REVIEWED BY DAVID VINEYARD:

PETER CHEYNEY – Dames Don’t Care. Lemmy Caution #3. . Collins, UK, hardcover, 1937. Coward McCann, US, hardcover, 1938. Reprinted many times, in both hardcover and soft. Serialized in The Thriller Library Jul 31, Aug 7, Aug 14, Aug 21, Aug 28, Sep 4, Sep 11, Sep 18, 1937. Film: Les Femmes En Balacent (1954) with Eddie Constantine, Nadja Gray; directed by Bernard Borderie.

   I am sittin’ in this bar minding my own business like any guy might, when I looks up and see this guy come sailin’ in like the owns the place, and from the greeting he gets you wonder if he might, ’cause people are happy to see him, though at first I wonder if maybe they mistake him for some actor named Constantine, but I know him for who he is.

   And who he is happens to be Ma Caution’s baby boy Lemuel H., sometimes called Lemmy for short cause he likes to play with words does Lemmy as in Le’Me caution ya.

   Quite a sport this Lemmy, the pride and joy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation he is, the damnedest G-Man since Gagney on the big screen. Of course he takes a bit of getting used to does Mr. Caution, because he speaks in the a style and lingo unique to him, kinda as if Damon Runyon had a run in with Edgar Wallace an’ neither of them came out of it quite right, all in present tense save when he forgets here and there, because present tense is a bitch to write in.

   Anyways, he says his hellos and comes over to me, shakes hands, orders a beer, and without much preamble starts to tell me what just happened to him out West in California and down Mexico way. And believe me, its a hoot.

   Says he:

   IS it hot.

   I ain’t never been in hell, but I’m tellin’ you that I bet it ain’t any hotter than this Californian desert in July.

   I am drivin’ along past Indio an’ I figure that soon I am goin’ to see the Palm Springs lights. An’ I am goin’ some — the speedometer says eighty. If it wasn’t so hot it would be a swell night; but there ain’t any air, an’ there was a baby sand storm this afternoon that caught me asleep an’ I gotta lump of the Mojave desert or whatever they call it stuck right at the back of my throat.

   An’ that’s pretty much how Lemmy sounds, as if you was cornered in a bar by a pretty interesting guy who is determined to tell you a story whether you are determined to hear it or not. Mostly I am, but I’m aware many ain’t.

   Bein’ Lemmy, pretty soon there are dames and dead bodies in about equal proportions, some very bad bad men, some not quite as bad bad men, some dames that are lyin’ for good reason and some that are lyin’ for very bad reasons, and Lemmy is negotiating the lot of ‘em with frequent pauses for refreshment of the inebriating kind.

   It ain’t the things that dames do that worries me it’s the things that they get guys to do for ’em.

   Lemmy is not what you would call exactly woke when it comes to dames. Frankly he makes Mike Hammer look like a feminist. Just a friendly warnin’. Not that the ladies Lemmy encounters much deserve better sometimes.

   “Take it nice an’ calm, Cleopatra,” I tell her, “Because gettin’ excited or raisin’ hell around here is goin’ to be as much use to you as red pepper on a gumboil. Sweet dame, you are all shot to hell, you are washed up like a dead fish in a waterspout. From now on you are the sample that got lost in the mail, you are the copy the news editor spiked, you are the lady who got stood-up by a gumshoein’ Federal dick that you thought was a pushover. You make me sick. Even if you was good I wouldn’t like you.”

   An’ while I’m do in the warnin’ it’s also the sort of book where a Hispanic character says “keel” instead of kill a few times.

   Just so’s you know.

   Lemmy is plenty hot on this case because a guy he was workin’ with called Sagers has been killed, an’ even though a counterfeiting ring is operating Lemmy takes that kind of personal.

   “Now, right now I’m not interested in the counterfeitin’. I know that was done here, an’ I figure I know the whole story of it. The thing that’s takin’ my notice at the present moment is this:

   “Somebody here — one of you two guys — shot Jeremy Sagers. Now I guess I know who bumped him. I’ve got it all figured out, but I made up my mind about one thing. The guy who shot him is goin’ to fry for it, an’ maybe the other guy will be lucky.”

   For a G-Man Lemmy is a lot more interested in justice than law.

   An’ bein’ Lemmy there is, of course, a nice dame left over, because it wouldn’t be Lemmy if he didn’t end up with a dame.

   All Lemmy’s stories are hoots, especially the ones with all those dames he stumbles over where ever he goes, mostly tall and classy though some fatale types. Cause the other thing you have to know about Lemmy is nothing is ever exactly what it looks like and no one exactly who they seem in any story he tells.

   I first heard of him in this book called This Man is Dangerous, where we meet Lemmy as an escaped criminal who makes his way to London an’ gets involved with gamblers, crooks, an’ dames before he reveals he’s an undercover G-Man on loan to Scotland Yard. It gets made into a pretty good film by the French with this guy named Eddie Constantine, who looks so much like Lemmy he could have posed for the book covers from twenty years earlier but didn’t. Guy even gets typecast playin’ Lemmy, though it don’t seem to bother him much.

   Funny thing is this Constantine guy is a well known crooner in France, an’ in this book Lemmy sings, something actually in the film they made out of it. After that he sings in most of the films ’cause this actor is like a music star in Europe an’ even has television specials and does musicals in between playin’ :Lemmy and guys so much like Lemmy they might as well be him save for the name.

   This book becomes a best seller over in England and then in France as written by an ex-journalist and publicist named Peter Cheyney who also chronicles the adventures of a British Private Eye named Slim Callaghan, and a series of Dark books about wartime espionage in England among others.

   This Cheyney sort of sets the British mystery genre on its head and eventually even influences this guy named Ian Fleming who writes about a spy named James Bond, 007 though Cheyney was never too hot here Stateside. Anyways not Lemmy’s adventures.

   Lemmy never gets a number that I know of, but in Lemmy’s mind if he did, it would be Number 1.

   An’ with that Lemmy excuses himself and fades into the night, off to another adventure, more dames, more crooks, more cliches, an’ more slightly cracked Americaneze, but for all that he ain’t bad company in the right mood, an’ it is a mood I am sometimes in though I admit it ain’t one I stays in very long at a time.

   Your mileage my vary like they says.

   Just don’t read too many of ’em in a row, ’cause brain damage is possible.