Sun 22 Nov 2015
TALMAGE POWELL – With a Madman Behind Me. Permabook M-4233, paperback original, 1961.
Whenever I see a nice-looking paperback original mystery under 50 cents I pick it up whether I know anything about the author or not, and Talmage Powell’s With a Madman Behind Me turned out to be a readable blend of the preposterous and the pretentious. No classic, maybe, but I didn’t throw it across the room, either.
It opens with PI Ed Rivers looking out his window one hot Tampa night to see a woman in an apartment across the way waving for help. He gets to her place just in time to:
a) See her killed
b) Learn the identity of her killer
c) Get a clue that will bust open a devious plot to flood America with (gasp!) pornography
d) Get knocked out, tied up and dumped in Tampa Bay.
That’s the Preposterous part. The Pretentious comes right on the heels of this, when everyone starts talking like freshman sociology students: as when a Homicide cop describes a dead hooker:
And a few pages later Ed Rivers confronts a witness and describes her:
It turns out even the bad guys talk this way, as a Porn kingpin tells Ed:
Now I ain’t narrow-thinking, but a man gets tired of that kind of talk all the time. And there’s plenty more of it here. It’s as if author Talmage Powell read a Travis McGee book and never got over it.
On the plus side, however, Powell handles the action scenes well enough, moves the predictable plot along swiftly, and does not — as some authors do — deplore the art of pornography, then proceed to fill his book with sex. There’s even a sort-of pay-off for all the over-analyzing, as the book wraps up with a thoughtful twist on an old plot.
It’s not enough to save Madman from utter forgetabilty, but it does provide a readable time-waster for those who miss the old days of paperback crime.
The Ed Rivers series –
The Killer Is Mine (1959)
The Girl’s Number Doesn’t Answer (1960)
With a Madman Behind Me (1961)
Start Screaming Murder (1962)
Corpus Delectable (1964)