Saturday, May 22, 2010

Homicidal Lady by Day Keene

Homicidal Lady by Day Keene
Graphic 87, Copyright 1954

I own and have read quite a few Day Keene novels. I've always loved his work and even now seek out magazines that published one of his short stories. He is one of those authors that will not disappoint the reader and if you're looking of a quick well-written crime/mystery -Keene surely satisfies. Though not one of his best, "Homicidal Lady" still packs quite a punch and contains all that makes Keene's writing so integrating to the reader-A wronged protagonist, conflicting dames, a steamy post-war Florida atmosphere, and a curve or two to keep you flipping the pages.

Talbot looked from the girl on the bed to the pistol in his hand. The lump in his stomach continued to balloon. The stillness in the room bothered him. It was an eerie sensation, this waiting in a dimly lighted room to shoot a man who had been his friend for twenty years.
She wet her lips with her tongue, "Are you frightened, Tod?"

"Not Particularly, " Talbot said. "What's there to killing a man? All you have to do is pull the trigger."

Tod Talbot is the D.A for Sun City and he just sent an innocent man to his death. Shamed and ridiculed, he does the honorable thing and resigns. But of course more problems are in store for Mr. Talbot. And when he is caught with his pants down next to the murdered wife of the man who he prosecuted into the electric chair, this quickly turns into a "man on the run" novel. As always, a girl happens on the scene to help our man in times of trouble and this time it is a local "cracker" girl who has had a crush on Talbot for years. Talbot seems to have some inner conflict with being a "cracker" boy himself, who married above his class. You see, his wife happens to be the town's well-bred rich girl and was the defense attorney for the man that was executed. They are about to be divorced because of the recent trial and this doesn't help Talbot's cause as he is running from the cops. Thanks to the quick thinking by the "cracker" girl, Talbot escapes numerous roadblocks and this helps him buy time to find out what this is all about. He's no dummy, he figures he was setup and now to save his skin he needs the why and by whom.

I'll admit to you that I had this one figured out early. Having read many of Day Keene's novels, you sort of get the flow of his storyline and you can see the pieces falling in line as you read on. But that never mattered to me. The plot holds your interest and it is different enough from the author's other "man on the run" stories, making "Homicidal Lady" an enjoyable ride. I loved this "cracker" demon that Talbot battles within himself and how this plays between him and his divorcing wife. Fairly exciting pace around the hunt for Talbot by the local authorities. Its these fast action pounding chases that attract me to these early novels and Keene was damn good at writing them. (he wrote many) The local girl that helps Talbot grows on the reader and you really get to like her at the end. (in the beginning you have mix feelings about her) I've always liked these Florida small city settings and I'm thankful that so many of these post-war authors settled down there in the 50s to put them on paper for us.

Like I said, "Homicidal Lady" may not be Day Keene's best novel, but that doesn't mean it is not a good one. I liked it and have yet to find anything he has written what was not worth picking up.


Frank Loose said...

I agree that a reader can't go wrong picking up just about anything he wrote. I've read about a dozen of his books and enjoyed them all, but my favorite is Home Is The Sailor. He seemed to be firing on all cylinders when he wrote that one.

August West said...

Frank: I also thought "Joy House" was top shelf stuff and will add "Murder on the Side" to round out a trio.

Always wanted to read "Notorious." Just can't seem to get hold of a copy.

Frank Loose said...

August ... I have a copy of NOTORIOUS, and to be honest, i thought it was one of Keene's lesser efforts. Still enjoyable, but it missed the mark a bit, IMO. Nice cover, though, on the MacFadden-Bartell edition that i have.

Talk about a book that is hard to find, JOY HOUSE is rather scarce - at least affordable copies. I haven't checked around in a while, so i think i shall do that today.

Two of my favorite Keene's: MY FLESH IS SWEET, and THE BRIMSTONE BED. MFIS takes place half in Mexico and half in the US. I really enjoyed it. It is available as a Stark House double, along with FRAMED IN GUILT.

I'd be more than happy to loan you my copy of Notorious.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

Man, I absolutely love Day Keene's work, but tracking it down in Australia can be pretty darn hard. I'll continue to keep my eyes peeled because I have lots to catch up on.