Reviewed by DAN STUMPF:


KEITH VINING – Keep Running. Chicago Paperback House A105, paperback original, 1962.

   Another hot tip from Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine blog.

   Jack Norton starts out the story as a hot jazz piano player in New Orleans, and in the first few chapters he gets mixed up with gangsters and a shady lady, commits a murder, is framed for a murder he didn’t do, and gets shot up and left for dead in a swamp.

   This sort of thing is so common as to go unnoticed in paperbacks, but Vining writes in a fervid, emotionally charged style reminiscent of Woolrich, Goodis or Jim Thompson, and the opening chapters create a sensation of genuine unease.

   Later on, Norton crawls out of the swamp, bums his way to Mobile where he gets work as a laborer, and eventually ends up working as a handyman/watchman at a modest nightclub on Florida’s Gulf Coast, where he strikes up a relationship with the beautiful owner… only to find his old gangster associates have moved into the area. And not only that, but there’s also a mystery player in the game, trying to kill him for reasons all his own.

   The writing in these later chapters settles down to something on the order of John D. MacDonald or Dan J. Marlowe – still not a bad thing — full of the pungent detail of all that Manly stuff: dock-walloping, fist-fights, construction work, babes and bad guys, all evoked with the kind of easy-reading economy you just don’t see any more. The Mystery Figure is fairly obvious; in fact you can see him coming like the Macy’s Parade, but that doesn’t spoil the pleasure of a fast-moving, well-done read that I probably won’t remember by next week.

   Keith Vining writes like someone who’s been around the pulps and paperbacks, and he made history of sorts with Too Hot for Hell — the first Ace Double. But that book and this one are all I can find out about a writer who shoulda been a contender….