Monday, December 8, 2008

Bring Him Back Dead by Day Keene

Bring Him Back Dead By Day Keene
Gold Medal 603, Copyright 1956

Day Keene stayed a busy writer. He started in the early 40s writing pulp stories for the mystery magazines, (and he wrote many) then later in that decade his first novel was published. He wrote over 50 novels, many taking place in South Florida or swamp towns in Louisiana. Keene uses a common theme in many of his stories, a man who is wrongly accused and while on the run he must clear his name. “Bring Him Back Dead” is one of those and being only 127 pages, the pace is fast and there’s no room for a breather.

The girl continued to study him. "I make you now," she said finally. "You're the deputy who killed that old carnival man an' raped his wife on the floor of their trailer."

"I didn't touch her," Latour said. "I wasn't even inside the trailer."
"What's the matter with you? You one of them guys who has t' hurt a girl? You know, whip her or somethin', or her whip you?"
Latour didn't bother to answer her.

The town of French Bayou in Louisiana is going through an oil boom, and if you’re smart enough or crooked enough, lots of money can be made. But Deputy Sheriff Andy Latour seems to be content with what he has. Unfortunately, his marriage to his foreign wife Olga isn't going so well. He suspects his wife is disappointed with him being hick deputy and not willing to get out there grabbing some of that oil money. Mounting frustration leads Latour into a situation where he becomes a suspect in a murder and rape crime. Fingered by the rape victim, he realizes he is being set up. But the big question is why? Arrested and waiting for trial, he manages to escape to try to find the answer to this question.

For a short one, there are many layers in this story. Nothing goes right for Latour. Whether it being problems with his wife, the righteous law, or hunted by a mob of vigilantes-he keeps whirling downward. Abandoned, he must battle through the confusion surrounding his predicament and come up with a plan for his survival. And just when he is about beat, the answer comes. But it really is two answers. One for the reason of being set up for the crimes and the other is love. Love he was unable to see because of a wall he built around himself. A very emotional ending for a complex character, and that’s something that you don’t normally see in Day Keene stories.

I’ve read many Day Keene novels and I never found one that I didn’t enjoy. They always contain a good mystery and an atmosphere of crime noir, especially the novels written in the 50s. And with over 50 titles to choose from, I’m sure any reader of this genre will find a few they like.
(And don’t pass over any Day Keene short story you come upon)


pattinase (abbott) said...

August-have never read one. Which one would you choose to read first?

August West said...

My favorites are "Joy House" (1954) and "Murder on the Side." (1956) But the easiest one to get will probably be "Home is the Sailor," (1952) because Hard Case Crime reissued it in 2005. It's also equally as good as the other two.

Frank Loose said...

I have read a dozen or so Day Keene books and, like you, August, I enjoyed them all. I must say, though, that Home Is The Sailor ranks far and away as the best. If one has never read Keene, can't go wrong with that one as a first read. Other good ones: The Brimstone Bed, Wake Up To Murder, and My Flesh Is Sweet. Note to Pattinase: most the Keenes have to be tracked down as old copies, but Home is The Sailor is available from Hard Case, and My Flesh is available from Stark House. Enjoy! And thanks August for making me aware of Bring Him Back Dead; I'll need to track down a copy
--- Frank

Scott D. Parker said...

Like others, Home is the Sailor (HCC) was the first Keene novel I read. And boy was it good. Keene is now up there on The List. I've found Homicidal Woman and I read what I think is his only western, Guns Along the Brazos. One of the other authors who loves Keene's work is Christa Faust, author of Money Shot. Earlier this year, in interviews, she had been reading Keene. Thanks for the review.

Anonymous said...

Home is the Sailor is the novel expansion of the 15 page novelet in the June 1946 issue of Detective Tales, titled "If a Body Meet a Body". Steve Lewis' Mystery*File website discusses this story and provides a link to extensive articles about Day Keene's novels and pulp fiction. Just type Day Keene in the site's search area.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Okay, I'm on it. Thanks!

Cullen Gallagher said...

Thanks for the recommendation! I loved Day Keene's HOME IS THE SAILOR and just picked up IT'S A SIN TO KILL and WAKE UP TO MURDER, but now I have to add BRING HIM BACK DEAD to my list! Also, if you get a chance, I started my own hardboiled blog at and posted about Richard Prather. Hope you enjoy!

August West said...

Cullen: Great to have you aboard. Looking forward to getting your take on the pulp/hardboiled paperbacks you come across.
The site looks good and anyone who has Spillane, Goodis and Craig Rice as some of his favorites, is A-OK with me....