole book.
I kinda liked that big lug.

John Hocking

August West said...

John: I had high hopes for the book and like I said I probably set my sights too high. Granted, Max Carey is a tough SOB, and he was so convincingly tough that I was ready for an ending similar to "One Lonely Night." To me, it fell flat as a tire on an old Schwinn bicycle. You're right about the cover -a piece of art.

Frank: You are right about "Cry Me a Killer" being a much superior book. Garrity improved greatly in his 2nd Gold Medal published book. The Spillane influence, especially in the plot, is much more evident.

Max Allan Collins said...

Dave Garrity was more than an acquaintance of Mickey's, they were best friends. The novel DRAGON HUNT has an approved Mike Hammer appearance, and is based on a story from the MIKE HAMMER comic strip.

Dave was a great guy. He had talent.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or does the woman on the cover look a lot like Irish McCalla?
I wonder if she ever posed for paperback covers.
Nevermind me. I tend to see that woman everywhere. Pure wishful thinking on my part.

John