Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Long Night by Ovid Demaris

The Long Night by Ovid Demaris
Avon T-372

Copyright 1959

Their Buick was at least five years old. These boys weren't doing so well. That's the first place the hood spends his loot. A big flashy car. Next on the list is the big sparkler on the little pinkie. These characters had neither.

He's an ex-Marine who went through hell on Tawara. Then for 9 years he was a LAPD Vice cop until he got kicked out after beating up a hood who he caught in his ex-wife's bed. The last 4 years he's been a P.I., who specializes in locating delinquent debtors and squeezing them to pay up. When it comes to women, he's a "legs and buttocks" man and he doesn't mind getting his "biological needs" from a $5 whore or a classy pickup in a bar. His name is Vince Slader and he's on a hard case, getting little sleep, that involves clearing himself from a murder rap.

The Long Night has a unique start. Slader is in front of a Senate Crime Committee hearing, sassing it up against two powerful senators. It seems that the private eyes in LA have been getting a bit out of control and Slader is the committee's poster boy. He leaves the hearings with warnings that they will be watching him and he better keep his nose clean. Like that's going to happen. Slader is hired by a scumbag casino owner to find a guy called Ben Russell. Russell has a $28,000 gambling debt and Slader gets a percentage if Russell pays up. Russell also has a young wife who has plans of her own, and those include a life insurance scam. Of course P.I. Vince Slader gets caught in it. He first gets setup to be murdered and burned to a crisp in Russell's car, the idea is that the authorities will believe he was Russell. Slader gets banged up pretty bad, but survives. Next he walks in on Ben Russell's actual murder and here is where he gets pegged as the murderer. Along with Mrs. Russell's motives to get her husband's life insurance money, elements of the local crime organization have an interest in this case. So besides the Senate Committee, Slader has thugs and cops after him now.

As for a plot, there is really no new ground breaking in this one. It's your typical P.I. being played for a patsy story. But that's OK, it still was an enjoyable read. The Senate Committee angle in the story was different and refreshing. Slader has an ex-con as an assistant called Emilio Caruso, who he kiddingly refers to as his "little wop." I liked the guy, unfortunately he doesn't make it through to the end of the novel. There is a good dose of explosive (and descriptive) gunplay in The Long Night. One of the best takes place in the desert outside of Las Vegas, with Slader having some fun with two hired killers. Slader plays the ladies throughout the story and even with his rough mug, they are attracted to him. He even gets serious with a redhead who helps him survive in the end.

Reading the The Long Night, I was wondering if Ovid Demaris was trying to make a Mickey Spillane type of novel here. It's close, but the narrative is less hardboiled and the ending fell a little flat. As for P.I. Vince Slader, I liked him. And with more appearances in novels and a little more development, he could of had a future. The Long Night is a good P.I. crime mystery, and it came darn close to being a very good one. As Maxwell Smart said, "Missed it by that much."

Here is a taste of some lines that Slader spouts about the fairer sex:

I turned and looked her over closely. Her looks were better than average for a barfly, but nothing to get worked up over. She was stacked, and dressed to prove it. I ignored the cleavage. There was nothing there I hadn't seen before.

She led me into the room, and the calves pumped and the buttocks shook. I didn't know where to look.

There are only two approaches to women - sweet and tough. And ninety percent of the time the tough will get you farther, quicker than sweet.

I have never felt much compunction about sex anyway. Women have been conveniently relegated to the role of machines for fornication. This is a hard-boiled attitude, and, like all such attitudes, it's microscopic and bigoted.

2 comments:

Amanda said...

Sounds like a great read. I might have to track down a copy

P.M. said...

Great review. I like the cover.