REVIEWED BY DAN STUMPF:

   

HENRY KANE. My Darlin’ Evangeline. Dell First Edition B198, paperback original; 1st printing, 1961. Revised and reprinted as The Perfect Crime (Belmont, paperback, 1967). TV Adaptation: As “An Out for Oscar,” The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, 05 Apr 1963 (screenplay by David Goodis).

HENRY KANE. Death on the Double. PI Peter Chambers #13. Avon #761, paperback original; 1st printing, 1957. Signet D2644, paperback, 1965.

   A week or so ago I looked through my vast, well-organized (HAH!) bookshelves and noticed some books about which I could remember nothing. Intrigued, I pulled a few out and….

   Henry Kane is best-remembered for his character Pete Chambers, Private Eye (Or Private Richard, as Chambers put it.) but My Darlin’ Evangeline is a stand-alone about meek bank clerk Oscar Blimmey, who meets and falls in love with a globe-trotting town tramp, Evangeline Ashley. They meet in Miami, where Kane also rings in Bill Grant, a small-time heel who dreams of becoming a big-time cad. When Evangeline and Bill run afoul of a local drug lord, he takes a powder, and she quits the scene by marrying the closest available chump — Oscar Blimmy.

   That’s just the beginning of Oscar’s woes though, because he happens to be in charge of the cash handed out on Thursdays to several large payroll accounts; this was the early 60s, remember, when lots of cash money changed hands, banks were built like marble tombs, and bank tellers were trained to use firearms. So when Evangeline re-connects with Bill, and they….

   Write the rest yourself. Any decent writer could, and many did it pretty well, but Kane stumbles in his portrait of the central character. Besides being a perfect schlemiel, Oscar is also built like an Adonis but shy with women, proficient with guns and fists, but a confirmed pacifist and a devout coward. The contradictions in character are just too many and too convenient to the story to make it at all convincing.

   Death on the Double consists of two novelettes featuring Peter Chambers. The writing in the first, “Watch the Jools,” is agreeably glib, but the plot is something Keeler would have rejected as overly fanciful. Something about a rare gem with a curse on it, a man found drowned in his locked (and quite dry) private office, a costume party where everyone must dress in the costume dictated by an eccentric millionaire, and… well by the time Kane rang in the sword-swallowing Master Criminal, I was ready to call it quits.  “Beautiful Day,” the second half of Death on the Double awaited, but I had a Fredric Brown next on the pile….

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Note: Updated to include information about the TV adaptation of My Darlin’ Evangeline. (See comment #3.)