Friday, February 29, 2008

The Erection Set by Mickey Spillane

The Erection Set by Mickey Spillane
Signet 5120, Copyright 1972

When I was in the U.S. Navy in the mid-70s, it seemed that wherever you went on the ship this paperback was laying around. Sailors being what they are, most of them were attracted to the paperback for the cover, the title, or both. Even though I read a few Mike Hammer and Tiger Mann novels prior, I was taken back at seeing Spillane’s name on “The Erection Set.” Well, somewhere probably in the Mediterranean Sea, I crawled in my rack and started it, and of course I’m glad I did. It’s was a true awakening.

Mickey Spillane brought this one up a big notch. He throws all into it and leaves little out. The main character, Dogeron Kelly, is possibly the toughest SOB in print. In fact he’s a bastard, but a "good guy" bastard. I have yet to find another character that comes close. It’s a violent story of a man with a secret past, out to make things right. Like the cab driver said looking at Kelly as they leave Kennedy Airport, “Shit, man, you’re loaded for bear.” Kelly has been away from New York City for a while, and returns to blow the town wide open. Bad guys beware! Strictly for the men of course. Was it controversial?-probably, I had no idea what the critics or Spillane fans thought of it at the time. And of course I didn’t care.

Almost like a magnet, I pick up this paperback every few years. Sometimes I read just a few choice pages and other times I’ll read it all. And I always thought it was just to bring back memories from a time when I was younger, careless, or remembering lonely days at sea. But of course I know that is not why, I read it because of one thing-the main character, Dogeron “Dog” Kelly. And thanks to the Mick, we have the original, ultimate, son-of-a-bitch, .45 packer, who do anything for the sake of justice….

“So I broke every finger on Bridey’s hands, too, then stitched him up the side of each cheek, so he’d never be invisible in a crowd again. I opened his belt, pulled his pants and shorts down, and waited the two minutes until he started to wake up, holding the point of the pick right over the two goodie sacs, and just as a groan wheezed through his lips and his eyes opened and rolled toward mine I drove the ice pick through those lumps of tissue into the rubber-tiled floor and the frenzied yell of horror he started never got past the sharp hiss of his sucked-in breath before he fainted.
The next person to go in that bathroom would do more than relieve his bladder or bowels.”

Of course later I had to read Mickey Spillane’s second “dirty little book” published a year later, “The Last Cop Out.” This I thought had the slightly better plot, with a similar type character in ex-cop Gillian “Gill” Burke. In this one Burke is asked to go up against a Mafia family alone. Violent and downright gross at times, but damn good. But Dog Kelly came first and left the impression that is forever etched upstairs.

Could these two novels be Mickey Spillane’s best pieces of work?
I believe so…

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Never Say No To A Killer by Jonathan Gant

Never Say No To A Killer by Jonathan Gant
ACE D-157, Copyright 1956

Here I go again, singing the praises of Clifton Adams crime stories. In this gem published under the pseudo. Jonathan Gant, Adams gives us a story of a psychotic killer who sees opportunities and uses violence to reap the gains.

“ That was when I brought the rock up with all the strength I had in my two arms. It cracked the point of Gorgan’s chin and I heard his jawbone snap under the impact.”

The novel starts fast and violent, with con Roy Surratt escaping from a prison work detail. Dorris Venci, the widow of his ex-cell mate, aids in his escape and takes him to her hometown, Lake City. To pay her back, she wants Surratt to kill an ex-governor. Surratt knows what makes women tick and quickly discovers Dorris is a sexual masochist. He uses this for his gain. He agrees to kill the corrupt ex-governor and in return he wants the blackmail information her late husband collected on other influential people. After the killing, he falls for the ex-governors mistress Patricia Kelso. Money quickly starts to come in because of his blackmail schemes and Dorris starts to be in his way for future plans with Patricia Kelso. Surratt ends his relationship with Dorris. Dorris tragically devises a way to get even with Surratt. Her plan starts him on a rapid decline from his dreams and his freedom.

“Why, you simian sonofabitch, I thought, you make one move in my direction, just one single move, and you’ll be till sundown gathering your teeth off the sidewalk.”

Again, Clifton Adams excels in creating an excellent hardboiled noir novel. This is a story of a dangerous criminal who is both smart and evil, with a studied knowledge of philosophy. Surratt leaves a trail of corpses throughout the story, as he calculates his moves to achieve financial wealth. A triangle of deception is created between the three characters, Surratt and the two dames. Surratt uses his egotistical knowledge of philosophy to manipulate one and in the attempted manipulation of the other. Later at the end, he realizes that he outsmart himself. All this turns out tragic for everyone involved, as we realize there are no respectable people in this story. They are all dark and narcissistic, caring only about money and revenge. Excellent last paragraph as Surratt talks to the reader giving his personal thoughts on his empty feelings.

In the 50s ACE had many hit-and-miss paperbacks, some were downright poor, this is not one of them. You'll fly through the 148 pages. And a big bonus with this flip double novel edition- it's a secret agent Paul Knox novel call "Stab in the Dark" by Louis Trimble.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Satan Takes the Helm by Calvin Clements

Satan Takes the Helm by Calvin Clements
Gold Medal 252, Copyright 1952

Ah, the life of a merchant marine looking for a ship. Everyone is scratching for a buck, along with some other action.

"Groups of jobless seamen were loitering along the foot of the piers, looking up at the freighters and tankers, studying the rat guards. Like at a wake, just standing around and looking..."

Mrs. Joyce Sloan is looking for a chief officer for her husband's ship, the Eastern Trader. Martin Lewandowski is offered the job and he jumps on it. One problem, Mr. Sloane likes to have his beautiful wife aboard when we sails. Mrs. Joyce Sloan quickly takes up with Lewandowski. She plants ideas in his head that, with her husband out of the way, he could have her and a ship of his own. Lewandowski realizes that when Mrs. Sloan hires a mate, it's for more than looking after a ship.

If you like a salty, dark adventure mystery, just hop on board this ship. Not many good people sail in this story. Mrs. Sloan is your femme fatale, Lewandowski is full of culpable behavior, and together they weave a devious scheme. Throw in the dark ship, exotic ports and the emotional games between the two characters, and we have a fine crime noir story.

"Her robe was open. I caught the neck of her pajamas and ripped down. Her hands dropped to cover herself and I slapped her again. I couldn't stop. I wanted to kill her."

On this voyage of deceit, dreams, contempt and murder.... you will feel the rust of the ship, smell the stink of the ports and sweat in your bunk.
This is the first of the three Calvin Clements paperbacks published by Gold Medal. All take place in dirty ports and at sea; with a scrappy skipper, vicious crewmen, and seductive women. They are also very good!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Big Kiss-Off by Day Keene

The Big Kiss-Off By Day Keene
Graphic 75, Copyright 1954

Day Keene was an author that made you sweat when reading. His books are usually set during the hot days in the South, with an average guy who just wants to be left alone. 'The Big Kiss-Off" is a noir-ish adventure that stands on it own sea legs.

Cade Cain spent two years in a POW camp in Korea. During that time his wife divorced him and now he just wants to stay on his boat in the Gulf and let life go by. That's not going to happen. One day he finds six bodies in the muddy tide and later the local sheriff is found dead on his boat. Someone is framing him and he doesn't know why. With no alibi, he sets out to find some answers. An illegal immigrant called Mimi turns up and is caught in the frame-up. The trail leads to New Orleans and to Cain's ex-wife. His rage grows as he starts to unwind the mystery, along with his interest in Mimi.

" The bastard, thought Cade. The big Irish bastard. Sweat started to trickle down his sides. Cade felt the butt of the gun in his pocket, as he walked out on the pier."

Day Keene was a real pro and I find all his books very enjoyable. He spun a good story here, with a character that you can’t help but side with. There’s always something about the veteran who comes back from war, looking to get back to a normal life and trouble finds him. This theme was used throughout the 50s in paperbacks and Day Keene was one of the best in creating a good novel with it. Published by Gold Medal, Lion, Pyramid, ACE, Signet, Graphic, Zenith-he never seemed to have to look for work. Keene wrote many short shorts and these should not be overlooked. And being a guy who loves a good western, he wrote a damn good one in 1967, "Guns Along the Brazos."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Guns of the Timberlands by Louis L'Amour

Guns of the Timberlands by Louis L'Amour
Bantam 1390, Copyright 1955

Continuing with some recent discussions on Louis L'Amour, (Steve Lewis has an excellent post on Mystery*File) I recently finished this early work by the author. "Guns of the Timberland" has your good guy vs. bad guy theme, with a subtle view on the impact of over foresting thrown in.

The novel is a battle between "good guy" Clay Bell, rancher who enjoys his land and free life; and wealthy Jud Devitt, who is a man who gets what he wants. Devitt is after the timber on Bell's land, he plans to make a large profit selling needed lumber to the railroads and no one is going to stop him. Devitt brings in gun-hands and lumberjacks to insure the stripping of the forest. Bell has his ranch hands
, who are fairly seasoned and tough.

Louis L'Amour was a good writer and could tell a story, but you always knew the outcome. I usually don't mind that; but after reading many of the novels, I found I was just reading to finish them. "Guns of the Timberlands" is one of his finest westerns and he paints an excellent picture of the western landscape. In this one he has some good ol' barroom fights and good ol' cowboy killin' -one fight is pretty brutal involving a lumberjack smashing the face of one of Bell's men with his calks. But we know there will be a final one-on-one battle between Bell and Devitt, and we will know who will win, and we will know who gets the girl......

Note: I will always have a strong heart for Hondo, which is my personal favorite by Louis L'Amour. (and a damn good John Wayne movie)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Copp For Hire by Don Pendleton

Copp For Hire by Don Pendleton
Copyright 1987

From the man who created and wrote the first 38 "Executioner" series adventure books, comes a hard case, hard ass, L.A. PI living on the hard side. And that's how Pendleton wants us to see him as. Joe Copp is an ex-cop who wants to pick-and-chose his own cases, which is why he went "private."

In the first of the six novel series, Copp sets out to find why his stripper client, who just hired him, is killed as she is leaving his office. Quickly the case takes him to strip clubs, meeting sleazy cops, and finding murder, murder, and more murders. Joe Copp is tough, mouthy, and quick with the gun. He chases after a sex-psycho politician and his masochistic nephew, from LA to Hawaii. The Honolulu police give him plenty of rope to settle the score, and Joe doesn't let them down.

"I rip his gun loose and hear several fingers crunch in the release. I decide to leave him with his head intact. I merely bang it on the floor until he quits struggling."

This one is bang, bang action-hardboiled and a bit hardcore. Not for the ladies, Pendleton wrote this for his target audience-men who like fast aggressive action. Copp sees all, acts fast, and will stop and preach a little to us. We're not
talking Pulitzer here; just fast, exciting, hard PI fun.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Dolores Hitchens and PI Jim Sader

Sleep With Strangers by Dolores Hitchens.
Perma M3040, Copyright 1955

Sleep With Slander by Dolores Hitchens
Perma M4243, Copyright 1960

Continuing with these wonderful discussions on female authors writing excellent noir novels in the days when men dominated the field; Ed Gorman makes an excellent point that these should not be overlooked and deserved to be read. And having read many, I wished there were more. Although I have a very strong affection for Leigh Brackett's noir works, I was more impressed with the Jim Sader novels written by Dolores Hitchens.

The majority of Hitchen's work are tame mysteries, but along the way she gave us two excellent hardboiled Jim Sader PI novels. Sader a loner, with his own problems, takes on missing person cases for the two-man agency he has with his partner Dan Scarborough. In "Sleep With Strangers," Sader gets involved with a wealthy blonde, along with her family and her acquaintances. The gorgeous woman hires Sader to locate her missing mother. The story get into the filth of her society and Sader gets dragged downward into it. "Sleep With Slander" has Sader hunting down a kidnapped child. This one grabs you from the start with a moving two page prelude. People are not who they make out to be and Sader discovers that there are plenty of false truths throughout the case. "Slander" is the better of the two books, which may be because Sader's partner is not involved in the story and we witness a strong emotional involvement in Sader on this case. But the first novel should not be dismissed.

"There was a sudden taste of exhaustion, as sharp as that of blood, in his mouth, and he was aware that he had taken a beating, that he hadn't had any dinner, that he was so tired that he could have dropped where he stood to sleep. He felt that he was alone in a room full of ghosts."

These female writers provided more than hardboiled PI stories, they had the ability to capture true development of their characters; which I find a large number of male authored PI novels leave out. For some reason the female authors from that era, get it and make it the strength in their stories. I guess that was the point I was trying to convey in my previous post on 'The Blank Wall."

As for Kevin Burton Smith and his upcoming study on female hardboiled/pulp-era authors, it's long overdue and he should be applauded for taking on the task.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding

The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
Pocket Book 662, Copyright 1947

I have aways heard fine things about this story and after passing it over may times to read something else, I finally got around to it. It's a strong psychological thriller, with a fine dose of mystery. The story of upper-class Lucia Holley obsessively protecting her family from scandal during WWII.

"And all that had happen to her would be, must be, pushed down, out of sight; the details of daily living would come like falling leaves to cover it."

While her husband is away at war, Lucia Holley is left with the responsibility of caring for her teenage children and her husband's father. These are the days of rationing coupons, shortages and lonely letters to loved ones in war. She is approached by a blackmailer that has some scandalous letters written by her daughter to an older man. Lucia, unable to pay the amount, starts a lonely struggle to do anything to protect her family. There is a killing and later a murder, which is related to the blackmail attempt. Lucia is spiraling with worry and panic as her involvement deepens.

The story is fast paced and reads almost like a play. The strength of the novel is Holding's ability to create magnificent characters. She is able to bring out Lucia's relationships with these characters and these grab you. Lucia has dramatic interactions with her daughter, the colored cook Sibyl, the policeman Levy and especially with the mysterious blackmailer Martin Donnelly. Not a hardboiled novel, but a strong suspenseful mystery like many written in the 40s.

Usually the female authors I read have male characters as protagonists in their crime stories. I was always stuck on Leigh Brackett, Dorothy Hughes, the Jim Sader novels by Dolores Hitchens. I was presently surprised with the characters in "The Blank Wall," especially Lucia Holley and Martin Donnelly, and I be looking forward to reading more from Elisabeth Sanxay Holding.

Note: Two movies based on this novel. "The Reckless Moment" (1949) and "The Deep End." (2001)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Cain's Woman by O. G. Benson

Cain's Woman by O. G. Benson
Dell FE A200, Copyright 1960

In 1960, O. G. Benson may have given us one of the most creative PI novels ever written, with a pragmatic Chicago private investigator that works out of his own office.

"The last time I cried had been at night on the lumpy mattress of a cell in a lockup in San Francisco while somewhere outside, in the darkness of the city, the woman I loved had waited to divorce me and marry another man."

The beautiful, young Mrs. Naomi Cain is being blackmailed; someone has pornographic pictures of her from her past. She is married to the wealthy and elderly Jedediah Cain, and needs to get this resolved before her husband finds out. Naomi hires Chicago PI Max Raven, still getting over his divorce, to get them back. Raven gets off to a bad start and botches the case at the start. But he gets back on track and starts making progress. The story takes us from Chicago, to an investigation in NYC, then back to Chicago. Raven eventually falls hard for Mrs. Cain, which ties him emotionally to the case. Secrets get revealed and her past starts to unwind. Raven pieces it all together, which at the end falls apart in his hands.

"My fist hit him and the scream died as a gurgle in his throat. I hit him again and felt the jar wrench my shoulder. He slid down the wall like a punctured bag of sand and I kicked him in the face."

This is an excellent PI novel in every way, with many surprises and a terrific ending.
The relationship and interaction between Raven and Naomi Cain, as a client and lover, is brilliantly woven. Max Raven has real emotions, good and bad, which interferes with his ability to solve the case. He’s a troubled PI, believable and realistic. You get the impression that this is how a PI, operating on his own, goes at it. Raven goes up against some slimy people and gets knocked around some, but he is a tough character and stays with it. A slick, hardboiled novel that contains my favorite opening and closing paragraphs in any PI story. In some circles this has been called a "cult classic" and I can see why. To bad Mr. Benson didn't write more PI novels, with Max Raven in them.

O.G. Benson's real name is Ben Benson (not to be confused with the Ben Benson who wrote the Wade Paris and Ralph Lindsey novels in the 1950s) and “Cain’s Wife” was his first novel. I know of no other book that he has authored, but I assume there must be a couple more. He was a fairly accomplished painter and his work is on display at the Richard Gray Gallery in Chicago. He died of cancer at the age of 74 in 2002.

This paperback finally got enough recognition and was published again in 1985 by Perennial Library. It was retitled as "Cain's Wife" and they gave it a horrible cover, but at least they threw it out there.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Tears Are For Angels by Paul Connolly

Tears Are For Angles by Paul Connolly
Gold Medal 224, Copyright 1952

Gold Medal published three novels by Paul Connolly. Two are average at best, but one shines above both of those. "Tears Are For Angels" is an excellent story that contains many twists and surprises.

The story revolves around Harry London. He catches his wife in bed with local man Dick Stewart. London has a gun and plans to kill the guy, but a fight occurs, the gun goes off and he finds his wife shot dead. Stewart is gone and London knows he is looking at a murder rap. He sets it up to look like a murder/suicide gone wrong. He shoots himself in the arm to strengthen his story that his wife was going to kill him first, then herself. London not only loses his wife, but also his arm is amputated. This spirals him into a deep depression, which he blames on the man that was with his wife. Feeling like half-a-man, he drinks away his problems until he decides to kill Stewart, who has ruined his life.

"We were digging his grave, all right. And we were digging a deep, hollow, clammy one for ourselves, right beside it."

London takes up with county girl Jean in a backwoods shack. She agrees to help him kill Stewart and they both plan to get some money out of it. But Jean actually helps him gain his self-respect. She shows him a different side of his wife, which he failed to understand before. Later London, Jean and Stewart are all drawn together and there is an excellent ending that takes place at a damned lake. There we learn all that took place on that night when London's wife was killed.

A remarkable novel that is more than a crime/murder story . It shows how a man can fall so much until he has a reason to build himself up again. The reason could be a woman or even vengeance. A story of betrayal and self justice, where a man's soul must be found among the ruins that he has made himself.

The two other Gold Medal books by Paul Connolly are "Get Out of Town" (GM#188) and "So Fair, So Evil." (GM#500)

Friday, February 8, 2008

John Eagle-Expeditor #13 - Operation Weatherkill

John Eagle-Expeditor #13-Operation Weatherkill by Paul Edwards.
Pyramid V3874, Copyright 1975

With all the elite, adventure, hero types the paperback publishers were spitting out in the 70s, it’s amazing they weren’t bumping into each other around the world. “Operation Weatherkill” is number 13 in the 14 book Expeditor series. A little heard of series, that turns out to be surprisingly enjoyable.

John Eagle is the first and only agent for the Expeditor Project. It’s a program run and financed by a special U.S. government group to insure the survival of the free world. Eagle, who came from an Apache upbringing, has been trained and equipped to take on any threat from evil forces.

A secret organization has developed a technical way to control the weather in any location they choose. They can produce rainstorms for days, which create floods, disease, and crop destruction. This in turn causes an economic disaster for the countries targeted. Nations are blackmailed to pay up in gold or the disasters will continue. After a couple of strikes in America, the leader of the Expeditor Project gives John Eagle the mission to locate and destroy the threat. Eagle traces the location to a Slavic island called Sveti Hvar, and quick discovers that a Turkish millionaire named Ferit Sunay is the leader of Operation Weatherkill and his goal is to bring back the great Turkish Empire. On the island Eagle bumps into a beautiful, blond, nymphomaniac, Soviet agent, who is on a similar mission for Russia. They agree to team up to destroy Sunay and Operation Weatherkill. They make an effective team, slowly eliminating some of Sunay’s men and also in some vigorous lovemaking. Finally the duo sets out to destroy the operation’s headquarters, which is an old castle on the island. Later Eagle discovers that the cold-blooded, female KGB agent wants a few of the secrets for her government and risks both their lives to kidnap the lead scientist. At the end, the two of them enter the castle headquarters to complete the mission and only one comes out.

“Eagle squeezed the soundless trigger. The steel-vaned dart entered the man’s skull with a sound like an arrow sinking into a melon. He dropped in his tracks.”

I guess I am drawn to these paperbacks because I get nostalgic for these old Cold War stories, where the KGB and CIA are playing cat and mouse. Eagle is a fairly well-oiled machine. He has been well trained and has some neat gadgets that he uses on missions. He has a high-powered pistol that fires deadly darts, a specially designed suit that allows him to blend into any background, and even a one-man nuclear submarine. As in most of these numbered series books; there is a lacking of character depth and realistic plot development. But these paperbacks weren’t about that; these were about action entertainment for men, which is how they should be read. This may not be for everyone and there is nothing new here, but I still enjoyed reading the paperback. Not to be taken too seriously, just to sit back and have some fun.

Paul Edwards is actually Lyle Kenyon Engel (1915-1986) who used many pseudos. He is credited as the author of “The Baroness” series, “The Chopper Cop” series, and others using the name Paul Kenyon. But he did not actually author these books; instead he commissioned others to write them. I guess you would call him a “paperback production manager.”

Expeditor - Paul Edwards

  1. Needles of Death
  2. The Brain Scavengers
  3. The Laughing Death
  4. The Fist of Fatima
  5. Valley of Vultures
  6. The Glyphs of Gold
  7. The Ice Goddess
  8. The Death Devils
  9. The Deadly Cyborgs
  10. The Holocaust Auction
  11. Poppies of Death
  12. The Green Goddess
  13. Operation Weatherkill
  14. Silverskull

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Secret of the Second Door by Robert Colby

Secret of the Second Door by Robert Colby
Gold Medal 855, Copyright 1959

Robert Colby gives us the excellent story involving good guy Neil Shepard and the search for missing cash. This paperback is 128 pages long and not one written paragraph is wasted.

“She’s a spoiled bitch!” he said. “She’s selfish to her toenails. Intellectually, I know it and yet emotionally I cling to her or something she represents, like an alcoholic to his last bottle.”

Neil Shepard gets word that his ex-lover’s husband has been killed in a car crash. Five years ago beautiful Corrine dumped him hard and she has always obsessed him. Compelled to see her, Shepard leaves Florida and heads to New York. Glad that he came, Corrine apologizes about being a bitch to him in the past and she uses her sex to rekindle the relationship. She tells Shepard that before her husband died he was in possession of two hundred thousand dollars, which he said was won in a poker game. The money can’t be located and Shepard agrees to play detective and see if he can help find the cash. Shepard doesn’t buy the poker story, but she agrees to give him $50,000 if he finds it and his desire for Corrine is strong. He sets out and along the way we are introduced to four ruthless professional thieves who will do anything to get the cash. Shepard along the way witnesses betrayal, unfaithfulness by Corrine, torture and murder.

“Don’t try it,” he said. “This gun has no friends.”

It’s a fantastic novel, which starting from page one just continues to build and build. We come to understand about the obsession of Shepard for Corrine and even what compels Corrine to want more men. The violence of the four thieves is fairly graphic for a novel from 50s. These guys are real bad dudes and the author doesn’t hold back. Very intense ending. Shepard, after witnessing the evil of these four men, resorts to his own violence. He then practically breaks down, which concludes into a powerful emotional ending.

As you may tell, Robert Colby has been a favorite of mine. He never wrote a sub-par book or short story. All of his Gold Medal books are excellent. “The Captain Must Die” is one of the finest published by Gold Medal and is reaching "classic" status. His four books published by ACE are also terrific. My favorite being “The Quaking Widow.”

For more on Robert Colby see Peter Enfantino's 2006 Tribute that is posted on the excellent Mystery*File site - editor is Steve Lewis.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Rio Bravo (DVD) director: Howard Hawks

Rio Bravo (DVD) director: Howard Hawks (1959)

After seeing this wonderful film many times, I viewed the DVD last night for the first time and it's magnificent. The DVD lets us see how beautifully filmed this movie really was. From the brilliant, subdued lighting on the sets to the enhanced sound; this DVD brings a totally new experience for the viewer seeing this film.

The story, if anyone doesn't know,
is about Sheriff John T. Chance taking a stand with a few misfits while surround by hired gunmen in his own town. Chance is holding a cattle baron's brother in the jail for murder. Directed by the great Howard Hawks, this has become one of the best westerns made by Hollywood.

Almost flawless, except in my opinion, for a little overacting by a young Angie Dickinson and some underacting by Ricky Nelson. But the trio of John Wayne, Dean Martin and scene-stealer Walter Brennan more than make up for them. In fact this may be Dean Martin's and Walter Brennan's finest performances on film.

Leigh Brackett contributes to the screenplay and it seems that everything she brings to Hollywood is always gold. The story is from a short work by B. H. McCampbell whom I never heard of. I would love to know more about the original story, so if anyone knows more please drop me a comment or E-Mail.

It's a whole new experience viewing this masterpiece on the
Two-Disc DVD Special Edition. Warner Bros. is definitely doing something right here. Fabulously entertaining, almost perfect in every way, it's on my top shelf to stay for Western DVDs. Truly wonderful!

My Rifle, My Pony and Me - Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson (a small treat in the movie)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Edge of the Law by Richard Deming

Edge of the Law by Richard Deming
Berkley G450, Copyright 1960

Richard Deming had a long career that ran from the 40s to the 80s. He wrote many short stories, novels and film/television adaptations. Highly admired, he created characters such as Manville Moon, Matt Rudd and took over the Tim Corrigan series under pseud. Ellery Queen. In "Edge of the Law", Deming introduces us to Jud Sands-who likes to work for mobsters, but doesn’t want to be owned by them.

“They say you’re a bullhead. Loyal, obey orders, but only to a point. There’s some things you won’t do for money.”

Jud Sands is on the run from his old boss, who runs the Miami syndicate. He wants Sands dead and sends hit men out to eliminate him. Sands arrives in the city of Ridgeford, which is wide open and is run by a racketeer named Renzo Amatti. Before you know it Sands is working for Amatti, as a muscle man. His first job is to lean on a bar owner to play along. When Sands finds out that the bar owner is married to his old girlfriend, he tells Amatti where to stick the job. Later the bar owner is killed by a hand grenade and Sands is fingered as the murderer. He makes an escape from the courtroom during his grand jury indictment, and with the help of a beautiful redhead, he goes into hiding. Later he sets out to clear his name from the murder rap and to get the Miami hoods that are out to kill him. Of course, he succeeds on both.

A good story but flawed. Sands comes off a bit to high and mighty. He has an answer for everything and always comes out ahead over everyone else. Jud Sands makes a lot of assumptions throughout the story. These I am sure were used to move the story along, but in reality things wouldn’t work that way. One example is when the cops only stakeout the front of a house waiting for Sands. Sands tells us that he knows they wouldn’t stakeout the back. Why not! Or during his escape in the court room, he knows they wouldn't guard the window. There are too many of these assumptions throughout the novel. The two girls in the story (his ex-girlfriend and the redhead) have an interesting relationship with Sands and that does work well. But it was easy to figure out who committed the murder and once you knew that, there wasn’t much left to the story.

I was looking forward reading "Edge of the Law" because I have always admired Richard Deming’s work. I may have set my expectations too high on this one. It is still is a good read, I would call it average, but not the best that Deming has authored.

Besides the numerous novels Deming wrote, he did pen some excellent short stories that were featured in many magazines for men. One of his best was “Hit and Run,” that was in the Dec. 1954 issue of Manhunt. It featured PI Barney Calhoun and the femme fatal in this one kept her murdered husband in a bathtub filled with ice. It was exceptional and one of my favorite stories from Manhunt. Later, Deming lengthened the story and published a novel version with PI Barney Calhoun in 1960. (same title:“Hit and Run” Pocket Book 1271) I have never been able to locate a copy of this novel, but will keep hunting.