JAMES HADLEY CHASE – Twelve Chinks and a Woman. Jarrolds, UK, hardcover, 1940. Howell Soskin, US, hardcover, 1941. Avon Monthly Novel #7, US, digest-sized paperback, 1948; Avon #485, US, paperback, 1948. Reprinted as Twelve Chinamen and a Woman, Novel Library #37, US, paperback, revised & edited, 1950. Also published as The Doll’s Bad News, Panther, UK, paperback, 1970.

   In the Gasps from the Past Department, I re-read Twelve Chinamen and a Woman by James Hadley Chase, the “specially revised and edited” Novel Library version of Twelve Chinks and a Woman which I read under its original title as a college freshman, back in the gaudy 60s.

   It should go without saying that this is hardly Great Literature or even reasonably competent writing. Chase’s grasp of American argot is a tenuous toehold at best — people keeping using “should” for “would” and “shall” for “will” — and his idea of Plot is to keep killing off characters until whoever’s left must be guilty, and he develops the story by having hoods burst in shooting every few pages.

   His scenes of Hot Passion are more laughable than lubricious, with passages like:

   She stood looking at him, breathing hard. “I guess I’m crazy,” she said, color suddenly flooding her face.

   Fenner ran his finger round the inside of his collar. “I’m a bit of a bug myself,” he said. “Scram, baby, before we really get to work. Beat it, an’ I’ll see you in church.”

   On the other hand, I have to credit Chase with the kind of loopy genius it takes to keep a story moving at white-hot speed for 157 pages, and he can put across a scene of violence rather well, when his writing doesn’t get in the way.

   In all, Twelve Chinamen is rather memorable, in its fashion (otherwise, I wouldn’t have revisited it, I guess) and while I wouldn’t put it on my resume, it made for a few nice hours of Guilty Pleasure.