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.


Juri said...

HIT AND RUN is absolutely wonderful. I've kept telling people that it should be reprinted, but lack of a copy gives a reason for the silence. (I read it in a Finnish translation.) I didn't know it was a Manhunt story before.

Some novels of Deming are pretty mediocre and I didn't think too much of Manny Moon, but another novel that sticks to my mind is FALL GIRL (Zenith 1959). Someone could make a little collection of his short stories.

Anonymous said...

Can I just chime in with praise for HIT AND RUN? It's totally brillant. Should be reprinted ASAP.

Deming seems to have been a pretty uneven writer. Besides HIT AND RUN, there were fine efforts like BODY FOR SALE (with one of the most morbid endings ever), THE CAREFUL MAN and ANYTHING BUT SAINTLY. But there were also plenty of mediocre novels (EDGE OF THE LAW being one of them), and as I recall THIS IS MY NIGHT was absolutely terrible.